Washington’s Wolf Population Surge Slows, Worrying Advocates

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/washington/articles/2018-03-25/washingtons-wolf-population-surge-slows-worrying-advocates

Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically last year, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state shouldn’t kill wolves that prey on livestock.

March 25, 2018, at 12:38

The Associated Press

FILE – In this June 18, 2011, file photo, a map showing confirmed and possible wolf packs in Washington state sits next to a magazine about wolves on the kitchen table of Ray Robertson, who is both both a volunteer for Conservation Northwest and a contractor for the U.S. Forest Service, near Twisp, Wash. Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically in 2017, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state should stop killing wolves that prey on livestock. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) The Associated Press

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Growth in Washington’s gray wolf population slowed dramatically last year, raising concerns from an environmental group that says the state should stop killing wolves that prey on livestock.

At the end of 2017, Washington was home to at least 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a report released last week.

That’s the highest the population has been since annual surveys started in 2008, the agency said. However, last year’s count was up just 6 percent from the minimum of 115 wolves — with 20 packs and 10 breeding pairs — reported at the end of 2016.

By contrast, wolf populations grew at a rate of around 30 percent per year the previous decade.

 “The sharp departure from wolf number increases in past years is cause for serious concern,” said Amaroq Weiss, wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While population growth hasn’t stopped entirely, these modest numbers clearly indicate the state should not kill any more wolves.”

Wolves are rebounding in several Western states after being wiped out in the continental U.S. in all but a slice of Minnesota. But their return has brought contentious discussions among conservationists, ranchers, hunters and others about how the animals should be managed.

In Washington, Weiss has criticized rule changes last year that allow the state to take quicker action to kill wolves that attack livestock. Environmentalists argue ranchers should take more actions to minimize contact between livestock and wolves.

Washington documented 14 wolves killed in 2017, by a combination of hunting, poaching, vehicle collisions or other causes.

 Three of those wolves were killed by members of the Colville Indian Tribe in a limited hunting season allowed on the reservation. Wolves are a protected species elsewhere in the state and cannot be hunted for sport.

Another three were designated problem wolves and killed by the state.

Ben Maletzke, a statewide wolf specialist with the state wildlife department, noted his agency employed an array of nonlethal strategies last year, including cost-sharing agreements with 37 ranchers who took steps to protect their livestock. State assistance included range riders to check on livestock, guard dogs, lighting, flagging for fences, and data on certain packs’ movements.

“We know that some level of conflict is inevitable between wolves and livestock sharing the landscape,” Maletzke said. “Our goal is to minimize that conflict as the gray wolf population continues to recover.”

Maletzke said five of the 22 known packs that existed in Washington at some point during 2017 were involved in at least one livestock death.

The agency confirmed wolves killed at least eight cattle and injured five others last year. It processed two claims totaling $3,700 to compensate livestock producers for their losses in 2017.

Wolves were wiped out in Washington early in the last century and began migrating back from neighboring areas earlier this century. Their return has sparked conflict with livestock producers, especially in the three rural counties north of Spokane where most of the wolves live.

Not all conservation groups were disappointed by the 2017 numbers.

“We’re glad to see that Washington’s wolf population continues to grow, and are particularly excited to see a notable increase in the number of successful breeding pairs compared to past years,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest.

 Still, officials are concerned because most of the wolf packs are found in northeast Washington, and there is little sign the animals are moving into the Cascade Range or the western half of the state. According to the 2017 survey, 15 of the 22 known packs range in rural Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

Wildlife managers also have been tracking the movements of a wolf in western Washington’s Skagit County that was captured and fitted with a radio-collar in June, Maletzke said.

Since 1980, gray wolves have been listed under state law as endangered throughout Washington. In the western two-thirds of the state, they are also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Fighting over wolves has moved to the courts.

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands sued the department for failing to conduct required environmental reviews before killing wolves. In November, the center filed a separate lawsuit against the department for allegedly failing to turn over requested documents pertaining to its wolf kills as required by law.

“Wolf recovery in Washington is still in its infancy, and the population should be continuing to grow, not stagnating,” Weiss said.

