26 Feb 2010, 11:25am
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Utah House votes to curb stream access

By Brandon Loomis, The Salt Lake Tribune, 02/24/2010 [here]

The Utah House has voted to restrict public access to streams that cross private property except where anglers and others can prove a continuous use has existed for at least 10 years.

The bill, a substitute version of HB141, responds to a 2008 Utah Supreme Court ruling that said state law gives access to public waters. Representatives who supported it Tuesday said the bill reasserts constitutional protections for private property as the nation’s and state’s founders intended.

“The pilgrims came here not to go fishing, but to own land,” said Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan.

Recreationists who lost this legislative round viewed the issue very differently, saying the bill cuts into public rights to public waterways.

“The public has a right to its water through the [Utah] Constitution, period,” said Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zach Frankel. “So unless [legislators] do a constitutional amendment, they’re not going to be able to change that.”

He said thousands of recreational users have become involved since the court ruling, and “people will be falling over themselves to sue” if the Senate passes the bill.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said the court decision was based on statute, not constitutional principles, and granted public rights where none previously had existed. For instance, he said, a creek that passes through his land never had seen public use — there are no fish there — but the ruling meant people could wade through to hunt or pursue other activities.

He said it’s the Legislature’s duty to protect private-property rights of the few against the demands of hundreds of thousands of fishers.

“This is not a popularity vote,” he said, but a case of upholding constitutional principles that protect against a “tyranny of the masses.” … [more]

26 Feb 2010, 11:24am
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Go Monument Yourself, Mr. Prez

Local officials concerned about Vermillion Basin issue

By Brian Smith, Craig Daily Press , February 24, 2010 [here]

Craig — Some local officials have been left confused and upset by a document leaked Thursday from the Bureau of Land Management, which lists the Vermillion Basin as a potential site for “special management or congressional designation.”

In response to the leaked information, the Moffat County Commission approved a letter to be sent to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at its Tuesday meeting. The letter, drafted by Jeff Comstock, director of the Moffat County Natural Resources Department, said the commission is “deeply discouraged” by the potential designation.

Salazar released a statement Thursday following reports stating the internal discussion “reflects some brainstorming discussions” and that “no decisions have been made about which areas, if any, might merit more serious review and consideration.”

Local officials are concerned they were not involved in any decisions regarding local land.

“What is most offensive is an executive order telling you how to manage your land,” Comstock said. “Involve your local people before you start doing a ‘top-down’ approach.”

Opponents of potential designation contend that the Antiquities Act could be used to designate the 77,000-acre area a national monument. Such a decision likely would limit public access and use of the land. … [more]

26 Feb 2010, 11:22am
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Historic Signing Fills Capitol Rotunda, Parches Klamath Farmers

BY SARAH ROSS, OregonPolitico.com, February 19, 2010 [here]

SALEM- In a signing ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday morning, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other interested parties came together to sign a restoration agreement for the Klamath Basin region bordering Oregon and California.

The agreement will lead to the removal of four dams on the Klamath River and closes 30,000 acre-feet of agricultural water rights designated off the federal project lands. Additionally, it provides the funds to purchase about 90,000 acres of forest land for the Klamath Tribes.

Speakers at the ceremony included major players in the negotiations of the agreement including leaders of the National Marine Fishery Services, tribal leaders for the region, owner of the four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath Rivers, as well as Gov. Schwarzenegger, Gov. Kulongoski, and Secretary Salazar.

Although this ceremony gave a glowing appearance of unity amongst its participants, the issues present in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are controversial at best. Many citizens in the area are upset with the agreement process and with its outcome.

The two biggest issues presented by those opposed to the agreement are the retirement of 30,000 acre-feet which will be losing their water rights, making the land no longer irrigable for large crops, and the closing of four dams in the region, which is predicted to raise the price of electricity for the area. … [more]

26 Feb 2010, 10:39am
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Mayor calls town limits ‘no-predator zone’

Sun Valley concerned about wolves entering town

By Ariel Hansen - Times-News, Friday, February 26, 2010 [here]

SUN VALLEY — A large audience Wednesday heard Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich do some howling about community concerns of wildlife within city limits.

Willich called for the Wood River Elk Trust II to quickly come up with a plan to feed elk on a ridge above the Elkhorn neighborhood of Sun Valley next winter, hoping they won’t then attract predators into the city.

The elk have not been fed by an organized group in three years, and last year wolves hunted them as they wandered through town. The wolves have not been present in the city this winter, which is attributed to the wolf hunting season launched last year.

