The Latest News on Senate Republican’s Bid to Overall the Endangered Species Act

The Hill reported on Tuesday that more than 100 Dems oppose GOP efforts to change endangered species law

More than 100 Democratic lawmakers are pushing back against Republican efforts to include provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that would weaken certain endangered species protections.

On Tuesday, 119 House Democrats sent a letter to various lawmakers in both chambers urging them to remove specific language in the House version of the defense bill that could weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

You can help stop this threat to the Endangered Species Act by contacting your senator. Click here for their contact information.

The Democrats wrote that the provisions in the bill would “have widespread, negative consequences.”

“The 2019 Defense Authorization bills contain numerous, controversial, anti-environmental provisions that are unrelated to military readiness,” the lawmakers wrote. “These deceptive provisions would cause irreparable harm to our wildlife and public lands.”

One of the amendments, submitted by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), would prevent the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service from being able to list the greater sage-grouse and the lesser prairie chicken as endangered species for 10 years. Both animals have been the topic of debate in Western states regarding species and habitat management.

That amendment also would permanently remove the American burying beetle from the ESA list.

Another provision that Republicans want to include would delist gray wolves found near the Great Lakes and Wyoming, while another amendment would block ESA protections for all gray wolves in the continental U.S.

“Decisions about how to protect species under the ESA should be based on science and made by the experts at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not Congress,” Democrats wrote.

Separately, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday considered legislation introduced by Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) that would overhaul the ESA. The ambitious effort would bestow more powers and responsibilities to state officials, allowing them to determine how animals and plants should be protected within state lines.

Republicans contend that the power shift would not weaken protections but rather allow state regulators to use their on-the-ground experience to determine how best to protect a species.

Featured image credit NPS

Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Needs Your Help…

Every summer hunters running dogs on Black Bear in the north woods come into conflict with Gray wolves. Gray wolves keep their three month old pups at rendezvous sites while they go hunting. Conflicts arise when bear hunters run their dogs through rendezvous sites because gray wolves are forced to defend vulnerable pups from free ranging packs of hunting dogs.

Bear Hunters and Wolves

In the 1960s Wisconsin started allowing the use of dogs in the pursuit of bear. At that time there were maybe a handfull of wolves in Wisconsin if any. Wolves were not a threat to bear hunters because they were all but wiped out of Wisconsin by the 1960s.  It all changed for bear hunters when Wisconsin Wolf recovery began in the late 1970s.

This conflict between bear hunters and wolves isn’t new. Watch the following Wisconsin Public Television piece from 2010.

A Brief History on Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf

In 1967 and 1974 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the eastern timber wolf a federally endangered species. In 1975, wolves were listed as a state endangered species as they began to recolonize along the Minnesota border. Wolves crossed over into Wisconsin from Minnesota and established territories on their own. Today, Wisconsin’s Gray wolf is listed on the Endangered Species List. Final Rule to Delist – – Due to a Federal court decision, wolves in the western Great Lakes area (including Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were relisted under the Endangered Species Act, effective December 19, 2014.

Wisconsin’s Gray Wolf Current Population

The 2017-18 overwinter minimum wolf count is 905-944, a 2.2% decrease from the 2016-17 minimum count of 925-956.

Carrying capacity is an ecological term for the number of a given species that an ecosystem can sustainably support. Socialcarrying capacity, however, refers to the number of a species that people feel is appropriate.

Wisconsin Black Bear Hunters use dogs to track and trail bears. Conflicts arise when a hunter’s dogs run through Gray Wolf’s rendezvous sites where pups are kept. Rendezvous sites are:

Rendezvous Site Identification and Protection source WDNR Endangered Resources

Active Season for Rendezvous Sites: mid-May – mid-October

Habitat: Rendezvous sites are generally open areas of grass or sedge adjacent to wetlands. The sites are characterized by extensive matted vegetation, numerous trails, and beds usually at the forest edge. Rendezvous sites are often adjacent to bogs or occur in semi-open stands of mixed conifer-hardwoods adjacent to swamps. Sometimes abandoned beaver ponds are used as rendezvous sites.

