Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No wonder there is such a problem with Mexican wolf recovery!

Apparently, not even the US Fish and Wildlife Service understands the undue influence the livestock industry is wielding in the Mexican wolf reintroduction area! Last weekend, there was an informative piece in the LA Times about the overall recovery effort and the current dire straits the wolf is in.
Wildlife managers -- following the program's often punitive rules -- have contributed to the deaths of more than 25 wolves through shooting, trapping, sedating, penning and relocating the notoriously skittish animals.
It goes on to describe why these "recovering" animals are being removed: to appease the livestock operators with public lands' allotments in the recovery area. But Benjamin Tuggle, the Southwest regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Albuquerque, doesn't seem to understand the basic limits of the arrangement:
"You've got these diametrically opposed forces: This predator that has a right to be in this space, and the other is this prey base, cattle, that has a right to be in this space," he said.
Um, yeah, except that the ranchers don't have any "rights" on these national forest lands. They are permitted to graze. Not entitled, not guaranteed. If Tuggle didn't know this already, he does now. Western Watersheds Project wrote him a letter, explaining his misconceptions and identifying ways out of the quagmire. Because, the thing is, if the US Fish and Wildlife Service keeps treating the ranchers like they own the place, the wolves don't stand a chance.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The very real threat posed by the Mexican wolf recovery program... the potential for it not to work to recover the lobo. A very good article on the missteps of the current program was published today in the Santa Fe Reporter. Asking, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" and answering, resoundingly, only hysterical and paranoid cattlegrowers, the piece really highlights the problem is that the Fish and Wildlife Service handed over management of the program to the wrong folks, which resulted in some very bad policies.
“Under AMOC, [the Fish and Wildlife Service] has managed to give away their statutory responsibility to recover endangered species to a consortium of agencies,” advocate Michael Robinson, who has been tracking the wolf program since the 1990s, says. One of AMOC’s management practices, Standard Operating Procedure 13, declares that any wolf known or suspected to have killed livestock on three occasions during a one-year period will be removed.

These “removals” can be lethal or non-lethal means of taking individual wolves out of the wild—and they are currently the leading cause of wolf removals from the wild. In fact, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s coordinator Fazio, agency personnel have removed a total of 70 wolves from the wild.

For comparison’s sake, 30 have been illegally shot (including five last year), 12 have been struck by vehicles, 10 have died from natural causes and nine from unknown causes.

In other words, of the various ways they might leave the wild, more wolves are being removed—or killed—by the very people charged with reintroducing the animals to the wild.
The article also chronicles the extent to which the livestock operators in the area leave dead and dying cows scattered across the public lands, enticing wolves into bad behavior and then whining about it. Outrageously, the executive director of the NM Cattle Growers' Association says:
“People are not being able to manage their own destiny,” she says, pointing out that ranchers aren’t allowed to shoot wolves the way they can coyotes, mountain lions or bears.
[Did she just admit that ranchers consider the destruction of native wildlife to be part of their destiny?]
“This is like turning a sexual predator loose in your neighborhood and telling you that you can’t do anything about it,” she says.
Um... ok. It's more akin to telling you that there is a sexual predator moving into your neighborhood and suggesting that it might be a good time to stop pimping out your daughter. Because, actually, they do move sexual offenders into neighborhoods all the time, and there is nothing you can do about it. You certainly can't shoot them. Besides, the metaphor is mixed: sexual predators are a symptom of social imbalance; wolves are a part of a healthy ecological system. Get used to it.

Here's hoping we get to.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So glad this guy isn't President....

...even though Obama is a far cry from perfect. John McCain will
oppose the nominations of Bob Abbey as director of the Bureau of Land Management and Wilma Lewis as Interior assistant secretary for land and minerals management when they are voted on by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. ....[H]e intends after that to place holds on the nominations when they come before the full Senate for a final confirmation vote.
Now, there may be other good reasons to block Bob Abbey, but why is John McCain acting bratty? Because he's hell bent on giving Resolution Copper over 4,200 acres of the Tonto National Forest.
"There are so many problems with this land swap, it's hard to know where to start," said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "First off, it's a huge ripoff of the taxpayers, which is one of the reasons we think they took it to Congress and tried to get it out of the public eye."

The proposed land swap would include Oak Flat campground, which was put off limits to mining by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It's a key birding area and is well known for its rock climbing areas. The area is also important to the San Carlos Apache and Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian tribes, which oppose its transfer.
It is also habitat for Arizona hedgehog cactus, a federally-listed Endangered species. Not that we expect McCain to care about Arizona's natural resources.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Beleaguered Mexican wolves


First the good news: Wild Mexican wolves, when left alone with packs intact, are reproducing with healthy litters.

Now the not such great news: US Fish and Wildlife had to yank two of a litter of six pups from the wild after three of the others died from unknown causes. (Note that one of those three died in a reunion attempt orchestrated by the agency.) The two that were taken by FWS had been abandoned by the mother.

Nature is a cruel mistress, indeed, but we're supposed to trust that life (and death) has its own wisdom. If we hadn't pushed this species- among others- to the brink of extinction through anthropocentric manipulation, we wouldn't have to keep "managing" it now. But here we are, and so what is the right thing? Hands off? What about the two pups? Is is right to surrender them to their fate, even if that fate is certain death? What about when a species is literally just a few pups away from blinking out entirely? Does the game change? How did humans cause this and what is our responsibility to fix it?

We don't have any answers. We don't expect to. We just know that its an unfortunate and bewildering mess we've created by being so far out of balance with the natural world.