Advertisements

Revised regional methane emission factors required for dairy cattle

dairy cows eatingmaq123/iStock/Thinkstock

http://www.feedstuffs.com/news/revised-regional-methane-emission-factors-required-dairy-cattle

Revised methane emission conversion factors for specific regions are required to improve emission estimates in national inventories.

Mar 20, 2018

An international consortium of animal scientists has concluded that revised methane emission factors for specific regions are required to improve methane emission estimates for dairy cattle in national inventories, according to an announcement from Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

The scientists, including some from WUR in the Netherlands, collated a large global database of methane production from dairy cattle to develop intercontinental and regional models of methane emissions. The results have recently been published in Global Change Biology.

Dairy cattle produce methane, a greenhouse gas with considerable impact on climate change. To reduce the impact of dairy cattle production on the environment, the amount of methane produced needs to be quantified accurately, WUR said. Measuring methane production is complex and expensive. Therefore, models are commonly used to predict methane production, WUR explained, and results are used in national inventories of greenhouse gas emissions.

The present study is based on a data set of measurements from more than 5,200 lactating dairy cows assembled through a collaboration of animal scientists from 15 countries. The core project, GLOBAL NETWORK, was developed by a consortium of eight countries — the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland and Finland — and was funded by national governments, mostly via The Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security & Climate Change.

WUR said the project represents a “true collaboration” of animal scientists around the globe who shared their experimental data. The main goal of the project was to develop robust enteric methane prediction equations that can be used by scientists, government agencies and nonprofit organizations interested in adopting or assessing methane mitigation strategies and abating the trends in Earth’s climate.

Simplified models

This large study showed that methane emissions from dairy cattle can be predicted by simplified models requiring readily available feed-related variables. Feed intake is the key factor for methane production prediction, the researchers said. Although complex models that use both feed intake and detailed chemical composition had the best performance in predicting methane production, models requiring only feed intake and dietary fiber content had the second best predictive ability and offer an alternative to complex models.

A major finding is that revised methane emission conversion factors for specific regions are required to improve emission estimates in national inventories, WUR said.

The concept of methane emission conversion factor was introduced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to indicate the proportion of the animal’s energy intake that is converted to energy in methane. This factor is widely used for national greenhouse gas emission inventories and global research on mitigation strategies, the announcement said.

The research by the consortium offers opportunities to include region-specific methane conversion factors in national inventories. This is essential to improve the accuracy of carbon footprint assessments of dairy cattle production systems in several regions worldwide and to help devise mitigation strategies, according to WUR.

The team that conducted the study is currently developing similar databases for predicting and mitigating methane emissions from beef cattle and small ruminants (sheep and goats).

Vegan climate letter

Dear Editor,
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the cartoon at the top right hand corner on page 4 of the March 14, 2018 edition of the Methow Valley News is worth at least that many–depending on how it’s interpreted. In case you missed it, the drawing featured a wide-eyed, fearful pig, fish, cow, goat, bear, deer and other allegedly delectable and destroy-able beings on a cracker, being shoveled into the gaping mouth of a ginormous human head.
Though it’s caption was, “Bite of the Methow,” it seemed to symbolize the ‘Bite of Humanity,’ as in the chunk that meat-eating is taking out of this once vibrant planet.
If you can’t find it in yourself to care about cruelty issues, you might at least consider your food choices in regards to the fact that animal agriculture is the “third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy and industrial sectors,” according to “The Case for a Carbon Tax on Beef” by Richard Conniff in the New York Times, March 17, 2018.
And as Chatham House, an influential British think tank, points out, livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gas “ than the emissions produced from powering all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and airplanes combined.” Conniff adds, “including grazing, the business of making meat occupies about three-quarters of the agricultural land on the planet.”
Call it food for thought, but what you eat is actually affecting our weather these days.
Jim Robertson

Cows exude lots of methane, but taxing beef won’t cut emissions

https://phys.org/news/2018-01-cows-exude-lots-methane-taxing.html

January 15, 2018 by Michael Von Massow And John Cranfield,
Cows exude lots of methane, but taxing beef won't cut emissions
Cows produce a lot of methane. But there’s not much evidence a tax on beef would be effective in fighting greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Shutterstock

Will taxing meat products based on their carbon footprint reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve public health? The answer is maybe, but not notably —and it will come with significant costs.

recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change advocates applying taxes to the  of  as a means of lowering GHG emissions.