Following a self-described “lecture” about the wildlife situation in Sun Valley, Willich took questions, but refused to take comments, on his proposal to have the elk trust present its plan to the Sun Valley City Council in two weeks.

“I’m finished with these town hall meetings, we’re moving to a solution,” Willich said. “The time for discussion is over.”

He said if the elk trust can’t resume feeding, or if the council fails to approve a resolution in support of their feeding, he will demand that Idaho Department of Fish and Game be more proactive. Several Fish and Game agents were in the audience.

“We’ll put you on notice that whenever there’s a predator around, you need to use whatever techniques to get the predators out of town,” Willich said, calling Sun Valley a “no-predator zone.”

Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Jerome Hansen said that’s already the department’s policy.

“We’ve got a document specifically developed to deal with urban large-animal conflicts. This is all about public safety,” he said. “Our guys are Johnny-on-the-spot.”

The department’s policy is to avoid feeding programs whenever possible, although they maintain feeding sites in other areas of the state, including nearby Warm Springs.

“Their plan to start up a feeding program (in Elkhorn) is an easy short-term solution, maybe, but I don’t think it’s the long-term solution,” Hansen said. “It takes a while (for the elk) to develop new patterns. It takes longer than we’ve had.”

He said he would prefer to find other solutions to keep the elk out of town, such as reducing the size of the herd and enhancing habitat in areas to attract the elk to areas not as close to homes, such as Parker and Independence gulches.

Willich said the City Council will take comments on March 11 on the elk trust’s plan. He said the council would likely offer moral, not monetary, support for a feeding plan.

Groups ready fisher lawsuit against feds

by Walt Cook, The Union Democrat, February 11, 2010 [here]

An alliance of environmental groups plans to sue the U.S. Department of the Interior for failing to place the West Coast fisher on the Endangered Species List.

The historical trapping of the animal, a relative of the mink that weighs as much as a house cat, and logging of old-growth forests have “devastated” West Coast fisher populations, the groups contend.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Forest Legacy, Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Interior Department on Feb. 4. The groups can file a complaint in federal court 60 days after that date.

Fishers once ranged throughout the forests of Canada and the United Sates, including Washington, Oregon and California. They were almost completely wiped out in the United States, due to a desire for their pelts, which fetched $150 apiece in 1900. They are now making a comeback in some parts of the country.

Today, in California, two native fisher populations exist: Near the California-Oregon border and in the southern Sierra Nevada, about half of the animals’ historic statewide territory, say the groups bringing the lawsuit.

Timber industry groups worry placing the West Coast fisher on the Endangered Species List will hinder logging operations, as such a designation places restrictions on human activities in areas deemed critical habitat.

Chris Conrad, president of the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment, sees the environmental groups’ push to list the fisher as an underhanded way to stop logging operations. Twain Harte-based TuCARE defends the interests of cattle and logging operators in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Forests in the Sierra Nevada are so overgrown in places that a catastrophic fire is inevitable without more logging, Conrad said.

“I think it’s evident that these groups have another agenda, and that is to completely shut down forest management,” Conrad said. “It’s unfortunate because the thing that endangers the fisher right now is the incredible buildup of forest fuels. If we don’t address that, their whole habitat is going to burn down.” … [more]

22 Feb 2010, 9:06pm
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Sam D. Hamilton dead at 54; U.S. fish and wildlife director

Washington Post, February 22, 2010 [here]

Sam D. Hamilton, 54, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, died Feb. 20 after suffering chest pains while skiing at the Keystone Ski Area in Colorado. The Summit County, Colo., coroner told the Associated Press that his death was consistent with an underlying heart problem. …

Mr. Hamilton, a 30-year veteran of the agency who became its director in September, was one of the leaders of restoration work in the Florida Everglades and along the coastal wetlands and wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. When the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought extinct, was spotted in his region in 2005, he told The Washington Post: “It’s given us a renewed hope that all these efforts, all this work, can pay off. It’s the story of how you can get a second chance.” …

The son of an Air Force pilot, Mr. Hamilton grew up in Starkville, Miss. His first outdoors job was as a Youth Conservation Corps member on the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, where he learned to band wood ducks and Canada geese, to build waterfowl pens and to understand the importance of managing wildlife habitat. Mr. Hamilton graduated from Mississippi State University in 1977. He rose through the Fish and Wildlife Service from being its Texas administrator, to assistant regional director of ecological services in Atlanta and then director of the agency’s Southeast region, based in Atlanta. …

Survivors include his wife, Becky Arthur Hamilton, of Atlanta; two sons, Sam Hamilton Jr. and Clay Hamilton, both of Atlanta; and a grandson.