Description: Rendezvous sites are the home sites or activity sites used by wolves after the denning period, and prior to the nomadic hunting period of fall and winter. Pups are brought to the rendezvous sites from dens when they are weaned, and remain at rendezvous sites until the pups are old enough to join the pack on their hunting circuits. Rendezvous site may be associated with food sources such as ungulate kills or berry patches. Generally a series of rendezvous sites are used by a specific pack. Rendezvous sites are mostly used from mid-June to late-September, but use may start as early as mid-May and may continue to early or mid-October. Some intermittent use of rendezvous sites may continue into the fall. It appears that the average number of rendezvous sites used by wolf packs is 4-6.

Although den and rendezvous sites each serve separate functions for wolves, they are sometimes used interchangeably. Excavations sometimes occur at rendezvous sites and these may be used as den sites in the future. Sometimes rendezvous sites may represent old den site areas. Therefore, a site used as a rendezvous site one year, could be used as a den site the next year or vice versa. Due to the transient use of rendezvous sites, special protections are not necessary. If recent excavations are observed indicating possible use as a den site, protocols in place for den site protection should be followed. Source

“Most Wisconsin citizens want at least some wolf presence in the state, but those who feel strongly, at either end of the spectrum, drive the argument.” Lisa Naughton, UW-Madison geography professor.

Wisconsin DNR puts out the following when there is a wolf depredation on hunting dogs:

When wolves attack dogs in hunting or training situations on public land, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will create wolf caution areas to warn hunters that a specific pack has attacked a dog or group of dogs. Bear hunters are urged to exercise greater caution if they plan to train hounds or hunt bear with hounds near any caution area, especially if near an actual kill site. Table 1 contains a summary of the 2018 dog depredations by wolves.

When a wolf depredation takes place on a Bear hunter’s dog he is compensated $2,500.00 per dog. Wisconsin’s wolf depredation program began in 1982, and soon afterwards bear hunters running dogs in pursuit of bear began receiving payouts. The payouts for wolf depredations were paid in the effort to help compensate hunters, livestock owners and residents living in wolf recovery areas.

We must mitigate the decades old conflict between bear hunters and wolves…

In 2015 Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association (WBA) worked at loosening regulations for bear hunters using dogs in pursuit of bear. It’s a mystery as to just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods during training & hunting. Why is this a mystery? Because a change in regulations took place that removed the Class B bear training & hunting license. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad. 

I started working on the Wisconsin wolf recovery program as a volunteer Winter Wolf Tracker in the year 2000. I lost track of how many “no-wolf” bumper stickers were encountered in a day of tracking in the the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This conflict between bear Hunters and wolves is decades-old.

It’s time we begin to address the conflict!

There are a few of us beginning to work towards addressing the conflict between bear hunters and Wisconsin’s Gray wolf.

You can help by emailing me at wolvesdouglasco@gmail.com for more information.

Then, I can add you to our email updates.

The conflict between bear hunters and wolves has become polarized into opposing factions that polarize any campaign to remedy it. I propose we break through and start to mitigate the conflict.

Contact your Wisconsin State Representative. Wisconsin’s Gray wolf needs your help.

Will the Government Ever Get it Right on Delisting the Gray Wolf in the Great Lakes Region?

These and other questions come to mind as the Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List . Will Wisconsin be transparent in its management of the Gray wolf population, and once again allow for greater pubic input as it did prior to the 2012 USF&WS delisting decision.

In 2011 WISCONSIN ACT 169 legislation mandated a trophy hunt on the newly delisted Gray wolf. Wisconsin Act 169 allowed reckless management policies such as; Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Wolf Hounding Fact Sheet

In 2013 & 2014 Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs to hunt wolves.

This reckless management of the Gray wolf was overturned as part of Humane Society of the United States lawsuit of USF&WS’s 2012 delisting. In December 2014 a federal judge put Gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes Region back on the Endangered Species List. USF&WS appealed the 2014 ruling, but the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled Gray wolves in the Great Lakes region should remain on the endangered species list, July 2017.

Besides the horrific wolf management policies by the state of Wisconsin, problems exist within the way USF&WS determines criteria for wolf delisting in the Great Lakes Region in 2011. It’s seems USF&WS got its “hand slapped” by a judges ruling for trying to delist using the following:

“The proposal identifies the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of wolves, which includes a core area of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as parts of adjacent states that are within the range of wolves dispersing from the core recovery area.” USF&WS Press Release 2011

But then, on July 2017, the three-judge panel unanimously said the wolves should stay under federal protection. The judges wrote, “The Endangered Species Act’s text requires the Service, when reviewing and redetermining the status of a species, to look at the whole picture of the listed species, not just a segment of it.”

