Study: To Mitigate Problem Predators, Give Wolves More Space, Tolerance

http://klcc.org/post/study-mitigate-problem-predators-give-wolves-more-space-tolerance

MAY 23, 2017

Wolves mostly make the news when they are in conflict with livestock and that’s part of the reason they were once removed from the Western landscape. But a new study shows wolves play an important role, whether we like it or not.

It’s not just wolves that prey on livestock.

“Worldwide, smaller meso-predators like coyotes, jackals and such, actually themselves prey pretty heavily on livestock and can cause a lot of economic damage,” Aaron Wirsing of the University of Washington said.

Wirsing co-authored a new study in the journal Nature Communications. He said current land management policies don’t offer apex predators enough space, but that doesn’t mean he wants to see wolves roaming rampant across North America.

“We need to allow predators to occupy more landscapes than just remote, protected areas,” Wirsing said. “On the other hand, we also need to heavily manage them, recognizing that they do conflict with people.”

That conflict made headlines last summer, when members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack killed four calves in Northeastern Washington. In response, Washington’s Department of Fish decided to shoot members of that pack from a helicopter.

“Historically, our model has been almost a postage stamp model where we protect certain areas and try to maintain intact assemblages of animals,” Wirsing said. “But we have a problem of scale.”

So, for example, areas protected for wildlife and public use might seem large from a human perspective, but what humans ay not consider is wolves can range up to 1,000 miles.

And it’s not only in the forest. Wirsing said wolves also roam the sage brush landscape in the central Northwest.

The study made use of bounty hunting data to show ecosystems function similarly in both Europe and Australia as well.

Copyright 2017 NWNews. To see more, visit NWNews.

Denmark gets its first wild wolf pack in 200 years

Arrival of a female wolf, that trekked 500km from Germany, means the pack could have cubs by spring

Three wolves in snow
Wolves are returning to well-peopled landscapes after centuries of persecution. Photograph: Fred van Wijk/Alamy Stock Photo

A wolf pack is roaming wild in Denmark for the first time in more than 200 years after a young female wolf journeyed 500km from Germany.

Male wolves have been seen in Denmark since 2012 and the new female could produce cubs this spring in farmland in west Jutland after two wolves were filmed together last autumn.

It is further evidence that the wolf is returning to well-peopled landscapes after centuries of persecution, with wolf packs also re-establishing themselves in France and Germany and individuals sighted in Holland and even Luxembourg. Before the new population, Denmark’s last wolf was killed in 1813.

“We expect that they will have cubs this year or the next,” said Peter Sunde, a senior researcher at Aarhus University.

“People were very surprised when wolves first appeared in Denmark but they are highly mobile and are just as adaptable to cultural landscapes as foxes are. The only problem historically is that we killed them.”

DNA from two faeces samples have confirmed that the female wolf came from a pack 25km south of Berlin in Germany before travelling to north-west Denmark, probably leaving her family group last spring to do so.

There is sometimes speculation that wolves are deliberately released into the countryside by unofficial rewilders but according to Guillaume Chapron, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, this female’s trek north was entirely natural. “The wolf went on its four legs, it makes complete biological sense,” he said. Wolves can walk 50km in 24 hours and have been recorded making journeys of more than 1,000km across Europe from Germany, where they re-established themselves in 1998. Germany’s wolf population is currently growing at 25-30% each year, with the young dispersing across central Europe.

Researchers have found wolves in some cases living in suburban areasalongside up to 3,050 people per square kilometre – higher than the population density of Cambridge or Newcastle.

“The wolf is a predator to the roe deer – if you can have roe deer, you can have wolves,” said Chapron. “As long as we don’t disturb them, they will be fine in these human-dominated landscapes. In Denmark there’s no reason wolves can’t thrive. But the question has to be asked, are people going to accept the wolves? The wolf will need to eat something. When they realise that Danish sheep don’t taste too bad that may be a little problematic. It will be interesting to see how far we can coexist with big predators.”

Denmark’s wolves have settled in a well-farmed area of heathland and small pine plantations with plentiful prey in the form of burgeoning populations of red and roe deer.

There have been reports of wolves killing several sheep in the area over winter but the Danish government has already established a wolf management plan with compensation for farmers and funding so livestock farmers can erect wolf-proof fencing. The management plan, drawn up in consultation with game hunters as well as farmers and conservationists, allows for wolves that become “habituated” and live too close to humans to be controlled.

