Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nevada Rancher Has No Claim to Federal Land and Grazing

By Ralph Maughan and Ken Cole
Originally published on Wildlife News 4/15/2014

In the acrimonious case of Cliven Bundy, it is important that folks understand a bit about the history of the U.S. public lands.

Cliven Bundy, the rancher whose cattle were rounded up and then released by the BLM over the weekend, claims that his family has used the land in question since 1880 but the Nevada Constitution pre-dates this by 16 years. When Nevada became a state in 1864, its citizens gave up all claims to unappropriated federal land and codified this in the state’s Constitution. The Nevada Constitution states:

“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”
If Bundy “owns the land then where is the deed?  Where are the records he paid property taxes?

It’s not his land.

Bundy also claims that it his “right” to graze these BLM public lands.  This is not the case. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 specifically states that the issuance of a grazing permit does not confer any right to graze or right to own the land. The Taylor Grazing Act is the granddaddy of the U.S. laws governing grazing on federal land. “Taylor” was a rancher and a congressman from Colorado, hardly someone to want government tyranny over ranching.
So far as consistent with the purposes and provisions of this subchapter, grazing privileges recognized and acknowledged shall be adequately safeguarded, but the creation of a grazing district or the issuance of a permit pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter shall not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the lands.
In Public Lands Council v. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the new grazing regulations promulgated by the Department of Interior under former Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt to conform to Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and found:
The words “so far as consistent with the purposes . . . of this subchapter” and the warning that “issuance of a permit” creates no “right, title, interest or estate” make clear that the ranchers’ interest in permit stability cannot be absolute; and that the Secretary is free reasonably to determine just how, and the extent to which, “grazing privileges” shall be safeguarded, in light of the Act’s basic purposes. Of course, those purposes include “stabiliz[ing] the livestock industry,” but they also include “stop[ping] injury to the public grazing lands by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration,” and “provid[ing] for th[e] orderly use, improvement, and development” of the public range.
He has no “right” to graze it.

The federal courts have struck down every challenge Bundy has made about his claims, and has issued not one, but two, court orders to remove his trespass cattle. It’s not his land and he has no right to graze it.

The simple truth of the matter is that Bundy is a freeloading, welfare rancher who has an inflated sense of entitlement. It also appears that he and his supporters’ use of threats and intimidation likely violated several federal laws. Inasmuch as they used (such as pointed) weapons to cause the government back down, it can be considered an armed insurrection.

What about Bundy’s claim that his forebears bought the land he is now accused of trespass grazing upon?  This land was once Mexican land, and was won by the United States after the Mexican-American War. It is part of what is known as the “Mexican Cession.” All of Nevada, California, Arizona and most of New Mexico were part of the Cession. Much of this land was privatized under various grants and laws such as the Homestead Act and the Desert Lands Act, plus mining claims. Several million acres were granted to Nevada for state lands, but those lands that were not privatized have always been Mexican lands or United States lands owned by the U.S. government.

Before the Taylor Grazing Act, these government lands were called “the public domain.” They could be privatized, as mentioned, under the Homestead Act and such, but the acreage allowed per homesteader was limited to 160 acres. There were no 158,000 acre homestead privatizations and certainly no 750,000 acre privatizations. Livestock owners ran their livestock freely without a permit on the public domain. They didn’t even need a home base of property (a ranch). The result was disaster because the operator to find green grass and eat it first won out, promoting very bad grazing practices. That was the reason for Taylor Grazing Act — ranchers and others could see the public domain system led to disaster on the ground. Therefore, the more powerful ranchers with “base” private property received grazing permits. This got rid of the landless livestock operators.

Taylor Grazing was administered on the ground by the U.S. Grazing Service. Now, ranchers with grazing permits had to pay a grazing fee to use their permits. Bundy’s ancestors probably got one of these grazing permits, but they most certainly did not buy the land. That was not possible. The public domain was not for sale and ranchers generally did not want it. After all, if they owned it, they would owe local property tax.

In 1948 the Bureau of Land Management was created by executive order of President Truman to replace the Grazing Service. The Service had been defunded in a dispute between the House and the U.S. Senate. The BLM has since been affirmed by law rather than a mere executive order. It is supposed to manage the public lands for multiple uses and for sustained production (“yield”) of renewable resources such as grass. As before, you need a grazing permit for cattle, sheep, goats, or horses to legally graze. It is a privilege, not a right, and this has been firmly stated by the U.S. courts.

