The Grid May Be Smart, But Will It Also Be Green?

With all of the talk about “smart grid technology” and “green” energy recently you may wonder if the two are really what they are claimed to be.   Here is a story about “smart grid technology” which indicates that it may not be all that green.

“Anybody who’s proposing a transmission line in the United States these days is going to claim it’s going to be used for renewable — it’s going to be a ‘green’ line because that’s mom and apple pie.”
Dian Grueneich,
California Public Utilities Commissioner

The Grid May Be Smart, But Will It Also Be Green?
National Public Radio.

Posted in energy, public lands. Tags: , , . Comments Off on The Grid May Be Smart, But Will It Also Be Green?

House backs Hell’s Canyon sheep bill

Now it’s up to the Governor.

Bighorn sheep near North Fork, Idaho © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep near North Fork, Idaho © Ken Cole

This bill is not just going to affect bighorn sheep in Hell’s Canyon, it affects bighorn sheep throughout the state. It is political game management which can be changed at the whim of livestock industry pressure.

It does not address important issues regarding disease transmission and basically writes off recovery of declining bighorn sheep populations as “acceptable”.

The media has not reported that there has been an amendment to the bill changing the timeframe in which the IDFG must develop, with the permittees, best management practices.

Here is the new language in the bill:

“(E) The Idaho department of fish and game: (1) shall develop a state management plan to maintain a viable, self-sustaining population of bighorn sheep in Idaho which shall consider as part of the plan the current federal or state domestic sheep grazing allotment(s) that currently have any bighorn sheep upon or in proximity to the allotment(s); (2) within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this act will cooperatively develop best management practices with the permittee(s) on the allotment(s). Upon commencement of the implementation of best management practices, the director shall certify that the risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep. The director’s certification shall continue for as long as the best management practices are implemented. The director may also certify that the risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep based upon a finding that other factors exist, including but not limited to previous exposure to pathogens that make separation between bighorn and domestic sheep unnecessary.”

This language ensures that disease transmission will continue and that it is “acceptable”.

Here is the old language:

(E) The Idaho department of fish and game: (1) shall develop a state management plan to maintain a viable, selfsustaining population of bighorn sheep in Idaho; and (2) within one hundred twenty (120) days of the effective date of this act will cooperatively develop best management practices with permittees for their federal and state grazing allotments that include or adjoin core populations of bighorn sheep as determined by the department. Upon commencement of the implementation of best management practices, the director shall certify that the potential risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep core population. The director’s certification shall continue for as long as the best management practices are implemented by the permittee. The director may also certify that the potential risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep core population based upon a finding that other factors exist, including but not limited to previous exposure to pathogens that make separation between bighorn and domestic sheep unnecessary.

House backs Hell’s Canyon sheep bill
Associated Press

Yellowstone Northern Range wolf update. April 2009

Kathie Lynch’s latest trip to Yellowstone found early spring wolf denning triumph mixed with tragedy-

Yellowstone Wolf News. April 4-12, 2009. By © Kathie Lynch.

“Spring” in Yellowstone means a few days of warm weather, followed by a return to snowy winter and then springtime again. As the snow melts, it gets harder and harder to find the gray wolves against the sage, dirt and rock backdrop, but, thankfully, the blacks still stand out.

My nine day spring break (April 4-12, 2009) started without a wolf sighting on the first day–unless the canid that materialized down the road in front of my car, just east of the high bridge near Mammoth, really was the light gray former Agate 471F and not a coyote!

Considering that 471F, her alpha male (Montana 147M), and her younger sister (the “’06 Agate Female”) had often been sighted in the area, maybe I didn’t get shut out after all!

In fact, the very next day, there they were right next to the road near an elk carcass, which was almost under the bridge at the Lava Creek picnic area. Unfortunately, it was so close to the road, the rangers had to move it away, so the wolves didn’t even get to eat their fill. Read the rest of this entry »

Midvale residents say Gov. Otter has abandoned rural Idaho

Otter pushes for road money, but residents gripe about feds, wild sheep

Here in Idaho the legislature has gone into overtime because Governor Otter vetoed 35 appropriation bills over the course of a few days because he wants the legislature to raise gas taxes for road construction projects. They are not complying.

Each month Governor Otter spends a day in an Idaho town or city in his program “Capitol for a Day”. This time he spent the day in Midvale, Idaho and got an ear-full from the rural residents, who overwhelmingly supported him in the election, about his proposed gas tax increase and his veto of the bighorn sheep killing bill SB1175.

This is an interesting look at the conflicting values of rural and urban values.

Midvale residents say Gov. Otter has abandoned rural Idaho
DAN POPKEY, Idaho Statesman

Senate OKs new bill to help resolve sheep conflict

Will this save the collaborative group?

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The new bill, SB1232, passed the Senate but will it save the Bighorn Sheep Domestic Sheep Advisory Group? Some of the members of the advisory group are saying the new bill interferes with what the group was formed to do and is still bad for bighorn sheep. Will the advisory group continue?

Senate OKs new bill to help resolve sheep conflict
Associated Press

Changing attitudes stymie elk managers

As elk hunters in Montana let out a bellow for wolf “control” right alongside their friends in other western states – elk distribution and populations in Montana demonstrate a soaring population of elk in areas – enough so that ranchers are getting fed up with elk depredation on cattle forage.

Changing attitudes stymie elk managersHelena Independent Record

Soaring population

Elk populations are soaring in some areas and a concern that other management techniques — changing hunting seasons, instituting more areas where only antlerless elk can be hunted or even something as drastic as using sharpshooters to cull herds, similar to what’s been done to deer in Helena, or paying people to hunt — might be necessary in the future unless something is done now.

The article also hits on a key demographic change in the West ~ people are valuing wildlife more and more, and the old-line adversarial relationship to the natural world (what some folk call the “Livestock Culture of Death”) is waning.

Another article via the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) looks at populations throughout the West :

Elk Populations SoaringNew West, Guest Column

Population highlights among top elk states: California, Nevada and New Mexico experienced the greatest increases with growth exceeding 100 percent. Colorado, Montana and Utah herds are 50-70 percent larger. Oregon and Wyoming are up 20-40 percent.

The article demonstrates that it’s chiefly habitat conservation initiatives and management regimes with regard to take of elk that RMEF attributes to having had such an impact on elk numbers.

Clearly hostility toward wolves, and other predators, is being fomented by something other than sound reasoning and data which would suggest wolves will wipe out all of the elk herds.

Officials to reconsider sheep grazing

Nez Perce National Forest will write a new EIS to reconsider sheep grazing in the Salmon River Canyon.

The Allison-Berg Allotment, which lies east of Riggins, is in occupied bighorn sheep habitat where disease is a real concern. It appears that the Nez Perce Forest may follow the Payette National Forest’s lead on how to deal with domestic sheep allotments in bighorn sheep habitat.

The allotment has not been used since a federal judge ruled in favor of protecting bighorn sheep in 2007.

Officials to reconsider sheep grazing
Lewiston Morning Tribune

Idaho wildlife refuges, hatcheries get stimulus

Salazar has annonced $275,000,000 (275-million) of the stimulus money for National Wildlife Refuges and fish hatcheries.

It’s good news that $1.7 million went to Idaho. Over a million of it went to a fish hatchery built to replace spawning beds destroyed by the Dvorshak Reservoir on the North Fork of the Clearwater.

Montana got $3-million. Colorado, Salazar’s home state got 9.4 million.  Utah only got $231,000.  I could not find more info in a quick search.

The Return of Citizen King

Long time Idaho resident Carole King is in Washington pushing for passage of the most ambitious wilderness bill, NREPA-

The Return of Citizen King. By Todd Wilkinson. Huffington Post.

New vehicle plan for Bridger-Teton National Forest goes in effect May 1

The new travel plan for this high profile national forest is effective May 1-

Developing a national forest travel plan nowadays is fraught with controversy and often lawsuits, but the Bridger-Teton seems to have pretty wide acceptance, relatively speaking. Years in the making, it goes into effect on May. 1.

ATV, motorbike rules to go into effect soon. Plan will limit off-highway vehicle access for those hunting antlers in Gros Ventre River drainage this spring, Bridger-Teton official says. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Earlier on this blog. Jan. 28, 2009. Bridger-Teton National Forest produces its long-awaited travel plan
Still earlier. Jan. 15, 2007. Bridger-Teton National Forest has draft travel plan

Swine Flu Outbreak — Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

Mexican CAFOs are an excellent mixing bowl for new flu viruses-

Well it looks like we’re in for some fun and games with a novel strain of influenza. Hopefully it won’t kill too many of us, and maybe a lesson will be learned (don’t count on either).

There is a lengthy article on this in the Huffington Post. Swine Flu Outbreak — Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

Otter vetoes bill that called for killing bighorns

The Governor has vetoed SB1175 leaving SB1232 in its place.

biohazPresumably SB1232 will pass the legislature and the Governor will sign it into law.

How much valuable time has been spent on this issue by the legislature, state and Federal agencies, interest groups and the Governor? Is this the best use of time in this failing economy where education, public health, and other budgets are being slashed leaving behind dysfunctional important agencies and programs? Vaccine for Children, coverage for cystic fibrosis patients over 18, and adult and travel immunizations are but a few examples of programs that have been cut. These programs actually save lives and these cuts will inevitably result in more illness and premature deaths among our most vulnerable citizens.

Sheep industry officials are admitting that if they are held accountable for their actions and how they treat public lands and wildlife, they will go out of business. Their operations are not viable, so as it is – without all the subsidies – they would collapse.

Again, here are subsidies received by wool growers affected by the likely changes on the Payette National Forest:

Soulen Livestock Co received payments totaling $1,010,401 from 1995 through 2006

Ron Shirts received payments totaling $214,707 from 1995 through 2006

Frank Shirts Jr received payments totaling $775,817 from 1995 through 2006

Guy M Carlson received payments totaling $110,307 from 1995 through 2006

The changes made that appear in the new bill SB1232 are smoke and mirrors. These changes do not address the real on the ground situation where bighorn sheep, especially rams, travel widely throughout the region and intermingle with domestic sheep then go on to intermingle with other bighorn sheep. This can go undetected due to poor management practices by the herders who often don’t understand the situation as they are immigrant laborers who can’t even speak English. This is not to say that these herders are in any way responsible for the situation but to say that many times they are just put in an untenable situation.

This also doesn’t address the issue of straying or lost sheep. Many times herders return from the season and unaccounted sheep are left behind on the range. These sheep may end up in bighorn sheep habitat. These situations have been documented on numerous occasions.

Otter vetoes bill that called for killing bighorns
Associated Press

A modest reversal of Bush’s last-minute anti-ESA regulations is advancing

It’s possible the OMB might strengthen this weak tweak of the awful Bush rules-

Interior sends revised endangered species rule to OMB. By Allison Winter. Greenwire in the New York Times

SE Montana blizzard kills far more livestock in 2 days than Montana wolves in a year

Of course wolf “depredations” are somehow special. Will the blizzard story last more than a couple days?

Calf losses said to be in the thousands with reports still coming in.

For comparison, cattle losses to wolves in Montana in 2008 totaled just 77 dead with a couple dozen more “probables.”

I bring this up because I participated in a forum about wolves last night at Idaho State University. Several panel participants and folks in the audience tried to convince us that that 96 cattle lost in in Idaho in 2008 was some kind of big deal. We kept saying “no,” the big deal was weather, disease, poison plants, rustling. etc.

Story: Ranchers count up losses to weather. Snow in Montana’s southeast hit during calving, lambing. By Lorna Thackeray. Of The Gazette Staff

April 25. Update: As I predicted, this story didn’t last. Do a web search in news, it is already hard to find the story.

Yet Another Bighorn Sheep Related Bill

Just introduced today.

A new bill was introduced this morning which appears to replace SB 1175.  The bill is virtually identical to SB 1175 except for the following changes:

S1232 F&G, bighorn sheep relocation

(E) The Idaho department of fish and game: (1) shall develop a state management plan to maintain a viable, self-sustaining population of bighorn sheep in Idaho; and (2) within one hundred twenty (120) days of the effective date of this act will cooperatively develop best management practices with permittees for their federal and state grazing allotments that include or adjoin core populations of bighorn sheep as determined by the department. Upon commencement of the implementation of best management practices, the director shall certify that the potential risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep core population. The director’s certification shall continue for as long as the best management practices are implemented by the permittee. The director may also certify that the potential risk of disease transmission, if any, between bighorn and domestic sheep is acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep core population based upon a finding that other factors exist, including but not limited to previous exposure to pathogens that make separation between bighorn and domestic sheep unnecessary

This is the previous language from SB1175

(E) Should any bighorn sheep graze, stray or drift upon, or in close proximity to, any private, state or federal lands that have any domestic sheep use, or have any domestic sheep allotments administered by the bureau of land management, the U.S. forest service or the Idaho department of lands, the director shall relocate or control the bighorn sheep to ensure that appropriate separation between the bighorn sheep and the domestic sheep is maintained, unless the director certifies that the risk of disease transmission, if any, between the bighorn sheep and the domestic sheep is acceptable. This certification may be based upon:
(i) An agreement regarding a separation strategy between the bighorn sheep and the domestic sheep entered into by the owners of the domestic sheep and the director or his designee; or
(ii) A finding by the director that the bighorn sheep have already been exposed to certain pathogens that makes separation between the bighorn sheep and the domestic sheep unwarranted.

Update: Idaho Legislature considering a compromise to keep sheep collaboration alive
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

Otter must decide bighorn issue by Saturday

Is SB1175 a way to stall so that “research” can be done?

Bighorn Sheep Lamb © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep Lamb © Ken Cole

More bighorn ‘the Earth is flat’ madness :

Otter must decide bighorn issue by Saturday – Rocky Barker – Letters from the West, Idaho Statesman

What he and other sheep ranchers really want is more research to determine not only if disease is spread from domestic sheep to wild sheep, which they dispute, but also how the bighorn are dying and if there are ways of stopping the deaths and allowing the bighorns to thrive and grow without forcing the ranchers off of federal lands. They see the bill as giving them time, though an opinion presented by the Idaho Attorney General’s office suggested the bill won’t change the state’s legal position.

Unfortunately, the post does little more than push sheepman talking points, failing to mention that there is very little controversy about the spread of disease from domestic sheep to wild sheep – and the subsequent death of bighorns – in the scientific community, or that the single pumped up (thanks to articles like this) voice of controversy that does exist comes from the President of the Woolgrowers Association.  So we’ll fill in a few of the gaps.

1. The Science

Let’s face it, domestic sheep diseases KILL bighorn sheep. You can read about this here:

A Review of Disease Related Conflicts Between Domestic Sheep and Goats and Bighorn Sheep

You may also read the abstract for an article in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases:
George, J.L.; Martin, D.J.; Lukacs, P.M.; Miller, M.W. In press. Epidemic Pasteurellosis in a bighorn sheep population coinciding with the appearance of a domestic sheep.

WAFWA Wild Sheep Report

You can also see a video segment on the issue here: Oregon Field Guide: Bighorn Pneumonia

And many more …

2. The Source(s)

I was told by Stan Boyd, lobbyist for the Idaho Woolgrowers, that his group has approached Senator Crapo for $900,000 to fund 3 years of Washington State University and University of Idaho research into what is killing bighorn sheep. The problem is that one of the primary scientists who does research at the University of Idaho, Caine Veterinary Teaching Center, in Caldwell is the President the Idaho Woolgrowers Association. Marie Bulgin has repeatedly testified that there is no evidence that domestic sheep diseases kill bighorn sheep in the wild. There is significant disagreement with this assertion as can be seen in this “Letter from David A. Jessup, CA Dept. of Fish and Game to Pattie Souchek, Forest Planner, Payette National Forest re Disease Transmission Between Domestic and Bighorn Sheep (July 31, 2006)

The money has not been appropriated yet, but if it is, will any of it go to the University of Idaho, Caine Veterinary Teaching Center under the supervision of Marie Bulgin?

Another question that comes to mind, couldn’t that $900,000 be better spent on keeping the woolgrowers who will be affected by changes in USFS policy whole? It’s not as if they don’t receive subsidization as it is.

