A telling comment – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was reminded this week of how unpopular the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to delist nearly all gray wolves is among the kids of this country. Jewell was at an event to talk about kids and the outdoors, when the subject turned to the pending wolf delisting. She recounted a story about a 12-year-old who asked her not to strip protections for wolves. Jewell said she didn’t have a choice. “It’s about science, and you do what the science says; otherwise, you get sued.”
The problem is government scientists have been highly selective in choosing the science that they will rely upon and have discounted the opinion of outside experts, many of whom strongly believe that wolves are still not recovered in key parts of their historic range and thus should remain protected in those areas.
Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark says Jewell needs to evaluate the best available science carefully before finalizing the delisting.
“I hope she does listen to the scientists and that she gets personally involved in what happens during the public comment period and that science does indeed inform the decision she needs to make a year from now… It is absolutely about the science, and when it comes to science and whether or not wolves have recovered in the lower 48, we believe the science suggests it has not.”
Read the full story from Greenwire.
Wood River Workshop—a Success! Last week, Defenders hosted the Wood River Wolf Project training workshop and field demonstration in Blaine County, Idaho. The workshop covered a wide range of non-lethal tools (e.g., fladry, lighting, noise) and techniques (e.g., carcass removal, increased human presence, grazing route rotations, livestock guarding dogs) that have been successfully used to deter wolves and other predators from killing livestock during the first five years of this model project. More than 50 people attended the workshop including representatives from state and federal wildlife agencies, university researchers, conservationists, ranchers and members of the local community.
Participants gave us very positive feedback, including the following comments:
“The workshop provides a forum to talk about a different approach to resolve conflicts between domestic livestock and predators. The preferred method of managing conflict involves expensive lethal responses at taxpayer expense and the workshop facilitates discussions among stakeholders to look at prevention and non-lethal alternative ways to mediate predation issues. Most participants want to see a new paradigm evolve and support that change.”
”Defenders put as much into a two-day workshop as possible! Good balance between presentations and field time. Defenders once again is on the leading edge of promoting coexistence between carnivores, humans and their livestock. We need more workshops like this in more places!”
Obviously, our project can’t force ranchers in wolf country to do the right thing. Those who use poor animal husbandry practices continue to lose livestock, and our wildlife pays the price as a result. For example, last Friday the Idaho Mountain Express reported that four wolves have been killed in recent weeks in response to sheep and calf losses in central Idaho. All of these animals – livestock and wolves – probably could have been saved if those ranchers had adopted appropriate proactive strategies to deter wolf predation.
Still, overall livestock losses remain exceptionally low all across the region, even though stories like this one in the Magic Valley Times-News try to paint a very different picture. Only 90 head of cattle and 251 sheep were lost last year compared to more than 400 wolves that were killed by hunters, trappers and government agents. That’s a tiny fraction of the total number of livestock in the state but more than half of the entire wolf population! Yet the story insinuates that somehow ranchers are being left high and dry, despite the fact that we helped Congress develop a depredation compensation program that just authorized another $850,000 for wolf compensation and coexistence.
Politics trumps science with wolf delisting — A sobering piece from Salon asks, “Is the far right driving gray wolves to extinction?” It chronicles the story of how anti-wolf extremists have succeeded in making wolves the bogeyman in the West based out outdated mythology and misinformation. It also describes how scientific information was selectively chosen to make it easier to strip protections for wolves.