Kathie Lynch: Yellowstone Park wolf news

About 40 wolves are on the Park’s northern range-

Yellowstone wolf news. June 2009.

Copyright by Kathie Lynch

The beautiful green hills of Lamar Valley brim with bison, and their cute little orange calves greet early summer wolf watchers in Yellowstone. However, the drop from 171 wolves in Yellowstone Park in December 2007, to only 124 as of December 2008, means that it is now much harder to find a wolf to watch.

By my calculations (and these are definitely not official counts), there are only about 41 wolves in the Northern Range. That number includes only adults, as follows: Druid Peak pack (14), Blacktail pack (7), Cottonwood pack (6), Everts Pack (6), Agate Creek pack (4), 471F’s Group (3) and miscellaneous–“Big Black” (1). The Quadrant Pack (4) may also still be in the area, but I have not heard of any sightings. The Slough Creek, Leopold and Oxbow packs essentially no longer exist, although a few individuals may still be around. Other packs in Yellowstone’s interior include the Canyon pack (4), Mollie’s, Gibbon, Bechler, and Yellowstone Delta. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Kathie Lynch: Yellowstone Park wolf news

Fencing, Bright Lights and Loud Noises Keep Wolves at Bay

314 livestock were lost to wolves last year. Between 5000 and 10,000 head lost to other predators-

This feature ran on a number of radio stations.

Non lethal management of wolves, which keeps both wolves and livestock alive is feasible.

However, most livestock operators are not like Mike Stevens (see in story) because the U.S. government will kill the wolves for free for you and it looks like Idaho is about to get a million dollar slush fund to compensate operators for animals that were or might have been killed by wolves — a pretty strong incentive to conduct livestock business as usual.

. . . and In Wyoming, if a wolf kills your lamb or cow calf, steer, etc. you get compensated seven times its value! That is one royal payoff.

Rethinking Mountain Pine Beetles: Wuerthner testifies to Congress

A forest displaying beetle effects in Colorado

A forest displaying beetle effects in Colorado

So many of us have seen the effects of Mountain Pine Beetles on forest we’ve visited here in the west ~ up close we see dead or dying trees and from afar perhaps a red and gray hue from within a forest canopy.

Mostly, we’ve come to learn via media accounts, the words and tones of managers – even conservationists – that Pine Beetles are “negative”, that they’re a “threat” to “healthy” forests.

Testimony of George Wuerthner June 19, 2009 Joint Oversight Hearing on “Mountain Pine Beetle: Strategies for Protecting the West”:

Let me start my testimony by suggesting that many of the phrases and words used to describe natural ecological processes like episodic pine beetle events and wildfire are pejorative in tone. We heard a lot of people testifying in this hearing that pine beetles were destroying the forests and/or wildfires were catastrophic and so forth. From the perspective of human values, these words might resonate—certainly if a wildfire burns down someone’s home, it is a devastating experience. However, it is less clear that these terms are appropriate in describing natural ecological events like pine beetle events or large blazes. (See my comments on this in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy or Rocca and Romme (2009).

Read the rest of this entry »

Court-ordered Settlement Restores Endangered Species Act Protections to Great Lakes Wolves

How will this affect the wolves of the Northern Rockies? RM

Press Release.
Humane Society of the United States
Center for Biological Diversity

Court-ordered Settlement Restores Endangered Species Act Protections to Great Lakes Wolves

– – – – – – –

Great Lakes wolves returning to endangered list
Associated Press

Update, July 1, 2009
Statement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Service Will Provide Additional Opportunity for Public Comment

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reached a settlement agreement with plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Service’s 2009 rule removing Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes. Under the terms of the agreement, which must still be approved by the court, the Service will provide an additional opportunity for public comment on the rule to ensure compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act.

Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area have exceeded recovery goals and continue to thrive under state management. However, the Service agrees with plaintiffs that additional public review and comment was required under federal law prior to making that final decision.

Upon acceptance of this agreement by the court, and while the Service gathers additional public comment, gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes area will again be protected under the Endangered Species Act. All restrictions and requirements in place under the Act prior to the delisting will be reinstated. In Minnesota, gray wolves will be considered threatened; elsewhere in the region, gray wolves will be designated as endangered. The Service will continue to work with states and tribes to address wolf management issues while Western Great Lakes gray wolves remain under the protection of the Act.

This settlement agreement does not affect the status of gray wolves in other parts of the United States.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

Wolverines on the move.

Colorado and Washington State see wolverines in new places.

In recent years wolverines have been seen in places where they were not expected. Is this because people are looking for them or are they expanding their range? One wolverine in an isolated location does not mean that there is a sustainable population. There have been reports of radio tagged wolverines which have travelled very long distances across what would seem to be unsuitable habitat.

Recall the wolverine sighted in California on two occasions.

Here are two recent stories about wolverines in Washington State and Colorado.

Wolverine caught on camera on Mount Adams
Seattle Times

After 90 Years, the Wolverine (Just One) Returns to Colorado
New York Times

Men hound-hunting black bear near Island Park run into a Grizzly with cubs

Bear bites back

Grizzly feeding on elk.  © Ken Cole

Grizzly feeding on elk. © Ken Cole

News Release – 6/28/09
Idaho Department of Fish and Game 

Three eastern Idaho bear hunters got an unpleasant surprise Sunday morning, June 28, when their hounds surrounded a female grizzly with cubs.

The bear took after the hunters, knocked one man down, bit him on the right arm and tossed him around.

The names of the three men haven’t been released.  All are from the Idaho Falls area and two are brothers.  The victim was transported to Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg. He suffered lacerations to his right arm but no other apparent injuries.

Idaho Fish and Game officials are in the area looking for the bear. But they warn area residents, other hunters and anyone in the backcountry that the bear may be wounded and dangerous.

The three men were hunting black bears with hounds about 6 a.m. Sunday, on Bishop Mountain near Harriman State Park.

They released their hounds on a scent, and the dogs soon surrounded what the men thought was a black bear. When the men arrived they quickly realized they had a grizzly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bears. 99 Comments »

Losing Sagebrush

The Button Valley Bugle writes a nice piece about the sage-steppe ecosystem.  It also includes a remarkable photo of Prairie Wind Farm which illustrates the conundrum concerning new energy but continued habitat degradation/fragmentation.  Check it out :

Sagebrush RebellionThe Button Valley Bugle

We have lost over half of our sagebrush ecosystems and yet, we continue to find new ways to threaten sagebrush habitats. Coal, gas and oil development across the western states threatens, fragments and endangers the “sagebrush sea” and now we plan large wind farms and solar developments that will present even more problems for these same habitats.

Posted in conservation, sage grouse, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on Losing Sagebrush

Federal sage grouse listing may go to 2010

Idaho population continues to plummet.

Sage grouse in flight, Bruneau uplands © Ken Cole 2008

Sage grouse in flight, Bruneau uplands © Ken Cole 2008

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received more time to make their decision about whether the greater sage grouse will be listed as a endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. If listing occurs there could be profound changes in how vast areas of public lands are managed.

Federal sage grouse listing may go to 2010
By Nate Poppino
Times-News writer

10 lynx kittens found in 5 dens in Colorado

These are third generation kittens from the original reintroduction-

Third-generation cats mark milestone for state wildlife program. Bob Berwyn. Aspen Times.

This is a happy uptake in the number of lynx kittens.

Posted in wildcats. Tags: , . 42 Comments »

Idaho ranks dead last in state legislature’s accountability to its citizens

This is one reason why livestock groups rule. The public doesn’t know what goes on-

Link Fixed! Idaho, still without disclosure, ranks last again. The Associated Press

Posted in politics. Tags: . Comments Off on Idaho ranks dead last in state legislature’s accountability to its citizens

Tentative deal would replace brucellosis rules in Greater Yellowstone

New rules would stop statewide penalities for cattle infection in Greater Yellowstone-

Hope I’m wrong, but I doubt this will get approval if it means bison will be able to migrate outside Yellowstone Park because brucellosis is not the real issue. It’s the symbolism of who has the upper hand on the public’s land.