3. Follow the Money

Here are subsidies received by wool growers affected by the likely changes on the Payette National Forest:

Soulen Livestock Co received payments totaling $1,010,401 from 1995 through 2006

Ron Shirts received payments totaling $214,707 from 1995 through 2006

Frank Shirts Jr received payments totaling $775,817 from 1995 through 2006

Guy M Carlson received payments totaling $110,307 from 1995 through 2006

Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon Cattlemen’s wolf bill is dead

Bill to shoot Oregon wolves has died in Oregon legislature-

Wolf bill dead. Written by Ed Merriman. Baker City Herald

The Farm Bureau guy said, ““I understand they have a full plate, with the state economy in trouble, but if something isn’t done about the wolf attacks, this could possibly throw Baker County’s economy in a tailspin,” Browne said. [emphasis mine].

Must be a very fragile economy!

Doug and Andrea Peacock on Montana’s Grizzly Bears, the Late Edward Abbey and the Fight to Save the Wilderness

Democracy Now!, broadcasting from Bozeman, MT, interviews Doug and Andrea Peacock.

Doug & Andrea Peacock on Montana’s Grizzly Bears, the Late Edward Abbey and the Fight to Save the Wilderness
Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. Doug Peacock, I’d like to ask you, you’ve been, in some of your writing and in your interviews of late, critical of the current environmental conservation movement in the country. Could you talk about your concerns about where you see it’s gone wrong?

DOUG PEACOCK: Yeah. Largely, I think it’s tried to be too polite, too nice. It’s tried to work with administrations like the Bush administration. It’s tried to work with corporations and energy companies. And quite frankly, we can’t do that anymore. I mean, the earth is in terrible shape. I mean, the life-support systems of air and ocean and temperature are going to pot in a hurry. And, you know, we’ve seen extinction of species unprecedented. Even during the end of the Cretaceous, when there was the great paleo-extinction that did in the dinosaurs, today’s rate is right there.

Quite frankly, we’re not radical enough. We’re not angry enough. We’re not militant enough. I mean, this should not be just a weekend meeting we go to. This should be the heart of our lives, and that’s a lot to ask, I know. They’re tough times. But the earth just doesn’t need it. We, as a species, our own survival, I believe, is also up for grabs, just like the grizzlies. And, you know, to survive is natural. We humans are so separated from, you know, the saber tooth that used to lurk in the bushes and the grizzly on the mountain, that I don’t think we get what’s in our long-term self-interest for survival.

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! will appear in Boise, Idaho tonight at a benefit for Boise Community Radio. Tickets are available here:

Western dust storms are increasing

Livestock, off-road vehicles, oil and gas road development are major culprits-

The Western United States is naturally dusty, right?

With the exception of some dry lake beds and parts of very hot deserts this is not true.

Soil is held in place from the wind by vegetation and rock. Anything that reduces the ground cover to dirt will result in it blowing away in the wind. Even deserts where there appear to be wide barren spaces between plants are not naturally bare. Desert soil is naturally covered by a microbiotic crust. This holds the dirt down except in the strongest winds. Unfortunately, hooves and wheels destroy this crust.

Microbiotic crust. Great Basin

Microbiotic crust. Great Basin. Copyright Ralph Maughan

I took the photo above in early April near Pocatello, Idaho, along an old road bed. The road had been closed for 3 years and the area had never been grazed. The road used to produce big clouds of dust. Now that it has largely filled in, it doesn’t.

Story in the Washington Post. Dust Storms Escalate, Prompting Environmental Fears. Increase in Dirt Affects Ecosystems In Western States. By Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writer

House Holds Hearing on Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act

House Natural Resources Committee has hearing on the ultimate Wilderness bill for the Northern Rockies-

While collaborationism puts the local political power structure first in determining the use of America’s public lands, NREPA does the opposite. It puts the national interest first. This Congress is the first real chance that it could pass.

Bill Schneider reports in New West on the recent House hearing.  “WILDEST BILL ON THE HILL ADVANCES. House Holds Hearing on Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.
With lots of support, but none from local delegations, NREPA backers remain optimistic. Will it make it out of committee this time?”

Will the (bighorn) “kill bill” mean an end of collaborationism in Idaho?

If Otter signs the bill, many think it will kill more than bighorn sheep-

It seems the preponderance of views in this forum is against collaboration in the Northern Rockies because it doesn’t work to really protect the outdoors and wildlife. Nevertheless, sitting down, holding hands, and talking has a lot or verbal support among Idaho’s media and many politicians.

Rocky Barker, who has in generally supported collabortion, has an article in today’s Statesman indicating the “kill bill” might put an end to this.

Will Idaho’s sheep bill mean the end of collaboration? Otter’s plan to bring all sides together to resolve conflicts over bighorns could collapse if he signs the measure. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. Note: Ken Cole posted this link earlier as a comment.

Idaho Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Advisory Group Waiting for Governor Otter

If SB1175 is signed into law collaborative group may collapse

Bighorn sheep lamb © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep lamb © Ken Cole

Today there was meeting of the Idaho Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Advisory Group which ended early due to concerns of various groups about how Senate Bill 1175 will affect what the group does.

At the present time SB1175 is awaiting Governor Otter’s signature or veto and no-one is sure where he stands. The Idaho Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Advisory Group was formed at the behest of the Governor to address how to protect both bighorn sheep and domestic sheep but many in the group fear that SB1175 subverts this process and defines the policy of the State of Idaho without the input of all parties.

At the beginning of the meeting Senator Jeff Siddoway, a Republican sheep rancher from Terreton, Idaho and sponsor of SB 1175, was in attendance and was asked to describe what the bill does and to answer other questions. He seemed, to my eyes, uncertain about many of the aspects of the bill and could not answer some pointed questions about it such as what is meant by “appropriate separation” between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and what exactly is meant by this passage:

It is the policy of the state of Idaho that existing sheep or livestock operations in the area of any bighorn sheep transplant or relocation are recognized and that the potential risk, if any, of disease transmission and loss of bighorn sheep when the same invade domestic livestock or sheep operations is accepted

Specifically, what is meant by transplanted or relocated sheep? Does this refer to sheep that will be transplanted or relocated or does it refer to sheep that have been transplanted or relocated.  Also, what does recognizing existing sheep or livestock operations in affected areas mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Idaho Environmental Council prints final newsletter

The IEC was pretty much Idaho’s original environmental group-

Rocky Barker wrote today about the IEC putting out their last newsletter.

Jerry Jayne, who was the primary person keeping the IEC going  in recent years, was probably the first Idaho environmentalist I met. His dogged and unheralded work over many years should be recognized.

He certainly taught me a lot, and especially not to stop fighting the bastards!  Thanks so much Jerry!

Idaho Environmental Council prints final newsletter. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman

China Mountain/Brown’s Bench Wind developer wants to keep its deals secret

Browns Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)

Brown's Bench © Katie Fite 2008, (Click to view Slideshow)

You might remember the controversial project that resulted in an IDFG regional supervisor to lose his job after pointing out the obvious – namely, that energy developments (yes, even ‘blessed’ Wind) on public lands impact wildlife and habitat in southern Idaho.  The wind company at issue on China Mountain/Brown’s Bench is RES Americas Inc., and recently it looks as if the only thing “renewable” about RES Americas is the questionable contracts it keeps producing.

They seem to want to keep their contracts secret. For example, they prevented a daughter from blowing the whistle on an RES wind-contract that her mother was asked to sign in South Dakota.  Mom asked her daughter to look over the contract because she worked as a lawyer for NV Energy, RES Americas Inc.’s partner on the China Mountain project :

Wind companies want to nix contract disclosuresAP

Sannes asked her daughter to look over the lease, and when she did, she “called me and said, ‘This is the worst contract I have ever seen,'” Sannes said in an interview. She said company representatives told her 80 of her Barnes County neighbors had signed it.

It just goes to show, Wind’s got good PR people – but with the same investors and business model as before is it really fair to call them “clean”.  It looks as though folk are getting blown over all over the country. Let’s not let our public lands be next.

Read the rest of this entry »

National Parks get a $750-million shot in the arm today

Stimulus package gives the national parks a rare pot of money-

Despite how Americans love their national parks, this rarely translates into appropriations. While an big increase in appropriations is still needed, this is a significant event, which, according to the article, will also create many jobs.

National parks to get $750 million today. By Andrea Stone. USA Today.

Officials hunt for pair of wolves south of Casper

Let’s hope they don’t find them and the wolves make it to the legal safety of Colorado-

Officials hunt for pair of wolves south of Casper. Casper Star Tribune.

Today is Earth Day!

Mostly likely  there will be events near you.

