Congressional effort to allow killing hibernating bears and wolf pups in their dens moves to U.S. Senate

February 22, 2017

Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to forbid the worst wildlife management practices introduced to the field in the last century – shooting hibernating bears with their cubs and denning of wolves and their pups; using airplanes to scout, land, and shoot grizzly bears; and baiting and trapping black and grizzly bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and neck wire snares.

Both obedience to and fear of the NRA and Safari Club International, along with an interest in securing campaign donations from those groups and their supporters, drove more than 200 lawmakers to vote against good sense and common decency.

Rep. Don Young of Alaska, a former board member of the NRA and a licensed trapper – who conceded on the floor that he used to kill wolf pups in their dens for a bounty paid by the federal government — initiated this action and led the charge for his terrible resolution. An identical resolution, introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska as S.J. Res. 18, may be taken up in the Senate next week or soon thereafter.

Let’s take a look at several of Young’s arguments brandished in the run-up to this vote.

Young and other proponents simultaneously argued that the federal rule would restrict hunting and even fishing rights, yet they also said that the practices forbidden under the rule don’t occur.

It’s almost a logical impossibility to severely restrict hunting and fishing rights for practices that aren’t occurring. So what’s really at work here, and where do the truth and these politicians lie? The state of Alaska, especially since the enactment of the Intensive Management Act, has been on a crusade to use well-heeled trophy hunters and state agents to drive down the numbers of grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, in order to create more moose and caribou for hunters to shoot. In pursuit of this goal, it’s authorized all manner of appalling practices, including hunting and killing methods forbidden by the FWS rule on their lands. In short, if these methods weren’t legal and used, then the state, the Safari Club, and the NRA wouldn’t be clamoring for a rescinding of the measure.

Young and his allies invoked the 10th Amendment and called the battle a states’ rights issue, saying the federal government has no business managing wildlife on federal lands.

This is their most dangerous argument, since this is an attempt to supplant wildlife management by the National Park Service (NPS) and the FWS on over 170 million acres of land throughout the United States – from the refuges and national parks and preserves in Alaska to Yellowstone and Acadia and Everglades in the rest of the United States. While the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have traditionally deferred to the states on wildlife management, the FWS and the NPS have for decades directly controlled the management of wildlife on land dedicated to species preservation. That power is derived from the Constitution and Congress, and the federal courts have repeatedly upheld that right. The FWS rule is aligned with the Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act (which Young opposed in 1980) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, along with the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The sweeping application of Congressman Young’s invocation of the 10th Amendment would upend management practices at hundreds of parks, preserves, seashores, battlefields, refuges, and other designated land holdings. This has been a long-held aspiration of the NRA and Safari Club, and lawmakers aligned with them took the ball and ran with it. If this principle had merit, then it would just be a matter of time for the state of Wyoming to open hunting seasons on grizzly bears and wolves within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, if state managers chose that strategy.

Young said that everybody in Alaska is in favor of his effort to repeal the federal rule.

Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia argued against H.J. Res. 69 and read excerpts from a series of letters from Alaskans opposing the rule. On top of that, there were letters from more than a dozen wildlife biologists from Alaska saying that the FWS rule is the right policy, and that the rule itself was crafted by FWS biologists who work and live in Alaska and felt duty-bound to proscribe activities at odds with the purposes of the refuges. None of these people are cranks, and it turns out, they are not in the minority. statewide pollconducted in February 2016 showed Alaskans oppose denning of wolves by more than a 2-to-1 margin. At a series of public meetings on the FWS proposed rule, many Alaskans turned out to publicly support the rulemaking actions because they want these inhumane, unsustainable, and unsporting practices to end. At the Fairbanks meeting, a clear majority supported the proposed rule. Alaskan voters have put the issue of aerial gunning of wolves on the ballot three times, and passed two of the measures (still lawmakers, violating the wishes of their own constituents, overturned those laws).

The FWS rule, years in the works, was hardly an example of the federal government running roughshod over the state. The opposite is far closer to the truth, with the state trying to bully its way into our national wildlife refuges and national preserves, authorized by Congress. Congress provided the FWS with a statutory mandate requiring the agency to conserve wildlife species, and prohibiting the denning of wolf pups and land-and-scout hunting of grizzly bears falls in line with that mandate. Yet, consistent with its policy, the FWS appealed to the Alaska Board of Game dozens of times to amend its rules to exempt National Wildlife Refuges. The Board of Game refused.

The House outcome is intolerable, and now the debate moves to the U.S. Senate. Only determined action by citizens can stop the Senate from replicating the House action. Call your U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose S.J. Res. 18, by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. It’s not just the lives of the wolves and bears at stake, it’s nothing less than the principle of federal control of our parks and refuges throughout the United States.

http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/02/congressional-effort-allow-killing-hibernating-bears-wolf-pups-dens-moves-u-s-senate.html?credit=fb_postwp022217

blog.humanesociety.org
Last week’s vote on H.J. Res. 69 was one of the most disturbing actions by Congress I’ve witnessed during more than a quarter century of political advocacy for animals. By a 225 to 195 vote, a narrow majority of the U.S. House voted to rescind a rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) . . .

Congress Advances Legislation to Kill Wolves, Bears in Alaska — Bill Would Repeal Protections on National Wildlife Refuges

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2017/predators-02-16-2017.php

For Immediate Release, February 16, 2017

Bill Would Repeal Protections on National Wildlife RefugesCongress Advances Legislation to Kill Wolves, Bears in Alaska

WASHINGTON— The House of Representatives today used the Congressional Review Act to strip away protections implemented during the Obama administration for wolves, bears and other predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. By eliminating these protections, the House measure greenlights killing wolves and their pups in their dens and allows bears to be gunned down at bait stations.

“Rolling back protections for predators defies everything wildlife refuges stand for,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Refuges are places where we celebrate biological diversity, not where wolves and bears are inhumanely killed for no good reason. It’s an outrage that Congress would revoke rules that stop the senseless slaughter of predators, heedless of the important role these animals play in healthy ecosystems.”

In August 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized regulations that protected predators from new predator-control tactics approved by Alaska’s Board of Game. These tactics include killing black bear cubs or mother with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft.

Alaska’s predator control activities are intended solely to artificially inflate prey populations, such as moose, for human hunting. House Joint Resolution 69, citing authority under the Congressional Review Act, would undo all those protections.

“This action is yet another extremist assault on the environment by certain members of Congress,” Jeffers said. “This bill has no scientific support and would dismantle rules that ensure wildlife refuges help conserve our natural heritage for future generations. We will do everything in our power to fight this mean-spirited attack on these magnificent animals and stop it from becoming law.”

The Service’s predator-protection regulations are also under attack from the state of Alaska, which is challenging the regulations in federal court. The Center and its allies have intervened on behalf of the Service to defend the challenged regulations.

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.

Bill Would Allow Killing Of Bears And Wolves Again On Alaska Wildlife Refuges

Groups want summary judgment in wolf lawsuit

Environmentalists trying to stop federal agency from killing wolves in Idaho

wp-1468782690732.jpg

By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune 6 hrs ago 0

Environmental groups have filed a motion for summary judgment in their case that seeks to stop the federal Wildlife Services agency from killing wolves in Idaho.

According to the lawsuit, the small agency has killed dozens of wolves in the state’s Lolo zone in each of last six years at the behest of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and its efforts to aid elk herds there. The agency also has acted in concert with the state to kill wolves that prey on livestock.

The Boise-based Advocates for the West argued that the federal agency – even when acting at the request of the state – must follow the National Environmental Policy Act. The 1970 law requires the federal government to study and publish the environmental consequences of its proposed actions and to consider viable alternatives

Advocates of the West Executive Director Laird Lucas said the agency has based its wolf control actions on a 2011 environmental assessment that he argues is outdated and falls short of essential details, such how many wolves would be killed, when and where the control might take place and what the ecological effects would be.

The lawsuit also argues the 2011 assessment is out of date because it relied on a population objective in a state wolf management plan that was changed even before the assessment was complete, and that a more lengthy and detailed environmental impact statement is needed to fully consider the effects of the agency’s wolf killing program.

The lawsuit asks federal district court judge Edward J. Lodge to require the agency to set aside the environmental assessment and require the agency either expand its study or to update it.

“We have this secretive agency trying to operate outside of the public eye,” Lucas said. “Many people in the public really care about wolves, and that is the point of (the National Environmental Policy Act) – to publicly disclose what you are doing.”

The lawsuit was filed in June by the Friends of the Clearwater, Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Predator Defense.

The federal government has not yet responded to the request for summary judgement that was filed Friday. If the environmental groups were to prevail, it would make it much more difficult for the state to manage the size of wolf packs in remote areas like the Lolo Zone.

Last year, Wildlife Services employees in helicopters shot 20 wolves in the Lolo Zone. A similar number of wolves was killed there in the three previous years. Idaho’s predator management plan for the Lolo Zone, north of the Lochsa River, calls for a 70 to 80 percent reduction of wolf numbers. In 1989, the department estimated the area had about 16,000 elk. A 2010 survey estimated the herd had dropped to 2,100 animals. The state agency is counting wolves in the Lolo Zone again this winter.
http://lmtribune.com/northwest/groups-want-summary-judgment-in-wolf-lawsuit/article_3ed65c8a-912f-5205-9d96-7534522e0aeb.html

Study: Human toll on gray wolves higher than estimated in Wisconsin

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/06/study-human-toll-gray-wolves/97579676/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

USA TODAY NETWORKLee Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel11:41 p.m. ET Feb. 6, 2017

MILWAUKEE — A University of Wisconsin-Madisonstudy shows the human toll on wolves is higher than previously estimated and that state officials have underreported wolf deaths in past analyses.

For years, wolves have been shot illegally, struck by cars and trucks or legally killed by authorities acting on reports that wolves were killing and threatening livestock and pets.

But in a study published Monday in the Journal of Mammalogy, UW researcher Adrian Treves and a group of scientists found higher levels of illegal killing of wolves in Wisconsin than reported by the Department of Natural Resources.

As part of the study, the researchers reinvestigated fatalities of a subset of wolves and found “abundant evidence” of gunshot wounds and injuries from trapping that may have been overlooked as a factor in their deaths, the authors said.

The study is likely to be controversial. As wolves have recolonized and their population has grown to an official count of nearly 900, the debate over their impact has only intensified.

Treves, for example, has been a critic of the design of the state’s hunting and trapping season for wolves and its potential to damage a healthy wolf population over the long term.

In an open letter in November 2015, Treves was one of more than 70 scientists and wolf experts who said studies show citizens are more tolerant of wolves than commonly assumed. The scientists questioned whether wolves can sustain their populations under state hunting and trapping seasons.

Adrian Wydeven, a retired DNR wolf ecologist, who read an advance copy of the study, disagreed with aspects of the research, including Treves’ interpretation of DNR data.

The study “seems to suggest … intent by (the DNR) to under-report (poaching) when it really just represents use of different models or agency reporting raw data,” Wydeven said in an email to several wolf experts that was shared with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“We always tried to report exactly what we found in the field,” Wydeven said in an interview.

Wydeven retired from the DNR in 2015 and is coordinator of the Timberwolf Alliance at Northland College in Ashland.

In a statement, DNR spokesman Jim Dick said: “While the (DNR) data collected is useful in determining wolves killed, that’s not its intended purpose. The data collected is meant to determine population and such things as pack territories. Wolf mortality numbers are based on actual dead animals detected.”

Treves said he and his fellow researchers examined the DNR’s methodology and are not claiming that officials are purposefully underestimating wolf deaths.

In the paper, the researchers say that failing to accurately account for wolf deaths, especially in future hunting and trapping seasons, is “risky.” Also, if officials continue to underreport poaching, it “will risk unsustainable mortality and raise the probability of a population crash,” they write.

“My argument is that scientifically you have to put your best foot forward,” said Treves, founder of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab at UW-Madison. “And when the DNR didn’t, they were doing it with an illegal activity (poaching).”

The UW study investigated the deaths of 937 gray wolves from October 1979 to April 2012 — a period that ends before Wisconsin initiated hunting seasons for wolves. Of the 937 wolves that died and whose deaths were investigated, 431 wore radio collars.

The UW researchers said that their analysis showed that the death of radio-collared wolves attributed to human causes was 64%. But the DNR calculated 55% and said an additional 18% of deaths were due to unknown causes, according to a DNR report in 2012.

Said Treves: “That’s a big number. We dug deeper and maybe it’s poaching.”

The researchers re-examined government records of necropsies and X-rays and found in some instances that gunshot wounds were a factor in the cause of death when other causes were cited.

The analysis also showed 52 wolves, or 20% of 256 animals that were X-rayed, revealed evidence of gunshots that did not kill the wolves. These cases were not added to researchers’ own estimates of higher poaching.

But the study said that figure lends credibility to the researchers’ claim that more wolves have been subject to poaching than the DNR reported.

Julie Langenberg, one of the authors of the study and a former DNR veterinarian, re-examined wolf death records.

She found evidence of gunshots that in the initial analysis were either mentioned briefly or not identified. Sometimes it was her own work.

“You are not looking at alternative facts,” Langenberg said of her review of wolf mortality in the study. “You are looking at the same facts, but because you are asking different questions, you are doing a different kind of assessment.”

She said the DNR’s job was to simply determine the cause of death.

Wisconsin officials reported that 528 wolves were killed during the state’s wolf hunting seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

During 2013, 257 wolves were killed — nearly half of all wolves harvested during the three years. Then  the wolf population dropped 18% from 809 in 2013 to 660 in 2014.

The hunts were halted in December 2014 by a federal judge who said Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan were violating the Endangered Species Act. This year, Congress, including Republicans and Democrats from Wisconsin, introduced a bill to replace federal protections with state management.

copyrighted wolf in water

Ranching groups challenge gray wolf’s endangered status in California

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/article129837699.html

 

Take action to stop the War on Wolves Act

Congressional enemies of conservation have wasted no time in beginning the latest and most serious legislative assault on gray wolves. Just weeks into the new Congress, bills have been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to kick wolves in four states off of the endangered species list and turn their fates over to states inent on capitalizing off of their slaughter through sport hunting and trapping.

Email your representative and senators and demand that they reject the War on Wolves Act and its assault on science and the law.

The zeal to kick wolves off of the endangered species list has become an obsession to some in Congress. In the last legislative session alone, there were more than thirty bills or amendments with a primary goal of removing protections for wolves. Until now, Democrats in the Senate have acted as a check on these attacks. Unfortunately, Senators Klobuchar (D-MN) and Baldwin (D-WI) have aligned with their GOP counterparts and cosponsered the so-called War on Wolves Act.

The threat is abundantly clear. If the War on Wolves Act is passed into law, wolves will be killed in large numbers. In Wisconsin, leaked emails have shown a stated goal of killing up to 70 percent of the wolves in the state–in just the first year that they are allowed to set a hunting and trapping season. This unscientific, unsustainable, and unethical plan is explicitly endorsed by the senators and representatives that are pushing the War on Wolves Act.

Tell your senators and representative to oppose these dangerous bills!

The War on Wolves Act is nothing less than a payback to special interests that have lobbied for legislative tampering with Endangered Species Act protections. Incredibly, despite the persistent congressional efforts to delist wolves, one of the states that would be given management responsibilities–Wyoming–lacks any approved plan for what happens after protections are slashed. The still-recovering 382 wolves in that state would be left in limbo, and at risk of a repeat of Wyoming’s last plan that called for unregulated killing in 85 percent of the state.

