Loss on helicopters in Wilderness

Judges buys Idaho Fish and Game argument that agency only wants valuable data-

It’s a high bar to get a judge to rule against an agency that claims expertise and say “this is ridiculous.” That is my first take.

I think, the U.S. Forest Service needs to be told to revise their general regulations for Wilderness Areas. The last revision was a Bush update giving more leeway for machines for this kind of thing.

helicopters-wilderness-court-order

The judge did warn the Forest Service to make sure Idaho Fish and Game does not run amuck.

“The Forest Service must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Court is free to examine the cumulative impacts of the projects, and the context of the use. Given that this project is allowed to proceed, the next project will be extraordinarily difficult to justify.”

114 Responses to “Loss on helicopters in Wilderness”

  1. Ken Cole Says:

    One thing for certain is that the judge says that it will be very hard to justify doing this again. I don’t think this will be an annual event or even an event that will continually be done during the game surveys that occur every 3-5 years.

    “The Forest Service must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Court is free to examine the cumulative impacts of the projects, and the context of the use. Given that this project is allowed to proceed, the next project will be extraordinarily difficult to justify.”

  2. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Thanks Ken,

    I was just going to post the same thing. You can bet they will be back to do this again after 1-3 years because those collars don’t last very long as we have seen from years of recollaring in Yellowstone and elsewhere.

  3. timz Says:

    “The Forest Service must proceed very cautiously here because the law is not on their side if they intend to proceed with further helicopter projects in the Frank Church Wilderness. The Court is free to examine the cumulative
    impacts of the projects, and the context of the use”

    This comes across to me as nothing more than an empty threat. This decision as opened the door for God knows what else. How many “projects” have to occur before there is a “cumulative impact?” This decision will further embolden IDF&G and their “management” of wolves.

  4. sal_n Says:

    Ralph & Ken:

    wouldn’t you gentlemen think this will happen again and very soon if they try to take the wolf count closer to the 150 number rather than the 500 they initially talked about?

    I don’t follow ID wolf news as much at YNP and MT so I am not as well informed as you are.

    thanks

  5. Talks with Bears Says:

    Ralph – I need some perspetive on this, how many other times in the northern rockies has the U.S Forest Service allowed these types of wilderness violations? And how have those generally turned out? Thanks

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      Talks with Bears,

      I don’t know, and we need to know this. I think this is an area where I think things might be getting out of hand. I mean the public walks or rides a horse. Even a primitive game cart can’t be used to drag a kill out, but the government uses high tech stuff.

  6. Wilderness Muse Says:

    TWB,

    While you await an answer from Ralph, allow me to offer some perspective on this unfortunate court decision. Is issuance of this special permit a violation of the Wilderness Act? The judge said it wasn’t. I am surprised neither side did a tally of how many “intrusions” have been allowed in the FCW or elsewhere in the Northern Rockies, or elsewhere. It is important information, and will no doubt be called into question if the court ever visits a “cumulative impact” analysis. Maybe this just set the baseline for an EIS.

    Alot of people think (and many of us wish, myself included) Wilderness designation puts an area completely off limits for any type of motorized equipment intrusion. The unfortunate reality is that some wilderness areas have motorized or other exceptions which recognize historic uses, that get grandfathered in- like the aircraft landing strips in the Frank Church which are in use today. In addition, in clarifying guidance in 1990 the 101st Congress, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs wrote up a report that accompanied some wilderness designation legislation, which is now,incorporated by reference, in the Wilderness Act. It is called Congressional House Report 101-405.

    Appendix B of that report, in part, says:
    “…..Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft overflights may be used to conduct approved fish and wildlife research activities. Aircraft must be used in a manner that minimizes disturbance of other users, including humans and wildlife.

    ……Aerial counts and observations of wildlife may be permissible for management of wilderness wildlife resources. Capturing and marking of animals, radio telemetry, and occasional temporary installations (such as shelters for cameras and scientific apparatus and enclosures and exclosures essential for wildlife research or management surveys) may be permitted, if they are essential to studies that cannot be accomplished elsewhere…..”

    This language and other verbage like it from the report was used to develop specific Forest Service guidelines to implement granting such exceptions. In granting the Special Use Permit for IDFG the USFS specifically referenced their guidelines (and Congressional Report 101-405).

    [Somebody please correct me if I have taken any of this out of context]
    __________

    I, too, think the Court opinion rings hollow, with this warning shot across the bow of the FS. And, you can bet IDFG will be back before the FS again for another special use permit within the next three years.

    However, notwithstanding the loss, it is good the suit was filed for the purpose of drawing attention to the matter, and thanks to WWP, WRF, other intervening organizations and their leadership for fighting the good fight.

  7. mtn mama Says:

    Can someone clarify another point for me, The judge reiterates “The Forest Service has authorized a maximum of 20 landings” however the court order describes the darting process and it sounds like they would need to land 2-3 times to dart one wolf (or pack members). How are they quantifying 20 landings and who will be monitoring those limits?

  8. matt bullard Says:

    FYI for Wilderness Muse – the landing strips in the Frank are not technically part of the Wilderness. It is my understanding that most/all of those strips are on private inholdings or else otherwise excluded from the Wilderness that surrounds them.

  9. Jeff Says:

    The jet boats on the Salmon are also another Idaho “exception” to the Wilderness Act.

  10. Talks with Bears Says:

    Thanks Ralph and WM

  11. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Thanks Matt. You may be correct on the ownership, as there are lots of private in-holdings.

    However, technically, according to the Central Idaho Wilderness Act, which designates the FCW, at Section 7 (a)(1), and which is paraphrased in the USFS brief:

    “Congress specifically noted that “the landing of aircraft, where this use has become established prior to the date of enactment of this Act shall be permitted to continue subject to such restrictions as the Secretary deems desirable.”[brief at page 10 (Court Doc. page 14 of 38)].

    So, it is the “use” of the land, not ownership, which is grandfathered. I expect limitations could be placed on in-holdings by the Sec. of Interior, for example if an in-holding owner wanted to fly a twin engine jet into a strip that had previously accomodated only small single engine prop planes. Maybe somebody else knows more about this.

  12. Ralph Maughan Says:

    A lot of grandfathering got done in creating the Frank Church Wilderness. Because it was so huge the idea was it didn’t matter so much.

    The Frank Church also had some livestock grazing on its southern end. Such grazing was grandfathered by the original Wilderness Act. Fortunately, this livestock (cattle) was bought out and the grazing allotments closed in about 2003. It wasn’t a Wilderness action, but rather a wildlife compensation action for damage on by dams on the Snake River. At any rate, the Frank Church, Selway-Bitterroot and the Sawtooth Wilderness are livestock free, an amazing thing to me!

    The nearly as large Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness to the north was created earlier and has fewer exceptions.

    The Sawtooth Primitive Area, later to become Wilderness in ’72, has always been kept free of crap.

  13. Mike Says:

    Sorry to hear about this news. Any chance of an appeal?

  14. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Mike

    No appeals on a decision like this.

    The rest of the case is still alive, however.

  15. Ralph Maughan Says:

    mtn mama,

    If they failed to dart and capture a single wolf it wouldn’t surprise me. This country is not flat at all in the part where wildlife winter.

    There is no way they can tell alpha wolves from the air. I was amazed this was let pass.

    They will be happy to get any wolves I suppose.

    I hope they won’t, and sure hope the pilots don’t risk their lives on this politically motivated operation.

  16. jon Says:

    Ralph, I believe this has more to do with collaring wolves, so if those wolves cause problems, it will be easier for ws to find them and kill them. That is just my guess.

  17. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Jon,

    I don’t think they want to kill them. They want an exact count so they can kill wolves heavily everywhere else.