The idea is that if meat is more expensive, consumers will buy less of it. In turn, when faced with reduced consumption, farmers will produce less .

Not all meat production produces the same volume of emissions. Since cows produce a lot of methane (a ), fewer cows should mean less methane, which in turn should help lower GHG emissions. Pigs and chickens don’t spew methane the way cows do, but there are also the emissions associated with feeding them, as well as with the decomposition of manure.

While it’s clear we need to proactively reduce GHG emissions globally, we believe the emissions tax approach is unlikely to achieve success.

It will likely increase food  for consumers and decrease the prices farmers charge for their products, but it’s unlikely to lower meat consumption significantly and therefore unlikely to lower GHG emissions from the livestock sector. There may be other detrimental impacts to taxation too.

Price hikes don’t usually curb consumption

Food consumption is not as strongly linked to price as one might think. Changes in consumption of food are typically much smaller than changes in the price consumers face in the grocery store. This is a phenomenon that has been recognized and measured for decades.

We would need to implement huge taxes to achieve a small decrease in consumption. As an example, the study in the Nature Climate Change journal suggests a 40 per cent tax on beef would only reduce beef consumption by 15 per cent.

Because taxes on food at the retail level tend to raise the prices paid by consumers, it’s also worth noting that any increase in the price of meat would tend to affect low-income consumers more than more affluent consumers. Low-income consumers would pay relatively more than the rich.

We also need to consider substitution effects. While a high tax on beef and other meats will lower beef consumption somewhat, it may also lead to economizing by consumers through increased consumption of lower quality or more highly processed cuts of meat.

This could actually increase the relative prices of these cuts, making the negative impact of the tax on lower-income consumers even stronger, and would undermine some of the suggested health benefits.

It’s worth noting that beef consumption is generally falling in Canada and the U.S., independent of price. Other factors are likely to be more effective at reducing beef consumption than taxation.

All cattle are not raised equally

It’s also important to recognize that different types of cattle production create different volumes of emissions.

There is a suggestion that any tax on meat should reflect the production system. Those that raise cattle on grasslands or in pastures, for example, would have lower taxes than cattle raised using intensive production systems, like those used throughout North America, which create higher emissions.

While cattle in North America spend their early life on pasture, most beef cattle are finished in feedlots where they are grouped and fed high-energy grain rations to efficiently produce the preferred texture and taste of beef.

A tax based on how cattle are raised, however, would be both politically and logistically difficult.

If grassland and pasture rearing of cattle is favoured because of lower GHG emissions, we could see significant deforestation in those countries that produce beef extensively, but not a substantial reduction in consumption as desired.

We could end up in a situation where many differences in production practices, even within countries, create different emissions estimates and therefore cattle producers would seek different tax levels.

Unintended consequences

There’s also a risk that a meat tax would reduce the incentive to initiate research and development that could help cut emissions within the sector.

Examples of such R&D include efforts to improve the feed efficiency in cattle production. At the farm level, feeding more cattle on a forage-heavy pasture diet could increase the costs of producing cattle and change the characteristics of the while eroding the incentive to adopt climate-friendlier production practices.

It’s worth noting that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has said that emissions could be reduced by 30 per cent today if current best practices were broadly implemented. This is beyond the impact of a 40 per cent tax. The incentive to adopt these best practices would be removed by the implementation of a tax.

Progress can be made

As experts in food and agriculture economics, we agree that reduced GHG emissions are important for the future of humanity. We also believe that we are likely to substitute plant or insect proteins or cultured meats for traditional meat products over time.

Even if it were possible to get broad-based agreement for a global (or even just a Canadian) tax on meat, however, it is important to look not only at whether these efforts would reduce GHGs, but also at the unintended consequences of these efforts.

In the case of the proposed meat tax, it is not only unlikely to achieve the intended outcome, it is equally likely to create a spate of unintended consequences that would negatively affect not just cattle producers, but also .

