Idaho wolf update Sept. 13– Sept. 26, 2008

As most of you are aware, this is produced by Idaho Fish and Game Dept. There is more actual news in this one, including a new population estimate that shows Idaho’s wolf population up slightly compared to last year’s “end of the year” — official — report.

In this report and others, it is becoming clear the department is concerned about the connectivity of the Idaho wolf population to the Greater Yellowstone, the key to Judge Molloy’s injunction on the delisting. Idaho Fish and Game may be gearing up to let wolves flourish along the Idaho-Montana border, not just between Salmon, Idaho and Missoula, Montana and north, as they have, but although the Continental Divide (Idaho/Montana border) from Salmon to the Park area. In the past the wolves in this area have suffered heavy “control.”

The research component is interesting, and the our organization, the Wolf Recovery Foundation, is putting considerable financial resources into it.

In the report below, the boldface was added by me.

Ralph Maughan

– – – – – – – – –

To: Idaho Fish and Game Staff and Cooperators

From: IDFG Wolf Program Coordinator, Steve Nadeau

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Management, Weeks of Sept. 13– Sept. 26, 2008.

New: FWS – Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Status (WY, MT, ID): The U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, July 18, 2008, that immediately reinstated temporary Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain DPS pending final resolution of the case. This includes all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of

Read the rest of this entry »

Great Lakes Wolves Win in Federal Court ! Keep ESA protection !

Good news for wolves keeps rolling out.

The Great Lakes wolves have won reprieve in federal court, preventing the Bush’s Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) attempt to delist:

Court rules against U.S. in Great Lakes wolf case – AP
Read the rest of this entry »

Clean coal is an oxymoron

On TV news tonight I see Sarah Palin is getting ready to blast Joe Biden and Barrick Obama for opposing “clean coal,” although I noted Obama has said he does support it. He shouldn’t.

Coal is inherently dirty. “Clean coal” is simply use of coal in a way that is not so dirty as other ways. Even then, some “clean coal” technologies really are as dirty or worse than conventional coal when we look at the entire process. For example, carbon sequestration of CO2 emissions from coal will take (or waste) a lot of energy. Synthetic gasoline from coal is very inefficient.

The West is going to bear the brunt of the burden (aside from the world climate) from these clean coal technologies.

Greg Gorden writes about this in “Writers on the Range” in High Country News. Clean coal is an oxymoron

How ID-WY-MT lost their “coveted” wolf delisting

Wyoming’s wolf free-fire, “wolves-are-vermin” zone killed delisting-

We can’t say this for certainty, but Judge Molloy’s decision which caused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to throw in the towel for the time being on wolf delisting, had its origins in orgy of wolf killing in Wyoming immediately after the wolf was delisted.

This is the argument made 9-28 in the poorly headlined article by Julie Cart in the LA TImes. Delisting Endangers Wolves.

My opinion is the tip-off that wolf 253M (“Limpy”) had been shot was event that led the media to cover the suddenly legal, lethal assualt on wolves near Daniel, Wyoming and vicinity. He truly was one of the most important wolves to live . . . and especially to die.

Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative [Bristol Bay] Leaves Many Feeling Burned

Palin and the gold mine above Bristol Bay-

Salah Palin may have violated state law when she tried to divorce herself from the fact that she was governor to register her opposition to a ballot referendum designed to kill the Pebble Mine.

She basically endorsed the controversial Pebble mine that could destroy the world class sport and commercial  fisheries of the Bristol Bay area (including lakes and streams). The damage is due to its massive size and utilization of low grade ore. The result is huge amounts of waste

This forum has covered this awful mine proposal several times before.

It good to see the national media pick up on this.

Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative Leaves Many Feeling Burned. By Alec MacGillis. Washington Post Staff Writer

– – – – –
Resources for more information ↓

With new court ruling, YNP snowmobile season is ??

Where do we go from here (on YNP snowmobiles)?

About 2 weeks ago, we reported that a federal judge had voided YNP’s winter use plan, bringing yet another change, and a big one, in this 7-year old studying, planning, commenting, and legal battle over the use and number, if any, of snowmobiles allowed inside Yellowstone Park.

Now plan’s are being made for the winter season, but the Park and the area businesses are not sure what will be legal.

Story: Where do we go from here? By Daniel Person. Bozeman Chronicle.

Wolves capable of as much sensitivity to humans as pet dogs?

Wolves show scientists are barking up the wrong tree

It’s believed that dogs are more sensitive to human gestures and desires than wolves due to their genetic adaptation during thousands of years of domestication.

One recent study indicates this might not be strictly true.

Story: Wolves show scientists are barking up the wrong tree

Posted in Wolves. Tags: . 6 Comments »

Colorado wolf supporters push Flat Tops Wilderness area as reintroduction site

Wolves for Colorado in the Flat Tops?

WildEarth Guardians is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore wolves to four Colorado areas with the most emphasis on the Flat Tops area north of Glenwood Springs (part of it is a Wilderness area).

The other areas in the petition are “the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison national forests near Pitkin County’s western border, the San Juan Mountains and Wemenuche Wilderness in southwestern Colorado, and southern Colorado’s Vermeso Park Ranch and Carson National Forest.”

Story: Wolf reintroduction plan targets Flat Tops. By David Frey, Aspen Daily News Correspondent

9th Circuit: Risch can be tried for federal civil rights violations

The MSM has now noticed this decision. There is a long AP article today (9-29) in the Idaho StatesmanCivil rights case over Idaho grazing can advance. By John Miller – Associated Press Writer

The 9th Circuit has affirmed an Idaho federal district judge’s decision that individuals of the 5 member Idaho Land Board, including then Land Board member and current candidate for the U.S. Senate Jim Risch, can be tried and held personally liable for violating the civil rights (Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, also know as the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871) of Lazy Y Ranch.

The alleged discriminatory denial of Lazy Y’s high bids on state endowment lands calls into question the Land Board members’ willingness to short Idaho’s school children money for their endowment and Idaho citizens the sustainable stewardship of their state lands – apparently to benefit the politically connected special interest in the state.