  18. Save bears Says:

    I agree with Ralph,

    There is a strong political motive behind this action, if they have a large population in the FC then they will use that as an excuse to get rid of wolves in other areas of the state…

  19. jon Says:

    I really don’t see this situation getting any better Ralph. Idaho will try to kill most of the wolves to get down to 150, but what happens when some of those wolves out of the 150, start going after livestock for whatever reason? The situations seems real grim for the wolves.

  20. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Save Bears,

    I wonder if there is a strong population in the Frank. They actually met the hunting quota in the Middle Fork Unit.

    The outfitters know where a lot of the wolves are even if Fish and Game doesn’t. They might have shot a lot and left them. So much of the wilderness has burned in recent years, I hear the wolves are really visible until they descend into the area’s deep, rocky canyons for the the winter.

  21. jburnham Says:

    From the order: “…This proposed activity is designed
    to aid the restoration of a specific aspect of the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness…”

    ‘aid the restoration’? This might make sense if wolves weren’t already recovered and thriving in ID. And what aspect of wilderness character is enhanced by helicopters and radio collared wolves? Have they even released any specifics for how they’re going to use this data?

    Disappointing decision.

  22. Valerie Bittner Says:

    Ralph, Jon,

    In addition to violating the Wilderness Act, disrupting broad scale wolf genetic distribution, movements, behavior, and denning site distribution placement, etc. for nefarious political gains is violative of the ESA’s overarching “conservation” mandate, which supercedes all of the broad flexibility allowed under the 10 J deriving from recent rule amendments. For as Congress itself specifically pointed out when section 10(j) was added to the ESA, “individual species should not be viewed in isolation, but must be viewed in terms of their relationship to the ecosystem of which they form a constitutent element.” Wolf reintroduction was virtually the foremost consideration at the time.

    In essence, since at least 2005 the USFWS, IF & G, and Wildlife Services and their latest lackey, the USFS, have turned the 10j rule on its head, allowing it to rule the ESA rather than be the exception.

    In my professional opinion, as an aficianado of statutory construction, a successful lawsuit whose sole focus concerns the statutory history of 10j enactment (in the context of the ESA’s history) and the unlawful activities promulgated under its name since should eventually make moot yesterday’s holding.

  23. Salle Says:

    Cynic that I am, I can’t help but be even more suspicious of the motive here. I feel that, given all the hubub from the leaked memo and the “emergency” whatever the legislature made up recently, I think they aren’t going to collar a single wolf and that the eradication effort begins in the Frank Church where nobody can see what they are doing. I was sure of the intent implicated in that recent memo and the declared “emergency” a long time ago and I have not changed my opinion on what the intent of the IDF&G is from here on out. They won’t need to go back into the FCW with helicopters if they can have a shootout and kill off most of them now.

    This kind of crap keeps me from sleeping at night. Sorry the injunction was not granted but I hope they hang themselves over the next couple months and the Molloy decision goes in favor of re-listing, for a long time. And I hope it comes really soon.

  24. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Valerie,

    ++In my professional opinion, as an aficianado of statutory construction, a successful lawsuit whose sole focus concerns the statutory history of 10j enactment (in the context of the ESA’s history) and the unlawful activities promulgated under its name since should eventually make moot yesterday’s holding.++

    Somewhere in there you lost me, and perhaps others. Care to clarify?

  25. Save bears Says:

    I am confused also, because even if 10(j) is thrown out, they are still going to need to “monitor” wolf populations to get a clear picture of how they are doing…at least that will be their position…I don’t see 10(j) affecting this mission at all..

  26. larry zuckerman Says:

    As a former employee of the USDOC National Marine Fisheries Service and as a regulator of the Frank over the FS under ESA, I am very suprised that they are getting away with landing helicopters in the FC-RONRW for just “research” purposes.

    It is very inconsistent on how the FC-RONRW has been managed by the Salmon-Challis National Forest for all the Frank national forests. I remember an incident in 2006, I believe, when the Middle Fork had a natural log and debris jam blocking passage of rafters. The dam was near some private inholdings and an airstrip (used by FS to ferry their staff in and out during this “emergency”) and certainly in reach of stock animals and outfitters. In the name of a human emergency and safety problems, they decided to blow the dam up with explosives. However, they could not because of wilderness act concerns land helicopters to evacuate the rafting folks that were blocked, nor even agree to letting their workers use chainsaws, instead of saws and other hand-tools, even though it would have been much safer for them.

    Somehow in the Forest Service’s warped idea of wilderness it is alright to use explosives to blow up natural dams for the convenience of rafters and outfitters, as well as blowing up down packstock, moose, etc. that might be blocking a trail or bridge in the wilderness. Pretty strange, but gas-powered chainsaws are not okay.

    Anyway no chainsaws or helicopters before, but now they are okay – pretty strange and certainly inconsistent.

  27. Ralph Maughan Says:

    larry zuckerman,

    Here is the story about the logjam.

    Middle Fork logjam dislodged by explosives. Rafters finally allowed to pass, Idaho Mtn. Express. July 28, 2006.

  28. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Larry Zuckerman,

    I am just thinking outloud here. Is it possible the activities associated with the removal of the log jam and re-launch of the stranded rafters did not fit neatly within the “exceptions” to Wilderness that apply to the Wildlife Management Guidelines as set out in House Report 101-405, or the FS guidance documents developed from the Report.

    It seems there are lots opportunities for “tension in the law” and how Wilderness is run for recreation and safety. That would likely give rise to administrative inconsistencies. Just a thought.

  29. Valerie Bittner Says:

    Save Bears,

    If there is evidence that the reasons underlying the “need to monitor” are connected up with the political agenda to reduce wolves at any cost, the 10 (j) comes into play.

  30. Save bears Says:

    Valerie,

    I am certainly not a lawyer, so I guess I would have to have one of you more versed in the details explain a bit more to help me understand further.

    Thanks if your so inclined..

  31. Jay Barr Says:

    Think I remember hearing/reading that a “landing” might even entail a dart being fired out of a helicopter. If that is the case, then IDFG would have to count every missed shot as a landing that would eat into the 20. I’m sure they will honestly report all those misses and quit when they truly reach 20. Also, didn’t they claim that the helicopter would only be on the ground for 2 hr.? If they were fortunate enough to use the absolute minimum of landings (ie. 10 wolves hit with 10 shots = 2 landings per wolf), this would mean a processing time of 12 mins/wolf if the chopper was unable to fly to the nearest sanctioned landing strip to await the processing (which burns fuel, costs extra $)- I can’t imagine doing much “research” in 12 mins. time; maybe only put on the collar. I would hazard a guess that oftentimes the darted wolf winds up unconscious in a nasty place that might take the processor quite some time to reach (ie. >12 mins.). Chasing a wolf with a helicopter, darting it, and handling it is stressful for the animal, and IDFG at least owes it to those animals to make sure they are adequately recovered from that experience before flying away; I would think that their cumulative 2 hrs. could be used up on only 2-3 wolves. Again, I’m sure they would curtail further attempts once that time limit was reached.
    Seems like Winmill missed the mark entirely that this project somehow benefits wolves. Far from it.

  32. Save bears Says:

    Jay,

    In reading the decision I don’t see any time limits stipulated other than the two week provision to coincide with the big game counts..they have authorization to land 20 times, but again no mention of a limitation on the time they can spend on the ground, in fact there is mention, if the landing is at a wolf location they may be on the ground 30 minutes..it is also acknowledge that up to half of the shots taken miss…

  33. spanglelakes Says:

    Preliminary information from IDFG spread sheet on 15 of the 17 wolves killed in the Middle Fork zone (Unit 20A, 26 & 27).
    Sept 15-Dec 15 2009
    Summary:
    – at least five wolves killed on guided hunts
    – six wolves killed by out-of-state hunters
    – three wolves were collared
    – age of wolves: 4 pups/subadults, 4 adults, rest unknown

    1. 9/15/09 Y239 (Yellowstone wolf) black wolf, only collared wolf in Idaho’s HooDoo Pack, Unit 26, killed in Wilson Ck by out-of-state hunter, big game outfitter guided hunt.