One billion expected to celebrate Earth Day. CNN

Gillett rails against wolves to crowd of 25 in Idaho Falls

Anti-Wolf Group Spreads Message in Idaho Falls. By Danielle Grant, Local News 8 Reporter

Lake Creek – Then and Now

A sad fact is that public land livestock grazing is so pervasive out west (around 300 million acres of public land) that most people have become accustomed to the image of livestock degraded landscapes and have little idea what might be.

Left: Condition of state land on Lake Creek photo: WWP - July 24, 1994;  Right: Condition of state land - July 18, 2007 - photo: Idaho Department of Lands

Lake Creek was the straw the broke the bovine's back - it prompted the organization of Idaho Watersheds Project (now Western Watersheds Project). Left: Condition of state land on Lake Creek, July 24, 1994 © Lynne Stone; Right: Condition of state land on Lake Creek July 18, 2007

Recently, WWP received a report dated July 18, 2007 from the Idaho Department of Lands which included the photographs below in the right column and the two final pictures documenting the restoration taking place on the 1.2 mile state land along Lake Creek. Read the rest of this entry »

Desert solar farms . . . plenty of sun, but big shortage of water

Putting sun-powered electrical generation in the sunny desert seems like a natural, except deserts are dry-

Desert clash in West over solar potential, water. By Rita Beamish. Associated Press Writer

Plan to dewater SW Wyoming to fuel growth in Colorado a bad idea

NYT Times thinks so. It should be obvious to everyone-

That’s what we need, more urban sprawl on the front range of the Rockies in Colorado; and the water to fuel it will by pumped in from far away — SW Wyoming — the upper Green River. This kind of thinking is so pre-recession, and it is the kind of thinking that will lead to another bubble if we are lucky enough to ever get out of this economic crisis.

The developer, Aaron Million, deserves our opposition and our contempt.

– – – – –
More on this-

Pipeline plan would divert water from Green. Some worry effects could be felt all the way to the headwaters of drainage. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

IDFG appropriation provision that includes depredation control falls victim to Idaho governor’s veto rampage

Governor “Butch” Otter is upset that the Idaho legislature won’t increase revenue for state highways and has reacted by vetoing 10 bills.  One of those bills on the chop block, Senate Bill No. 1177, would have slipped $200,000 into the Depredation Control Fund :

In accordance with the provisions of Section 36111(c), Idaho Code, the Department of Fish and Game shall transfer $200,000 from the Big Game Winter Feeding Setaside Fund to the Winter Depredation Control Setaside Fund as soon as practicable. Such moneys may be used for the control of depredation of private property by antelope, elk and deer and control of predators affecting antelope, elk and deer.

(Emphasis Added).

This while they’re cutting funding for education.  The Governor’s veto is a political move, and it is likely the money will be appropriated in the future anyway, but it sheds some light on one of the places where money to kill wolves and other wildlife comes from in the state of Idaho.

Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica)

Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica) © Brian Ertz, WWP

Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica) © Brian Ertz, WWP

Fritillaria pudica are among the first flowers to bloom in sagebrush country following the receding snow.

Indigenous peoples used to eat their starchy bulbs.

They’re blooming now ~ this photo was taken yesterday north of Fish Creek Reservoir.  With the moisture remaining following the fresh recession of snow – sagebrush country all over the West is vibrant with unique plant-life – and if you can pry yourself out of bed early enough, take the time to check out sage-grouse strutting their stuff.

Interior staff’s top seats in limbo

Despite nominations by the President, only Ken Salazar has been approved by the U.S. Senate-

One reason we haven’t seen much change in the B.L.M., National Park Service, etc. is that Senate Republicans are holding up action on the nominations.

Interior staff’s top seats in limbo. Politics » Hatch and Bennett oppose nominee, adding to a slowdown in confirmations. By Thomas Burr. The Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s two U.S. Senators — Hatch and Bennett are pissed that Salazar withdraw the oil and gas lease auction near the national parks in Utah.

– – – – –

A similar problem exists in most agencies and departments of the government. This seems unique — almost every nomination is held up under threat of filibuster and every close election, e.g., Minnesota and New York, is endlessly contested because of the threat of filibuster if the majority tries to seat the apparent election winner.

Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal

Zone outside Yellowstone declared “brucellosis free” with greater restrictions inside the affected Yellowstone area or eradication of infected elk and bison herds? Who pays? Who benefits?

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

USDA wants two zones to reduce costs.

Livestock interests say that it will put Yellowstone area ranchers out of business.

According to the article, Livestock interests and Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife want eradication of the disease which means killing of entire herds of bison and elk.  This apparently is not totally correct as you can see from Bob Wharff’s statement below.  It still appears that some livestock interests favor eradication.

The Park Service says that “the only certain solution – destroying entire infected elk herds in Yellowstone and elsewhere – was not politically or practically feasible”

Wildlife advocates who oppose eradication/wildlife slaughter efforts were not consulted for the article.

Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal
Billings Gazette

Wyoming wolf news (and some from Oregon)

Mike Jimenez’s report on WY wolves and the situation in Oregon-



To:                          Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, Colorado

From:                     USFWS Wyoming Wolf Recovery Project Leader, Jackson, WY

Subject:  Status of Gray Wolf Management in Wyoming and the NRM

WYOMING WOLF WEEKLY- April 13 through April 17, 2009

Web Address – USFWS reports (past weekly and annual reports) can be viewed at . Weekly reports for Montana and Idaho are produced by those States and can be viewed on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Idaho Department of Fish and Game websites. All weekly and annual reports are government property and can be used for any purpose.  Please distribute as you see fit.

Annual Reports

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2008 Annual Report is available at: . Read the rest of this entry »

Business People Call for More Wilderness in Northwest Montana

But Montana’s congressional delegation refrains as they have for 26 years-

Bill Schneider believes the anti-wilderness attitude of Montana business is changing, but the view of Montana’s congressional delegation (which includes two Democratic senators) has not.

Business People Call for More Wilderness in Northwest Montana.
Another sincere call for Montana’s delegation to designate Wilderness; this time because it’s good for business. Will it finally prompt our elected officials into action?”  By Bill Schneider. New West.

On the other hand, Schneider doesn’t like the wilderness bill being pushed by the Montana Wilderness Association, Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife Federation. It is another collaborationist “wilderness” bill. FIX IT OR KILL IT. Montana Delegation Wise to Avoid Current Beaverhead-Deerlodge Plan. By Bill Schneider. New West.

Note that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge is in Southwest Montana.

Ninth Circuit puts hold on expansion of the big Smoky Canyon phosphate open pit mine

Successful appeal by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition sends case back to district court-

Federal appeals court blocks mine expansion. By Rebecca Boone. AP.

I was told that

In summary, the appellate court:
1.  Issued a stay of mine development activities;
2.  Ruled that the Idaho magistrate judge erred in disregarding GYC’s demonstration of harm to the Sage Creek roadless area from mine develoment activities;
3.  Sent the case back to the magistrate judge for reconsideration of the preliminary injunction issue in light of the threat of harm to the roadless area;
4.  Ruled that GYC had raised very serious questions on the merits; and
5.  Provided that any future appeals in this litigation will go back to the same 9th Circuit panel.

Earlier on this issue

Blackfoot, Idaho area wolf sighting unconfirmed

Earlier a story about a rancher seeing two wolves near Blackfoot, Idaho (in SE Idaho) came up here in comments. The rancher was amazing sanguine compared to the usual reaction.

Idaho Fish and Game says it can’t confirm the presence of wolves.

Area wolf sighting unconfirmed. Idaho State Journal (Pocatello)

Grim death toll for tundra swans in N. Idaho

Old toxic mining waste along the Coeur d’Alene River kills at least 150 a year-

Toxic marshes deadly to swans: Coeur d’Alene River laden with lead from Silver Valley mining. By Spokesman-Review in the Seattle Times.

This is not really a new story in the sense that it happens every year.  I knew that in years past a local conservation group used to have a sarcastic “Dead Swan Days.” The mining waste from a hundred years of silver mines and smelting along the South and main fork of the Coeur d’Alene constitute perhaps the largest Supefund toxic cleanup site in the Unites States. The EPA has been working on it for about 25 years.

PEER says . . . Plight Of Whistleblowers Shows No Improvement

Despite Obama’s pledge, Federal Employees Face Blackballing and Career Derailment for Reporting Problems-

Presidents have to follow up on executive orders like the one Obama made, and entrenched agency people know that most Presidents will lack the time or interest to do it.

Story from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Ironically, “States Strengthen Whistleblower Protection Laws .  States Moving Past Federal Government in Safeguarding Civil Servant Disclosures.” PEER.

Of course, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are not among these states.

Good news: Drilling off Alaska can’t proceed without further environmental review

Posted in oil and gas, water issues. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Good news: Drilling off Alaska can’t proceed without further environmental review

WWP Blog feed is back up

Many of you might have noticed that the Western Watersheds Project feed was down for a couple months.

It is now fixed and located in about the middle of the right-hand column.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . Comments Off on WWP Blog feed is back up

Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat

I’ve found that it’s fashionable among environmentally sympathetic folk in private gatherings to spark up conversation about the the publicly unspeakable “greatest threat” to the natural world : Overpopulation.  

Inevitable, right ?.. trends suggest otherwise.
More people means more consumption, right ? not necessarily.
Biggest environmental threat, right ?.. turns out, no. 

Fred Pearce suggests (and wields sound reasoning) that the environmental “threat” of Overpopulation is probably more of an argument that folk in affluent countries use to displace our culpability – over-consumption – onto the less privileged: 

Consumption dwarfs population as main environmental threat – Guardian

What’s one easy thing that you can do to help :

Read the rest of this entry »

Wolves nail some lambs in Oregon

First confirmed loss of livestock in Oregon has livestock association upset-

Although no wolf packs are confirmed yet in Oregon, it looks like at least one is present despite years of reports and illegal shootings of lone wolves. The usual suspects are agitating for the removal of these wolves.

Wolves kill 23 lambs on Oregon ranch. By Mark Furman Staff
Update. I see that the Associated Press has decided to caption the photo in the link above as “Camera captures wolves killing lambs in Oregon.” But that’s not what the photo shows. It clearly shows one wolf gingerly sniffing a dead lamb.

Ranchers cry for wolf hearings. AP
Ranchers say ‘rogue’ wolves must go. By Ed Merriman. Baker City Herald.

Once again private compensation for losses to wolves is not good enough. They want to reach in the taxpayer’s pockert for their losses. The truth is they don’t like to ask a conservation organization, no matter how willing they are to pay; and they especially don’t like to ask a woman.

In Oregon, sheep and lamb losses to predators in the most recent NASS annual report are as follows:

This is for one year.

Coyotes = 5,700
Cougar = 1,200
Dogs = 700
Eagles = 200
Bears = 100

The War on Predators

Why Fish and Game Agencies Can’t Manage Predators

George Wuerther writes an insightful piece about Fish & Game departments failure to manage predator species like other wildlife across the country.

The War on PredatorsCounterpunch

Researchers blame grizzly deaths on hunters, climate change

Grizzlies are expanding their range due to the death of whitebark pine and they increasingly get shot-

Researchers blame grizzly deaths on hunters, climate change. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press

Fortunately the evidence seems to be that their population around Yellowstone is still growing.

Lawyers ask judge to split sweeping grazing suit

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography

This morning arguments were heard in federal court concerning a Justice Department’s motion to split up WWP’s giant (over 25 million acre) BLM lawsuit into several district courts rather than to have one judge hear the case.

Lawyers ask judge to split sweeping grazing suitTodd Dvorak, Associated Press

Laird Lucas, WWP’s lawyer and Executive Director of Advocates for the West, refuted the government’s motion to split the case :

Laird argued :

Read the rest of this entry »

Marvel says bighorn bill helps his cause the most

“It correctly constructs in the public eye the clash of values we are experiencing”

Bighorn Sheep ©Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep ©Ken Cole

Rocky Barker interviews Jon Marvel (my boss) of Western Watersheds Project about the recent bill SB 1175 which requires the IDFG to kill bighorn sheep that enter domestic sheep grazing allotments.

“The legislature is creating a trap for ranchers and the state as a whole,” Marvel said. “The state will begin to lose sovereignty over wildlife.”

Marvel says bighorn bill helps his cause the most
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

Protein linked to wasting disease found in elk antler velvet

Consumers of “health supplement” may be at risk, study says-

Protein linked to wasting disease found in elk antler velvet.  Consumers of health supplement may be at risk, study says.  By Hanneke Brooymans. The Edmonton Journal.

‘Colorado cabal’ takes Interior’s reins

Dept. of Interior is usually quite unrepresentative of the country, but this is extraordinary-

‘Colorado cabal’ takes Interior’s reins. By NOELLE STRAUB. New York Times.

Still, I’d say its better than the industry-minded bunch Dirk Kempthorne brought in Idaho.

Long-Wandering Wolf Found Dead in NW Colorado

Wolf 341F from just north of YNP didn’t find a mate in Colorado. Did she find a bullet?

The cause of death hasn’t been established yet, or at least released to the public. We have done several stories on her long wandering.

Long-Wandering Wolf Found Dead. Thousand-mile trek ends in death for lone wolf. By David Frey. New West.

Ranchers now have a way out

Mark Salvo and Andy Kerr write about the voluntary grazing buy-outs included in the recent Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, and how these “win/win” solutions could become a more generalized tool across western public lands to resolve often contentious resource conflicts.

Ranchers now have a way outHigh Country News, Writers on the Range

Grazing-permit retirement is a voluntary, non-regulatory, market-based solution to grazing problems. Congress last legislated this approach in 1998, when it provided for permit retirement in Arches National Park in Utah. With the omnibus bill, Congress has now authorized ranchers to retire many more grazing allotments on much larger expanses of public land.

Open thread (for any discussion)

This is for any comments you want to make-

Folks have been commenting by posting some interesting material often unrelated to the particular topic of the post. So perhaps there is a need for an open discussion or discussions.

Should You Run or Freeze When You See a Mountain Lion?

New study disputes the conventional wisdom to stay put or risk triggering lion’s instinct to pursue-

The study was based on what 185 people did who were attacked by mountain lions. The data was from 1890 to 2000. It came from the U.S. and Canada. I can see from the abstract on which the article below is based that additional information is in the original which is not reported below.

Should You Run or Freeze When You See a Mountain Lion? By Sushma Subramanian. Scientific American.

– – – –

Why don’t they do this for wolves? Probably because predatory attacks are so few, analysis of figures would be meaningless.

Warning. Bison migration across US 191 north of West Yellowstone!

Sudden appearance of bison on highway have resulted in numerous bison deaths-

Although conditions for the bison that leave west side of Yellowstone Park in the winter, and especially the spring, have been much better in 2009, the sudden migration of buffalo across busy U.S. 191 has resulted in at least 15 dead bison this week. Fortunately, human injury has been minor. The bison are heading for Horse Butte where they calve on its sunny south-facing slope.

The great danger is at night. That is when these wrecks have happened. Bison on the highway are all but invisible in the dark, and they generally don’t move when they see on-coming headlights. Unlike elk and deer, their eyes don’t glow in the headlights. They don’t have a light rump patch like elk.

The bison don’t just cross the highway. They eat the grass on the edges and linger because the warmer roadside is one of the first places grass sprouts in the spring. This year the snow is staying longer than usual due to wave after wave of storms with heavy wet snow.

When bison are on the road, or likely to be, the Buffalo Field Campaign deploys a number of volunteers to slow traffic down, warn them, etc. They have a number of pink neon signs that read “Buffalo Crossing.” They patrol day and night, although 24-hour-a-day coverage is not possible. Moreover, BFC has no official capacity, so they cannot haze the bison off the highway. The result can be frustration among motorists waiting for the bison to move off the highway. Read the rest of this entry »

Study to probe effect of climate change on Yellowstone grizzlies

The less time in the den, the more bears are killed, especially in the fall-

Although grizzlies are now coming out of their dens, quite slowly this year because of deep snow, it may be that recent warm years have delayed the onset of their annual winter hibernation.

Now a study is underway to ascertain the details of den entrance and emergence and compare them to temperature and snowfall.

Autumn is the most dangerous time for the grizzly, doubly so now with the decline in high altitude whitebark pine nut “crop” due to the hot fires of 1988,  the spread of whitebark pine blister rust (a non-native disease) and a general die-off of pines of all species in the Rocky Mountains.

The longer bears are denned up, the fewer are killed during the year.

Study to research effect of climate change on denning. By Karl Puckett. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer.

Extinct, prehistoric bear species were omnivores like the bears of today

Payette National Forest Receives 15,000 Comments on Bighorn Sheep !

