Source September 29, 2015
The governors of Wyoming and Montana will head to Washington, D.C. this week (Tuesday, September 29th) to give their perspective on how to “improve” (ie. dismantle) the Endangered Species Act.
Please find several tweets to send off at the bottom of this post.
Western Governors’ Association Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will be joined by Governors Steve Bullock (Montana, WGA Vice Chair), Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota),Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota), and Gary Herbert (Utah) at a number of meetings with congressional leaders. Governors Mead and Bullock will appear at a briefing on the topic “Improving the Endangered Species Act : Perspectives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Governors.” In addition to the governors’ appearance and remarks on the ESA, (which is the focus of Gov. Mead’s Chairman’s Initiative), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, also will be present and will make a statement.
- Mead last month announced that the Western Governors’ Association will hold five forums around the West to collect information on how to improve the Endangered Species Act. The first will be held in Wyoming this fall. The act “touches the people and economies of Western states in a significant way,” Mead said last month in announcing the effort. “This initiative is intended to take a hard look…” Mead has focused much of his criticism of the ESA on how difficult it is to remove federal protections for a species once it is listed. He has said that since 1973, when the federal law was enacted, 2,280 species have been protected but only 30 have been taken off the list after being classified as recovered. The truth of the matter is, as Montana lawyer, Tim Preso of Earthjustice, states: “The proper measure of success of the Endangered Species Act is its track record of preventing species from going extinct”. He said he regards current calls for improving the law to be “Trojan horse efforts” to undermine key provisions.“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing extinctions, which is kind of amazing when you consider the huge amount of population expansion, and expanded human footprint on this continent since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973”.
Let us not forget that Wyoming’s wolf management plan classified the animals as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most areas, an approach that drew opposition from national environmental groups.
Bottom line, the Endangered Species Act works. The longer an animal or plant species is protected under the ESA, the more likely it is to recover. Today the ESA is under attack at a time when we can least afford to lose it.
The ESA safeguards ecological processes, such as predation, as well as maintaining biodiversity. Science tells us that the most effective way to mitigate climate change is by maintaining ecological resiliency. The ESA protects keystone species (such as the gray wolf and sea otter) which create more resilient ecosystems by increasing biodiversity.
- Politicians should not be meddling in what should be science based decisions. Please reach out to the members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife via twitter. Tell them that the ESA works, leave it alone!
Dan Sullivan (Chairman) Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
John Barrasso Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Shelley Capito Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
John Boozman Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Jeff Sessions Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Roger F. Wicker Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Deb Fischer Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Mike Rounds Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
James M. Inhofe Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Sheldon Whitehouse (Ranking Member) Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Thomas R. Carper Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Benjamin L. Cardin Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Bernard Sanders Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Kirsten Gillibrand Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Cory A. Booker Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Edward Markey Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Barbara Boxer Tweet#1 Tweet#2 Tweet#3 Tweet#4
Thankyou, everyone, for your efforts here and support to protect the Endangered Species Act.
Independent news blog report on the briefing
From takepart by
JUN 20, 2015
Samantha Cowan is TakePart’s associate culture and lifestyle editor.
Another harvest could do irreversible damage to the wolf population.
Alaska Archipelago Wolf (Photo: Facebook)
In 1994 southeast Alaska was home to about 900 Alexander Archipelago wolves. By 2013, there were fewer than 250. Last year that population plummeted 60 percent to 89 wolves. New numbers confirm that the rare breed of wolves could have dropped to as few as 50.
But the diminishing species won’t stop hunters from trapping and killing the wolves, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is moving ahead with their 2015-2016 hunting and trapping season on the Prince of Wales Island, where the majority of the wolves live.
“Another open season of trapping and hunting could push these incredibly imperiled wolves over the edge,” Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement.
A reported 29 wolves were killed during last years hunting season—which accounts for between 33 to 58 percent of the population. Either figure means the species is in jeopardy of being completely wiped out, especially as females were hit particularly hard this season, with only seven to 32 remaining.
So, Why Should You Care? These confirmed numbers could lead to further protections for the breed—which some scientists believe are genetically different from other wolves. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is working to determine whether the species are considered threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, which could put the kibosh on hunting the animals and protect their habitat.