    2. 9/18/09 gray male wolf pup, Unit 27, shot in Wilson Ck by out-of-state hunter guided by Mile High Outfitters, Challis.

    3. 9/21/09 Wolf pup or subadult (weight 70-75 lbs) shot in Loon Creek, Unit 27, by out-of-state hunter.

    4. 9/24/09 Small female gray wolf, shot in Garden Creek, Unit 27, by resident hunter.

    5. 9/30/09 Female adult gray wolf, shot in Bernard Creek by Dave Handy, Guide for Flying Resort Ranches.

    6. 10/3/09 Adult black male wolf, Unit 20A, by resident hunter.

    7. 10/12/09 white female, shot in Mackay Ck, Unit 20A, by resident hunter

    8. 10/13/09 Subadult female shot in Big Creek, Unit 26, by non-resident hunter guided by Idaho Wilderness Company.

    9. 10/25/09 Gray Male wolf, Unit 20A by resident hunter.

    10. 10/29/09 B441 white adult male wolf, shot in Bear Valley, Unit 27, by resident hunter.

    11. 11/1/09 Female gray wolf, shot Root Ranch, Unit 20A, by resident hunter. Guided by outfitter Flying Resort.

    12. 11/1/09 B215 Adult Gray female, Bear Valley Pack, Unit 27. Bullet wound to right rear leg, found laying under spruce, 1/4 mile from Morgan Ck Airstrip.

    13. 11/17/09 Yearling female gray wolf shot in Unit 20A, non-resident hunter

    14. 11/18/09 gray male shot in Unit 27 by non-resident hunter.

    15. 12/15/09 gray female shot in Unit 27 by resident hunter, probably a Bear Valley wolf.

  34. Save bears Says:

    I will also add, when I was in the military, there were certain areas of operation we were limited on how many landings we could do and got around that by hovering about a foot off the ground to offload and reload, because under rules, i we didn’t touch the ground with the chopper, it was not considered a landing…

    So it will be interesting to see how this plays out as well as how IDFG actually implement and regulate the actions..

  35. spanglelakes Says:

    If some of the data just posted re. the killing of 15 wolves in the Middle Fork Zone by hunters seems unclear, that’s the way it appears in IDFG data.

  36. Ralph Maughan Says:

    As some have suggested, I don’t think they are going in there to kill wolves, but my, god, they might and kill some of themselves too!

  37. NW Says:

    Ralph,

    I have to disagree that it’s impossible to identify alpha wolves from the air and select them for capture. I’ve seen it done many times, most recently today.

  38. joel Says:

    spanglelakes-
    Is that hunting data available for the other zones? Is it on the IDFG website?

  39. Angela Says:

    I am profoundly saddened by this decision. I think several statements suggest this could be allowed again:

    If it is allowed because it is “designed to aid the restoration of a specific aspect of the wilderness character,” then it seems to me that the same rationale could be used the next time, with a precedent.

    and “The use of helicopters for any *other* purpose would be extremely difficult to justify under the Wilderness Act” Implies that *this* purpose is justified.

    It states that adding to the “disruption and intrusion of the collaring project” may be a reason to bar other helicopter landings. Implies that this particular project is valuable and justifiable.

    It certainly seems to me that collared wolves will have been “trammeled” by man!

    Would it be at all possible to monitor their activity??
    http://www.lighthawk.org/index.html

  40. The Concept of Wilderness « I Think ^(Link)…… Says:

    […] Published February 20, 2010 Uncategorized Leave a Comment Apparently the concept of wilderness includes helicopters and wolves with collars around their […]

  41. spanglelakes Says:

    joel – yes, it’s available for every wolf shot in the state. It’s not on the IDFG website. (Although you will find many hunters flaunting their dead wolves on websites like “huntwolves” and on Facebook.) Anyone can request the IDFG spread sheet and/or the BGMR for each wolf. The BGMR has the name of the hunter on it, but the address is blacked out. BGMR=Big Game Mortality Report.

  42. JimT Says:

    Interesting that the judge used “cumulative impacts” as part of the basis for taking a future look. Sounds like NEPA language to me. Perhaps the court is giving a hint here?

  43. Ralph Maughan Says:

    JimT

    I think so.

    I don’t know that this federal judge has ever had a Wilderness case. After reading his order and a lot of inside email comments, I think he will be learning about this issue over time (as you know judges to that).

    He has the expected disposition to trust the government agency, but gave them a stern caution not to do this again.

  44. JimT Says:

    Its that damned agency discretion standard from the APA again. Even with that, a judge is free to look at the history of an agency, its decisions, and whether or not it is entitled to the presumption of discretion in this instant case.

    Too many small inroads being made into wilderness protection for my liking these days…

  45. Salle Says:

    It seems to me that I recall a retired USFWS wolf mgmt. person telling me that each “object” that hits the ground = a “landing” from bullets/darts to feet from aircraft and aircraft. The multiple media reports on what IDF&G plans to do in the wilderness range from, “we’ll just be on the ground for a few seconds” to “they will fly around and locate wolves, land to remove doors and leave them there, then return to dart the wolves and land to do ‘the deed’, then land again to replace the doors…” How many landings will that be?? And, up until now, all the wolf managers that I have known in the past who darted and collared wolves stayed with the animals to ensure that they recovered from the anesthetics and kept their eyes shaded while “under” the drugs. I have a hard time believing that the IDF&G/wolf hating “managers” will act within the same level of animal safety ethics.

    I hope they freeze their asses off when they take off the doors.

    I wonder what they will do if there is, not hoping but just wondering, a crash and possibly fatalities during these operations. I can imagine that on top of whatever personnel tragedies might ensue, the damage to the wilderness that could occur…

  46. JimT Says:

    A stern warning to the FS, but given the cooperation of the FS on this matter, how much faith can we put in the personnel there given this permit was greased from the start?

    I was hoping the judge would put a monitoring person on these sorties to keep the IDFG personnel honest. Perhaps it is not too late to ask the judge to amend his decision…

  47. Salle Says:

    JimT,

    I’m with you on the “too many inroads to wilderness protection for my liking” AND “A stern warning to the FS, but given the cooperation of the FS on this matter, how much faith can we put in the personnel there given this permit was greased from the start?

    I was hoping the judge would put a monitoring person on these sorties to keep the IDFG personnel honest. Perhaps it is not too late to ask the judge to amend his decision…”

  48. spanglelakes Says:

    Angela – yes. Great opportunity for Lighthawk. IDFG starts their planes flying on Monday to find wolves, weather permitting. Chopper(s) standing by.

  49. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Salle,

    My experience following radio collaring for 15 years and talking with folks who have collared wolves tells me that collaring wolves in this short a time on the ground is not just dangerous and irresponsible, it is impossible.

  50. Salle Says:

    Ralph,

    My point, exactly.

  51. spanglelakes Says:

    45 minutes to one hour at least – to drug/collar/revive a wolf.

  52. Layton Says:

    It’s wrong to put airplanes in the air to count critters in the wilderness.

    It’s wrong to use helicoptors to tag/collar wolves in the wilderness.

    It’s OK to use more airplanes to monitor the other activities.

    Right! I’ve got it.

    Maybe someone should fly over during the March timeframe when all those folks said they would be in the Frank on various trips — just to monitor the traffic jam.

  53. Brian Ertz Says:

    There’s still the WS & SNRA parts of this lawsuit. Even as they foster less public attention, they’re certainly more biologically significant. It’ll be interesting to see how those claims go.

  54. Ken Cole Says:

    Where has anyone challenged the use of helicopters and planes to “count critters in the wilderness”? I’m sure some people don’t like it but that is not what has been challenged here. We challenged the landings of helicopters in wilderness not the flights.

    I will admit that during my time on the Middle Fork and Big Creek there was an awful lot of air traffic and noise but there is nothing that anyone can do about that other than regulate the number of landings at the airstrips and that won’t happen.

