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January 2009

January 23, 2009

Good News for Wolves

Despite last week's announcement from the Bush administration that wolves were to be (once again) delisted under the Endangered Species Act, wolves will remain protected - for now.

On Wednesday the Interior Department announced that it was rescinding the rule before it could formally take effect.

January 14, 2009

Bush administration delists wolves

The timing is off and the science is shoddy but the Bush administration forged ahead with its plans to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies. Our press release on this issue is below:

Bush administration rushes to strip protections from Northern Rockies wolves
Despite previous court decisions, administration again ignores Endangered Species Act requirements

WASHINGTON, DC. – Today, in a last-ditch effort by the Bush administration to undermine environmental protections, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the Northern Rockies gray wolf will be taken off the Endangered Species List.  This decision is yet another attempt to prematurely strip wolves of legal protection before the clock runs out next Tuesday on the most anti-environment administration in American history.

The Bush administration’s prior effort to delist the Northern Rockies wolf was rebuffed in federal court and then voluntarily withdrawn by the FWS shortly afterwards.  This latest attempt to remove federal protection for wolves is not based on new science and does not fix the legal deficiencies cited by the federal court when it blocked the previous delisting attempt.  Moreover, in rushing to again delist wolves, the Bush administration ignored calls by Defenders of Wildlife and others to involve stakeholders throughout the region in developing a strategy that addresses inadequate state wolf management plans, particularly in Wyoming and Idaho, and meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

Below is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, regarding today’s announcement.

“This blatantly political maneuver is hardly surprising. The Bush administration has been trying to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the Northern Rockies wolf since the day it took office – no matter the dire consequences of delisting wolves prematurely and without adequate state protections in place.

“The Bush administration is forcing the future of wolves in the region to play out in the courts by finalizing a delisting rule in its last hours in office. We intend to challenge this poorly constructed decision in court as soon as the law allows.  It is outrageous that the Bush administration has chosen to create this unnecessary legal problem for the new Obama administration to deal with as it takes office.

“It is nonsensical to rush this rule through when states have plans in place to kill hundreds of wolves as soon as they’re delisted from federal protection.  If the wolf population drops to the minimum of 300 to 450 wolves in the entire region, we already know, based on the most current science, that it cannot remain genetically viable for the long-term.

“We need to slow the process down and make sure it is done right – using science as the benchmark for recovery goals. Today’s delisting rule fails adequately to address biologists’ concerns about the lack of genetic exchange among wolf populations in the Northern Rockies.

“If allowed to stand, this rule would mean that the Northern Rockies wolf population could be slashed by as much as two-thirds, placing approximately 1,000 of the region’s roughly 1,450 wolves in peril.  This is a loss from which they most likely would be unable to recover.”

“We trust that the Obama administration will see this for what it is, one last anti-environment blast from the most anti-environment administration in American history.  We look forward to working with the new administration to fix this and to ensure wolf recovery that truly merits taking wolves off the endangered species list.  That will be an accomplishment to celebrate.”

Below is a statement from Suzanne Asha Stone, Defenders of Wildlife representative for the Northern Rockies:

“Ramming through a flawed plan that has already been rejected by the courts doesn’t make any sense. The bottom line is wolves are a wildlife resource and an important part of our natural resources heritage.  Wolves should be managed to maintain sustainable healthy populations, the way we manage mountain lions, bears and other wildlife.  The states should not be allowed to kill two thirds of our regional wolf population just because wolves lose federal protection.

Our regional residents need a science based delisting plan that addresses the needs of both wolves and people. Instead of forcing this issue back into the courts, the Service should help bring all interested parties to the table, allowing stakeholders to iron out solutions to the management conflicts.  We can move forward to delisting, and we should, but only under rationale conditions.

Our only reasonable course of action is again to challenge the delisting in court until the Service takes a science based approach towards long term recovery goals for wolves in the Northern Rockies.”

January 13, 2009

Bad News for Wolves

We have it on good authority that the Northern Rockies wolf population will be delisted tomorrow.

We stand by our opposition to this rule, and will keep you updated with specifics once we know more.

January 12, 2009

2008 Proactive Season Recap

Jesse with sheep As the snows start to build up in the mountains and valleys of the Northern Rockies, the winter wildlife migrations begin. Elk and deer start to head down onto the lower elevations where there is less snow and more shrubs to forage. At the same time, much of the sheep and cattle that have been grazing the mountains and high valleys are shipped off to market, or else are brought back to the ranch for the winter. The wolves tend to follow the elk during this time, waiting for the deep snows that slow the elk down and make them easier prey. The last of our proactive projects finished a couple of months ago and so things have quieted down for a while. Overall we had a very successful proactive season, with numerous projects spread over the Northern Rockies.

Our most ambitious project was the Big Wood River Valley Project in central Idaho. Deep in the Sawtooth Mountains, this valley is home to over 10,000 sheep during the summer grazing season. There was at least one wolf pack in the area, and it had been involved in depredations in the past. With the help of a team of field technicians who used an array of non-lethal wolf deterrents, such as telemetry, turbo-fladry, RAG boxes, and air-horns, we managed to reduce the losses from last year by a significant amount. We had all the local state and federal agencies helping out with this project, and four of the biggest sheep producers in Idaho were all impressed by the project that they signed on for another year. This was one of our largest projects, and illustrates the evolution from small projects that focus on just one or two producers, to more inclusive projects that work over a much larger area and includes all the producers potentially affected by the local wolf packs.

LazyEL_riders_Thad&Sam In Montana we worked with two different ranchers to implement range rider projects in central and west Montana. The range riders had worked with Defenders for a number of years previously on these projects, and it was interesting to see how these projects had evolved and changed over the years. These projects are learning experiences for all those involved. After sitting down and speaking to the producers and the wildlife agents, we come up with a number of tool and techniques that might work in the situation. Sometimes we have great success with the project, and other times we need to improve on what was done and try new things the next year. Producers in the Northern Rockies are once again getting used to raising livestock in areas where there are large carnivores, and these changes do not happen overnight. Very often only small changes to a producers operation can produce dramatic results, with reduced livestock loss during the year.  At the end of the season both these ranchers, and the state wildlife biologists, all agreed that because of these projects and the help from Defenders, the livestock losses were reduced.

During the winter we follow up with all of our project partners to discuss how the project could be improved for the next year. We will sit down with all the different agencies involved and work out what worked well, and what could be changed for next year. We could not do these collaborative projects without the continual support of our members and donors who help fund them. Thank you for your help and here is to another successful year.


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