Your senators and representative need to hear from you. Today, we are asking you to send an email asking that they oppose this bill. If the bill advances, we will be reaching out to you to ask for calls, social media posts, and visits to members’ in-district offices. Again, this is the most serious and likely-to-pass bill to date. Please take action today by emailing your senators and representative and urging they oppose these bills.

copyrighted wolf argument settled

Wolf that escaped from Idaho wildlife park killed by owner

image

A wolf that escaped from a drive-thru wildlife tourist attraction in southeastern Idaho has been shot and killed by the owner of the business, Idaho officials said.

Courtney Ferguson, the owner of Yellowstone Bear World near Yellowstone National Park, tracked the wolf through snow and shot it about an hour after it escaped from the facility that also has bears, elk, bison and deer.

“Courtney saw the tracks in the snow, tracked the wolf down and shot it,” Doug Peterson of Idaho Fish and Game told the Standard Journal in a story published Monday. “He took care of it all by himself and relatively quickly and easily.”

Peterson said the wolf was owned by Ferguson so the state’s hunting rules did not apply to the killing of the wolf.

“The wolves we hunt belong to the citizens of Idaho,” Peterson said. “This particular wolf of Courtney’s belonged to him.”

All the animals at the facility that is now closed for the winter were born and raised there, the company said.

Yellowstone National Park has drawn a record of more than 4 million visitors this year, many hoping to spot wolves and grizzly bears in the wild. Ferguson’s wildlife park sits on one of the major routes into the park, with a selling point that visitors can see the animals up close.

“It’s a different setting than the park but they do get to see what those animals look like,” said Jim White, regional supervisor for Idaho Fish and Game.

Yellowstone Bear World operates with a license issued by the Idaho Department of Agriculture and its animals are permitted by Idaho Fish and Game.

White called the escape of the wolf “an unusual, isolated incident.”

Ferguson did not immediately respond Tuesday to telephone and email messages seeking comment.

Rebounding California gray wolf holds onto protection

SF Chronicle

December 7, 2016

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The California gray wolves will keep their endangered species protections even once the rebounding animal hits a population of at least 50, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife published its plan for managing wolves late Tuesday, setting its policy for the species that is making a comeback to the state after it was killed off in the 1920s.

“Wolves returning to the state was inevitable,” said Charlton Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a statement. “It’s an exciting ecological story, and this plan represents the path forward to manage wolves.”

The plan marks a shift in course, dropping language from an earlier draft that directed officials to remove wolves from the list of animals protected once they reached the critical mass.

Wolves in California were hunted to extinction nearly a century ago, but a lone wolf called OR-7 crossed the northern border from Oregon in 2011. OR-7 and his mate have had a litter for each of the last three years, and cameras caught another family pack in Northern California, but it hasn’t been spotted in several months, wildlife advocates say. Officials say it’s hard to say how many wolves roam the state today, but their numbers remain small.

In response, state officials in 2014 granted the wolf protections under the state’s endangered species act, despite opposition from hunting and livestock groups who fear the predator will kill deer and valuable cattle. Under California’s protections, gray wolves can’t be killed or hunted.

U.S. law also protects wolves in most of the nation, except for Idaho, Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah, but there is a pending proposal to strip federal protections from most of the Lower 48 states, including California.

Kirk Wilbur of the California Cattlemen’s Association said ranchers in California are prohibited from taking meaningful steps against the predator that kills their livestock. They can’t throw a rock in their general direction — let alone shoot one that’s killing cattle, he said.

“The options are very limited to the way a rancher can protect his livestock,” Wilbur said. “That can be absolutely devastating for a rancher who is a small business owner.”

Wolf advocates, however, praise the plan. Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity said wolves are in the early stage of making a historic comeback, and it’s too soon to consider stripping away protections.

“It’s one of those conservation moments you don’t know if you’re going to get in your lifetime,” she said. “We’re getting it in California, and it’s really exciting.”

Wolves are coming; Regional meeting held in Quincy to alert ranchers