 Explore further: Eating less meat might not be the way to go green, say researchers

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-01-cows-exude-lots-methane-taxing.html#jCp

The diet that helps fight climate change

Do we all have to go vegan to save the world?  [Well, yes.]

Ben Houlton spends a lot of time thinking about what’s on your dinner plate.

“If you take a steak and ask the question, ‘What’s been put into making that appear on my plate?’, you can trace it back all the way to the fertilizer that’s used to grow the food and then the grains which are used to feed the animals,” said Houlton.

As director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis, Houlton studies how food production affects the environment and creates greenhouse gases. Nearly every step that goes into food production has some impact on global warming, and it adds up: Agriculture and land use is responsible for nearly a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

A lot of people count calories, or try to cut carbs from their diet — the next step could be cutting carbon from your diet. Take that steak on your plate: Eating an average-sized steak for dinner has a comparable carbon footprint to driving about three miles in a standard gas-powered car. Get a large steak with some sides, and you easily double the impact.

“We have to think about the methane that’s being released from animals and rice paddies and areas where we’re growing food. And we have to consider the nitrous oxide gas that’s being produced from the fertilizers we’re feeding to the microbes that live in the soil. And you add all of that together, and you get a better understanding of global climate impacts of our food system,” said Houlton.

Houlton’s work on nitrogen modeling and the often-overlooked climate effects of fertilizers has helped improve global comprehension of just how much our food system impacts global warming, and lets lawmakers craft more targeted and effective agricultural policies.

His research has also crystallized for him that we can’t just wait for better policies and futuristic technology to swoop in and save the day: This is one area where we have the power as individuals to make a significant impact on climate change right now.

“It’s very easy to get depressed, to feel sad about all the changes that are happening and feel like you can’t contribute to the solution,” said Houlton. “Well, here is a shovel-ready opportunity.”

The power of choice

Maya Almaraz, a postdoctoral researcher who works with Houlton at UC Davis, said she wishes she had a magic wand that could make everyone understand just how powerful their food choices can be.

“A lot of people feel really helpless when it comes to climate change, like they can’t make a difference,” said Almaraz. “What our research is showing is that your personal decisions really can have a big impact.”

Different foods have vastly different carbon footprints. Swap your steak for fish, for example, and you get an eight-fold reduction in emissions. And if you’re game to switch that to beans or lentils your emissions drop to near zero. It really gets interesting when lots of us start making similar changes.

“What we’re finding is that reducing your meat intake can actually offset the emissions from all of our cars and even double that,” said Almaraz. “It’s not really something that you write into the Paris climate agreement. It’s something we have to decide on every day.”

Eating our way out of climate change

But to make a dent in something on the scale of global warming, where time isn’t on our side, are drastic measures required? Do we all have to give up that steak — or (shudder) bacon — and switch to a vegan diet to save the planet?

While only around six percent of the U.S. identifies as vegan, according to one recent survey, Americans are starting to embrace some vegetarian habits: Per capita beef consumption has been declining since the 1970s, dropping off steeply in the last decade according to USDA data, and the meat alternatives industry is growing rapidly. Even so, the U.S. still has one of the highest per capita meat consumption rates in the world, and meat is deeply ingrained in American culture — in short, we’re not all going vegan anytime soon.

“We’re not saying you should go cold turkey — although eating turkey alone might be a good option, better than eating red meat,” said Houlton. “What we are saying is consider moderating the amount. Maybe, instead of having meat two times a day, have it once a day. If each of us take baby steps, we’ll find that we can go a mile pretty quickly.”

While Houlton’s climate models find that a vegan diet reduces your carbon footprint more than any other dietary choice, a Mediterranean diet is really close.

“Our studies are showing that the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in nuts and beans and has a lot of fish, maybe chicken once a week, maybe red meat only once a month — if everyone were to move toward it, it’s the equivalent of taking about a billion or more cars of pollution out of the planet every year,” said Houlton.

To put that in perspective, Houlton’s models show that global adoption of a Mediterranean diet could help reduce global warming by up to 15 percent by 2050.

