Judge Molloy blocks mine beneath Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

Is this a final victory in 23 year fight against the mine?

It probably isn’t because Judge Molloy both ruled for and against conservationists on their variety of claims, but it does send the Forest Service’s decision to approve the mine back to square one.

Molloy blocks mine beneath Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian

Info on the fight against the Rock Creek Mine.

3/30/2010. More on the ruling. Court Blocks Mine in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. ENS

Wolves Reported on Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula

A group of up to three wolves may be living on the Lower Peninsula

For many years there have been lone wolves reported on the Lower Peninsula but this is the first confirmation of more than one. The wolves may have crossed the frozen lake near Mackinac Bridge to get there from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where wolves are well established.

DNRE, USDA Confirm Wolf Tracks in Cheboygan County
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment

WAFWA report summarizes pneumonia outbreaks in bighorn sheep

A report, dated March 16, 2010, by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wild Sheep Working Group, summarizes the recent outbreaks of pneumonia in bighorn sheep that have occurred in Montana, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota.  Domestic sheep and goats are also known to be in close proximity to, and are suspected to have interacted with, bighorn sheep in many of the areas where outbreaks have killed hundreds of wild sheep region-wide. Contrary to recent reports in the media, there have been confirmed interactions between bighorn and domestic sheep associated with at least one of these outbreaks.  Most notably there has been confirmed interaction in Montana where there have been severe outbreaks of pneumonia.

The report outlines many of the actions taken by the state agencies and what testing has been done. Many of the tests are still being conducted on samples from bighorn and domestic sheep and no conclusive results have been announced.  It cannot be said that there has been no interaction between domestic and wild sheep.  At the same time it cannot be said for certain that interaction has been the cause of all or any of these outbreaks, however there is overwhelming evidence that interaction between domestic sheep and goats results in widespread and rapid die-offs of bighorn sheep.

WAFWA WSWG Summary on winter 2009-10 BHS dieoffs

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

In 2007 the WAFWA Wild Sheep Working Group was created to give guidance to state, federal, and provincial agencies on how to manage domestic sheep and goats in wild sheep habitat.  They produced a report to the agencies in June of 2007 but none of the recommendations have been implemented by the BLM or Forest Service.  There are still numerous conflicts on the ground where domestic sheep and goat grazing is allowed within occupied bighorn sheep throughout the west.  In some cases these conflicts have resulted in litigation and changes to land management plans are underway.

WAFWA Recommendations for Domestic Sheep and Goat Management In Wild Sheep Habitat

It is time for the BLM and Forest Service to implement strict guidelines which maintain separation between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and goats.  At minimum, permits for grazing and trailing sheep and goats on Federal lands in occupied bighorn habitats should be withdrawn.  Farm flocks on private lands deserve some attention too.  Programs for educating owners of farm flocks should be created and in some cases effective fencing to eliminate contact between the two should be offered or even required in areas where bighorn sheep are of high conservation value. Read the rest of this entry »

As feared, the Montana wolf damage mitigation board is just a rancher slush fund

Defenders’ handover to Montana fails to initiate a single proactive project in its first year-

When the wolf was delisted, Defenders of  Wildlife stopped paying compensation for the loss of livestock to wolves in Montana. However, Defenders gave the state $100,000 to get the “Montana Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board” started. It was to not just pay for losses, but fund preventative measures too. The Fund also received additional private contributions, mostly from conservation groups.

In the first year, the Board simply handed out money to those who lost livestock, and apparently required nothing in return. Now the Fund is a bit short of cash. Can we feel bad about that? Yes, and maybe they got their training from those who insured junk mortgages.

Montana media are running stories with headlines such as this: “Montana livestock board pays for 369 wolf kills in 2009.”  That is not the real story, however. The story is the waste of the money in the fund.

The story above says, “some question whether it is doing enough funding preventative measures.”  It turns out the “some” who question are those who gave the money for the Fund — just a small detail!

The story also fails to say that most of the losses came in a few big sheep killing incidents.

Here is what Montana wrote about the financial status of the fund in the 2009 wolf report:

Read the rest of this entry »

Day in the life of Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf biologist

Feature on Yellowstone’s lead wolf biologist-

Dr. Smith has run the Park’s wolf program for about 14 of the 15 years since wolves were restored to the Park. He helped me learn much of what I know about wolves, especially in the early years.

Day in the life of Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf biologist. By Michael Gibney. Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer