14 Jan 2009, 6:15pm
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Fish and Wildlife Service to delist gray wolves

BREAKING NEWS:

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian, January 14 2009 [here]

Montana’s gray wolf may be off the federal threatened and endangered species list next month.

“We believe this is a major success story for conservation,” deputy secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett said Wednesday in a teleconference from Washington, D.C. “We’ve laid the groundwork for recovery to continue far into the future.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials decided to delist most of the wolf populations in the continental United States, including those in Montana, Idaho, Utah and the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, they stopped short of including Wyoming’s wolf population, citing that state’s inadequate wolf management plan.

The change should be published in the Federal Register next week, Scarlett said. It will formally take effect 30 days after publication.

Delisting means wolf management will become a job for state and tribal wildlife agencies instead of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. There are about 1,500 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. That includes about 390 in Montana and 788 in Idaho. Wyoming has about 340 wolves.

Federal gray wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs said the FWS would continue to work with Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to study and manage wolf populations. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management would continue their respective wildlife management efforts. And Montana agencies would be able to tap between $700,000 and $800,000 in remaining federal wolf management budgets for their local efforts, Bangs said.

FWS officials acknowledged incoming Obama administration appointees could reverse the delisting decision if they wished. But they said the science backs up their stand that now is the right time.

“The bottom line is wolves are fully recovered, and they should be delisted,” Bangs said. “It’s the right time and the right thing to do.”

12 Jan 2009, 1:04pm
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Ranchers: government discriminates against cattle

by the Longview Daily News, January 11, 2009 [here]

DAYVILLE, Ore. — To protect fish, the U.S. government discriminates against cows but lets elk and wild horses do whatever they want even if the wild beasts do at least as much damage to sensitive streams.

Or so say Dayville cattle ranchers Loren and Piper Stout.

Last year, after a lawsuit from environmental groups, a court ordered the two and others to remove their cattle from U.S. Forest Service land along Murderers Creek and its tributaries until the suit is resolved.

The creeks are home to middle Columbia River steeled protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Now the Stouts say they will sue the Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies under the federal act.

Those agencies are allowing wild horse and elk populations to swell, their notice says, and those beasts trample the creek bank, too. … [more]

7 Jan 2009, 11:30am
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Opposition Rising to IDFG Fee Increases

Save Our Elk: Urgent Call to Action [here]

After years of Mismanagement, Fraud and Abuse, the Idaho Fish and Game is asking for a Fee Increase. The issue is coming up for vote in January and we need to voice our opinion that we, as sportsment do not take kindly to our fees, which should be directed to fish and game type issues, going to anything but!

Now is the time to Voice Opposition to the proposed Idaho Fish and Game 20-30% fee increase

The Idaho Fish and Game is making an outrageous request of the Idaho Legislature to approve a 20-30% fee increase. Timing couldn’t be worse-this bloated fee increase comes as our state is facing the worst recession in years. Our Governor has ordered State agencies to tighten their belts and reduce spending by 4-7%. What gives the IDFG the right to expect a ridiculous fee increase when other state agencies are facing layoffs and cutbacks? The IDFG is acting like a spending “prima donna” and for some reason they believe they should not demonstrate the same spending discipline as other state agencies. The legislature must tell the IDFG to hold the line on fees and consider CUTTING its budget the same as all other state agencies. It is outrageous that the IDFG is vain enough to even consider making this bloated, ridiculous fee increase request, and shows just how out of touch this department has become with the sportsman and citizens of Idaho. Call or write your local representative today and voice your opposition to their requested 20-30% fee increase.

Obama picks Salazar as Interior secretary

By Jim Tankersley and Julie Cart, LA Times, December 16, 2008 [here]

Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama plans to name Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) to lead the Interior Department — an appointment that could put the brakes on several controversial energy development projects across the West.

Two senior Democrats said Monday that Obama would name Salazar, a Latino, to the post, rounding out an energy and environmental policy team announced at a Chicago news conference.

