Senate Committee Passes Anti-Wildlife Package with Poison Pills, Strips Wolves of Federal Protections

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2016/01/senate-committee-passes.html?credit=web_id93480558

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works today added several poison pill provisions to the so-called Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, S. 659, which already threatened the interests of wildlife, conservation and public lands, but now is an even more extreme measure.

Among other harmful provisions, the bill now strips wolves of their federal protections in four states under the Endangered Species Act, subverting the judicial process and subjecting hundreds of wolves to hostile state practices such as baiting, hound hunting, and painful steel-jawed leghold traps. It also blocks federal wildlife officials from making decisions about cruel and inhumane predator control practices on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.

In response to the EPW vote, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States said: “This was already an awful bill, but now it’s an appalling one — undermining the federal courts and removing federal protections for endangered wolves, denying proper oversight of toxic lead in the environment, blocking carefully considered rulemaking to protect animals on national wildlife refuges, among other destructive provisions.  This bill is a grab bag of miscellaneous items that the trophy hunting lobby cannot secure in free standing bills, and Congress should give it a quick, clean kill shot.”

A few of the harmful provisions included in S. 659 are as follows:

Wolves

Just last month, Congress rejected a rider to the end-of-year spending bill that would have removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Great Lakes states and Wyoming. Today, the committee adopted by voice vote an amendment by Senator Barrasso, R-WY, to accomplish the same. This proposal would both subvert judicial processes and undermine the ESA, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. When wolves were delisted in 2012, 20 percent of the Wisconsin population was wiped out in three hunting seasons, including 17 entire family units. In a three year period, more than 1,500 wolves were killed in the Great Lakes states alone. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA.copyrighted wolf in water

AK Predator Control

An amendment proposed by Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK, and adopted on a straight party-line vote would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from issuing a rule and going through a public process on cruel predator control methods like the trapping and baiting of wolves and bears in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.

Lead

The bill contains troubling provisions that relate to the use of lead ammunition, at a time when non-toxic ammunition is available to all hunters, and is less harmful to wild animals, land, and human health. The committee rejected a common sense amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA, that would have narrowed the exemption for sport fishing equipment from the Toxic Controlled Substances Act to focus on lead content. Senator Boxer’s amendment would have required periodic reports by the Environmental Protection Agency on the health impacts of lead in fishing equipment.

Polar Bears

A provision of the bill would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a congressional waiver to bring back their trophies. The committee today rejected an amendment by Sen. Boxer that offered a sensible middle ground on this issue, and would have allowed the import of 41 questionable polar bear trophies, while making absolutely clear that the one-time carve-out is not intended to set a precedent.

The Commission of Evil

by Stephen Capra

The Commission of Evil
Stephen Capra

In a crowded room at the Santa Fe Community College last Thursday, we were witness to the latest failure of a commission designed to support and enhance wildlife in our state. The question before them was the continued use of Ted Turner’s ranch as a staging area for the release of the Mexican wolf.

This commission was clearly wary, after an earlier meeting in November on this subject; they found themselves shouted down by citizens, who were disgusted by the commission’s actions, and their determination to slaughter all wolves in our state. This time they took great strides to state that wolves were here to stay, that really the issue here was a technicality; one that their arcane system sadly could not support, but, hey, we can find a way forward at a later date.

Translation: we will defuse the situation now, and continue to obfuscate wolf recovery in every way possible. Our newest commissioner, Elizabeth Atkinson Ryan, an oil and gas attorney from Roswell and a member of the Safari Club ( a group that kills wildlife internationally for trophies,) made a long and grating explanation of why they could not change the Chairman’s decision to deny permit renewal for Turner’s Ladder Ranch. At times, other commissioners chimed in with their message that they supported wolves but “unfortunately” they could not support Turner, well because, they just could not break ranks with the Chairman, but hey, “we support wolves.”

This was met with ‘sardonic’ laughter from the audience, many of whom have witnessed the complete slaughter of wildlife at the hands of these seven republican cowards. Several minute later, they voted 7-0 to end the release program at Turner’s Ranch, while loudly inviting them to reapply and “meet this commission half way.”

The real question in all of this is clear: how much longer must we allow this commission to exist? How much longer can we allow the indiscriminate killing of wildlife to continue?

Aldo Leopold fought our Governors at the turn of the last century to allow the choice of the Game Warden to be controlled by sportsmen. After a bruising battle, he lost and the Governor continued to select Wardens; usually a perk to a major donor. Little has changed in the past century, only now we have a commission of seven people, none of whom have a real concept of biodiversity.

