Sheep link to bighorn illness adds to grazing controversy

BLM reviewing sheep allotments within 30 miles of bighorn populations.

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

This is another exposé about the fallout of the Payette bighorn viability decision and the latest science which conclusively shows that domestic sheep diseases kill bighorn sheep. What jumps out at me is the information contained near the bottom of the article which says that the BLM is evaluating its policy regarding the two species in Idaho.

“BLM spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto said her agency is working statewide with agencies and grazing permittees on regional separation response plans, but has no timeline for their completion. Biologists are using a 30-mile separation as a guide and will review grazing allotments within that distance first.”

The bigger question here regards what is happening elsewhere. Are the BLM and Forest Service reviewing their sheep grazing permits in other states? I should hope so because, in places like Nevada, where sheep grazing routinely occurs extremely close to, or within, occupied bighorn habitat, the risk of exposure is extremely high and underestimated by the agencies in favor of the “custom and culture” of the elite ranchers who often turn out to be big corporations like Barrick Gold or the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
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Montana Denied Permission to Hunt Gray Wolves

No Montana “conservation hunt” on wolves-

It looks like the USFWS saw through Montana’s notion of having a sport hunt on wolves under the guise of a “conservation hunt”. They said no.

Montana – Permission Denied to Hunt Gray Wolves. Associated Press in the New York Times

Longer version:

Federal officials deny Montana request to hold a ‘conservation hunt’ for endangered wolves.
Canadian Business Online

Even longer version:

Federal officials deny Montana wolf hunt request.
BusinessWeek

Posted in Montana wolves, wolf hunt, Wolves. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Montana Denied Permission to Hunt Gray Wolves

Montana FWP and Idaho Fish and Game submit wolf reduction proposals

Idaho and Montana have submitted proposals to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for approval to kill up to 186 wolves in Montana and up to 80% of the estimated 76 wolves in Idaho’s Lolo hunting zones.

Here is the IDFG proposal:

IDFG proposes an adaptive strategy to reduce the wolf population in the Lolo Zone. Wolves will be removed to manage for a minimum of 20 to 30 wolves in 3 to 5 packs. The level of removal will be dependent on pre-treatment wolf abundance. Using the minimum estimated number of 76 wolves in the Lolo Zone at the end of 2009 (Mack et al. 2010), a minimum of 40 to 50 wolves would be lethally removed during the first year. Removal during subsequent years would be lower, but variable, depending on wolf abundance. However, IDFG will maintain a minimum of 20 to 30 wolves annually in the Lolo Zone for a period of 5 years.

We’ve covered the Lolo wolf issue in detail over the last several years.
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State scrambling to revive wolf hunt

…..and GUT the Endangered Species Act.
The details of the overreach.

Wolf © Ken Cole

The States are asking their congressional delegations to GUT the Endangered Species Act by changing the language of the Act so that it would allow species to be delisted based on state boundaries. In other words, it would allow the USFWS to use arbitrary, political rationalizations to decide when and where species can receive protection or to incrementally list or delist populations using rationalizations that are not based on the “best available science”. The ramifications of this are pretty profound and conservation groups should take notice of this. As the comments of the Montana FWP commissioners shows, they are not talking just about wolves but about all species.

“Changing the Endangered Species Act sounds like a tough, uphill job, but it’s important when you look at other species like grizzlies and sage grouse,” said Commissioner Dan Vermillion. “Montana has done a good job managing wildlife and we need to make sure we are not penalized (because of other states’ actions).”

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Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal

IDFG claims wolves are having “unacceptable impacts” in the Lolo Zone

Now that the US Fish and Wildlife calls the shots again on wolves, the Idaho Fish and Game is proposing to kill all but 20-30 wolves in the Lolo Zone for a period of 5 years. Of course the current 10j rule was weakened so that the states didn’t have to prove that wolves were the major cause behind the inability of the ungulate population to reach their objectives, rather, they only have to show that wolves are a major cause. Because of this, the IDFG says that wolves are a major cause for the failure to meet objectives which conveniently allows them to ignore that the major cause is habitat, not just its reduced carrying capacity, but the changes which have made elk more vulnerable to predation.

It could be argued that given habitat succession, habitat potential may have declined more rapidly than elk abundance, and thus, habitat potential might be below the level necessary to sustain the elk population at objectives in the Lolo Zone. Given the rate of succession (USDA 1999), it is inconceivable that habitat potential might decline at such an aggressive rate.

The management objectives for the Lolo were set in 1999 but, given habitat changes, they are unrealistic and killing wolves will likely only have a very short term effect on elk populations here. The underlying issues of habitat are not really being addressed and possibly cannot be adequately addressed because they are out of our control.

The management objectives for elk in the Lolo Zone (GMUs 10 and 12) are to maintain an elk population consisting of 6,100 – 9,100 cow elk and 1,300 – 1,900 bull elk (Kuck 1999). Individual GMU objectives for the Lolo Zone are: 4,200 – 6,200 cow elk and 900 – 1,300 bull elk in GMU 10; and 1,900 – 2,900 cow elk and 400 – 600 bull elk in GMU 12 (Kuck 1999).

Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal.
Comment Deadline is August 30, 2010

I’ve written about this before numerous times:

A Whackadoodle Response to the Wolf Decision

N. Idaho outfitter reports 4 wolves killed

IDFG releases Video Summarizing Wolf Hunt

Heads up. Commission Meeting discussing this fall’s wolf hunt set for August 16.

Increased quotas, trapping, snaring, and electronic calls are being considered.

If you want your voice to be heard this is your opportunity. Don’t be intimidated and speak your mind.

F&G Commission To Meet In Idaho Falls In August

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet August 16 in Idaho Falls.

Commissioners will consider proposed seasons, harvest limits and methods of take on gray wolves. They also will consider proposed seasons on waterfowl and sage-grouse.

Routine agenda items also include falconry seasons and limits and Fish and Game’s fiscal 2012 budget.

F&G Commission To Meet In Idaho Falls In August.
IDFG Press Release

Update: It turns out that there is no public hearing at this meeting. Only written comments will be accepted and the public may sit in on the meeting.  To comment try: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/inc/contact.cfm

Montana FWP more than doubles wolf hunt quota for 2010

186 allowed to be taken in an attempt to reduce MT wolf population to between 411 and 488.

This has been in the news for a while but we didn’t report it here because we all have been traveling.

Montana wants to reduce the population of wolves to between 411 and 488. They have decided to allow hunters to kill up to 186 wolves of which 111 could be taken from northwest Montana, 34 in western Montana, and 34 in southwest Montana.

It’s still a very hot debate as was pointed out by the commissioners:

Commissioner Ron Moody of Lewistown described many of the comments as expressing a “narrow, culturally bigoted point of view which expresses an inflexible ideological” contempt for people with other viewpoints.

Montana FWP more than doubles wolf hunt quota for 2010.
By JENNIFER McKEE Missoulian State Bureau