Read the rest of this entry »

Early Fall Float on North Fork of the Flathead (my conservation commentary w/photos)

An Early Fall Float on the North Fork of the Flathead

This New West article with great photos describes floating the beautiful North Fork of the Flathead from its origin in British Columbia downstream to the US border??

I linked to it because I was just there in BC to investigate, and a lot is unsaid in the article.

The North Fork of the Flathead is often described as the wildest of the 3 forks of the Flathead. It isn’t, although it is very beautiful. The Middle Fork of the Flathead in Montana is completely contained inside of designated Wildernesses or roadless areas.

The North Fork, however, is completely unprotected. A number of timber sales can be seen on nearby, and especially more distant slopes, and a number of dirt or gravel roads penetrate the area, leading to the poor and deteriorating road along the North Fork itself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Montana DOL releases plan said to allow Montana to regain brucellosis free status

Brucellosis proposal released. By Matthew Brown. AP

Posted in brucellosis, Elk, wildlife disease. Tags: . Comments Off on Montana DOL releases plan said to allow Montana to regain brucellosis free status

Palin Wins 2008 Rubber Dodo Award

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin Wins Center for Biological Diversity’s 2008 Rubber Dodo Award

“Governor Palin has waged a deceptive, dangerous, and costly battle against the polar bear,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Her position on global warming is so extreme, she makes Dick Cheney look like an Al Gore devotee.”

Congrats to Sarah on the esteemed achievement.

Wyoming lawmakers to huddle over wolf issue

Wyoming state legislators form committee to study state response to the withdrawal of wolf delisting.

I never really thought that Wyoming wanted to manage its wolves (unlike Idaho and Montana). They sound like they don’t want to make any changes in their plan, and, therefore, federal oversight of state wolf management will continue, with no delisting of wolves ever forthcoming.

Sheep magnate Jim Magana’s opinion seems to support this. He seems to be the politically most influential rancher in the states. You can read it in the article.

Given that Mike Jimenez, who formerly managed the wolves for the federal government, took over the state wolf management job and is, and has been the manager of Wyoming wolves for a long time, the Wyoming ranchers seem pretty satisfied.

Over time Jimenez seemed to become more and more on the side of the ranchers, and so we have the situation today where Wyoming has the fewest wolves of the 3 states, a declining number of wolves, no indication that they are now being protected in what was the  “wolves are vermin zone”, even though they are now supposed to be protected statewide again. We also have no news. Wyoming doesn’t even publish a minimal newsletter like Idaho or Montana.

I think there is a lot of cause for worry.

Article in Billings Gazette.

Western Watersheds opens major Montana office

The Western Watersheds Project has opened its Montana office.

About 50 enthusiastic folks attended the word of mouth opening last night in Missoula.

Montana operations will be run by attorneys Tom Woodbury and Summer Nelson. Woodbury has a number years’ experience in Montana and Idaho conservation battles and Nelson is a new graduate at the top of her class at the University of Montana law school.

The WWP Board was represented by executive director Jon Marvel and myself.

Those attending came as far as Helena with tales of livestock operator abuse of land and water and lack of action by old line Montana conservation organizations. Enthusiastic welcomers expressed strong sentiment that Montana’s federal and state agencies need a wake-up call (or kick).

Things are not going to proceed as usual at neglected BLM and Forest Service offices in the states.

This a major office for WWP, larger than any but the Idaho office. WWP also has offices in Western Idaho, Central Idaho, Hailey, Idaho (main office), Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, and California.

Opening of Western Watersheds Montana Office

Opening of Western Watersheds Montana Office

In front of the new Montana WWP office.

From left: Tom Woodbury (Montana Director), Dr. Ralph Maughan (WWP Board), Summer Nelson (Montana Legal Counsel), Jon Marvel (ED WWP)

New brucellosis plan under consideration

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) looks to be working on new regulations to deal with brucellosis:

Brucellosis plan suggests special Yellowstone areaAP

The plan as now envisioned does not call for eradicating brucellosis in wildlife. McCluskey said that would have to be dealt with separately.

It’s official: ‘Feds ask to put wolves back on endangered list’

It’s official, FWS has made the request to pull it’s decision to delist :

Feds ask to put wolves back on endangered listAP

It’s looking like there will be a whole new public comment period in the future.

Mountain lion stuck at border wall

Demarcated Landscapes features a compelling photograph of a mountain lion stuck along a wall in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge:

Mountain lion stuck at border wallDemarcated Landscapes

The wall between America and Mexico is having a significant impact on wildlife migration.

Idaho Republicans turning over a new leaf ?

Rocky Barker collects some quotes from candidate politicians and says :

Idaho Republicans going green in red state Idaho Statesman

The League of Conservation Voters collects Idaho politicians’ voting records and says :

Senator State 110th, 1st session Score
Larry Craig (REP) ID 13%
Mike Crapo (REP) ID 13%

Representative District 110th, 1st session Score
William Sali (REP) ID-1 0%
Mike Simpson (REP) ID-2 5%

Names link to voting record on key evironmental issues and politician’s score over their career – namely, WHY their score is the way that it is.

McCain, Obama Talk Sportsmen’s Issues with Field & Stream

McCain, Obama Talk Sportsmen’s Issues with Field & Stream. By Matthew Frank. New West.

Some folks will like to hear this . . . “[Obama’s] favorite piece of public land is Yellowstone.”

All in all, too much talk about guns. This should be a minor issue for hunters now that the Supreme Court interpreted the Second Amendment to mean, correctly I think, that yes Americans do have a right to own guns.

The NRA now keeps the issue going because their payroll depends on it. The gun issue also serves to keep hunters on the development and industry side of conservation, which the right-wing NRA supports.