The Mediterranean diet has additional benefits. Previous studies have found that a Mediterranean diet can reduce the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Multiple studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to increased overall longevity.

The takeaway, according to Almaraz, is that the focus should be on reduction.

“Eliminating 90 percent of your meat intake is more important than eliminating all of your meat intake,” said Almaraz.

Houlton’s advice is to feel empowered: consumer choice can change trends almost overnight. He also thinks you should feel selfish, but in a good way.

“Put your health first. Be really selfish about your health. Make healthy choices in terms of the food you’re putting into your body and watch the planet repair itself at the same time.”

Watch the video above featuring Ben Houlton and Maya Almaraz to learn more about how simple, everyday food choices can take a bite out of climate change.

Learn more about how the food we eat and the food we waste affects climate change, and what we can do about it, at climate.universityofcalifornia.edu.

Meat and Dairy Greenhouse Emissions ‘Could Lead Us to a Point of No Return’

https://www.ecowatch.com/meat-dairy-emissions-2508107935.html?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=652071ea62-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-652071ea62-85986361

Three of the world’s largest meat producers emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than France, putting them on par with oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, a recent study found.

GRAIN, a non-profit organization, collaborated with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Heinrich Böll Foundation to estimate the greenhouse emissions of meat and dairy corporations, a figure that few companies calculate or publish.

The study was published as meat and dairy industry representatives arrived in Bonn, Germany for the COP23 to emphasize their role in food security.

In stark terms the study warns that if unchecked, the world’s top meat and dairy producers’ greenhouse emissions “could lead us to a point of no return.”

Projections showing business-as-usual meat and dairy greenhouse emissions.GRAINThrough lobbying, major meat and dairy companies have promoted policies that have led to increased production and consumption around the world. Livestock production now contributes 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions, more than the transportation sector, according to the study.

If livestock production continues to grow at the rates estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, greenhouse emissions from the meat and dairy industries will undercut attempts to keep global average temperatures below 2°C.

The paper’s authors warned that industry representatives will arrive at the COP23 in Bonn pushing their agenda—the expansion of livestock production—as a solution. This will amount to criticism of small-scale farmers, which is where the solution in cutting greenhouse emissions lies, according to the authors of the study.

Rather than continuing to subsidize factory farming and agribusiness that undercuts millions of small farmers, governments should redirect public money to support “small-scale agroecological” farms, the study suggests.

Graph showing the top 20 meat and dairy companies’ greenhouse emissions.GRAINThree out the world’s five biggest meat and dairy greenhouse gas emitters are U.S.-based companies.

A previous study showed beef, when compared to staples like potatoes, wheat and rice, has a per calorie impact that requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases.

Another study published in Environmental Research Letters calculated that a 50 percent reduction in mean per capita meat consumption in the developed world is needed by 2050 to meet global greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Coexistence between wolves and livestock is a delusion

http://www.hcn.org/articles/opinion-coexistence-between-wolves-and-livestock-is-a-delusion?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

When it comes to public lands, native wolves should get preference.

 


It is a popular notion among some conservationists that the way to win acceptance for predators like wolves is to work with rural communities and ranchers. Gaining their support certainly helps wildlife managers justify killing packs or individual wolves whenever they prey on cattle.

But these control tactics have limited application. At best, they reduce conflicts in targeted areas and have no significant effect on the distribution or survival of native predators. At worst, they add to the delusion that widespread co-existence between predators and livestock is possible.

The killing of seven members of the Profanity Peak pack in Washington illustrates how a wolf pack paid the ultimate price for merely trying to eke out a living in a place where unfenced domestic livestock had been released to graze.

Hundreds of cattle were released on the allotment, and salt blocks used by cattle were placed near the den site. That led to wolf depredation on cattle followed by the killing of pack members. (More on the Profanity Peak pack here.)

A growing body of scientific research now shows that killing problem wolves often begets yet more conflicts. Whether the killing is done to protect livestock or for “sport” by hunters, it tends to skew wolf populations towards younger animals less skilled at hunting. Loss of individual pack members can also result in changes in a pack’s ability to hold a territory, pushing the animals into new areas where they are less familiar with native prey. Both outcomes often lead to livestock getting killed by wolves.