Tentative deal would replace brucellosis rules. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press.

Ely, Nevada coal-fired power plant plan formally withdrawn

It’s good to see the sucker finally dead!

Ely coal-fired power plant plan withdrawn. AP  in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Federal ‘land grab’ myth endures in Utah

The western states never owned the U.S. public lands (federal lands) inside their boundaries-

One of the the oldest myths perpetrated in rural areas of the public land states is that the national forests, parks, and BLM lands somehow at some time belonged to the state, and these lands were somehow wrested into federal ownership.

The function of the myth is mostly to provide a rationale for ignoring the law and the wishes of people from outside the area. It is actively perpetrated by development and livestock interests who don’t like federal decisions (they are silent about all this when they do like federal decisions).

When I taught the course “Public Land Politics,” I always spent about two weeks on the origin and history of the public lands, so that those who had absorbed this myth would have the history and laws to see what actually did and did not transpire.

This is the kind of op ed that needs to be written several times a year in every newspaper in the West. Federal ‘land grab’ myth endures in Utah. By  Gale Dick. Save Our Canyons. Salt Lake Tribune.

Great News! More oil, gas leases retired along the Rocky Mountain Front

In 2006, Congress banned leasing federal lands on the Front, but many leases had already been given-

The effort to protect Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front from natural gas development has been and continues to be pretty successful. These oil, gas leases along the Front were the work of two NGOs, The Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front and Trout Unlimited.

The leases were bought from Donald Curry of Curry & Thornton of Ft. Worth, Texas.

This is very important grizzly bear habitat and deer, elk and moose spring, fall and winter range.

Leases Retired. By Karl Puckett. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer

More on this. Added July 8, 2009. New lease arrangement advances preservation of Front. Great Falls Tribune.

Drill a fault for geothermal; trigger an earthquake?

Most geothermal developments use natural hot spring areas, but a new method may have great promise and danger-

Geothermal energy is regarded as a quasi renewable energy source because it does not use fossil fuels, uses the natural heat of the earth, and can be turned into clean electricity or for lower temperature sources for space heating by circulation of warm water. Iceland has made great strides in geothermal development.

However, hot spring areas do not occur everywhere, their useful life for geothermal energy is limited in time, and unique natural and scenic features are often destroyed in development.

As a result, developers want to drill deeper using the natural heat gradient of the Earth. The easiest way to do this is down a fault which provides a natural crack often leading to heat. Of course, faults are the cause and the result of earthquakes. Lubricating the fault with water seems a bit scary, but surprisingly a program is underway with more coming Idaho, Nevada, and California.

Deep in Bedrock, Clean Energy and Quake Fears. By James Glanz. New York Times.

My photo of an abandoned geothermal well in Raft River Valley, Idaho.

Posted in energy. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Drill a fault for geothermal; trigger an earthquake?

Wild Bighorns Threatened by Domestic Sheep

Another article about the menace of domestic sheep to our precious bighorn populations-

On the Range. Wild Bighorns Threatened by Domestic Sheep. By George Wuerthner. New West.
“Should domestic sheep be permitted to graze on public lands when their presence threatens the survival of wild bighorn sheep? That’s a question that is increasingly getting serious discussion around the West.”

Environmentalists baffled by Obama’s [legal] strategy

One of the easiest ways to get rid of bad policies is ignored by the new Administration-

Passing new laws is hard, and it is controversial. Issuing executive orders is less so, but still difficult. Settling suits against laws and regulations you don’t really support anyway is below the radar screen.

It hard for conservationists to understand.

Environmentalists baffled by Obama’s strategy. By Jim Tankersley. LA Times.

We shouldn’t manage Montana’s wildlife like a giant game farm

Marty Essen asks for balanced management of our forests and wildlife-

We shouldn’t manage Montana’s wildlife like a giant game farm

In response to some recent anti-wolf letters in local newspapers, I’d like to offer an alternative point of view.

Blaming the wolf for fewer elk, without considering other factors, is disingenuous at best. Here’s what scientists know as fact: wolves and elk have a history together that goes back to before humans entered their territory. If wolves were going to wipe out the elk, they would’ve done so long before humans arrived. In a natural ecosystem, wolves and elk exist to the mutual benefit of both species.

The real issue is whether it’s morally acceptable for humans to artificially manage our forests for the benefit of one special interest group: hunters. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 129,708 resident elk licenses were sold in 2008, and there are an estimated 193,484 total hunters in our state. Considering that Montana’s population is 967,440, hunters are a much smaller group than their political influence indicates (and not all hunters are anti-wolf).

On the other hand, many people, including conservation-minded hunters, won’t speak out in defense of wolves because they fear being threatened (I’ve been threatened more than once). That doesn’t mean their concerns should be ignored. Countless people head into the woods each day, hoping to spot a wolf. Yes, the reintroduction of wolves isn’t just for the animals—it’s for people too!

One anti-wolf writer suggested that we have a public vote on the “wolf problem.” In essence, we already had that vote when we banned game farms. If we manage Montana’s wildlife solely to favor human-hunted species, all we’re doing is turning our state into one giant game farm.

The best way to manage Montana’s wildlife is to strive for a natural balance. It’s good for animals; it’s good for non-hunters; and it’s good for hunters who believe in a fair chase.

Copyright ©

Marty Essen
Author of the multi-award-winning book, Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents

Barker: Death of celebrity wolf may be an omen

Statesman environmental reporter writes confusing story about Wood River Valley and the wolf pack that lives there-

Barker: Death of celebrity wolf may be an omen. Idaho Statesman

Rocky Barker, who was written numerous books and articles about conservation, seems to have let some kind of barely suppressed animosity toward Idaho’s Wood River Valley motivate him to write what must be a clever article about the local wolf pack. Those who don’t know the area, however, might need some background.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Wood River Valley of south central Idaho is narrow stream valley beginning in the Boulder Mountains and widening out onto the Snake River Plain. Like most similar Idaho valleys it has a lot of wildlife. In this case even though parts of it are densely populated (by central Idaho standards) by people.

There are four towns. Bellvue, Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. The upper reaches of the valley have few permanent residences because in the early 1970s, Idaho conservationists and green senators like Frank Church had set aside the headwaters of the Wood River as part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area to be managed for recreation, scenery, open space, wildlife, and where compatible the grazing of livestock. Wildlife have the clear legal priority over livestock, and the Western Watersheds Project has won several lawsuits on the issue against the government who seemed to get confused about the law’s priorities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Livestock gets greenhouse gas exemption on Climate Bill

Scientists have been speaking about how regulation to ensure greenhouse gas emission reductions needs to be comprehensive to work.  Unfortunately, Obama folded to the Big Ag lobby on one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions :

THE INFLUENCE GAME: Excuse me! Lobby wins on burps – AP 

One contributor to global warming — bigger than coal mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants — is being left out of efforts by the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Cow burps.

Belching from the nation’s 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the U.S. each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.

Rare Washington wolf pack behaving itself

According the human perceptions, wolves near Twisp, WA are not causing trouble-

Rare Washington wolf pack behaving itself. By K.C. Mehaffey, The Wenatchee World.

I haven’t heard any news about the prosecution of the local family that poached a couple of these wolves.

Most of the comments in story are quite positive.

Distributed renewable energy makes economic & ecological sense

No need for much Renewable Energy development on Our Public Lands

Imperiled Desert Tortoise © Dr. Michael J. Connor, WWP

Imperiled Desert Tortoise © Dr. Michael J. Connor, WWP

In early April, we discussed planned massive solar development projects on public lands underway in Southern California with Basin & Range Watch‘s splendid native plant & wildflower photo essay Last Spring at Ivanpah.  The essay bloomed across environmental listserves everywhere and, combined with many other factors, prompted internal debate among local and national environmental groups concerning the wisdom of the modern day land rush to develop massive renewable energy projects on our public lands.

