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State of Wyoming and feds appeal wolf decision   Leave a comment

From:  The Billings Gazette

Wolf protections

The state of Wyoming is appealing the reinstatement of federal wolf protections.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming and U.S. government officials have filed separate notices that they will appeal a ruling by a federal judge that reinstated protections for wolves in the state.

The notices filed this week target the decision in September by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington, D.C., who rejected a Wyoming wolf management plan that took effect in 2012.

The state plan had classified wolves in most of the state as predators that could be shot on sight.

Jackson agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that wolves in the Northern Rockies have recovered. However, she ruled that the federal agency should not have accepted Wyoming’s nonbinding promise to maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves in the Northern Rockies in the 1990s. The animals have since expanded their range.

Despite the plan to appeal, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said Thursday he believes that congressional action holds the best chance for resolving the long-running dispute over manage wolves in the state.

Congress previously specified that there could be no legal challenges to decisions to end federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana.

Many Wyoming residents believe the wolf population in the state should be restrained to minimize the killing of livestock and other wildlife by the animals.

Wyoming has been involved in nearly continuous litigation against environmental groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the state’s effort to gain control of wolf management.

“To state it as simply as possible, we’re trying to cover all bases,” Mead said of the state’s notice that it will appeal Jackson’s ruling.

Mead said his administration is working with the state’s congressional delegation on legislation to turn over wolf management to Wyoming and prohibit further legal challenges.

Under the plan rejected by Jackson, Wyoming had divided the state into two general zones. Trophy hunting was allowed in a flexible area bordering Yellowstone, where the number of wolves killed was controlled by license sales. Wolves were left unprotected as predators in the rest of the state.

Trophy hunting is not allowed under federal management.

Mead previously said the state had almost 190 wolves and 15 breeding pairs after the first hunting season in 2012 and just under 200 wolves and 15 breeding pairs after last year’s hunt.

Jackson’s ruling derailed the state plan to allow hunters to kill a maximum total of 43 wolves starting in October.

Tim Preso, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, represented a coalition of groups that sued to overturn Wyoming’s wolf plan. He said his clients are prepared to assert that the appeals court should uphold Jackson’s ruling.

Preso said it appears Wyoming’s best chance at restoring state wolf management would be to fix the flaws in its management plan rather than challenge the judge’s ruling.

Preso said the confirmation of a female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies near the Grand Canyon shows that wolves have the ability to find places to live if humans don’t kill them.

“The big issue that we had with Wyoming’s plan was it provided too many opportunities for people to kill wolves with little to nothing in the way of limits on that in most of the state,” Preso said. “In the rest of the state there were a lot of things that really weren’t nailed down by way of conservation promises.”

 

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Lawsuit Fights 38 Years of Delay in Recovering Southwest’s Mexican Gray Wolves   1 comment

From:  Center for Biological Diversity

TUCSON, Ariz.— A coalition of wolf conservation groups, environmental organizations and a retired federal wolf biologist sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for repeated failures over the last 38 years to develop a valid recovery plan for the imperiled Mexican gray wolf, one of the most endangered mammals in North America. With only 83 individuals and five breeding pairs in the wild at last report, Mexican gray wolves remain at serious risk of extinction. The recovery plan, a blueprint for rebuilding an endangered species’ population to sustainable levels, is necessary to ensure the lobos’ survival and is legally required under the Endangered Species Act.

“The opportunity to recover the Mexican gray wolf is slipping away due to genetic problems and inadequate management policies, but the government still hasn’t created the basic recovery blueprint that the law requires,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who is representing the groups. “We are asking a judge to order federal officials to develop a scientifically-grounded recovery plan before it is too late.”

Earthjustice is representing Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, retired Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator David R. Parsons, the Endangered Wolf Center and the Wolf Conservation Center.

“For three decades now, Fish and  Wildlife officials have been dragging their feet on completing a recovery plan simply to appease state leaders and special interest groups opposed to sharing the landscape with wolves,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s shameful that the very people charged with recovering our wildlife have turned their backs on these beautiful creatures, leaving them to battle inbreeding and a host of other threats pushing them to the brink of extinction.”

The Service developed a document it labeled a “Recovery Plan” in 1982, but the agency admits the document was incomplete, intended for only short-term application, and “did not contain objective and measurable recovery criteria for delisting as required by [the Endangered Species Act].” Most importantly, the 32-year-old document did not provide the necessary science-based roadmap to move the Mexican gray wolf toward recovery. Without a recovery plan in place, the Service’s Mexican gray wolf conservation efforts have fallen short of even meeting the agency’s stop-gap goals. The Service in 2010 admitted that the wild Mexican gray wolf population “is not thriving” and remains “at risk of failure.”

“In the spring of 2012, the Service cancelled the next meeting of the recovery team,” said Eva Sargent, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the team, “and we haven’t heard a word since. The majority of Arizonans and New Mexicans support recovery of the lobo, and they deserve more than decades of stalling on the most basic task – a scientific blueprint that moves the wolves from endangered to secure.”

