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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Posted in Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep, Idaho, politics, wildlife disease. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Comment on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Management Plan

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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