Even “predator-friendly” operations harm native wildlife. When ranchers use noisemakers like boat horns or firecrackers, shoot at predators to scare them, or otherwise harass wolves and other predators, this hounding and stressing of our wildlife is considered legitimate. But why should conservation organizations pay for range riders or organize volunteers to harass public animals like wolves to protect someone’s private livestock?

The gray wolf is protected as endangered and threatened in some states, and considered a keystone species.

In effect, these groups are saying that wolves, coyotes and other native wildlife do not have a “right” to live on public lands that are being exploited by ranchers. Cows, not native to the West, have preference.

If I were to harass elk on a winter range, force bald eagles away from their nests or in other ways harass our wildlife, I would likely risk a fine. If I were to go out into the midst of a herd of sheep grazing on public lands and start shooting guns or firing off firecrackers to stampede the herd, I would risk imprisonment. But when it comes to harrying wolves, somehow this kind of harassment has become legitimate.

The negative impacts of livestock on our native wildlife go even further than harassment or lethal control — something that none of the “collaborative” groups ever mention to their membership or the press. Just the mere presence of domestic livestock often results in the social displacement and abandonment of the area by native ungulates such as elk.

If one assumes that elk select the best habitat for their needs, then displacement to other lands reduces their overall fitness. And we cannot forget that on many public lands, the vast majority of forage is reserved and allotted to domestic livestock, leaving only the leftovers for native wildlife.

If we assume that one of the limiting factors for native wildlife is high-quality forage, and that less nutritious feed means fewer elk, deer and bighorns, then we are literally taking food out of the mouth of our native predators.

When there is a conflict between private livestock grazing public lands and the public’s native wildlife, such as grizzlies, coyotes and wolves, just which animals should be removed? That is a question that “collaboratives” never ask. It is always assumed that if predators are causing problems for ranchers, the predators, not the livestock, should go.

This assumption adds up to direct and indirect subsidies for the livestock industry. As long as the dominant paradigm is that a rancher’s livestock has priority on public lands, we will never fully restore native predators to our lands. That is why we need to reframe the narrative and recognize that domestic livestock are the “problem” for our native wildlife.

Next time one of these collaboration groups asks for your money, consider giving your funds elsewhere. Look for organizations that challenge the dominance of livestock on public lands through grazing allotment buyouts or that promote the notion that public predators have priority on our public lands.

Lawsuit claims WDFW is not following proper protocols

Photo courtesy Western Wildlife Conservation
A Smackout Pack gray wolf, photographed by a wildlife camera.

By Ann McCreary

Two conservation groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its director, James Unsworth, from killing any more gray wolves, which are listed as an endangered species by the state.

The suit, filed Sept. 25 on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, asserts that WDFW’s killing of wolves from the Smackout and Sherman packs in northeastern Washington relied upon a faulty protocol and failed to undergo required environmental analysis. The suit was filed in the Superior Court of Washington for Thurston County.

“We can’t sit by and watch Washington wildlife officials kill more wolves from the state’s small and recovering wolf population,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Washingtonians overwhelmingly want wolves recovered, not killed. The Department of Fish and Wildlife needs to listen to public opinion and consider the dire environmental costs of killing more wolves.”

In June of this year, Fish and Wildlife officials adopted a revised “wolf-livestock interaction protocol” for determining when to kill wolves in response to livestock conflicts. The protocol provided for the state to kill wolves more quickly than in prior years. The lawsuit states that the protocol was adopted without any public input or environmental review, in violation of the state’s Environmental Policy and Administrative Procedure Acts.

“Reasonable minds can differ on when we should and should not be killing wolves, and whether the killing of the wolves in these two packs was justified,” said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “But there is no question that we should be fully analyzing the efficacy of these actions, welcoming public and scientific input, and be able to hold the state accountable. This is a state agency spending taxpayer dollars.”

The department has since relied on the protocol to order killing of wolves from two packs, with two wolves from the Smackout pack and one wolf from the Sherman pack killed to date. At the time of the Sherman pack kill order, only two wolves could be confirmed as comprising the pack, one of which the department has now killed. The department has temporarily paused killing wolves from both packs, but will resume if there are more livestock losses.