    Indian Creek landing strip is the worst during the late rafting season when the water is low and they launch rafts from there rather than Dagger Falls. During the morning rush there are numerous flights in and out and the noise echos through the canyon. Not much of a wilderness experience and I was on one of the planes that would bring fishermen in and out from Johnson Creek.

    One other thing that isn’t apparent to the rafters is how busy the river really is. From their perspective they are alone on the river because they can’t see or hear the groups in front of them or behind them. From the perspective of someone who is hiking or fishing on the Middle Fork things are much different. Rafts of noisy people float by every 10-15 minutes and it seems quite busy for a wilderness area.

    During the winter and early spring it is relatively quiet but there are times when there is a lot of air traffic in the mornings as planes fly from one place to another. At least in the Taylor Ranch area.

  55. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Ralph, Ken, other FCW visitor declarants in the suit,

    Are you and the other declarants in the litigation still planning to follow through your contemplated visits into the FCW, these next coming weeks, so it does not appear you have contrived a standing issue, as alleged. It certainly will help defending against that standing challenge for future years, if IDFG comes back for more special use permits.

  56. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Amendment to my last post,

    … and keeping verifiable documentation of the dates, duration, location and activities of your visit.

  57. Ken Cole Says:

    Yes, we are going to do that.

  58. JimT Says:

    Ken, Scalia will be most happy…;*)

    Read Karin’s articles if you can find them. They are well written, in English instead of lawyer, and gives some good insights into why he is the judge he is….Video documentation, and GPS coordinates saved would be the strongest evidence…

  59. JimT Says:

    Layton,

    The best thing to do would be for IDFG to step up, and show folks exactly what they are doing by having a biologist accompany them on these trips that isn’t a state employee to demonstrate good faith that what they are actually doing is what they say they will do. We all know, of course, that transparency is not a strength of IDFG, but here they have an opportunity to gain a little trust and credibility.

    Of course, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening, so we look at other ways to let them know people will be watching, even if the use of an airplane seems to you to be contraindicated.

  60. Bill Barber Says:

    As a long-standing wilderness supporter and user, I want to make sure “we” who care about the wilderness, wolves and other wildlife aren’t rewriting history. We demand accountability from government, but we need to be accountable too. If not, why should people trust our assurances about hunting rights , state authorities, and other issues as we try to form coalitions to get new wilderness passed through Congress.

    In 1995 we rejoiced when U.S. Fish & Wildlife planned to helicopter wolves into the Frank Church (the 35 wolves ended up having to go on a truck ride and an airplane due to weather, and if I remember correctly most or all of them were wearing radiocollars). Ralph and the rest of us didn’t note any mixed feelings (there was no talk of “having to destroy the wilderness to preserve it”, and that was a heck of a lot more earth-changing an event than the radiocollaring proposed here). See Ralph’s wolf history http://www.forwolves.org/ralph/wpages/idaho-o.htm To release wolves into the wilderness, rather than waiting for them to walk there themselves, we supported more latitude in how they were managed.

    We also supported (or at least appreciated the results) Fish and Game helicoptering bighorns and mountain goats into wilderness to help improve populations. We supported helicopter landings to radiocollar bighorns. Maybe we should actually ask the Forest Service and Fish and Game what the past helicopter use has been before we resort to the same conspiracy allegations for which we so often criticize the Rabid Right. (From the lawsuit, it sounds like that there was some research on the issue.)

    We supported the Frank Church creation but now risk conveniently forgetting the compromises that went into it. It’s not all pretty, but the end result was a good thing! (And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of floating the Middle Fork in summer, you take the bad with the good — maybe the Judge’s reference to Wilderness Disneyland isn’t too far off …)

    • Ralph Maughan Says:

      Bill Barber, thanks for your comments, but I want to refresh everyone’s memory about the wolves that were “released in the Frank Church.” If you do check the URL of the history I wrote, this is compatible with what I wrote earlier. http://www.forwolves.org/ralph/idaho-o.htm

      In 1995 the first four wolves were released at Corn Creek Bar at the end of the Salmon River Road. They were trucked in and not actually released inside the Wilderness. It’s about 1/3 mile upstream from the boundary. A few days later the rest of the wolves were released by flying them into grandfathered airstrips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon — Indian Creek and Thomas Creek.

      In 1996 all of the wolves were released nearby Daggar Falls raft put-in on the Middle Fork at Boundary Creek. This too is just outside the Wilderness.

      Back then radio collars on wolves were for their protection. However, radio collars are like a lot of other things. They should be judged by the use made of them. Now they are used primarily to track and kill wolves, or make it easy to kill wolves. Many of us think that is the purpose here — not to kill them in the Frank Church but to hope to discover some “mother lode” of wolves inside the Frank Church to allow them to kill a lot of wolves outside the Wilderness and still meet the minimum population requirements.

      Finally chasing and darting wolves in such rugged country has a far different impact than bringing them to an established landing site. In my mind, I see it like the commotion of helicopters shooting at Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan.

  61. Bill Barber Says:

    The Forest Service airstrips ARE part of the wilderness, and that’s why they’re specifically mentioned in the Central Idaho Wilderness act. (But the various “cherry stem” roads into the Frank Church are not part of the wilderness.) There are also private and state airstrips at inholdings. When the Forest Service tried to close some of the airstrips the Idaho Aviation Association remembered the compromise, fought back and their site has some relevant quotes from Frank Church himself. http://www.flyidaho.org/issues/Frank_Church_Management_Plan/Progress.html#prog3

    Anyone interested in the specific law for the Frank Church it’s at: http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/documents/publiclaws/96-312.pdf There were also lawsuits to end a few outfitter camps that even Bethine Church, Cecil Andrus and Jim McClure agreed were part of the many compromises in the bill. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&dbname=cp108&sid=cp108o8fLU&refer=&r_n=hr667.108&item=&sel=TOC_15437&

    And finally, I would encourage everyone to read Mike Medberry’s recent piece on celebrating wolf recovery http://www.hcn.org/wotr/conervationists-wrong-to-oppose-wolf-hunt?src=mc

  62. Layton Says:

    JimT,

    “The best thing to do would be for IDFG to step up, and show folks exactly what they are doing by having a biologist accompany them on these trips that isn’t a state employee to demonstrate good faith that what they are actually doing is what they say they will do.”

    So I guess what you are saying is that NO state employee is trustworthy enough that their word can be taken about what is done from the helicopter.

    Wow!! I’m pretty pessimistic and I wouldn’t even go that far on doubting the “greenie” side. I guess I’m glad I’m not carrying that burden. I think it’s just a damn shame that the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists have so many people drinking the black helicopter kool aid.

    I think that Mr. Barber’s points are a lot closer to the truth. It seems to me that there is more than a little bit of “contriving” going on here. I’m just glad the judge saw through it.

  63. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Layton,

    We commented at the same time, so I have an answer too.

  64. Ralph Maughan Says:

    I going snowshoeing now for the rest of day.

  65. bill barber Says:

    Ralph, what is on your website is consistent with what I remember: “The plans had been to helicopter the wolves deep into the Frank Church Wilderness, but bad weather foiled these plans. The truck transport operation to a somewhat less remote site (Corn Creek) was carried out under controversy and tight security…”

    The Forest Service airstrips ARE part of the wilderness, and that’s why they’re specifically mentioned in the Central Idaho Wilderness act. (But the various “cherry stem” roads into the Frank Church are not part of the wilderness.)

