14 Nov 2009, 6:03pm
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Paper Mills Drunk on Black Liquor

Biofuel Tax Incentives Become Black Liquor Boondoggle

by Chris Clayton, DTN ProgressiveFarmer.com, Nov 13, 2009 [here]

OMAHA (DTN) — Thanks to a 2008 Internal Revenue Service ruling, American taxpayers will shell out at least $6 billion this year to subsidize an “alternative fuel” that has actually been the main fuel used in paper mills for decades.

In the first six months of 2009, payments to the paper industry for black liquor could reach $2.5 billion, according to the Congressional Joint Committee. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)”Black liquor” sounds like a trendy new drink, but in fact it’s a byproduct of the paper-making process, which paper mills use to run their boilers. Responding to inquiries from paper companies late last year, the IRS says black liquor could qualify for a 50-cent-a-gallon alternative-fuel subsidy Congress created in the 2005 highway bill and extended in the 2007 energy bill.

The provision’s intent seemed to be spurring the development of new fuels. It was only expected to cost $265 million over five years.

For the struggling pulp and paper industry, the subsidy is very good news, turning some money-losing operations into profit makers. It’s bad news for supporters of ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable fuels.

Tom Buis, the chief executive officer of renewable-fuels group Growth Energy, says unhappiness over the loophole could discourage Congress from expanding renewable-fuels subsidies or creating new ones. By his understanding of Congress’s intent, paper mills “would never qualify” to the degree they have. “The cost,” he noted, “is pretty significant.”

Indeed, owing to the black-liquor controversy, Congress may not renew the 50-cent credit, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. But even assuming the credit lapses, the controversy continues. A $24 billion cellulosic credit dubbed “son of black liquor” is in line to replace it. … [more]

13 Nov 2009, 2:23pm
Latest Climate News
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Orwellian Limey Fart Rationing Proposed

Note: this article is not a spoof.

Everyone in Britain should have an annual carbon ration and be penalised if they use too much, the head of the Environment Agency will say.

The UK Telegraph, 09 Nov 2009 [here]

Lord Smith of Finsbury believes that implementing individual carbon allowances for every person will be the most effective way of meeting the targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It would involve people being issued with a unique number which they would hand over when purchasing products that contribute to their carbon footprint, such as fuel, airline tickets and electricity.

Like with a bank account, a statement would be sent out each month to help people keep track of what they are using.

If their “carbon account” hits zero, they would have to pay to get more credits.

Those who are frugal with their carbon usage will be able to sell their unused credits and make a profit.

Lord Smith will call for the scheme to be part of a “Green New Deal” to be introduced within 20 years when he addresses the agency’s annual conference on Monday.

An Environment Agency spokesman said only those with “extravagant lifestyles” would be affected by the carbon allowances.

He said: “A lot of people who cycle will get money back. It will probably only be bankers and those with extravagant lifestyles who would lose out.”

However, some have criticised the move as “Orwellian” and say it will have a detrimental impact on business.

Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group, told the Daily Mail: “This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It’s Orwellian. This will be an enormous tax on business.”

Under the Climate Change Act, Britain is obliged to cut its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. This means annual CO2 emissions per person will have to fall from about 9 tonnes to only 2 tonnes.

10 Nov 2009, 2:49pm
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Totalitarian Space Lizards

‘V’ aims at Obamamania

By Glenn Garvin, McClatchy/Tribune News, November 3, 2009 [here]

Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.

The news media swoons in admiration — one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: “Why don’t you show some respect?!” The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader’s origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: “Embracing change is never easy.”

So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait — did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who’s come here to eat us?

Welcome to ABC’s “V,” the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it’s also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president’s supporters and delight his detractors. …[more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:59am
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Maya Murals Give Rare View of Everyday Life

By Andrea Thompson, Live Science, 09 November 2009 [here]

[Click for larger image]

Recently excavated Mayan murals are giving archaeologists a rare look into the lives of ordinary ancient Maya.