Hopefully, this explains why Bundy’s assertions are wrong. It is too bad that few citizens are taught public land law or history in high school or college. We think it is vital for everyone to know these things because these are in a real sense your lands, held in trust by the government. Yes we know the government often does a poor job. They did in Bundy’s case by letting this go for 20 years. He should have been gone before the year 2000.
End of story.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014

On June 28-29 2014, Americans of all-walks-of-life will meet in Arch Park in Gardiner, Montana to tell our elected leaders that we need to reform wildlife management, at both, the state and federal level. Approximately 3000 grey wolves have been killed in the northern Rockies and Great Lakes region since they were delisted from the Endangered Species Act. 

Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014 is about taking an important step towards stopping the wolf slaughter that is currently taking place across the United States. We must take bold measures, however, and address the root-cause(s) of the wolf slaughter, the killing of other predators, as well as bison, wild horses and other members of the animal kingdom. The status quo for wildlife management in America is broken and it must be fixed.

Read more here  . . . 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Rewilding Institute Comments on Gray Wolf Delisting and Peer Review

TRI Comments on Gray Wolf Delisting and Peer Review
Originally published March 25, 2014 - The Rewildlige Institute

Attn: FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0073
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203
The Rewilding Institute (TRI) appreciates the opportunity to comment on: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Maintaining Protections for the Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) by Listing It as Endangered and the peer review of that document.
ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of availability and reopening of comment period.
These comments have been prepared by TRI’s Carnivore Conservation Biologist, David R. Parsons. Mr. Parsons served as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) first Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator from 1990-1999 and was the primary author of the original rule that established a Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Gray Wolf in Arizona and New Mexico. Mr. Parsons has continued to follow the progress of the Mexican wolf recovery program from his retirement from FWS in 1999 to the present day. Mr. Parsons holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Biology, served as a career wildlife biologist for FWS for 24 years, and has lectured nationally and internationally on wolf biology, ecology, and conservation.
We remain concerned about ongoing and potential further delays by the FWS in advancing the conservation and recovery of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).  The FWS has acknowledged that at even the currently authorized population objective of 100 wolves in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA), Mexican wolves will remain in danger of extinction.  At a most recent population estimate of only 83 wolves with deleterious levels of inbreeding, Mexican wolves need aggressive recovery actions immediately.
Currently, the proposal to list Canis lupus baileyi as an endangered subspecies is an integral part of the proposal to remove all other presently listed gray wolves (Canis lupus) within the United States from the list of endangered species, and thusly end their protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
A FWS-initiated peer review has concluded that the science that the FWS relied upon to support their proposal to delist gray wolves is not the best available science.  This makes the proposed delisting of gray wolves in violation of the ESA mandate that decisions made pursuant to the ESA be based on the best available science.
Given that FWS has reissued for a second public review the exact same proposal found by the peer reviewers to be scientifically deficient, it is not clear if FWS plans to make any substantive changes to the proposed delisting rule before issuing the final rule.  We are assuming here that FWS will either (1) issue the final delisting rule without substantively addressing the scientific deficiencies found by the peer reviewers, or (2) further delay the release of a final rule to allow FWS biologists time to address the scientific deficiencies found by the peer reviewers.  Either scenario will have adverse consequences for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf as we explain below.
We note, however, that the peer reviewers and the FWS are in agreement that Canis lupus baileyi is a unique and taxonomically distinct subspecies of Canis lupus deserving of separate protection and recovery actions under the ESA.  And in fact, FWS has proposed the separate listing of the Mexican wolf within this proposed rule.  The only disagreement between the peer reviewers and the FWS is over the probable historic range of the Mexican wolf.  This disagreement is essentially rendered moot by language in the proposed list rule declaring Mexican wolves to be endangered “where found.”
Disagreement over the extent of the Mexican wolf’s historic range is best addressed by the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team using the best available science and settled in a final Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, not in this proposed rule.  The work of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Team, suspended since November 2011, needs to be resumed immediately.  While not procedurally necessary, it appears that FWS is waiting for the promulgation of the final rule placing Mexican wolves on the endangered species list before resuming work of the recovery team.
History has shown that proposals by the FWS to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list have always been litigated, often delaying or even reversing actions proposed by the FWS.  And history has shown that the FWS tends to suspend legitimate recovery actions for Mexican wolves in the face of litigation over proposals related to other gray wolves.
Furthermore, there is no scientific disagreement over the FWS’s proposal to list Canis lupus baileyi as an endangered subspecies of the gray wolf.  And Mexican wolves are in critical need of recovery actions that are hampered by current regulations and the lack of a current recovery plan based on the best available science (see comments submitted by TRI on the draft proposed rule for Mexican wolves dated 10/24/2013 and incorporated in their entirety here as Appendix A of these comments).
Therefore, to enhance the likelihood of survival and recovery of Mexican wolves, it follows that FWS must decouple the proposal to list Canis lupus baileyi from the proposal to delist gray wolves elsewhere.  No legitimate purpose is served by continuing link these two distinct actions into one combined process that is destined to be litigated solely over the gray wolf delisting part of the proposal.
As for the proposal to delist Canis lupus, TRI recommends that the FWS honor the independent peer review process and base its final decision on the best available science.
As for the proposal to list Canis lupus baileyi TRI recommends that FWS issue an expedited final rule completing this action separate from the gray wolf delisting proposal.  And we further recommend that the existing Mexican Wolf Recovery Team be reactivated immediately with a goal of completing a science-based recovery plan as soon as possible.
As always, The Rewilding Institute appreciates this opportunity to comment on these proposals.
David R. Parsons
Carnivore Conservation Biologist
- Read more . . .  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yellowstone Supervolcano is Active, but Not Likely to Erupt in Near Future