    There are also private and state airstrips at inholdings. When the Forest Service tried to close some of the airstrips the Idaho Aviation Association remembered the legislative compromises, fought back and their site has some relevant quotes from Frank Church himself. http://www.flyidaho.org/issues/Frank_Church_Management_Plan/Progress.html#prog3
    Anyone interested in the specific law for the Frank Church it’s at: http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/documents/publiclaws/96-312.pdf There were also lawsuits to end a few outfitter camps that even Bethine Church, Cecil Andrus and Jim McClure agreed were part of the many compromises in the bill. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&dbname=cp108&sid=cp108o8fLU&refer=&r_n=hr667.108&item=&sel=TOC_15437&
    And finally, I would encourage everyone to read Mike Medberry’s recent piece on celebrating wolf recovery http://www.hcn.org/wotr/conervationists-wrong-to-oppose-wolf-hunt?src=mc

    Sure, let’s hold government accountable; let’s make sure Fish and Game tells us about these efforts and the data. But the last thing this issue needs is more half-truths. If we aren’t rational, why should be expect anyone else to be?

  66. Ken Cole Says:

    I just received an email stating that the first group is on the ground in the Middle Fork and that the pilot saw a wolf near Loon Creek along with numerous elk.

  67. JimT Says:

    Layton,

    You seem to be more interested in sophistry than discussions at time. The reality is that the IDFG, as a state entity, has shown itself time and time again on the issues of wolves to say one thing, while having a different private agenda.Time will tell if mine, and Ralph’s and others suspicions that this effort will be linked to a strategy to kill wolves off in other parts of Idaho if the numbers in FC seem to fit the numbers game.

    I see no reason based on their history to trust them. Now, maybe there is a brave individual that would step forward to report a violation of the permit’s conditions, or mishandling of a wolf, or even the death of a wolf, but he or she would likely lose their job in this political climate. I would like to think someone in that situation would do the right thing, but wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t. The agency sets the tone, and the reality of working for them.

    Tinfoil hats? Did you spend sometime in Roswell, NM, at some point in time? ;*)

    As I recall, if you search, and I know how you love to search, I offered an opinion that if it was a NECESSARY use of motorized vehicles inside of a wilderness, I could support it in theory based on the circumstances…ie, saving firefighter’s or a hiker’s life, for example. The helicoptering in of the wolves was the most humane, and effective method of transportation, and it wasn’t like to be repeated on a regular basis under the agreement, unlike this effort to collar wolves in FC by IDFG. I don’t see the facts supporting this current effort as an emergency to justify the violation of the Wilderness Act; the judge saw it another way, but the district court judges in Idaho don’t exactly have a strong track record when it comes to protecting the environment. I was hopeful the result would come out the other way, but wasn’t surprised by the ruling.

    Pessimistic? No, realistic. And strangely hopeful given 23 years of lawyering in the environmental field. You have to be to stay in it…

  68. Layton Says:

    Well JimT,

    I guess this is just another thing that we have to agree to disagree on.

    Evidently you don’t trust Idaho. You don’t trust people that work for the state, you don’t trust Idaho judges, and, you certainly don’t seem to trust me.

    So be it, I would rather go on things that are demonstrated to me. The old screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me thing.

    I don’t see where F&G has been disingenuous at all. They say they want to do the research, I’ll believe them until I see something different. Of course there IS a basic difference here — I think if that research were to show a large number of wolves in the FC, they should be counted in the total for the state and dealt with accordingly. You seem to me to go along with the people that don’t even want them counted, let alone managed, or controlled or anything else.

    I also have no reason to believe that this supposedly one time thing will be repeated, you seem to have it firmly in your mind that this is just a doorway to more incursions. I guess we’ll find out.

    “sophistry”, neat word. I have a pretty good vocabulary and I had to look it up!!

  69. Angela Says:

    Layton, re: monitoring from the air and why I suggested this as being okay. I listened to a great interview of the directors of Planet Earth describing how they got closeup footage of wildlife without disturbing them. Turns out that the technology is such that they can film a polar bear and cubs emerging from their den in closeup using incredibly high-power motion-stabilized lenses from a helicopter that is so high up it is hardly audible on the ground.
    “Industry veterans say Mr. Fothergill has pushed the field ahead by adopting high-tech tools. A helicopter-mounted Cineflex camera that Los Angeles news crews use to track car chases allowed his teams to capture undisturbed animal behavior from great heights, such as wolves stalking caribou in Canada.”

    Re: trusting state employees. What about the memo that was leaked a week or so ago? I’d say that was a good example of the transparency they are employing. Plus, there was recently the case of Arizona Fish and Game baiting a trap specifically to capture and collar Macho B, the Arizona jaguar (with female jaguar scent), resulting in its death, as well as the skinning of the animal that made determining its cause of death impossible. There was an attempt to cover up that information at several levels of the agency.

    If their bosses hint that they will be rewarded for collaring more wolves or otherwise encourages them without explicitly telling them to break the law, and it is only two people in the wilderness with no potential for accountability, I see no reason to trust that they will follow the judge’s ruling to the letter. And if they are going to, what is wrong with having a monitor to document that they did? It would be to their benefit to build up trust.

  70. JEFF E Says:

    It is unfortunate that Judge Winmill does not have the opportunity to actually hear the IDFG commissars talk when wolves are brought up. It would quickly become clear that the recovery of wolves are the last thing anyone of them are concerned about.
    As far as numbers are concerned, collaring 6-8 wolves will tell virtually nothing about wolf numbers.
    They would not even be sure that the wolves would be from different packs at the time of collaring. It would just be calculated guess, no more accurate than what has been done for the last 15 years, without compromising the wilderness act.
    Then the boondoggle of how wolves act in the wilderness, I can tell them that without collaring one wolf, they act the same as wolves that are not in the wilderness.
    The only thing this has accomplished is to set a precedent for more and more degradation of the wilderness act.

  71. Jay Barr Says:

    Jeff E,

    “They would not even be sure that the wolves would be from different packs at the time of collaring.”- what are you talking about? Most times you probably wouldn’t even attempt to capture wolf(ves) unless you saw a pack of them. Because of their territoriality, you can be pretty sure that any other group/pack of wolves encountered >10 mi. away is indeed a different pack. I agree with all your other statements.

  72. JEFF E Says:

    Jay Barr,
    A single pack can have a territory of several hundred sq. miles. 10> miles would not even cause a wolf to start to breath hard. I would also think that being chased by a gunship might encourage the pack to relocate, possibly in several different directions and take a while to regroup.
    But let’s expand on that a bit.
    Even if every wolf collared is from a different pack, and the hoped for 6-8 wolves are collared which would represent 6-8 packs and the average pack size is 6 wolves, we are only talking about 36-48 wolves give or take. the frank is, I believe ~2.4 million acres.
    Hmmm

  73. JEFF E Says:

    …in addition a pack does not stay together 24/7, especially this time of year.

  74. bob jackson Says:

    Layton,

    Believe in state or fed govt.????? Not very often I must say.
    even in Yellowstone where the mission and focus on preservation is logically highest the reality is human nature..and the “need” to be recognized and elevated takes precidence over “higher goals”.

    Thus when the first wolves were released in Lamar, a very nationally publicized and filmed event, so much of it was staged for the profiling of rank.And it was very demoralizing for field level employees.

    You see wolf cages and the wolf in them are very heavy!!
    Four people on the litter handles and still one can’t go far without having to set it down for a breather. The out of shape Yellowstone administrators were aware of this so left most all the grunt work to the peasants. But career advancemet is always first and foremost in minds of those Mammoth types. Thus media print, photos and film are of utmost importance.

    So what happened is they got out of their desks dusted off the field issue botique and found out it didn’t fit. But they borrowed others parkas etc. and covered up the bulges and unbuttoned pants. Then they all went to the edge of the snow and sage and were handed the already lifted litter handles. Rank, not level of wolf recovery efforts were most important Plus if the wolves were released in N. District then those district highest ups got in that film, by god. Had a right to rightto!!!

    Thus they carried those wolves for the camera and then promptly put the litter down when the cameras had enough film. Then it was back to the peasants, unfilmed of course, to do the actual work.

    Then it was back to the warm trucks …and first thing first…releasing the belts holding all those folds of fat in.