Such protections would impact the timber industry that logs in their range in the Tongass National Forest. The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in 2009 to save roadless areas of the Tongass.
But the biggest threat to wolves currently is hunters, which makes the forgoing this year’s harvest seem like a no-brainer.
“To maintain a viable population of Alexander Archipelago wolves on this island, Alaska must cancel the season,” said Wolfe. “We won’t get a second chance to preserve these amazing animals.”
Correction June 22, 2015:
An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that the population of the Alaskan Archipelgo wolf has declined. It is its subspecies living on Prince of Wales Island that has declined.
Petition: Stop Slaughtering Wolves for Fossil Fuel and Logging Greed!
From: The Wildlife News
Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year Violates Environmental Laws
BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s failure to fully analyze and disclose the impact of its “Wildlife Services” program in Idaho, which kills thousands of wolves, coyotes, foxes, cougars, birds and other wild animals each year at taxpayer expense. The multimillion-dollar federal program, whose work primarily benefits the agriculture industry, relies on an array of lethal methods including aerial and ground shooting, poison, trapping and explosives.
Following a notice of intent to sue sent by the conservation groups in September 2014, the agency agreed to prepare a new environmental analysis for its wildlife-killing activities in Idaho — an incremental step that falls short of the more comprehensive analysis required by law. Today’s lawsuit seeks long-term changes in the agency’s operations to adopt nonlethal methods, as well as the development of an environmental impact statement to analyze the impacts of killing wildlife across the state year after year.
“Wildlife Services spends millions of dollars each year to indiscriminately shoot, poison and trap coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, foxes, badgers and many other wildlife species — yet it refuses to comply with our nation’s basic environmental laws,” said Laird J. Lucas, director of litigation at Advocates for the West. “This lawsuit will shine a bright line on this rogue agency and force it to reveal publicly exactly what wildlife killing programs it is engaged in and the adverse impacts of those activities.”
“A transparent and public analysis of Wildlife Services’ activities is long overdue,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project, adding that “Wildlife Services’ wanton killing of Idaho’s wildlife is morally wrong, environmentally counterproductive, and procedurally illegal.”
The agency has never comprehensively examined how its actions affect grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout, all protected under the Endangered Species Act. The agency sets traps and snares across the state that accidentally capture and kill federally protected wildlife, as well as domestic pets. Bull trout are killed when the agency detonates explosives to remove beaver dams.
“Without a comprehensive analysis of Wildlife Service’s wildlife-killing activities across the state, it’s impossible to know whether it’s leading to widespread damage to other species like grizzly bears,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The public deserves more, and so does Idaho’s wildlife.”
“Shrouded in secrecy, Wildlife Services operates as though it is above the law, further endangering already imperiled species and wasting our taxpayer dollars,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “A full accounting and scientific analysis of Wildlife Services’ cruel practices is long overdue.”
The state of knowledge about the impacts of wildlife killing has changed significantly over the years. “Current science doesn’t support the arbitrary killing of animals as a ‘management’ tool,” added Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “For example, killing wolves and coyotes indiscriminately can exacerbate livestock conflicts and is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
“The long reach of this killing program kills key predators like wolves even in remote wildlands like the backcountry of the Clearwater Basin,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “It is past time the agency is held accountable to we the people.”
In 2013 Wildlife Services killed more than 3,000 mammals in Idaho using methods such as aerial gunning, neck snares, foothold traps, and toxic devices known as M-44s that spray sodium cyanide into the victim’s mouth, causing tremendous suffering and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity,Friends of the Clearwater and Project Coyote are represented by attorneys Laurie Rule and Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West, and Kristin Ruether of Western Watersheds Project.
A copy of today’s filing can be read online here.
Dec, 30, 2014 by Jonathan Drew
Hank, one of the two resident red wolves is seen at the Red Wolf Education and Health Care Facility in Columbia, N.C., on June 4, 2014. (Stephen M. Katz | The Virginian-Pilot)
In the 27 years since federal officials reintroduced the red wolf in the wild, a restoration program has mustered about 100 of the carnivores in a handful of North Carolina counties. A decision looms in early 2015 on whether to continue efforts to maintain the only wild population of the species.