Bighorn lamb nibbles - © Ken Cole

Bighorn lamb nibbles - © Ken Cole

Good gracious that’s a lot of comments !
Congrats to Idaho’s prized bighorn sheep and thanks to those that commented !

15,000 Comments Received on Bighorn Sheep Viability DSEISNews Release, Payette National Forest

The bighorn sheep issue has been on the cutting edge of controversy in the state of Idaho. You can look back on our posts about wild sheep here:
Category > bighorn sheep

Rabbits at Risk

Scientific American slide show tells and shows seven species-

Slide Show: Rabbits at Risk. By Coco Ballantyne. Scientific American.

One of the rabbits in the slide show, the Columbia Basin pygmy, is now in fact extinct. Brian Ertz and KT have written much on this forum about its demise.

Last Spring at Ivanpah…?

A huge solar power plant threatens rare plants and animals.

There has been much discussion about renewable energy sources and large wind and solar projects. The problems with many of these projects are manyfold. One, there will be no decommissioning of any coal fired or other polluting/greenhouse gas emitting power plants as mitigation. Two, the areas where many of these projects are planned are in very important habitats for rare plants and animals. Three, many of these plants are centralized for the profit of the few and vulnerable to any manner of attack as can be seen from last week’s post. Fourth, desert soils, which will be scraped of all life, are great carbon sinks and all of this carbon will be released to the atmosphere exacerbating the greenhouse effect.

The Ivanpah Solar Energy Project is planned for an area of southern California near Clark Mountain on the border of the Mojave National Preserve. 4,000 acres, nearly 6.5 square miles, will be scraped clean of all earth and solar panels will be constructed.

There are better ways and places to produce or save electricity but since many people view these lands as “wastelands” there is little concern from the public. De-centralized power, including community based systems, in areas that have already been developed such as rooftops and farm fields are better options. This type of development is more sustainable, loses less energy in transmission, and less vulnerable to attack.

Basin and Range Watch visited the site of the proposed facility and found a great diversity of life.

Even though the rains were not great this past winter, wildflowers were still common in the Mojave Desert. We walked across the old granitic fan sloping gradually off Clark Mountain, by creosote rings perhaps thousands of years old, by strange tree-like cholla cacti, to a small gray limestone hill. The entire area we traversed will be graded by machinery and stripped of all life if the planned Ivanpah Solar Energy Project is built. So we wanted to check out what will be lost.

The desert here was quite active, Black-throated sparrows singing from the tops of shrubs, Zebra-tailed lizards skittering across washes, and hordes of mammal tracks filling the sand: Kit foxes, kangaroo rats, pocket mice, jackrabbits, even a few wild burros. The place was waking up from cold winter rest, and a diversity of wildflowers showed themselves.

Last Spring at Ivanpah…?
Basin and Range Watch.

Rocky Mountain Front grizzlies emerging late

Deep snow keeps bears in longer than recent years-

Where are all the grizzly bears? Great Falls Tribune. By Karl Puckett.

The article says bears are coming out quite late in Yellowstone too.

Answers to some wolf questions

Doug Breakwell posted a comment that was interesting, but also to a thread I’d rather keep clear, so I answer his questions below. Ralph Maughan
– – – – – –
Doug Breakwell wrote:
April 11, 2009 at 4:45 AM

This is a great site to keep updated on whats happening to wolves
especially if you do not live in the U.S. Today I have some questions that I hope your readers can help with.
1)what happened to wolf R29m? I know he’s deceased but how did he meet his end? The last information I can find on him states that he became the alpha male of the Gros Venture pack.
2) Who was and currently is the biggest wolf in Yellowstone and how big were/are they?
3) As the reports state that they Yellowstone wolves are getting bigger , what is the possibility of an extreme sized wolf similar to the 70 mile river wolf of 175lbs or the Poltavski wolf of 189lbs?
4) The wolf report of 1997 has a 52.3kg pup recorded in it, anyone know who this pup is and what happened to him?


Here are some answers:

1. The famous escape artists wolf R29M was displaced or left the the Gros Ventre Pack, but was (maybe) last seen in the general area in 2002.  On my old web site I have tables showing what happened to all to the reintroduced wolves. It also gives their weight at capture in Canada. The links are below.

2. I’m not sure which is the biggest wolf in Yellowstone Park right now because I haven’t acquired their 2009 capture data, but the biggest one caught in the past was R6M, who weighed 141 pounds. He was killed by an elk in 1998.
3. Yellowstone wolves are not getting bigger. They seem to be getting smaller, probably because they not as well fed as the early wolves. The possibility of the 175 or 189 pound wolf is very low, although not impossible. After all, there are humans that are 8 feet tall. Extremely large individuals are usually not very healthy. Their large size alone means they will probably soon become afflicted with arthritis.

4.  I can’t find my 1997 wolf capture report. I can’t answer the question unless you have the pup’s collar number.

Update From Ken Cole 4/11/09: Here is a graph showing the weights of all wolves from Yellowstone that I have information for as well as the original Idaho re-introduced wolves.  I’ve added a trendline to the graph which shows a slight decrease in weight over time.  However, when only wolves described as adults are included there appears to be a slight increase in weight as shown in the lower graph. Read the rest of this entry »

Major lawsuit by Western Watersheds Project over sage grouse

25-million acres of public land said operating under illegal BLM plans-

Conservationists decry ranching impact on sage grouse populations. By Scott Sonner. Associated Press Writer

Needless to say, this is no small piece of litigation.

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography

Scope of litigation - map © Advocates for the West & Conservation Geography

Thanks to Advocates for the West for permission to use the map. Read the rest of this entry »

Wolf Watching Tours Bring Profit for Idaho

You can sign up for a tour, although they fill up fast

Wolf Watching Tours Bring Profit for ID. Public News Service.

Wolf lawsuits grow

Wyoming groups sue, challenging delisting plan for leaving Wyoming out.

Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife Wyoming, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, and the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association and others have asked to join the lawsuit asking that Wyoming be included in the wolf delisting plan.

Wyoming’s wolf management plan has been rejected because it does not provide enough protection to wolves that leave the “trophy hunting area”.

Last year, when wolves were delisted for a short period, a number of wolves were hunted down on snowmobiles and shot. Also the famous Druid wolf 253M that went to Utah and later settled near one of the elk feedgrounds was shot and left.

Wolf lawsuits grow
Casper Star Tribune

$40,500 reward offered in shooting of 2 California condors

The two condors are still alive but suffer from lead poisoning from ingested lead and wounds from shotgun pellets.

$40,500 reward offered in shooting of 2 California condors
LA Times

Electrical Grid In U.S. Penetrated by Spies

Incident spotlights security vulnerability of centralized energy production and distribution

This country is amidst a fundamental cross-roads when it comes to energy development. Many, including those in Washington, are straddling a dirty green line, a compromise of wildlife habitat and public lands to facilitate Salazar’s ambitious “moon shot” – the expeditious development of centralized renewable energy and transmission lines.

I’ve been delivering the need for a line in the green sand, concluding that a landscape and wildlife habitat carved by an energy development marketed as “green” is still a denuded landscape and precluded wildlife habitat.

But frequent visitors to this forum may note that Ralph has also been pointing to another vulnerability in re-developing our energy grid in the same centralized fashion as before.  He’s been pointing to the inherent vulnerability of centralized production and distribution of power to disruption – whether it be from domestic, natural, or foreign threats :

Electrical Grid In U.S. Penetrated by Spies – Washington Post

Read the rest of this entry »

37 griz killings spark worry

If last year’s high mortality is repeated this year then Greater Yellowstone grizzlies may go back onto the Endangered Species List

Grizzly cub near Pelican Valley ©Ken Cole

Grizzly cub near Pelican Valley ©Ken Cole

37 griz killings spark worry. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Addition 4/10/2009. Rise in grizzly deaths topic of IGBT meeting. Associated Press.

Bridger-Teton National Forest begins implementation of Snake River Headwaters Wild and Scenic Rivers bill

Thirteen rivers and creeks in the headwaters were protected by the Omnibus Public Lands Bill-

Forest staff to implement Snake protections. By The Associated Press. Billings Gazette.

Because the point of the bill is to keep things the way they are, keeping things the way they are doesn’t require a great amount of work to implement. However, there is some.