Scientists have revealed that supervolcano in the Yellowstone National Park in the United States is active even though it is not going to erupt anytime soon. The volcano is known as the Yellowstone Caldera and it has not erupted in the last 70,000 years.

Scientists believe that the volcano erupts about every 700,000 years, thus it does not pose any threat of eruption in near future.

But scientists have been continuously monitoring the volcano so as to better understand its behavior just in case something was to happen.

The volcano is so big that if it ever explodes, the ash coming out of it will cover most of the United States. The volcano has not erupted yet, but it is active. Yellowstone's famous geysers, boiling rivers, and mud pits are created by it. There is immense heat below that ground and due to its rise, constant changes are caused throughout the entire park.

Geologist Henry Heasler said hydro-thermal system could be explained by the warmth from the volcano. The heat rises to the surface where the magma chamber is located at a reasonably shallow depth.

Many people have become worried unnecessarily because of the changes caused by the superficial depth. Yellowstone has witnessed its ground rising and falling in places. A large area of the park has gone up almost 1.5 inches and shifted half an inch of the ground to the south in the past few decades.

A Yellowstone volcano - operated by the United States Geological Survey - has said that there is no need to worry as it is totally normal.

"Yellowstone is the most recent system along the hot spot. There are older volcanic systems that march their way up the plains, and as they got older and older, all of those systems eventually cooled", said Lowenstern, the lead scientist at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. He added that Yellowstone will be a good place to grow potatoes one day.

Submitted by Martha Pule on Wed, 03/26/2014 - 11:59

Originally published on News Tonight Africa

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wolves and the Ecology of Fear

Video Story by  for  on Mar 06, 2014

Does “the big bad wolf” play an important role in the modern-day food web? In this video we journey to Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, where the return of wolves could have a profound impact on a vast wilderness area. We meet up with biologist Aaron Wirsing to explore why wolves and other top predators are needed for diverse ecosystems to flourish. Using a simple video camera (a “deer-cam”) Wirsing is gaining a unique perspective on predator/prey relationships and changing the way we think about wolves.