More recently, the Protect our Communities Foundation weighed in, pointing out in a letter to Congress that the least cost, both in economic & ecological terms, production solution (conservation’s still at the top – ex: paint your roof white) may be distributed renewable energy solutions – solar panels on roof-tops, parking lots, i.e. already developed places that are close to points of use.  Producing energy closer to where it’s used minimizes astonishing transmission costs and preserves our remote public land wild places & wildlife which, ironically, are the very members of our communities in most need of protection given global climate change.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation Comment Letter on May 11, 2009 Field Hearing on “Solar Energy Development on Federal Lands: The Road to Consensus”  – courtesy Basin & Range Watch

The least-cost solar resource in 2009 is in California’s developed urban and suburban areas, and this resource is vast. All urban solar deployments would be compatible dual-use of existing rooftops and parking lots, avoiding the dilemma you noted in your opening remarks at the hearing – “Solar power is very land-intensive, and siting a solar plant means that most if not all of the other uses of that land are precluded.” 
Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Hudak’s Podcast: Politics Trumps Science in Rangeland Management

How they do it.

In this 15-minute audio presentation, Mike Hudak explains how ranchers use politicians to intimidate land managers from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management into providing rancher-friendly livestock management that is often detrimental to wildlife. Hudak cites passages from his book Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching that illuminate the topic.

Mike Hudak’s Podcast: Politics Trumps Science in Rangeland Management

Cow flop, beer cans, and cheatgrass.  © Ken Cole

Cow flop, beer cans, and cheatgrass. © Ken Cole (click for larger view)

New FS Chief Tidwell gives thoughts in Missoulian interview

Mourning the Loss of Our Friends


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field
June 18, 2009


In this issue:
* Update from the Field – Four Bulls Killed by Agents
* Our Friend Frog: BFC Celebrates His Life, Mourns His Passing
* Last Words
* Kill Tally

Read the rest of this entry »

Utah senators complain about arrest of Southern Utah pot hunters. SL Tribune spanks senators

Senators’ attack on federal agents dangerous in these times of wingnut extremism-

Political pandering. Hatch and Bennett out of line. Salt Lake Tribune Editorial.

Destruction of archelogical valuable artifacts is a well known practice in Southern Utah. Time for a federal crackdown was way past, and finally a well planned raid was carried, arresting 23 local scoffaws.

Senators Hatch and Bennent are busy fanning the flames at a time when death theats as well as real shootings by the wingnuts have become all too common.

Misinformation Has Contributed to the Severe Declines in Some Bighorn Sheep Populations.

Wild Sheep Foundation speaks out.

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The Wild Sheep Foundation, for many years, has been raffling off a sheep hunting tag which often times generates more than $100,000 that is partially used to fund research conducted at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center. According to an article in the Lewiston Morning Tribune (subscription only) they are questioning whether will continue to conduct the raffle thus impacting funding of the Center.

Misinformation Has Attributed to the Severe Declines in Some Bighorn Sheep Populations.
Neil Thagard : June 15th 2009

An article also appeared from the Associated Press last night detailing the voluntary leave that Dr. Marie Bulgin has been placed under.

UI prof takes leave in midst of bighorn probe
By JOHN MILLER – Associated Press Writer

Posted in Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep, politics. Tags: , . Comments Off on Misinformation Has Contributed to the Severe Declines in Some Bighorn Sheep Populations.

Man goes over Lower Falls in Yellowstone Park

Rescue workers search for body after 308 foot plunge-

Man goes over Falls. Jackson Hole Daily. By Cory Hatch

Judge orders measures to protect native trout from grazing in eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest

ONDA, WWP & CBD halt cattle grazing

The Oregon Natural Desert Association’s press release :

PORTLAND, ORE. Jun 16, 2009

Cattle grazing along a steelhead stream, Malheur National Forest. photo: ONDA

Cattle grazing along a steelhead stream, Malheur National Forest. photo: ONDA

Fish advocates applauded a federal judge’s decision yesterday to protect native steelhead trout in the John Day River basin. The court order temporarily halts cattle grazing within important native trout streams in eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. This latest round of the decade-long litigation targets, as the court put it, “repeated failures” by the Forest Service to address grazing impacts to fish habitat. The steelhead, an iconic Pacific Northwest native trout, is listed under the Endangered Species Act as a “threatened” species in danger of extinction.

Grazing has badly damaged stream and riparian habitats along more than 230 miles of streams, according to evidence gathered by ONDA and the Forest Service. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in cattle, Forest Service, Grazing and livestock, public lands. Comments Off on Judge orders measures to protect native trout from grazing in eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest

Animal kills by Wildlife Services more than double in ’08

Animal kills by federal agency more than double

Associated Press Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The number of animals poisoned, shot or snared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than doubled last year, and environmentalists who are critical of the killings renewed their effort Tuesday to limit the agency’s funding for such activities.

Gail Kimbell out; Tom Tidwell in as new Forest Service Chief

Appointment of new Forest Service Chief is always important to conservationists-

The Forest Service Chief is appointed and does not have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, yet he or she exercises great power over the National Forest System.

When Bush appointed Kimbell, there was a lot of complaint from the environmental community.

Tom Tidwell is currently the regional forester of the USFS Northern Region (Montana and Northern Idaho).  He makes the third in a row to move from that office to Chief. Some thought that Harv Forsgren,  Regional Forest for the Intermountain Region, was in line for the job.

Initial reaction as reported by the Associated Press seems favorable.

Career forester named US Forest Service chief. By Matthew Daly. Associated Press.

Below is the USDA news release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Forest Service, politics, public lands. Tags: . Comments Off on Gail Kimbell out; Tom Tidwell in as new Forest Service Chief

UI puts Marie Bulgin on Leave during course of bighorn investigation

University of Idaho Statement: Update on Bighorn Sheep Research Investigation – UI Press Release

June 17, 2009

“The University of Idaho continues its thorough investigation into the facts surrounding professor of veterinary medicine Marie Bulgin’s testimony before the Idaho legislature during the 2009 session, and her written statements in federal litigation, relating to transmission of disease between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep.

“The university is committed to integrity and accountability, and takes seriously its responsibility to ensure both. To that end, we are reviewing this case within the framework of all relevant university policies. The institution’s general policies cover issues such as employee conduct, responsibility and accountability.

“To accomplish a complete and timely investigation, and to minimize the impact of the claims and investigation on the research and analysis performed at the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center, the university and Bulgin have agreed that she will take leave from her administrative duties at the Caine Center and will not be involved in research projects on sheep and sheep-related diseases, nor publish or otherwise disseminate research materials regarding sheep or sheep-related diseases pending the outcome of the university’s investigation. This change takes effect immediately.

“Day-to-day Caine Center operation oversight and supervision of research focused on sheep and sheep-related diseases will be reassigned.

“The university’s investigation is dedicated to both ascertaining a complete understanding of the facts and ensuring that the rights of all involved are respected. Under Idaho law, certain personnel information must remain confidential and we will, of course, honor that requirement. We will conduct our investigation in a timely manner and take appropriate actions according to its results.”
# # #

Montana Department of Livestock Captures and Slaughters Three Wild Bull Bison

Buffalo Bull © Ken Cole

Buffalo Bull © Ken Cole

Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758

Montana Department of Livestock Captures and Slaughters Three Wild Bull Bison


For Immediate Release: June 17, 2009
Press Contact: Mike Mease, 406-646-0070

West Yellowstone, MT: Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents captured three bull bison this morning in the Duck Creek bison trap located on private land less than 200 yards from the western border of Yellowstone National Park. The bison were loaded onto a livestock trailer and shipped to a slaughterhouse. They had been grazing peacefully near the Park border for the past several weeks on and around National Forest lands purchased for wildlife habitat.
Read the rest of this entry »

Sonoran Desert National Monument preservation effort moves forward

Sonoran Desert National Monument.  Photo: BLM

Sonoran Desert National Monument. Photo: BLM

Last Friday WWP won a reversal of a previous court decision that would have held that Presidents have the authority to designate – but not direct management of – national monuments.

