Yesterday marked the close of the first official hunting season for wolves ever to take place in America’s lower 48 states. More than 250 wolves were killed as a result of Montana and Idaho’s hunting seasons and more than twice that number have been killed overall since wolves lost federal protections in May of 2009.
And while assessing the true biological impact of the delisting decision and subsequent hunting season on the regional population will need further observation and time, one thing is clear: The optimistic talks of an official hunting season leading to a greater tolerance for wolves in the region were seemingly based on wishful thinking.
As the hunt draws to a close, tensions over wolf management remain high. Last year there were more illegal killings of wolves in the Northern Rockies than there were in 2008. Unscientific anti-wolf rhetoric in the West has become so commonplace and unchallenged in regional media articles that it’s in danger of becoming accepted as ‘fact.’
Recent headlines from across the region showcase the escalating persecution wolves face from many sides: from the usual vocal anti-wolf interest groups to political candidates and state legislative officials looking not to inform but to incite fear by whipping their constituents into an irrational wolf-hating frenzy.
We asked readers to add images of spring to our Flickr pool, and you graciously obliged. This picture, from user lenfwilcox, is of an aprium blossom in Fresno, California. Aprium, we understand, is a cross between an apricot and a plum. It sounds delicious and looks delightful! Continue sharing your images with us on Flickr; we love seeing them. We are also now featuring reader photos on the MyFlickr tab on our Facebook page.
A new buzzword phrase appears to making the rounds in the natural resource policy world. The phrase is “social license”. I wasn’t sure what the phrase meant, so I looked it up on where else…Google. Here is what I found. Apparently it originally came to mean the unwritten approval that a corporation needed to gain from a local community to operate in that community.
Today, it appears to have been broadened to refer to acceptance by society, where that society is nonlocal. And, it isn’t limited to corporations. Now, the term has entered public land policy discussions. My first reaction was somewhat cynical, thinking that it was another academically led attempt to create a sub-sub-sub field or published-based reputation by inventing new jargon to describe something we all knew. But actually it seems more to be an attempt to restore the glory days of foresters in charge of forests, this time producing trees to fuel the bio-fuel revolution.
As one rather truculent and perceptive Forest Service friend told me, social license means “letting foresters do what they used to do, in the role they used to have”. I wonder if this isn’t a mistake. We have moved away from the Older Days of trained professionals who “knew best” how to manage our natural resources. Instead we have seen a thousand collaborative experiments, of talk of “civic environmentalism” or building “civic capacity” where these projects involve those who are willing to do the back breaking work of trying to build a community’s resiliency for problem solving. In fact, we might go so far as to argue that a whole lot of expert/professionals licenses have been revoked socially because this is a different era with different problems, solvable by those with a certain attitude and mindset, rather than the right “license” to make decisions. Let’s see how this plays out.
The wolf debate in the West is irredeemably ossified. I realized this when I strolled into the town square in Jackson, Wyoming, Saturday morning and saw the crowd of cowboy-booted and behatted protestors, gathered for an anti-wolf rally, hefting signs blazoned with tired, decade-old slogans - “Save Wyoming Wildlife; Delist Canadian Wolves,” “Wolves: smoke a pack a day,” and “Wolves are the baddest pouchers [sic] in the USA.” The equally stereotypical Patagonia-clad environmentalists with their “I love wolves” and “Humans are the pests” signs completed the tableau. With rampant states-rights fervor in the air, all I could think about was Civil War re-enactments; the audience already knows how the battle turns out, but show up anyway to make sure each sides plays its role properly. In this case, everyone was in perfect character, and the outcome was just as predictable.
As it stands now, the wolf debate is binary: you are either for wolves, or against them. Arguing over the details of the science, which provides few definitive answers, is a means of asserting an identity-based affiliation with one clique or the other. Try to elucidate a nuanced position to either side, and you’ll find yourself immediately under attack.
But for me, an ecologist with a background in anthropology and human rights work, the wolf situation presents a labyrinthine, highly nuanced ethical conundrum. Maintaining a viable wolf population requires connectivity over large scales, which means that wolves must utilize private lands and public resources such as elk herds. Maintaining ecosystem functionality is the ultimate goal, and society must bear the short-term costs in order to reap the longer-term benefits.
The three most important things to know about what health care reform means to Indian Country are simple ideas. First, the United States, officially and permanently, recognizes its trust and treaty obligation for health care delivery to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Second, there will be more money (not enough, but more) pumped into the Indian health system. And, third, President Barack Obama has delivered on a major, long-sought promise to Indian Country.
Now let’s consider a few details.Read More ...
Ever spent hours waiting for assistance in a doctor’s office while other, more urgent patients were seen first? Then you can imagine how some of us feel about Friday’s decision to leave the sage grouse hanging about in the waiting room.
On March 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concluded that the sage grouse, a rare bird native to America’s dwindling sagebrush plains, could face extinction if it doesn’t receive protections under the Endangered Species Act. However, the agency says it is currently too busy working on more urgent cases to move forward with listing the birds at this time.
The agency designated the sage grouse as “warranted but precluded” for federal protection – a category the birds could remain in for years, even decades, while their numbers shrink and their remaining habitat becomes more and more attractive to developers. Sage grouse have already vanished from nearly half of their historic territory, and the prairie and sagebrush lands that the rare birds depend on have increasingly become targets for oil, gas and wind energy development as well as increased agricultural use and grazing.
There has been an interesting development in the ongoing story of Big Ag v fish in the Great Central Valley of California. Back in January HCN featured an article by Matt Jenkins on that conflict and in particular on the part played by the powerful corporate farmers of the Westlands Water District on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley which extends south from San Francisco Bay.
In spite of the fact that Westlands holds only junior water rights, the powerful District has been able to secure a lion’s share of available irrigation water – that is until the federal Bureau of Reclamation was so hemmed in by drought and ESA court decisions that it could simply no longer deliver the water which Westland’s corporate farmers desired.
Matt Jenkins reported what happened next. Essentially Westlands partnered with conservative members of Congress to take a run at the Endangered Species Act. Like all other Ag interests that have been faced with complying with the powerful endangered species law, Westlands wanted an exemption; let the tiny Delta Smelt get along with less water during the drought so that Westlands could continue to have all the water it desires.
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It is almost an article of faith among climate activists that only a lack of political will is preventing us from taming global warming. As Al Gore puts it in his book, Our Choice:
"It is now abundantly clear that we have at our fingertips all of the tools we need to solve the climate crisis. The only missing ingredient is collective will."
If any place on the planet has the collective will to put those tools to use, it's Boulder, Colorado -- a city that is probably home to more people working on one aspect or another of climate change than any other place on Earth. But according to a recent article by Stephanie Simon in the Wall Street Journal, even liberal Boulder, that bastion of environmentalism, and the first place in the United States to actually enact a carbon tax, is struggling mightily to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The city is no doubt learning from its mistakes and may well do better and better in coming years. But its experience so far, along with that of European nations, which have been working hard for years to reduce their emissions, should stand as a cautionary tale for those who buy Gore's assertion. Breaking political logjams probably isn't going to be good enough.
In a refreshingly cordial ceremony on February 18, three Native American tribes, the federal government, the states of Oregon and California, and an electric utility signed two agreements that promise to restore the Klamath Basin to health and end decades of rancor among the region's stakeholders.
The documents were signed in the echoing rotunda of the Oregon State Capitol beneath a mural of the traditional Native American salmon fishing platforms at Celilo on the Columbia River (long since drowned by The Dalles dam). The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement lay out plans to remove four dams and rebalance water distribution to farmers and ranchers, tribes, wildlife, and hydroelectric interests.
The Klamath Basin straddles the Oregon-California border. Its rivers and lakes have suffered an all-too-familiar litany of insults, including fish die-offs, algal blooms, droughts, and other noxious events as a result of hydroelectric modifications, industrial farming, and climate variations.
During a drought in 2001, matters rose to a fierce boil. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, the federal government cut off water to agriculture to protect the endangered sucker fish and threatened coho salmon. Angry farmers, defiantly camping along an irrigation canal, installed their own pump and irrigation pipe to bypass the canal headgates.