“There is a tradition in Denmark of reaching compromises and reaching solutions,” added Sunde, who said he was optimistic that Danes could coexist peacefully with wolves. “Technically, we can relatively easily manage the wolf population but the challenge is the psychology of humans. There are so many feelings and opinions about wolves in Denmark, as everywhere. The wolf debate is very much value-driven rather than related to concrete problems.”

There are more than 12,000 wolves in continental Europe (excluding Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) and the wolf is a protected species under the EU’s habitats directive. According to Chapron, southern European countries have often been better at accepting new wolf populations than northern Europe. Several countries with relatively small wolf populations including Finland and Norway still pursue controversial annual culls of the animals.

Chapron said he would not like to predict how many wolves could live wild in Denmark. “Let the wolf decide and let people decide as well because we are sharing the landscape. It’s very positive news for nature conservation. It shows that attitudes have changed and when we let nature take care of itself, nature comes back.

“Forget Little Red Riding Hood – it’s not a myth that is back, it’s just a natural part of the European fauna.”

Wolves can be shot on sight in most of Wyoming after state takes over management

Wyoming assumed management once again of wolves within its borders on Tuesday, and those apex predators wandering outside the northwest corner of the state can be shot on sight.

The Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., entered its final order in favor of Wyoming in a lawsuit that landed wolves back on the endangered species list in 2014. The court announced in early March that it had upheld the state’s plan but had not issued its final order.

Tuesday’s decision is what Wyoming wolf managers hope is the last legal battle in a roller-coaster legal process.

“All indications are that this decision shows once again that Wyoming’s plan is a sound management plan,” said Brian Nesvik, chief of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s wildlife division. “They will remain in the hands of state management. For Wyoming this is, again, this is a time for us to celebrate. This is a good thing for Wyoming to be able to take on another wildlife resource.”

No changes were made to Wyoming’s wolf management plan from when the state oversaw the carnivores between 2012 and 2014, Nesvik said.

That means Wyoming will manage the 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation.

Wolves in 85 percent of the state are considered a predator and can be shot on sight, similar to coyotes. They are classified as a trophy animal in the northwest corner of the state and subject to fall hunting seasons. Those seasons have not yet been set, Nesvik said, adding that wolves in those areas cannot be hunted right now. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will set those seasons after a public comment period.

A coalition of environmental groups sued Wyoming in 2012 over the state’s management plan. A representative for the group said in early March the coalition was disappointed with the D.C. court’s ruling, said Tim Preso, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm representing Defenders of Wildlife and several other environmental groups who filed suit against the state.

Earthjustice’s lawyers argued, essentially, that Wyoming’s plan to maintain a buffer of more wolves than the required amount was not legally binding and insufficient under the Endangered Species Act. The court ruled that Wyoming’s plan was adequate, and environmental groups did not appeal the decision.

Preliminary estimates showed Wyoming had about 240 wolves at the end of 2016, Tyler Abbott, Wyoming field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Star-Tribune in March.

The feds killed about 115 wolves in 2016 because of livestock depredations, he said. In 2015, the service killed about 54 wolves.

Because of the high number of wolves killed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Nesvik estimates hunting season quotas this fall will be similar to those before wolves went back on the list.

In 2012, 42 wolves were killed by hunters in the state’s trophy area and 25 were killed in the rest of the state. The next year, 24 wolves were shot in the trophy area and 39 taken in the rest of the state.

Gov. Matt Mead expressed his satisfaction with the court’s decision in a news release sent Tuesday evening.

“I am delighted that the Circuit Court recognized Wyoming’s commitment to manage a recovered wolf population,” Mead said. “Our wolf management plan is a result of years of hard work by people across Wyoming. We recognize the need to maintain a healthy wolf population.”

Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995. They have been off the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho since 2011.

Two wolves survive in world’s longest running predator-prey study

For 2 years in a row, a pair of wolves has managed to survive on Isle Royale, Michigan, the last of their kind on the wilderness island. Researchers continue to track the wolves and their moose prey, in the last installments of the world’s longest running predator-prey study.  They report today that although the wolves hunt successfully, they are too few to affect the moose population. Aquatic as well as terrestrial vegetation is taking a hit as moose numbers climb, according to the study’s 59th annual report.