Preservation and the President: A Positive Development in the Sonoran Desert – Ti Hays, PreservationNation

Last Friday, in a positive development, a federal district court in Arizona reversed a previous decision that held that President Clinton had exceeded his authority by including management directives in the proclamation for the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

The case began when an environmental group — the Western Watersheds Project — filed a lawsuit claiming that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had taken too long to prepare a resource management plan and grazing suitability analysis for the Sonoran Desert. President Clinton created the 486,149-acre monument in 2001 through a proclamation authorized by the Antiquities Act of 1906.

WWP sought to enforce very explicit conservation directives that then President Clinton had included in designating the Sonoran Desert National Monument.  The judge’s previous interpretation of law could have rendered many national monument designations largely impotent from a conservation perspective.  Fortunately, the judge thought twice and reversed that decision.

Read the rest of this entry »

Burning Questions

Why the National Fire Plan is a Trojan Horse for Logging

Earlier Ralph noted a new study that suggests fire mitigation work in the US may be misplaced.  Along those same lines, George Wuerther shares an account of one experience he had digging deeper into the rationale & motive of some “fuels reduction” projects :

Burning Questions ~ George Wuerther

A couple of years ago I went on a show me tour of a Forest Service Thinning project that was funded under the National Fire Plan (NFP). A group of us, including some forest service employees, a university fire researcher, country commissioners, timber interests, and the like gathered at the Forest Service office. The district ranger explained that we were going to see a fuel reduction project designed to protect the small town where we were standing. After giving preliminary background on the proposed timber sale, we got into a bunch of Forest Service vehicles and drove out of town. And drove. And drove. And drove. Eighteen miles from the town, we got out of the car to look at the thinning project.

IDFG: Bighorn sheep testing will be done at the Caine Vet Lab.

Samples taken from killed bighorn sheep will be tested at center embroiled in controversy.

From an Idaho Fish and Game press release dated June 15 comes information that samples from the bighorn sheep killed last week will be tested at the Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center in Caldwell, Idaho. The Center’s director, Dr. Marie Bulgin, is at the center of a controversy relating to this very issue.

Here is the IDFG Press Release:

Date: June 15, 2009
Contact: Mike Demick
(208) 799-5010

Sick Bighorn Shot

An Idaho Fish and Game biologist Wednesday morning, June 10, shot a bighorn sheep along the Salmon River about 20 miles east of Riggins.

The seven-year-old radio-collared bighorn ram appeared ill and had been observed near a private domestic sheep ranch along the Salmon River. Officials feared it suffered from pneumonia, which is often fatal to wild sheep. It was killed after eluding authorities since May 18.

The sick ram had rejoined other bighorns a few miles upriver, but the ram was alone when it was shot.

Fish and Game biologists took blood and tissue samples from the dead bighorn. The samples will be processed at the Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center and the Fish and Game Wildlife Health Center in Caldwell. Results are expected in about two weeks.

The ram had been radio-collared in 2008, and blood and tissue samples taken then can be compared to the samples taken Wednesday.

Other sheep in the herd carry radio collars and will be monitored closely.

Posted in Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep. Tags: , , . Comments Off on IDFG: Bighorn sheep testing will be done at the Caine Vet Lab.

Young grizzlies out on the plains, east of Interstate 15 in Montana

Is the move out of the mountains due to the long winter and wet spring?

We’ve been talking about grizzly south of Interstate 90 in Idaho,  but a more obvious movement is the presence of two or more grizzly bears out on the plains, well east of the Rocky Mountain front.

Young grizzlies push farther eastward. By Michael Babcock.  Tribune Outdoor Editor • Great Falls Tribune.

Bobcat fur coats raise trapping concern in West

Russian and Chinese demand pushes up pelt prices for this medium sized wildcat’s hide-

While there seem to be a lot of  bobcats in the United States, the population size is pretty much a guess. Most of the concern over trapping increase is in the Western states. Bobcat fur coats raise trapping concern in West. By Martin Griffith. Associated Press.

Phantom Hill Wolf Pack loses “Papa”, the pack’s alpha male

What will this mean with 4 domestic sheep bands scheduled to turn out on top of the Phantom’s home range in the next week ?

Idaho’s Phantom Hill Wolf Pack has lost its alpha male, B333. He was hit by a vehicle north of Ketchum over the weekend and was found dead by Ketchum resident Lynne Stone on Sunday, June 14th. Stone said she had been watching two other Phantom wolves earlier that morning, chasing cow elk and a bull moose, when she got a tip that a wolf was laying dead near Baker Creek.

June 2007 - B333, before he was collared, near a road-killed elk on Phantom Hill, north of Ketchum, Idaho. Photo  Claudia Fiaschetti © 2007,

June 2007 - B333 "Papa", before he was collared, near a road-killed elk on Phantom Hill, north of Ketchum, Idaho. Photo Claudia Fiaschetti © 2007,

“I’m stunned and saddened for B333, a grizzled older wolf that we nicknamed “Papa”, and I’m especially concerned, more than ever, for his pack” Stone said.

“This is an especially terrible time for the Phantoms to lose B333, because three sheep bands (over 7500 sheep) are coming onto Sawtooth National Forest allotments north of Ketchum — into the pack’s home range — in the next few days,” says Stone. “I saw two Phantom yearlings this morning in the area where B333 was killed. By Saturday, there will be 2500 sheep there.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Fire Mitigation Work In Western US Misplaced, Says New Study

Only 11 per cent of federal efforts have been near homes or offices-

This won’t come as any surprise to those of us who have watched the BLM and Forest Service conduct preemptive (“prescriptive”) burns and vegetation thinnings. Most of the fire reduction work I see is deep in the forest land, although often fairly near some kind of road.

Those monies spent might have some benefit for wildlife habitat or livestock, but not where people live. When asked, the Forest Service may point to a single home or two, or second home, deep in the woodland or steppe, but it isn’t the city or town.

One of the major reasons, however, is that 70 per cent of fire prone lands with homes are not within a mile-and-a-half of federal land. This puts a physical legal limit on the federal government’s ability to affect the high-risk zone. The study points to a need to be able to “treat” next to or near the homes to have an effect.

This raises a question if it shouldn’t be a private person, or a local government’s responsibility to thin the land next to the homes they choose to build in the fire zone, and which the city or county allowed to be developed for residential purposes there. RM

Fire Mitigation Work In Western US Misplaced, Says New Study. Science Daily

Nez Perce Tribe concerned about UI vet center, leader

Controversy continues-

Nez Perce concerned about UI vet center, leader.  The Associated Press in the Idaho Statesman.

The Tribe says that it is losing credibility in the University of Idaho Caine Veterinary center when it comes to the accurate reporting of the outcome of tests of bighorn sheep and domestic sheep tissues.

The Tribe has a big stake in this because of their treaty rights given the disease caused decline of bighorn sheep in Idaho.

Grizzly shot by Idaho elk farmer south of Interstate 90

Second killing of griz in two years shows some grizzlies getting past the Interstate Highway 90 barrier-

Interstate Highway 90 cuts across NW Montana and the Panhandle of Idaho creating a massive barrier to grizzly migration and restoration to central Idaho. That’s the bad news. The good news it is not absolute.

Although finding a grizzly by way of its being dead is not the happiest method of finding a bear on the south side of the barrier, the fact that a grizzly was just shot there by an elk farmer near Rose Lake, Idaho in the Panhandle makes it at least the second bear to cross in two years.

Because both bears were killed, that raises a strong possibility that others have made it and survived.

Story in the Spokesman Review. Grizzly had killed bull elk, farmer says. Bear shot after attack at Bugle Mountain Elk Farm.

– – – – – – –

On the earlier dead grizzly. Grizzly Bear killed in north central Idaho came from the Selkirk Mountains. October 2, 2007

The Three Bears? Try 163,000 … and counting

The Three Bears? Try 163,000 … and counting

ROGER ALFORD, Associated Press Writer

“You’ve got bears moving into areas where people live and you’ve got people moving into areas where bears live,” said Mark Ternent, a state bear biologist in Pennsylvania. “Both of those scenarios frequently involve people with little experience living around bears.”

Ternent said most of the encounters are harmless, ending with the bears running away.

“The average bear is afraid of people,” he said. “If it encounters a person, it would rather flee than fight.”