The murals were uncovered during the excavation of a pyramid mound structure at the ancient Maya site of Calakmul, Mexico (near the border with Guatemala) and are described in the Nov. 9 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The find “was a total shock,” said Simon Martin of the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, who studied the paintings and hieroglyphs depicted in the murals.

The Maya have been studied for more than a century, but “this is the first time that we’ve seen anything like this,” Martin said.

The Maya, like many other societies, left more traces and accounts of the lives of the ruling classes — the royalty, religious orders and artisans — than of the lower orders of society that made up the bulk of such civilizations.

“We almost never get a view of what other layers of society are doing or what they look like, so this is one of the things that makes [the murals] so special,” Martin told LiveScience.

The murals were found on the walls of one layer of the mound structure — Maya built over the top of older structures, creating buildings in layers like onions, Martin explained. While other layers were scraped up and destroyed in the effort to build over them, the layer with the murals appears to have been carefully preserved, with a layer of clay put over the murals, ostensibly to protect them.

This careful preservation “might suggest that it was something pretty special,” Martin said.

The images on the mural show people engaged in mundane activities, such as preparing food. Hieroglyphic captions accompany each image, labeling each individual. In each case the term “aj,” meaning “person,” is used and followed by the word for a foodstuff or material. For example, the terms “aj ul” (”maize-gruel person”) shows a man with a large pot, dish and spoon with another man drinking from a bowl, and the term “aj mahy” (tobacco person) depicts two men, one holding a spatula and the other a pot that likely holds a form of the tobacco leaf. … [more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:50am
Latest Wildlife News
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Teen forced to shoot polar bear after getting trapped on ice floe in Nunavut

The Canadian Press, 11/09/09 [here]

CORAL HARBOUR, Nunavut — Battling hypothermia and freezing skin, a trapped teenage hunter was forced to shoot and kill a polar bear as he waited for more than a day to be rescued from a large chunk of drifting sea ice in the Canadian North.

The teen and his 67-year-old uncle, who had gone out polar bear hunting, were reported overdue late Saturday, said Ed Zebedee, director of the Government of Nunavut’s protection services branch.

The snowmobile the pair were riding broke down approximately 18 kilometres from Coral Harbour, a tiny community on Nunavut’s Southampton Island in the northern part of Hudson Bay.

As they walked towards the community to get help, they became separated. A large chunk of ice broke off, setting the teen adrift, said Zebedee.

The uncle was picked up Sunday morning. Searchers on snowmobiles located the man as he walked on the pack ice off the coast of the island.

His nephew, meanwhile, remained lost.

Sometime between Saturday and Sunday, the teen, who was armed with a rifle, encountered three bears, likely a female and two older cubs, on the same large ice pan.

One bear, likely the adult, simply got too close.

“He did have to shoot the polar bear to protect himself,” said Zebedee. “There were two other bears on the ice pan but they stayed away from him so he didn’t shoot at them at all.”

The two cubs remained with the carcass and the teen managed to position himself as far away as he could from the remaining animals. …[more]

10 Nov 2009, 10:47am
Latest Wildlife News
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Wyoming makes argument for managing gray wolves

By MATT JOYCE, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/09/09 [here]

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rejection of Wyoming’s management plan for gray wolves was an “arbitrary and capricious” decision, the state claims, and a federal court should order the agency to transfer wolf management to Wyoming.

Wyoming made the argument Monday in a brief filed in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. The state filed suit in June after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed course and decided to leave gray wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list while delisting them in Idaho and Montana.

The state’s case is part of long-running legal battles over gray wolves in the region. Politicians, biologists, ranchers, hunters and environmentalists have been fighting over wolves since before they were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s.

The agency’s main reason for rejecting Wyoming’s wolf management was the state’s plan to classify wolves as a trophy game species for licensed hunters in the state’s northwest corner - the bulk of the animals’ range - while classifying them as a predator species in the rest of the state, meaning anybody could shoot them at any time.

