Eleven Conservation Groups Challenge Federal Wolf Delisting (news release)

For release. February 27, 2008

Suzanne Asha Stone, Defenders of Wildlife, (208) 424-0932
Louisa Willcox, Natural Resources Defense Council, (406) 222-9561
Franz Camenzind, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, (307) 733-9417
Kristina Johnson, Sierra Club, (415) 977-5619
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 534-0360
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 788-2290

Eleven Conservation Groups Challenge Federal Wolf Delisting.

Washington, D.C.— Eleven conservation groups are fighting to protect wolves in the northern Rockies. The groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today that it violated the Endangered Species Act by removing the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population from the list of endangered species despite the genetic inadequacy of the present population and the refusal of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana to make meaningful commitments to wolf conservation. The groups intend to challenge the Service’s decision in federal court. In an effort to overturn the Service’s delisting rule before hundreds of wolves can be killed in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, the conservation groups served their letter within hours of the publication of the delisting rule in the Federal Register. Under the delisting rule, states will assume legal management authority of wolves in the northern Rockies on March 28, 2008.

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Satan’s Dog. Is the gray wolf entangled in a war of symbols?

Satan’s Dog. Is the gray wolf entangled in a war of symbols? By Ben Cannon. Planet Jackson Hole.

This article shows the insular nature of the western anti-wolf cause, and it makes me resentful too in the other direction. How dare this old fool pretend to speak for the West?

. . . but then the article says “Brown is a member of an aging ranching population where financial and social influences have taken a heavy toll. The reintroduction of the gray wolf in the mid ’90s was perceived by some as the return of a nearly forgotten threat to the ranching livelihood.”. . . . “Brown does, however, represent a vestige of the strong political voice the ranching culture continues to have in a state where the ranching industry – long a powerful cultural influence in Wyoming – is diminishing”

Yes, but how much wildlife will left before this cultural influence diminishes enough that it can be overcome?

Howls of protest as America declares open season on grey wolves

A bitter row between US wildlife groups and the Bush administration has broken out over a federal decision to end protection for grey wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Removal of protection means wolves can be hunted again.

This is from the U.K. newspaper, the Guardian Unlimited. There is nothing new in the article. I linked it because of the headline and lead paragraph they used.

Howls of protest as America declares open season on grey wolves.  By Robin McKie, science editor.  The Observer (Sunday section of the Guardian).

. . . turning from the northern Range, in Jackson Hole elk numbers high, mortality low.

Officials assess refuge herd at mid-winter. Mortalities are down, but officials worry about high numbers, warmer temperatures. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

An amazingly small number of elk have perished as of mid-winter at the National Elk Refuge. However, the snow is deep, meaning it will probably melt out late and will get dirty and infectious before the winter feeding ends. Therefore, some conclude that mortality rate may yet soar.

The wintering elk herd is regarded as too large by the management of the National Elk Refuge.

Northern Range elk count is in. Elk numbers down slightly

The annual, and always controversial count of elk on the Yellowstone northern range has been released. The northern range of Yellowstone extends well north of Yellowstone Park itself.

The news article concludes on the basis of speculation by a couple biologists that more elk are now living north of the Park due to the long term drought, lack of predators, and milder winters. A Montana state biologist says this makes the winter range north of the Park even more valuable. This is true. That range has always been invaluable and the state ought be buying more of it before it is completely filled with trophy homes.

If this is a trend, however, it takes more than one year to establish. One data point does not make a trend. This year’s elk count is two months late. As the winter progresses, these elk move to lower elevations, and that always means north. Until these “new” locations are replicated, we don’t know that elk are in general moving north.

It would certainly help if the agencies could get it together to count the elk at the same time every winter. That is what they are supposed to do — count at the same time each year. Otherwise, you end up with hard to compare figures.

Story. Count shows elk pushing north out of Yellowstone. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette.

Six year study shows Western National Parks polluted by toxic chemicals from the outside

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Guns in national parks issue is a wedge to block an omnibus land protection bill

As I speculated in a number of threads, the hot new issue over guns in the national parks is indeed a political invention for this presidential campaign with the primary intent to stop a large number, over 60, relatively low controversy land protection measures that had been rolled into an omnibus bill.

Those promoting “the Coburn Amendment” were so effective in raising this wedge issue that few of media either knew or bothered to explain that it is an unrelated amendment to a public lands bill to designate wilderness areas, and enlarge a number of minor national park service sites.

Once Senator Coburn (R-OK) unwrapped this smelly fish of an amendment, it immediately became a partisan issue with McCain signing on as a co-sponsor and Senator Reid pulling the bill from the floor. It had already passed the House. Reid feared it would put too many Democrats in jeopardy with the upcoming election.

On most major Senate bills, senators bargain beforehand how many amendments and what kind of amendments will be offered to a bill when the bill is brought to floor. Senators of both parties generally do this is in good faith because they know their transgression of process today will come back and haunt them on their own bill tomorrow. The bargain between Coburn and majority leader Reid was that Coburn would get to offer five amendments, but this kind of amendment was not expected because Coburn had not raised this issue (guns) at all in the months leading up the floor action. Instead he had opposed the bill for being “bloated” and “too expensive.”

So Coburn will earn himself some payback, but for now he has probably blocked measures like the Wild Sky Wilderness near Seattle for yet another Congress.

Meanwhile, sensing an issue they can use, Republican Secretary of Interior Kempthorne is ordering the Park Service to see if he can allow guns in some national parks by administrative actions of the Department of Interior.

Story in the Missoulian by Michael Jamison. Park’s Gun Rules May Change.

This kind of amendment is called a “poison pill,” and Coburn and the Republicans carried it off with success.

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