Boyles said people can prevent unwanted bear encounters by doing simple things like putting bird feeders out of reach of the animals, putting trash out only on the day it is to be picked up, and keeping pet food indoors.

Posted in Bears, land development, Wildlife Habitat. Comments Off on The Three Bears? Try 163,000 … and counting

Really important post filled — BLM Director to be Bob Abbey

News article reports praises from all quarters-

I suspect he is not so popular as the AP* article below indicates. New federal BLM chief nominated.
The Associated Press.

The BLM directorship is not a simple appointment position. Abbey must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate where holds and filibusters increasingly hold sway.

– – – –

Has anyone noticed how the Associated Press is becoming more and more important as the newspapers continue their decline? RM

Sheep on public lands drawing renewed attention

Gallatin Wildlife Association challenges sheep grazing in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to protect bighorn sheep.

This issue is moving swiftly around the west. Sheep grazing in occupied bighorn habitat is being challenged in Montana now as well. The Gallatin Wildlife Association has been a strong advocate for all wildlife in the region.

Sheep on public lands drawing renewed attention
DANIEL PERSON Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Wolf delisting faces new court challenge

Greater Yellowstone Coalition reverses previous position on wolf delisting and files its own suit separate from those filed by the Wolf Coalition and the State of Wyoming.

The suit was filed in Montana. This is the third suit filed over delisting. The first was filed by the Wolf Coalition, which is made up of several environmental groups. The second by the State of Wyoming and livestock groups.

Wolf delisting faces new court challenge
Jackson Hole Daily.

UI prof daughter: Sheep research wasn’t suppressed

Jeanne Bulgin defends Dr. Marie Bulgin

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

UI prof daughter: Sheep research wasn’t suppressed
Associated Press

This story raises some obvious questions. The first being, if she knew that her mother Dr. Marie Bulgin was testifying that there was no evidence that domestic sheep diseases were transmitted to bighorn sheep in the wild before Federal judges, the Legislature and the media, why didn’t Jeanne Bulgin tell her mother about the study? Also, how and when was Dr. Marie Bulgin made aware of the study?

This issue isn’t so much about Dr. Marie Bulgin as it is about bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep are dying because of exposure to domestic sheep. There is no practical way to keep domestic sheep and bighorn sheep separated when domestic sheep inhabit occupied territory of bighorn sheep. The two species cannot coexist. The public lands allotments need to be closed to domestic sheep grazing to prevent contact.  The US Forest Service appears to be ready to do just that but there are three domestic sheep allotments on BLM land in occupied bighorn habitat.  The BLM is refusing to close these allotments even though recent events have made it clear that separation cannot be maintained in occupied habitat.

Does anyone have questions to ask Jeanne Bulgin as it appears that she is commenting on the linked article?

UPDATE: An expanded version of the above article may be found here:
UI Prof’s Daughter: Sheep Research Not Suppressed

Read the rest of this entry »

Letter: UI prof’s daughter documented disease link

Dr. Marie Bulgin’s daughter was involved with the unpublished study of the 1994 incidents.

This bighorn sheep was seen persistently coughing.  © Ken Cole

This bighorn sheep was seen persistently coughing. © Ken Cole

“Dr. Bulgin distorts the scientific facts to support her one-sided views as an advocate of the domestic sheep industry,” wrote William Foreyt, a Washington State University professor, in a May 5 letter to the Idaho Senate, which this year passed legislation aimed at helping ranchers.

Letter: UI prof’s daughter documented disease link
John Miller, Associated Press
(Be sure to click at the bottom for the second page)

Meanwhile, over at the Lewiston Morning Tribune which requires a subscription to read, Dr. Bulgin compares scientist’s feelings about disease transmission between the two species with the public’s fear of autism being caused by vaccinations which has been debunked but people still believe.

USFWS to reconsider the wolverine for protected under endangered species act

Earth Justice scores a victory for the wolverine and the Endangered Species Act-

Administration’s new, cramped view of the ESA that a species doesn’t need protection in the United States even though its population is very low and declining if there are some in Canada, Mexico, or wherever.

Agency to reconsider wolverine status. By Susan Gallagher. AP Writer in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Our earlier post on this lawsuit. July 9, 2008. Groups file suit over wolverine protection U.S. wolverines face threats from climate change, other factors, conservation groups say.

Added. Here is the USFWS politically influenced finding that the wolverine did not merit ESA protection.

This particular rejection of protecting a “candidate species” was one of the most dangerous and legally defective decisions of any ESA species status reviews. RM

Northern Exposure. Sarah Palin’s toxic paradise.

It’s a big beautiful state, but Palin is hardly protecting its citizens-

Northern Exposure. New Republic by by Sheila Kaplan and Marilyn Berlin Snell

Enviros cheer, critics jeer report on ‘flawed’ Utah oil leases

Salazar’s concession to Utah’s Senator Bennett to allow Hayes to be confirmed number two at Interior doesn’t turn out like the Senator wanted-

Enviros cheer, critics jeer report on ‘flawed’ oil leases. Bishop » Utah congressman calls it “crap,” Bennett is conciliatory. By Thomas Burr.
The Salt Lake Tribune.

From my perspective this dust-up turned out very well. 🙂

New on June. 13, 2008. Drilling decisions. Report shows flawed BLM process. Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon.

Sunflower © Ken Cole

Sunflower © Ken Cole

Memorial Day Weekend Trip in Photos

My wife and I went to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Oregon for Memorial Day weekend to do some bird watching and a little fishing.  I had intended to post this shortly afterwards but other stories and a trip to Massachusetts and Maine got in the way.

We took a day trip through the Catlow Basin and through part of the Alvord Basin to Coyote Lake Basin as well. While there I did a little fishing for the Willow/Whitehorse Creek Cutthroat which is a minor subspecies of Lahontan Cutthroat. I caught and photographed two of these fish.

Phlox © Ken Cole

Phlox © Ken Cole

Blooming Desert © Ken Cole

Blooming Desert © Ken Cole

Read the rest of this entry »

Fish and Game finally kills sick bighorn wandering along Salmon River for weeks

If tests find he had pneumonia others may be killed as well.

The bighorn which interacted with domestic sheep on private property near Riggins, Idaho has been killed. During the last 3 1/2 weeks it is know to have had contact with 11 other bighorn rams which may be killed as well if tests determine that the ram killed had pneumonia.

Fish and Game finally kills sick bighorn wandering along Salmon River for weeks
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

Idaho Conservation League Drops out of Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Advisory Group.

Cites political interference from the Idaho Legislature.

The Idaho Conservation League has become the second group to resign from the BHS/DS Advisory Group. The first was the Nez Perce Tribe who cited the same reasons for resigning.  Currently the Group is suspended while the Idaho Fish and Game and the sheep permitees develop “best management practices” as mandated by the Legislature in S1232.  These BMP’s will likely have no effect on the situation as you can see from the story I just put up.

Here is the statement made to the participants of the group. Their letter to the Governor is linked to below. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bighorn sheep, disease, domestic sheep, politics. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Idaho Conservation League Drops out of Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Advisory Group.

Hiker with pistol and spray survives encounter with grizzly sow with cubs

Boise, Idaho man said attack happened too fast to use either when he surprised the bears-

Fortunately he was able to walk 4 miles to the trailhead.

Update: the original story has been replaced by a much more detailed one below.

Boise man in hospital following griz attack. By Karin Ronnow. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

. . . and there have been more recent encounters.

Two Alberta men recovering from grizzly attack. Edmunton Journal. They were searching for elk antlers. A lot of grizzly bear attacks have happened to those looking too intently for elk antlers while in grizzly country.

Glacier National Park jogger survives grizzly attack. Missoulian. By Jim Mann in the Daily InterLake. The jogger forgot his pepper spray. At any rate, jogging on trails in dense grizzly country like Glacier National Park is not a good idea.

Conflict of Interest Allegations Being Investigated at the U of Idaho Caine Veterinary Teaching Center.

Questions about who knew what and when they knew it.

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The controversy over whether domestic sheep transmit deadly pathogens to bighorn sheep seems to have been settled.