It is biodiversity that must be at the core of every decision; that is why the concept of a commission has long ago grown “archaic,” in Chairman Kienzle’s own words. We do not need a commission controlled by sportsmen, ranchers or oil and gas interests. We need an agency run by a director, that is given a clear mission: every action we take must be taken to enhance biodiversity.

Wolves in our state face one clear future if commissions such as this remain; there will be a hunting season and that is a disaster for wolves in the wild. There will be a trapping season on wolves and that is a moral outrage. There will be a continued spreading of ignorance and fear about an animal that is perfectly designed to enhance biodiversity and improve the natural balance of wildlife, while improving the land.

At Bold Visions Conservation, our mission for the past several years has been to disband this commission. Their actions and appointments are slaughtering wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes. They are not here to enhance wildlife, but to cater to special interests in the livestock, oil and gas and fringe farming communities. They speak of hunting as though it was a 365 day a year enterprise. They want our children to learn to kill, to trap and to carry the same disregard for animals that they display every meeting.

The saying goes you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. This commission represents nothing but pure evil. They are a group of political insiders that relish their role in the slaughter of innocent wildlife. There is no redemption, no reason to hope things will change, and we must simply end their reign of terror.

We must also work to change the charter of the State Game and Fish Department which currently is a rambling statement of support for off-road vehicles, shooting wild game, support trapping, etc. This mission needs to focus like a laser on one thing: enhancing biodiversity!

Disbandment and Game & Fish Department reform will not happen overnight, but if we are to truly help wildlife and improve our lands and waters, we cannot accept the status quo. We must create this change for the next generation; it is our gift and our moral imperative for our children and the generations to come: a gift and action of respect, to the animals that so enhance our lives.

US carnivore hunting policies are scientifically lacking

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http://conservationmagazine.org/2015/12/us-carnivore-hunting-policies-are-scientifically-lacking/

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By now you probably know the arguments for the monitored, controlled, legalized forms of wildlife hunting. It has the potential to reduce conflict with humans and can provide much-needed revenue to be put toward conservation efforts. But not all populations are created equal; applied to the wrong ecosystem, hunting can also drive population declines, the echoes of which will reverberate throughout its landscape. In this week’s issue of Science Magazine, a group of researchers led by Montana State University wildlife biologist Scott Creel argue that wolf hunting policies in the US don’t align with the best evidence that science has to offer.

After wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) in the mid-1990s, the carnivore population grew stronger. But that trend stopped in 2009. That’s because in 2008, the population lost its protection under the ESA and hunting became legalized.

Reviews by the USFWS say that hunting “has not increased any risk” to the NRM wolf population, but Creel and his colleagues aren’t so sure. “Current policies state that half of a wolf population can be shot annually without causing the population to decline,” said Creel in an official statement. “On the basis of ecological theory, this suggestion is not likely to be correct for the wolf, or indeed for any large carnivore.”

Fully-grown, mature large carnivores usually have low mortality rates. They are the kings of their jungles, after all. Hunting doesn’t substitute for other causes of wolf death, as is more likely the case for ungulates like deer. For animals like wolves, hunting pressures instead add to the mortality rate. After hunting was legalized in Montana and Idaho in 2008, wolf pack size there declined by nearly a third. And hunting doesn’t just impact group size – it also affects a group’s social order, which impacts the likelihood that juveniles will grow to reproductive age. Indeed, in 2013, five years after hunting was legalized, hunters took 25% fewer wolves – despite an extended hunting season!

How can the scientific evidence and the USFWS review be so contradictory? Creel’s group suggests that there can be a mismatch between the animals that provide the data to inform policy decisions and the animals to which that policy applies. “Carnivore distributions do not follow political borders, but hunting policies do,” they say. Just because the overall Northern Rocky Mountains population has been relatively stable under pressure from hunting doesn’t mean that the packs in any given state are equally so. Idaho’s annual wolf counts declined by nearly a quarter between 2008 and 2013.

More importantly, Creel’s group says the studies on which the USFWS based their review focused on wolf populations that could recruit immigrant wolves from other, nearby populations. Those local losses to hunting could be replaced by the influx of new individuals from elsewhere. It’s not that wolves are able to compensate for local losses, but it might appear that way if you’re not looking very closely. By analogy, while African lions may be protected within national parks, legalized hunting just outside of parks can still destabilize the overall lion population. Harvesting lions outside of parks creates a “vacuum,” drawing in the otherwise protected lions from inside of parks – leaving them vulnerable to hunting.

There can be a sustainable way forward for carnivore hunting. The future of wildlife management in most parts of the world probably includes at least some carefully controlled harvest. But if legalized hunting is to occur, the researchers say that policies need to be based on rigorous, empirical science, which requires “clearly defined, quantitative” goals.

Current wolf hunting policies in the NRM simply aim to avoid a population crash so severe that it would require re-listing under the ESA, but that’s too hand-wavy a target. Instead, policies should specify things like maximum harvest rates or goals for population size or growth from year to year. According to Creel, “the North American model of wildlife management works very well for species like ducks or elk, but becomes much more complex for species like wolves that compete with hunters.” – Jason G. Goldman | 18 December 2015

Source: Creel, S., Becker, M., Christianson, D., Dröge, E., Hammerschlag, N., Haward, M.W., Karanth, U., Loveridge, A., Macdonald, D.W., Wigganson, M., M’soka, J., Murray, D, Rosenblatt, E, Schuette, P. (2015) Questionable policy for large carnivore hunting. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4768.

Oregon’s Delisting of Wolves was a Mistake

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/11/delisting_wolves_was_a_mistake.html

By George Wuerthner

The recent decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to delist wolves from the state’s Endangered Species Act protection was based on faulty science and political expediency. The biggest problem is with the department’s criteria for delisting — more than four breeding pairs of wolves for three years in a row— is that it fails to ensure full restoration of the wolf across the state. Many outside scientists, including myself, feel the small population of 80 to perhaps as many as 100 wolves statewide is hardily sufficient to guarantee a robust and speedy restoration of the species.

A hundred or fewer wolves may preclude the extinction of the species, but it does not restore the ecological function of the wolf. And restoring the ecological function of the species should be the prime goal of any conservation effort. Precluding extinction is a very low bar and does not serve the people of Oregon, the wolf or our ecosystems.

I did an analysis of the potential for wolf restoration in Oregon back in the 1990s and concluded that the state could easily support 1,500 to 2,000 wolves. Others have reached similar conclusions. Restoring wolves across the state so that they are functional members of the wildlife community should be the goal of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If, hypothetically, elk were the species under consideration and were protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act, I can almost guarantee you ODFW would want way more than 100 individuals before they would recommend delisting. They would want to see elk restored across the state.

Wolves are in a sense a “keystone” species that influences ecosystem health. Having a token population of wolves is not the same as having a functioning ecosystem member. Wolves not only eliminate weaker prey individuals but can shift habitat use; for instance they can reduce elk and deer foraging on aspen, willows and other browse species in riparian areas. Wolves can also affect the distribution and numbers of other species. Where wolves are present, there are often fewer coyotes. Coyotes kill the smaller Sierra Nevada red fox that is just hanging on in the Cascades. Restoration of wolves could thus assist the recovery of the red fox.

The rush to delist wolves is driven by false perceptions of wolf impacts on livestock and big game populations. Out of 1.3 million cattle and 195,000 sheep in the state, only 114 domestic livestock have been confirmed killed by wolves since the first wolves appeared in the early 2000s. Comparisons between Montana and Oregon are often made by ODFW. Using Montana, in 2014, the state’s 600 or so wolves killed 35 cattle and six sheep out of a total of 2.5 million cattle and 220,000 sheep respectively, By comparison, non-wolf losses accounted for 89,000 deaths. And though six sheep were killed by wolves, some 7,800 sheep died from other causes, like weather.

Wolves are simply not a threat, or even barely a factor, in the economic viability of the livestock industry.

The idea that hunting will be negatively affected across any significant portion of the state is also unlikely. Between 2009 and 2014, all wildlife management units (WMUs) of northeastern Oregon with established wolf packs had increasing elk populations, and two of the four (Imnaha and Snake River) were above the established management objectives for elk since wolves became established (ODFW data).

A similar situation exists in Montana, where elk numbers grew from an estimated 89,000 animals in 1992 (Montana Elk Plan) to 167,000 elk today (Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 2015). If this is what you get with wolf predation, I think most reasonable hunters would agree we could use more wolves in Oregon!

In the end, ODFW capitulated to mythology and false fears of hunters and ranchers without providing context and did not meet its wildlife responsibilities under the public trust doctrine to work diligently for full restoration of the ecological function of the wolf.

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Alaska Confirms Massive Decline in Rare Wolves, Still Plans to Hunt Them

Another harvest could do irreversible damage to the wolf population.

Alexander Archipelago wolf. (Photo: Facebook)
Jun 20, 2015
by Samantha Cowan

In 1994, southeast Alaska was home to about 300 Prince of Wales wolves, a subspecies of Alexander Archipelago wolves. By 2013, there were fewer than 250. Last year the population plummeted 60 percent to 89 wolves. New numbers confirm that the rare breed may have dropped to as few as 50.