Wolves in the Crosshairs:  Q&A with conservationist, Fred Koontz

Fred Koontz
Dr. Fred Koontz
Gray wolves are in the crosshairs of a heated conservation debate, with the federal government trying to strip all protections for them in the continental U.S. Dr. Fred Koontz, vice president of field conservation at Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, has worked in conservation for three decades and has studied the wolf issue. We talked with Dr. Koontz about the future of wolves in the U.S. and the role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Wolves may be the most polarizing animal in North America, more so than other large carnivores like cougars or grizzly bears. Why?The gray wolf is one of the world's most adaptable and widely distributed mammals, ranging over much of Asia, Europe, and North America. Wolves, the size of a German shepherd, are pack-hunting predators that sometimes kill livestock. Combined with wolves’ nocturnal behavior and haunting howling, this has resulted in a long history of conflict with people, especially as human numbers have increased exponentially in recent centuries and agricultural lands expanded into wolf habitat. There are, however, very few documented cases of wolves attacking people, but the rare times it’s happened it’s been sensationalized and blown out of proportion.
How have your perceptions or understanding of wolves changed over the years?At an early age, my mother read with much theatrical expression “Little Red Riding Hood,” which, like many children, left me fearing the “big bad wolf.” This negative image was reinforced with similar wolf-themed horror movies that I ashamedly spent far too much time watching in my youth. Only when I studied ecology and animal behavior in college and as a wildlife professional did I see a different image of the wolf. Wolves are important regulators of prey numbers and behavior, and as such, influence a web of ecological interactions that enrich biological diversity. I learned also that among many adaptive traits enabling their evolutionary success, wolves have a rich social life and extraordinary set of communication behaviors. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became in understanding how wolves and people might live together for their mutual benefit.
Gray wolves have been taken off the federal endangered species list in some states, such as Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. And a recent federal proposal would strip all gray wolves in the continental U.S. of their federal protection. How did this come to be? What kind of politics are at play?
Gray wolves can come in an assortment of colors, such as these all-white wolves. Photo courtesy of Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1974 first listed gray wolves as endangered in the lower 48 states. Now they propose to remove them from the ESA list. This idea follows from three decades of actions undertaken by federal, state, and local partners that resulted in population recovery and delisting in 2011 of wolves living in the western Great Lakes states and northern Rockies. With about 6,000 wolves residing in these two recovery areas, USFWS believes that the gray wolf population in general is well established and stable enough to warrant delisting. Many state wildlife officials welcome the move as they are eager to take back the management authority for animals within their political borders.
However, many conservation scientists and wolf advocates believe that more time on the endangered species list — and [under] federal protection — would allow wolves a greater opportunity to reclaim more of their former territory and grow the number of their populations. This is important because, despite wolf recovery success in the Great Lakes states and Rocky Mountains, there is still a lot of their former range not yet occupied. Expanded range and more populations, in turn, will provide greater species resiliency to unexpected environmental disruptions like climate change and emerging diseases and also improve long-term wolf survival in the U.S.
An independent review panel recently found that the federal government used uncertain science when it proposed removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list across the lower 48 states. What could that mean for the future of wolves?
This is important because under Endangered Species Act law the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is obligated to use the best available science. The Service claimed that new genetic research indicated that wolves living in the eastern U.S. were actually a different species, and thus should not be considered as part of the original listing or part of the historic range. The expert panel said the genetic research was uncertain and based largely on one paper. The panel’s report has reopened the debate about delisting gray wolves, and I suspect it will extend the time wolves remain listed. The final decision on delisting is yet to be determined — public comment is encouraged. [Note: deadline is March 27, 2014]
In the long run, the debate about delisting wolves invites larger questions like, what constitutes full recovery of any endangered species, and does the legal framework of the ESA reflect current conservation science and principles of sustainable living? Most importantly, there needs to be agreement at the onset about the ultimate purpose of recovery — is it simply species survival or restoring ecological function? There are no easy answers.
Mule Deer Lauren Sobkoviak
Mule Deer photo courtesy of Lauren Sobkoviak.
Is it possible for wolves and humans to coexist? What needs to change for that to happen?
I think that wolves and humans ultimately will coexist by sharing land in two key places — protected areas and rural areas managed for the benefit of people and wildlife, for example, park buffer lands, multiple-use public lands, and designated wildlife corridors. For the reconciliation between wolves and humans to prove fully successful, we will first need a broader understanding of the role that apex predators play in creating healthy ecosystems and why healthy ecosystems are needed by people. In other words, there must be a broader understanding of why saving wolves is essential to sustainable living. Greater public will to save wolves will result in increased public spending needed to conduct science and carry out sound management actions. For example, we need more research on improving ranching practices to minimize wolf predation of livestock, and insurance programs that compensate ranchers for unavoidable losses. There is already good evidence from pilot efforts that such research and management programs are possible — and that they work!
Why should people care about the fate of wolves?
The fate of wolves is tied directly to the greatest challenge facing humankind this century —  sustainable living! With more than seven billion people consuming resources at an accelerating pace, this generation of world citizens must transform our societies to sustainable ones. We must, among other things, protect a wide variety of animal and plant species — scientists call this “biodiversity.” Many conservation scientists believe that apex predators (animals at the top of the food chain), like wolves, are necessary to maintain habitats rich in life. In turn, high levels of biodiversity bring many direct benefits to people — everything from providing food and fiber to protecting water supplies and enriching recreation.
Scientist 1
Biologist Aaron Wirsing for the University of Washington (right) and graduate student Justin Dellinger (left) radio collar deer with video cameras in order to better understand predator-prey dynamics. Photo courtesy of Greg Davis.
Understanding the links between apex predators and biodiversity is a growing area of research for scientists like Aaron Wirsing of the University of Washington. Since 2008, wolves have been returning to Washington and have reestablished populations in the U.S. northern Rockies. This has provided a unique research opportunity for Wirsing and other scientists. For example, deer populations in Washington have likely over-browsed plants for decades in the absence of gray wolves. One consequence of deer eating trees along streambeds is less habitat for birds, and streams that are more likely to harbor fewer cold-water fish like trout because they are filled with sediments from soil erosion and overheated because of lack of shade. With wolves back in the state, Wirsing is leading a study to document how wolves are changing mule and white-tail deer populations, which in turn affects forest landscapes.
Why do you care about wolves?
I care about wolves because as apex predators they contribute significantly to enriching biodiversity needed by people for sustainable living. I also care about wolves because I admire them! Wolves are amazing for many reasons, but I am especially fascinated by their complex social behavior and adaptable lifestyles, two traits that they share with humans. Also, one of the most important reasons I care is that wild wolves in the U.S. are a symbolic way of keeping our American heritage of wilderness alive.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The NRDC's Non-Lethal Methods to Prevent Conflicts Between Predators and Livestock

Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program kills thousands of predators as a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the livestock industry, using controversial and inhumane methods such as poisons and aerial gunning. Wildlife Services largely ignores the many non-lethal ways to prevent conflicts between predators and livestock. In fact, a small, but growing number of ranchers are turning away from Wildlife Services’ “sledgehammer” approach and emphasizing non-lethal conflict-prevention techniques because they recognize that predators are an integral part of the landscapes where they ranch.

Wildlife Services needs to end the use of inhumane, hazardous, and environmentally harmful poisons—specifically, Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide—to kill predators. Instead, the agency should employ non-lethal conflict prevention methods. Specifically, Wildlife Services, and the private parties it assists, should be required to use, or attempt to use, nonlethal deterrence methods before resorting to lethal control. 

Natural Resources Defense Council

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The killing agency: The USDA's Wildlife Services' brutal methods leave a trail of animal death

By Tom Knudson

Sacramento Bee sacbee.com

Published: Sunday, Apr. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 20, 2012 - 1:11 pm

The day began with a drive across the desert, checking the snares he had placed in the sagebrush to catch coyotes.
Gary Strader, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, stepped out of his truck near a ravine in Nevada and found something he hadn't intended to kill.
There, strangled in a neck snare, was one of the most majestic birds in America, a federally protected golden eagle.
"I called my supervisor and said, 'I just caught a golden eagle and it's dead,' " said Strader. "He said, 'Did anybody see it?' I said, 'Geez, I don't think so.'