How the species’ existence will play out, in the wild or in a cage, has been debated in courtrooms, at high levels of the federal government and in 48,000 public comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The importance of the decision is reflected in the deliberate pace the agency is taking.
Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for the wildlife service, said that the decision on the program’s fate is expected in the first three months of the year but that he couldn’t be more specific.
“They’re trying to get it done early as possible, but in a deliberative process that allows for everyone’s opinions to be brought in,” he said.
Once common in the Southeast, the red wolf had been considered extinct in the wild as of 1980 because of factors including hunting and loss of habitat. In 1987, wildlife officials released red wolves bred in captivity back into the wild in North Carolina. About 100 of them now roam five eastern North Carolina counties, and about 200 are in captive breeding programs.
As part of their evaluation, federal officials commissioned an independent review in late 2014 that found flaws in how the program is run, ranging from inadequate understanding of population trends to poor coordination with local managers. The report also suggested that red wolves be reintroduced in additional areas.
The federal agency has said all options are on the table. When a program to restore the wolves to the Smoky Mountains in the western part of the state ended in 1998, the agency tried to capture all of the animals and bring them back to captivity, Leopoldo Miranda, an assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, has said.
MacKenzie said Miranda and other decision-makers were unavailable for an interview.
In November, conservation groups won a court battle to impose stricter hunting rules for coyotes in five eastern North Carolina counties — including a ban on nighttime hunting — that are meant to protect the wolves, which look similar. The groups cited gunshots as a leading cause of death for the wolves, even though it’s illegal to kill them in most circumstances.
The settlement agreement does allow for daytime hunting on private land by permit. A lawyer for the Animal Welfare Institute, Tara Zuardo, said she hopes that allowing daytime hunting will placate landowners and reduce political pressure that wildlife officials may be feeling. All coyote hunting had been banned for several months before the settlement was struck.
Zuardo said she’s hopeful that federal wildlife officials will decide to continue or modify the red wolf program — and perhaps release them in additional sites — rather than pull the plug.
“In my opinion, if they were to terminate the program it would be a political and financial decision,” said Zuardo, whose group was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the coyote hunting rules. “And certainly if Fish and Wildlife chose to do that, they will be challenged. It’s not a good idea.”
From: Center for Biological Diversity
Dec. 23, 2014
SEATTLE— Conservation groups are now offering up to a $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction of those responsible for the illegal killing of the breeding female wolf of the Teanaway pack in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Last month the groups posted a reward offer of up to $15,000, but have now increased the amount, after a member of Conservation Northwest stepped forward to contribute an additional $5,000.
Photo of a member of the Teanaway pack courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This photo is available for media use.
“This new donation to help bring the Teanaway wolf poacher to justice shows how passionate Washingtonians are about protecting our rare and recovering wildlife,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “There is strong support for wolf recovery in Washington, and people are appalled by this type of illegal killing. We’re thrilled to see our supporters stepping up like this, they make our work possible.”
The Teanaway Pack wolf was killed in mid-October near Salmon la Sac in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, making it the fourth known illegal wolf-killing in the state in 2014. In February a member of the Smackout Pack was found killed in Stevens County; in August a wolf was found gunned down in Ferry County; and a Whitman County farmer is facing potential prosecution after chasing a wolf for miles, then gunning it down after seeing the wolf near his field.
“It’s hard to comprehend these senseless illegal killings, because not only are wolves legally protected, there is no evidence these wolves were doing anything harmful at the time of their deaths,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “What’s more, if anyone thinks they were helping out livestock producers by killing wolves, the exact opposite is true; a brand new study published by a Washington State University wolf scientist demonstrates that killing wolves can increase wolf-livestock conflicts.”
Wolves, which were largely eradicated from the state by the early-to-mid 1900s, are starting to make a comeback, and are fully protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington and throughout the state under state endangered species law. The state wolf-conservation goal is a minimum of 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years in three recovery regions across the state from eastern Washington to the Olympic Peninsula. To date, numbers of successful breeding packs in the state have been stagnant at five packs since 2012. However, in 2014 three of those packs will no longer qualify as successful breeders since the breeding females of the Huckleberry Pack and the Teanaway Packhave both been killed and a wildfire resulted in the loss of most pups from the Lookout Pack.