But the diminishing numbers won’t stop hunters from trapping and killing the wolves, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is moving ahead with its 2015–2016 hunting and trapping season on Prince of Wales Island.

“Another open season of trapping and hunting could push these incredibly imperiled wolves over the edge,” Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

A reported 29 wolves were killed during last year’s hunting season—which accounts for between 33 and 58 percent of the population. Either figure means the species is in danger of being completely wiped out, especially as females were hit particularly hard this season…

More: http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/06/20/alaska-wolves

Conservationists Criticize Precedent Setting State Wolf Delisting

from: DOW.org

November 9, 2015

SALEM, Ore.

The state of Oregon has just stripped wolves of all protections under the state’s endangered species law. Below is the statement that we sent out immediately following the decision in an effort to bring national attention to this important issue.

This premature decision could lead to needless wolf deaths and could slow or halt Oregon’s fragile wolf recovery.

Defenders of Wildlife says the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission’s decision today to remove state endangered species protections for wolves is premature and would likely lead to slowed or stopped wolf recovery in the state. No other species has been removed from the state’s endangered species list with a population of fewer than 100 individuals statewide or when they were still absent from a significant portion of their historic range.

Shawn Cantrell, Defenders of Wildlife’s northwest director, testified at today’s meeting and issued the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed to see the Fish and Wildlife Commission approve a state delisting of wolves when only the barest minimum requirements have been met. The better and more cautious alternative would have been to downlist wolves from endangered to threatened and not delist them entirely. This would have continued to provide vital state protections for wolves, while also recognizing the progress the state has made to recover wolves in the eastern part of the state. More importantly, it would have left wolves fully protected in the western part of Oregon, where they are only just starting to expand and are in the earliest stages of recovery.

“Unfortunately, the commission decided to prematurely delist wolves without first updating and amending the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, which is overdue for a planned update. It will be critical that any subsequent revision of the plan maintains protocols for using non-lethal conflict avoidance tools, like livestock guarding dogs or fencing, to reduce potential livestock-wolf conflicts.

“Oregon recently has been a real leader emphasizing non-lethal conflict management between livestock and wolves so that wolves can continue their recovery in the state. Given the commission’s decision on delisting today, it will be all the more critical for Oregon to continue to emphasize and promote non-lethal strategies for allowing wolves and livestock to coexist on the same landscapes.

ODFW report says Oregon has met criteria to delist wolves

http://www.eastoregonian.com/eo/capital-bureau/20151008/odfw-report-says-oregon-has-met-criteria-to-delist-wolves

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Bureau

Published:October 8, 2015 2:27PM
Last changed:October 8, 2015 5:37PM

Courtesy of ODFW
A 100-pound adult male wolf was GPS radio-collared in the Mount Emily unit on May 25, 2014. Taking wolves off Oregon’s endangered species list won’t significantly affect their management because the state wolf plan would remain in place, according to a biological status review that will be presented to the state wildlife commission on Oct. 9.

SALEM — Taking wolves off Oregon’s endangered species list won’t significantly affect their management because the state wolf plan would remain in place, according to a biological status review that will be presented to the state wildlife commission on Friday.

Taking no action on the delisting question, however, might undermine support for the 10-year-old wolf plan and “thereby reducing public tolerance for wolves,” the report concludes.

The report compiled by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists says the state’s wolf population continues to increase in “abundance and distribution” and has met the required criteria for delisting in every instance.

Discussion of the report at Friday’s commission meeting in Florence, Ore., is billed as an informational biological status review, with no action scheduled. But it could provide a preview of the commission’s ultimate decision when it meets again Nov. 9 in Salem.

It also coincides with controversy over ODFW’s refusal to authorize killing Mount Emily Pack wolves that repeatedly attacked a sheep herd this summer, and with the unsolved deaths of two wolves known as the Sled Springs Pair.

To take wolves off the state endangered species, the commission must make five findings. They are: Wolves aren’t in danger of extinction in any portion of their range; their natural reproductive potential is not in danger of failing; there’s no imminent or active deterioration of their range or primary habitat; the species or its habitat won’t be “over-utilized” for scientific, recreational, commercial or educational reasons; and existing state or federal regulations are adequate to protect them.

Each of the criteria is examined in depth in the report. “The probability of population failure is very low,” the biologists concluded.

Wolves in Northeast Oregon have been taken off the federal endangered species list but remain on the state list. The federal listing still applies in the rest of the state, including where the famous traveling wolf, OR-7, resides with his pack in the Southwest Oregon Cascades.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced 66 gray wolves into Idaho and Wyoming in 1995-96. As expected, a few Idaho wolves migrated to Northeast Oregon beginning in 1999. Oregon’s first pack, the Wenaha, was documented in 2008.

Other highlights of the report:

• Oregon’s wolf population as of July is a minimum of 85 individuals in 16 packs or groups, up from 81 wolves at the end of 2014. Biologists believe more wolves live in the state but only 85 are documented. The number does not include pups born this year.

• The population will surpass 100 to 150 wolves in the next one to three years, “regardless of listed status.”

• Wolves now use 12.4 percent of their potential range statewide, 31.6 percent in Eastern Oregon.

• From 2009 through June 2015, confirmed losses to wolves stood at 79 sheep, 37 cattle, two goats and two herd protection dogs. Ranchers believe wolves are responsible for much more damage, saying livestock often disappear in wolf country.

• No wolves have been killed while attacking or chasing livestock. Since 2009, ODFW has killed four for “chronic” livestock attacks, but none since 2011. At least five wolves have been illegally shot since 2000; one died in an ODFW capture attempt in 2011; one was hit and killed by a vehicle in 2000

Oregon Wildlife Officials Won’t Allow Killing of Wolves

Oregon Wildlife Officials Won't Allow Killing of Wolves

Wildlife officials won’t allow people to kill wolves in eastern Oregon’s Mount Emily pack despite five confirmed attacks on a sheep herd this summer.

Jeremy Bingham of Utopia Land and Livestock formally requested permission to kill the animals that he says are “massacring” his sheep, reported the East Oregonian, but the department turned him down.

The pack killed at least seven sheep and a guard dog in June and August, but the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife said non-lethal control measures have worked since the last attack, according to department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

Although the state wolf recovery plan allows “lethal control” of wolves after two confirmed livestock losses, non-lethal measures must prove unsuccessful before killings are authorized. In this case, wolves have not killed any livestock on the property since the end of August, Dennehy said. Bingham did not request lethal control until nearly a month after the last livestock attack, she added.

The wolves also have to be present routinely on the property and propose a significant risk to livestock for the state to authorize killing them. In this case, Dennehy said, the wolves have moved to the central and southern part of the range, and the sheep are in the northeastern edge.

In addition, Dennehy said, the seasonal use on the rancher’s grazing allotment ends Oct. 19, so the sheep will be gone from the range in a couple of weeks.

The department hasn’t authorized killing any wolves since there were two in 2011.

“We are sorry your experience with Oregon’s forest lands has been problematic this year,” wildlife biologist Mark Kirsch wrote in a letter the department sent to Bingham. “It is our hope you complete your grazing season with no further loss.”

Bingham does have the right to use lethal force if a wolf is caught in the act of biting, wounding, killing or chasing his sheep or dogs. This does not require a permit from the state.

Bingham called the officials dishonest and told the Capital Press that “the only interest to them is that the wolves eat the economy of Eastern Oregon.”

He said he’s followed the state guidelines even while losing an estimated 100 ewes to wolves over the past two years. In addition to the guard dog killed this year, two were injured last year and another disappeared and is presumed dead.

“We have not harmed any wolves but we are not in the business of sacrificing assets to feed (the wildlife department’s) pet dogs,” Bingham told the Capital Press by text.

There aren’t wildlife department reports to corroborate all of Bingham’s claimed losses, but he said he didn’t report many of the attacks. According to the East Oregonian, other farmers suspect wolves kill many more cattle and sheep than are confirmed by the state.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife follows a strict protocol to confirm wolf attacks, including an examination of wounds and measuring bite marks and tracks.

Help protect the imperiled Archipelago wolf!‏

From http://www.Defenders.org

A rare and dramatically declining gray wolf subspecies in Alaska will face critical threats from hunting this year unless we act immediately.

The population of Archipelago wolves found on Prince of Wales Island, a remote island in southeast Alaska, has plummeted in recent years due to unsustainable old-growth logging and hunting. Despite this population crash, the federal government plans to allow subsistence hunting – a decision that may push the population to the edge of extinction.

The subsistence hunting season for Archipelago wolves on Prince of Wales Island will open on September 1st unless the Federal Subsistence Board cancels the hunt.

On Prince of Wales Island, roads built for old-growth logging are making it easier for hunters, trappers, and poachers to kill Archipelago wolves at an unsustainable rate. The Prince of Wales Island wolf population is now very low, perhaps only a few tens of wolves – down from an estimated 250 to 350 in the mid-1990s.

The start of hunting is just a few days away and could serve as a fatal blow to these embattled wolves.

Demand that the hunting of these rare wolves be stopped!

copyrighted wolf in water

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