After Canadian wolves colonized the island in 1949, the wolf population peaked at 50 in 1980, and as recently as a decade ago, 30 wolves prowled the island, a U.S. National Park. The island’s now-famous predator-prey study has tracked how wolf and moose numbers have risen and fallen in tandem over the decades, and left their mark on the island’s ecology.

In contrast to last year’s winter study, when wolf tracks were the only evidence of the predators, wildlife ecologist Rolf Peterson spotted both wolves sitting on lake ice on the January afternoon he arrived on the island.  Weeks later, Peterson and co-investigator John Vucetich, both of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, found the wolves feeding on a freshly-killed moose calf. “We were very lucky,” Peterson says. “There was no mystery left in terms of the wolf population,” or what they were eating.

The researchers also observed that, in what normally would have been the wolves’ breeding period, the 7-year-old female bared her teeth in response to the close interest of the 9-year-old male; he is both her father and half sibling.  Researchers don’t expect the highly inbred pair to reproduce.

The two wolves otherwise appeared healthy and still have all their canines, a key sign of well-being in the carnivores. The pair has already surpassed the average Isle Royale wolf lifespan of 4 years, dodging the main causes of death for their ancestors on the island: other wolves and starvation. “They are swimming in moose,” Vucetich says.

The four wolf-killed carcasses the researchers spotted made little dent in the overall moose population, estimated at 1600 in aerial surveys conducted this past winter.  The 20% increase from last winter is consistent with the population’s growth rate over the past 6 years, as the inbred wolf population dwindled and collapsed.  Both beaver and moose abundance have tripled since 2011, “undoubtedly because of lack of predation,” Vucetich says.

With moose density on the Guam-sized island already five to ten times higher than on the mainland–and with the numbers on track to double in three to four years—browsing on the island’s vegetation is intense. One aquatic plant, floating watershield (Brassenia  schreberi), which was abundant six years ago when moose were at historic lows, now thrives in ponds only where moose are excluded. “It’s the aquatic equivalent of deforestation,” says plant ecologist Eric Hellquist of SUNY Oswego, noting that moose’s effect on aquatic vegetation is not as well studied as that on terrestrial plants. Isle Royale’s ponds are demonstrating “how apex predators can have cascading effects on food webs.”

As the effects of the missing predators ripple through the island, the Park Service is assessing about 5000 public comments on its proposal to introduce 20 to 30 wolves to the island to establish a new population. The next steps on that plan are expected by the end of this year.

Wolves have purpose

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/apr/03/leave-wolves-roam-intended/

Letters to the Editor

MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2017

Contrary to Stevens County Commissioner Don Dashiell’s claim that the numbers of wolves today are at levels never seen in Washington state’s history (March 18 article), the facts are available online. The Fish and Wildlife Department site states that historically wolves were common throughout the state until the influx of settlers between 1850 and 1900. Hunting, trapping and poisoning decimated a species that had called Washington (and most of the Lower 48) home for millennia.

Wolves have their part to play in the web of life on this planet. People need to think twice before deciding they know better than the one who created all this and stop destroying what is not to their liking. I don’t think God looks favorably on those who have such disrespect for this perfect blueprint. Wolves and all predators have a predetermined purpose, as does everything that inhabits Earth. Let’s stop interfering with the design and work with it, instead of trying to dismantle and redraft it.

by Jeannie Shank

Colville

Money Talks; Grizzly Bears Die

by Barry Kent MacKay
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

03/31/17

If they knew how pathetic they looked to ordinary people, would they feel
shame? Nah. They probably don’t care what others think. I speak of those
whose idea of fun is to end the life of a magnificent animal, pose over his
or her cooling carcass while photos are snapped, and keep remnants of the
slaughtered being in their trophy rooms.

The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, who heads the Liberal Party,
is the darling of Safari Club International. She supports trophy hunting
because, well, it brings in money. That-not the lives of innocent
wildlife-is what matters to her ilk. Blood money is still money: the
fervently worshipped material deity of all that matters. Safari Club
International recently donated $60,000 to help assure that, in the May 9
provincial election, the National Democratic Party would not unseat Ms.
Clark.