    This same scenario was carried out with other wolf reintroduction location. But those having to stay on the sidelines of rankdom for the first release, those higher ups not quite up there to get on film, were told their chance would come. The only thing was the press didn’t care anymore…but the swelled heads of those looking on were blinded by the stars to see this. Thus when it came to bring the wolves to the traps on the Se arm of Yell. Lake stars were to born…or advanced…or so they thoughrt.

    I was part of this only because the Mammoth types caught wind the PRESS WERE NOT showing up. Thus the boats that were to be full of these types stayed waiting and waiting…for hours just in case. Thus the one they didn’t want along, me, and all my horse gear, they had to include. Yes myhorses were in the corral at Trail Ck cabi right below the traps location.

    Still the illusion was there. The motley press crew (offduty local naturalist with a wide angle lenses), was to take the video and stills to let the world know….later.

    It was such a comedy. I was told by my district ranger I was to stay in the barn while the wolves were unloaded and transported. Of course the traps were uphill a quarter mile througt the woods. The first litter was finally by me and a seemingly long time afterwards they were finally back for another wolf. Only the shirts and heads of the office jockeys were dripping wet with sweat. These folks were not as savvy as the Mammoth types. They actually thought they could carry those litters.

    Thus, the wolf biologist I knew, and someone who must have thought all these charades of stardom were pretty funny asked me to help carry the rest.

    One last story for you, Layton, someone who bows to govt folks….. my head od division supervisor, a man deathly scared of horses, but never the less wanting the staqrdom of parades, had a meeting in my front country area. After the meetings he was to partake in Parade practise. Only thing was they neede my horses to do this…and wouldn’t you have it…but this Walter Mitty forgot his field gear. Thus he asked if anyone had some jeans. Ta da I pulled out a pair of Park Services greeens from my panniers and said try these. He went in the barn to change and as I was working in there also he , as an afterthought, said, “I think these will do.” My response on a quick look over said,” Looks good…maybe a bit loose in the crotch, but otherwise they should look ok”. Honest folks….and he walked out to get on his horse….and never got it.

  75. JimT Says:

    Layton said:

    “Evidently you don’t trust Idaho. You don’t trust people that work for the state, you don’t trust Idaho judges, and, you certainly don’t seem to trust me”

    Your statements sometimes leave me shaking my head. I really don’t know how one trusts an entire state, Layton, but I don’t believe I have ever said I didn’t trust the entire state of Idaho, whatever that means. Exaggeration for effect and retreating to broad generalities seem to be a favorite writing style for you. I am sure that there are trustworthy state employees in the various offices of the state government of Idaho; I just don’t see any reason to trust the behaviors, policies and public statements of the Idaho Fish and Game folks based on their history with wolves. As for trusting you..hell, I have never even met you, and trust is earned in two directions and takes a long time..at least for me. So, I think trust is not the issue. Agreeing with your points of view is the sticking point. .

    “So be it, I would rather go on things that are demonstrated to me. The old screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me thing.”

    My word, Layton, I couldn’t agree more. And the IDFG has demonstrated repeatedly that what they propose and what happens are two different things in the case of wolf “management”. They are way way too willing to make decisions biased towards what seems to be the number one political power in the state of Idaho…grazing, and I think the future will bear out the strategy in collaring wolves in the FC I mentioned in an earlier post unless they are stopped legally at some point. So, again..my point. Why should I trust them based on their own behaviors? No reason at all. I have seen this strategy of building precedents for larger incursions and projects and exceptions to regs for a long time…read up on “categorical exclusions under NEPA” at some point in time, and see how they often lead to proposed changes in regulations, weakening protections.

    I am with Bob Jackson. When it comes to environmental protections, based on the last twenty years of various types of interactions, meetings, and conflicts with state and federal agencies…I am very skeptical, and believe the burden of proof of good faith is on them in each and every case.

    Bob Jackson, great stories. The story about the pants…Priceless…VBG.

  76. Salle Says:

    Oh my, check this story…I wonder who will replace him.

    Sam Hamilton, Fish and Wildlife official, remembered as ‘visionary’

    Hamilton took over the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September. He was previously the regional director of the 10-state Southeast region for the agency. He was charged with a $484 million budget and oversight over more than 350 threatened and endangered species and 128 national wildlife refuges, according to the agency’s Web site.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/02/20/wildlife.director/index.html?hpt=T2

  77. Layton Says:

    JimT,

    “Your statements sometimes leave me shaking my head. I really don’t know how one trusts an entire state, Layton, but I don’t believe I have ever said I didn’t trust the entire state of Idaho, whatever that means”

    Then you must NOT have said this.

    “The best thing to do would be for IDFG to step up, and show folks exactly what they are doing by having a biologist accompany them on these trips that isn’t a state employee to demonstrate good faith that what they are actually doing is what they say they will do.”

    Then.

    ” As for trusting you..hell, I have never even met you, and trust is earned in two directions and takes a long time..at least for me.”

    So then what was meant by this??

    “You seem to be more interested in sophistry than discussions at time”

    Does that not seem to say that I am being less than genuine with my part of the discussion?

    and finally.

    “I am with Bob Jackson. When it comes to environmental protections, based on the last twenty years of various types of interactions, meetings, and conflicts with state and federal agencies…I am very skeptical, and believe the burden of proof of good faith is on them in each and every case. ”

    I guess you would.

    Bob must have been a real joy to work with. A lot of folks only have one face. They present that face to both the people that they work with, AND the people they work for.

  78. JimT Says:

    You are being silly and argumentative for its own sake. My part in this is done; it has ceased to become productive, and is beginning to remind of some conversations I had with our teenagers….Have a good Sunday. Go do something fun.

  79. Ken Cole Says:

    Layton,

    What does this have to do with the subject at hand?

  80. Salle Says:

    Bob must have been a real joy to work with. A lot of folks only have one face. They present that face to both the people that they work with, AND the people they work for.

    I would have been glad to work with Mr. Jackson. He took and oath of office as do all the park personnel at that level. Mr. Jackson meant it when he took that oath and was faithful to it. That takes some intellect and finesse when dealing with those who take an oath and develop/maintain a cavalier attitude about what it means and how to implement the essence of such a commitment. I don’t care to take an oath that says I commit to upholding the purpose and facility of the station to which I am appointed only to have others around me scoff at it and practice insubordination at every turn while attempting to undermine those who take such commitments seriously, which is what happened to Mr. Jackson.

    Regardless of what you think, Layton, your sincerity is suspect given your comments and sarcasm. I don’t think you truly understand that which you chastise with sophomoric satire. Maybe that’s why you do it, either due to fear of the thing you belittle as unimportant or due to fear that someone might discover that you truly don’t understand.

  81. Jay Barr Says:

    Jeff E,

    Yes, wolves have large territories. Yes, they don’t necessarily travel together all the time (though they are much more likely to in winter). Yes, being chased by a helicopter will cause them to scatter. But, if the chopper comes across a goup/pack, it is doubtful members of that social unit will be able to run (or be chased by the chopper) for >10mi. That would make for a most inefficient capture effort and be exceptionally hard on the animal (and I don’t believe IDFG bios would do that).
    As to your last para.- couldn’t agree more. As someone esle pointed out above, there is very little merit to this effort because aside from being able to maybe more accurately count wolves in the Frank (which IDFG contends is very, very important; and they’re right because I think the intent is to be able to say that there are at least 15 packs in the wilderness, freeing them up to wreak havoc on non-wilderness packs), wolves in the wilderness act like wolves outside the wilderness.