As the Associated Press reports the judges ruled that,

“The service had not adequately considered a number of factors in making its decision, including loss of the wolf’s historical range and how its removal from the endangered list would affect the predator’s recovery in other areas, such as New England, North Dakota and South Dakota.”

Just how reckless is Wisconsin in its management policies of the Gray wolf?

If the Gray wolf in Wisconsin gets delisted tomorrow; it’s a law that a wolf hunt must take place:

“If the wolf is not listed on the federal endangered list and is not listed on the state endangered list, the department shall allow the hunting and trapping of wolves and shall regulate such hunting and trapping as provided in this section and shall implement a wolf management plan. In regulating wolf hunting and trapping, the department may limit the number of wolf hunters and trappers and the number of wolves that may be taken by issuing wolf harvesting licenses.” 2012 Wisconsin Act 169

A brief history on Wisconsin’s reckless management of it’s wolf population, 2012 through 2014.

Wisconsin’s Wolf Advisory Committee is not far and balanced. In other words, there is no transparency in WI DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp’s Wolf management process (WDNR secretary at the time).

WDNR Wolf Advisory Committee met once a month during the legislatively mandated trophy hunt on Wisconsin’s Gray wolf. The WAC recommend how wolf management in Wisconsin should be done. Here is a list of Cathy Stepp’s (WDNR secretary at the time) hand Picked WAC, that she thinks better suited to, “…people who were willing to work with us in partnership…”:United States Fish & Wildlife Service(USFWS), United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services(USDA WS), Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission(GLIFWC), Wisconsin County Forest Association(WCFA), Wisconsin Conservation Congress(WCC), Safari Club International(SCI), Timber Wolf Alliance(TWA), Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association(WBHA), Wisconsin Bowhunters Association(WBA), Wisconsin Cattlemans Association(WCA), Wisconsin Trappers Association(WTA), Wisconsin Wildlife Federation(WWF) and 10 WDNR biologists. WODCW blog

Several DNR staff are on the recently created Wolf Advisory Committee, as are representatives of several pro-hunting groups. A smaller number of wolf hunting skeptics also remain on the committee, including a representative of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  WPR reporter Chuck Quirmbach June 2014 

At a WI DNR meeting secretary Cathy Stepp admitted, “When we’re charged to manage and to implement a hunt, coming in and telling us, ‘Don’t hunt wolves,’ is not a productive way to run a committee, frankly,” said Stepp. “That’s just the candid way to lay it out. We had to have people who were willing to work with us in partnership, and be willing to help us and advise us along the way in implementing state law.” Source WPR June 2014

I was was interviewed on June 2014 regarding DNR secretary kicking off wolf hunt opponents Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin was a volunteer DNR tracker of wolves for about a dozen winters, and attended a few meetings of what used to be called the Wisconsin Wolf Stakeholders Group. Tilseth testified about the wolf hunt proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. She later said she didn’t care for Stepp’s remarks.

“I was just appalled that somebody like Cathy Stepp, who’s in charge of this important issue, is saying something like that,” said Tilseth. “It sounds to me like it’s a committee that they want made up of wolf-killers.”

Recap of the last two years in the never-ending political rhetoric designed to stir public sentiment against an endangered species.

Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest 2016. The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags. From WI DNR Press Release 

The increase in buck harvest is hopeful news, because fringe hunters, along with some politicians are claiming that wolves are killing all the deer. This news puts a damper on republican Senator Tom Tiffany’s efforts to delist the wolf.

“A Great Lakes Summit in September 2016, was organized by two Republican lawmakers from northern Wisconsin, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, who hope control of the wolf population returns to state governments.” MPR News

The 30 percent buck increase in the Northern Forest Zone (where the wolf lives) is good news as DNR’s own scientific data is proving wolves aren’t eating all the white-tailed deer in northern Wisconsin.

Yet, certain politicians in Wisconsin refuse to believe scientific fact.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species.

Are wolves killing more livestock?

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock.

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2015 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

Wisconsin’s wild wolf is the most talked about animal of late.  Politicians in Wisconsin have villianized the wolf, and are pushing to delist him.  It’s no secret that one cannot trust politicians. Politicians are in competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; they’ve created propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

Politicians have removed science from wolf management and replaced it with political rhetoric. They put together a Wisconsin Wolf Advisory Committee with stakeholders primarily from the hunting community.

The WAC is heavily slanted towards recreational trophy hunting of wolves with 9 citizen pro wolf hunting organizations to 1 pro wolf citizen organization. Further, according to Cathy Stepp this committee is more productive than opponents of the wolf hunt. There is evidence to the contrary that shows the WAC productiveness is comparable to reality TV’s Housewives of NYC.  From WODCW’s Blog

In conclusion, if USF&WS, the government, gets it right this time in delisting the Gray wolf in the Great Lakes Region Wisconsin citizens must push for greater transparency in wolf management. Because trophy hunts are about power not conservation. We owe the Gray wolf, that was exterminated from our forest, an ethical & compassionate conservation management plan, because we have done enough harm to this iconic predator.

Urgent action needed for wolves: Persuade Your Senators to Oppose S. 1514…

…that directs the Secretary of the Interior to turn over management of wolves to the state governments.

Turning over management to state governments such as Wisconsin would be a death sentence for wolves.  Wisconsin allows the harassment of endangered species:

Wolves are an imperiled species, that are a part of Wisconsin’s wild legacy, and are being pushed to the brink of extinction; by conservation policies that favor a group of fringe hunters. These special interest, fringe hunters take advantage of the current political environment. They cause harm to wildlife by the “loosening” of regulations; they pushed for the removal of the Class B bear training & hunting licence that allowed for an undetermined number of dogs running through wolf habitat. That could definitely be the cause of the 37 bear hunting dog deaths. ”  WODCW’s Blog

“I’ve been helping with wolf recovery since 1998. I’ve witnessed the conflict between bear hunters and wolves while radio trapping wolves in the Chequamegon national forest. They’ve hated wolves for decades, and I’ve seen how this sport wears on the people & wildlife living in the north woods. Common sense dictates that; if bear training & hunting license requirements are removed conflicts occur between dogs and wolves. That’s a fact as plain as the nose on your face. If you run dogs on bear through wolf rendezvous sites; conflict will happen. Wolf pups are three months old when bear hunters start running their dogs on bear starting July first.”  WODCW’s Blog

Please take action by urging your senators to oppose S. 1514

How to Contact Your Member of Congress

Member websites provide comprehensive contact information: Click HERE
Send a letter today urging senators to oppose S. 1514


If these politicians: Senator Barrasso (R-WY), along with Senators Boozman (R-AR), Capito (R-WV), Cardin (D-MD), Baldwin (D-WI), and Klobuchar (D-MN) get their way and turn management of wolves back to states, such as Wisconsin, it’s certain death for wolves. 

This is how the state of Wisconsin manages the Gray wolf population


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Candidate for U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold respects the Endangered Species Act…

Feingold wants to respect the federal judge’s ruling on wolves.
“Species don’t know about state lines,” he said. “The idea that you would have an endangered species law state by state shows frankly no understanding of how species operate and how they live.” Russ Feingold is running against Senator Ron Johnson this November.  Senator Johnson wants wolves delisted and management returned back to Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s management plan includes an aggressive, legislatively mandated wolf hunt that includes; the barbaric methold of wolf hounding, throwing dogs to wolves: “Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”  Source 

Russ Feingold Campaign
ABOUT RUSS FEINGOLD

Russ Feingold is known for his independence, his honesty and his work ethic on behalf of Wisconsin families. He has always stood up for the middle class families, students and workers who need economic opportunity, often drawing the ire of wealthy special interests and lobbyists.
A lifetime Wisconsin resident, Feingold represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011, earning a reputation for doing what’s right, not what’s politically convenient. Whether it was opposing the war in Iraq, serving as an early voice for fiscal responsibility, or being the only Senator to oppose the Patriot Act, Feingold has shown that you can make a difference if you’re willing to speak truth to power.
As one of the namesakes of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, Feingold established himself as a bipartisan voice and an accomplished legislator who is leading the fight against runaway special interest money in American elections.
In Wisconsin, Feingold has been known for truly listening to the people of Wisconsin. Every year as a senator, Feingold visited each of the 72 Wisconsin counties, in an effort to hear what Wisconsin families expect from their government.
He’s worked to improve care for veterans, fought against unfair trade agreements that ship American jobs overseas, and supported the growth of Wisconsin’s economy by listening to Wisconsinites and fighting for their needs.
In an effort to increase opportunity for Wisconsinites, Feingold worked to make college more affordable for Wisconsin students by investing in Pell Grants. He fought to help Wisconsin’s farmers get access to desperately needed credit during the recession and helped expand access to broadband across Wisconsin for small businesses, schools and clinics.
Senator Rus Feingold. Madison, WI. Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Photo: Christopher Dilts/
After serving in the U.S. Senate, Feingold taught at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Lawrence University in Appleton and Stanford University in California. He served as United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the State Department. And he founded the group Progressives United to continue his fight against special interest influence in our political system. In 2012 he authored the book While America Sleeps, A Wake Up Call For The Post 9/11 Era.
Feingold’s family settled in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1917. Raised by Sylvia and Leon Feingold, Russ went on to graduate from Janesville Craig High School, UW-Madison and Oxford University, before receiving his law degree from Harvard.

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Featured image John E Marriott Photography 

Wolves should remain protected according to a new study from Princeton-UCLA 

Princeton-UCLA study finds gray wolves should remain protected. Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Los Angeles who investigated the genetic ancestry of North America’s wild canines have concluded that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s scientific arguments for removing gray wolves from endangered species protection are incorrect.
The study, which contradicts conventional thinking, finds that all of the continent’s canids diverged from a common ancestor relatively recently and that eastern and red wolves are not evolutionarily distinct species but a hybrid of gray wolf and coyote ancestry. The study will appear in the journal Science Advances.

Gray wolves once ranged across much of the United States but were hunted to near-extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, in part, because its geographic range once included the Great Lakes Gray wolves once ranged across much of the United States but were hunted to near-extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1973, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, in part, because its geographic range once included the Great Lakes region and 29 eastern states. Since then, gray wolves have rebounded due to protections, reintroduction and natural repopulation, making wolf recovery in the West one of the most successful efforts under the ESA. Gray wolves also still live in the Great lakes area but not in the 29 eastern states. The red wolf also was protected under the ESA as a distinct species in 1973, but the eastern wolf, which was only recently recognized as a distinct species, is not protected.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will decide this fall whether to remove the gray wolf from protection, drawing renewed attention to the conflict between conservationists, ranchers, hunters and others who see the iconic predator either as a threat or as part of a healthy ecosystem. The agency says the gray wolf should be delisted because the eastern wolf – not the gray wolf – lived in the Great Lakes region and eastern states. Essentially, the presence of the eastern wolf, rather than the gray wolf, in the eastern United States would cause the gray wolf’s original listing to be annulled. With the exception of the Mexican wolf, the gray wolf would lose protection from its entire North American range under the proposed rule change.
In their new study, lead author Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton, and her colleagues analyzed the complete genomes of 12 pure gray wolves (from areas where there are no coyotes), three pure coyotes (from areas where there are no gray wolves), six eastern wolves (which the researchers call Great Lakes wolves) and three red wolves.

Results showed that eastern and red wolves are not evolutionary distinct species but the result of a relatively recent interbreeding: Eastern wolves are about 75 percent gray wolf and 25 percent coyote, while red wolves are about 25 percent gray wolf and 75 percent coyote.
“We found no evidence for an eastern or red wolf that has a separate evolutionary legacy,” vonHoldt says. “These results suggest that arguments for delisting the gray wolf are not valid.”
The researchers also conclude that the ESA should protect hybrid species because interbreeding in the wild, thought to be uncommon when the ESA was passed in 1973, has been shown to be common and may not be harmful.

“Our findings demonstrate how a strict designation of a species under the ESA that does not consider genetic admixture can threaten the protection of endangered species,” vonHoldt says. “We argue for a more balanced approach that focuses on the ecological context of genetic admixture and allows for evolutionary processes to potentially restore historical patterns of genetic variation.”

The study, “Whole-genome sequence analysis shows that two endemic species of North American wolf are admixtures of the coyote and gray wolf,” was published July 27 by Science Advances. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

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Featured image John E Marriott Photography