The agency said Wyoming needs to manage wolves as trophy game statewide to assure that wolves survive.

In its Monday filing, the state argued that the service’s position is not biologically defensible. The best scientific information available proves that the predator classification wouldn’t prevent the state from maintaining its share of a recovered population, the state said.

“If the court sees things our way, the service is going to have to amend the current delisting rule to include us,” said Jay Jerde, Wyoming deputy attorney general.

A spokesman for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division declined to comment on the state’s arguments. The federal government’s response is due Dec. 14. Arguments in front of U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson are set for Jan. 29. … [more]

9 Nov 2009, 11:58am
Latest Forest News
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A push to thin forests to curb wildfires

By Dave Moller, The Union, Nov 9, 2009 [here]

The Nevada County supervisors will be asked Tuesday to send a letter to Rep. Tom McClintock asking him to continue to push a bill to thin California’s forests to protect them from runaway wildfire.

The county has 218,000 acres of federal land that are “at least 10 times as dense as their historic structure, choked with unnatural fuel loads that render the forest unhealthy and vulnerable to catastrophic fire and present an overwhelming threat to public safety in wildland-urban interface areas,” career firefighter and Board of Supervisors Chairman Hank Weston wrote in documents to fellow supervisors.

The bill co-sponsored by McClintock, the area Republican congressman, would have local communities identify thinning projects needed on public lands that would halt fire danger to nearby watersheds and communities.

The California Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act also asks for less-stringent environmental assessments of the project to avoid delays and expense.

Enacting the bill would allow California counties to work with professional land managers and fire experts to “manage federal lands in their backyard and protect themselves in the face of inaction from the federal government or the delay tactics of outside environmental fringe groups,” according to the bill’s summary.

The board also will consider turning over $43,000 in federal forest reserve funds to the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County for wildfire suppression projects.

Warming forests

by the Baker City Herald Editorial Board, November 04, 2009 [here]

It turns out that a warmer climate might not be a universal disaster.

Turning up nature’s thermostat could help trees in some Northwest forests grow faster, according to researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service.

Which sounds like a good thing in several respects — more timber to harvest and more acres of the old growth habitat that certain animals prefer, to name two examples.
We wonder, though, whether we will glean the full range of benefits from faster-growing forests.

Specifically, we’re skeptical of the notion that we have, collectively, the political will to revive Oregon’s moribund timber industry, even if the supply of raw material gradually rises along with average temperatures.

This worry seems to us especially trenchant in Northeastern Oregon.

The researchers predict the biggest increase in tree growth rates will happen in the Blue Mountains. Trees grow relatively slowly here now in part because winter temperatures are much lower than in the temperate forests of the Western Cascades and Coast Range.

So far so good.

The key question, though, is what do we do with our more fecund forests?

Because if we continue the policies of the past two decades — that is, to favor leaving trees over cutting them even when stands become overcrowded — then our forests could fall victim to the same warming trend that spurred their growth.

Warming, after all, won’t be limited to winter.

Scientists predict that summers will be hotter, too. And that means wildfires are likely to burn hotter and move faster.

Mix in hundreds of thousands of acres of dense forests and you have a volatile concoction.

We’re not advocating for reviving clearcut forestry in the Blues. But in the warmer future, a hands-off forest policy might be a curse rather than a blessing.

3 Nov 2009, 5:08pm
Latest Wildlife News
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WA State picks moderate road to wolf recovery

by K.C. Mehaffey, Wenatchee World, Oct 16 2009 [here]

OLYMPIA — In an effort to make the gray wolf’s return to Washington more palatable to ranchers, the state is proposing what may be the most generous compensation package in the West for livestock killed by wolves.

“Wolves need two things,” said Madonna Luers, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. “They don’t need land-use restrictions. They just need a healthy prey base, and human tolerance. So to build that, we need to reach out to the industry that is most directly impacted by this, and that is the livestock industry,” she said.