At issue now is whether studies were intentionally suppressed by staff of the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center in Caldwell Idaho, whether leadership at the lab had cultivated a working environment so pervasivesly sympathetic to the livestock-industry that objective science was a far-shot anyway, whether it was both, neither, or somewhere in-between.  One thing’s certain in our minds, land-grant Universities throughout the West show similar signs of livestock industry fostered bias – it’s just easier to get federal and state grants that way, and our public landscape and wildlife continue to take the short-end for it.

Specific to this case, there is question as to whether Dr. Marie Bulgin, who is the Teaching Program Coordinator of the lab and is/was the president of the Idaho Woolgrowers Association, knew about the studies before testifying to the Idaho Legislature and in front of a Federal Judge.

When confronted with the existence of the paper :

Contacted Thursday, Bulgin, a past president of the Idaho Wool Grower’s Association who worked at the Idaho center in 1994 but took over as coordinator only in 2003, said she knew nothing about the research until earlier this year.

As recently as April 3, 2009 I (Ken) witnessed Dr. Marie Bulgin testify to the Idaho State Legislature that there was no evidence of transmission between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep in the wild. You can also see here that Senator Jeff Siddoway used this testimony to convince the legislature to pass S1175.

Sen. Siddoway also explained that according to Marie Bulgin, a University of Idaho veterinarian, no scientist has found a single instance of pasteurella moving from domestic sheep to bighorn in 19 years of research.

There exists a copy of the paper, which has not been published nor peer reviewed, obtained by Western Watersheds Project recently after being made aware of it several months ago. The paper outlines two incidents in 1994 where bighorn sheep were observed intermingling with domestic sheep. One of the bighorn sheep had been relocated several months previous to the incident and at the time of relocation had been found to be free of the pathogen. The bighorn were each captured and taken to the Caine lab where they were held in isolation, had samples taken from them and they subsequently died of pneumonia. Samples were taken from the domestic sheep as well and when the two were compared biochemically identical strains of Pasteurella haemolytica were found in both the bighorn sheep and domestic sheep samples.  Marie Bulgin’s daughter was acknowledged in the paper for her contribution to the lab work that took place back in ’94.

The Idaho Statesman issued an Editorial Opinion about the issue.
Our View: You can’t pull wool over the eyes of science
– Idaho Statesman

Rocky Barker also writes about the issue.

Was bighorn research at the University of Idaho suppressed?

Sheep-bighorn battle dike breaks

Ken Cole and Brian Ertz contributed to this post.

UPDATE: UI investigating researcher over bighorn study John Miller AP

AP EXCLUSIVE: Wildlife whistleblower case in NV

Wildlife Services employee fired for reporting the illegal killing of two mountain lions from an airplane by co-workers.

How much of this kind of thing actually happens? I’ve definitely heard of cases where wolves were shot at and injured by WS.

AP EXCLUSIVE: Wildlife whistleblower case in NV
Scott Sonner, Associated Press

Judge Sonia Sotomayor: an environmental pragmatist

Will she bring some balance back to a Supreme Court dominated by conservative judicial activists?

Judge Sonia Sotomayor: an environmental pragmatist. By Jean Williams. Examiner.com

Northwest’s biofuel boom goes bust

The headline should read “corn ethanol,” not biofuel-

Despite the past, and continuing subsidies, ethanol made from corn produces little net energy and a lot of political conflict as it consumes a quarter of the country’s corn crop.

Advanced biofuels might hold promise, especially those using bacteria to directly produce ethanol or other low carbon fuels. However, the creation of vast monocultures of vegetation on lands unsuited for crop (such as corn) production, could pose a planet changing environmental cost. “Waste” trees and brush from all over the countryside fed into a bottomless biofuel energy machine could leave the countyside looking like Haiti.

Northwest’s biofuel boom goes bust. By Scott Learn, The Oregonian

Nevada a bad neighbor state: Closing Jerritt Canyon gold mine said to be part of bigger battle

Nevada wants to keep regulation out of federal hands for selfish reasons

According to the Las Vegas Sun the battle over the huge mercury plume from the recently-closed (again) Jerritt Canyon mine is really over Nevada keeping control of regulating its gold mining industry.

Closing mine part of bigger battle. State wants to keep feds from regulating industry. Las Vegas Sun. By Lisa Mascaro

Well, of course. Nevada has a long history of exporting environmental harm to its neighbors. It didn’t begin with letting mercury poison blow into Idaho and Utah. They have plans underway to steal water from under Utah’s west desert and maybe even Idaho.

For years Nevada smelters sent toxic heavy metals and more traditional pollution into Idaho and Utah.In the late 1980s, there was a multi-billion dollar plan for a huge coal fired power plant in the extreme NE corner of Nevada where essentially all the pollution would blow out of the state.

The federal government itself used the Nevada desert as the site of open air atomic bomb testing whose radioactive fallout caused many cancer cases in Utah, Idaho, California, Montana, and places every further away.

Earlier. August 22, 2008. Mercury pollution investigation shuts down Nevada gold mine near Idaho border
March 16, 2008. Six Nevada gold mines are worse mercury polluters than Jerritt Canyon?
March 15, 2008. Nevada closes Jerritt Canyon Mine for mercury releases.

Interesting weekend and bad reporting.

Domestic sheep DO transmit deadly disease to bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep lamb © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep lamb © Ken Cole

This weekend has turned out to be an interesting one in the world of the domestic sheep/bighorn sheep controversy. Rocky Barker reported on his blog that he had the infamous “study” that Marie Bulgin “missed” but it’s not the one at issue in the big story published on Friday. He links to a Colorado study in today’s story where he glosses over the conflict of interest and says:

“And just this weekend, it came out that Bulgin’s own center had conducted tests that indicated the disease could be transmitted from domestic to wild sheep – though she said the study happened before she took the job in 2003 and she didn’t know about it until this year.”

This also misrepresented what the Caine Vet Lab study, which he apparently does not have, actually demonstrates, it apparently shows that a domestic sheep transmitted disease to bighorns in the wild not just that it’s possible.

Marie Bulgin, according to http://www.idahowool.org/AboutUs.html, is the president of the Idaho Woolgrowers Association. At the same time she is the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center Teaching Program Coordinator and has been employed there since 1977 making her claim that “the [1994] study happened before she took the job in 2003 and she didn’t know about it until this year” rather dubious. I’m not saying that she knew about the studies but it seems that someone who knew about the Caine Vet study should have told her.

Marie Bulgin not only claimed there was no evidence for transmission in the wild to the Idaho Legislature, she said it in Federal Court as well. Rocky has been repeating her claims in every story he has written about the issue and has never done adequate investigation into them, he has also never done any investigation into the “1997 deal” which is just as bogus.

Can Idaho manage wild and domestic sheep together?
The travels of one sick wild bighorn show how hard it will be to enforce a new state law to protect sheep herders.

Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

How sagebrush steppe should look

This area hasn’t been grazed by cattle for many years-

I took this photo in late May on Pocatello’s West Bench at the base of the Bannock Mountain Range. Because it is a mixture of city land and Forest Service and no maintained fences, it hasn’t been grazed by cattle or sheep for many years.

Too many people don’t know what healthy sagebrush steppe looks like. This is an example.*

Late May on Pocatello’s West Bench. Sagebrush steppe.


* The West Bench is hardly pristine, however. It was overgrazed in the late 19th and early 20th century so badly that the hillside was contoured by FDR’s CCC. See photo of the coutours today.

In 1987 much of the Bench burned. The was followed by BLM and Forest Service efforts to “restore” the area. This included planting yellow clover, which now covers large areas and the “more fire resistant” Siberian Wheatgrass (an exotic). For years vehicles have also gradually spread cheat grass and bulbous blue grass into local infestations. You can see some cheatgrass beginning to ripen in the second photograph.

Obama’s nominee to direct Forest Service, related agencies withdraws

Homer Lee Wilkes withdraws-

Obama pick to oversee forests withdraws. AP. Updated story.

There had been some controversy over the nomination, and disappointment from conservationists.