"He said, 'If you think nobody saw it, go get a shovel and bury it and don't say nothing to anybody.' "
"That bothered me," said Strader, whose job was terminated in 2009. "It wasn't right."
Strader's employer, a branch of the federal Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services, has long specialized in killing animals that are deemed a threat to agriculture, the public and – more recently – the environment.
Since 2000, its employees have killed nearly a million coyotes, mostly in the West. They have destroyed millions of birds, from nonnative starlings to migratory shorebirds, along with a colorful menagerie of more than 300 other species, including black bears, beavers, porcupines, river otters, mountain lions and wolves.
And in most cases, they have officially revealed little or no detail about where the creatures were killed, or why. But a Bee investigation has found the agency's practices to be indiscriminate, at odds with science, inhumane and sometimes illegal.
The Bee's findings include:
• With steel traps, wire snares and poison, agency employees have accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; and several species considered rare or imperiled by wildlife biologists.
• Since 1987, at least 18 employees and several members of the public have been exposed to cyanide when they triggered spring-loaded cartridges laced with poison meant to kill coyotes. They survived – but 10 people have died and many others have been injured in crashes during agency aerial gunning operations since 1979.
• A growing body of science has found the agency's war against predators, waged to protect livestock and big game, is altering ecosystems in ways that diminish biodiversity, degrade habitat and invite disease.
Sometimes wild animals must be destroyed – from bears that ransack mountain cabins to geese swirling over an airport runway. But because lethal control stirs strong emotions, Wildlife Services prefers to operate in the shadows.
"We pride ourselves on our ability to go in and get the job done quietly without many people knowing about it," said Dennis Orthmeyer, acting state director of Wildlife Services in California.
Basic facts are tightly guarded. "This information is Not intended for indiscriminate distribution!!!" wrote one Wildlife Services manager in an email to a municipal worker in Elk Grove about the number of beavers killed there.
And while even the military allows the media into the field, Wildlife Services does not. "If we accommodated your request, we would have to accommodate all requests," wrote Mark Jensen,director of Wildlife Services in Nevada, turning down a request by The Bee to observe its hunters and trappers in action.
"The public has every right to scrutinize what's going on," said Carter Niemeyer, a former Wildlife Services district manager who worked for the agency for 26 years and now believes much of the bloodletting is excessive, scientifically unsound and a waste of tax dollars.
"If you read the brochures, go on their website, they play down the lethal control, which they are heavily involved in, and show you this benign side," Niemeyer said. "It's smoke and mirrors. It's a killing business. And it ain't pretty.
"If the public knows this and they don't care, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it," Niemeyer said. "But they are entitled to know."
Agency officials say the criticism is misleading. "If we can use nonlethal control first, we usually do it," said William Clay, deputy administrator of Wildlife Services. "The problem is, generally when we get a call, it's because farmers and ranchers are having livestock killed immediately. They are being killed daily. Our first response is to try to stop the killing and then implement nonlethal methods."
In March, two congressmen – Reps. John Campbell, R-Irvine, and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. – introduced a bill that would ban one of Wildlife Services' most controversial killing tools: spring-loaded sodium cyanide cartridges that have killed tens of thousands of animals in recent years, along with Compound 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate), a less-commonly used poison.
"This is an ineffective, wasteful program that is largely unaccountable, lacks transparency and continues to rely on cruel and indiscriminate methods," said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, a Bay Area nonprofit.
"If people knew how many animals are being killed at taxpayer expense – often on public lands – they would be shocked and horrified," Fox said.

Read more . . .