If elected, the National Democratic Party-far more progressive than the
Liberal party-has promised to end trophy hunting for grizzlies. Thus, rich
and powerful Safari Club International members in both Canada and the U.S.
dug into their change drawers and donated the $60,000 to the Liberal
election campaign, apparently through the Guide Outfitters Association of
British Columbia (which has honored Clark with its President’s Award,
cheered by her refusal to change the laws in order to limit such
munificence).

The more rare and more magnificent the animal, the more these trophy hunters
seem to want to kill. Perhaps it’s out of some deep psychological need to
dominate, as if owning the stuffed remains of these glorious animals somehow
imbues the hunter with some of the glory. (Although, of course, to most of
us, it does the opposite.) And, few animals left in North America are more
rare than the grizzly bear, extirpated through so much of its former range.

Poll after poll and survey after survey have shown that more than 90% of
British Columbia residents don’t approve of the grizzly bear trophy hunt.
Even hunters, many of whom hunt for food and sport, disdain the trophy
hunter; they recognize that the “trophy” is the result of wealth, not of
what they would consider skill or need. British Columbia’s National
Democratic Party leader, John Horgan, clarifies that he does not oppose
hunting, but that he would end the British Columbia trophy hunt if he
becomes Premier.

Wildlife biologists, including those on the government’s own payroll, often
stand firmly opposed to the trophy hunt on ecological and conservation
grounds. That’s an important economic consideration, as two major studies
have shown that bear viewing generates more tourist income than bear trophy
hunting. But, you need to have bears to view-and the grizzly, with its need
for extensive wilderness and its slow reproductive rates, is particularly
vulnerable to endangerment.

The Liberals ended a moratorium on grizzly trophy hunts when they came to
power. Now, it’s time for things to change.

Barry Kent MacKay

Senior Program Associate

Born Free U.S.A.

 

Wolves need federal protection

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/opinion/guest/wolves-need-federal-protection/article_030ddd4a-8116-5f45-aa00-05b19554c64a.html

by Collette Adkins

The tragic killing of a gray wolf mistaken for a coyote in North Dakota’s Walsh County recently is a painful reminder of why wolves still need federal endangered species protections.

This poor creature was the first known wolf in North Dakota since one was confirmed in Bowman County in December 2014. Before that, hunters in McKenzie County killed one in 2012.

These wolf deaths are bad for North Dakota’s ecosystems, which are out of balance without large carnivores.

Because wolves target the weak, diseased, old and injured, they help keep prey populations of deer and elk more vigorous. Wolves also promote biodiversity by preventing prey from overgrazing vegetation, degrading habitat and harming other native wildlife.

The death of this wolf is a blow to wolf recovery in the state.

Although wolves elsewhere in the country have made significant progress under the protections of the Endangered Species Act, they are nowhere near fully recovered.

Wolves have returned to only about 10 percent of their historic range in the United States and could return to areas of North Dakota with abundant prey, such as the Badlands — if people would stop killing them.

Indeed, with Endangered Species Act protections, the wolf population in Minnesota grew and wolves dispersed to begin repopulating Wisconsin and then Michigan. Recovery to additional Midwest and Great Lakes states depends on the protections afforded by the act.

But if elected officials from those areas have their way, wolves will be stripped of federal protections. Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are pushing for removing those protections to appease livestock producers and trophy hunters. They have introduced legislation in Congress, HR424 and S164, that would remove federal protections without any review by the courts and turn wolf management over to states.

As an attorney working for more than a decade to protect wolves and stop cruel wildlife exploitation, I know these bills would be devastating.

We’ve already seen how states treat wolves when they are allowed management. As soon as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolf protections — prematurely — in 2012, Minnesota and Wisconsin worked to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons, contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota.

When the court restored protections, wolf populations in Minnesota began to rebound. That shows that the Endangered Species Act works.

Wolves are an important part of our natural heritage but were driven to the brink of extinction across much of the country more than a century ago. They deserve a real chance at recovery. And, for starters, that means continued federal protections in Minnesota and across the Midwest and more tolerance for them on the ground.

One day, hopefully, we’ll see them breeding again in North Dakota.

Collette Adkins is a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

 

EPIC in Court to Defend Wolves

Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status

EPIC and our allies filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection.