Grazing may cease to protect bighorns

Grazing domestic sheep in bighorn habitat exposes bighorn to deadly disease and massive die-offs.  Western Watersheds Project successfully brought this point to the Payette National Forest via federal court winning a temporary halt to grazing domestic sheep in the critical bighorn habitat of Hells Canyon and the Salmon River.  Because of these decisions, the Payette National Forest is amidst an environmental review of domestic sheep grazing in bighorn habitat on the Forest, in its released draft EIS the Forest is finally proposing to end domestic sheep grazing in these critical bighorn habitats.

Grazing may cease to protect bighorns – Idaho Statesman

Cattleman: ‘I’ve always respected wolves – until now’

Every once in awhile it’s good to take a look at a really biased piece about wolves to attempt to better understand.  This one’s from Sweet :

Cattleman: ‘I’ve always respected wolves – until now’

It’s often good to ask, ‘What emotional or mythical mechanisms does the writer and/or cattleman of this piece use to compell the audience ?’

Idaho moves the ball forward on environmental policy

Rocky Barker gives an account of the divergent views expressed at a recent panel in Boise about how to take on environmental challenges in the West.

Idaho moves the ball forward on environmental policyLetters from the West 

The post gives a few quotes that are quite representative of the different models for conservation in the west, with Idaho Conservation League’s Rick Johnson calling for bipartisanship to achieve environmental advance, Advocates for the West’s Laird Lucas suggesting that in such a one-party dominated state it requires conflict/rocking the boat to affect change, and with politicians and activists describing diverse issues and approaches.

What do you think ?  Activism; conflict resolution; or something in between ?

Idaho wolf update Aug. 29 to Sept. 12

Idaho wolf update Aug. 29 to Sept. 12. Idaho Fish and Game Dept.

Comment: this has very little information about what is really going on, and that is important now that the wolf population has begun to “unexpectedly” decline. Ralph Maughan

– – – – –


To:  Idaho Fish and Game Staff and Cooperators

From:  IDFG Wolf Program Coordinator, Steve Nadeau

Subject: Status of Gray Wolf Management, Weeks of August 29 – Sept. 12, 2008.

News: FWS. Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Status (WY, MT, ID): The U.S. Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana, issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, July 18, 2008, that immediately reinstated temporary Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain DPS pending final resolution of the case.  This includes all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and parts of north-central Utah. The USFWS, the states, and Department of Justice are evaluating legal options regarding the Court’s order and the ongoing litigation over the agency’s delisting of the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population.  All wolves to the north of Interstate- 90 in Idaho are once again listed as endangered.  All wolves in the southern half of Montana, all portions of Idaho south of Interstate-90, and all of Wyoming will be managed under the 2005 and 2008 Endangered Species Act nonessential experimental population 10j regulations.  The State of Idaho Department of Fish and Game will once again act as the designated agent for the USFWS in implementing day-to-day management of wolves under the MOU between the Secretary of Interior and Governor of Idaho signed January 2006.

Delisting wolves and assuring their proper long-term management is and has been of highest priority for the state of Idaho and the Fish and Game Department.  We continue to work along with the Department of Interior, Department of Justice, and other states and interveners toward the eventual delisting of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, and move toward state management under the State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and the Wolf Population Management Plan.  You may hear deputy attorney general Clive Strong discuss the legal situation and what the state is doing at the following link: [Note that this paragraph doesn’t take into account the recent decision by the federal government to throw in the towel on wolf delisting for the time being. RM ]

You may review past wolf weekly publications on our wolf webpage and links along with all pertinent and updated wolf information and publications at:

The more interesting stuff follows on the next page. RM

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Idaho wolves, Wolves. Comments Off on Idaho wolf update Aug. 29 to Sept. 12

[Wyoming] legislator proposes changes to wolf plan

Wyoming’s shaken up by the Federal government’s abandonment delisting, some relative reason seems to be seeping into the Cowboy State :

Legislator proposes changes to wolf planCasper Star-Tribune

Livestock wants to hold the party line, apparently all the way to the indefinite listing of wolves.

Leave no child inside

With all of the technology and busy parents trying to keep up with this rat-race economy, it can be really easy to forget how much our kids need to be outside enjoying the natural world :

Leave no child insideMissoula Independent Online

It shouldn’t take a rocket-scientist to tell us that outside is better for the kids, even so, studies show it’s true. It’s true for you and I too. For my part, I fall into that busy place all-too often, hell, I’m probably there right now. How about you?

Time to take the kids out…

Drill, baby, Drill

George Wuerthner confronts the “Drill, baby, Drill” mantra with real energy conservation solutions.  George has fired up a new blog which will include his essays of the past as well as those currently under construction.  Check it out :

Drill, baby, DrillWuerthner on the Environment

Wyoming ‘left in the dark’ concerning federal reversal on delisting

Wyoming governor Fruedenthal doesn’t know what to think of the federal government’s reversal on wolf delisting.

Wolf decision surprised FruedenthalCasper Star-Tribune:

“It’s difficult to work in a partnership with a federal government who can change directions as quickly as these folks do. And particularly when they don’t tell you,” Freudenthal said. “There’s clearly a signal that they’ve changed directions. As to the new direction, as to what that direction is, we don’t know We don’t know why they’re doing it.”

The governor said there’s “clearly smoke in the air,” but he hasn’t been able to find the fire yet.

Stop, drop, and roll Governor.

Wolf population in MT, WY, ID is decreasing or ‘static’

Wolf population maybe declining in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana !!

We thought the politicians said they always grew.

Wolf numbers are down compared to last year’s number with as many as 250 being killed to placate Livestock.  Whether or not wolf populations are leveling off is uncertain given this is just one year, what is certain is that this demonstrates that “explosive wolf populations” myth that is parroted is ridiculous;  Wolves are subject to population regulation including disease, carrying capacity (biological/sociological) which is unfortunately heavily diminished by sustained intolerance.

Wolf population shrinksCasper Star-Tribune

Wolf population in MT, WY, ID is decreasing or ‘static’Montana’s News Station

Thrillcraft Video

A video detailing the damages of ORV use on America’s public lands following the general theme of George Wuerthner’s book Thrillcraft: The Threat of Motorized Recreation has been posted online: Read the rest of this entry »

It’s finally out! Big DNA study yielding grizzly population count in NW Montana

DNA study doubles bear census.