“Overall, since 2012, the state has killed 18 state-endangered wolves, nearly 16 percent of the state’s current confirmed population of 115 wolves. Fifteen of the wolves killed since 2012 were killed on behalf of the same livestock owner,” said Weiss. “Those kills have now led to the near eradication of three entire wolf packs, including the Profanity Peak pack last year, and the Wedge pack in 2012. The rancher in question has been a vocal opponent of wolf recovery and has historically refused to implement meaningful nonlethal measures designed to protect his livestock from wolves,” Weiss said.

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and their population has grown to 20 confirmed packs as of the end of 2016.

Wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress, Weiss said. “Wolves remain absent from large areas of the state and although the population has been growing, it remains small and vulnerable. Given the continued endangered status of wolves, the state and livestock operators should stick to nonlethal methods as the sole means for reducing loss of livestock to wolves,” she said.

“We appreciate that many livestock owners already are using nonlethal methods,” said Weiss, “since the science shows such methods are more effective anyway.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the case by attorneys from the law firm Lane Powell.

Increased Methane Levels?: Cows Are to Blame, Says New Study

http://www.insidesources.com/increased-methane-levels-cows-are-to-blame/

Who is to blame for increased methane levels in the earth’s atmosphere: humans, or cows? For years, the question was posed tongue in cheek by skeptics of human-caused global warming. Methane is a hydrocarbon, which, at room temperature and normal pressure, appears as a colorless, odorless gas. It is also the main component of natural gas. In recent years, atmospheric methane levels have become a concern for environmentalists, who note that global methane levels have increased from roughly 1750 parts per billion in the early 2000s to 1830 parts per billion today. A new study claims to have found the source of the missing methane emissions: cows.

“Our results suggest that livestock methane emissions, while not the dominant overall source of global methane emissions, may be a major contributor to the observed annual emissions increases over the 2000s to 2010s,” conclude researchers in a new study published by Carbon Balance and Management, an academic journal.

The new study reevaluates estimates of the methane emissions produced by livestock in the U.S., finding that previous studies had underestimated these emissions by as much as 11 percent. Even more curiously, the researchers found that the largest increases in livestock methane emissions were in the northern tropics. The results of the study have the potential to impact how environmentalists and policy-makers treat agriculture when dealing with the problem of greenhouse gases.

The study used data from the U.S. EPA when considering the impacts of livestock raised around the world. As a result, it is one of the most comprehensive studies of the impact of livestock on global warming done to date.

The study showed that livestock played a large role in the increased methane levels observed recently. Cattle and other ruminants that break down food in the first of four stomachs, naturally produce methane as a product of digestion. While this has long been understood as a fact of biology, its impact on the environment has not been so fully studied. Increased consumption of meat in China and other parts of the world has increased the impact of methane emissions from livestock.

Using data from 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the researchers found that the report failed to account for changes in livestock breeding and management. In recent years, cattle have been bred to be larger and also, manure has been stored in open pits, which release methane into the air as they decay. Accounting for these two changes, global estimated emissions from livestock digestion went up 8.4 percent, while estimates for manure management went up 36.7 percent.

Methane has been a focus for environmentalists in recent years, after studies showed that atmospheric levels were increasing. Methane is released both by cows themselves and also by fermenting piles of manure, which release the gas as part of their natural decay process. Although the gas is naturally occurring, environmentalists are concerned about methane levels, believing the gas to be 25 times more potent as a warmer than carbon dioxide.

The study has the potential to significantly alter major industries in the U.S. For oil companies, methane is serious business. The gas is often found alongside deposits of oil. In many areas, these pockets of natural gas had been deemed not economically feasible to extract. As a result, for years, many companies had vented, or released, this methane into the atmosphere at drill sites. Since it remained unregulated, and therefore, unmeasured, the full impact of this practice was never realized.

The Obama administration attempted to clamp down on the practice through a rule that would curb the “wasteful release of natural gas” from wells operating on public and Native American lands. The oil industry complained about the decision, saying that it would increase production prices. After the inauguration, the Trump administration has since tried to repeal this rule but encountered resistance from Congress.

