Friday, January 22, 2010

More coverage on Macho B's intentional capture

The Arizona Daily Star has this expanded story this morning, which names a lot more names than yesterday's version: Jaguar's capture broke law, feds say; Snaring deliberate, and state lacked permits, US reports.

This really comes as no surprise to most of us, but it's still pretty awful. The Arizona Game and Fish Department immediately launched in trying to cover it's ass:
"The report contains allegations and opinions apparently untested by the IG," Game and Fish said. "Many of those assertions have been previously addressed by the department and present little or no new information."

Game and Fish also said that because the new report is a public version that excludes some information, "it still represents a redacted and therefore incomplete version." The state agency is conducting an internal investigation of the Macho B capture and death but has refused to discuss or release details because of the criminal investigation.
Right. Does anyone really believe that the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General did a worse job than Game and Fish trying to sort through the wreckage of the Macho B story? No way. AGFD can't be trusted to conduct an unbiased review.
During the March 5, 2009 Macho B News Conference in Tucson, AGF Commission Chairman Bob Hernbrode made statements well before any investigation began regarding Macho B’s death. A leader must never preemptively make biased statements—pro or con—attesting to the credibility, et cetera of agency staff or official contractors that might have erred or violated Federal/State law. Before the presentation of any evidence, Chairman Hernbrode biasedly stated that the actions of personal involved in Macho B’s handling were “needed and appropriate.”

Chairman Hernbrode made his comments on March 5, less than 3-full days after Macho B’s euthanization and over 3 weeks before an Arizona AG and Federal investigation began. In fact, the AGFD and AGF Commission later made this statement in their April 2, 2009 release, “The Department and Commission did not authorize or condone intentional initial capture of this jaguar.” Therefore, Chairman Hernbrode was premature and prejudiced with his March 5, 2009 statements that follow and he has demonstrated here and elsewhere that he is incapable of objectiveness when the AGFD is involved. (From the comments section of the original article in the AZ Star, with link to video file; thanks Ron Kearn!)
With a lead off like this, does it sound like AGFD was seeking anything other than to exonerate itself?

AGFD is SO BAD! We've pointed our fingers at Terry Johnson before, but the AZ Star story does too:
• The same official had warned state officials in advance of the possibility that a jaguar could be captured during the study. He sent an e-mail Feb. 26, 2008, to Arizona Game and Fish employees Todd Atwood and Terry Johnson, the report says. But his request for a meeting on the subject was rebuffed.

"The biologist said that he was intimidated by Johnson and his attitude that the AZGFD could do whatever it wanted in Arizona," the report says.
And, apparently, beyond. Rumor has it that Johnson went far out of his way to rile up ranchers on the U.S.-Mexico border to oppose wolf releases in Mexico (which, by the way, is an sovereign nation). You can't have someone in charge of endangered species recovery who so obviously leans the other way. Here's hoping that we see a major overhaul of the AGFD before the IG report gets dusty. Macho B's death should not be in vain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Capture of Macho B Intentional!

From the Arizona Daily Star: Capture of jaguar Macho B was intentional, federal investigators conclude .
That conclusion is important because the game and fish department originally called the capture unintentional and because such "taking" of an endangered species may be a crime under the endangered species act.

The report also concludes that Arizona Game and Fish was aware that Macho B was near a site where department employees were trapping animals in December 2008 and January 2009 and failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the jaguar’s presence, as required by federal law.

Finally, the report concludes that a Fish and Wildlife Service supervisor wrongly approved a cosmetic necropsy for the jaguar, instead of a complete necropsy “because he did not know the difference between the two procedures.” That decision meant there ended up being doubt about the cause of the jaguar’s death, the report says.
We do hope there are some serious repercussions for these screw-ups.

UPDATE: Read the full U.S. Inspector General report here. Highlights include:
Our review of the FWS agents’ documentation showed evidence linking an AZGFD subcontractor and possibly an AZGFD employee to criminal wrongdoing in the capture of Macho B. There was no evidence to suggest criminal involvement by any FWS or other Department of the Interior employees.
After Spangle made the decision to euthanize Macho B, he said that he spoke with Tuggle about the animal’s necropsy. Spangle said that during discussions about what to do with Macho B’s hide, the AZGFD wanted to preserve it for scientific and educational purposes. The AZGFD’s intention was for a full necropsy to be performed on Macho B. Spangle said that at the time he had never heard the term “necropsy.” When Phoenix Zoo officials asked him about the extent of the necropsy, he conveyed the AZGFD’s request to preserve the hide. Spangle said he approved a “full cosmetic necropsy” with the false understanding that it was the same as full necropsy, but would also include adequate measures to preserve the animal’s hide. Spangle said, “And in my naïveté, I didn’t have any clue that that would compromise the soft tissues.” Spangle explained, “I just thought they would carefully remove the — I imagine if you’re doing a necropsy, you’re digging in there and going for it and throwing the animal away. And to conserve the skin, they would do a more careful job, midlines cut probably and skin[ning] it carefully. I didn’t know until later that it prevented them from testing the brain and spinal tissue ….”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Go Big!

