Forest Services issues the decision memo on the helicopter landings

Well they finally issued it. People I talk with are really stirred up about this. It is not a wolf thing. It is the integrity of Wilderness. The Forest Service needs to have their hat handed to them on this one. We need to kick their sorry ass. RM

Decision Memo. Special Use Authorization to Idaho Fish and Game For Helicopter Landings and Aerial Darting To Support Gray Wolf Capture and Collaring In the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

USDA Forest Service. Intermountain Region. Payette and Salmon-Challis National Forests. Idaho, Custer, Lemhi and Valley Counties, State of Idaho. Various locations in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

Rocky had a story on it yesterday in his blog. State biologists may soon dart wolves from helicopters in Frank. Rocky Barker.

Sheep Experiment Station produces its first environmental analysis (EA) in its history

After many years in existence, Sheep Experiment State does NEPA analysis on their operations-

According to their web site the Sheep Experiment Station’s mission is  “to develop integrated methods for increasing production efficiency of sheep and to simultaneously improve the sustainability of rangeland ecosystems.” OK, but maybe folks would like to know the details.

For 90 years this large “research” operation in the Centennial Mountains on the Idaho/Montana border (Continental Divide), headquartered at Dubois, Idaho, has been a mystery to me.  It was also a mystery to Western Watersheds Project, NRDC, and the Center for Biological Diversity. So they sued and settled when the Station agreed to do an environmental analysis.

Now the EA is available for your information and comments (due by January 12). Here is the link to the EA.

The Station occupies a critical wildlife travel corridor between the greater Yellowstone area and central Idaho/SW Montana. It is vital for grizzly bears. We think there are also bighorn sheep on Mt. Jefferson, or at least used to be. I haven’t read the EA yet, but one person who has told me the analysis of this matter is poor.

This seems to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. So hopefully folks will take the time to look through it and comment. They only gave a one month comment period, although the NRDC has asked for an extension.

12-23-09. The comment period has been extended for two more weeks (to Jan. 25). Comments should be sent to USSES@ars.usda.gov

Federal agents hunt for wolves from 5 Montana packs

Up to 22 wolves could be killed in Montana

“Carolyn Sime with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks says it is unusual to have so many livestock attacks this late in the year.”

This couldn’t be what happens when you disrupt pack structure with a hunt could it? These questions need to be asked of wolf managers.

See: Wolf hunt information and effects that need to be collected

Federal agents hunt for wolves from 5 packs. Associated Press – Idaho Statesman

So far this year 91 Montana wolves were killed by livestock owners directly or Wildlife Services (mostly WS). 112 were killed in the hunt, natural causes, etc. This is a total of 203 dead wolves. If this action is carried out the dead wolf total for the year could reach 225, or 45% of the state’s wolf population. The rule of thumb, meaning it isn’t a hard and fast percentage, is that somewhat over 30% of the wolves in a state can die during a year with no decline in the wolf population.

Senator Feinstein to introduce bills for 2 new national monuments in Mojave Desert

Mojave Trails National Monument would protect 941,000 acres of public land. 314,000 acres of existing ORV areas would also be protected-

The article says environmentalists, hunters, and off-roaders support the legislation. Part of these areas had been targeted for big solar power developments.

The total list is: Mojave Trails NM, 941,000 acres; Sand to Snow National Monument, 134,000 acres; 250,000 acres near Ft Irwin as Wilderness; 41,000 acres to the southern boundary of Death Valley National Park; 2,900 acres to northern portions of Joshua Tree National Park.

Story on Feinstein’s bill. By Louis Sahagun. LA Times.

Update 12-22-09

A more detailed article on the politics and economics of the bills. Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power. By Tom Woody.  New York Times.

I think Feinstein’s bill is very good in directing solar farms into appropriate locations. Without her kind of “NIMBYism,” developers of big projects will just naturally gravitate toward pristine public lands because it makes their land-intensive projects cheaper by means of an indirect subsidy. Now they are more likely to seek out sunny derelict lands already destroyed by cattle or some other passing harmful use.