Washington continues to kill wolves that prey on livestock

 http://www.hcn.org/articles/wolves-washington-continues-to-kill-wolves-that-prey-on-livestock

The state’s increasing wolf population is creating a tangle between advocates, ranchers and politicians.

 

In late August, a range rider found a calf with bite wounds and lacerations dead on public grazing lands in Ferry County, Washington. The Sherman wolf pack was at it again. The newly-formed pack had already taken three other livestock animals over the last 10 months, forcing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize lethal action against it. Under the state’s wolf plan, on Sept. 1, Fish and Wildlife officials killed one of the wolves, in hopes the remaining wolves would change their behavior.

Earlier this summer, the agency killed two wolves from another pack, the Smackout, also due to livestock killings. Seven other wolves were removed from the Profanity Peak pack last fall. In a state where wolf recolonization is a relatively new phenomenon, the killings raised the hackles of wolf advocates — and questions about how the state will manage its new population.

“We’re earlier in recovery, and we’re the outlet for the frustration for activists that didn’t get what they wanted from Rocky Mountain states,” says Paula Sweeden, carnivore policy lead at Conservation Northwest, a group that works with ranchers, agency officials and other conservationists to compromise on wolf policy. “I think it’s because we’re a last bastion.” Both the Profanity Peak and Smackout pack killings brought widespread commentary from organizations and individuals skeptical that killing wolves stops depredations.

The Snake River wolf pack lopes through the snow in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. While this pack has not been targeted, two other Oregon wolf packs have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle this year.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Sherman pack in Washington represents only the fifth time since 2008, when the state’s first wolf pack formed, that the agency has targeted a pack of wolves due to attacks on livestock. (By comparison, Wyoming killed 113 wolves in 2016, with much less outcry.) Washington’s wolf population has increased by 30 percent annually the past two years. That has heightened tensions between wolf advocates, ranchers and politicians.

Gray wolves are protected as endangered in western parts of Oregon and Washington, but they are delisted in the eastern regions where their populations have proliferated. In Washington, wolves are concentrated in the northeast corner of the state. Seventeen out of 20 of the state’s packs roam one district, No. 7. The district has a large population of ranchers, some of whom have received death threats for reporting livestock deaths and thereby instigating wolf killings. State Fish and Wildlife officials have also been threatened. “It’s a tough thing because our country is so divided right now, and more and more we have these kind of issues going on,” says Donny Martorello, a spokesman for the Washington Fish and Wildlife. “Imagine going home at night and having someone pull up to the house and taking pictures of your house at 2 a.m.”

Joe Kretz, a Republican who represents District 7, has been outspoken about the impacts wolves have on ranchers. In January, he co-sponsored a bill to protect the identities of ranchers reporting livestock deaths. Critics say the bill threatens transparency in the wolf-killing process and some argue that Fish and Wildlife already obfuscates too often.

In August, 14 conservation groups sent a letter to Fish and Wildlife, relaying their concerns. “We’re aware of the challenges the Department encounters with communications around controversial issues and appreciate the need for sensitivity,” the letter reads. “But it’s also clear that the Department can and should do much better.”

Wolves are more likely to kill or attack livestock in late summer and early fall, as they prepare for winter and teach their pups to hunt. This year, four wolf packs in Oregon and Washington have been targeted after repeated killings of cattle. It is clear that as wolves become more established, perennial conflicts will arise.

Still, Washington has no plans yet to revise its wolf management plan. Sweeden says some stakeholders think the plan does not need updating, since it has wolf population recovery goals “more robust than any other state, including Oregon.” To revisit the plan could weaken those goals. Instead, she thinks conflicts will level out as the packs disperse through the state, and as more ranchers and property owners take up deterrence methods.

Washington’s wolves are likely to continue to thrive, no matter what, Martorello says. After all, they’re doing that without much help already. Instead, the real question has more to do with the humans, and how they’ll adapt to a carnivore reclaiming the landscape.

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor at High Country News. Follow @annavtoriasmith