“This deplorable action should not be left unchecked. Washington’s wolf population remains precarious, and killing the breeding alpha female of the Teanaway pack has cascading consequences for continued wolf recovery in Washington,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest regional director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This reward will hopefully help law enforcement bring the perpetrator to justice.”
According to Special Agent Eric Marek with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, the investigation is still open and ongoing. Anyone with information about the killing of the Teanaway female wolf, or anyone who may have noticed suspicious behavior in the Salmon la Sac area in October, should contact federal law-enforcement agents at (206) 512-9329 or (509) 727-8358. State law enforcement may be contacted at the 1-877-933-9847 hotline for reporting poaching activity in Washington.
The organizations that have contributed to the reward fund for information leading to a conviction in this case include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and Woodland Park Zoo.
From: The Humane Society of the United States
Dec. 19, 2014 by Kaitlin Sanderson: 240-672-8397; email@example.com
Sport Hunting and Trapping of Wolves is Over
Sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, a federal District Court has ruled. The court overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of wildlife protection groups, including Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live and Friends of Animals and Their Environment, filed suit against the USFWS’s premature December 2011 delisting decision. The decision threatened the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining wolves to a small area in the Great Lakes region—where state politicians and agency officials have rushed forward with reckless killing programs that threaten wolves with the very same practices that pushed them to the brink of extinction in the first place.
Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS, said, “In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations. We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks.”
In its 111-page ruling, the court chided the USFWS for failing to explain why it ignored the potential for further recovery of wolves into areas of its historic range that remain viable habitat for the species. The court also noted that the USFWS has failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species.
Following federal delisting, Wisconsin and Minnesota rushed to enact emergency regulations to allow the first public hunting and trapping seasons in the Great Lakes region in more than 40 years. The states authorized some of the most abusive and unsporting practices, including hound hunting, snares, baiting, electronic calls and the use of leg hold traps. Wisconsin’s wolf hunt ended this year after killing 154 wolves – 80 percent of them in leghold traps. And in Minnesota, 272 gray wolves were killed – 84 percent of the wolves in this year’s late season were trapped.
The Michigan legislature also passed three separate laws to designate wolves as a game species, in its zeal to allow the state to authorize a trophy hunting and trapping season for wolves, and to undermine a fair election by Michigan voters on wolf hunting. However, in response to a referendum campaign launched by The HSUS and other animal welfare and conservation groups and Native American tribes, the 2014 wolf hunt was canceled and voters in Michigan soundly rejected sport hunting of wolves in the recent November election.
Despite rhetoric from state politicians about wolf depredation of livestock, a new study of 25 years of wolf data has shown that hunting wolves may increase livestock losses. Michigan lawmakers relied on false stories about wolves to push through a hunting season, and had to apologize for misleading statements.
Today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia follows another ruling by the same court in September that rejected the USFWS’s decision to delist wolves in the State of Wyoming. The HSUS was also a plaintiff in the Wyoming litigation.
The plaintiffs in the Great Lakes lawsuit were represented in the case by Schiff Hardin, LLP and attorneys within The HSUS’ Animal Protection Litigation section.
Dec. 18, 2014 by Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
Private lands, like the farm these goose hunters are on in Goshen County, provide essential habitat for wildlife. Some say federal lands, especially in the West, also are fundamental to wildlife conservation but haven’t been accounted for in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Proponents of that theory estimate that hunters contribute only 6 percent to wildlife conservation nationwide. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)
As Wyoming grapples with how it will fund wildlife conservation, hunters may lose some of their influence as other groups and interests are asked to increase their financial contributions.
Hunters have been key players in conserving wildlife in the post-frontier era, a development that’s come to be called the North American Model of Wildlife Management. Wyoming Game and Fish Department says 55 percent of its budget comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and fees, and that hunters contribute even more through taxes on guns and ammo.
Since 2005, however, the agency has received general fund money appropriated by the Legislature, now amounting to 6 percent of its budget. That opens the door for others to demand representation in wildlife management decisions.
But those interests, whether they be against hunting or against aggressive predator control, feel they already have a legitimate reason to be heard but still are being shut out.
“I would describe the North American Model as incomplete,” said Thomas Serfass, a professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland and chairman of its department of biology and natural resources who has studied the issue. “It’s never been a complete story of wildlife conservation.”