Friday, March 7, 2014

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

By Boone and Crockett Club

Natural resources, including wildlife represent the health and wealth of a country and its people. We are fortunate in North America to have a proven system that not only recognizes these values, but also provides for and directs the proper use and management of these resources.
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is anchored by a Supreme Court decision that decreed that wildlife belongs to the people, and not government, corporations or individuals. It further directs how this natural resource is to be used and managed under sustainable guidelines for the betterment of wildlife and people. It is the reason why we still have abundant, wildlife populations in the U.S. and Canada and the opportunity to freely hunt, fish or enjoy this wildlife each in our own way.
The Model is guided by seven principles. It developed over time out of necessity to reverse the negative effects from the unregulated over harvesting of many species of wildlife and early attitudes that these resources where there for the taking and inexhaustible. Sportsmen and women, led by the efforts of the Boone and Crockett Club and its members helped to either establish, popularize, mobilize support for, and/or defend each of these guiding principles over the past 125 years. The results are unprecedented in the history of mankind.
In the Public Trust – Wildlife belongs to the people and managed in trust for the people by government agencies.
Who owns wildlife was determined by a Supreme Court decision at the time the New World was flexing its new independence from European rule. The Public Trust Doctrine is the pillar of North American conservation, but it took time for citizens to fully understand the responsibilities that came with this ownership.
Many of the Boone and Crockett Club’s early efforts were focused on awakening the people to the plight of their wildlife resources, and that these resources did indeed belong to them, and were in their care. These efforts were in concert with the conservation laws the Club and its members were proposing to aid in the recovery and protection of wildlife. Once the public realized it was their wildlife being irresponsibly eliminated their outcry was so great that conservation legislation passed with ease.
Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife – It will be illegal to sell the meat of any wild animal in North America.
The harvesting wildlife for commercial markets contributed greatly to the extinction of some species of wildlife, and the near extinction of others. With the Boone and Crockett Club rallying the public and political support needed, Club member Senator John F. Lacey of Iowa was able to present and pass the Lacey Acts of 1900 & 1907, which prohibited a commercial value to wild game meat, spelling the end of market hunting, allowing our wildlife to recover and flourish.
Allocation of Wildlife is by Law – Laws developed by the people and enforced by government agencies will regulate the proper use of wildlife resources.
The mere presence of man on the landscape can negatively affect wildlife and the habitats that support them. The rule of law instead of the rule of chance will be used to govern the appropriate use of these wildlife resources.
The Boone and Crockett Club proposed laws and rallied public support for these new rules of order. The Club helped establish government agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife and National Forest Services that were needed to oversee the proper execution and enforcement of these laws. The Club’s Fair Chase statement also became the cornerstone for game laws established by the states.
Opportunity for All – Every citizen has the freedom to hunt and fish.
Public access to wildlife, regardless of social or economic status, including hunting, fishing, and trapping is a right of citizenship. This access fosters individual stewardship and provides the funding necessary to properly manage wildlife resources in a sustainable manner.
Boone and Crockett Club founder, Theodore Roosevelt believed strongly in wise-use conservation and fought aggressively against preservationist, or non-use proposals. The Club also believed that those who use the resource should pay for its care and maintenance. The Club lobbied for the laws and institutions that provided this funding, including a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition and the federal Duck Stamp program. Sportsmen ands women subsequently stepped forward and gladly accepted their role in funding conservation
Non-frivolous Use – In North America we can legally kill certain wildlife for legitimate purposes under strict guidelines for food and fur, in self-defense, or property protection. Laws are in place to restrict casual killing, killing for commercial purposes, wasting of game, and mistreating wildlife.
The rules of proper use, both in written law and personal ethics, did not exist in commercial market and sustenance hunting cultures. As these activities faded, what remained was recreational, sport hunting. What separated a true sportsman from market gunners was an ethical code of personal conduct that was defined and promoted by the Boone and Crockett Club. These same tenets of Fair Chase were used as the cornerstone of modern-day game laws. Club member, Aldo Leopold is credited with framing the concept of a land ethic and managing entire biotic communities. Combined, the foundations for the proper use of The intricate nature of ecosystems and biotic communities, of which all wildlife and man belong, will be managed under the knowledge of science rather than opinion, or conjecture.
wildlife and the habitats that support them was put in place to support conservation, defined by Club member, George Bird Grinnell as,” wise use without waste.”
International Resources – Because wildlife and fish freely migrate across boundaries between states, provinces, and countries they are considered an international resource.
The proper management of certain species of migrating wildlife is to be managed by international treaties and laws.
Sportsmen where among the first to recognize the need for international treaties and laws to save what was left of decimated waterfowl populations.  Wildfowl that nested in Alaska, Canada and the Lower 48 States, and then migrated as far south as Mexico, could only be saved if restrictions to the loss of their wetland nesting habitats and hunting reached across international boundaries.  The Boone and Crockett Club responded with the establishment of the National Wildlife Refuge system (1903) and the passage of the Migratory Bird Act of 1913 & 1917, the Reclamation Act of 1902, and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 all contributed to the recovery and future prosperity of migratory species.
Managed by Science – The best science available will be used as a base for informed decision making in wildlife management.
The intricate nature of ecosystems and biotic communities, of which all wildlife and man belong, will be managed under the knowledge of science rather than opinion, or conjecture.
Boone and Crockett Club founder, Theodore Roosevelt was a strong advocate of science, and that only the best science available was to be used to make critical decisions on natural resource management. The Club began by providing seed money for some of the first wildlife research projects. Under the leadership of member, Aldo Leopold the Club began formulating flexible scientific management policies for wildlife and natural resources to achieve an ecological balance. The Club also called for the first President’s Conference on Outdoor Recreation, which lead to the establishment of the National Recreation Policy, which coordinated resource management at federal, state, and local levels.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

EXPOSED - USDA's Secret War on Wildlife

By Darryl Fears, Published: December 15
Washington Post

They say U.S. critter assassins work in secret, quietly laying traps, lacing food with poison, sniping at targets from helicopters. Few people know exactly how the hits go down; the methods are largely hidden.

What’s certain is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s little-known Wildlife Services program kills up to 3 million animals a year, mostly those deemed a nuisance but also some that agents kill by mistake, including endangered species.

Now, in a turnabout, the hunter is the target. A petition seeks to reduce the power of Wildlife Services and shine a light on its practices, claiming its agents have “gone rogue,” overstepping the mission to protect the public by killing indiscriminately.

There’s no dispute that Wildlife Services plays a valuable role by eliminating invasive animals such as nutria and starlings that are a menace. But critics have questions: How many is too many? Does the agency euthanize wildlife too often on behalf of farmers and ranchers without regard to ecosystems?

The petition filed in December of 2013 by the Center for Biological Diversity isn’t the first time that animal rights activists have squared off against Wildlife Services, but this time their coalition includes politicians who agree that the agency is too secret and too deadly. Even some federal workers frown on it; staff members at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly dismiss Wildlife Services agents as “gopher chokers.”

“Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and obstinate departments I’ve dealt with,” said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.). “We’re really not sure what they’re doing. I’ve asked the agency to give me breakdowns on what lethal methods they’re using. They can’t or won’t do that. We’ve asked them to tell us what goes into their poisons. They won’t say.”

DeFazio and several colleagues requested a congressional hearing on the agency’s practices without success, so they pushed the USDA inspector general to conduct an audit, which was announced this month.

“The WS program is inefficient, inhumane and in need of a review,” the lawmakers wrote in a September letter to Inspector General Phyllis Fong. They said that the frequent killings of top predators, such as wolves, bears and coyotes, benefit “a small proportion of the nation’s private agriculture” and other interests.

Wildlife Services said in response that it has nothing to hide. Answering questions by e-mail, a spokeswoman said that the bulk of its work is to protect humans.

“For example, we work with the aviation community to protect the public by reducing wildlife hazards at more than 800 airports around the country,” spokeswoman Lyndsay Cole said. “Wildlife Services’ efforts to protect threatened and endangered species are conducted in more than 34 states. Wildlife Services also operates the National Rabies Management Program, which distributes oral vaccines in 16 states.”

Read more . . . 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hunters are conservationists? Maybe many years ago . . . not today.

By Georger Wuerthner - The Wildlife News - March 5, 2014

Many hunter organizations like to promote the idea that hunters were the first and most important conservation advocates. They rest on their laurels of early hunter/wildlife activist like Teddy Roosevelt, and George Bird Grinnell who, among other things, were founding members of the Boone and Crocket Club. But in addition to being hunter advocates, these men were also staunch proponents of national parks and other areas off limits to hunting. Teddy Roosevelt help to establish the first wildlife refuges to protect birds from feather hunters, and he was instrumental in the creation of numerous national parks including the Grand Canyon.  Grinnell was equally active in promoting the creation of national parks like Glacier as well as a staunch advocate for protection of wildlife in places like Yellowstone. Other later hunter/wildlands advocates like Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie helped to promote wilderness designation and a land ethic as well as a more enlightened attitude about predators.

Unfortunately, though there are definitely still hunters and anglers who put conservation and wildlands protection ahead of their own recreational pursuits, far more of the hunter/angler community is increasingly hostile to wildlife protection and wildlands advocacy.  Perhaps the majority of hunters were always this way, but at least the philosophical leaders in the past were well known advocates of wildlands and wildlife.

Should the Wolf continue to be protected?

Published February 9, 2014 08:03 AM

The ongoing battle over a proposal to lift U.S. government protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) across the lower 48 states isn’t likely to end quickly. An independent, peer-review panel yesterday gave a thumbs-down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS's) plan to de-list the wolf. Although not required to reach a consensus, the four researchers on the panel were unanimous in their opinion that the proposal "does not currently represent the 'best available science'"

"It's stunning to see a pronouncement like this--that the proposal is not scientifically sound," says Michael Nelson, an ecologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who was not one of the reviewers. Many commentators regard it as a major set-back for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which stumbled last year in a previous attempt to get the science behind its proposal reviewed.
The USFWS first released its plan for removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list in June 2013. The plan also called for adding the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies that inhabits the southwest, to the protected list. At the time, there were approximately 6,000 wolves in some Western and upper Midwestern States; federal protections were removed from the gray wolf in six of those states in 2011. More than one million people have commented on the plan. But regulations also require that the agency invite researchers outside of the agency to assess the proposal's scientific merit.
At its core, the USFWS proposal relies on a monograph written by its own scientists. They asserted that a different (and controversial) species, the eastern wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and not the gray wolf, had inhabited the Midwest and Northeast. If correct, then the agency would not need to restore the gray wolf population in 22 eastern states, where gray wolves are no longer found.
But the four reviewers, which included specialists on wolf genetics, disagreed with the USFWS's idea of a separate eastern wolf, stating that the notion "was not universally accepted and that the issue was 'not settled'"—an opinion shared by other researchers.  "The designation of an 'eastern wolf' is not well-supported," says Carlos Carroll, a conservation biologist at the Klamath Center for Conservation Research in Orleans, California, who was not a member of the review panel.