The intervenors — the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

Led by the Center, the four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

The Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center is an advocate for the forests, wildlife and waters of the Klamath and Rogue River Basins of southwest Oregon and northwest California. We use environmental law, science, collaboration, education and grassroots organizing to defend healthy ecosystems and help build sustainable communities.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.
EPIC advocates for the science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests and wildlife.

Where’d the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changes

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/gop-targets-landmark-endangered-species-act-for-big-changes/

Republicans say the act hinders drilling, logging and other activities

SKIP TO COMMENTS

TOPICS: CONGRESS, ENDANGERED SPECIES, ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, FROM THE WIRES, REPUBLICANS, , ,

Where'd the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changesFILE – In this July 25, 2005, file photo, tiny fish, including delta smelt, caught in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, are seen through a microscope at a California Department of Fish and Game laboratory in Stockton, Calif. In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)(Credit: AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. — In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

Over the past eight years, GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures aimed at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as gray wolves and sage grouse out of its reach. Almost all were blocked by Democrats and the White House or lawsuits from environmentalists.

Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ cooperation.

The 1973 act was ushered though Congress nearly unanimously, in part to stave off extinction of the national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagle populations have since rebounded, and the birds were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.

In the eagles’ place, another emblematic species — the wolf — has emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law: seemingly endless litigation that offers federal protection for species long after government biologists conclude that they have recovered.

Wolf attacks on livestock have provoked hostility against the law, which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states. Other species have attracted similar ire — Canada lynx for halting logging projects, the lesser prairie chicken for impeding oil and gas development and salmon for blocking efforts to reallocate water in California.

Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.

Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.

“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”

More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.

Continued: http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/gop-targets-landmark-endangered-species-act-for-big-changes/

 

Keep Grizzlies Protected: A New Film About Why Grizzlies Still Need Federal Protectio

December 19, 2016

|Louisa Willcox

http://www.keepgrizzliesprotected.com/

http://www.grizzlytimes.org/single-post/2016/12/19/Keep-Grizzlies-Protected-A-New-Film-About-Why-Grizzlies-Still-Need-Federal-Protection

Today marks the release of a film entitled Keep Grizzlies Protected (http://www.keepgrizzliesprotected.com/) by noted filmmakers Anthony Birkholz and Marni Walsh. The film features leading scientists who speak out about threats to the future of the grizzly bear, and raise concerns about the federal government’s stated intention to strip federal protections from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem early next year.

 

Delisting would expose the threatened population to trophy hunting. World-renowned scientists, as well as leading scientific societies, have expressed deep concern about the risk that state-sponsored sport hunting and other harmful policies will pose to grizzly bears. The grizzly bear is especially vulnerable because of its low reproductive rates, and much-diminished numbers since European settlers arrived.  Even with federal protections, grizzly bears still number just 3% of what they once were in the lower 48 states. An unprecedented number of citizens share these concerns about the future of the grizzly in and around the Nation’s first park.

 

The film features a cast of the “who’s who” of experts on large carnivores, endangered species and climate change. Scientists include Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. David Mattson, Dr. Rob Wielgus, Dr. Jesse Logan, Dr. Diana Six, Dr. Brad Bergstrom and Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter.  Yvon Chouinard, world-famous climber, founder of Patagonia, and conservationist, also spoke in an interview about one of his passions: climate change.

 

I felt compelled to take on producing this film after reading the inspired comments of these and other experts submitted last spring to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in response to a draft delisting proposal. I have read countless comment letters to the government in my 30 plus years as a conservationist in the Northern Rockies. But in its most recent delisting plan, the FWS so overstepped the bounds of commonsense and scientific integrity as to unleash a stunning backlash by experts. Rarely have I seen such a sweeping condemnation by independent scientists of a government grizzly bear management proposal.

 

What the Experts Say About Delisting and Trophy Hunting

In its draft delisting proposal, some of the FWS’s claims were “ludicrous”, according to retired Forest Service ecologist Dr. Jesse Logan. Logan was referring here to FWS’ bald-faced assertion that climate change has not had and would never have adverse impacts on grizzlies. In fact, “climate change is affecting everything that the grizzlies use for food and habitat,” said Dr. Diana Six, Forest Pathologist at the University of Montana.

 

Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and ethologist, observed: “Two of the bear’s major foods have been all but wiped out due to climate change, disease, and invasive species.”