  82. JEFF E Says:

    Jay Barr
    Thanks and I want to say I enjoy this type of discussion.
    Having said that I want to bring up some points for consideration.
    The pack or members may not move >10 mi ((((that day))) of collaring, however the next day or the next could very well be 10, 20, or more miles away and because if a wolf is darted and out of the picture for an hour or more may not join up with it’s pack for maybe a day possibly much longer, especially if the pack was chased into a neighboring packs territory.(which brings up a whole new dichotomy). A wolf pack spends the majority of time patrolling the territory borders, >60%. A territory border is fairly easy to determine when on the ground and not so much in a helicopter, so depending where the next days operation is conducted it may be in the same pack’s territory or may not, there is no way that could be determined reliably using this method.
    As for traveling together yes I agree, the majority of time they do in winter but not 100% which just adds another variable to the equation which serves to make the results that much more suspect.

  83. Jay Barr Says:

    Jeff E,

    Most times I think the wolves that aren’t chased with a darting attempt stop running almost immediately (waste of calories to just run and run and run), therefore would not likely be pushed out of their own terr.; and if they were would likely turn around and get back to home turf asap. Can’t say where “the next days operation is conducted”- remember wolf capture is strictly incidental to the ungulate surveys- but a good bet it is going to be some distance away as IDFG doesn’t want to double-count those ungulates, so they have to complete a survey unit (and they aren’t necessarily contiguous) and move along. While there is no guarantee that the same pack where a wolf was just darted wouldn’t move >10 mi. after that, I’d say that using geography/major streams/etc. the biologists would be able to, within reason, determine if the next group encountered was the same one that they just worked (also using pelt colors, # of wolves, etc.). Finally, it’s probably not a crime to have >1 collar/pack, though that would “waste” a landing and reduce the # of overall packs collared (which seems to be a primary goal of this whole escapade).

  84. JEFF E Says:

    You bring up another point Jay.
    If during the elk count the crews come across wolves do they just stop the count then and take off after the wolves. If so would they not have to pick up where they left off much later. While the claim is only 1/2 hour to an hour on the Ground, it would seem the total time involved on a collar would be several times that. So now we would have to make a choice of returning to the same area multiple times to count elk or not be able to finish a count because of a schedule to be, as you say, many miles away on the next day.
    As far as what a pack would do after being chased I wonder if that has been looked at anywhere. Would they return to the scene of the crime, or would the go to the far side of there territory or something in between? Interesting questions.
    It would look like this whole operation gets shakier by the minuet in any case.

  85. JEFF E Says:

    …i also read earlier today that GPS collar runs 5000. I thought it was only 3 but that is the going rate for VHF.
    I would love to hear that they collared more than one wolf in a pack at that price

  86. Jay Barr Says:

    Jeff E,

    I would imagine that they would break off the elk survey to collar wolf(ves). I don’t know much about aerial elk surveys, but there is probably some way to statistically “cover” for an interruption (like simply survey another unit somewhere). IDFG may have some data on wolf movements after disruption of helicopter collaring as they have been getting 5-6 members of each pack in the Lowman area for the past couple of years. Seems it would be a simple matter to check the locations of those wolves within a given time frame soon after the capture. Cost of collar no doubt depends on the make/model. I think a standard no-bells/no-whistles VHF collar runs in the neighborhood of ~$350.00

  87. JEFF E Says:

    Jay,
    I would have to disagree on your collar estimate. It has been said many times here that the cost is in the thousands.
    Here is something I came across earlier today.
    http://www.ypf.org/donate/wolfcollar.asp

    If there is some way to have a statistical average to cover a count survey that has been disrupted,would that not also work for the number of wolves in a given area.
    For example many wolves are already collared in the frank, for many years now, so that those packs numbers and territory should be pretty well established. So it should be a simple exercise to use the same statistical model you mention for elk and apply it to wolves. No?

  88. Larry Thorngren Says:

    Wolves can trot for long distances, but they cannot run ten miles at high speed. Two miles would be more than most wolves can run without overheating. I have watched unsuccessful attempts by wolves to run down elk, moose, caribou, dall’s sheep and bighorn sheep. The wolves were worn out after running less than two miles in all unsuccessful chases(less than a mile for the sheep) that I observed and spent time lying down afterward to recover. I have observed several successful chases of elk and one of caribou and they all ended in about a mile or less.
    I think helicopter chases would be no more than two miles and probably less if the gunner is any good. I have watched previously captured wolves in Yellowstone crouch in the sagebrush to hide when they hear a helicopter approaching.
    I don’t like radio-collars in any event and would like to see them banned for use in wilderness and National Parks.

  89. Ralph Maughan Says:

    It seems to me like all the places there could be long chases in the Frank, e.g., Elk Creek on the south and Chamberlain Basin up north, are under deep snow.

    No wolves will be there.

  90. JEFF E Says:

    Larry,
    I don’t believe I said any where that wolves would run at full speed for over 10 miles. If that was a misunderstanding on your part here is the clarification.
    They will however cover many times that distance in a day if so motivated and on a succeeding day or days could very well be 10,20 or more miles away.
    Without knowing a given packs territory there is no way to be sure that the same pack would not be targeted on later days.

  91. Jim Holyan Says:

    Jeff E,

    I work for the Nez Perce Tribe Wolf Project as a biologist and have direct knowledge of collar costs because I’ve ordered dozens of them. Standard VHF collars (at least those made by Telonics, which is the gold standard for our project), as mentioned above (“standard no-bells/no-whistles VHF collar”), cost $385.00 for a brand new one, and a little less to have a used one refurbished. Satellite, GPS, and ARGOS collars are the ones that run in the thousands of dollars.

  92. JEFF E Says:

    Jim,
    thanks,
    I wonder why Yellowstone is asking so much more for the VHF model?

  93. NW Says:

    They’re probably figuring in the capture cost. Jim is right about the cost of the collar.

  94. JEFF E Says:

    NW, Jim,
    I sent an e-mail asking those very questions. I’ll see what they send back.

  95. Salle Says:

    I’d have to inquire to be sure but I think that YNP wolf project has been using GPS collars for the last few years.

  96. Dave Says:

    My first question, Who Cares!?! The Fank as it has been pointed out is a patch work wilderness area, anyone who has spent any time in the frank knows about the “grandfathered ranches”. My summer camping trips and fall hunting trips have been disrupted by piper flyin pancake breakfasts. The ranches use heavy machinery to change the wilderness area streams. This i have witnessed with my own eyes and pointed out to a forest service ranger based right next to the ranch, told me it was inside the ranch boundries. Upon further investigation, NO it was well outside the ranches perimeter, and inside the Frank. My calls fell on def ears. I drive thru the Frank and see a number of things that get my blood boiling, a few helio landings, not one of them. Heck maybe it will bring more attention to some real problems in the Frank, a ranger seeing some of these problems from a birds eye view. My opinion.

  97. Mike Koeppen Says:

    I remember some years ago some pilots came into Cold Meadows to fill some holes in the “grandfathered” airstrip. The USFS would not allow them to use a wheelbarrow, so they put soil on a tarp and dragged it to the holes.

    My point is, the USFS was this picky about wilderness ethics on an airstrip, but then they allow this helicopter intrusion for IDFG.

  98. Dave Says:

    So to my point, get the helios in the air and one of the picky fish and game people to see a few of these problems. But Mr. Mike i do understand the intrusion point, it opens a door a vast majority of the population does not want to see opened. A bit of my argument is off base, and is spoken with some anger, I feel that if some of the bigger problems in the area would have recieved this kind of attention aways back, the helios would have never become a issue. You get rid of the airstips altogether and it is much harder for a court to make the jump from planes to helios. Somtimes i think the Frank is a wilderness area just when its convienent. And i am sure a great many IDGF workers have a great deal of integrity, as you witnessed, as i hope you agree, some dont. Dave

  99. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Mike Koeppen,

    The inconsistencies of administration of wilderness is absurd. Let me relate a story, not involving the Frank, but equally as annoying. Two years ago, I did a cross country hike on an unmaintained way trail – a distance of some 70 miles. In spots the trail is very hard to find, as it crosses many scree slopes, and follows streambeds.