By Jim Mann.Daily Inter Lake
The long awaited $5-million study of how many grizzy bears there really are in NW Montana is finally out. There are 765 bears, considerably more than previous estimates.

Federal study says grizzlies thriving in Montana. By Dina Cappiello. Associated Press Writer

As mentioned earlier, John McCain likes to attack this study in particular as the example of a big waste. Some will argue it is (they already have on this forum). McCain, however, fails to perceive what the study is about, waste or not. He has indicated it thinks it is about which bear is related to the next. He jokes that it could be used in bear paternity suits.

There are probably not exactly 765 bears. This number is the midpoint estimate. There is a + and – margin of error. The 95% confidence interval is 715 to 831 bears.

Sarah Palin: Ice queen of the Arctic

A view of Palin’s views on the environment from a major U.K. newspaper.

Sarah Palin, the Republican party’s vice-president nominee, governs an oil-rich area that has seen some of the most dramatic effects of climate change. So what’s her record on environmental concerns?

By Britt Collins. The Guardian. Sarah Palin: Ice queen of the Arctic

Updated. Feds decide NOT to delist the wolf !!

Opponents of wolf delisting win!

The cryptic early report is now definite. “Feds keeping Northern Rockies wolf listed for now.” AP. By Matthew Brown.

So the great wolf delisting battle seems to be over, at least for a while (until after the election).

This morning (Sept 17), Rocky Barker has an opinion on this. Bush Administration prepares to give up on wolf delisting for now. Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Bear that attacked man on Vancouver island was old and sick

We reported this attack several days ago. Now comes a better explanation.

Bear that attacked man on Vancouver island was diseased. CanWest news service

Posted in Bears. Tags: . 8 Comments »

Judge throws out Yellowstone snowmobile plan

Judge throws out Yellowstone snowmobile plan. AP

Another round in the never-ending controversy!

This link was suggested by a recent post to the wrong thread.

Here, finally are a few details. Judge Discards Yellowstone National Park Plan for Snowmobile Use. By Lucia Stewart. New West.

A Western State of Mind

With Sarah Palin on the ticket, all the old myths about the West are out there, especially the beauty, adventure, independent streak, self-reliance. These are contradictory of course.

One very important competing myth that has actually been close to fact is the West as a ward of the federal government. It was largely true in the past for much of the Interior West, and three times true for Alaska, one reason why the same corrupt political elite has ruled the state for many years. They brought come “the bacon” from Washington, the earmarks. Palin says she defeated the “old boy” network. That’s partially true, but she didn’t change the rules about seeking federal projects any more than she killed the “bridge to nowhere.” She was just going to be more honest about it, or less corrupt, or something like that.

For years the group most intent on stripping away the federal subsidies from much of the West has been the conservationists who went after taxpayer subsidized below cost timber sales, excessive federal roadbuilding on the public lands, irrigation dams that never came close to repaying their cost with the new crops grown, scores of subsidies to livestock operators, from predator control, token grazing fees, to entire colleges of the land grant universities devoted to trying to make agriculture in the interior West profitable with subsidization.

Some western projects did pay their way.  The ward of the federal government myth is entirely true. Most importantly it doesn’t have the political backing that the anti-fed, rugged individual myth does. But think about it the latter next time you hear some self sufficient, rugged, outdoors wise person from Idaho, Montana or Wyoming say they are scared of wolves — lousy, rotten myth destroyer! 😉

Story in the New York Times on this subject. A Western State of Mind. By Katerine Roberts.

Posted in politics. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on A Western State of Mind

Payette Forest bighorn sheep decision expected out soon

Rocky Barker blogs about the bighorn sheep issue in Idaho.  

Payette Forest bighorn sheep decision expected out soon – Letters from the West 

But the ranchers who still run sheep are a hardy and dedicated bunch. They don’t want to give up a long family tradition. In fact, they want to pass it down to their kids.

It sounds nice, and of course this narrative of “family rancher” remains the party-line in Western states – incessantly chimed at agency meetings, hearings, other official gatherings, among politicians and echoed with implicit tones of admiration in regional (and especially local) media outlets.  But when one digs deeper we find a much different “family tradition”  involved in the business of running sheep on federal public lands in Idaho (and other western states).  Avid outdoors-folk see it.  The sheepman affected by the Payette Forest’s draft environmental impact statement run their business hiring others, in large part immigrants who are exploited by way of pay woefully below minimum wage ~ at the very least

And the bighorn… Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon Cougar-Killing

Some are saying that Oregon’s strategy of killing cougars to reduce complaints about cougars (whether it be in urban interfaces, to increase elk calf survival, or for fear of loss of livestock) isn’t working… In fact, it may be counter-productive, destabilizing the cougar population by encouraging younger, less experienced cougars to move into areas formerly

Oregon lawmakers keeping tabs on cougar killingAP

Wielgus’ lab monitored the results, and in a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Wildlife Biology, concluded that, “increased hunting could actually result in increased cougar complaints because of the younger age structure of the cougar population and the higher proclivity of young animals to encounter humans and cause complaints.

More federal welfare for ranchers close to passage

The states demand ‘management’ over wolves.  The states largely have ‘management’ over wolves under 10(j) – largely paid for via federal dollars.  Now, ‘compensation’ for ranchers via federal dollars will enable livestock producers to avoid taking responsibility for their ability (or inability) to deal with the conditions of the natural world.  State management to kill wolves and placate Livestock – bought and paid for with federal dollars. That’s ‘states rights’ for ya… go figure…

Senate panel approves federal pay for wolf killsAP

Wolves used as negative imagery in Presidential race ad

The negative myths associated with wolves have long been used as emotive fodder for political gain. has a post about how this campaign season is no different:

McCain/Palin Campaign Drags Wolves Back Into the Mud

Of course, the footage of wolves in these ads doesn’t seem foreboding to me – it seems to me you could put a picture of a rutabaga in front of the background music the ads use — especially the ad from ’04 used as comparison in the post – and evoke a similar emotive response.  It’s the imagery and the constituency that the message of the imagery galvanizes that’s more interesting.