This morning, in our coffee hour review of the environmental news, we caught this sighing headline, "Conservation Group Files Another Suit against Utah's BLM."It's about Western Watersheds Project's recent suit over six BLM management plans in the beehive state.

Now, normally that isn't the kind of news that raises our eyebrows much (fists yes, eyebrows no) because isn't that what conservation groups do? But here's the thing: Listen to what Jon Marvel has to say about it:
"To bring litigation over a very large area of the West, as we've done, is an expression of the failure of our government, and we as people, to adjust ourselves to the capacity of the land to support life," Jon Marvel with the Western Watersheds Project said. "That's what it's about. It needs to be big, because it's about life."
Wow. We're inspired.

And he's right. In order to save anything more than postage stamps of habitat and token numbers of imperiled species, we need to reframe the public perception of what the west can be. It can be more than a playground for people- it can be an ecologically-functional playground, replete with wildlife and plants, rich in water and topsoil, dense with old trees and bunchgrasses.... We need to convert the land management agencies to a conservation ethic a la Leopold....perhaps we're still dreaming.

More coffee.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Killing wolves and the masculine identity

A few weeks back, we 'tweeted' a link to a list of people in Idaho who have killed wolves this year. We were just sent a similar list of Montana's wolf killers.

What strikes us is that nearly all of the names are male. There are a few exceptions, and a few that are ambiguous. But by and large, the wolf killers are men.

Perhaps this doesn't surprise you. It doesn't really surprise us either. But in that reaction is an assumption that bears deconstructing: Men kill.

Seems like saving wolves and other species might take more than political will, legal muscle, and building reverence for nature. It might take reconstructing core notions of masculinity as well. We should turn our collective revulsion at sport-killing into a collective rejection of outdated notions of 'manliness.'

Undoing the damage of distorted gender roles is at least as important as saving wolves. In fact, it might just be part of it.

Wisdom from Aldo Leopold: Safe FROM Cows

At some point soon we'll get around to a post about the jaguar (YAY!), but we had cause to come across this oldie but goodie from Aldo Leopold today. Really, every reread of Leopold confirms his genius.

[...] Montague Stevens saw only the surface of the land he hunted over. His active days afield coincided with the advent of erosion in the cow country, but he did not see it. The better to keep up with his hounds, he practiced riding his horse across the cavernous arroyos which were then invading the fertile valleys, but he did not recognize the invasion as something new in history, nor did he perceive its cause: the terrific overgrazing practiced by the early cowmen. Small wonder, then, that less intelligent men still fail to perceive that something more important than bears is departing from the western range. New Mexico's grizzlies succumbed visibly to trap, gun, and poisoned bait, but New Mexico's fertile valleys slipped down the Rio Grande in the night. Neither will return.

The University of New Mexico has done well to preserve this saga of how the state was made safe for cows. How the state is to be made safe from cows is a saga yet to be written.
Leopold, Aldo: Review of "Meet Mr. Grizzly", Journal of Forestry, March 1944. Reproduced in Aldo Leopold's Southwest, edited by David E. Brown & Neil B. Carmony, University of New Mexico Press, 1990, pg. 220. (Source)

Indeed, the paradigm that Leopold grocked so well has yet to be manifest on the western lands. Few places are safe from cows, wolves are still seen as the enemy, and wingnuts compete to cut off coyote ears for points. When will we learn what Leopold tried to teach us?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Devil Will Not Die: Richard Pombo's attempted redux

Ya'll remember Richard Pombo, don't you? He was the Congressman hell-bent on disassembling the Endangered Species Act in 2005. Fortunately, he was defeated and driven from Congress in 2006.

And then he became a lobbyist, which was basically all he was as a legislator.

Now, it appears he's ready to wreck wildlife recovery once again.
Former seven-time Rep. Richard Pombo, the Tracy GOP rancher who tried to dismantle the Endangered Species Act and pushed for more oil drilling in Alaska, wants to return to Congress - and national environmental groups said Tuesday they plan to return to the Central Valley to thwart him.
When he lost the last election, it had everything to do with the mass mobilization from enviros to support his opponent. Hopefully, this time, his own record will damn him:
And here’s the Sierra Club’s list of “Pombo’s Greatest Misses”:

* Proposed selling off our national parks, including the only national park in his former district
* Took more than $337,000 in campaign cash from Big Oil
* Tried to gut the Endangered Species Act
* Went on a taxpayer-funded cross-country family vacation
* Backed the George W. Bush administration’s misguided and disastrous effort to decimate our national forests, the so-called Healthy Forest Initiative
* Backed the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to gut the Clean Air Act
* Tried, repeatedly, to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling
* One of the most vocal proponents of disastrous Bush-Cheney energy policy, written by, and for, Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and the nuclear industry
* Named one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, based on his ties to disgraced and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and numerous other alleged violations of Congressional ethics rules and federal laws.
We shall see. If not, try this. Can't hurt, might help.(**UPDATE- ya'll know we're kidding, right?**)