Hunters have rightly claimed credit for saving or restoring iconic American species, be they elk, antelope, ducks or wild turkey. Yet some point to imperiled sage grouse, declining mule deer populations and the recent Endangered Species Act protection of the Gunnison sage grouse as examples of a broken North American Model.
One of the elements that is missing from the North American Model’s history of wildlife conservation is the contributions of federal land management agencies, Serfass said.
“Federal funding has never been a prominent part of what’s been, or at least what’s been portrayed (as) the North American Model,” he said. “Setting land aside in the public domain in perpetuity is probably the most substantive thing we do for wildlife conservation.”
When the value of federal land programs are put into the mix of wildlife conservation today, hunters’ contributions diminish to a mere 6 percent of funding nationwide, a paper released in October says. “The basis (the North American Model) of public debate is a myth,” says the study Wildlife Conservation and Management Funding in the U.S. The group Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife, Management issued the paper.
“Times are changing,” said Donald Molde, co-author of the study and a former board member of Defenders of Wildlife. “The issue of wildlife — who pays for that (and) whether the non-consumptive user should have a say — this is a body of concern that’s really relatively new … in the last 10 years.”
“What about this public lands argument,” he said. “Holy Toledo, that’s a huge subsidy to hunters.”
Molde’s paper, written with Mark E. Smith, co-founder of the Nevada group, says the eight largest federally funded wildlife programs contribute $18.7 billion annually to wildlife, land management and related programs. Those agencies include the U.S. Forest Service at $9.7 billion, the National Park Service at $3.6 billion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at $2.8 billion and the BLM at $1.2 billion.
Only 5 percent of those agencies’ operating budgets and land acquisition costs are funded by hunters or related activities, the authors say. A similar ratio occurs in the private sector among conservation nonprofits, the study says.
“The 10 largest non-profit conservation organizations contribute $2.5 billion annually to habitat and wildlife conservation; of this, 12.3 percent comes from hunters and 87.7 percent from the non-hunting public,” the paper says. The Nature Conservancy tops the list at $859 million annually, followed by land trusts, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and Ducks Unlimited, the latter at $147 million.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was last of the top 10 at $54 million, according to Molde and Smith.
Theodore Roosevelt was a hunter, conservationist and one of the architects of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. That doctrine credits hunters for wildlife health because of their financial contributions to game management through the purchase of hunting licenses and more. As the non-hunting public contributes more to state wildlife agencies, it is asking for a larger role in decision making. (Library of Congress)
“With increased awareness and interest of the general (non consumptive) public in controversial wildlife management issues such as fur trapping, predator control, trophy hunting, coyote killing contests and wolf reintroduction, a debate is before us as to whether the general public is or should be afforded a proper voice in wildlife management decisions,” the two wrote. “Sportsmen favor the current system, which places a heavy emphasis on their interests through favorable composition of wildlife commissions and a continued emphasis on ungulate management.”
“Nonhuman predators (wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, ravens and others) are disfavored by wildlife managers at all levels as competition for sportsmen and are treated as second-class citizens of the animal kingdom,” the paper says. “Sportsmen suggest this bias is justified because ‘Sportsmen pay for wildlife,’ a refrain heard repeatedly when these matters are discussed.”
Molde has been arguing with Nevada wildlife authorities about lion hunting and trapping for 40 years, he said, but officials hear other voices. “The guys who stand up and shout the loudest are the ones that shoot deer, elk and bighorn sheep,” he said.
Their argument goes like this, Serfass said: “We provided the funding and technical resources, for example, restoring ungulates. In the process hunters vilify predators.” Thus, “they (hunters) should have primary attention in the way predators are managed.
“That attitude has taken us back 70 or 80 years in the progress we have been making in predator and prey management,” he said.
Even choosing to buy a license shouldn’t entitle one to a louder voice, Molde argues. Such influence may even undercut elements of the North American Model.
The North American Model of Wildlife Management:
• Wildlife is a public-trust resource
• Elimination of markets for wildlife
• Allocation of wildlife by law
• Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose
• Wildlife are considered an international resource
• Science is the proper tool for the discharge of wildlife policy
• Democracy of hunting (not restricted to those of means)
From “Large Carnivore Conservation” edited by Susan Clark (Yale) and Murray Rutherford (Simon Fraser University). The two argue in the book that the North American Model is inconsistent in its principles.