 

In the interviews, a number of the scientists focused on the threat of renewing trophy hunting after 40 years of federal endangered species protections. Dr. Rob Wielgus, Director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Lab said: “The largest obstacles for recovery of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton bears is human-caused mortality and the greatest potential future obstacle is even greater human-caused mortality as per the proposed hunting seasons in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.”

 

Dr. Jane Goodall offered: “I was really shocked to hear about this. Actually, I found it hard to believe, because they face so many threats to their survival. If the grizzlies are delisted, and states open a hunting season, I think many hearts would break. I know mine would.”

 

Many scientists cited the problem of the grizzly bear’s long isolation from other populations. “Grizzly bear recovery really comes down to whether we can connect the Yellowstone population with populations of grizzly bears elsewhere,” said Dr. David Mattson, retired biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “If we can’t, the ecosystem continues to unravel, densities continue to decline, they’re going to be that much more vulnerable potentially to extirpation.”

 

Experts challenged the recovery targets as being too low to ensure the long-term health of the population. Dr. Jesse Logan noted that: “Fish and Wildlife contends that we have a viable population with 700 bears. Analysis by the American Society of Mammalogists says no, the effective breeding population is going to require over twice that many bears, so we have to allow enough habitat for bears to expand into –– and it exists here, it’s just that they’re not allowed to do it.”

 

Dr. Brad Bergstrom, Conservation Biologist and Professor at Valdosta State University, put the grizzly delisting decision in the context of a deeper problem inherent in FWS’ approach to endangered species recovery: “The whole idea of recovery planning and recovery goals, they (FWS) seem to be stuck in this outmoded philosophy of picking a magic number. We’re going to set a target and 20 or 30 years later we’re going to come back to that target that we set… and we’re going to just be faithful to that target number… without regarding any of the scientific advances made within those last 20 to 30 years. Now that, to me, does not honor the letter of the Endangered Species Act, which says that their decision should be based on the best currently available science. The science changes. But their quotas, their goals, their magic numbers, they don’t change.”

 

Unprecedented Public Outcry Over Delisting, Sport Hunting

The film comes at a time when people across the country have expressed unprecedented and passionate opposition to the proposed removal of Endangered Species Act protections, along with clear support for vigorous recovery measures. Over 800,000 people recently signed petitions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior, asking for continued protection of Yellowstone grizzlies, rather than devolution of management to the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, which are notoriously hostile to carnivores (link).

 

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter, a social scientist with The Ohio State University said: “We have really good public data that suggests that while people are generally supportive of hunting, they are not supportive of trophy hunting. I don’t want to say no one, but let’s just say very few people are going out to hunt grizzly bears that are going to hunt them for food. Right? They’re hunting them for the purpose of trophy for self-gratification, and that from a public standpoint is very, very controversial. It’s something that the data show that clearly the public just does not support.”

 

Over 50 Indian Tribes have also formally opposed sport hunting the Great Bear, an animal they have long viewed as sacred (http://www.goaltribal.org/).

 

The Solution: Connect Populations, Improve Coexistence Practices, Keep Grizzlies Protected

In the film, scientists’ offer simple and clear recommendations: keep bears protected, redouble recovery efforts to connect the long-isolated Yellowstone grizzlies to neighboring sub-populations, allow bears to expand into suitable habitat, and improve practices that allow humans to coexist with bears. These measures will also improve the ability of bears to adapt to a changing climate.

 

Such steps are also consistent with widely shared public attitudes. Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter noted that: “Public opinion polling suggests that people generally want bears to be listed. They want to see further recovery efforts. We can glean some information from the public comments that were filed on behalf or in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposal to delist bears that suggest that people would like to see more grizzly bears in more places, and would like to see those populations protected.”

 

The Endangered Species Act matters for another important reason. According to Dr. David Mattson, “the ESA is one of the few laws that unambiguously gives all the American public a voice in management of wildlife. Otherwise, management of virtually all wildlife is in the hands of state wildlife management agencies, which is a problem. The American public should have a voice under other circumstances than just jeopardy. For example, with Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, regardless of whether you think they are endangered or not, here we have a population of a species that is of national interest. And the national public deserves a voice in their management, not only now but in perpetuity.”

 

The film concludes by asking viewers to request that President Obama respond to public opinion and withdraw the proposed rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears, and employ the best available science to promote the long overdue recovery of this iconic species.