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.

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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.