Defenders ends wolf depredation payments

All Defenders payments for dead livestock ends in September-

It really seemed like a good idea.  Wolves will kill some livestock, but a public spirited conservation group will pay generously for all verified losses and even 50% for unverified, but probable losses to wolves.

Defenders has been paying these claims for well over 15 years now. In my opinion, however, the program did not work if their intent was to generate public support or prevent opposition to wolf restoration. Defenders own studies showed that the program did not build support for wolves among livestock owners.

In retrospect, it is easy to see why it failed.  Livestock owners hatred of wolves is not based on the economic value of their losses.  If the losses were heavier, it might have been welcomed, but in most cases the person who lost stock could pretty easily afford to absorb the loss.  As a result, they could turn down the compensation, or maybe even accept it, but vent their spleen anyway. In a few cases it is clear that owners who welcomed a payment were pressured not to apply for one.

Defender’s program will be replaced by a federal/state compensation program recently set up by law by Senators Tester of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming. It is less generous, however. Under the new program there has to be a proven loss and states have to pay 50%. The later won’t be hard to achieve at least in Idaho, the legislature will be happy to cut the benefits of blind old people or those tax-sucking school children to pay for the livestock.

Conservation group ends wolf predation payments. Associated Press (as printed in the Seattle PI)

Comment on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Management Plan

Don’t color outside the lines

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has released its Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially draws lines around existing bighorn sheep populations and prevents recovery to historical habitat. This is a big problem because the bighorn population has been in steep decline due to diseases spread by domestic sheep.

A population that recovered from over hunting and disease in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s started to increase after hunting regulations and reintroductions took place but the recovery was short lived and now the native and reintroduced populations have suffered from repeated contact with diseased domestic sheep and goats. The population numbered around 5000 in the 1990’s but is now about 2900 and continuing to decline.

Two areas, the Pioneer Mountains west of Mackay, and the Palisades east of Idaho Falls, are areas where dispersing sheep are commonly seen. Under this plan these areas have been essentially written off due to the presence of Federal sheep grazing allotments. Another area that isn’t included as a priority area for sheep recovery is the Sawtooths and the Boise and Payette drainages. These areas contain very suitable habitat yet there are domestic sheep allotments there as well.

The Management Plan is not likely to curb the declines in bighorn sheep populations and the IDFG is afraid to advocate for bighorn sheep conservation. They hold the power to really make the Federal agencies pay attention and close sheep grazing allotments but the IDFG is a captured agency that depends on the good graces of the livestock industry dominated legislature.

Comment on the Bighorn Sheep Management Plan.

The Comment Period Ends September 30, 2010.

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Brief for 10(j) Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court

The 2008 10(j) rule violates the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Now that wolves have been placed back on the list of endangered species a lawsuit, which was filed before delisting was proposed, is now able to proceed. The groups are challenging the 2008 10(j) rule change which lowered the bar to allow states to kill wolves for causing “unacceptable impacts” to ungulate populations if they can show “only that a wild ungulate population is failing to meet state or tribal management objectives – however defined by the states – and that
wolves are one of the major causes for that failure.” The previous 10(j) rule defined “unacceptable impact” as a “decline in a wild ungulate population or herd, primarily caused by wolf predation, so that the population or herd is not meeting established State or Tribal management goals.” The USFWS felt that the states could not show that to be the case and, without proper review, changed the regulations to give the states more flexibility to kill wolves.

10(j) Brief

The plaintiffs’ brief was filed on August 20, 2010 and there are two basic claims in the litigation.

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Reminder: Comments due today on Wildlife Services Idaho Wolf EA.

Wolf management plan examines killing of pups and sterilization of wolves.

The Wildlife Services issued an Environmental Assessment at the beginning of August. Today is the last day to comment on the EA which calls for killing pups which have been orphaned by their control actions, sterilization of wolves, and increased killing of wolves in response to livestock depredations.

Western Watersheds Project and the Wolf Recovery Foundation have submitted comments on the EA which you can read here:
WWP & Wolf Recovery Foundation Comments on Gray Wolf Damage Managment in ID Draft EA

Here is the post I made earlier in the month:

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School bus-sized boulder hits Madison Dam. Ennis Lake to be drained

About the “boulder.” Story by Lauren Russell, Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

Update Sept. 4. Road closed due to damaged dam to open for Labor Day weekend. Bozeman Chronicle.

Natural restoration advances rapidly in the big Castle Rock burn near Ketchum/Hailey, Idaho

The 50,000 acre fire was 3 years ago-

The Idaho Mountain Express has an article detailing the regrowth in the big burn next to Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho. This is a very popular recreation area, so its restoration is noticeable to a lot of people. Similar articles could be written about several million more acres of burns in central Idaho — burns of the last decade.

The Idaho places where restoration is not going well are the millions of acres of rangelands (more properly sagebrush steppe) where cheatgrass has fueled vast fires, destroying native grasses, forbs and shrubs, creating more of itself for future fires. This year about 3/4 million acres of Idaho rangeland has burned.

Related. Utah has mildest wildfire season in a decade. By jason bergreen. The Salt Lake Tribune

More related. Rain, snow and lower temperatures help tame central Idaho wildfire. Idaho Statesman.

Wyoming officials not inclined to act on wolves

Delisting depends on Wyoming

Well, if anyone was uncertain about Wyoming’s comfort with Federal management of wolves in Wyoming then they need to look no farther. Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal isn’t going to budge on the State’s management plan and it is unlikely that a new governor or legislature will either.

EarthJustice attorney Doug Honnold makes it pretty clear.

“The law says that if a species is endangered in any significant portion, then the species, or the population in this case, needs to be listed. So somehow, Wyoming has to be part of the picture.”

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