(Thanks to ‘Kestrel’ for providing the link within the comments)

Wyoming bighorns in decline.

Wyoming bighorns in decline. Casper Star Tribune. By Chris Merrill

The primary cause is domestic sheep. If you want bighorns, you can’t have sheep in the area or even travelling through it.

Bear mauls fisherman on docked boat. Vancouver Island, BC

Bear mauls fisherman on docked boat. Times Colonist. “Bystanders rush to help, swarm and kill bear; victim was cleaning fish at Port Renfrew marina.”

It’s important to note that while people tend to fear grizzlies, almost all predatory bear attacks are black bears.

This was the first such bear attack on Vancouver Island.

Hunters, it’s time to think grizzly in those certain parts of Montana and Wyoming

Think Grizzly.

“Thousands of hunters are crawling around grizzly country in the predawn darkness, alone, quietly, into the wind, and smelling like stale elk pee. If they have a successful hunt, they’ll fill the wind with the smell of high-quality grizzly food. Is this a problem? By Bill Schneider.” By Bill Schneider. New West.

. . . and a related story about using electric fences to keep grizzlies from hunting camps.

Zap! Marauding grizzlies in for nasty shock. ↓

Electric fences are meant to keep bruins from following noses into outfitter camps. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Ah, Pilgrim Creek in the Teton Wilderness. I know it well — grizzly central! It was worrying to backpack there.

More on shutting down Nevada mine that released massive amounts of mercury into Idaho

Mercury-emitting mine in Nevada shuts down. “The owner of the mine just reported big losses. The operation sent tons of the toxic metal into Idaho’s air before a Boise activist pushed officials into cracking down.” By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Bear vs. bike: Montana teacher riding to school runs into bruin

Posted in Bears. 4 Comments »

Boise State Univ forum on Idaho’s environmental politics is Sept. 18

Wide-Ranging Ethics Scandal Emerges at Interior Dept.

So, is this what “drill, baby drill” means? 😉

As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.”

“Wide-Ranging Ethics Scandal Emerges at Interior Dept. By Charlie Savage. New York Times.

more Allred responds to Interior ethics scandal. Boise Weekly.

Stephen Allred is the former Idaho Department of Environmental Quality director. Kempthorne took him to Washington and made him head of the Land, Minerals and Management Bureau

Gold pit mine planned at Elk City, Idaho. Alert

Elk City is a very remote small town in north central, Idaho. It is 40 miles up the South Fork of the Clearwater River Canyon from Grangeville (no facilities between them). Despite its remote location, the local streams were badly damaged by placer mining years ago.

Mining companies don’t placer mine much any more. They have moved to pit mines and cyanide heap leaching.


– – – – –

A Canadian mining company is proposing an open-pit cyanide heap leach mine in the headwaters of the South Fork of the Clearwater River. The Buffalo Gulch mine would be on Bureau of Land Management land just west of Elk City.

The Canadian mining company is using a flawed mine plan from the 1980s. Every major open-pit cyanide leach mine in Montana that used this same design ended up contaminating water supplies with cyanide or other toxins.

Main Points

  • This project is a threat to one of Idaho’s most precious resources: clean drinking water.
  • The mine would be only a few hundred feet from local drinking water wells and tributaries to the South Fork of the Clearwater River, an important salmon and steelhead stream.
  • If cyanide or diesel fuel were to leak into a stream or spill in a truck accident along the river, it could have devastating impacts on clean water and fisheries. The Bureau of Land Management must address transportation of hazardous chemicals.
  • The mining company must update its outdated mine plan in response to recent accidents at other mines.

Read the rest of this entry »

Idaho Statesman: Politicians blow smoke when talking wildfires

Idaho Statesman’s view: Politicians blow smoke when talking wildfires

This editorial is about the giant Murphy range fire of 2007 and the attempt by leading Idaho politicians to say it was so hard to control because too much native vegetation had been uneaten by cows.

A recent report by the BLM and other government agencies said that was not so (despite what must have been enormous political pressure on them).

The Wildlife News recently reported on the study’s release.

Posted in politics, Wildfires. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Idaho Statesman: Politicians blow smoke when talking wildfires

Wyoming brucellosis. Another cow may test positive

If a cow from a second herd tests positive, Wyoming will again lose its brucellosis free status, and it looks like one will.

It’s important to remember that the recent brucellosis infection near Danial, WY came from one of the state’s elk feedlots that conservation groups are trying to shut down because they are breeding grounds for disease and transmission.

The same was true when Wyoming first lost its brucellosis free status about 4 years ago.

The news article merely says the new case is in Sublette County. It doesn’t say if it is near an elk winter feedlot.

Wyoming brucellosis. Another cow may test positive. By Matt Joyce. Casper Star Tribune.

This whole matter is especially important for wildlife conservation because some livestock groups want to have a general extermination of elk over a huge area so they won’t have the inconvenience of vaccinating their livestock and/or the moderate burdens imposed by not having a class A brucellosis status for the state.

Note that Montana recently lost is brucellosis free status.

As Campaign Heats Up, Untruths Can Become Facts Before They’re Undone

Do I need to preface this by saying it’s unfortunate?

As Campaign Heats Up, Untruths Can Become Facts Before They’re Undone. By Jonathan Weisman. Washington Post Staff Writer.

This year is hardly unique, but I do think it is getting worse because lies can be generated and disseminated so quickly.

Rocky Barker: McCain grizzly earmark story raises questions on his focus

Senator McCain doesn’t like “earmarked” congressional spending for special local projects. There is one story he has told for a long time about this kind of “waste.” It’s that of the Montana grizzly bear DNA study. It always gets a great laugh, generates some outrage, and he convinces many of his point of view.

Anyone who knows the slightest about the grizzly DNA project knows, however, that his interpretation of the study is entirely wrong.

Rocky Barker writes about it today in his blog, “Letters to the West”.

McCain grizzly earmark story raises questions on his focus. Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

Back to the drawing board on Hebgen Lake repair (Must read)

I notice a lot of people have been reading this story on the gate failures at Hebgen Dam, the news of which was first brought to us on Sept. 1 by “Idahosal.” (Salle)

They thought they had the way to fix the broken headgates at the dam, but it failed.

Oh Oh1 PPL back to the drawing board on Hebgen repair. AP


Sept. 9

The news now is grim. The bulkhead plan did not work. There was too much turbulence at the dam intake for them to place the steel plate and stem the flow. At the moment there does not seem to be a “plan B”. The flow is still at springtime level. They are losing more than 5 inches of reservoir water elevation every 24 hours and this will accelerate as the level drops due to the cone shape nature of the reservoir bed. There are two scenarios that are scaring us at the moment.

Read the rest at

Sept. 11. Remove boats before they are stranded, Hebgen Lake propert!y owners told. AP

Latest. Sept. 16. Progress slow in Hebgen Dam repair.  By Andy Malby, editor. The Belgrade News

A complete table of Yellowstone wolves 1995-2008

The other day Ken Cole sent me a remarkable piece of work of his. He had taken the data I have put up since 1995 and added some additional data and made a file showing every wolf that was radio-collared in the Yellowstone Park from 1995-2008.

It was a very large Excel file, which I have converted to a pdf. My conversion isn’t perfect, but I think you can read it and use it fairly well by enlarging it to 100%

Note that the table also includes the data for the first 2 years of Idaho wolves (those wolves brought from Alberta and British Columbia and released in central Idaho).


When I get the time, I might try to clean up the defects in my conversion.

Thanks, Ken. This is good stuff.

JB: Republicans and small government

JB took the time to come up with a lot of data on this topic, but his comment went into spam because WordPress don’t like URLs in comments very much.

I just found it there buried with the typical spam. I am making his comment into a post to make up for the problem (and because it is interesting). Ralph Maughan

– – – – – –

JB writes:

I want to follow-up on the idea that voting Republican will mean small government.  It hasn’t for years (since before Reagan, anyway).  Republicans in recent times have actually grown the government as much or more than Democrats, and accrued greater debt to boot.  Given that both parties are now the parties of “big government,” (which I’m not

Read the rest of this entry »

Protection still crucial for grizzly recovery

Joel Connelly: Protection still crucial for grizzly recovery. Seattle P-I.

The lawsuit over the delisting of the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone is still out there, and going to the 9th circuit. Interesting, because  I wasn’t aware that the district court had rulled against the plaintiffs.

Connelly’s column isn’t about that, however. It’s about the habitat threats the griz faces.

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Note: Connelly is the Post-Intelligencer’s leading columnist.

Sarah Palin’s record on environment is abysmal

Sarah Palin’s record on environment is abysmal. By Rick Steiner. Seattle P-I. Guest Columnist.

Palin may have the worst record on the environment of any candidate for the president or vice presidentcy in history. She won’t even protect Bristol Bay from the huge Pebble Mine (her daughter is named Bristol), and so much of the family’s publicized fishing takes place there.

For those who haven’t heard about the Pebble Mine, check out this web site: Save Bristol Bay: salmon factory of the world.

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Her deadly wolf program. With a disdain for science that alarms wildlife experts, Sarah Palin continues to promote Alaska’s policy to gun down wolves from planes. By Mark Benjamin. Salon Magazine.

Winning the West ’08. High Country News political coverage

High Country News (HCN) has produced a number of interesting articles on the 2008 election in the West (they always do).

HCN focuses on the election as it affects wildlife, recreation, energy, water — the truly Western issues.

Winning the West ’08. High Country News.

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Bad Sign For Global Warming: Thawing Permafrost Holds Vast Carbon Pool

Talk about bad news, if true. Some kind of geoengineering would the only hope.

Bad Sign For Global Warming: Thawing Permafrost Holds Vast Carbon Pool. ScienceDaily.

Posted in Climate change. Tags: , . Comments Off on Bad Sign For Global Warming: Thawing Permafrost Holds Vast Carbon Pool

Phillips: Groups work together to protect 9 million acres

Did Idaho’s short term governor Jim Risch produce a compromise that finally protected most of Idaho’s 9-million acres of roadless area?  Roger Phillips of the Idaho Statesman thinks so.

Phillips: Groups work together to protect 9 million acres. Idaho Statesman. By Roger Phillips

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Some earlier stories in this forum on the Idaho roadless rule.

8-30-2008 Truce Is Reached in Battle Over Idaho Forest Land
1-15-2008. Idaho roadless plan is good but it needs tweaking, Risch says
12-26-2006. USDA accepts Idaho’s roadless area plan
9-20-2006. Officials close to final Idaho roadless plan

NOTE: Jim Risch became Idaho’s governor for about a year, when Bush tapped Idaho’s governor Kempthorne to be the Secretary of Interior. Risch had been Lt. Governor when the governor’s office became vacant.

Risch is once again the Lt. Governor, but is running for the U.S. senate seat of retiring Larry Craig against Democrat Larry LaRocco. The governor is Butch Otter. IMO, Risch was a lot better governor than Otter.

Montana Elk, deer prospects look good this year

This won’t impress most of that fraction of hunters who have decided that wolves have killed off the elk populations of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, but most years I have put up articles like this.

From the Missoulian. Montana Elk, deer prospects look good this year. By Michael Jamison.

As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low

As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low. New York Times.

After a harder than usual winter in 2007-8, climate change skeptics were hailing the winter refreezing of the Arctic Ocean, and even suggesting global cooling was underway because there were not enough sunspots. . . as though ice shelves thousands of years old refreeze in one winter.

But now the reality in September.