Service-appointed recovery scientists drafted a plan in 2012 that called for establishing three interconnected Mexican gray wolf populations totaling at least 750 animals as criteria for delisting, but the plan has never been finalized. The abandonment of the 2012 recovery planning process leaves Mexican wolf recovery guided by the legally and scientifically deficient 1982 plan, which did not even set a population recovery goal.

A new analysis of the Service’s failed efforts to develop a recovery plan released today by the Center for Biological Diversity reveals an agency that over three decades convened three different teams of expert scientists to prepare the much-needed plan only, in each case, to pull the plug once the plans neared completion.

As detailed in the report, Deadly Wait: How the Government’s 30-year Delay in Producing a Recovery Plan is Hurting Recovery of Mexican Gray Wolves, documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate the most recent effort to develop a recovery plan was quashed by the Service in 2012 at the behest of the states of Arizona, Colorado and Utah, which did not want to see Mexican wolves recovered within their borders.

“The Endangered Species Act is unequivocal in its requirement of a recovery plan based solely on the best available science regardless of politics and the level of controversy. That certain interests invited to the recovery planning table don’t respect federal law or reject the validity of the best science is no excuse for shutting down the recovery planning process and further endangering the extinction of the Mexican gray wolf” said David Parsons, former Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed today include two environmental education organizations that operate captive-breeding facilities providing Mexican gray wolves for release into the wild. Despite their efforts, Mexican gray wolf survival continues to be threatened by the lack of a recovery plan to ensure that wolf releases are sufficient to establish a viable population.

“Recovery cannot take place in captivity alone,” said Virginia Busch, executive director of the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Mo. “Only by developing and implementing a comprehensive and legally compliant recovery plan reflecting the best available scientific information can Fish and Wildlife Service secure the future of the Mexican wolf, and establish management sufficient to restore this irreplaceable part of our wild natural heritage to the American landscape.”

Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y., added:  “The captive-breeding program that we operate aims to release wolves into their ancestral homes in the wild, but the success of our efforts requires a recovery plan that will ensure the survival of these iconic and imperiled wolves.”

BACKGROUND
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) — the “lobo” of Southwestern lore — is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 83 individuals, all descendants of just seven wild founders of a captive breeding program. These wolves are threatened by illegal killings, legal removals due to conflicts with livestock, and a lack of genetic diversity.

The Service has never written or implemented a legally sufficient Mexican gray wolf recovery plan. The Service’s most recent recovery team has done extensive, rigorous work to determine what needs to be done to save the Mexican gray wolf. Recovery team scientists agree that, in order to survive, lobos require the establishment of at least three linked populations. The habitats capable of supporting the two additional populations are in the Grand Canyon ecoregion and in northern New Mexico/southern Colorado.

In July 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a proposed revision of the rules governing management of Mexican gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal includes provisions that would allow for increased take — or killing — of the critically endangered animals, and proposes to recapture wolves dispersing north of Interstate 40, which would prohibit the establishment of additional populations called for by recovery planners. The proposal is not based on a legitimate recovery plan.

ONLINE VERSION: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/lawsuit-fights-38-years-of-delay-in-recovering-southwest-s-mexican-gray-wolves

LEGAL DOCUMENT:http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Mexican_gray_wolf/pdfs/Mexican_wolf_recovery_plan_complaint_11-2014.pdf

Center for Biological Diversity Report:http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/Mexican_gray_wolf/pdfs/Deadly_Wait_Mexican_Gray_Wolf_Recovery_Web.pdf

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sued over Mexican gray wolf recovery plan   Leave a comment

From:  L.A. Times by 

MexicanGrayWolf_RobinSilver_FPWC_2_HIGHRES.TIF

Conservation organizations on Wednesday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force it to complete a long overdue, legally required recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf, the lobo of Southwestern lore.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona, aims to enforce compliance with rules the agency adopted 38 years ago to guide recovery of the federally endangered species driven to near extinction by wolf extermination campaigns of the 19th and 20th centuries.

It asks the court to declare the agency in violation of the Endangered Species Act, and order it to “prepare and implement a scientifically based, legally valid” final recovery plan within a year of the court’s judgment.

The Mexican gray wolf was reintroduced into a small area of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico in 1998 as part of a strategy to reach a population of 100 wolves, including 18 breeding pairs, by 2006.

Today, the population stands at 83 wolves, and five breeding pairs. They are managed under restrictions that do not permit the mobile, clannish hunters to colonize new territory, increasing the likelihood of inbreeding, according to the lawsuit. The restrictions also allow excessive killing and removal of wolves that take livestock, the lawsuit says.

By the agency’s own assessment in a recent draft environmental impact report, the existing population is “considered small, genetically impoverished, and significantly below estimates of viability appearing in the scientific literature.”

Sherry Barrett, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator, was unavailable for comment.

Plaintiffs including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Wolf Center, the Wolf Conservation Center and David R. Parsons, a biologist who served as the agency’s Mexican gray wolf recovery coordinator from 1990 to 1999, accuse the agency of yielding to political pressure from ranchers, hunting groups and state officials in Utah, Arizona and Colorado.

In a letter to former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in late 2011, for instance, Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert urged that Colorado and Utah be excluded from what he described as “the Mexican gray wolf equation,” on grounds that those states were not “within its core historic range.”

The agency, in 2013, published documents based on recent genetic research showing that the species scientists know as Canis lupus baileyi ranged as far north as Utah and Nebraska.

“Unfortunately, when confronted with views from various interest groups — particularly livestock industry organizations, state wildlife agencies and the less enlightened hunting organizations – the agency takes a head-in-the-sand approach,” Parsons said in an interview. “What seems to be driving things in this case are the politics surrounding the Mexican gray wolf.”

Since 1982, the agency has convened three different scientific teams to prepare a formal recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf.

The most recent effort produced a draft recovery plan in 2012 that recommended establishing two additional Mexican gray wolf populations, one in the Grand Canyon and another in the southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. The overall goal was to create three self-sustaining sub populations totaling 750 wolves.

The plan also suggested several areas of suitable habitat for reintroduction efforts including land in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and southern Colorado.

That plan, however, was never published, and the recovery team that produced it never reconvened to review the proposal’s viability, according to the lawsuit.

“The agency has caved in to demands of the anti-wolf states,” Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Meanwhile, decades after it decided to reintroduce it into the wilds, the Mexican gray wolf remains on the precipice of extinction.”

Louis.Sahagun@latimes.com

FWP approves proposal for bobcat fur farm in Fergus County   Leave a comment

From:  3KRTV.com

CENTRAL MONTANA

Oct 25, 2014 9:46 AM by David Sherman

HELENA — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has approved and issued a license to a commercial fur farm southwest of Roy, despite receiving thousands of public comments against the proposed project.

Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor, said in a press release, “Based on the analysis in the environmental assessment, applicable laws, regulations and policies, FWP has determined that this action will not have a significant effect on the human or physical environment.”

The license will allow the Schultz Fur Farm to possess captive-raised bobcats, lawfully obtained from a licensed dealer, for propagation and for sale of the pelts in the commercial fur industry.

FWP received more than 21,00 total comments from people across the nation and internationally, including multiple comments from the same people, representing 21,182 individual people and two groups, and one petition from a group called “Cats Are Not Crops.”

Of the total comments received, 20 comments supported the proposal, and the remaining opposed the proposal based on principle and objection to fur farms and the fur industry.

The FWP said that there was “no substantive opposition” to the laws or regulations in Montana that reflect opposition to the permit.

Among the public comments and FWP responses:

Comments: Favor the proposal related to economic development in the area.
FWP response: This is a business and the potential for local tax revenue and direct revenue to other businesses are possible but are not under the FWP control.

Comment: Fur farms are inhumane and cause harm to native animals that should be free (high% of comments received had some form of reference to this):
FWP Response: Fur farms are a legal business and are controlled and monitored under Montana code 87-4-1007 (Inspection) to assure licensed operators comply with the law.

Comment: The space identified in the EA that each animal will have is less that the 42 square feet the AZA recommends.
FWP Response: Fur farms are not required to meet AZA criteria.

Comment: Bobcats are wild animals and should be respected as wild animals.
FWP Response: These bobcats are captive-bred and raised and are not, under Montana law, wild or wildlife, but domestically raised, considered private property, and can be used for the purpose identified as furbearer and industry standards and rules.

Comment: These animals will be inhumanly killed in methods contrary to the AVMA standards.
FWP Response: The methods used to dispatch these animals are up to the producer but there are industry standards that are recognized and used.

Comment: The environmental impacts due to waste and chemical releases from fur farms is well-documented and there will be impacts to the surrounding land, vegetation, wildlife and environment therefore this should not be permitted.

FWP Response: The fur farm owners and operator must comply with state standards set out by DEQ and EPA for discharge of any materials that maybe hazardous to the environment.

Comment: Very specific theme and expressed philosophy that fur farms are not acceptable and killing animals for fur is barbaric and no longer acceptable in today’s world.
FWP Response: Fur farms are a recognized legitimate and licensed business and Montana.

Comment: Bobcats from this can be sold in the pet trade and kittens will grow up and be dangerous to people because they are still wild animals.
FWP Response: Many municipalities, counties and towns prohibit owning them as set by local ordinances. There is no state law that prohibits the fur farm from selling to individuals.

In the final environmental assessment, the FWP said:

Although minor impacts were identified, no potentially significant impacts to the human or physical environment were identified in the EA or through public comment. The EA and this decision notice with all applicable mitigation measures for licensing will serve as the final EA document.

After thorough review of the application, it is determined that there are no significant findings of potential environmental impacts or credible legal challenge to the laws and regulations regulating fur farms.

Click here to read the complete FWP document (PDF).

 

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