Interagency Grizzly Bear Team tells ways to reduce Yellowstone GBear mortality

Report issued due to the 2008 spike in Greater Yellowstone grizzly deaths-

Numerous methods are identified, but a smaller number give more “bank for the buck” (the buck being not so much money as political or cultural resistance).

Yellowstone Mortality and Conflicts Reduction Report. IGBST. June 5, 2009

Note: I hope discussion of this doesn’t result in another long debate over pepper spray. RM

Note 2. We had a long discussion on “Greater Yellowstone grizzly deaths pass lethal limit under delisting,” beginning last November (2008).

Deep Thoughts: The World at Gunpoint

I read this article a couple of weeks ago.  Someone had slipped it beneath the office door and upon returning from lunch, I sat down and took the time to read it.

The World at Gunpoint – Derrick Jensen, Orion Magazine

Finally we get to the point. Those who come after, who inherit whatever’s left of the world once this culture has been stopped—whether through peak oil, economic collapse, ecological collapse, or the efforts of brave women and men fighting in alliance with the natural world—are not going to care how you or I lived our lives. They’re not going to care how hard we tried. They’re not going to care whether we were nice people. They’re not going to care whether we were nonviolent or violent. They’re not going to care whether we grieved the murder of the planet. […]

They’re going to care whether they can breathe the air and drink the water. They’re going to care whether the land is healthy enough to support them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Experiments with Lone Washington Wolf Pack


We did our best, but these Foresters in Washington state are well-schooled in The Way of the Bureaucrat.  Despite the sole known Washington wolf pack’s rendezvous site being at the best, most available water source for public land cattle on the unit, livestock described by Don Johnson as looking feeble and “like bait”, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has decided that it wants to experiment with Washington wolves and allow livestock to be put out on top of them to see whether conflict will arise.

Anxiety grows as wolves rebound in Methow Valley  – The Seattle Times

We were able to rattle the cage enough to secure a few conservation measures from the Forest which may help the Lookout pack, including (but not limited to) :

  • During times that cattle are in a unit with den or rendezvous site, the permittee will be required to inspect the area at least twice per week.
  • Sick or injured livestock must be removed from the allotment.
  • “Livestock carcasses on the allotment must be moved from the allotment, destroyed by blasting with explosives, or electric fenced if they would attract wolves to a potential conflict situation with other livestock, such as a salting ground, water source, or holding corral.”

(Emphasis Added)

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly volunteer to help with the blasting.

We were also assured that the Washington wolves would not be “controlled” if a conflict did arise.  Of course, the real threat is the long-term, the threat that the wolves will acclimate to the taste of easy & tender calf, and the local media’s reactionary tendency to put the blame on the wolves.

Let’s hope for the Lookout pack’s sake that we’re wrong.

U Idaho knew bighorn disease link after ’94

Conflict of interest results in suppressed study ?

Note: a more robust story than initially has been linked to below

Marie Bulgin is Coordinator of the University of Idaho’s Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center, a prominent research facility that has investigated potential links between domestic sheep disease and bighorn die-offs. At the same time serving as head of the research facility, Dr. Bulgin raised domestic sheep herself, and has served as the President of the Idaho Woolgrower’s Association. Marie Bulgin has long held that there has been no evidence of direct transmission of disease linked to the die-off of bighorn from domestic sheep in the range :

We do know that they do have die-offs periodically and the more recent ones that I’m familiar with have been pneumonia and the pneumonia is a pasteurella caused pneumonia, bacterial, and domestic sheep die of pasteurella pneumonias, but so far in the research we’ve done here, and we’ve done quite a bit of it, we haven’t been able to connect the pasteurella in domestic sheep with that that causes the die-offs in bighorn sheep.

She has testified to this under oath in federal court and to the Idaho legislature and her testimony has been widely used by sheepman, local politicians, and local media (as recently as 2 days ago) to deny the direct link between domestic sheep transmission and muddy the waters concerning bighorn management – and she’s gotten away with it.

Now, a study has emerged, conducted by her own University of Idaho Caine Veterinary Center, by researchers more recently under Dr. Bulgin’s charge. The study demonstrates compelling evidence that transmission of disease between domestic sheep to bighorn sheep does in fact take place in the wild. The research paper was completed in 1994, but for some reason, the study has not shown up until very recently.

U Idaho knew bighorn disease link after ’94Associated Press

Why was this important study held ‘under the radar’ for so long ?

Mudslides from the 2007 Idaho wildfires begin after unusual June wet spell

Article below is about a mudflow near Ketchum, orginating from the Castle Rock Fire area, but there a numerous slides around southern Idaho-

June is often a fairly wet month in Idaho, which is mostly an arid or semi-arid state. The end of May and continuing into June has brought a lot of precipitation into southern, south central and southeast Idaho. Much of it is in slow moving thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are much more typical of July and August than May in Idaho.

In 2007 over a million acres of wildfire burned in Idaho’s mountains (and even more on its sagebrush steppe country — “rangelands”). The soil on the burns on these steep mountains are stable yet as this mudslide west of Ketchum indicates.

When travelling backcountry roads you should inqure about slides and washouts, and at least for the next week (according to the weather report) be prepared for flash floods.

Officials: Burned hillsides still pose risk. Mudslide threat could last several years in Castle Rock Fire area. By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

Are any readers aware of slides and blockages in your part of Idaho or nearby states that folks should be aware of. Please post.

Posted in The Great Outdoors, Trees Forests, vehicles. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Mudslides from the 2007 Idaho wildfires begin after unusual June wet spell

Invasive algae (“rock snot”) confirmed in South Fork of Boise River

Didymo, a disgusting slime on the rocks, is now in the South Fork of the Boise River-

Invasive algae confirmed in South Fork of Boise River. Add didymo, aka rock snot, to the list of creepy stuff that we don’t want to spread in Idaho’s waters. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

Posted in Fish, invasive species. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Invasive algae (“rock snot”) confirmed in South Fork of Boise River

New Public Interest Energy Blog

Ben Otto, a member of our ‘Ralph Maughan’s Wildlife News’ community, and a fellow rabble-rouser/live-wire (we gotsta stick together), has recently started his own blog about Public Interest Energy issues.  Check it out :

Public Interest Energy Blog

It’s a great resource to keep up on energy issues, nationally & especially in the state of Idaho – and it reminds us that the public interest ought be front and center.  These are the kind of thoughts on energy issues that let us preserve our public land and wildlife too (and maybe our hard-earned dollars for good measure !).

Some of my favorite posts thus far :

If Geeks Ran the Electric Grid

A vast interconnected series of tubes that responds to dynamic users, requests, and resources while remaining decentralized, easily accessible, and inexpensive. This could describe either the internet or, the electric grid. Except that the grid is dominated by a few vested monopolies with total control over the infrastructure.

Wind Turbines on Rooftops

Electric Bill Draining Your Pocketbook? Paint your roof white and save $ and the Earth

Keep on howling into the dark and dangerous night Ben !  We need your voice.

Posted in energy. 3 Comments »

National Forests to get $228-million of stimulus funds to fix forest roads and bridges

Idaho will get more than any other state-

This could do a lot of good for water quality and fisheries if the money is used to replace culverts with bridges that allow the passage of fish upstream.

Here is the AP article on it by Matthew Daly.

There is irony that Idaho has received more stimulus money per capita than any other state when its entire congressional delegation voted against it, and Governor Otter was ready to turn it down (at least he made sure that the state’s universities didn’t get any funds).

Posted in Forest Service, politics, public lands. Tags: , , . Comments Off on National Forests to get $228-million of stimulus funds to fix forest roads and bridges

Mercury spewing Nevada gold mine gets shut down again

The damn thing was closed. They started up again in March-

Thanks to Justin Hayes (Idaho Conservation League efforts), the incredibly toxic Jerrit Canyon gold mine in northern Nevada was shut down in 2008. I thought that was the end of this particular source of mercury pollution (more mercury than many coal fired power plants lumped together).

