Protected wolf killed in NE Oregon

Death is under investigation

The radio collared 2-year-old male of the Wenaha Pack has been killed. It is under USFWS investigation which generally means that it was killed illegally.

Protected wolf killed in NE Oregon.
Associated Press

Ivanpah Power Plant – Not Clean Not Green

Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.
California Director
Western Watersheds Project

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Ancient Mojave yuccas on the Ivanpah power plant site. (2009) © Michael J. Connor, Ph.D.

Secretary of the Interior Salazar is about to initial a series of major giveaways of public lands in California to industrial-scale solar power producers. These “fast-tracked” power plant projects have had truncated environmental reviews in the current administration’s rush to place huge chunks of public land in the hands of developers to build on them at public expense.

The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant project is a prime example. The project’s proponent, BrightSource Energy, will build an experimental “power tower” solar power plant on over five and a half square miles of high quality desert tortoise habitat in California’s Ivanpah Valley. The 1.7 billion dollar project will be primed with $1.3 billion in public “economic stimulus” funds provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

The project is the first of a number of power plants proposed for public lands in the Ivanpah Valley. A photovoltaic plant is planned right next door to the Ivanpah power plant. Just down the valley over the Nevada border is the proposed Silver State power plant. These and other projects will block off the Ivanpah Valley, turn the North Ivanpah Valley into an industrial zone, and will have major consequences for rare and endangered wildlife. Although the ESA-listed desert tortoise population is declining, the Ivanpah power plant will split the North Ivanpah Valley, eliminate desert tortoise habitat, require that resident tortoises be relocated placing them and any resident tortoises at the relocation site in danger, and will severely compromise connectivity and gene flow between important desert tortoise populations. It will also impact foraging for bighorn sheep and other wildlife, a number of rare plants, and an assemblage of barrel cactus unrivaled elsewhere in the Golden State. Native Americans cultural remains including unusual stone structures will be stranded in a sea of mirrors. The agencies don’t know what these structures are, so how can they be important? No matter that the local Chemehuevi Indians don’t share that view.

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National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

Western Watersheds Project’s litigation and recent scientific studies changing the playing field.

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Across the West domestic sheep operations threaten the viability of bighorn sheep populations and have caused serious declines because of the diseases they carry. Last winter there were ten populations that suffered from pneumonia outbreaks and many more are suffering the lingering effects of previous outbreaks which reduces lamb survival to very low levels for many years after the initial outbreak.

In Hell’s Canyon bighorn sheep are only a small fraction of the estimated 10,000 capacity. These sheep have faced a declining population because the lamb survival is too low to replace the adults that die of other causes. The Salmon River Canyon and Central Idaho herds have faced many of these same issues but they are the last remaining native bighorn in the state.

Western Watersheds Project has been working very hard to get the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to develop scientifically based policies which would effectively keep bighorn sheep from ever coming into contact with domestic sheep. Unfortunately political interference by the woolgrowers and politicians has prevented the agencies from tackling this issue head on. Recently, though, the Payette National Forest decided to close about 70% of the sheep grazing area due to concerns of disease. This is one of the first cracks in the armor of the oligarchical system which holds great political sway but provides little, if any, economic benefit to the public for the subsidies it provides.

The Payette Bighorn Sheep Viability Decision has been appealed by Western Watersheds Project; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; the State of Washington, Department of Fish & Wildlife; the Nez Perce Tribe with other groups; and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation primarily because it implements the decision gradually over a period of three years rather making the closures all at once. The Idaho Woolgrowers Association et. al.; Soulen Livestock Company; Frank Shirts Jr., Shirts Brothers Sheep, & Ronald and Leslie Shirts have all appealed the decision because it threatens their interests. One glaring absence is the Idaho Department of Fish and Game who recently issued a Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially maintains the status quo because it feels it has no power to influence the decisions of the Federal land management agencies. This would be an incorrect assumption if it weren’t for the political interference of the small but politically powerful group of woolgrowers on the legislature.

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Posted in Bighorn sheep, disease, domestic sheep, public lands. Tags: , , . Comments Off on National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

Have you come across any interesting Wildlife News? October 5, 2010.

Note that this replaces the 16th edition. That edition will now move slowly into the depths of the blog.

Great Gray Owl near Beaver Creek Summit (Lowman area), Idaho © Ken Cole

Great Gray Owl near Beaver Creek Summit (Lowman area), Idaho © Ken Cole

Please don’t post entire articles here, just the link, title and your comments about the article. Most of these violate copyright law. They also take up too much space.