Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!



Friday, November 21, 2014

DNA Tests Confirm First Wolf in Over 70 years is Living near Grand Canyon’s North Rim

Female Grand Canyon Wolf is Fully Protected Under Endangered Species Act – For Now

For Immediate Release, November 21, 2014
Contact: Emily Renn, (928) 202-1325, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project
Ellen Winchester, (928) 638-2389, Kaibab Lodge
Kim Vacariu, (520) 390-3969, Wildlands Network
Sandy Bahr, (602) 253-8633, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter
Kim Crumbo, (928) 606-5850, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
Maggie Howell, (914) 763-2373, Wolf Conservation Center
Kirk Robinson, (801) 468-1535, Western Wildlife Conservancy

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that a female northern Rockies gray wolf is roaming the North Kaibab National Forest near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This pioneer traveled hundreds of miles to northern Arizona, an area that scientists have said is one of the last best places in the Southwest for wolves. The Grand Canyon wolf is currently fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, but could lose those protections under an Obama administration plan to strip gray wolves of protections nation-wide.

Representatives and volunteers from the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, a Flagstaff-based non-profit that has worked since 2005 to build support for wolf recovery in the Grand Canyon region, celebrated the news.

“This is an exciting, historic development that affirms both the peer-reviewed science that identifies this area as excellent habitat for wolves and the need to maintain Endangered Species protections for wolves.” said Emily Renn, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project’s executive director.

Local business woman Ellen Winchester, whose family has owned and lived at the Kaibab Lodge five miles north of the Grand Canyon North Rim for the past ten years, said she and her family feel blessed to have heard and seen this wolf.

“This is our home and business and we who live in the forest have a healthy respect for the animals. The Kaibab National Forest, The Grand Canyon North Rim and the animals that live there are a legacy for our children and our children's children.  I was thrilled to hear wolf song.  I welcome the wolf to the Grand Canyon which is my back yard.  There is plenty of room for all to live together safely” said Winchester.

Wolves were once native to this area but were extirpated by a federal extermination program in the early 1900's. Wolves have yet to be recovered over most of their historic range and a plan condemned by scientists is expected to strip gray wolves of their endangered species protections in key places across the United States.

"This is just the latest, exciting episode in a series of wide-ranging wildlife stories that shows the real need for connected habitat over big landscapes like the Western Wildway," said Kim Vacariu, Western Director for Wildlands Network.

“This wolf has traveled a long way to get to Grand Canyon, a place that has been missing its wolves for decades,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “You cannot help but feel hopeful when you see that despite many obstacles -- from roads and development to politics, this animal has made its way to a place, Grand Canyon, that is ideal for wolves, an area that has been repeatedly identified by scientists as a place where wolves should be restored. The message is clear, wolves belong at Grand Canyon.”

Kim Crumbo, Conservation Director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, said. “That a determined wolf could make it to the Canyon region from the northern Rockies is cause for celebration, and every effort must be taken to protect this brave wanderer and to continue the work to protect the wildlife corridors she used to get here.”

“She came, she saw, she made history,” said Maggie Howell with the Wolf Conservation Center in NY. “This wild milestone is a demonstration of the great potential for wolf recovery in areas where this keystone species has yet to take hold. But with USFWS poised to remove federal protections nationwide, will other pioneers be able to return to areas with suitable habitat and availability of prey?”

“This is wonderful news.   A wild gray wolf from the northern Rockies has traveled over a 1000 miles to demonstrate that Utah and Arizona are home to wolves!   We should welcome this and future wolves home, and let them live in peace,” said Kirk Robinson, Executive Director for Western Wildlife Conservancy in Utah.

Background
The Obama Administration’s planned national wolf delisting would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections across most of the continental United States, and would give individual states, many of which are extremely hostile to wolves, the authority to manage wolves. Without legal, federal protections, wolves would not be able to safely move across state lines to suitable habitat, as this one has.

Currently, wolves have returned to less than ten percent of their historic range in the lower forty-eight states. Wolves from the north and south historically met, interbred and thrived in the Southern Rockies and today’s science tells us there continues to be an abundance of suitable wolf habitat in southern Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, including the Grand Canyon area.

Groups collaborating on the website MexicanWolves.Org earlier today announced a contest for children and youth under age 18 to give a name to the Grand Canyon wolf.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Northeast Wolf Coalition Draws Wildlife Experts to Walden Woods



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2014
Contact: Wolf Conservation Center: Maggie Howell, maggie@nywolf.org; 914-763-2373 Endangered Species Coalition: Tara Thornton; tthornton@endangered.org; 207-268-2108 RESTORE: The North Woods: Jym St. Pierre; jym@restore.org;

Recognizing the need for an ongoing collaboration to explore the vision of and potential for wolf recovery in the Northeast USA, the Northeast Wolf Coalition, an alliance of conservation organizations from New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and beyond, recently gathered at Walden Woods in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Inspired by the lands, literature and legacy of the quintessential American author, philosopher, and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, the Coalition examined its ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility - both cornerstones of Thoreau’s philosophy.

Informed by some of the nation’s best and brightest wildlife conservationists and scientists, the conference brought together more than two dozen stakeholders to review the focus and the direction of its mission and to plan collaborative projects based on common goals and the most current scientific principles. The Coalition believes that the return of the wolf will reflect a more fully functional and wild ecosystem in the Northeast, with wolves fulfilling a dynamic and evolving ecological function in the changing environments that comprise the region.

"We know wolves and other top predators are key to a healthy ecosystem”, said Tara Thornton, Program Director for the national Endangered Species Coalition. “In the Northeast, it's critical to have protections in place for wolves if we are ever to see them return to their native landscape," she added.

“One of those safeguards must involve exploring better protections for the eastern coyote which lives throughout the region,” said Jonathan Way, Ph.D., a biologist who has studied wild canids for over a decade. “While the eastern coyote has a different ecological role than larger wolves, it looks very similar and can easily be mistaken, even by trained wildlife biologists.”

Although the howl of the wolf has been silent in the Northeast for over a century, the Coalition worked together to design a preliminary framework from which it will begin to transfer scientific evidence into informed practice and advocacy to promote wolf recovery in the region.

According to Jym St. Pierre, Maine Director, RESTORE: The North Woods, “The wolf once was the most widely-distributed land mammal on Earth. It lived throughout the Northeast, performing an essential ecological role. While wolves are making a comeback across many parts of the U.S., they remain missing from our northeastern landscapes. Scientific studies show there is plenty of habitat and wild food to support a viable population of this important species. For biological, spiritual, and even economic reasons, it is time to get wolf recovery in the Northeast back on track as part of the rewilding of our region.”

The Coalition believes the imminent loss of federal protections for wolves in the lower 48 states threatens the survival of individual wolves that attempt to move into the region from existing populations located to the north and northwest in Canada that are well within dispersal range of reaching the Northeast.

“Wolf recovery is possible when states recognize their legal obligation to conserve the species as a public trust resource. Such recognition implies that states must now assume the critical role in wolf protection and apply the leadership necessary to ensure they recover in sustainable numbers throughout the region,” said Maggie Howell, Northeast Wolf Coalition Coordinator and Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. “Doing so moves the debate about wolf recovery in the Northeast back into the scientific as opposed to the political arena.”

To learn more about the Northeast Wolf Coalition, please visit www.northeastwolf.org

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Exploring Wolf Recovery in the Northeast

"In wildness is the preservation of the world" ~ H.D. Thoreau

The Northeast Wolf Coalition envisions populations of wolves recovered in numbers that will allow them to re-establish their critical role in nature and ensure their long-term survival in the region. A new video, "A Wilder Northeast," produced by Predator Defense and the Coalition presents its case... 

Next week, the Wolf Conservation Center will welcome members of the Northeast Wolf Coalition to its first conference, "Exploring Wolf Recovery in the Northeast ~Taxonomy, Recolonization and Reintroduction" ~ to discuss strategies that promote a wilder Northeast. The two-day meeting will be held at Walden Woods, the place that cradled Thoreau’s philosophies and led to the modern conservation movement. We look forward to keeping you posted as developments unfold.

Background: Recognizing the need for a collaborative effort that explores the vision of and potential for wolf recovery in the Northeast USA, the Northeast Wolf Coalition was established in March, 2014 as an alliance of conservation organizations in New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut and beyond. The Coalition’s work, guided by some of our nation’s best and brightest conservation scientists, strives to ensure that the foundation of its vision and work is based on the application of the best available and most current scientific principles.

“We have unique opportunities and challenges here in the Northeast,” said Maggie Howell, WCC director and coordinator of the Coalition. “The Northeast Wolf Coalition is working together using the most current peer reviewed science to raise awareness and increase public understanding about wolves. A broad base of public support is necessary for wolves to recover and we remain committed to ensuring that stakeholders become active stewards in that regard. There are biological, economic and ethical reasons to facilitate wolf recovery and the Coalition is eager to work with area residents, organizations, and state and federal agencies to promote the wolf’s natural return to our region.”
 

The WCC is honored to be among the participating organizations in the Northeast Wolf Coalition and also a fiscal sponsor. If you're interested in supporting the coalition's initiative in the Northeast, please consider purchasing a Northeast Wolf Coalition sweatshirt.  All proceeds will be used solely for Coalition work. Shop here.

To learn more about the Coalition, please visit www.northeastwolf.org.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Paper Explores Why We Hunt Large Predators

We hunt predators but we can’t say why

Originally Posted: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2014 1:15 PM
The New West / By Todd Wilkinson

Consider this loaded question: Should grizzly bears, wolves and cougars be hunted for sport? Worldwide, given their rarity and declining numbers, should lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and tigers?

Across North America we find ourselves in another big game hunting season. For many the harvest is as much about putting meat in the freezer — a form of modern subsistence — as it is about the profoundly personal act of communing with nature.

From an early age, a lot of us were taught two guiding ethical principles: Don’t take the life of an animal unless you intend to eat it, and, if you do kill, there ought to be a good reason.

As states sanction hunts of iconic predators (grizzlies and black bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes), there remains a fact: People will eat little of those animals that they kill.

The search for a rationale in targeting predators must necessarily speak to reasoning beyond the simplistic argument advanced by fish and game departments that selling hunting tags generates revenue.

The issue of whether there’s an underlying moral — and compelling biological — justification for killing predators is taken up by two university professors in a new thought-provoking scientific analysis, “Wolf Hunting and the Ethics of Predator Control,” soon to be included in a new book, “The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies.”

Author John Vucetich is a well-known Midwest wolf researcher and conservation biologist at Michigan Tech University; Michael P. Nelson is on the faculty at Oregon State University. In their paper they examine why large carnivores — which possess undeniable ecological value — are hunted.

Before we proceed let it be clear that Vucetich and Nelson did not write the paper to advance an anti-hunting agenda. They wanted to determine if any “good reason” for hunting predators exists.

“What counts as an adequate reason to kill a sentient creature?” they ask. “The hunting community has long recognized the value of this question to understanding the conditions under which various kinds of hunting is appropriate.”

Vucetich and Nelson consider the spectrum of societal attitudes toward predator hunting as expressed by trophy hunters, government wildlife managers, those who hunt for food, those who eat no meat and animal rights advocates.

They dissect the premise that predators must be controlled to ensure healthy populations of elk, deer, moose and pronghorn — and even, as is sometimes asserted, to protect people. They test the assertion that the best way of promoting conservation of a species is to place a value on its head and hunt it. 

They also scrutinize the attitudes of so-called “wolf haters,” pointing out that unlike hunters of edible big game, whose pursuit seems to make humans more respectful of the animal, many who kill wolves are actually driven by a lack of empathy.

In a statement certain to spark debate, they charge: “Many instances of wolf poaching … are wrong because they are primarily motivated by a hatred of wolves. These instances of poaching qualify as wrongful deaths, if not hate crimes.

“To legalize such killing does not make them any less wrong. Moreover, people who threaten to poach wolves unless wolf killing is legalized are engaging in a kind of ecological blackmail … .” 

Vucetich and Nelson also share thoughts about trapping: “A trophy is a kind of prize, memento or symbol of some kind of success. To kill a sentient creature for the purpose of using its body or part of it as a trophy is essentially killing it for fun or as a celebration of violence.

“And although there was once a time when trapping wolves for their pelts might have been a respectable means of making a living because wolf pelts were then a reasonable way to make warm clothing,” they state, “we no longer live in that time.”

Ultimately Vucetich and Nelson conclude that killing predators for sport isn’t justified biologically or on moral and ethical grounds.

They take government agencies and universities to task for not brokering honest discussions about such controversial issues as wolf management and predator control with citizens and students.

So often we do things in our society, they suggest, without bothering to provide the “good reason” for why.

A copy of the analysis can be found here.

Todd Wilkinson has been writing his column here every week for 25 years. He is author of the critically acclaimed book “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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



NEWS RELEASE: November 12, 2014

Contacts: Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, 415-217-2084, mcaldwell@earthjustice.org
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, 914-763-2373, maggie@nywolf.org
Steve Parker, Endangered Wolf Center, 636-938-5900, sparker@endangeredwolfcenter.org

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

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 stopgap 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. 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, New York, 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

LEGAL DOCUMENT

Center for Biological Diversity Report
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Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Wild Salute



"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy