Captive Labor (about sheepherders, at least some of them)

We hear a lot about ranchers, cattle and sheep. They are given aide and comfort by many politicians. The life of a cow hand (cowboy) and the sheepherder are ignored (except in cultural celebration).

It my writint about the subsidies given sheep operators, both direct and indirect from the government, plus the environmental subsidies (uncompensated negative externalities), I have neglected the subsidy through the frequent exploitation of human labor.

This article is gives a more clear-eyed view. Captive Labor: The plight of Peruvian sheepherders illuminates broader exploitation of immigrant workers in U.S. agriculture. By Alvaro Bedoya. Dollars and Sense.

Wildlife Services 2007 report on wolf control in Idaho

I hadn’t seen one of these before, except a hard copy many years ago before wolves were restored to Idaho. Then it was a general report on control of all “harmful” animals.

It’s fascinating to me. Everyone will view it differently.

My view is all this effort over such a trivial loss of livestock (except for a few instances). Be sure to note how many of the cattle were actually calves, and how a small absolute increase in numbers can be made to appear huge when reported in per cent increase.

Idaho-Wildlife Services-FY2007-wolf-report.pdf

Idaho Fish and Game slaps at Jon Marvel. Is their account credible?

This has been in the news the last two days. I didn’t put the story up early because I knew Brian Ertz was right there when this alleged incident took place, and had all the details. He told me about it the day after the wolf meeting. At the time, I thought “end of story” — a F & G commissioner ignores public comment and doesn’t like to be questioned.

What a surprise when 6 weeks later, Jon Marvel, who did insist on some answers from the commissioner, was accused of some sort of assault or improper touching of the commissioner!

My speculation is that IF & G’s action had nothing to do with the wolf hearing in Hailey, and everything to do with Western Watershed Projects legal efforts, media efforts, and administrative efforts to derail the attack of the woolgrowers on Idaho’s bighorn sheep herds. Idaho Fish and Game was recently accused by one prominent woolgrower of being in bed with WWP. I have a copy of his letter.

What better way for a politically weak department to protect itself from the powerful livestock operators who have the support of a very friendly governor than slap at a person who symbolizes the conservation effort to bring the woolgrowers to respect the existence of bighorn sheep in Idaho?

In terms of state livestock politics, the bighorn issue is as lot bigger than wolves, which are mostly just a way for expressing their resentment that they lost (temporarily) on the symbolic issue.

At the WWP blog, Brian gives the details. Wolf meeting altercation.

New. Feb. 2, 2008. Marvel Strikes back. By David Cooper. Magic Valley Times News. 

Notice: this post is open to comment, but no personal name calling, not of Marvel, Ertz, Commissioner Wayne Wright, Virgil Moore, etc.

“The Curious Legal History of the Original Outlaws”

Robert Hoskins wrote an interesting essay on the origins, evolution, and contradictions in wildlife law. He emailed it to me for consideration as a post. I think folks will find it very interesting.


“The Curious Legal History of the Original Outlaws”

by Robert Hoskins

[Note: I originally published this essay in the May 1998 issue of Wyoming Wildlife under the pen name Philip Elkhorn].

CIVILIZED PEOPLES, especially those who raise domestic animals and crops or who manage big-game animals for human hunting, have until recently always considered predatory animals and pests to be outlaws–thieves who steal what humans believe they have produced with their own labor, or have a natural right to possess.

What we may not realize is that since the beginning of agriculture, humans have considered all wild animals to be outlaws that were outside or beyond human control–unlike domestic livestock. Ancient Roman law described wildlife as ferae naturae, or wild by nature. That wild animals were ferae naturae didn’t change the desire of humans to establish control over wildlife for human benefit. But humans have had to deal with wildlife’s incorrigible wildness first. Wild animals had lives and spirits of their own; humans could not possess them except under special conditions that usually involved death but always restraint.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Gas wells to be drilled upset local residents of Hoback area

These natural gas wells are a movement into a new area; one that is scenic, wildlife rich and where people live. As such it is causing a lot of controversy in the area south of Jackson Hole.

Part of it is in a national forest roadless area too (Grayback IRA).

Hoback wells process frustrates opponents. Rancher: ‘Are we just spitting in the wind?’ By Corey Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Haydens near Mammoth

I haven’t gathered any news about Yellowstone Park wolves lately due to pressing controversies, but Kathie Lynch told me that the surviving Haydens were seen about a month ago near the high bridge east of Mammoth — “1 gray adult, 2 gray pups, and everybody’s favorite black pup.”

I’ll try to get some news soon.

Public Lands Tag Sale

Diary of a Mad Voter: Joan McCarter. Public Lands Tag Sale. By Joan McCarter. New West.

While media talks about the horse race for President, it’s going to be a year of plunder on the public lands, and most it will not be covered. McCarter writes about what is going on, starting with the Bush Administration’s cynical ploy on the polar bears.

The President has given his last State of the Union Address; now for the last year of the ravaging of the countryside.

Pinedale, WY area elk avoid Game and Fish traps

Jan. 29, 2008

We’ve covered this pointless plan to trap elk and test them for brucellosis antibodies before they go onto the Muddy Creek winter feedlot. Those that test positive are killed and the rest left to act like cattle for the rest of the winter.

Regarding the slaughtered elk, most of which really don’t have brucellosis although they test positive for antibodies, where is “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife – Wyoming.” Is this OK with them?

The elk haven’t cooperated and continue not to act like cattle. Now, if only some of the doomed wolves in the area would appear and chase the elk well away from the feedlot.

Elk avoid traps. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.

Note: the Muddy Creek feedlot was the indirect source of the brucellosis infection that caused Wyoming to lose its class 1, “brucellosis-free” status several years ago.

Jan. 30, 2008. Pinedale elk trap themselves. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.
Screwups continue in this misbegotten program.

Feb. 1, 2008. 20 elk are finally tested for brucellosis antibodies, but operation continues to be messy. By Cat Urbigkit. Casper Star Tribune.

Idaho Fish and Game news release on wolves

I just got this. “Buffaloed” posted part of it as a comment. I am putting all of it up.

The “control” of the Buffalo Ridge Pack is a total outrage and a preface to what we will see with total state control. This has been one of Idaho’s most visible wolf packs, and one that has stayed out of trouble.

The dead calves were no more than a day or two old and might have been stillborn. The owner, and apparently some others nearby, has them on rented pasture, he his cattle calve in late December and early January. Temperatures in the area have been -20 degrees F.

For these small calves four wolves were killed by Wildlife Services. I have heard that Curt Hurless (recall the recent article on him and Lynne Stone?) knows that the Buffalo Ridge Pack was not even in the area when these calves were supposedly killed.

– – – – – – – – – –
Boise, ID

January 28, 2008

Ed Mitchell

Wolf report: wolves spreading?

Another Idaho wolf has wandered into eastern Oregon – this one a radio-collared female wolf from the Timberline Pack.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists just found the two- to three-year-old wolf in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest near the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. The biologists had received reports of wolf activity in that area and were searching for missing wolf radio-collars from Idaho.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists had put a radio-collar on the wolf – identified as B-300 – northeast of Boise in August 2006.

Oregon biologists observed only a single wolf. But it was the fifth confirmed wolf to be found in Oregon.

In March 1999, a radio-collared female was captured near John Day and returned to Idaho. In 2000, a collared wolf was found dead along Interstate 84 south of Baker City, and a wolf without a radio collar was found shot between Ukiah and Pendleton. In July 2007, a mature female wolf was found dead from a gunshot wound in Union County.

All four wolves were from Idaho.

Wolves in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and other parts of eastern Oregon and Washington are included in the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced its intention to remove this population from the endangered species list. A final rule is expected on February 29 and would take effect March 29.

Wolves would remain on the list in the rest of the two states.

In Idaho, four wolves from a pack that has killed at least two calves have been shot. This pack has been implicated in several depredations on cattle over the last few months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed the Buffalo Ridge pack killed two calves in December on private land near Clayton.

Aircrews killed three gray wolves in December. In January, they shot a fourth wolf from the pack along the East Fork of the Salmon River near Clayton.

Wolf biologists estimate the wolf population at the end of 2007 is about 730 wolves in 82 packs with 43 breeding pairs. Federal agents confirmed wolves killed 52 cattle, 170 sheep and six dogs. A total of 76 wolves were confirmed dead – 43 killed by federal predator control actions, seven by ranchers, and 26 died of other causes.

Meanwhile, research in Yellowstone National Park shows that early winter wolf predation fell back into its typical pattern of nearly all elk. Kills were about 40 percent calves, 40 percent bulls, and 20 percent old cows. The composition of prey varies from year-to-year and is probably related to relative vulnerability because of environmental variables, such as drought, forage quality, snow depth and time of year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the wolf recovered in the northern Rocky Mountains and has started the process to remove the wolf from the federal endangered species list. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s weekly wolf reports as well as annual reports, can be viewed at

Groups file lawsuit against the new 10j rule

As expected, a number of conservation groups have filed a lawsuit in the Montana federal district court to set aside the new 10j rule on wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming that was just published.

They are Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council,  Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the United States, and Friends of the Clearwater. They are represented by Earthjustice, a conservation law firm.

Story in the Missoulian. By John Cramer.

This rule states how the federal government will let the states manage wolves prior to delisting. The delisting statement is expected very soon, but most of us see the 10j rule as a backstop by the USFWS to make sure the states have authority to kill a lot of wolves even if delisting is overturned in a yet-to-be filed lawsuit.

Livestock industry has no use for wildlife, period

Earlier, I posted this as a comment, but I think the issue is important enough this it be a post.

– – – – –

I don’t think people realize that the western livestock industry and many outfitters have a mindset that does not value wildlife at all. All animals, including wildlife, are valued only as a commodity. And one of the best ways to maximize the private profitability of these animals is to own them and feed them.

From this viewpoint, wildlife is just plain inefficient. Put them in an enclosure and maximize their size. End of discussion.

Have people noticed that many former woolgrowers are getting into the elk farming/elk shooting business because it is more profitable than raising sheep?

Stan Boyd, who seems to have tremendous influence over the governor of Idaho and the state legislature works for both the Idaho Elk Breeders Association and the Idaho Woolgrowers.

Many outfitters are also ranchers, and so their view of wildlife is the view of the livestock they raise. Elk are just livestock they don’t have complete control over.

Now that they seem to have won on the wolf issue (wolves having no value as livestock), they are ready to start removing bighorn sheep from the public lands because their grip on bighorn is slipping.

As Robert Hoskins has repeatedly written, the Wyoming legislature is moving more and more to restrict Wyoming Game and Fish Department, prevent them from even holding public land grazing permits (where elk could graze in the winter), and to further promote the feedlot practice of elk management.

For those who didn’t follow these issues before the wolves were reintroduced, the Western Livestock Industry had no use for any carnivore, or any animal that is inherently non-game (like bluebirds, or desert tortoise).

They tolerate elk, deer, moose, pronghorn as long as these animals don’t interfere with their livestock operations and they receive “depredation” payments from the Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife (or whatever the state calls it), if these generally useless animals get into their haystacks or fields.

Weasel-like fishers reintroduced in Olympic National Park

Weasel-like fishers reintroduced in Olympic National Park. AP. Seattle P-I.

Here is more. It’s from the National Park Service. Proposed Fisher Reintroduction.

The Still-in-Danger Gray Wolf (NYT editorial)

The New York Times continues to be excellent in cutting through the propaganda issued by the government about it’s new 10j rule on wolves, as well as the forthcoming delisting.

The Still-in-Danger Gray Wolf. Opinion of the New York Times. 

Posted in Delisting, Wolves. Tags: . 11 Comments »

Ethanol plants struggle in Idaho

Despite the continuing hype, ethanol from corn is neither environmentally friendly, nor economically friendly. Ethanol from plant material that is not grown with such energy intensity may have a bright future, but technology needs to advance.

Ethanol plants struggle. Idaho State Journal. AP

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Project on I-90 has reduced wildlife slaughter near Bozeman Pass

For years, this is something I hoped they’d do. It seems to be a success and the cost has been amazingly low.

Project prevents wildlife casualties. By Christine Uthoff. Bozeman Chronicle City Editor

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How public wildlife became something for sale

Everyone should read this, in part because I think a major effort to privatize wildlife and to have livestock associations assume de facto control of state wildlife departments is afoot.

How public wildlife became something for sale. By Mark Henckel. Billings Gazette Outdoor Editor

This article is precisely about what Robert Hoskins, Mack Bray and many others have been writing about on this blog.

– – – – –

Related story. The battle for access. Billings FWP commissioner’s proposal ignited latest flare-up. By Mark Henckel. Billings Gazette Outdoor Editor

13 years on, wolves [in Idaho] have changed friends and foes alike

This is a great story, emphasizing the positive changes for wolves in Idaho since they were reintroduced, but of particular interest it tells about one of our regular posters, Lynne Stone, a women who really does run with wolves, or at least after them — her efforts to keep them alive by keeping them out of livestock.

Rocky Baker’s story tells what she has been up to in the Stanley Basin, Sawtooth Valley, and Marsh Creek area the last several years.

I’d say Lynne’s incredible dedication has saved at least 3 wolf packs from “lethal control,” and also kept a large number of sheep and cattle alive. Her example and interaction with local folks have also played an important part in changing the opinions about wolves in the Stanley area from one of mostly hostility to neutrality and favorability.

Barker also writes about the changes in attitude of two other people. Curt Hurless, in particular, is well known, and I wrote many stories about him when he was trying to raise cattle a few miles downstream from Clayton, on the Salmon River.

Barker believes the changes reflected by the three people he writes about, Stone, Hurless, and Branson, bodes well for delisting. I hope so.

13 years on, wolves have changed friends and foes alike. Hunters, ranchers and wolf advocates look ahead to delisting. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Yellowstone Park has launched a “super” geyser web cam

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Ranchers say they are being squeezed out on Bighorn National Forest

This came from the Billings Gazette and was republished today in Casper Star Tribune. Ranchers say they are being squeezed.

It is true the Western Watersheds Project is trying to establish the rule of law on the Bighorn National Forest, and if you have have read the posts of Robert Hoskins about the defective nature of democracy in Wyoming (run as fiefdom by the livestock and mineral industry), one way of having your influence felt is to donate to the Western Watersheds Project.

Why does Idaho government ignore the Minnesota wolf experience?

This is an editorial in the Idaho Mountain Express.

Clear thinking and biology should drive wolf management. View of the Idaho Mountain Express.

Idaho influential decision-makers are not alone in their self-centered thinking. Other Western States that have wolves, or may have migratiing wolves arrive, consistently make statements warning of disaster if wolves show up, or stating that their state has become an economic wasteland,  completely ignoring the years to experience in other states. Most of the time, the msm simply report these warnings without comment. They might even endorse them; so hat’s off of the Mountain Express.

Battle over bighorns: State seeks solutions to domestic vs. wild sheep conflict

Here is another story on effort by the woolgrowers to take over and divert bighorn sheep management in Idaho. It is on the front page of the Magic Valley Times News today.

I’d judge the article to be just fair in its accuracy.

Battle over bighorns. State seeks solutions to domestic vs. wild sheep conflict. By Matt Christensen. Times-News writer.

I think the science on domestic sheep infecting bighorns is conclusive. Every step of the process is not known, but then neither is it known for the malarial infection of humans. Nevertheless, everyone knows the mosquito is the vector. Sheep are the vector for the pneumonia bighorn get after contact with them.

Howling Over Federal Plan to Expand Wolf Killing

This is from a special section of the New York Times today regarding the new 10j rule. Howling Over Federal Plan to Expand Wolf Killing. By Andrew C. Revkin.

The article’s author gets credit for writing “In a news release, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the states needed more flexibility to allow them to “manage” and “remove” wolves (euphemisms for shooting them) where their predatory skills are too effective.”

I haven’t seen any other msm reporter state the obvious that “management flexibility” means shooting more wolves.


More. Here is the Natural Resource Defense Council’s statement on the new 10j.

CONTACTS: Craig Noble at 415-875-6100 or Louisa Willcox at 406-222-9561 or (406) 581-3839 (cell)

Conservation Groups Challenge Bush Administration Wolf Killing Plan

“It’s going to be open season on wolves,” says Natural Resources Defense Council

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (January 24, 2008) – Conservation groups say they will file a lawsuit in federal court immediately to block a rule announced today by the Bush administration that will allow the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to kill most of the threatened wolves in the Northern Rockies. The new “10(j)” rule widens a loophole in the Endangered Species Act that permits the killing of hundreds of wolves even though the animals are considered at risk of extinction. State plans to hunt, trap and shoot wolves from airplanes threaten to reverse one of the greatest wildlife recovery stories in U.S. history, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Read the rest of this entry »

Governor Brian Schweitzer says Montana can’t be allowed to Become Another Wyoming

Radio-Collared Gray Wolf from Idaho is Verified In Northeast Oregon

Here is some great news!

Update: Video of the Oregon wolf on YouTube.

Update: Here is the story from a local newspaper. Biologist sees wolf in Wallowas. Baker City Herald. By Jayson Jacoby.

Update: Here is the story in the Oregonian. Idaho wolf spotted in northeast Oregon. The radio-collared female is the first live wolf seen in Oregon since March 1999. Friday, January 25, 2008. By Richard Cockle. The Oregonian Staff


Original news release Jan. 24, 2008

Contact: ODFW:
Russ Morgan: 541-963-2138
Michelle Dennehy: 503-947-6022
FWS: Phil Carroll: 503-231-6179

A female gray wolf from Idaho’s Timberline Pack has been positively located in Oregon, using radio signals from her tracking collar. The wolf, a two- to three-year-old female identified as B-300F, has been wearing the collar since she was captured northeast of Boise by Idaho biologists in August 2006. She’s now traveling in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest near the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, between Medical Springs and Wallowa. Biologists have observed evidence of wolves in this area over the past six months.

Aerial searches for signals from wolf tracking collars, specifically those which have been reported as missing from Idaho, helped the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife located the wolf. A signal was picked up January 17, but the location of the animal was not confirmed. A ground search the next day turned up tracks which appeared to be of a wolf.

Read the rest of this entry »

The new 10j rule is out in final form.

Today the new 10j rule governing the “experimental, non-essential” population of wolves in most of Idaho, all of Wyoming, and most of Montana was released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is what will govern management of wolves even if delisting is set aside.

From the standpoint of those who want more than a token population of wolves, this rule is bad. It could in a reduction of wolves by more than half from the current number.

Like the delisting, the new 10j rule will be litigated.

Here is the USFWS news release

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service questions and answers about the new 10j

This answer is one I find a most amazing rationalization of letting states kill wolves.

“In the 2005 rule, the Service inadvertently set an unobtainable threshold for allowing states and tribes to resolve conflicts between wolves and ungulate populations. Current information does not indicate that wolf predation alone is likely to be the primary cause of a reduction of any ungulate population in Montana, Idaho or Wyoming. In addition, there are no populations of wild ungulates in these three states where wolves are the sole predator. It is unlikely that wolf predation will impact ungulate population trends substantially unless other contributing factors are in operation, such as habitat quality and quantity, other predators, high harvest by hunters, weather and other factors. However, in combination with any of these other factors, wolf predation can have a substantial impact to some wild ungulate herds with the potential of reducing them below state and tribal herd management objectives.” [boldface is mine]

Confirmed wolf predations in Wyoming decline in 2007

Confirmed wolf predations decline. Wolf Management in Wyoming. By Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!

Confirmed livestock losses to wolves dropped by over 55% from 2006. 55 cattle (mostly calves) and 16 sheep we confirmed lost to wolves. For this 60 wolves were shot, mostly by Wildlife Services.

Of course there were some livestock killed, but not found, but we also have to assume that Wildlife Services did not cheat in counting the confirmed losses. The Wyoming wolf plan calls for paying sheep growers 700% the value of a lost sheep if it is a confirmed wolf kill. The justification is that there are 7 dead sheep for every one found. If this rate of unconfirmed loss was really true, Wyoming sheep operations would probably be the most sloppy on the planet. In fact, sheep are herded much more closely than cattle, and losses of sheep to predators are more likely, rather than less likely to be detected.

These are data then, about which the governor, state legislators and some of media act so hysterical.

North American Wolf Conference to be held April 8-10 at Chico Hot Springs, Montana


20th Annual North American Wolf Conference

April 8-10, 2008

Chico Hot Springs & Resort – Pray, Montana

Papers are now being accepted for the 2008 North American Wolf Conference April 8-10th, 2008 with a field trip on Friday, April 11th, to Yellowstone National Park. The conference is returning to Chico Hot Springs & Resort, in Pray, Montana. For lodging reservations, please visit the website or call 1-800-468-9232.

The conference serves as a bridge bringing together leading wolf biologists, conservationists, livestock owners, depredation specialists, educators and state, tribal and federal wolf managers to share information ranging from ecological and genetic research, nonlethal techniques to reduce livestock conflicts, to economic and environmental effects of wolf restoration. Former presenters include Ed Bangs, Doug Smith, Lu Carbyn, Jamie Rappaport Clark, Bud Fazio, Steven Fritts, William Lynn, L. David Mech, Marco Musiani, Dave Parsons, Paul Paquet, Robert Wayne, Vic Van Ballenberghe, Carita Bergman and other scientists, managers, and leaders in North American wolf conservation.

Please submit a single-spaced abstract (up to 500 words) with your full contact information, affiliations and authors by e-mail to Suzanne Stone at: by February 15, 2008. If possible, please submit a digital picture related to your research or topic to include in the agenda and conference websites.

We can also scan images sent by mail to:

North American Wolf Conference
P.O. Box 773
Boise, Idaho 83701

Conference registration opened on December 1, 2007.

Please visit for registration details.

For more information, please contact Brenda Davis, Rocky Mountain Region Coordinator, Defenders of Wildlife, at or call (406) 586-3970.

Posted in Wolves. 1 Comment »

Captive Carnivores Not Up To Wild Living

Captive Carnivores Not Up To Wild Living. Science Daily.

This article shows that like the Mexican wolves, extinct in the wild, it is difficult to reintroduce a species. They tend to be killed far too often by human shootings and car accidents.

The wild wolves brought to Idaho and Yellowstone and the wild lynx from Canada to Colorado are by far the best way to do it.

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Pneumonia strikes Montana bighorn sheep

The entire herd in the Elkhorn Mountains near Helena might die. Once again the suspect is domestic sheep (this is according to the article below).

Pneumonia strikes bighorn sheep. By Eve Byron. Helena Independent Record.

Aerial wolf hunt clash goes underground

Aerial hunt clash goes underground. Ads from conservation group back proposed federal prohibition. By Erika Bolstad.

“Alaskans voted twice to ban aerial hunting, and the vote has been overturned twice,” said Jessica Brand, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife. “The only way to end this once and for all is to close the loophole in federal legislation.”

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Wildlife Services doing their work

The photo was taken by an unknown person on 9-26-06.

These wolves were shot from the air in Danskin Mountains, a vast rugged area of low, steep mountains NE of Boise. I could never found out what these wolves supposedly did, although in August 2006 Ed Bangs reported “On the 15th, an ID WS aircrew spotted one black adult wolf and two pups on a calf carcass on Danskin Ridge.

Wolf control for livestock has deteriorated in recent years. They used to try to remove the offending wolf. Now they just kill a few wolves in the area if they can find some — vengeance killing. There is a rumor that their new informal protocol is to kill two wolves for every head of livestock killed, even day old cow calves and lambs.

Chuck Carpenter is the district supervisor for central Idaho for the U.S. Wildlife Services.

Read the rest of this entry »

Salt Lake Tribune: Sayonara cyanide: Poison land mines should be banned

This is today’s SLC Tribune editorial against continuing use of ranchers getting to use cyanide and 1080.

Predators Do More Than Kill Prey

Predation does more than affect ecosystem dynamics, it also shapes the evolution of prey species.

Predators Do More Than Kill Prey. Science Daily.

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U.S. Given Poor Marks on the Environment

U.S. Given Poor Marks on the Environment. By Felicity Barringer. New York Times.

“A new international ranking of environmental performance puts the United States at the bottom of the Group of 8 industrialized nations and 39th among the 149 countries on the list.”

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Wyoming state wolf rules go to public

State wolf rules go to public. By CHRIS MERRILL. Casper Star-Tribune environment reporter.

Of course Wyoming’s wolf plan is terrible and will result in the elimination of most packs except those inside Yellowstone Park. This would only happen under the Bush Administration.

They will be shooting wolves because the wolves will come to their disease-spreading elk feedgrounds and chase the elk. The result will be packs that spend most of their time inside Grand Teton and maybe even Yellowstone being wiped out so that Wyoming can keep pitching hay to their semi-domesticated elk.

Irony is the wolves are probably the only thing in Wyoming actively severing to deter the spread of chronic wasting disease between ungulates.

The plan also has an incredibly high subsidy to livestock producers who lose livestock to wolves — payment of many times the value of the dead calf, lamb, foal, etc. This creates an incentive for the livestock producer to turn in falsified reports. This has already happened with their extra generous grizzly bear livestock compensation subsidy. This is a twist that even Idaho’s bad plan does not take.

Political Animals (Yes, Animals)

Some animals engage in behavior that seems political, or at least has a similar effect among their own as human politics.

Political Animals (Yes, Animals). By Natatie Angier. New York Times.

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Battle over Bighorn, part II

Battle over Bighorn: Opposing views on disease and economics. This is part II. By Sven Berg. South Idaho Press

– – – – – –

I posted part I earlier. Here is it again. Battle over Bighorn, part I.

– – – – – –

There is more on this on the Western Watersheds Project blog. “Dear Governor” – Bighorn, Mule deer opportunity, & domestic sheep in southern Idaho.

The blog shows the influence trail with actual documents.

– – – – – –

Update: Idaho bighorn plan could mean more wild sheep would be killed. Idaho Statesman. By Keith Ridler. Bighorn sheep in Idaho have dropped from 6500 in 1990 to about 3500 today. You wouldn’t know it to hear the domestic sheep lobby moan and whine. Now the Idaho Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Working Group is nearing their recommendation to the governor. Not surprisingly, the “solution” will be to restrict the bighorn from reoccupying their native range and to kill bighorn that venture outwards from some boxed-in areas where they will be allowed to persist if they can.

The article says, “There are some 260,000 domestic sheep in Idaho, and they brought in more than $17 million to the state in 2006, according to the state Agriculture Department.” It doesn’t say how much the bighorn bring in, although a ram with a full curl has had tags sold at auction at $75.000.

$17-million dollars is a piss-poor return for an industry that monopolizes millions or acres of land in Idaho, much of it public land that could have abundant wildlife instead.

In Yellowstone, drought’s effects are both startling and subtle

Man’s poisoning prompts debate on predator poison ban

Here is more on the dangers of poisons set out for coyotes (and soon wolves?).

“Curious, Slaugh touched the stake, and it exploded, spewing a cloud of sodium cyanide in his face and chest. Slaugh, 65, of Vernal, Utah, said he suffers long-term health effects from the 2003 spraying. He has difficulty breathing, vomits almost daily and can no longer work driving heavy equipment because he is too weak.”

Here is the AP story. Man’s Poisoning Prompts Debate on Predator Poison Ban.

Although the EPA is considering a ban on sodium cyanide and 1080 (sodium monofluroacetate), you might want to write to your member of Congress and ask him or her support a legislative ban. Note that the EPA’s action, which is hardly four sure, is a weaker administrative ban.

For example, Democrat John Salazar of Colorado is weighing in in favor of the poisons. Do Colorado residents know that? It is in the story above.

Idaho Statesman’s View: It’s high time to let states manage wolves

This appeared a few days ago. Our View: It’s high time to let states manage wolves (by the editorial board).

After many complaints, we found out who actually wrote this. She hadn’t even read the state wolf management plan. Discussion of the details and the facts didn’t matter, apparently those things didn’t matter.

Addendum 12-30-08: I was contacted by the Idaho Statesman. They insisted that the author of the editorial had indeed read the plan. Because I did not talk to the the author, but relied on someone who had, and he was firm that she said she had not, this is basically a “he said,” “she said,” in that my information is second hand.

Perhaps it would have been best to point out all the defects in the editorial, but this is far enough in the past, I won’t. I think every reader can easily make a judgment. Ralph Maughan

Example how headline does not match story

The Christian Science Monitor is a major newspaper, but the disjunct between the headline and the text on an article about predatory control issues is classic.

This kind of contradiction between headline and text is one reason I often rewrite the headline on linked story.

“With predator populations rising, more calls for control. Western states grapple with how to address an increasing threat to livestock from wolves and big cats.” By Brad Knickerbocker. Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor.

When you read it you will find that only predator populations specifically mentioned to be rising are cougars in Oregon and wolves in the Northern Rockies, and the text is quite balanced between those who worry about it and those who want to protect these large carnivores.

Listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act won’t do much good, but we should do it anyway

This is from Slate Magazine.

Listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act won’t do much good, but we should do it anyway. By Holly Doremus

Update (more). Here is more on the Administration’s footdragging on listing the polar bear. The Latest Environmental Victims: The Polar Bear and the Sage Grouse. The Board, a blog by the editorial writers of the New York Times.

Reps. Young and Miller in Dog Fight Over Wolves

Don Young of Alaska is one of the most unpleasant and disliked members of the House, much like his cranky Senate counterpart, Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens.

His tactics on this issue are like his tactics on all issues — mean. Fortunately, polls shows voters in Alaska might be ready to finally defeat him.

The dog issue is a phoney. A handful to maybe a dozen dogs are killed by wolves in the wolf states each year. Almost all are hunting hounds that intrude into wolf territories while chasing bears or cougars. Think of how many dogs there are!

Young is angry for another reason, George Miller is sponsoring a bill to ban hunting wolves from aircraft over federal lands in Alaska.

Reps. Young and Miller in Dog Fight Over Wolves. Washington Post. The Sleuth (a column by Mary Ann Akers)

Idaho’s increasing wolf population doesn’t appear to be hurting other wildlife.

Elk, deer survival high despite prowling wolves. Idaho’s increasing wolf population doesn’t appear to be hurting other wildlife. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

“Elk and deer survival remains high despite the growing wolf population in Idaho.’

Barker’s story is old news. This has been reported time after time, but it is in the Idaho Statesman (Idaho largest newspaper), and some hunters and groups will continue to say elk, deer, whatever have “been decimated.”

Are wolves or climate change bringing back the willows [in Yellowstone]?

This is from Rocky Barker’s blog today. Idaho Statesman.

I’ve been aware for some time that not everyone believes the now readily apparant (and predicted) spurt of growth of willows, aspen, and cottonwood on the Northern Range of Yellowstone is not a wolf upon elk effect.

I think it could be both wolves and a warming climate, not just one or the other. However, research on willow growth changes outside the Park needs to be done. It needs to be done in areas without wolves and finally in areas with wolves that are not inside Yellowstone Park or directly adjacent.

Battle over Bighorn

Battle over Bighorn. By Sven Berg. South Idaho Press. The first in a 2 part series.

These bighorn issue should be noted by all those who write about predators and hunting because it shows the ranchers are not just anti-wolf, but against any wildlife they think hurts their bottom line.

I recall an old bumper sticker. . . . “hunters, did a cow get your elk?”  In this case it is sheep and bighorn.

– – – – –

Notice how people who work for the state of Idaho will not comment on this issue or must, in one instance, take questions only in writing and approved by their department (this is what is supposed to be academic setting).

Wolf tracks found in Rocky Mountain National Park

Wolf tracks found in RMNP. By Pamela Dickman. Longmont Times-Call.

Recall that about a month ago there was a sighting of what was thought to be a wolf in the Park. These tracks are NOT really proof of a

US Forest Service is considering a massive restructuring

Forest Service looks at changes. By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star-Tribune correspondent.

This proposal would greatly change this old line public lands agency. It will further deplete the number of employees actually on the ground.

Here is the view of PEER. It’s a new release.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Forest Service To Pull Its Scientists And Planners From Field. Massive Consolidation of NEPA Functions Will Take Thousands Out of Forests.

Part of this may be due to the fact that they lose NEPA lawsuit after lawsuit to conservation groups, but the problem is not inability to prepare a proper environmental impact statements, but under the Bush Administration the failure to obey the laws of the land.

Survival of bighorns in Tetons a mystery

This is from the Jackson Hole News and Guide. It’s about how 100 bighorn sheep struggle to survive in the heights of the Tetons. It is a marginal existence, but the destruction of the bighorns of the Snake River Range and other mountain chains to the south and southeast, which would provide better habitat is not due to human development like the article says.

It is sheep, domestic sheep, disease-spreading domestic sheep.

Story by Cory Hatch in the Guide.

USFWS spurns any plans for jaguar recovery in the United States

Jaguar recovery efforts lack support from federal agency. By Staci Matlock. The New Mexican

More from National Geographic News. Added 1-23-2008. U.S. Jaguar Plan Foiled by Border Fence, Critics Say. H. Josef Hebert. Associated Press 

Former Idaho governor on canned hunts

I got a kick out of this snippet from the Idaho Statesman and thought I’d share :

“Those people that believe in shooting animals through a fence after enticing them to the fence with a bucket of grain ought to turn the rifle around the other way,” said Andrus, a Democratic former governor and U.S. Interior secretary.

Apparently he got a cheer out of a crowd of sportsmen at the event !


comments closed

Posted in Elk. 19 Comments »

Idaho Senate Resources and Environment committee meeting

Idaho Senate Resources & Environment committee meeting by BE.

Perhaps just my feeling, but this tells us so much about the players and their priorities.

Wolves and elk population/hunting in the Upper Clearwater (N. Central Idaho)

The supposed highly negative effect of wolves on the elk populations in the upper Clearwater River area of North Central Idaho has long been a talking point by Idaho Fish and Game and a number of local hunting organizations and public officials.

I predicted wolves would be blamed when the elk population dropped off in the early and mid 1990s. There were very few wolves in the area until about the year 2000, however. They certainly got blamed, however, as well as all other carnivoires. The non-agency biologists I knew said the problem was a severe winter, maturation of the habitat (back to like when Lewis and Clark came through and almost starved to death) and the spread of the noxious non-native pest plant, knapweed onto what winter range remained.

I got this information today from the Wolf Education and Research Center.

As far as the Lolo goes – unit 12 has had a population problem since 1985 – Wolves did not have a foothold (according to IDF&G reports) in the area until 2000
Unit 12 Total Elk Pop 1985 = 4767
1997 = 2667
2006 = 1658
Unit 10 on the other hand has had an increase in elk since 2003 with an increase in c/c ratio to boot.
Total Elk 1989 = 11507c/c = 29.9
1998 = 5079
2003 = 2643
2006 = 3452 c/c = 29.4
This is from IDF&G 2007 Sightability Report that I got out of the Lewiston [Idaho] office from Clay Hickey.
There has been an increase in hunter harvest in the entire zone (units10 &12) since 2000. IDF&G W-170-R-30, 05/06 Elk Survey
1998 total hunters = 1533 total harvest =277
2005 total hunters = 1590 total harvest = 329
Note that “the Lolo” is the part of the area which has been perhaps the most controversial. It is in Unit 12. Unit 10 is adjacent to the west.
Elk today numbers are not anything like the 1970s (when it was predicted this elk decline would happen). However, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious “wolf appearence” effect on harvest or numbers (both have increased).
I understand the South Fork of the Clearwater (Elk City) shows even more improvement for elk.

Editorial: Guv [Bill Richardson] quickly returns to enviro-battlefield

Governor Richardson is back in New Mexico after his failed bid for President and trying the repel the attack by Bush/Kempthorne and the oil companies.

Editorial: Guv quickly returns to enviro-battlefield. The New Mexican.

Posted in B.L.M., oil and gas, politics, public lands, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: . Comments Off on Editorial: Guv [Bill Richardson] quickly returns to enviro-battlefield

No bears for oil

“Why hasn’t the polar bear been granted federal protection? Maybe because the Bush administration plans a last-minute handout of oil leases on its habitat.” No Bears for Oil. By Katharine Mieszkowski. Salon Magazine (may require a subscription to read the full article on-line).

In a related matter, there has been some loss of interest by the oil companies in drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge despite 25 years of trying to get in. Drilling in that country requires frozen ground (permafrost in the summer under the couple feet of melted surface soil). With the rapid warming of the Arctic, the area is turning into a swamp/marsh for a large part of the year.

3 malnourished cougar kittens killed at Pocatello, Idaho

There are a fair number of mountain lions in the mountains around Pocatello (where I live) and nearby. There is a story like this about every 3 or 4 years.

3 malnourished cougar kittens killed in E. Idaho. AP

Update Jan. 31. This action has not gone down well. There have been a lot of LTE against it in the Pocatello paper (these not on-line) and here in the Idaho Statesman.  Letters to the Editor: Cougars 

Park Service: Ely, Nevada coal-fired power plant plan ‘unacceptable’

The National Park Service has come out against the giant coal-fired electrical generating plant planned for north of Ely, Nevada. Now it and majority leader Harry Reid are in opposition as well as it appear local residents.

Park Service: Ely, Nevada coal-fired power plant plan ‘unacceptable‘. Elko Daily Free Press.

Record Warm Summers Cause Extreme Ice Melt In Greenland

Record Warm Summers Cause Extreme Ice Melt In Greenland. Science Daily.

Despite debate about reducing CO2 emissions, I think it is politically impossible. Humans are not capable of organizing themselves to do it. Self interest, denial, nationalism, religion, and too many other human organizational factors are in the way. At any rate, reducing emission growth is not enough. Almost all the predictions have not been negative enough, with actual observations soon outrunning even the pessimistic side of the predictions.

The absolute amount of CO2 is the atmosphere must not only soon stop going up, it must be reduced from current levels. The only thing that could do this is some invention. There are some possibilities.

Otherwise, human civilization is doomed and maybe the species itself.

Posted in Climate change. Tags: . Comments Off on Record Warm Summers Cause Extreme Ice Melt In Greenland

Nuggets from the legislature: Idaho may poison wolves to reduce numbers

As if to underscore Jan. 15 concern of the members of the US House Natural Resources Committee members, Idaho’s State Senate Resources and Environment Committee had a hearing today with the Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners into a variety of wildlife unfriendly subjects such as wolves, bighorn sheep and sage grouse — those species Idaho’s old-line ag establishment hates with a passion.

According to Brian Ertz, who attended the hearing, IDFG commissioners for the first time used the “P” word, that Idaho might just have to just poison wolves to reduce their numbers. Of course, they will be using aerial gunning to reduce the wolves if the hunters don’t get enough of them. The committee chairman assured them they would have ample funds for their endeavors in case the federal government didn’t come through.

In other matters, Fish and Game Commissioner Wright touted the “rancher friendly” grass they were planting for sage grouse — Siberian wheatgrass!

Update from Brian Ertz (moved forward to).

Anti-wolf invents new argument

This is from today’s — Jan 16, 2008 — edition of the Jackson Hole News and Guide, page 29A. It’s not on-line.

Wolves, not drought, kill elk, hunters say

“Bill Hoppe, president of the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, called (Doug) Smith’s conclusions (that drought caused the general decline in elk body condition) a lie. “Doug Smith wouldn’t have much fat in his bone marrow either if he got chased 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by a bunch of wolves,” he said. “The area in and around Yellowstone park is being devastated by these wolves. . . .”

” Nobody seems to care if the wolves eat everything, he said. “These wolves, they will eat somebody before it’s all over. You can’t have that many people skiing and snowshoeing and have this many wolves and not have somebody get hurt. These wolves aren’t afraid of you. The are not one bit afraid of a person.”

“Bob Wharff, executive director of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, also said wolves, not drought, caused weaker animals.“The reality is, wolves create sick and weak animals,” he said. “

Folks might have noticed Bob Wharff started posting here today. I think these folks sat down and thought up a new argument because of crumbling credibility about wolves hurting elk. The brucellosis scare tactic is also wearing really thin after 20 years.

Bill Hoppe should really stop this fear-mongering that wolves are going eat someone. They seem to be the only big animal that hasn’t hurt someone around here. There is a real likelihood of being eaten alive, but it’s not from big animals.

– – – – –

This article tells us what is really going to eat us alive, and it isn’t pretty. That little girl, who the wolf was going to eat, has a million times greater chance of her arm dissolving in pus from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), pronounced “Mersa.”

Congressmen say Idaho/Montana/Wyoming too hostile to receive wolf management responsibility

Congressmen ask Kempthorne to delay delisting wolves in the West. Billings Gazette.

This won’t stop delisting. It’s a political warning (“don’t stage a big reduction slaughter) from a bipartisan group on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Idaho roadless plan is good but it needs tweaking, Risch says

Idaho’s roadless plan is good but it needs tweaking, Risch says. He says it needs to further restrict logging, but conservationists say that revision is not enough. Idaho Statesman. By Erika Bolstad.

This roadless area plan was developed by Risch in 2006 while he was briefly governor. He was one of just a few governors who took up Bush’s offer to states to let them resolve the roadless area issue (subject to Bush Administration approval). Most governors preferred President Clinton’s total protection plan.

The Administration’s final approval was for a modified plan that provided significantly less protection than Risch had proposed (more logging). Now Risch is running for the U.S. Sentate to replace Larry Craig (his Democratic opponent will be Larry LaRocco, a former Idaho congressman)., a new interactive roadless area website

Nelson Guda has developed and deployed an incredible new resource for the location, description, and maps of the roadless areas.

His website allows users to look at photos and comments about individual roadless areas and to upload their own comments and photos.

Because this was just announced, so far there are not a lot of comments and photos, but with some help this could become invaluable for locating places to explore with your own effort and to protect from the depredations of the industrial machine that is overrunning the planet.

I think it will be a lot of fun showing folks the photos you have taken and making comments about the places.

I’ve written a number of hiking guides. My tendency on comments was always political . . . .” Hike up the SW side of the ridge. Watch out for rocks that just small enough you can’t step on top of them, but too big not to notice each step. When you get on top, look to the west. The haze is from natural gas drilling and production at emission level’s far beyond that which is legal.

Whatever you say, the fight’s gone out of Western agitators

Writers on the Range. Whatever you say: The fight’s gone out of Western agitators.  By Todd Wilkinson

Blaine County ORV enthusiasts blame wolves to prevent BLM closures in wintering habitat

Off-road ‘enthusiasts’ (snowmobiles) expressed their disdain for a “Blaine County Cooperative Conservation Recreation and Travel Plan” which would close BLM and state big game wintering habitat to both motorized and non-motorized recreationists on either side of the Wood River Valley “only when harsh winter conditions warrant.”

Motorized users express outrage over BLM travel plan
Snowmobiles don’t harm wintering big game, they claim :

On Wednesday, many of these speakers said the only negative impact on wintering deer and elk is the area’s growing gray wolf population. They claimed snowmobiles do not harm deer or elk in any way.

This ‘wolves as whipping-boy’ phenomenon is growing.

I’ve got extended family in West Yellowstone that compelled me to write this personal anecdotal account of snowmobiles’ general affect on me last year. Whatever a person’s take on snowmachines is, to say that they don’t disturb wildlife is … less than honest …

Utah legislators’ letter offends American freedom

The Salt Lake Tribune features an article about a letter that a couple of Utah legislators wrote associating wilderness designation in the state with aiding terrorists. Letter links wilderness, threats of terror. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance takes the brunt of these bumbling assaults on preserving wild places, wilderness that when properly protected actualizes the most potent and important manifestations of genuine public freedom remaining – the wild.

“Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

– Aldo Leopold 1949 A Sand County Almanac

[Mark Rey] threatened with jail

It looks as if more has developed in the Mark Rey contempt of court case. It is being reported that a judge decided Friday that the Forest Service is indeed in contempt of court for not properly assessing the environmental impacts of the fire retardant ammonium phosphate by its deadline. The Forest Service had dragged its feet the whole way through court, ignoring court orders and deadlines to the point of igniting the ire of the federal judge. Official threatened with jail (link broken – i.e. registration required) in the Sacramento Bee :

Agriculture Secretary Mark Rey could be forced to wear a monitoring bracelet until the U.S. Forest Service complies with an order to evaluate the chemical, ammonium phosphate.

New LinkJudge ready to hold Forest Service in contempt The Oregonian :

“The Forest Service, throughout these proceedings, evidenced a strategy of circumventing, rather than complying with,” the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, [Judge Mollow] wrote. “The apparent pattern suggests a strategy of looking for ways to avoid the law’s mandate as opposed to looking for a means of complying with the law.”

New LinkMolloy orders feds to explain fire retardant policy The Missoulian :

Previous Post –
Bush top forestry official could be jailed for contempt of court

Call me mean-hearted or whatever you will, but anyone who’s sifted through Mark Rey’s resume knows that this former timber lobbyist appointed top forester is one of the top environmental obstructionists and public land profiteers in our government – It sort of brings a smile thinking about Larry Craig’s point man in Executive with an ankle bracelet.

Idaho legislators moan and groan on Wolves

Idaho state legislators just don’t believe the numbers on wolves and big game and they’re more than willing to be loud about it.

Wolf population grows
F&G director briefs lawmakers on species
By Jared S. Hopkins

This is the kind of political pressure and anecdotal hearsay  that makes the state not ready for delisting.

Posted in Delisting, Idaho wolves, Wolves, Wolves and Livestock. Comments Off on Idaho legislators moan and groan on Wolves

Wyden looks to thin Forests

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden wants to expedite logging for one of his home state’s chief industries – timber.  Ore. Senator’s Bill Would Thin Forests :

Wyden said he was particularly interested in developing collaborative processes to identify objections early on, so they can be addressed without ending up in court.

This while the timber industry laid out its terms :

“If you put diameter limits on this process, it’s not going to work.”

So in order to protect old growth, they’re going to need to harvest old growth.  I see …

Oregon Ag Press “Delisting wolf may not help”

Oregon may have as few as a pair of wolves and it’s state protections drop after four breeding pairs, but just west of the Snake lies a temporary reprieve for wolves. Capital News, an Ag publication, illustrates a few of Oregon’s state protections “Delisting wolf may not help” (broken/pay) :

One thing the federal delisting will do is give the state authority to intervene and kill a problem wolf in cases of chronic depredation. It also will give the state authority to issue a permit for lethal take to livestock producers who suffer wolf depredation – provided the producer first fails to resolve the conflict through non-lethal strategies.

Emphasis mine. I’m still rubbing my eyes.

Senators push to allow guns in national parks

Almost half the Senate pushes to allow firearms into national parks.

Senators push to allow guns in national parks
BY PETE ZIMOWSY of the Idaho Statesman

Here’s the editorial in the New York Times (registeration required) :

Keeping Guns Out of the Parks

It looks like a political move more than anything ~ or pulling a cartridge out of a weapon is an undue infringement on the principle of it.

Bush Administration Abandons Effort to Undercut National Forest Protections

It looks like the horrible 2005 Bush rule governing forest management is a relic of the past. Monday, the government filed a motion to dismiss its appeal of a court decision striking down the Bush rule.

Bush Administration Abandons Effort to Undercut National Forest Protections

In memoriam:

Bush Administration tries again with new Forest Service regulations

Court victory over Bush forest planning rules causes halt in Shoshone National Forest plan

Federal judge tosses out new [Bush] rules governing national forests

Wild Bison: BFC Update from the Field 1/10/08

Today’s Buffalo Field Campaign Update from the Field features a compelling account of BFC’s patrol coming upon a buffalo injured by a collision with the sheriff’s vehicle and the group’s introspective struggle with how to best proceed.

When we returned, she had not moved. Her condition had not seemed to change. Patrols radioed in to ask for everyone’s input. There was a variety of responses. If the game warden came, could we talk him into letting her body rest there in the willows, to be food for the ravens, wolves, coyotes and bears? They would never allow it. But this buffalo was in a bad way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bison. 2 Comments »

Rocky Barker: Bighorn-domestic sheep conflict could blow up soon in Idaho

Barker has an amazing story this morning . . . the “Cassia County Board of Commissioners voted to ask [Butch] Otter to relocate bighorn sheep from the South Hills near Twin Falls because of conflicts with domestic sheep.” Of course, Otter can’t legally order this. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission can. They are supposed to be independent, and once truly were. We shall see.

The bighorn herd which is near Big Cottonwood Creek lives close to the domestic sheep allotments of several powerful sheep growers.

I wonder if the County Commissioners asked local wildlife enthusiasts if they wanted this rare herd removed, or did the sheep-men storm into the Commissioner’s meeting and demand the resolution from their compliant servants?

Idaho bighorn/domestic sheep consensus group meets, and sheep disease transmission not on the table.

Earlier, we ran an exclusive story that the livestock industry and various officials were having a secret meeting at the request of Idaho’s governor to counter the federal courts because they were insisting that sheep operations keep their disease-ridden bands away from bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon (Idaho/Oregon border) and on the lower Salmon River in Idaho.

Dec. 3, 2007. Rumor of high level Idaho meeting to conspire against recent bighorn sheep victories.

It was true, and the so the whole thing emerged on Jan. 7 as a consensus group meeting attended by a number of groups, but the agenda was tightly controlled.

Once again what is so fascinating is how little stockgrowers are concerned about passing livestock disease to wildlife.

The Western Watersheds Project blog has an interesting account of the group’s first meeting, at least I find it appallingly entertaining. Read “Bighorn Meeting.WWP blog.

– – – – –

Similarly why is it that the ag lobby’s kept agency, APHIS, is doing so little about bluetongue which is a grave threat to whiletailed deer, pronghorn and a number of ruminant livestock.?

Researchers say wolves could help curb wasting disease

This article dates from 2003, but it is relevant because it is so clear the Western public lands livestock industry is not interested in curbing wildlife diseases, only exploiting them for political gain . . . even diseases that threaten livestock.

The post above this one is on a closely related matter.

Researchers say wolves could help curb wasting disease. Billings Gazette.

Livestock Lobby Pressures to Retain Wildlife Poisons

This is from Wild Again, Livestock Lobby Pressures to Retain Wildlife Poisons.

I think people should add to their comments to the EPA (due by Jan. 15) that these poisons, especially 1080, would be a terrorist’s delight, an ideal weapon for not just poisoning a large number of people because it is so toxic and also, odorless, colorless, and tasteless, but it causes a horrible death.

How their marginal use in protecting sheep can justify this danger to the public should shame the EPA and politicians into banning them. . . . compound 1080 Al Qaeda’s friend!

Drought is wolves’ ally in hunt for park elk.

Drought is wolves’ ally in hunt for park elk. Lack of precipitation is a big factor in Yellowstone’s declining wapiti numbers. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

“The range [condition] in Yellowstone going into this winter is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Smith said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do Status Review on the pygmy rabbit

Conservation groups, alarmed at the decline in the pygmy rabbit, petitioned USFWS way back in 2003 that it be added to the endangered species list. In March 2006, the USFWS rejected their petition as “not warranted.” That is ESA legal language for “not needed.”

Western Watersheds Project, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Center for Native Ecosystems, Oregon Natural Deserts Association, and the Sagebrush Sea Project took them to federal court which overturned the Service and told them to look at it again. Now USFWS has announced they will do a Status Review (the second ESA step in a listing). It is a detailed analysis of the actual status and condition of the species, and is not supposed to be influenced by politics or economics.

Story: Feds to Mull Protection for Pygmy Rabbit. AP. Nicholas K. Geranios. PHOTO of pygmy rabbit.

Petitioners to list the pygmy rabbit issued this news release Jan. 8 after the good news


For Immediate Release
January 8, 2008

Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 871-5738
Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West, (208) 342-7024
Duane Short, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, (307) 742-7978 or (270) 366-3415
Jacob Smith, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214
Bill Marlett, Oregon Natural Desert Association, (541) 330-2638
Mark Salvo, Sagebrush Sea Campaign, (503) 757-4221

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Announces Positive ESA Finding for Pygmy Rabbit

On January 8th U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a positive 90-day finding on a petition to list the pygmy rabbit as Threatened or Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

In April 2003, conservation groups and concerned citizens submitted a formal petition to list the rare and unique pygmy rabbit as threatened or endangered and to have critical habitat designated for its protection. The Service initially found the rabbit not warranted to be listed on the basis that scientific or commercial information presented by the petitioners was insufficient. In March 2006 Western Watersheds Project, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Center for Native Ecosystems, Oregon Natural Deserts Association, and the Sagebrush Sea Project filed suit to challenge the Services 90-day finding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comment on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park tentative regulations for hunting wolves

Montana FWP has is having 44 (!) public meetings about their state wolf hunting plan — a plan more cautious (probably) than Idaho or Wyoming.

Last night at the meeting in Bozeman, Norm Bishop was one who testified. Bishop was a legendary figure as an intepretive naturalist at Yellowstone before his retirement (he still is!).

I thought folks would want to read his testimony because these points needs to be made by more than one.


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks January 8, 2008
Attn: Wildlife Division
Public Comment
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tentative regulations for hunting wolves. I am fully in accord with the citizen-developed Montana Wolf Management Plan, and commend FWP for engaging the public in the planning for wolf management. Read the rest of this entry »

Mars Candy billionaire, previously unknown to be owner of ranch, fights energy companies in Montana

NPR: Government Revisits Contested Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan

On National Public Radio, this is mostly audio, Government Revisits Contested [Mexican] Wolf Recovery Plan. By Ted Robbins.

For those who like it by ear, this is an overview of the current controversy, government efforts for a better plan, and the incipient failure of the Mexican wolf restoration.

Posted in Mexican wolves, politics, Wolf dispersal, Wolves, Wolves and Livestock. Comments Off on NPR: Government Revisits Contested Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan

Check Footloose, Montana’s first TV ads

Go to and you will find the link near the top.

Where the bison could roam

JB suggested I make a map based on Google Earth showing the topographic boundaries that would be natural choke points to keep free ranging outside-Yellowstone-Park bison confined so that they don’t keep continually expanding their range.

Within this area, outside the Park, there would be a bison hunt to keep the population approximately stable. Additional bison would be able to leave the Park into these areas to escape harsh winter conditions (such as frozen ground after rain which is more common with warming climate) and to seek early spring greenery.

Here is the map

Idaho: ‘The battle between wild and domestic sheep has only just begun’

The Times-News has a story highlighting some history concerning bighorn sheep in southern Idaho.

Hunting for history: The return of the southern Idaho bighorn sheep
By Ron Yates

Stories concerning bighorn sheep have focused on the majestic animals’ past. But recent reports of developments concerning their management, reported in real time, have prompted positive results for bighorn management in the state of Idaho. Thanks are due Ralph for the light. With this in mind, I include some ulterior context below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »

Bighorn sheep reintroduced to island mountain ranges in Utah

A nice thing about a number of the isolated mountain ranges in the Great Basin is there are no domestic sheep, making the reintroduction of bighorn possible.

The reclamation of historic bighorn range is largely limited by domestic sheep, which quickly pass killer diseases to their wild cousins.

“Big day for bighorns: Mountain sheep get helicopter ride to new domains.” By Tom Wharton. Salt Lake Tribune.

Across the Great Salt Lake Desert to the Newfoundland Range. It’s surrounded by mud flats and salt flats. Sometimes, such as wet years, by water. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Winter conflicts with bison could increase

Winter conflicts with bison could increase. By Corey Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

I don’t like this headline. There is a conflict only because the government chooses to make one. There is plenty of unused winter habitat for the bison outside the Park. It is that they are just not allowed to use it, even private property habitat with willing landowners!

At least the story doesn’t use the old canard of brucellosis to explain the brutal policy.

Although wolves kill hound, changes by cougar hunters show they’re learning

On Dec. 31, a cougar’s houndsman’s dogs ran into a wolf pack and one ended up dead and one injured, but that is not the end of what has been a fairly common story.

The article describes how those who run hounds in extreme NW Montana have changed their tactics and communicate with each other if they see wolf sign in an area. These wolf/hound incidents are on the decline . . . hunters adapting — the way things should be.

Story in the Daily InterLake. Wolves kill hound on a hunt near Kalispell. By Jim Mann.

Posted in wildcats, Wolves. Tags: . Comments Off on Although wolves kill hound, changes by cougar hunters show they’re learning

Wolves need to gorge, even in captivity

You don’t feed wolves like you do dogs even if the wolves don’t have to hunt.

Story about the wolves at the International Wolf Center at Ely, Minnesota. By Scott Stowell

Rare lynx photographed in Yellowstone

Rare lynx photographed in Yellowstone. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

Editorial: Weigh all costs of energy from oil shale, tar sands. Cost of oil shale is too high

People are beginning to realize that the cost of burning their food (corn) to fuel their automobiles is pretty high. Now that the Iowa caucus is over, perhaps some rationality will filter down to the politicians on this issue.

A much worse energy tradeoff, however, is oil shale. There are huge deposits of it in Utah and Colorado, but the costs of extracting it are enormous. It’s a bad net energy tradeoff because it doesn’t really contain oil, but rather a precursor to it, and not even in a very high concentration. Oil shale will be tremendously destructive to the environment too.

With all these things against it, naturally the Bush Administration thinks it’s a great thing. The Salt Lake Tribune does some reality-based analysis. Price too high. Editorial. Salt Lake Tribune.

Conservationists Request Investigations of Reported Mexican Wolf Baiting

Conservation groups have taken action after the story about ranch hands luring wolves in so they will kill calves, so the wolves will then killed by the government “to protect the livestock.”

For Immediate Release, January 3, 2008

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 534-0360

Conservationists Request Investigations of Reported Wolf Baiting

SILVER CITY, N.M.— Fifteen conservation groups wrote Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today requesting an independent inspector general investigation into a reported baiting of endangered Mexican gray wolves. The baiting scheme, in which vulnerable cattle were allegedly left near a wolf den, resulted in a rare wolf being shot by the federal government.

The letter to Kempthorne states in part: “The possibility that illegal take was perpetrated through abuse of government-provided telemetry radio receivers and through taking advantage of SOP 13, the rigid predator-control protocol applied to Mexican wolves, merits thorough investigation.”

Conservationists are also requesting a law enforcement investigation, retrieval of radio telemetry receivers that may be used to facilitate illegal baiting, and release back into the wild of trapped wolves that may also have been baited on the same ranch. In addition, in separate letters to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the concerned groups request the cancelation of grazing permits.

According to the December 24, 2007 High Country News article that broke the wolf-baiting story, ranch employee Mike Miller “branded cattle less than a half-mile from the wolves’ den, the enticing aroma of seared flesh surely reaching the pack’s super-sensitive nostrils. Miller was, in essence, offering up a cow as a sacrifice.” In fact, the article quotes Miller as saying: “We would sacrifice a calf to get a third strike” — referring to depredations in the so-called “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” rule governing the Mexican wolves, formally known as SOP 13. Miller is quoted in a subsequent Albuquerque Journal article as denying that he made such an admission.

The conservationists’ letters specifically seek the following actions:

  • A law enforcement investigation of the incident described in the magazine High Country News, along with prosecution if merited.
  • An independent inspector general investigation of whether wolves were removed from the same ranch subsequent to the Fish and Wildlife Service learning about the alleged baiting, the granting of government telemetry receivers to the livestock industry and/or rogue county governments, and related questions.
  • Cancellation of grazing and outfitting permits held by any person found to have baited wolves. (The foreign-owned ranch where the incident is alleged to have taken place holds multiple Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state grazing permits.)

Michael J. Robinson
Center for Biological Diversity

P.O. Box 53166
Pinos Altos, NM 88053
(575) 534-0360

Here is the letter to the Secretary of Interior (Dirk Kempthorne)


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Update: Story in the ABQ Journal-News. Conservationists Want Probe Into Reports of Wolf Baiting

Climate change threatens wolverines. Glacier NP is a refuge

As snow depth diminishes, the deep snows of the mountains become more crucial for wolverines because they need the snow in the  high bowls for denning.

With the coming of high powered snowmobiles much of this country has already been damaged. A five-year study of Glacier NP, where these machines are not allowed shows that its deep winters snows are a critical remnant of denning habitat.

Story in the Great Falls Tribune. By Eric Newhouse.

Critics hit bill on bark beetles. Senator Barrasso’s forest bill claims called ‘dishonest.’

Earlier I posted about Wyoming US Senator John Barrasso’s “Wyoming Forest and Watershed Restoration Act of 2007” which would allow the state of Wyoming to subcontract US Forest Service lands to timber companies with the notion that this would somehow stop the beetle epidemic that is sweeping the state (actually sweeping most of the Rocky Mountains states and Provinces).

It continues to get negative media coverage. Critics hit bill on bark beetles. Barrasso’s forest bill claims called ‘dishonest.’  Jackson Hole News and Guide. By Noah Brenner.

Barrasso’s move is, sadly enough, typical of a number important political and economic leaders. They use our growing situation of planetary distress as a great way to advance their personal objectives — all the morality of maggot.

Posted in Bison, Climate change, Logging, public lands management, Trees Forests. Tags: , . Comments Off on Critics hit bill on bark beetles. Senator Barrasso’s forest bill claims called ‘dishonest.’

A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West

A Divide as Wolves Rebound in a Changing West. New York Times. By Kirk Johnson

The New York Times article today writes of how the West has changed since wolves were introduced 13 years ago with an influx of people who do not have the old fashioned ideas about wolves and are more likely to value them.

This is true, but the article neglects to analyze how the political systems of Idaho and Wyoming are fossilized, even going backwards in terms of wildlife management.

Cultural attitudes are important, but in terms of policy they are not very relevant unless they are also translated into political attitudes and these political attitudes then organized into a group or groups. Everyday politics is the clash of groups. Group organization to maintain wolf restoration hasn’t happened. As a result, the stockgrowers associations can ignore the attitudes of almost all the citizens of their states. They can even be unpleasant about it, and nothing will happen.

Idaho and Wyoming wolf management plans were written to appease a few minorities, even to appease certain individual stockgrowers. In unrepresentative political systems this should not surprise us, but it certainly should be recognized.

One thing that can be done is suggested by the article — private action. It is likely that those who have purchased large and/or critical parcels of land may keep hunters, and more importantly government agents from using their land as access or entering their land. We many see this play out soon regarding bison, the new owners of much of Horse Butte and the Montana Department of Livestock’s annual bison harassment/killing farce.

Eventually the old order will make a serious error, it will get the attention of those who can organize groups, and the unrepresentative old order will be vulnerable.

Idaho’s Governor Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass

Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass. They want 500 volunteers to help collect native seeds, so threatened areas can be replanted. Idaho Statesman. By Rocky Barker.

Controlling cheatgrass is absolutely critical. If they don’t have enough native seed, they need to encourage the production of native grass and forbs for seed as an agricultural crop. This could be a new agricultural activity for these states and one relatively benign.

The dangers are that the cheatgrass fire cycle is already too advanced, and, probably more likely, is that the objectives will always be in danger for being changed into cow welfare rather than wildfire reduction — planting the wrong species (including exotics and cultivars), grazing the new growth too early, keeping cattle on areas that will always be unsuitable for cattle grazing, building fences that hinder or stop wildlife migration.

Cattle grazing could disappear on much of this cheatgrass country with no macroeconomic impact. In fact, it is already much reduced because of the unsuitability of cheatgrass as forage except for the short period before it starts to develop seeds.

Photo: cheatgrass monoculture

Video Game Looks Into World of Wolves

It looks like a biologically accurate video gamea about wolves (yes, they are in Yellowstone Park) has been produced by the Minnesota zoo. Video Game Looks into the World of Wolves. By Steve Karnowski. AP

You can download the game at: 

Rocky Barker: Salmon, roadless and wolves will come to a head in 2008

Rocky Baker at the Idaho Statesman makes some predictions about 2008. Salmon, roadless and wolves will come to a head in 2008
While I don’t cover the salmon issue a great deal, there is potential for real economic cost and benefit here (unlike wolves which are cultural issue).

Coyote bites two in Yellowstone

A “scrawny” coyote bit two people at Old Faithful within 15 minutes. It was later shot. Story: Coyote killed in park after biting 2. by The Billings Gazette Staff.

How come wolves seem to be the only predatory large animal that don’t bite anyone?

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Update: I was surprised to find a very similar incident reported Dec. 31 at Death Valley National Park in the Park Services daily “morning report.” Ralph Maughan


Death Valley National Park (CA)
Bobcat Attacks Result In Employee, Visitor Injuries
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