Climate Change: Ice Chunk the Size of Manhattan Splits from Canadian Glacier. Scientific American

Related. Sunday. Sept. 7. Editorial in the New York Times. John McCain’s Energy Follies

Posted in Climate change, politics. Tags: . Comments Off on As Arctic Sea Ice Melts, Experts Expect New Low

Unanticipated effects of using gall-flies to control spotted knapweed

We have talked a lot about knapweed on this forum because of its negative consequences for wildlife habitat.

Biocontrol has been pushed as an alternative to herbicides, but this is bad news.

“ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2008) — Biocontrol agents, such as insects, are often released outside of their native ranges to control invasive plants.”

Read the rest below.

Biocontrol Insect Exacerbates an Invasive Weed.

I should add that deer mice are also the primary carriers of hantavirus.

It should also be noted that many other kinds of biocontrols are being used on knapweed, not gall-flies alone.

– – – –

A good related letter on elk, deer, moose, wolves and knapweed. Missoulian. “Knapweed is also taking a toll on deer, elk.

Posted in invasive species, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Unanticipated effects of using gall-flies to control spotted knapweed

Yellowstone Park visits high in August

Yellowstone numbers strong for August. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

The bad economy and high gas prices have not reduced visits to Yellowstone.

With homeowner in doghouse, bobcats move in

Here’s a fun story.

With homeowner in doghouse, bobcats move in. LA Times.

Posted in wildcats. Tags: . 4 Comments »

Another coal mine planned near the upper Flathead River?

Flathead Basin Commission hears of new coal mine. By Heidi Desch. Hungry Horse News.

Link to North Fork Landowners’ Association. Photos and new information about mining in the headwaters of the Flathead.

– – – – –

Montana folks and politicians are very nervous about all this planned heavy activity (huge mountain removing mines) in and near the headwaters of the Flathead River in Canada. It could be very damaging to Glacier National Park and the Flathead River. This nearly pristine river does not reach a populated area until Montana.

It’s the open-pit Lodgepole Mine that is most controversial. The mine would be surrounded by 2000 !! coalbed methane wells in full field development.

Once it gets into the United States, bad mine pollution could damage hundreds of miles of streams and lakes in Montana and, further downstream, Idaho.

If anyone wants to see how generally rugged this country is, find Elko, BC on Google Earth, the go east to the top of Lodgepole Creek. The Logdepole Mine would be between Foisey Creek and McLatchie Creek. The mine appears to be on Elk River/Flathead boundary (divide), but the subsurface drainage is hardly worked out.

The Elk River runs into Lake Koocanusa, a long reservoir on the Kootenai (or Kootenay) River in B.C. and Montana.

I’ve been doing some research. Those interested will want to look at these maps. Maps of the transboundary Flathead.

Posted in politics. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Another coal mine planned near the upper Flathead River?

Montana wolf weekly Aug 23-29. Willow Creek Pack wiped out, 13 wolves over time.

Idaho and Montana are still doing “wolf weeklies” or bi-weeklies to inform citizens.

Wyoming has done zip since June.

Montana Wolf Weekly. Aug. 23-29, 2008. This is a publication of Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

These state reports are mostly about killing wolves for alleged attacks on livestock. I’m worried what the final toll will be at the end of the year. See the comments below. Folks, we are getting almost no information.

Earlier. Wildlife officials kill two wolves Friday near Hall. Posted on August 15. These were Willow Creek Pack wolves. Hall, MT is near Drummond, MT (better known).

Montana wolves eradicated because of livestock depredation. By Lee News Service. I hadn’t been following this, but I just realized they have gradually killed 13 wolves, eliminating the Willow Creek pack. The individual stories are pretty minor — a lamb here, a calf there. FWP had gone to trouble to deploy fladry.

Update. Sept. 6, 2008. Wolves killed near Eureka, Montana (Murphy Lake Pack). Missoulian. By Michael Jamison. This is a pack dating to 1989 (remember that wolves were reintroduced in 1996 and 6). They killed a few sheep in 1997. Eureka is near the Canadian Border.  My photo of Dickey Lake, close to Murphy Lake (my one trip to the area).

How far will Montana’s livestock industry go. Will they try to slaughter the Yellowstone elk to eliminate brucellosis

This is a long feature article in the Missoula Independent.

Bigger Game By Patrick Klemz

Governor Otter and others: Photo-op environmentalism

They don’t do anything to restore the salmon runs, but they show up for photos when the small run of salmon finally makes it past Stanley, Idaho.

View of the Idaho Mountain Express: photo-op environmentalism.

Buffalo Field Campaign mobilizes to protect bison in Island Park

Idaho’s livestock politicians is as regressive as Montana about bison leaving Yellowstone, but a bison bull has wandered into Idaho near Henry’s Lake, and they are out to kill him.

The Buffalo Field Campaign wants to document what goes on to give it some media attention.

Buffalo Field Campaign mobilizes to protect bison in Island Park. Island Park News.

New report says grazing had “negligible” effects on size of Murphy Complex fire

This is a revised version of an earlier story.

Here is the news release from the Western Watersheds Project.

Rocky Barker also discusses it in his recent blog.

BLM Report On The Murphy Complex Wild Fire Shows That Grazing Has Little Effect On Fire Behavior.

Idaho BLM has released a long awaited Report on the Murphy Complex Fire. The Murphy wildfire blaze burned over half a million acres of sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat in summer 2007.  BLM, ranchers and Idaho politicians had hoped the Report might show that livestock grazing can reduce wildfire impacts. Instead, it showed little to no effect of livestock grazing in limiting fire spread.

In fact, under the hot, dry conditions typical of western wildfires, grazing would have to be conducted to such a degree that only bare dirt, manure and trampled grass remained to make much difference at all. Such severe grazing leaves no habitat value for sensitive species such as sage grouse, pygmy rabbits or other species such as mule deer.
Read the rest of this entry »

Good wolf news from Boundary County, Idaho

There is now a large wolf pack near Sandpoint, Idaho, right up against the B.C. border. Hopefully they will expand and restore some of wolf popuation around Creston, Rossland and Nelson, B.C. where bad provincial policies have eliminated wolves.

Story. Boundary County residents glimpse pack of 14 wolves. By Gwen Albers. Hagadone News Network

Note: Hagadone is a far right-winger; probably not too pleased with wolves in Boundary County.

Montana officially loses its brucellosis free status

Montana officially loses its brucellosis free status. Billings Gazette. By Matthew Brown. AP

This is entirely a problem of their own making, or I just I should say the Montana Stockgrowers Association, who bulldozed away efforts to split the state into two zone when it came to brucellosis.

It’s hard to have sympathy when such a obvious course in the wrong direction was chosen. On the other hand, this is hardly a disaster for the Montana cattle industry. As the article says “The testing of cattle is expected to cost ranchers in the state’s billion-dollar cattle industry an estimated $6 million to $12 million.”

They have taken that much of the taxpayer’s money to kill Yellowstone bison to no positive effect for themselves or anyone else.

Prosecutor: Gillett will not be re-tried

Prosecutor: Gillett will not be re-tried. Idaho Mountain Express.

Defenders attacks Palin for pushing aerial hunting of wolves and bears

Defenders of Wildlife just released the following.

Wolves of B.C. Coast prefer salmon over deer

Wolves prefer fishing to hunting. It is easier for the wolves to catch salmon than track deer. BBC News.

“Wolves in western Canada prefer to fish for salmon when it is in season rather than hunt deer or other wild game, researchers have found.”

Easier? Why I thought wolves from Canada were killing machines that took down anything — the bigger the better.

Anthrax NW of Yellowstone now killing wildlife

Anthrax NW of Yellowstone now killing wildlife. Bozeman Chronicle. By Jessica Mayrer

The anthrax that has killed about 250 of Ted Turner’s bison is now killing deer and elk in the area. When I think of this and Montana Department of Livestock’s single-minded focus on brucellosis, it makes me furious.

Apparently the anthrax was dormant in the area, not brought in by Turner’s bison.

Posted in wildlife disease, Yellowstone. Tags: , . Comments Off on Anthrax NW of Yellowstone now killing wildlife

Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone

Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Staff.
“It’s not easy being a bison-eating wolf in Yellowstone National Park.”

Mollies Pack has become a rugged bison-killing wolf pack. They are a pack ideal for this with their big brawny male wolves. It’s no accident. With elk, big males in a pack are superfluous as long as their is one big guy, but not so with bison. So the big males born to Mollies tend to stay with the pack and others sees to join it.

To some degree the Cougar Creek and Gibbon Meadows Pack have become bison killers too.

Silver Gate man spends days recording wolf movements

Silver Gate man spends days recording wolf movements. By Brett French. Billings Gazette.

This story is about a great man almost every wolf watcher in Yellowstone Park soon meets, Ranger Rick McIntyre.

Good news for the Kootenai River sturgeon

Deal reached on Kootenai sturgeon. By Nicholas K. Geranios.  Associated Press Writer

The huge and long-lived sturgeon have not been able to spawn successfully in the Kootenai RIver since the Libby Dam was finished way back in the 1970s.

Posted in endangered species act, Fish, politics, water issues, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: , . Comments Off on Good news for the Kootenai River sturgeon

Wild Forests and Landscape Amnesia

The Aug. 2008 The International Journal of Wilderness has a fine article by George Wuerthner.

Most of the rural East has become reforested as agricultural has shifted and these relatively marginal lands for cultivation have grown back into forests.

It may appear the old forest has now been considerably restored, but Wuerthner argues we hardly even know what the orginal forest was like. The new forest is something quite different, and “mere sticks and ghosts compared to past glory.”

Push to drill shouldn’t hurt Wyoming Range bill, senators say

Push to drill shouldn’t hurt Wyoming Range bill, senators say. By Chris Merrill. Casper Star-Tribune environment reporter.

I wouldn’t count on their judgment here. Drilling has quickly become such a Republican campaign theme that their GOP colleagues will probably vote against protecting the Wyoming Range out of pure symbolism.

Sept. 3, 2008, a related story. New leasing standards. Forest supervisor undertakes critical analysis on Wyoming Range leases. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Hebgen Lake Dam malfunctioning. Evacuation?

I’ve just learned from Salle E. that something is wrong with Hebgen Dam near West Yellowstone and the area downstream is being evacuated due to flooding flows of the Madison River.

I see nothing on-line yet.

Update. Here is a news story. It looks like a gate is stuck open and a lot of water is flowing into the reservoir from heavy thunderstorms.

Link to Heben/Quake Lake area Google Maps

Update. Sunday. Sept. 7. Apparently this is still not fixed. Engineers are fashioning some steel “bulkheads” and so plug the headgates that became stuck open. Last week they were removing concrete from the water intake tower. After that the bulkhead will be lowered down. I believe the Madison River flows are still about 4 times normal for this time of year.

Note: this post has been superseded. See the more recent one.

Idaho Statesman: A last-minute rewrite of Endangered Species Act regulations is rash and futile

A last-minute rewrite of Endangered Species Act regulations is rash and futile. Editorial by the Idaho Statesman.

This rewrite, or gutting of the Act, is going to disappear if the right candidate wins the presidency.

Nevada governor chides Forest Service over letting East Shell Rock fire burn

The East Shell Rock fire in the Jarbidge Wilderness of extreme northern Nevada was allowed to burn for “ecological benefits,”* but it burned well outside the Wilderness, destroying some of the last sagebrush stands suitable for sage grouse in the area.

There is suspicion that was done to help powerful ranchers, who want more grass and no troublesome species around.

It’s odd to be on the same side as Nevada’s anti-conservation governor.

Nevada governor chides Forest Service over fire. By Martin Griffith.  Associated Press Writer

* It’s important to remember that nowadays in the interior West as far as wildlife habitat goes, forest fires are usually neutral to good and range fires usually bad.