If confirmed, Salazar would head a department with a broad portfolio, including managing the troubled Bureau of Indian Affairs. Salazar, 53, would also oversee the nation’s national parks and other large swaths of public lands, making him the country’s foremost landlord. And he would be responsible for the Bureau of Land Management, which sets policy for oil and gas drilling, mining and other resource extraction on public land. … [more]

11 Dec 2008, 8:58pm
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New Rule Unifies Domestic and International Conservation Laws to Manage Polar Bear

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service News Release, December 11, 2008 [here]

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a Special Rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) providing for the conservation of the polar bear. While implementing important protections provided by the ESA, the special rule, in most instances, adopts existing conservation requirements for the polar bear under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Service protected the polar bear as a threatened species under the ESA on May 15, 2008.

“When I announced the protection of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act earlier this year, I outlined the need to continue to allow activities permissible under the stricter standards imposed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said Kempthorne. “This rule will protect polar bear populations, while ensuring the safety of communities living in close contact with the bears and allowing for continued environmentally sound development of our natural resources in the arctic region.”

The special rule, issued under Section 4(d) of the ESA, adopts the conservation regulatory requirements of the MMPA and CITES for the polar bear in most instances; provides that incidental take of polar bears resulting from activities outside the bear’s current range is not prohibited under the ESA; clarifies that the Special Rule does not alter the Section 7 consultation requirements of the ESA; and applies the standard ESA protections for threatened species when an activity is not covered by an MMPA or CITES authorization or exemption. Further, this special rule does not affect any existing requirements under the MMPA, including incidental take restrictions, or those of CITES.

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9 Dec 2008, 9:41pm
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Montana wolf pack eliminated after livestock killings

Associated Press, KXTV.com, Dec. 5, 2008 [here]

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) Federal wildlife officials have killed the remaining wolves of the Hog Heaven Pack near Kalispell because of continued livestock depredations.

Officials for USDA Wildlife Services shot 19 wolves over three days two on Wednesday, eight on Thursday and nine on Friday.

Jim Williams, a wildlife manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the pack’s range included parts west and southwest of Kalispell. Trappers shot the wolves in the Brown’s Meadow and Niarada areas.

The decision to kill the wolves was made jointly by FWP and Wildlife Services after steps failed to stem cattle depredations.

The pack has been involved in eight livestock killings over the last few months. The latest occurred Nov. 18 when the pack killed a 2-year-old bull near Kila.

A total of 27 wolves have now been removed from the pack.

9 Dec 2008, 9:40pm
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Disease ravaging wolf pups

By Marshall Helmberger, Timberjay News, December 09, 2008 [here]

Minnesota’s wolf population has stopped growing and a new study by Dr. David Mech suggests a highly contagious canine disease may be playing a major role in that trend. The study, which appeared late last month in the Journal of Animal Diseases, reports that as many as 70 percent of wolf pups in the study population, located near Ely, are now dying of canine parvovirus, or CPV, a disease first detected in wild wolves in the 1970s.

According to Mech, young wolves up to about one year of age appear to be the most vulnerable to the effects of CPV. While a high percentage of adult wolves in the state are carriers of the disease, they appear to be able to withstand its effects.

Across the state, Mech estimates that CPV is killing between 40 and 60 percent of wolf pups and appears to be sharply limiting growth of Minnesota’s wolf population. Mech estimates that the disease is limiting the state’s wolf population growth to just four percent, or far lower than that experienced in other states with wolf populations, like Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as in Yellowstone National Park. …

Minnesota’s wolf population expanded rapidly in the wake of its federal protection in the 1970s, increasing from several hundred, mostly limited to far northeastern Minnesota, to an estimated 3,000 by the mid-1990s. But since then, the state’s wolf population has largely held steady, according to John Erb, a wolf specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. The latest statewide survey estimated Minnesota’s wolf population at just over 2,900 animals. … [more]

7 Dec 2008, 9:44am
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Despite deaths, grizzly population grows

By The Associated Press, Caspar Star-Tribune, December 2, 2008 [here]

POWELL — The number of grizzly bear deaths in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem increased markedly this year, but the population still continued to grow.