20 Feb 2010, 4:01pm
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Judge gives his blessing to copters in wilderness

Fish & Game officials set to collar wolves

By Eric Barker, Lewiston Tribune, February 20th, 2010 [here]

A federal judge said Friday the Idaho Department of Fish and Game can land helicopters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area this winter to capture and place radio collars on wolves.

The department won Forest Service approval late last year to briefly land in the wilderness up to 20 times while biologists are flying over counting deer and elk. The landings would occur if and when fish and game biologists spot and are able to shoot wolves with tranquilizer darts. Once on the ground, a biologist would fit the wolves with radio collars to help them monitor wolf movements and populations.

But several environmental and wilderness protection groups sued, saying the landings violated the Wilderness Act. Motorized travel is not allowed in federally designated wilderness areas but there are several exceptions, including one for scientific studies that lead to improving wilderness conditions.

On Friday, Judge B. Lynn Winmill, of Boise, said the landings meet the criteria for exceptions to the ban on motorized travel and refused to issue an injunction.

“The use of helicopters is designed to restore a specific aspect of the wilderness character of the Frank Church Wilderness that had been earlier destroyed by man. In that context, the helicopter flights for this particular operation are consistent with the categorical exclusion that requires they be “limited in context and intensity.” … [more]

19 Feb 2010, 10:08pm
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ODFW collars three more Imnaha wolves

Wallowa County Chieftain, 2/18/2010 [here]

State wildlife staffers collared and released three wolves from the Imnaha pack last week, which will help wildlife managers better track and understand the pack’s movements, ODFW announced Thursday, Feb. 18.

A 115-pound wolf believed to be the alpha male was fitted Friday with a GPS collar, which allows ODFW to collect multiple locations of the wolf each day. A 97-pound male was fitted with a radio collar during the same operation and a 70-pound female pup was radio-collared on Saturday.

“The wolves were in good body condition and the capture went well,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.

These wolves were found in the ODFW Imnaha Wildlife Management Unit and are part of a pack videoed on Nov. 12, 2009. Based on the evidence so far, Morgan believes this pack consists of 10 wolves, with five of those pups.

Back in January 2008, the alpha female of this pack, B-300, was confirmed to be the first wolf to enter Oregon from Idaho since the early 2000s. She was captured and re-fitted with a working radio collar in July of last year, which helped ODFW find the three additional members of the pack.

While the size of wolf packs can vary, breeding usually occurs only between the dominant or “alpha” male and female of the pack.

In addition to the Imnaha pack, ODFW continues to track a wolf pack in the Wenaha Wildlife Management Unit, also in Wallowa County. None of these wolves has been collared yet, but wildlife managers have repeatedly found tracks and scat from these animals and estimate there are four wolves in this pack. … [more]

17 Feb 2010, 9:39pm
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Minnesotans Sue to Delist Wolves

RangeFire, February 16, 2010 [here]

“Dale Lueck, a north central Minnesota rancher, and Gerald Tyler, a retired real estate developer from Ely, MN, are suing to force the Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to delist wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Frustrated with the government’s inability to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which stipulates that once a species is deemed recovered, it must be delisted, Lueck and Tyler filed notice on Jan. 15 of intent to sue Secretary of Interior Kenneth Salazar and three USFWS officials. The agencies have 60 days to respond to the complaint. Absent a satisfactory response, Lueck and Tyler plan to seek relief in federal court.

“Lueck says the ESA is clear on the matter of delisting and their complaint zeroes in on the fact that the 1992 Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan and ESA recovery criteria for the wolf in the Midwest have been fully met. The plan called for a sustained population of 1,251-1,400 wolves in Minnesota and an additional viable population in Wisconsin and Michigan of at least 100 wolves. Today, about 3,000-3,500 timber wolves exist in Minnesota, with about 1,000 more in Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Lueck says the wolf was delisted and managed by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan without incident for approximately 18 months in 2007-2008. But in fall 2008, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. sided with the Humane Society of U.S. and placed the Midwest wolves back under ESA protection.

“As a member of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Lueck was involved in developing Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan and getting it passed by the Minnesota Legislature over 10 years ago. Lueck said, ‘It deeply troubles me that as citizens, we are forced to go into court to get our federal government to simply obey the law.’ … [more]

What’s killing Minnesota’s moose?

By DOUG SMITH, Star Tribune, February 9, 2010 [here]

The bad news continues for Minnesota’s moose.

The population of the iconic animal in northeastern Minnesota has declined again, based on the latest aerial survey this winter by the Department of Natural Resources.

Wildlife researchers estimate that there are 5,500 moose in that region of the state. With a 23 percent margin of error, the estimate is not statistically different from last year’s estimate of 7,600, but it supports other evidence that the moose population is declining.

“We don’t believe the population dropped 2,000 in the past year, but it’s indicative that the population is declining and parallels everything else we’ve been seeing,” said Mark Lenarz, DNR wildlife researcher. “Our concern continues.”

Reasons for the decline are uncertain, but researchers continue to believe a warming climate is responsible. Minnesota, already at the southern fringe of the moose range, apparently is becoming inhospitable for the large animals. Moose are extremely heat-sensitive, and temperature readings in Ely show over the past 48 years, average summer and winter temperatures have increased substantially. … [more]

7 Feb 2010, 10:14pm
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B.C. mulls new plan to save caribou by killing wolves

Environmental groups consulted on plan to target packs by helicopter

By Cam Fortems, The Vancouver Sun, February 6, 2010 [here]

More than two decades after pressure from environmentalists shut down an aerial wolf kill program, the province is considering a new lethal strategy.

But before it pulls the trigger, Ministry of Environment officials are canvassing environmental groups to judge reaction to a targeted program to kill wolf packs by helicopter in a bid to save mountain caribou threatened with extirpation.

Two B.C. conservationists confirmed Friday they received e-mails from species-at-risk recovery coordinator Chris Ritchie asking for reaction to a proposed lethal wolf strategy in targeted areas.

“We would be interested in your sense of the response from the ‘common man/woman’ in the region you live,” Richie wrote. “I realize that the opinion is likely to span a wide gamut, but local insight is always valuable.”

Representatives of those groups have scheduled a conference call Monday to consider the request.

“As a member of the public, I see it as evidence of the failure of our wildlife programs that we got to this point,” said Lawrence Redfern, a coordinator with the Mountain Caribou Project, a coalition of conservation groups.

Nearly all the world’s mountain caribou, an ecotype of woodland caribou found across northern Canada, are located in B.C. in an area stretching north from the U.S. border to the northern Rockies. Numbers have dwindled to fewer than 2,000. Some isolated herds have 50 animals or less. … [more]

Note: Thanks to Julie Smithson of Property Rights Research [here, here] for the news tip.

Oregon’s Steens Mountain could soon have wind farms

By Richard Cockle, The Oregonian, February 07, 2010, [here]

… Harney County has cleared Columbia Energy Partners of Vancouver to build a wind farm on the mountain’s north slope. By year’s end, 415-foot turbines could start rising from the juniper and sagebrush, among thousands of towers that developers are stampeding to build across eastern Oregon.

In addition, Columbia Energy has two more wind projects in the works for the Steens slope, plus another for Riddle Mountain to the northeast. A Houston company is scouting 18,000 acres to the south for a wind farm in the Pueblo Mountains, and more could follow.

Aside from wind farms, thousands of acres on Steens Mountain are open to homebuilding.

“We counted over 90 sites that you could come in tomorrow and make application to put homes on,” said Steve Grasty, chairman of the Harney County commissioners. One landowner won clearance to build hundreds of homes near the Steens’ Fish Lake.

But while some environmentalists are dismayed by the prospect of development on Steens Mountain — even if it’s green-friendly wind turbines — county officials are thrilled.

“We have an opportunity to put a $1.25 billion investment into this community,” said Grasty, referring to the value of Columbia Energy’s four wind projects and an accompanying transmission line. …

But the economy, long struggling, has been trampled in the recent recession. December’s jobless rate nudged 18 percent (compared with 11 percent statewide), not far from 1980’s record 21.8 percent, said Jason Yohannan, a state labor economist in La Grande.

The demise of RV-maker Monaco Coach in 2008-09 left Harney County with no manufacturing, Yohannan said, a change from the late 1970s when more than 1,000 residents worked as loggers or in the old Edward Hines Lumber Co. sawmill.

Columbia Energy unfurls the promise of a new industry — and jobs: 150 during an estimated four years of construction, plus 50 to 75 for maintenance after that, said Chris Crowley, Columbia Energy’s president. …

Liz Nysson, spokeswoman for the desert association, said visitors will be appalled to find “industrial-scale wind development” on the slopes of Steens Mountain. The Echanis project, she said, also will be built on habitat for falcons, golden eagles and sage grouse, which is being considered for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. … [more]

Note: It appears that “green” energy is not green. Those who destroyed traditional Harney County lifeways (ranching and forestry) which actually were “green,” are now harvesting the fruits of their irrational hysteria: ugly, raptor-chopping wind “farms” that promise intermittent, non-storable power.

7 Feb 2010, 2:28pm
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Wolf Packs Increase Despite Hunt

By JON DUVAL, Idaho Mountain Express, February 5, 2010 [here]

With about two months left in Idaho’s wolf hunt, half of the state’s dozen hunting zones have been closed due to filled limits. A total of 146 wolves have been killed to date.

On Monday, the sixth wolf hunting area, the Middle Fork zone, was closed after its quota of 17 wolves was reached.

As of Thursday, 74 legally allowed wolf kills remain before the state’s limit of 220 is filled. The hunt will close March 31, regardless of whether the quota is reached.

Despite the hunt, wolf numbers calculated by state wildlife officials indicate that the predator is fairing well.

In a year-end report from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on wolf management, preliminary wolf population estimates for 2009 show 94 packs present in the state, up from 88 packs the year before. Of those packs, reproduction was confirmed in 62, with 50 packs believed to be “breeding pairs,” meaning at least two pups are surviving. By contrast, in 2008 there were 39 breeding pairs.

The report did not address numbers of individual wolves.

According to the report, 15 new packs were documented in 2009 while three packs responsible for livestock depredations were eliminated in control actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

Over the course of last year, Wildlife Services killed 87 wolves and another six were killed legally by people protecting livestock or dogs.

The preliminary numbers show that wolves were responsible for killing or injuring 76 cows, 295 sheep and 14 dogs. Of the seven years included in the report, the number of wolf depredations has increased during all years except one, rising from 140 in 2003 to 385 in 2009.

The report also noted that Fish and Game sold 26,428 wolf tags, with 25,744 going to Idaho residents. According to Fish and Game spokesman Ed Mitchell, the sales of the tags, which cost $11.50 for Idaho residents and $186 for nonresidents, brought in about $400,000 in revenue to the department. … [more]

Federal agency denies endangered species protections for tiny pika

By The Associated Press, Oregon Live, February 04, 2010, [here]

SALT LAKE CITY — Climate change might be hurting some populations of the American pika, a relative of the rabbit, but not enough to warrant endangered species protection for the tiny mountain-dwelling animal, according to a decision released Thursday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted a copy of its decision on a federal Web site stating that while some pika populations in the West are declining, others are not, so it would not extend Endangered Species Act protections.

If they had been allowed, the pika would have been the first animal in the continental United States listed because of the effects of global warming.

Although potentially vulnerable to climate change in some parts of its range, pikas will have enough high-elevation habitat to survive, the agency said.

“We acknowledge there is going to be some decline at some locations, but the pika is widespread enough, across a range of habitat, that it appears it would not threaten the long-term survival and existence of the species,” Larry Crist, supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Utah, said Thursday afternoon.

Greg Loarie, an Earthjustice attorney who worked on lawsuits pressing for protections for the pika, said science clearly points toward dramatic reductions in pika populations in the coming decades because of warming temperatures.

“To conclude this species is not threatened by climate change strikes me as an impossible gamble,” Loarie said. … [more]

No Greg, it’s common sense. The “science” you are relying on is claptrap.

5 Feb 2010, 12:47am
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Multiple livestock attacks prompt removal of predators

By Nick Gevock, The Montana Standard, 02/02/2010 [here]

State wildlife officials have authorized another Big Hole Valley wolf pack to be wiped out after it repeatedly attacked cattle west of Wisdom.

Officials with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks moved to have the remaining one or two members of the Bender Pack to be killed by federal trappers. Last week trappers confirmed that the pack had killed a calf on a private ranch west of Wisdom.

The pack had already attacked and killed a calf on a different ranch nearby earlier in the month, prompting FWP to authorize that one wolf be removed. Trappers did that but the pack again got into trouble.

“This is the second confirmed depredation and it’s consisted of two different ranches,” said Nathan Lance, FWP wolf biologist in Butte.

The Bender pack formed last year when a wolf from the Bitterroot migrated into the Big Hole Valley and met up with a wolf from the Sapphire Mountains, Lance said. Hunters killed two wolves from the pack this season in Montana’s first ever statewide wolf hunt.

In addition, trappers killed one wolf from the pack in early December when the wolves were caught harassing cattle. Lance said the final decision to wipe out the pack came after the standard, incremental approach to dealing with problem wolves proved ineffective.

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