    About thirty miles in, the trail goes down a verrrry steep rocky streambed for a distance of about two miles. This finger is covered with snow in the early hiking season. It would be easy here to punch through and break a leg on the rocks beneath the snow tunnel. So, it is a calculated risk knowing where to walk, and a rescue extraction from here would be difficult for any rescuers. At one point, and only one point, there is an exit from the streambed to go to an adjacent drainage (If you keep going you wind up in falls you cannot negotiate, but do not know this until you have gone another half mile or so). It had been marked with a couple of small rock cairns for the last thirty years. Sometimes even marking tape is left by a previous group of hikers to help find it, as the slide alder and other vegetation covers it over. This wilderness is in a NP, but does not change its administration. I later learned the Park Service rangers removed the cairns, saying it was not natural to the wilderness. We hit the area late in the day, and spent over two hours looking for this obscure exit point in particarly nasty weather. After finally locating it, we scrambled up the steep sidehill, and less than a mile away – still in wilderness- we encountered wooden signs for our way trail, which should not have been signed at all.

    Coincidentally, the NPS also retrieves their back country ranger camps with helicopters after summer is over, but when people are still in the back country.

    Disgusting.

  100. bob jackson Says:

    Mk,

    Your story on wheel barrows reminds me of the long time wilderness guard at Hawks Rest in the Bridger – Teton wilderness area right outside the Se corner of the Park. That station had a steel wheeled 1930’s model…exactly the same as the one we had over at our cabin in the Park. The wilderness guards used it all the time to haul firewood to the cabin and cart away rocks from the post holes they dug.

    One day Ray rode the two miles over to my cabin and told me his yellow streaked Black Rock Ranger (desk jockey) supervisor told him that wheel barrow, because of its wheel, had to go. Ray dejectedly asked if I wanted it. “sure I said.

    We had always been limited at Thorofare by one person hauling wood at a time. Plus we were going to be doing some dirt work around the barn. But I said it must not be so ….that this guy would be talked with by the field tech, etc. That is what we hoped. But three weeks later I got a picture of Ray top packing that rusty old wheel barrow going past my cabin on the way to the barn.

    To paraphrase Doc holidays quote in Tombstone (cult movie WM?) “It appears the Forest Services hypocrisy knows no bounds”.

  101. Mike Koeppen Says:

    Bob Jackson,

    I like your last sentence about “hypocrisy.” Two falls ago, my wife and I hiked down the Selway River into the wilderness and camped at the Shearer Airstrip, next to the river. We walked down to the Shearer Guard station which was being manned by a volunteer, who was cleaning up around the cabin.

    Guess what he was using? A USFS wheelbarrow.

    I did e-mail both the Moose Creek ranger, and Forest Supervisor regarding this, but did not get any reply from either. Don’t know if the wheelbarrow is still there.

    Wilderness Muse,

    Would your story possibly have taken place in Grand Canyon?

  102. Mike Koeppen Says:

    To summarize my wheelbarrow stories, I believe we, including the US Forest Service, should “practice what we preach.”

  103. Wilderness Muse Says:

    Mike K,

    No it was no Grand Canyon, but I am reluctant to reveal the name on the internet. The most effective way of destroying favorite wild places through overuse is to disclose them. I do not mean to be selfish, but I wish these photo posting sites where everybody shares their stories and photos would just go away.

    The world has become such a small place in just the last five to ten years, with gps, global maps with aerial photo mosaics that pinpoint one’s location, and detailed how to guides, that the mystery and awe of wilderness is being eroded. So much for being “off the grid.”

  104. Angela Says:

    Wilderness Muse, my thinking is exactly like yours. Even my best friends get the “secret spot” answer…😉 There are many places I will not go back to because of increased access, campground development, road improvement, newspaper articles, guidebooks, etc. It makes me too sad.

  105. Mike Koeppen Says:

    Wilderness Muse,

    I’ll agree with you on that.

  106. Elk275 Says:

    I think that this started with “Across Asia on a Shoestring” by Tony Wheeler the founder of Lonely Planet. Today guide books have become so prevailant that every wild place or sights to see have become common knowledge. Then along comes the internet and everything has visited and commented on. Very Sad, that is what 6 billion plus people are doing to the earth.

  107. JB Says:

    “…that is what 6 billion plus people are doing to the earth.”

    I agree, wholeheartedly. Telling people about special places isn’t the problem, the problem is there are too many damn people to compete with!

    Ironically, I’ve never really found it all that hard to get away from people. Recreation research in the national parks show that the vast majority of people never go farther than 50 feet from a road or trail. Getting away just entails a little bit of cross country trekking!

  108. Angela Says:

    JB: “the vast majority of people never go farther than 50 feet from a road or trail. Getting away just entails a little bit of cross country trekking!”
    And yet there you are alone in your secret spot enjoying instant coffee made on your little mini camp stove, naked as a jaybird, when along comes another darn human being thinking they are alone! lol. oh hai!

    This is a big reason I never had babies. Too many darn people on the planet now.

  109. Wilderness Muse Says:

    JB,

    It is alot more than complicated than you suggest. More specifically, it is the technology that allows very detailed information to be rapidly deployed to many, many people in a very short time. The information on the internet is perpetual and ever more available to those with any kinds of skill to search for it. Information can be previewed, and opinions sought from others, as well as additional information provided. We witness it on this forum every day we participate.

    Places I used to visit twenty or even ten years ago are more crowded 10 fold because people know of these places, largely due to internet postings. There is a tendency to seek out the best places for certain types of desired experiences, and it has become, well …….very easy.

    You personally may be able, in some places, to step off a trail and find solitude. My experience is that the bigger problem is getting from point A to point B, and having to share a trail with lots of folks and maybe their dog(s), as well. Some places you cannot get off trail for any distance because of sensitive vegetation, or physical barriers (most trails follow valley bottoms or ridgelines, unlesss you try to gain elevation. You might even have to have a reservation to camp somewhere. It’s not just national parks anymore.

    Once hidden lakes, known only by those who had the knowledge to purchase a USGS quad map and who could use a compass, exercising route-finding skills would find some of these places. Word of mouth let the word get out soon enough.

    Now you just buy a gps, some of which have quad maps already loaded, or go to your computer on which you have loaded commercial mapping software for a ridiculously small sum, and you have most of what you need to find some spot, or even a ten day trip with details of elevation gains and losses, etc. If somebody has been there already, you might even find their photos on one of these air photo world mosaics. If you haven’t found a good spot to go, just read Outdoor or Backpacker magazine.

    It’s not about stepping fifty feet off the trail, JB, but it may come to that. Technology has dumbed down the outdoor experience to a great degree and it will continue to do so. Lighter gear has allowed access to these areas more quickly, and deeper into areas. And then there’s the dude with his/her ipod.

    Satellite telephones (even cell phones in some areas), have made communications possible in the most remote places.

    Thoreau, Aldo Leupold, Edward Abbey and William O. Douglas would roll over in their graves if they knew what we are doing with our “wilderness.”

    And then there are those damn helicopters!

  110. JB Says:

    I suppose it is all a matter of perspective? I’ll never forget my first backpacking trip in the Wilderness (Desolation Wilderness to be exact). We backpacked in with borrowed equipment and no idea what the hell we were doing. We had waaay too much weight and no experience hiking with it. We got about 1.5 miles in (from a major access point) and had a big change in weather. We walked about 150 ft off the trail and found a wonderful spot along a stream. We set up camp a short distance away and jumped in the tent to avoid the storm. We loved the location so much we spent three days there–and never saw nor heard a soul (except coyotes), at least while we were camping. However, we did take a day trip (7 miles one way) out to some supposedly scenic point. About 1/2 mile from this place we started seeing kids in flip flops with Cokes. Turns out there was an access point for cars a short distance away. Some “wilderness”! We went back to our camp site and soaked our feet in the stream and all was well with the world.

    Frankly, I think it is all about expectations. I found solitude innumerable times in Point Reyes National Seashore, only about an hour from San Francisco.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: