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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.

Wolverine ruling puts politics ahead of science

by: Matthew Koehler

Thu Dec 16, 2010 at 09:59:16 AM MST


Today's Missoula Indepedent includes this column from George Ochenski (who I've always thought was built a little bit like a wolverine himself). Below are some highlights from the article.

This week President Obama's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided the wolverine warranted listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That action, in response to a lawsuit by conservation organizations, marks a dramatic turnaround from the agency's decision a mere two years ago that denied protection for these exceedingly rare animals. Unfortunately, wolverines will not be placed on the endangered species list and receive the protection they deserve. Instead, they will join hundreds of other species and continue their one-way march to extinction because the agency claims it doesn't have enough funding....

[T]hanks to both political expediency and the budgetary black hole into which ongoing wars have plunged the nation, even though the numbers of species deserving protection continues to grow every year, fewer and fewer plants and animals are actually being listed. Instead, as with the wolverine, the agency and the U.S. Congress that funds it, says protection is warranted, but their continued existence on the planet is a cost we just can't afford.

Even worse, we now have politicians like Montana's own Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, who believe it's time to simply remove animals from the Endangered Species List through congressional mandate. I'm talking about the gray wolf, of course, a topic that never fails to spark heated debate these days over their numbers, livestock and wildlife predation, and the subsequent cost to sheep and cattle producers.

What Tester and Baucus fail to consider, however, is the consequences of their actions. If they succeed in pulling wolves from the endangered species list through a simple bill—or more likely, given Tester's recent proclivities, a rider on unassociated, "must pass" legislation—they will set a precedent that will literally gut the ESA....

The choice is clear. Congress can and should act. At the current level of more than $2 billion a day, only two or three days of military spending would fund the endangered species program into the foreseeable future. The excuse of "budgetary concerns" is simply a sad hoax perpetrated by politicians kow-towing to corporate interests. Unfortunately, between that and legislative manipulation of the endangered species list, this generation is stealing the future from those yet to come.
Matthew Koehler :: Wolverine ruling puts politics ahead of science
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Color me curious (0.00 / 0)
Considering that the only known habitat for the Wolverine in the contiguous US is in or around Glacier National Park, and adding that those animals reintroduced themselves from Canada, I'd really like to know how much listing them is supposed to cost?  With all good jocularity, it's not like we have to hire an armed guard and wet-nurse for each and every animal.  And in all earnest, unlike the Grouse or other plants and animals, the habitat is already protected from development and paid for.  So, confessing my ignorance of such things, just exactly what is expensive about listing this animal?

I saw a wolverine in Grand Teton NP (0.00 / 0)
in 2002 when I was backpacking. The critter sauntered along the opposite bank of a deep creek that was raging from spring runoff. I'd have to pull out my old maps to remember exactly where it was since it was almost ten years ago, but I remember the encounter like it was yesterday.

I was filling my watter bottle from the creek when out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement on the other side of the stream. I looked up and my first instinct was "bear cub," but the shape was all wrong for a bear and the distinctive blond markings were unmistakable. It took me about three seconds to realize I was kneeling about 20 feet away from a large adult wolverine. It was an incredible sighting. The critter didn't seem to even notice me, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous in my tent that night. After all, wolverines will chase a grizzly off a kill, love to eat porcupines, and attack from above. Amazing animals.

I don't know what constitutes a "population" these days, but I can say with 100 percent certainty that there was at least one wolverine in the Tetons in the spring of 2002.  


[ Parent ]
Wolverine habitat and Tester's bill (0.00 / 0)
Rob, That's a good question regarding money and I can certainly contact my friends at Center for Biological Diversity to see about this. However, it's not correct to state that the only known habitat for Wolverine's in the lower 48 is in and around Glacier.

The only wolverine I've ever seen in the wild was in 1997 up in the Mission Mtn Wilderness above Grey Wolf Lake at a place correctly named "Pass of the Winds." We crested the ridge and right below us in some frozen bogs areas was this wolverine just hanging out.  A cool sighting for sure. It's also my understanding that portions of the Bitterroot NF also contain wolverine habitat, and I'd sure think other parts of the Lolo might too.

And I hate to do this to people...honestly...but the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest contains some excellent wolverine habitat, and wouldn't you know it?  

Tester's bill would create a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Area right in this wolverine denning habitat on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, specifically in the West Pioneers.

Remember, as I've posted out elsewhere here at LiTW, Senator Tester's bill would take the current 229,710 acre West Pioneers Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA), which includes the 151,00 acre Metcalf Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and would turn 129,252 acres of this IRA into a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Areas (RMA).

Well, below is a snip from an October 1, 2009 letter Friends of the Bitterroot sent to Senator Tester's Missoula office. I also know for a fact that many FOB members meet personally with Tester's Missoula rep Tracy Stone Manning on this issue, to no avail. The entire FOB letter may be viewed here:
http://testerloggingbilltruths...

SNIPS:

"We strongly advocate that the Bill include Wilderness designation of both the West Pioneer WSA and the West Big Hole IRA, in addition to the Sapphire WSA. The West Big Hole IRA is an important biological corridor, connecting the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems, and Wilderness protection would keep it intact in the future.

The West Pioneers offer critical wildlife habitat for certain rare and endangered species, particularly wolverine, that are sensitive to displacement by motorized vehicles. These animals are quite vulnerable during winter when they den and nurture their young in areas that are attractive to snowmobile use.

In a March 3, 2008 letter to the Travel Management Planning Team for the Bitterroot National Forest, Mack Long, Regional Supervisor, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 2, Missoula, Montana, wrote the following:

"Snowmobiles pose a particular threat because of the increasing popularity of "high marking" in high elevation cirques and drainage heads, used by denning female wolverine."

With Long's opinion in mind, it is very likely that snowmobile use in the West Pioneer WSA poses a substantial risk to denning female wolverines.    It could well threaten that particular population with extirpation, a violation of the National Forest Management Act (Public Law 94-588. October 22, 1976, Sec 6 (g) (3) (B), provide diversity of plant and animal communities....).

This type of displacement is much more problematic than displacement from forage habitat, which can be abandoned and then reoccupied when the disturbance recedes. It is especially disheartening to see the existence of this magnificent, rare creature put at risk by frivolous recreation that could easily find another venue. Wolverines are up against extinction, and will likely be listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act next year. By allowing snowmobile intrusions into their winter denning habitat, [the Tester] Bill directly threatens the survival of the wolverine."


Accepted (0.00 / 0)
But ... having married a fine Dillon girl/chick/woman I've become vastly more inundated with knowledge of the Pioneers and the Centennial then I ever thought I would be.  Most of the folk in the upper Big Hole and Beaverhead favor the recreational use called for by Tester but hate the fact that specific areas will go to wilderness, precisely the southwest Pioneers.  Popular sentiment shouldn't be a basis for environmental policy, agreed.  Snowmobile access is still currently allowed in those regions given lack of enforcement.  Perhaps that's the cost of which the EPA is referring.  

There is still this.  There is a direct migration route for the Wolverine to travel to the Missions and the Bob (if'n they can successfully hop Highway 2.) Though the habitat is suitable, how exactly does the Wolverine make it to the Pioneers, deep Madison and lower Bitterroots without reintroduction?  Is that possibly where the expense comes in?  


[ Parent ]
Wolverines (0.00 / 0)
Rob -  See if you can check out Chadwick's book.  Glacier is not the only wolverine population in the nation...if I remember correctly, California also has a population down there.

As for why cost would preclude putting the wolverine on the ESA list, you'd have to ask the USFWS that question since they're the ones who used the cost excuse to avoid listing.


My sniffer is pretty good (0.00 / 0)
"Excuse" seems to be the right word, here.  I wasn't gonna write it until someone else chimed in, but this really does seem like a dick fundraiser move.

[ Parent ]
Common complaint (0.00 / 0)
Rob - Whenever agencies don't want to do something, like deal with hundreds of species on the Endangered Species list, they plead "no funding."  As you correctly pointed out, it is unlikely that the Glacier wolverines need wet nurses -- they're tough mofos according to Chadwick.

Which gets to the core of the issue, doesn't it?  What costs?  Why not list 'em?  Did they even ask Congress if it would be willing to keep wolverines from going extinct?

Rhetorical questions, as you will undoubtedly already know. Maybe someone from USFWS will chime in.  Or maybe not.  It is, however, Obama's administration and, you know, we were hoping for change...


[ Parent ]
Wolverines - (0.00 / 0)

I saw one near West Yellowstone in 1999 - they are cool-looking animals.

But what do they really need protecting from?

I've never known anybody to have shot one, and if you had a lot of goods intentions to start feeding them you would have a heck of a time finding one, as reclusive as they are -


But what do they really need protecting from? (0.00 / 0)
trappers.

[ Parent ]
Nice one P-bear (0.00 / 0)
Ughhhh! I agree P-bear. Trapping sucks. My dog once got her leg caught in a trap. I was able to get it off. It was really horrible. Trapping is 16th century technology and should be banned.

Otherwise, I can't say that I really understand the issues between wilderness and recreational designations. I have a problem where "wilderness" stands for land set aside so that the wealthy can hire outfitters and use for their own hunting, horseback riding and other elite forms of recreation. A lot of regular people get locked out.
For "recreation" it seems that dirt bikes go in and tear the hell out of everything. Isn't there anything in between? The conclusion that "management" is a political rather than scientific exercise seems most accurate.

Doug Coffin


[ Parent ]
There is plenty of scientific evidence and research... (0.00 / 0)
concerning wolverines, their habitat needs and threats to these reclusive animals.  Anyone with access to the internet can easily find this info for themselves, or like Ochenski said, check out Doug Chadwick's book, The Wolverine Way.

The following was snipped from http://www.defenders.org/wildl...


Wolverines still survive in the western U.S. but are at risk due to low breeding numbers. They face threats from habitat loss and habitat fragmentation and more and more areas of wolverine denning habitat are disturbed by snowmobiles and helicopter skiing. Further, Montana and Alaska still allow wolverines to be trapped.

Reducing or reversing the effects of global climate change is one of the most important things that can be done to maintain wolverines and their snowy habitats. Equally important now, we can reduce other stressors on wolverines.  Noisy and polluting snowmobiles are now powerful enough to access the previously pristine mountain snowfields where mother wolverines birth and raise their kits from February through May.  Defenders is working with wolverine biologists and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure sufficient wolverine denning habitat is protected from harmful disturbance by motorized recreation. Defenders also works to reduce and eventually end trapping of wolverines in Montana.

And Doug, where do you get the notion that America's Wilderness Preservation System "stands for land set aside so that the wealthy can hire outfitters and use for their own hunting, horseback riding and other elite forms of recreation?"  

I suggest that you spend a little bit of time at the Arthur Carhart Wilderness Center's website, which comes to us right here from the University of Montana.  http://www.wilderness.net

At that site you'll find excellent information about the history of the Wilderness Act and the importance of wilderness from a scientific, cultural and economic point of view, in addition to the tremendously important wildlife habitat and ecosystem services provided by these wild, intact ecosystems. Thanks.


[ Parent ]
Wolverine trappers? (0.00 / 0)

Never met one - is there any harvest data on how many actually get caught?  

[ Parent ]
Again, the internet is your friend and full of info (0.00 / 0)
Official Trapping page from MT Fish Wildlife and Parks:
http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/trap...

If you can't find the harvest data for wolverines there Eric, and if you are honestly interested in finding out, please contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks directly at (406) 444-2535 and I'm positive someone will be happy to help you. Thanks.


[ Parent ]
There Are Costs (0.00 / 0)
Developing and implementing a recovery plan is not free.  Buying habitat, funding research.

Expenditures get reported to Congress.  The FY09 report is pretty interesting -- spending per species, in descending order, starts at page 63.  Interestingly, out of 1145 species, the top 25 account for more than half the money.  And nearly all of those are fish, in the Columbia River drainage.

Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.


Not "Nearly All" But A Lot (0.00 / 0)


Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.

[ Parent ]
Dam! (0.00 / 0)
Charley - yep, LOTS of top-heavy costs associated with the idea that you can simply build dams across rivers and, somehow, retain the eons-long ability for salmon, steelhead and other ocean-run fish to make it back up to spawn in their native streams.  Entropy in action, really...spending more energy to create less order.

I once heard that salmon used to spawn in the Clark Fork headwaters.  Now think of that journey from ocean to Anaconda and juxtaposition it with the number of dams between here and the coast.  Is it any wonder they're spending a disproportionate amount trying to "ameliorate" a disastrous concept like damming rivers??

And in the end, what's it come down to?  Yep.  Weak-kneed politicians who can't admit that the answer is to remove the dams if you want the salmon to exist into the future.  

Instead of reality, we get profligate spending by spineless politicos trying to get re-elected, literally, at any cost.


[ Parent ]
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