The bill designated 388 miles of wild, scenic or recreational rivers. The creeks and rivers included are portions of Bailey Creek, Blackrock Creek, Buffalo Fork of Snake River, Crystal Creek, Granite Creek, Gros Ventre River, Hoback River, Lewis, Pacific Creek, Shoal Creek, Snake River, Willow Creek, and Wolf Creek.

Group seeks halt to big phosphate mine expansion

Group seeks halt to phosphate mine expansion in SE Idaho. By Gene Johnson. AP legal affairs writer

A lawyer for a group of environmentalists, landowners and outdoor enthusiasts asked a federal appeals court April 7 to at least temporarily block the expansion of a phosphate mine in southeastern Idaho…

– – – – –
Note that on April 10, there was a big legal victory in the 9th Circuit court for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and conservationists fighting this mine. I haven’t seen any media on it yet. Ralph Maughan

IDFG’s plans to manage wolves includes killing 26 packs as well as 80% or 100 wolves in the Lolo

250 to 300 Idaho wolves could be killed if delisting occurs.

On May 2nd wolves will be delisted leaving a window of at least 30 days before the decision could be enjoined by a judge. During this time, assuming an injunction, a number of things could happen at the hands of the Idaho Fish and Game Department and Wildlife Services.

Based on what is in the written record it appears that anywhere from 250 to 300 wolves could be killed in a very short period of time through means other than hunting by individual hunters. Earlier I reported that Wildlife Services was seeking the flexibility to kill 26 packs for “chronic” depredations and now it appears that Idaho Fish and Game is on board with this plan. In the event of delisting, these plans will likely go forward and the result will be the death of 30% to 35% of Idaho’s 846 wolves.


To develop and aggressively utilize all available tools and methods to control wolf-caused depredation of domestic livestock.

• Staff have worked with Wildlife Services to identify 25 wolf pack territories with chronic livestock conflicts (>3 occurrences in 2008)

• Staff will implement aggressive and efficient control measures, including entire pack removal, for wolf packs with chronic histories of livestock depredation

• Staff will work with the Office of Species Conservation to request a Department of Interior Solicitor’s opinion on the 45-day window

Idaho Fish and Game Department commonly states that it will manage wolves in the same way that it manages bears and mountain lions but this seems to be a falsehood. There are no plans underway to reduce the number of Idaho’s 3000 mountain lions or 20,000 bears by a third nor is there the hysteria surrounding those species. The State legislature has not stepped in with crazy legislation regarding bears and mountain lions either, and the director of the Idaho Fish and Game has not attended meetings where illegal activities are promoted to exterminate wolves from the state as happened this weekend.

The Idaho Fish and Game also continues to perpetuate false information. In this video you will see that IDFG claims that the growth rate of the wolf population in Idaho is 20%. This is incorrect. Their own report shows that the rate is actually 16%, which is higher than last year’s 9%, but in line with trends showing that the growth rate is declining. This is a strong indication that wolves have filled the available habitat and natural regulation is taking place as anyone with a biology background would expect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wolf controversy spurs a House bill that makes introducing non-native species a felony

Wolf controversy spurs a House bill that makes introducing non-native species a felony. By Day Popkey.

The Idaho House voted 46-24 on Tuesday for House Bill 138, which applies to species threatening the safety of people, livestock, pets or property [and now wildlife too!]. The measure also allows civil lawsuits should such an animal injure or kill a person.

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, acknowledged the bill is flawed but said it is a worthwhile effort to protest the damage wolves have done to wildlife and livestock.
“The wolf is a decimating, destroying machine,” she said.

Here is the text of the engrossed bill. I thought it had become more moderate as it went through the House, but instead it became very strange. I don’t think I need to explain why, just read it. House Bill 138 (as amended) Ralph Maughan

Hunters vent wolf concerns

Mountain Express story on the Hailey ID wolf meeting the other night-

“Hunters vent wolf concerns. Foes of Canis lupus threaten ‘grassroots uprising’ if delisting delayed.” By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

Old line extractive occupations dominate key Idaho legislative committee

No committee of the Idaho state legislature have more influence over wildife than than the Senate and the House Resource and Conservation Committees. A look at the occupations of those on the committees show they represent an Idaho of days gone by.

This kind of occupational, and so viewpoint unrepresentativeness, is fairly common in legislatures, but many would say the figures below are dramatic. You should also notice the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Here is the rooster of the committees:

Idaho House Resource and Conservation Committee


Chair John A. Stevenson (semi-retired farmer)
Vice Chair Paul E. Shepherd (Partner/Manager, Shepherd Sawmill & Log Homes)
JoAn E. Wood (Partner farm/ranch)
Maxine T. Bell (Retired Farmer/Retired School Librarian)
Lenore Hardy Barrett (mining, investments)
Mike Moyle (Agribusiness)
George E. Eskridge (Real Estate)
Dell Raybould (Farmer/Businessman)
Scott Bedke (Rancher)
Ken Andrus (Cattle and sheep rancher)

Read the rest of this entry »

BlogNetNews ranks us most influential political blog in Idaho this week

We are pleased, especially that a blog about wildife and conservation news could be number one.

Go to and click on “Weekly Influence Index.”

2008 Interagency Grizzly Bear Report for Yellowstone has been published

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Investigations 2008. PDF file. Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.

The report is not just Yellowstone National Park, but for most of the much larger Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Posted in Bears, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park. Tags: . Comments Off on 2008 Interagency Grizzly Bear Report for Yellowstone has been published

Auction saboteur gets letter demanding $81K

DeChristopher gets a confusing letter from the BLM demanding he pay $81,000-

Auction saboteur gets letter demanding $81K.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office and BLM deny responsibility. By Patty Henet.  The Salt Lake Tribune.

Why did he get this letter? Who wrote it.? It seems odd.

Idaho, Cody wolves ‘pair’

Will genes from Idaho and the Yellowstone area finally begin to mix?

Former Idaho wolf B271M has been wandering around the Yellowstone area for over two years now. He had little success finding a mate in the Park, but has paired with a radio-collared female in Sunlight Basin to Yellowstone Park’s east.

So far there has been no genetic evidence that wolves from Idaho or NW Montana have produced offspring with the wolves that were reintroduced to Wyoming.

The Idaho wolf orginally came from a pack on the western edge of the Sawtooth Mountains of south central Idaho.

Story: Idaho, Cody wolves ‘pair’. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr. Jackson Hole Daily.

Sheepman/elk farmer Siddoway’s bill to kill bighorn in domestic sheep areas advances

Bill passes key State Senate committee 7-2-

The bighorn is in big trouble in Idaho with the population dropping from 6,500 in 1990 to about 3,500 today. One full curl bighorn ram can be worth as much as an entire band of sheep.

Bill would prohibit bighorns in sheep grazing areas. AP

In an April 4 article in the Lewiston Tribune (subscription only)reporters Bill Spence And Eric Barker wrote that Hells Canyon on the Idaho/Oregon/Washington border once had about 10,000 bighorn, but it has dwindled to just 875 today.

Almost all biologists believe that the presence of domestic sheep near bighorn results in lethal pneumonia for the bighorn. A number of courts cases in Idaho federal courts the last several years favoring bighorn has caused a furious reaction among sheep operators.

I find it amazing that wolves get so much attention when it is bighorn in danger, not elk, although elk farms are a likely danger to elk due to the advancing front of chronic wasting disease and other pathogens.
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Note that yesterday, Siddoway abstained from voting on the bill.

Barstool Mountain Myths: Wolves & Elk Numbers Strong Despite Dire Predictions

Barstool Mountain Myths: Wolves & Elk Numbers Strong Despite Dire Predictions. By Tory and Meredith Taylor.

The Taylors are longtime Wyoming outfitters. They recently retired after a long career.  It is fair to say they had a much stronger conservation viewpoint than most outfitters. Meredith, for example, joined with me and a number of other people to found the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Salt cedar control beetle turning into an introduced pest?

Are they killing the invasive salt cedar (tamarisk) too rapidly?

The Salt Lake Tribune has an alarming story how the beetle Diorhabda elongata , native to Kazakhstan and introduced recently to kill tamarisk, is doing it too rapidly. This is because there is apparently no plan to restore the native riparian vegetation the tamarisk crowded out years ago.

While this may be true, I am not convinced that the rapid elimination of the salt cedar is a bad thing. It has taken over thousands of miles of the rare riparian areas of the Southwest.

Pest-control beetle turning into pest? Environment » U. study document rapid defoliation caused by bug brought to control invasive tamarisk plant. By Brian Maffly. The Salt Lake Tribune.

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It should be noted that there are countless examples of plants, animals, and insects introduced to control foreign invaders becoming as bad as what they were intended to kill. I would venture to say there are almost always unintended side-effects, but there have been successes too.

Inbreeding taking toll on the wolves of Isle Royale

Crippling effects of inbreeding show the problem with natural wolf recovery based on a few wolves-

A fair number of people think that wolf restoration should be “natural,” — based solely in the in-migration of 2 to a dozen or so wolves, but there is not enough genetic variety in a small number for such a population to survive over time. The situation in Isle Royale shows this.

Story in Newsweek. Inbreeding taking toll on Michigan wolves. Scientists find bone deformities in wolves on island in Lake Superior, caused by inbreeding. By John Flesher. Associated Press Writer | AP

Federal Criminal Investigation begins of Death of Last Known Jaguar in U.S.

Big anti?wolf meeting tonight in Hailey, ID

Update 4/8/09 – Hunters vent wolf concernsIdaho Mountain Express – Jason Kauffman

Update 4/5/09 by Brian Ertz

Poster displayed in front window of Hailey Les Schwab store

Poster displayed in front window of Hailey Les Schwab store

Yesterday, several anti-wolf organizers held a meeting in Hailey, Idaho to express their hatred for Idaho’s wolves and their intention to organize grass-roots resistance to the wolves’ presence on the Idaho landscape.  IDFG & Hailey city officers stood guard.

The meeting was held as a reaction to the valley’s recent visitation by the Phantom Hill Wolf Pack, celebrated by many, needless to say, scorned by a few others.

You can listen to a few snippets of Gillett’s rant:
(about 2 min) that I’ve edited/compiled to get an idea of the less-than legal intentions that were expressed at the meeting, and the general hatred that infects this very real cross-section of western culture.  It’s real and it’s not wise to discount, pretend like it doesn’t exist or make-believe that it will not impact the state’s management of wolves.  It already has.

Idaho Department of Fish & Game Director Cal Groen attended and spoke at this anti-wolf rally, in all fairness he expressed the department’s commitment to lawful conduct, but his attendance at this anti-wolf rally marks a stark turn away from officials’ past effort to avoid, ignore, and marginalize Gillett – Groen’s attendance and participation elevated, perhaps even legitimized Gillett et al’s sentiment.  At the very least, the state is listening.

There’s rumor of an article to come out later in the week that will have particular details.  I’ll leave it to that and to the account of folk in attendance who may want to comment.
Read the rest of this entry »

Crapo Introduces Bill to Codify National Park Gun Rule

Effort to overturn recent court decision striking down Bush rules-

Crapo Introduces Bill to Codify National Park Gun Rule. Gun politics is getting very interesting. Will Congress record a vote on guns in national parks? Will the President sign it? By Bill Schneider. New West.

This is all an attempt by the NRA, and its apparent auxiliary organization, the Republican Party, to generate some kind of issue to keep people from fleeing.

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Note: I am personally in favor of guns. Sometimes makes my liberal friends nervous, but I don’t think any conservationist who gets in the news should run around defenseless.

When Crapo had one of his famous colaboration meetings (on the roadless area issue) years back, I wonder if he knew some of the participants at the table were armed?

Prosecutor Tolman says DeChristopher won’t do much prison time

Oil to be moved from huge tanks near Redoubt volcano

Victory in Mexican wolf lawsuit

Legal success is only a first step, however-

Judge sides with environmentalists in wolf case.
By Susan Montoya Bryan. Associated Press Writer.

The victory was that the judge rejected the federal government’s motion to throw the case out.

Idaho Federal judge orders ESA review for Big Lost River whitefish

Judge Lodge mandates a “status review” for rare whitefish. Major impacts expected if fish is listed-

Judge orders protection review for Idaho fish. By Todd Dvorak. Associated Press Writer.
Judge rules in favor of whitefish. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told to reconsider ESA listing for Mackay area fish

This could be very good news for the sorry Big Lost River and the abusive grazing practices permitted by the Lost River Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Judge Edward Lodge generally is not very favorable to lawsuits brought by conservation groups.

Photo of the generally dewatered bed of the Big Lost River.

Photo of Copper Basin. Overgrazed mountain valley. This valley could be Lamar Valley of Idaho, but livestock grazing dominates everything else. It is the headwaters of the East Fork of the Big Lost River.

Photo of the East Fork of the Big Lost River in Copper Basin

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Those few undegraded parts of the Big Lost River are popular with trout anglers. Restoration to increase the Big Lost whitefish would have enormous benefits for trout and the local economy.

Bogus oil and gas bid folk hero to be prosecuted by Obama Administration

U. student hoped for mercy from Obama’s team, but no luck-

Bogus bidder: BLM auction monkey-wrencher faces two felonies. Drilling . U. student hoped for mercy from Obama’s team, but no luck. By Patty Henetz. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Added 4/4/2009. Did DeChristopher’s outspokenness seal his fate? By Patty Henetz. The Salt Lake Tribune.
Is prosecution Salazar’s way of telling critics, “don’t mess with us?”

Thirteen per cent decline in Yellowstone Park winter visits

Factors were the bad economy and a late onset of snowy season-

Winter visits to Yellowstone decline by 13%. Econony, late snowfall seen as likely reasons; few using Sylvan Pass. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Staff

It is disappointing to read the Park’s spokesman shrug off their big loss of money at the East Entrance. The story suggests that a bison slaugher this winter may also yet happen.

I baited jaguar trap, research worker says

Former Arizona Game and Fish Employee claims she was told to bait the trap with female jaguar scat obtained from the Phoenix Zoo or the Reid Park Zoo.

I baited jaguar trap, research worker says
Arizona Daily Star

Macho B after being collared

Macho B after being collared. Arizona Game and Fish

Spotted-owl recovery gets another look from Obama administration

Bush policy on the issue called “train wreck,” “unfixable”-

Spotted-owl recovery gets another look from Obama administration. By Warren Cornwall. Seattle Times environment reporter “The Obama administration signaled Tuesday that it wants to scrap a controversial Bush-era plan for spotted-owl recovery, asking a federal district court judge to let them rewrite it, rather than defend it against lawsuits from both environmentalists and the timber industry.”

Park concerned about Sylvan Pass costs

Yellowstone Park’s East Entrance was kept open in 2008-9 winter at the cost of $3500 per snowmobile!

Park concerned about Sylvan Pass costs. By Gazette News Services. Billings Gazette.

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Prior to the season, financially strapped Yellowstone Park wanted to abandon the costly effort to keep this high altitude entrance open. News reports were that VP Dick Cheney personally intervened to overrule the NPS.

Now we see the cost.

NRDC and 12 other groups to sue on new wolf delisting

Press contact: Josh Mogerman at 312-651-7909 (office) or 773-853-5384 (mobile)

Conservation Groups Bring Wolf Fight Back Into Court
NRDC and Twelve Groups fight decision to remove Northern Rocky Mountain wolves from Endangered Species List

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (April 1, 2009) -The long fight over wolves in the Northern Rockies continued today when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of concerned conservation groups announced a legal challenge to the recent US Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove wolves from the federal Endangered Species list. NRDC has long-advocated for a national wolf plan with recovery goals based on the most current science, which would point to the need for a larger population of animals with the opportunity for natural genetic interchange; benchmarks likely unattainable under the states’ wolf management plans.

“Last time the Service removed legal protections, there was an all out war on wolves in the weeks that followed,” said Louisa Willcox, Director of the NRDC’s office in Livingston, Mont. “We are so incredibly close to fulfilling the conditions necessary to declare the wolves’ comeback as complete, but this move threatens to undo what should be an incredible conservation success story.” Read the rest of this entry »

They just published the wolf delisting rule in the Federal Register

Some of us hoped that they had second thoughts.

Here it is in the Federal Register. (Updated link for Northern Rockies Wolves)

Federal Register Link for Great Lakes Wolves

Win on Jaguar Critical Habitat!

Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity score big victory for the big cat-

This could mean that critical habitat for the jaguar will have to be established in the United States and even a reintroduction.

U.S. District Court judge orders new review for jaguar habitat. By Arthur H. Rotstein. AP in the Arizona Republic.

News release from the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Earlier on this blog. Whither a recovery plan for the jaguar?