The compensation proposal is one of many plans to help wolves recover after a 70-year absence, spelled out in a 249-page draft environmental impact statement released last week.

The state will host meetings in Wenatchee and Okanogan in early November, and the public has until Jan. 8 to comment on any aspect of the proposal before the state develops and adopts a final plan next year.

Four alternatives, including no action, are explored. The state’s proposal is a middle-of-the-road plan compared with two other alternatives — one with a greater emphasis on protection, and one that allows more lethal control when wolves kill livestock or reduce deer and elk herds. … [more]

2 Nov 2009, 10:06pm
Latest Wildlife News
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NRA asks to join wolf lawsuit

By EVE BYRON, Independent Record, October 13, 2009 [here]

The National Rifle Association is asking a federal court judge to allow the group to join a lawsuit regarding the removal of wolves from the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho.

In documents filed late Friday, Chris Cox, an NRA executive director, said the organization’s members hunt in states where wolves are now present and “have experienced anger and frustration during times when their state wildlife management authorities were powerless to take necessary action to control their states’ problem wolves.”

He adds that if the 13 conservation groups that sued to retain gray wolves’ protected status are successful in their lawsuit, that NRA members will lose their ability to hunt and enjoy recreational opportunities in Montana and Idaho “due to the threat to themselves, their pets and their prey from problem wolves.” … [more]

1 Nov 2009, 6:21pm
Latest Fire News
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LA Times Accuses USFS: Missed opportunities let Station fire become a disaster

By the time heli-tankers arrived in force, the blaze had leaped Angeles Crest Highway. The last best chance to prevent a catastrophe had vanished.

By Paul Pringle, LA Times, November 1, 2009 [here]

On a sizzling August morning, as flames burned unchecked down the road, fire crews milled about at an Angeles Crest Highway ranger station. Others were parked along the pavement — a critical line of defense — their engines quiet and hoses slack.

It was more than an hour after first light, and some six hours after U.S. Forest Service commanders had determined that the fire required a more aggressive air attack. But the skies remained empty of water-dropping helicopters — tankers that were readily available.

Then, after the sun had heated the hillsides above La Cañada Flintridge, and as the first chopper finally began unloading on the flames, the fire gathered speed and shot over the highway, turning tall pines into torches. The last best chance to stop the blaze without significant losses vanished.

“That’s what turned into the Station fire,” said one firefighter who saw the flames jump the road about 8 a.m. on Aug. 27.

Drawn from interviews and records, a picture of the fateful Day 2 of the Station fire raises troubling new questions about the U.S. Forest Service’s response to the blaze when it was still small and considered relatively easy to contain.

The conflagration eventually killed two Los Angeles County firefighters, destroyed about 90 dwellings and devastated one of America’s most-visited national forests. The largest fire in county history, it was not fully contained until Oct. 16. … [more]

Ed Note: IMHO this is yellow journalism, especially considering that a year ago the LAT published a long screed condemning the use of aerial firefighting tools at all. Interesting how those who would ground the aircraft and ban fire retardant are the first to whine when the aerial drops on a fire in their neighborhood are an hour late (according to their expectations).

Second-guessing the first responders is unfair. There are always lessons to be learned, and certainly the Station Fire will be thoroughly investigated. That is quite different than a rush by the Media to assign personal negligence to firefighters based on very flimsy evidence.

The fire management decision space has indeed been muddled, and that is a serious problem, but much of this fire’s outcome was foreordained by the lack of fuels management over decades across that high-risk landscape. Those decisions — that allowed the fuels to build up — are the ones that should be investigated.

29 Oct 2009, 8:29pm
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Environmental staffers let go

Layoffs strike two attorneys and two other workers form the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center

By Susan Palmer, The Register-Guard, Oct 26, 2009 [here]

In yet another sign that economic tough times continue to plague Lane County, a public interest environmental law firm will lay off four staff members by the end of the month.

The Eugene-based Western Environmental Law Center has laid off two administrative staff members and attorney Charlie Tebbutt. Attorney Dave Bahr will also be let go sometime in the next few weeks. …

“It was a very unfortunate situation to find ourselves in,” said the law center Executive Director Greg Costello. Together, Bahr and Tebbutt represent more than 40 years of legal experience. The Western Environmental Law Center also has offices in Montana, New Mexico and Colorado, It employs nine attorneys.

While the nonprofit center expects to finish the year with about the same revenue it had in 2008 — $2 million — Costello anticipates a financial hit in 2010 to be as much as 20 percent. …

Foundation grants represent about 46 percent of WELC’s revenue, according to its 2008 annual report, with about 10 percent coming from individual donors and 42 percent from attorneys fees that are won in successful litigation. …

As foundations shift their focus, the law center is undertaking its own strategic adjustments. That played a part in the staff cuts, Costello said.

“Part of my view, and the board agrees with me, is that we unduly limit our ability to succeed by operating solely as a litigation firm,” he said.

The center is adding other projects to its environmental portfolio. It employed a conservation biologist this year to work on the development of wildlife corridors, an effort that has drawn interest from the state agencies and the Western Governors Association, and could lead future grant support, he said.

Tebbutt himself had recently headed a high-profile and successful campaign to persuade the Oregon Legislature to phase out field burning on grass seed farms in the Willamette Valley, an effort that did not involve the courts.

Costello estimates that WELC spent between $250,000 and $300,000 in staff and other costs on the campaign, but that it drew only about $20,000 in public support. It was a good strategic plan with a good result, but a failed business strategy, Costello said. “In the future, we need to align all three,” he said.

WELC isn’t the only local environmental nonprofit group struggling with the bottom line. Eugene-based Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics saw its revenues for the first nine months of 2009 decrease by 26 percent compared with the same period last year, said Executive Director Andy Stahl.

Stahl’s nonprofit group opted to take 15 percent across-the-board pay cuts and eliminated matching retirement contributions to avoid layoffs, he said. “Those cuts kept us from closing our doors,” he said. … [more]

25 Oct 2009, 11:20pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Rancher ends public hunting in protest of wolf policies

By NICK GEVOCK, Montana Standard, October 23, 2009 [here]

BUTTE - A Big Hole Valley rancher has pulled his property out of a popular public hunting program in protest of Montana’s wolf management policies.

Fred Hirschy said Thursday he’s fed up with Montana allowing too many wolves to roam and wants the predators numbers dramatically brought down. And he blasted the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for what he said is a normally lackluster response when his cattle have been attacked.

“When I call them, they don’t do what I ask them to do anyway,” he said. “We want more people on the ground and we want the people on the ground that can shoot some wolves.”

He said after years of inaction by FWP following repeated attacks on his cattle, he saw no other option but to pull out of the block management program, which pays landowners to allow public hunting on their land. Hunters will lose access to 45,000 acres of Hirschy and his family ranches property west of Wisdom. Portions of the ranch have been enrolled in the program since 1996 and the cancellation of the contract will cost the Hirschys $12,000 this year.

Hirschy and other Big Hole ranchers met with Pat Flowers, regional FWP manager, Thursday in Wisdom to voice their frustrations with FWP over its wolf management.

“The sentiment expressed today is general frustration with the impacts that wolves are having on their livestock and I think that general frustration is not limited to the Big Hole Valley,” Flowers told The Montana Standard.

He added the loss of the Hirschy Ranch from block management is unfortunate and he hopes they can work down the road to reenroll the ranch in the program.

“I’m disappointed because he had some valuable block management parcels,” Flowers said. “He’s been good cooperator and those were some great opportunities for hunters.”

Hirschy said his ranch will have some hunting this season, but by permission only. Part of the ranch is under a FWP conservation easement that requires public hunting.

Although wolf hunting will open statewide Sunday, Hirschy doesn’t support the hunt. He said wolf numbers have grown so large that it’s beyond the point that hunters can effectively control the problem.

Instead, he supports classifying wolves as predators that can be shot on sight and having federal trappers kill more from the air. Only after bringing those numbers down would the wolf population be effectively reduced to the point where hunting should take place.

“They could give every hunter in the state a license and they wouldn’t get (control) of them,” he said. “They can grow them faster than we can take care of them.” … [more]

23 Oct 2009, 3:08pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Mexico cuts down trees to save monarch butterflies

By Mark Stevenson, The Christian Science Monitor, October 21, 2009 [here]

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Authorities who have struggled to stop illegal logging in Mexico’s famed monarch butterfly reserve now are cutting down thousands of trees themselves to fight an unprecedented infestation of deadly bark beetles.

Biologists and park workers are racing to fell as many as 9,000 infected fir trees and bury or extract infested wood before the orange-and-black monarchs start arriving in late October to spend the winter bunched together on branches, carpeting the trees.

Environmentalists say the forest canopy of tall firs is essential to shelter the butterflies on their annual migration through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The journey is tracked by scholars and schoolchildren across North America and draws tens of thousands of tourists to the reserve, a U.N. Heritage site.

But freezing rains and cold night air that can kill the monarchs at the high-altitude reserve, so the insects are threatened by a loss of trees, whether by loggers or the bark beetles.

Because the migration is an inherited trait — no butterfly lives to make the round-trip — it’s not clear whether they could find another wintering ground.

Experts say that an insecticide is the best way to control the beetles, but that would endanger the butterflies. Instead, park officials are fighting the plague tree by tree.

“It is obvious that in the medium and long term, if we do not act to adapt to the changes, then there could be a serious risk” to the butterflies’ migration, says reserve director Rosendo Caro, a forestry expert. “The forest is not going to disappear, but the conditions that make up the right environment for the wintering phenomenon could disappear.”

Beetles are devastating forests across the continent from Colorado to the Yukon, killing millions of acres of trees. In most places, the infestation is spurred by trees weakened by drought, and beetles that thrive in warmer weather. The dead trees increase the risk of forest fires, exacerbating the problem.

Bark beetles have long been present in the reserve monarch reserve, usually attacking a few trees in the driest months of early spring, before heavy seasonal rains that normally start in May.

But this year, little rain had fallen by July, and the trees were weakened. The beetles took advantage, burrowing in and robbing the trees of nutrients until they turned orange and die.

The infestation so far has affected 100 of the 33,482 acres in the reserve’s core mountaintop wintering grounds. … [more]

(Ed Note: 100/33482 = 0.3%, or 3 out of every 1,000 acres are infested. Hardly a catastrophe. No need to push the panic button. However, we strongly advise Reserve managers to institute restoration forestry to combat both the bark beetle and fire hazards, particularly the latter, because a severe fire could erase the entire reserve.)

21 Oct 2009, 10:54am
Latest Wildlife News
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Idaho’s first wolf tag fetches $8,000 at auction

Idaho Statesman, 10/20/09, [here]

BOISE, Idaho (AP) State wildlife officials say the first wolf hunting tag ever printed in the state has sold for $8,000 to the highest bidder.

The high bid came from North Carolina resident Jonny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops. Morris bought Wolf Tag No. 1 last week in an auction sponsored by the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation. Morris says he will give it to his son, who is planning to hunt in Idaho later this year.

The auction is one of six held by nonprofit groups around the nation to help raise money for wolf conservation. The special tags are good for bagging one wolf, but also commemorate the first public wolf hunt in Idaho history.

Tag No. 3 went for $1,700 at an event hosted by the Mule Deer Foundation, while tag No. 5 sold for just $350 at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auction.

 
  
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