However, with little fanfare the mine started again in March 2009 with a promise to the state of Nevada to install pollution control by May 30. They didn’t, so they are shut down again. I wouldn’t count on them staying shut, however. Almost no one lives in the area, but the mercury blows north and northeast into Idaho. What incentive does Nevada have to keep them under control?

Nevada gold mine closed due to mercury emissions. By Scott Sonner. Business Week.

Rocky Barker analyzes the situation on his blog. Mercury spewing Nevada gold mine gets shut down again. Idaho Statesman.

It is important to note that there are many other Nevada gold pits pumping out mercur vapor. Jerritt Canyon was simply the worst one individually.

Posted in mining. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Mercury spewing Nevada gold mine gets shut down again

Wolf Delisting Lawsuit Filed Today

Suit Filed to Challenge Removal of Endangered Species Act Protection From Northern Rockies Wolves

For Immediate Release, June 2, 2009

MISSOULA, Mont.— Conservation groups today filed suit to challenge the removal of Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Idaho and Montana. On April 2, 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped the wolves from the Endangered Species list, finalizing an effort launched by the Bush administration to deprive the wolves of legal and habitat protections, thus allowing state management and hunting. The challenged delisting decision is the second time in a year the federal government has removed protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, successfully sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008.

Delisting wolves means they will be subject to state-sponsored wolf “control” efforts and hunting unless stopped by legal action. Idaho and Montana plan to allow hundreds of wolves to be shot.

The decision to lift wolf protections comes as Yellowstone National Park wolves declined by 27 percent in the past year – one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The northern Rockies wolf population also has not achieved a level of connectivity between the greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana areas that is essential to wolves’ long-term survival. In delisting wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Service authorized Idaho and Montana to reduce their wolf populations from a current population of roughly 1,500 wolves to only 200-300 wolves in the two states.

Wolves will remain under federal control in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming’s hostile wolf-management scheme leaves wolves in “serious jeopardy.” The Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act, including in its earlier decision to not delist wolves without Wyoming’s inclusion. In the challenged delisting decision, the federal government flip-flopped from its earlier position. Read the rest of this entry »

Right wing extremist leaves Idaho for Mississippi

Idaho Values Alliance and sole employee leaves for state with no wolves-

Bryan Fischer came to Idaho in 2006. He spent most of his time lobbying in favor of his vision of families and against a more inclusive view. Although he was just an one man operation, he also had time to rail against wolves for their Biblical offenses. He was beginning to get some support from the ultras in the Idaho legislature.

Well he is off to Mississippi where he says he will do a radio talk show.

Back here in Idaho I guess we will just have to be value free 😉  Please don’t come back!

Senator Crapo speaks forbidden words about Idaho salmon

Crapo “Does that mean dam breaching must be on the table? Yes.”

Senator Craig would never allow that kind of talk, nor would Idaho’s water political establishment. Crapo didn’t say he favored breaching the 4 salmon- killing dams on the lower Snake River in Washington State. He just said it had to be on the table. He also said that environmental groups, sport fishing groups, and fishing industry groups had to be at the table. A “collaboration” by the Bush Administration had excluded them.

Crapo finished his statement by saying “not dam breaching must be on the table too.”

This is an important move in the glacial politics of Idaho water and fish. There might be a little more perception of self interest in water politics than in grazing politics, although a collaborative solution of these problems could take decades.

Sen. Crapo says all options including breaching must be on table for regional salmon collaboration. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Soil carbon sequestration study begins

Public lands as carbon sinks ?

We’ve spoken of the potential for our public lands to act as carbon sinks.

When you think about public lands and the value that these places have to serve our efforts to curb global climate change I’d like you to consider a new idea that is as old as dirt ~ passive restoration. Yes, I’m suggesting that part of the answer might be to remove our footprint on those places we can – and in doing so – let the land catch it’s breath.

Just as trees draw CO2 out of the atmosphere, so does the life of soil and other healthy plant communities.  In fact, even in places as arid as the Mojave desert, researchers have found that healthy, undisturbed living-soils may draw as much carbon out of the atmosphere as temperate forests !  Can you imagine ? Resting the land from soil disturbing activities that degrade living-soils and remove vegetation, precluding the living carbon from being recycled back into the soil, ~ preserving our natural environmental heritage ~ may actually be an important strategy in mitigating climate change – a way to actually and directly take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Perhaps these ideas will be considered in the study recently announced concerning sagebrush communities :

Soil carbon sequestration study beginsCasper Star Tribune

Scientists believe increasing the carbon in soils — a process known as soil carbon sequestration — may help reduce the rise of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that contribute to global warming

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rush

New technology, same uninhibited ambition

You had better watch this, now and from now on.  The land grabbers are on the loose again and they can be stopped only as they were before, by the effective marshaling of public opinion.  Your property is in danger of being alienated, your interests and those of your children are being threatened[…]

Bernard DeVoto
Two-Gun Desmond is Back
~ 1951

They say history repeats itself.  At nearly every point in the history of western colonization there was an industry that was all the uproar among the well-intentioned.  Europeans moved West and trapped away the beaver, mined, laid claim to the land with homestead, sheep and cattle – don’t forget the logging.  That was no problem, the resource was infinite back then.  We did the impossible in harnessing rivers with dams and harvesting its inertia as our own, bringing power to cities and agricultural production to a western arid landscape that would not support such dense human habitation otherwise.  Hydroelectric dams were supposed to be the next perfect, “clean” source of power – remember ?

At each point in this history, calls for restraint, even timid caution against the unforeseeable consequences of the next great, faultless enterprise were brushed aside – dismissed as ‘nay-saying’ and the personalities behind the calls were labeled enemies of progress by even the most forward thinking and well-intentioned voices leading the charge.  The allure of human ambition has always enjoyed more volume than the practice of restraint.  ‘The land is infinite’ ~  ‘we’ve found the perfect technology, the perfect innovation’ ~ ‘we just need to make sure there’s good housekeeping’ ~ ‘you can’t stop progess’.

But, unfortunately – it seems to me, depending on how one looks at it, “progress” keeps happening over and over again in the same way as before.

Renewable energy sparks a probe of a modern-day land rushThe Los Angeles Times

A rush to stake claims for renewable energy projects in the California desert has triggered a federal investigation and prompted calls for reforms to prevent public lands from being exposed to private profiteering and environmental degradation.

Tortoise Goes to Court: Groups File Lawsuit Against Feds for Failing to Answer Request for Federal Protection

For immediate release – June 1, 2009

Tortoise Goes to Court: Groups File Lawsuit Against Feds for Failing to Answer Request for Federal Protection

Nicole Rosmarino, Ph.D., WildEarth Guardians, 505-699-7404
Michael Connor, Ph.D., Western Watersheds Project, 818-345-0425

Desert Tortoise, Photo © Dr. Michael J. Connor

Desert Tortoise, Photo © Dr. Michael J. Connor

Arizona—June 1. Today, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians filed suit in federal court in Arizona against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) over the agency’s failure to decide whether it will consider listing the Sonoran desert tortoise population under the Endangered Species Act. An answer to the groups’ petition requesting federal protection of the Sonoran desert tortoise was due in January.

The petition shows that Sonoran desert tortoises have declined by 51 percent since 1987, or about 3.5 percent annually, in monitored areas throughout the animal’s range in Arizona. The groups alerted the Obama administration about the urgency of the Sonoran desert tortoise’s situation in January, but the administration has failed to act on behalf of the beleaguered tortoise.

“We are very disappointed that the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to the tortoise’s unfortunate race toward extinction,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.
Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon deserves another bowl of Wilderness

More wilderness, please.  Oregon still lags behind other Northwest states. Register-Guard.

Yes! but no cow Wilderness, please!

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Grizzlies flunk test to open new kind of camp cooler

Breaking and entering experts at West Yellowstone Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center can’t open (or smash) new coolers-

Although the problem solving can be tough for the bears at the Discovery Center, they usually manage to pry open, squash, or mangle a food container given them, but certain coolers made by Yeti Coolers and by Engel USA have proven to be bear proof.

Story: Grizzly Bear-Tested Camping Coolers Approved By Government. By Susan Gallagher. Huffington Post. AP

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