In recent years Wyoming has seen the establishment of the Cougar Fund, Wyoming Untrapped, and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, each of which seeks to defend predators. Wildlife Advocates recently sued federal agencies over the elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park and is criticizing the Game and Fish’s killing of a grizzly bear near Clark.
The challenged elk hunt in Grand Teton may be an example of how some people feel left out, according to a masters’ thesis being prepared by Marian Vernon, a teaching fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She interviewed more than 30 people about the park’s elk reduction program.
“(W)hile stakeholders tend to define the problems associated with the park elk hunt in technical terms (e.g., problems of elk overpopulation, human safety), the underlying problem — and the ultimate source of the conflict — is that many stakeholders feel disrespected and excluded from the process by which government agencies make decisions about wildlife management and conservation on public lands,” she wrote in the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative fall 2014 newsletter. “The results of my study suggest that agencies should shift the focus of their attention away from ecological and biological details of elk management and instead focus on improving transparency, participation and involvement with outside stakeholders.”
Serfass, at Frostburg State, agrees.
“Probably a lack of access (to decision-makers) is one of the weakness in how we conduct wildlife conservation,” he said. “As a democratic society, if we’re talking about the public trust, people need more access.”
Despite the argument about the role of public lands in wildlife conservation, state management budgets are still viewed through the lens of the rifle scope, the critics said.
“Access is related to contributions,” Serfass said. “The first thing we have to do is realize we need a broader funding base.
“Non-hunting conservationists need to step up and demand to participate in funding,” he said. “The infrastructure is not in place. The average person who cares about conservation doesn’t necessarily (participate in) those types of activities,” like hunting.
“They certainly don’t have a voice with congressional caucuses that deal with sportsmen activities,” he said. “If they don’t belong to one of the higher-end conservation organizations, it’s a challenge for them to participate.”
Attempts to find new ways to fund wildlife conservation are ongoing not only in Wyoming but also nearby, not always successfully. In North Dakota, voters this month rejected a proposal to set aside 5 percent of the state’s oil extraction tax for conservation, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
In Montana, Fish Wildlife and Parks stalled a proposal to sell a wolf-management stamp that would have funded non-lethal elements of the agency’s program. Critics on both sides of the predator argument didn’t have faith in the proposal. The nonprofit Wildlife Institute offered reasons in an online essay.
Ducks Unlimited member Fred Kingwill and Sprigger hunt on the Salt River in Star Valley. Waterfowl hunters contribute to wildlife management through taxes on guns and ammo, as well as by buying licenses and duck stamps. Ducks Unlimited is the top hunters’ conservation group in the country, a recent study says. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)
“The lack of relationships with citizens who do not hunt or fish can lead to indifference or mistrust that undermines public support for new revenue sources,” the policy group said. “At the same time, the longstanding relationship between agencies and hunters that has fueled conservation for the past century can also create resistance to allowing other interests to help fund state agencies.”
Regardless of the role of federal lands and budgets in sustaining wildlife in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decides on game populations, hunting seasons and so on. The governor appoints the seven members of the commission, who represent districts across the state. Laws limit the number of members from a single political party.
Wyoming wants to set up a task force to figure out how to ensure long-term Game and Fish funding, said Neil Thagard, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Western outreach director. The group supports wildlife conservation through the North American Model. Sportsmen, business owners, oil and gas interests would come up with a plan at the governor’s request, Thagard said, and he’s been asked to serve.
While it’s too early to predict what might come out of such a group — yet to be assembled and announced — Thagard would like to see non-consumptive users engaged, he said.
“There’s no one in this state that doesn’t benefit from sustainable fish and wildlife populations,” he said. “I would just like to see everyone step up to the plate and be willing to provide funding for professional wildlife management.”
“As far as the funding to the professional wildlife agencies, it is sportsmen that are paying the bill, and that’s a good thing,” he said. Some hunters want to keep it that way, he said. If the system changes, the fear among some is “We as sportsmen are going to lose control.”
