Wuerthner: Wolf Restoration is a Challenge to West’s Old Guard

Anti-Wolfer’s Success In An End-Run Delisting of Wolves MUST Ultimately Backfire

George Wuerthner wrote this now apt essay over a year ago, published in New West last September, suggesting that should anti-wolf interests succeed in delisting wolves and fail to exercise restraint in killing wolves that it would ultimately backfire.

Wolf Restoration is a Challenge to West’s Old Guard – George Wuerthner – NewWest.net

Demographically the country is changing to a more diverse racial, religious and age structure.  The majority of Americans who do not hunt only accept hunting if they believe the hunter is killing an animal to eat it. Public support for hunting declines rapidly if hunters kill animals for trophy mounts. When it comes to shooting an animal just to kill it as would be the case for hunters shooting wolves—and/or worse as a matter of vindication as in predator control, public support turns to public opposition.

Similarly, without the ESA ‘hook’ extending legal protection for wolves, some of the last, best remaining legal angles to protect wolves will be in preventing conflict with livestock on public lands that is ultimately responsible for government trapping and slaughter of entire packs of wolves.

Increased public scrutiny over public lands ranching at the land-use level – demanding that ranchers implement preventative measures as a condition of permit to use public lands to graze cattle and sheep is one tangible avenue wolf-advocates might pursue to accomplish wolf protections.

One thing is for sure – if wolves are to persist on the landscape in the ecologically relevant numbers that advocates have been promoting for years, outrage over the wanton slaughter of wolves must be felt by those responsible.

Court Victory Stops Corporate Ranching on 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Click to view in Google Maps

On February 28, 2011 Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court for Idaho agreed with Western Watersheds Project and reimposed an injunction stopping livestock grazing on 17 grazing allotments covering over 450,000 acres of public land in the Jarbidge Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management in southern Idaho.

The allotments closed under this injunction contain some of the most important remaining habitat for sage grouse, California bighorn sheep, the threatened plant species slickspot peppergrass as well as native redband trout, pygmy rabbits and pronghorn antelope.

March 4 news story added. Federal judge shuts down some Jarbidge grazing allotments. By Laura Lundquist. Magic Valley Times News

Here is Western Watersheds Project’s News Release on this important victory:

Western Watersheds Project Wins A Federal Court Injunction Stopping Livestock Grazing on over 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Greater sage grouse, pygmy rabbit and Slickspot peppergrass have won a reprieve from livestock grazing which has decimated their populations and destroyed their habitat. Late yesterday, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the federal District for Idaho held BLM, various Simplot corporate entities, and other corporate ranching operations to the terms of an earlier agreement, and again enjoined livestock grazing on 17 livestock grazing allotments in southern Idaho. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee

Fee is only $1.35 to graze a calf cow pair for a month.

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee
For immediate release – January 18, 2011

Contacts: Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, 520.623.1878
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, 503.757.4221
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928.310.6713
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association, 541.330.2638
Ronni Egan, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, 970.385.9577

Tucson, Ariz. – After a lengthy delay, five conservation organizations finally received an answer today from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture concerning the artificially low fee federal agencies charge for livestock grazing on public lands. Claiming higher priorities, both agencies declined to address the outdated grazing fee formula. The government’s response was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Conservation organizations submitted a petition in 2005, asking the government to address the grazing fee formula and adjust the fee in order to cover the costs of the federal grazing program, which costs taxpayers at least $115 million dollars annually according to a Government Accountability Office report. Conservationists contend that Americans lose even more in compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

“Today’s long-awaited answer was a huge disappointment,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Year after year, we watch as the government gives a sweetheart deal to public lands ranchers at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. We had hoped the Obama Administration would have done better, but it’s business-as-usual for the western livestock industry.”

“Subsidizing the livestock industry at the cost of species, ecosystems, and taxpayers is plainly bad public land policy,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Today’s choice to continue that policy is both a disappointment and a blight on the Obama administration’s environmental record.” Read the rest of this entry »

Conservation groups want Forest Service land near Pocatello closed to livestock grazing

Now, your opportunity to comment on the Pocatello, Midnight, and Michaud grazing allotments-
Comments are due Jan. 4, 2011-

An opportunity like this only comes along every ten years or so.  I know a lot of people have been furious for years about the cattle grazing in the Bannock Range immediately west and south of Pocatello, Idaho.

Western Watersheds/Portneuf Valley Audubon Society new release on the grazing comment opportunity. Conservation groups want Mink Creek closed to cows.