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, an estimated 80 grizzlies died in the Yellowstone area in 2008. In 2007, 49 grizzlies died.

The numbers of grizzly deaths are estimated from known, probable, estimated unknown and unreported deaths from a variety of causes, according to Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team figures.

Despite the deaths, the grizzly population in the ecosystem increased an estimated 4 percent this year.

In 2007, there were an estimated 571 grizzlies. In 2008, the number increased to an estimated 596 grizzlies.

Based on those figures, the population will double in 20 years, said Chuck Schwartz, Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader in Bozeman, Mont.

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4 Dec 2008, 7:51pm
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Will payments for wolf losses continue?

Cattle group ponders decline in federal depredation dollars

By Jason Kauffman, Idaho Mountain Express, November 19, 2008 [here]

Idaho ranchers gathered in Sun Valley this week worry that they’ll lose federal payouts for wolf attacks on their herds.

The payments come through Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, led by Nate Fisher. The agency doles out $100,000 a year to cattle and sheep producers whose herds have been hit by wolves. Funding for the program comes from the federal government, which under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was responsible for the reintroduction effort.

But due to changes that are about to sweep through Washington, D.C., on the heels of the Nov. 4 election Idaho ranchers fear they may lose these federal payments.

On Tuesday, several hundred ranchers from around the state gathered at the Sun Valley Inn as part of the Idaho Cattle Association’s annual convention to discuss what the future may hold for the compensation program they consider so crucial. Cattle producers fear the Democrats’ strengthened hand in Washington as well as the possible hand-over of wolf management duties to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana may spell the end of the federal dollars. … [more]

4 Dec 2008, 1:12am
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Study: wolves danger to elk herds

By Ralph Bartholdt, St Maries Gazette Record, December 2, 2008 [here]

Wolves are the main reason for shrinking elk herds in an Idaho study area, according to Fish and Game.

The department estimates that the number of cow elk in the Lolo Hunting Zone is being reduced by 13 percent annually because of wolf predation.

State wildlife biologist George Pauley said in an AP article that 87 percent of the elk in the Lolo Hunting Zone need to survive each year to maintain a healthy population there. Now, an estimated 75 percent of the elk survive each year.

“When you are down in the 70s or low 80s, that is not good,’’ Mr. Pauley said. “We are not going to maintain a population. It will decline under those conditions.’’

In 1996 state game managers asked that federal trappers be allowed to kill more than 40 wolves in the region. The request was denied. Now they want hunters to take care of the predators.

“I just think it’s generally more acceptable with folks to manage populations through hunting than any other way,’’ Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth told the Lewiston Tribune.

Fish and Game is monitoring efforts to delist wolves under the Endangered Species Act, he said.

Public comments are being taken this week on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services plan to end federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

The wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the early 1990s and an estimated 1,500 wolves live in the Northern Rockies region, including 700 to 800 in Idaho.

Fish and Wildlife wants to have a new plan in place by the end of the year.

If the wolves are delisted, Idaho Fish and Game will once again push to allow hunting of wolves in the Lolo Hunting Zone to prevent further reductions in the cow elk population, said Mr. Unsworth.

“That is certainly our preferred option,’’ he said.

If the effort to delist the wolves is delayed, Fish and Game will consider other options under federal management rules for wolves, he said.

1 Dec 2008, 12:18pm
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Idaho game agency says wolves hitting cow elk hard in Lolo Zone

by the Missoulian Online, 11/28/2008, [here]

LEWISTON, Idaho - Biologists with the state Department of Fish and Game say wolves are the primary cause of death among a shrinking population of cow elk in northern Idaho.

The agency estimates cow elk in a remote area designated as the Lolo Hunting Zone have dwindled by as much as 13 percent each year. A recent study of radio-collared cow elk indicates that for the most part, wolves are to blame, Fish and Game says.

State wildlife managers unsuccessfully requested permission in 1996 to allow federal trappers to kill more than 40 wolves in the region and now they want to allow hunters to take care of the predators.

“I just think it’s generally more acceptable with folks to manage populations through hunting than any other way,” Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth told the Lewiston Tribune.

Idaho Fish and Game managers are monitoring efforts to delist wolves as federally protected animals under the Endangered Species Act, Unsworth said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comments this week on its plan to end federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies, the latest move in a lengthy debate over management of the animals.

The wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s and there are an estimated 1,500 wolves living in the Northern Rockies region, with about 700 to 800 in Idaho.

The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to have a new plan in place by the end of the year.

If the wolves are delisted, Unsworth said Fish and Game managers in Idaho will pursue permission to allow hunting of the animals in the Lolo Hunting Zone and prevent additional thinning of the cow elk population.

“That is certainly our preferred option,” Unsworth said.

If the effort to delist the wolves from the Endangered Species Act is delayed, or tied up in court battles, Unsworth said Fish and Game will consider other options under federal management rules for wolves.

State wildlife biologist George Pauley said 87 percent of the elk in the Lolo Hunting Zone need to survive each year to maintain a healthy population there. Now, an estimated 75 percent of the elk survive each year.

“When you are down in the 70s or low 80s, that is not good,” Pauley said. “We are not going to maintain a population. It will decline under those conditions.”

23 Nov 2008, 1:19am
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Mitchell Slough open for recreation, justices say

By PERRY BACKUS of the Ravalli Republic, Nov 18, 2008 [here]

HAMILTON - In a case with statewide implications, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Monday that Mitchell Slough is open to recreation under the state’s stream access law.

The court said the 16-mile-long slough roughly follows the historical course of a waterway mapped 130 years ago, and therefore is subject to public access and required permitting, as are other natural waterways.

The 54-page decision overturned two earlier rulings by state district courts that found the slough was not a “natural, perennial-flowing stream.”

Mitchell Slough is located east of the Bitterroot River between Hamilton and Stevensville. The Tucker Headgate directs water from the East Fork of the Bitterroot River into the slough. The water travels across private property, including that of wealthy landowners such as 1980s rocker Huey Lewis, for about 10 miles before re-entering the river.

Ditch companies and private water users have historically used water from the slough for irrigation, stockwater, and fish and wildlife purposes. They also routinely took actions above Tucker Headgate to ensure an even supply of water into the East Fork of the Bitterroot River.

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22 Nov 2008, 10:37am
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Over 200 whales trapped in Canadian ice

Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2008 [here]

At least 200 narwhal whales in Canada’s Arctic, trapped by winter ice and facing starvation or suffocation, must be culled, officials say.

Hunters from the village of Pond Inlet on Baffin Island discovered the animals trapped near Bylot Island, about 17 kilometres from Pond Inlet, on November 15.

The local hunters are allowed to harvest only 130 whales each year for food, according to standards set by the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans.

But department spokesman Keith Pelley said: “It’s unlikely the animals are going to survive the winter, so the hunters have been given authorisation to cull them.”

The hunters have been on the ice slaughtering the whales since Thursday and are likely to accomplish their task over the coming days, he said.

Narwhal are found mostly in the Arctic circle, and are renowned for their extraordinarily long tusk, which is actually a twisted incisor tooth that projects from the left side of its upper jaw and can be up to three metres long.

“A couple of weeks ago, when the ice was still moving, there were quite a few narwhal seen out there in the open water,” Jayko Allooloo, chairman of the Pond Inlet hunters and trappers organisation, told public broadcaster CBC.

“About a week later, they’re stuck.”

Community elders and officials feared the whales would die from a lack of oxygen as the ice grew thicker around them, Pelley explained.

There are about a dozen areas of open waters where they could come up for air, but it is a tight squeeze for them.

21 Nov 2008, 10:01pm
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Endangered Snail Found in Snake River Below Minidoka Dam

US Bureau of Reclamation News Release [here]

A species of mollusk has been confirmed to exist in the upper Snake River below Minidoka Dam, Federal officials announced today.

The Snake River physa, a freshwater snail, was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act on December 12, 1992. It had not been collected since the 1980s and was believed to be extirpated from its Snake River habitat.

Snail samples were collected by the Bureau of Reclamation from 2006-2008 in the 11.5-mile stretch of the Snake River starting at Minidoka Dam and extending downstream. The samples were sent to a mollusk expert at the University of Michigan for taxonomic and genetic analysis.

“Results of independent analysis positively confirm the presence of Snake River physa in the Snake River below Minidoka Dam,” said Jerrold Gregg, Manager of Reclamation’s Snake River Area Office.

In accordance with the ESA, Reclamation consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on operations and maintenance at 12 Federal projects in the upper Snake River basin and in 2005 the Service issued a Biological
Opinion on this operation. As part of this consultation, Reclamation agreed to conduct a survey to determine whether Snake River physa existed in the action area.

Jeff Foss, Field Supervisor of the Service’s Snake River Office, said, “We commend the excellent scientific work Reclamation conducted with the snail survey that resulted in the collection of Snake River physa. This important confirmation will provide a greater understanding of the species and its habitat. We look forward to the final report.”

Following the discovery of the snail, discussions started between Reclamation and the Service on how this discovery might affect the 2005 Biological Opinion.

Current water operations are consistent with the existing 30-year Opinion, and Reclamation is not proposing any change in its existing operation.

The adaptive management approach included in the proposed action will allow for minor operational modifications to minimize adverse effects to physa.

The agencies will continue to evaluate new information and potential impacts to the species.

Montana State University researchers coordinated the study effort and will be compiling and analyzing all three years of the survey data. A final report, to be provided to Reclamation in March 2010, is expected to provide a better understanding of whether and how operations may affect this species.

The fact that an “endangered” snail was found below the dam may be a harbinger of hope to the Klamath and its dams, if something endangered is found below the Klamath dams! What a reason for keeping the dams: to provide “critical habitat” for an endangered species!!! — Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here]

20 Nov 2008, 12:11am
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Ranchers brace for change in Washington

Idaho Cattle Association members gather in Sun Valley to discuss ‘winds of change’

By JASON KAUFFMAN, Idaho Mountain Express, Nov. 19, 2008 [here]

The outcome of the Nov. 4 election hung like an ominous storm cloud this week as members of the Idaho Cattle Association gathered in Sun Valley for their annual convention.

Convention speakers on Monday afternoon predicted that Democrats’ riding to a more powerful majority in Washington, D.C., will mean more regulation, additional listings under the federal Endangered Species Act and expansion of national monuments and wilderness areas.

For ranchers in Idaho and elsewhere in the West, the specter of change seems most tied to efforts to protect wildlife that conservationists and some federal biologists consider imperiled, such as gray wolves and greater sage grouse.

Andy Groseta, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, predicted that the Bush administration will hand off a court-ordered review of whether to list sage grouse as threatened or endangered under the ESA to the incoming Obama administration. Such a listing, which the federal government earlier rejected, could extend across Idaho and 10 other Western states.

“This administration is not going to have this review done on their watch,” Groseta said.

A December 2007 ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill prompted the current review. Winmill ruled that Fish and Wildlife Service officials ignored the “best science” in rejecting petitions to list the sage grouse. The decision was appealed by Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, one of numerous conservation groups that filed a petition for ESA listing in 2003.

Though Groseta said he was “hoping during the Bush administration we’d get some things worked out” in terms of regulatory relief, he said the Obama team has indicated a willingness to provide public lands ranchers a seat at the table when decisions are made. He said his group will continue to fight for ranchers who are getting “regulated out of business.”

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