Thagard agrees that federal lands in the West are essential to healthy wildlife populations, hence his stiff opposition to states acquiring them. At the state management level, where most game populations, hunting seasons and limits are set “I think the hunter does have a louder voice — but they’re the ones engaged with the agency,” he said.
He also would defer to technical and biological experts, unlike Yale’s Vernon who is studying the Grand Teton elk hunt and suggesting decisions be made in a broader context that includes interests and stakeholders that have not traditionally been involved.
“What does the science say we need to do to appropriately manage fish and wildlife resources,” Thagard said. “It should be science-based information that influences the decisions.
“Our Wyoming Game and Fish are heavily influenced at times by policies established at the state level and by special interests,” he said. “That doesn’t always bode well for wildlife.”
Thagard said he’d like to see game and fish license prices linked to the consumer price index. If such were to happen, hunters and anglers would see less sticker shock than if prices were hiked once every decade or so, as they are now. Such a move also would keep the Legislature, which today approves license-price increases, out of the picture.
“We have too much legislative meddling in Game and Fish agencies,” he said. “This isn’t just Wyoming, it’s all over. We don’t need politics driving fish and wildlife management.”
If non-consumptive users feel left out of the wildlife management picture, so too do non-resident hunters. They’re one of the largest, if not the largest single group of contributors to the Game and Fish budget, Dubois outfitter and former legislator Budd Betts said.
He is a board member of the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, a group that relies heavily on out-of-state clients.
Non-resident hunters can pay more than $1,000 for an elk license, $10,000 all-told for travel and an outfitted hunt. Even if non-consumptive users contribute to the Game and Fish budget, “the lion’s share is still going to come from the non-resident,” Betts said.
Like non-consumptive users, non-resident hunters also don’t have a direct line to the commission, Betts said.
“The Wyoming outfitters are really the only voice for the non-resident hunter – the only organized and sophisticated voice,” he said. “You have to have a commercial group speak for the major license (revenue) source. You have to have a trade organization to speak for that group.”
There’s no proven way to capture revenue from non-consumptive wildlife users, no method like taxing camera or binocular sales, Betts said. Should such a system be developed, or should general fund money increase as a proportion of the Game and Fish budget, that could worry hunters.
Park Service biologists carry a tranquilized wolf pup in Yellowstone National Park before they collar it with a radio transmitter during the wolf transplant project in the mid-1990s. Several groups that support predators are making increasing complaints about how large carnivores are treated in Wyoming. If Wyoming broadens its wildlife funding base beyond hunters, it will likely have to deal with those new constituents’ views. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)
“The issue has always been (that) when you lose your hunter base for funding, it no longer becomes a hunter-based philosophy,” guiding wildlife management, he said. There could be “some sort of a non-hunter incursion into Game and Fish management.”
Wyoming voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 2012 guaranteeing the right of residents to hunt, trap and fish reflects how they feel about preserving their hunting heritage. Meantime, non-residents may be at the limit of what they would pay for a Wyoming elk license, Betts said.
“We’re going to be significantly overpriced versus other states,” he said. “The only way to maintain your competitiveness is to maintain your quality.”
That opens another Pandora’s box, he said. “That circles back around (to) all the issues people have with Game and Fish — herd numbers, late cow seasons, and how they go after predators,” Betts said.
If Wyoming finds a long-term funding solution, it may not satisfy everybody. Thagard and Molde’s divergent views of state wildlife agencies suggests as much.
“What would happen if Wyoming Game and Fish went broke and went out of business,” Molde said. “You’d still have wildlife all over Wyoming. They’d probably be doing just fine.” State game agencies exist, “simply to provide for hunter opportunity,” he said.
Thagard couldn’t see that more clearly – in the opposite direction. From elk feedgrounds to sage grouse conservation to habitat projects, wildlife today needs help.
“They don’t exist by themselves,” he said of wildlife. “We’re intervening to try and sustain it.”
Click here to view a Game and Fish video about its funding history and challenges here:
In this article, backcountry hunters and anglers weigh in on why it is a bad idea to transfer federal lands to the states.
— Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He began working at the Jackson Hole News in 1978, and was editor of the Jackson Hole News and Jackson Hole News&Guide before joining WyoFile. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (307) 690-5586. Follow him @AngusThuermer.