Every ten years or so the Forest Service is supposed to revise its grazing allotment plans. One alternative they have to consider is no grazing. I know a lot of the folks I know here in Pocatello would say, “yes, yes” to reduced or elimination of grazing. There are a few beauty area closed, but about 1200 AUMs graze most of the area from June 1 until Oct. 10 each year (actually until the owners of the cattle bother to pick them up). That only leaves the month of May for an ungrazed experience in this key recreation area on Pocatello’s doorstep.

Here is the scoping document from the Forest Service showing the location of the allotments. PortneufAllotScoping11-22-2010

Send to your comments to Ranger Jeff Hammes, Westside Ranger District at this email address:   comments-intermtn-caribou-targhee-westside@fs.fed.us.  Tell why you are interested, give the information you have about the cows and what you think should be done. The formal name of document being prepared is the Lower Portneuf Grazing EA.

I took the photo below of a cow covered with houndstongue stickers on the Pocatello Grazing Allotment in the summer of 2009. The poor cow’s condition is not unusual, and of course their omnipresence keep the obnoxious weed spreading and spreading.

Houndstongue infested cow. Pocatello Grazing Allotment. Photo by Ralph Maughan. Public domain

Do ranchers have a right to predator free landscape?

George Wuerthner nails it again, questioning the chief assumption that informs livestock-wolf conflict management.

Do ranchers have a right to predator free landscape? – George Wuethner, NewWest

One of the unquestioned and unspoken assumptions heard across the West is that ranchers have a right to a predator free environment. Even environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife more or less legitimize this perspective by supporting unqualified compensation for livestock losses to bears and wolves.

Only when the answer to George’s question is “yes” do any of the management prescriptions currently taking place, including compensation, “control”/eradication via tax-payer appropriations to Wildlife Services (sic), and other absurd de facto subsidies make any sense at all ~ particularly *but not uniquely* on public lands that belong to all of us.

Idaho Gov. Candidate Allred: “On public lands, to me, wildlife populations have to take priority”

Public land ranchers concerned about candidate’s position that public lands ought be managed to preserve Idaho’s wildlife heritage

Idaho’s Gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred, challenger to “Butch” Otter, recently drew a distinction between wildlife management on public versus private land, standing behind Idaho sportsmen on the bighorn sheep issue :

Candidate’s Comments Cause for Concern – Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

During the October 9th discussion between Allred and members of the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council, the subject of bighorn sheep management came up. Following are Allred’s comments verbatim:

“My family a hundred years ago was driving sheep and cattle up to the Sawtooth Valley and running sheep. So I’d like to see a viable sheep industry. But we also have a long enough family history that we remember when there (were) much more substantial bighorn sheep populations in Idaho than there are now. So how do you manage those competing perspectives? Here’s one kind of distinction I would draw: On public lands, to me, wildlife populations have to take priority over individual private interests, really economic interests, and grazing. On private lands then private property owners need to take priority.”

(Emphasis added)

This recognition that wildlife management on public lands ought reflect all Idahoans’ interest, and ought preserve Idaho’s wildlife heritage is threatening to some.

To most, it’s just plain common sense.

UPDATE:  Allred Licks the Boot 10/29/10 : Statement on Bighorn and Domestic Sheep – Keith Allred, Ag Weekly

From Keith Allred – I’m sorry to have inappropriately applied the distinction between public and private land to bighorn and domestic sheep questions in recent comments I made to the Sportsman’s Caucus. I’d like to clarify my points and suggest a solution.

[More…]


Proposed limits on dust irk farmers

The EPA is considering lowering allowable particulate matter from 150 micrograms per cubic meter to the range of 65 to 85 micrograms. This would be a very good outcome for many reason ranging from health, soil erosion and snow melt runoff.

Recently a study implicated dust, primarily from western livestock grazing, as a big cause behind earlier and faster snow melt runoff in the Colorado Rockies which resulted in 5% less water in the Colorado River. Under current law there is little regulation on agricultural practices, especially livestock grazing, which could help mitigate this very real problem.

Of course the livestock industry is up in arms over the proposal and have gotten their lackey politicians involved.

“As usual, the EPA has failed to recognize the real-world impacts of their regulations,” [Mike] Simpson said in a press release.

Well, it looks like they are starting to recognize the impacts of their regulations. It now appears that they have seen the failure of their current regulations to protect long term public values over short term profits of the livestock industry. Let’s hope they make the change soon.

Proposed limits on dust irk farmers.
Capital Press agriculture news