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Monday the Obama administration announced what will probably be one of it's less controversial changes in how it administers the Endangered Species Act (ESA) reports The Hill

The admin said they'd soon begin requiring applicants for endangered status to first solicit information from state wildlife agencies asking for info before coming to the feds.

There have been many smaller bills floating around the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, none of which are close to being brought to the floor for a vote, but all of which might well be combined into a more all encompassing ESA revision.

The Obama administration is probably working to iron out the considerable differences between their own objectives and those of the Republicans over the coming year. I'd think a well orchestrated reform might in the end pass with substantial Democratic support. ESA litigation has been a problem for many states for a long time.

“The proposed policies would result in a more nimble, transparent and ultimately more effective Endangered Species Act,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement.
I'd think that for those who want to reform the ESA whether or not President Obama is a lame duck or not is irrelevant. Most of the impetuous comes from individual states in the west and midwest. California for instance is in a severe drought that might well have extensive effects on much of it's economy and the lifestyles of it's residence. How will those enlightened souls feel about the pikeminnow, bony tail chub, humpback chub and razorback sucker (all ESA listed by the way) when it costs them double or triple on their water bill, or their front lawn, or maybe more importantly, one of CA's major industries?  

The flip side are all the industries wishing to rid themselves of any ESA considerations, particularly the extractive industries.

It has been obvious reform was coming. Recent, and from what I've heard very solid judicial decisions have perhaps redefined what used to be thought of as a species range. When a federal judge interprets a law correctly, but unrealistically, something is bound to break. Litigation has snowballed from a few a year into what is a new cottage industry of hundreds of cases based not on science but on procedural issues.

I'd look for a trickle of news releases from the USFWS over the coming weeks. Releases meant to both mollify Republicans bent on more radical changes, and to soften the sting of what will be a major setback for Environmentalists of the left.
http://thehill.com/...

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Mon May 18, 2015 at 05:21 AM PDT

A Sunday Walk (Warning)

by ban nock

I haven't been getting out into the woods as much as I'd like to. It used to be that almost every weekend I'd spend one day wandering around looking at things. Last Sunday I had the opportunity and I took it.

Warning; The following contains some photos of scat (poo poo) and dead animals. If you are traumatized by seeing either of these things don't read below the fold.
Snow is only in the most shady northern exposures at 8,600 feet. I wanted to go to a place I used to check out using only my topo maps. One has to be careful what with private land and county land and National Forest. All have different rules. I now have a GPS with a land designation overlay.

There are no signs indicating borders. Old barbed wire is very arbitrary and can be anywhere, usually it only signifies a place back when the area was ranched or horse pasture that someone didn't want their animals straying beyond. In no way are barbed wire fences property lines. They only serve to entangle wildlife now anyway. Mostly they are more on the ground than in the air.

Driving up I spotted what I was looking for.

Grazers.

I like looking at elk. Maybe I enjoy it more than many, but seen from the road doesn't count. The elk are habituated to the road and cars. The area I was hiking in has a few of the rare meadows in this part of the mountains, the place the elk are grazing in the photo is perhaps the lushest grass for miles. Notice the buds coming out on the aspen?

To get to where I wanted to go I had to hike way around private land by starting at a forest service access trail. The trail is really an old road now gated off and never used. As usual on trails mostly I saw humans and signs of humans. Bike tracks, little bags of dog shit. Usually when taking my kids hiking we walk at 90 degrees to the trail until we are far enough away not to be seen. Trails are loud and sandy, hard to see tracks or walk quietly.

This time I took the trail, it offers a quick way to cover a mile back close to where I wanted to be. I heard loud voices and stepped to the side of the trail. Three bikers rode past talking about someone who wasn't present and the degrees he and his wife had and their job prospects. They didn't see me until they were almost on me. Helmets, sunglasses, cycling uniforms. Cat food.

I carry bear spray. Recently I commented about how timid black bears are, even moms with cubs, which though true, it would be just my luck to be hassled by some to early out of hibernation old boar. Besides the spray I'd nothing that could be called a weapon, not even my usual swiss army knife. When my kids are along one of them carries a 243, not exactly bear medicine but it will do.

The woods I walk in has an overabundance of habituated bears and cats. I see trail cam photos online all the time of the wildlife, some large bears and cats.

I saw no recent tracks of wildlife at all, and hardly any scat. A noticeable dearth of deer tracks.

Above coyote or fox or something scat on the sandy trail.

More below, it gets better.

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Fri May 15, 2015 at 04:12 AM PDT

Every Road In The US On A Map

by ban nock

Below the big empty space is the Wind Rivers, with parts of Wyoming range on left, Gros Ventre above.

They say that 97% of America is within 3 miles of a road.

Some qualifications about the map. All roads are depicted the same width, eight lane highway with breakdown lanes and double track logging roads. A one pixel wide road is six times the width of a logging road.

In case you needed to waste another half hour of your day click on the link below then placing your cursor over an area you know, click again.

http://foid.me/...

http://missoulian.com/...

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Yellowstone National Park sees 3.5 million visitors a year, most of whom come to see the habituated wildlife. The wildlife and the humans are used to getting close to each other, sometimes they get a little too close.

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Sun Apr 19, 2015 at 05:23 PM PDT

The Good of Offshore Oil Drilling

by ban nock

A little known but vitally important benefit of offshore drilling is being debated in Washington DC right now and I'd be obliged if you would call your representative about it, especially if they are Republican.

It's called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the money comes entirely from offshore oil and gas drilling. It's free money for conservation. $900,000,000, that's nine hundred million with an M. Two problems, the mandate has run out and even when the fund is in effect congress regularly steals money from the project. House Bill 1814 would make the fund permanent.

When you call your representative about 1814 two things are important to say. Make the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanent, and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Of late votes in congress have split down party lines, they don't have to. Recently my Republican senator who hales from the oil producing part of our state voted against an amendment to return federal land to the states. This bill for the LWCF is strongly supported amongst all people in the western states, Republican representatives are feeling the heat. Politicians don't always vote only for money, money is only a path to reelection, enough engaged constituents can help any senator to come to Jesus.

The LWCF leverages it's purchases by buying the most crucial pieces of private land that allows access to even larger pieces of public land formerly blocked from public access. The LWCF also buys land in urban environs that formerly had none. A baseball or soccer field just down the street can give kids a healthy place to recreate that is invaluable. LWCFunding can also be used for the vital upkeep sorely needed on parks and forests. Just about any and everything on public lands can benefit from LWCF.

To give you an idea of the size of the potential funding if it were fully funded it would be about as large as the famous Pittman Robertson fund from gun and ammo sales. The money is small in oil company dollars but huge for conservation.

Disclosure, I'm a member of the fastest growing conservation organisation in the West, maybe the country. Our primary focus is on raising money to buy land in hopes of giving it to the US government to be put permanently into National Forest, Wilderness, Recreation Areas, etc. We believe that our government as flawed as  it is, is a the best caretaker of our lands and that public lands should be open for the enjoyment of all. Some things government does much better than the private sector, public lands is one of those things. We raise money not by pestering people with junk mail or sending scary emotion grabbing mailers but by having banquettes and raffelling gear at the dinners. Over 6 million acres bought or put into easements or otherwise improved.

http://www.lwcfcoalition.org/...

http://onyourownadventures.com/...

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So says a new  study by researchers at Cornell published in this month's issue of Wildlife Management. Like any study they came up with a name and an acronym for what they were studying, they were looking at PEBs or "pro environmental behaviours".

Warning: Photos, images, or text, may be disturbing to some and could possibly contain subject matter that is unsettling to others. It is entirely possible that in viewing this diary you might be see real images or video of animals killing or being killed. You've been warned.

Above bonasa umbellus known in W Central Massachusetts as a "paatrij" or partridge in English. Partridge are a favored game species for their taste and also their flight habit. The breast meat is white because of the musculature involved with short distance flight, and the species will wait until one is almost upon them before taking flight in any direction often flying through low bushes and trees making for a difficult shot. Image from bio web uw lax

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and the winner is......Rock Hills Ranch. Yes a real ranch, they raise cows, beef cows, to eat. They took the land out of crops and put it back into grass. The idea being the land didn't lend itself to crops as much as it did to grazing. Looking at the vid I'd agree, there's a slope, and lots of rocks.

I follow the Sand County Foundationon Twitter and I'm always impressed with the choices they make for awards.

I know that ranchers are a hated demographic here on Daily Kos, why I can only speculate. I guess for the same reason anyone hates an entire other people, fear due to propaganda, ignorance, all the usual suspects.

The dirt that rancher breaks in his hands is about as good as it gets.

Discuss

The Selkirk Caribou herd has lost 2/3 of it's already critical population in the past five years bringing the total number of individuals down to 18. It's thought that without assistance the caribou would be extirpated.
"Caribou" by Dean Biggins (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) - US FWS, DIVISION OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, WO3772-023. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

You're probably wondering why Canada is saving US species. Me too. Probably because the Selkirk herd wanders back and forth across the international border between our two countries and the Selkirk herd is part of the efforts in the South Peace to reverse the decline of caribou herds.

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In a recent video from the New York Times we are given a second look at the reintroduction of wolves to the Northern Rocky Mountains. I don't agree with all of what is said in the vid, but what is unusual is that another side to the issue is even shown. In general I'd characterize the NYT as being not supportive of rural people or hunting. It's a measure of just how far this issue has moved, that the Times would produce a video that even shows a different perspective.

"It's really unfortunate that many of us did not think harder about the potential for the back lash". Says wolf advocate Lisa Upson Executive Director of Keystone Conservation Formerly of Natural Resources Defence Council.

"From a social experiment standpoint the wolf reintroduction has been a disaster of the greatest degree, and we're going to pay for that for years to come" Says Randy Newberg founding board member at Orion the Hunters Institute  which provides leadership on ethical and philosophical issues to promote fair chase and responsible hunting." He goes on to say, "As a hunter you know, I thought, "we can handle this" as long as the agreements are followed this isn't the end of the world."

Ed Bangs former director of the wolf program for the US FWS "all of a sudden you had hunters who had stayed on the sidelines saying, "holy moly I'm not seeing any elk here all I'm seeing is wolf tracks"

"I was noticin that formerly very reasonable people" said Hal Herring, Environmentalist, Writer for High Country News, and Contributing Editor at Field and Stream "were beginnin to despise the Endangered Species Act, the wolf recovery, the whole thing"

Since this video was produced a federal judge in Washington DC has returned wolves in three Western Great Lakes States to federal protections. Though the Western Great Lakes are a different wolf population segment, this is probably one of the more encouraging developments for Rocky Mountain wolf management in quite a while.

Links below

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Sun Jan 04, 2015 at 05:43 AM PST

A Deer Hunt That Went Right

by ban nock

All I did was look up, and I saw the doe looking down. It was up the hill standing sideways between some trees looking down at me with that slightly inquisitive look. So I went down on one knee and tried to line up on the thing. That’s the idea right? Hunt deer, shoot a deer?

My breathing from walking up the hill was too hard, distance too far, crosshairs jumping all over the place. So I sat my butt down right there and unfolded the bipod, I can shoot from a bipod. Deer still there, still looking at me. The snow was cold, temps had been close to zero since before it started snowing. Sitting was too low, brush and rocks and logs were in the way, so I rolled onto my knees and folded the bipod back onto the rifle and took a  couple steps over to a tree to use a branch to lean on.

Maybe the deer wondered just what in the heck I was, I’d been half shuffling ever since I started following the small herd a half hour before. The cold snow was on top of bare ground and walking was loud. Shuffling I didn’t step down on quite as much dry cold snow, it was quieter if akward. It was so cold I’d choked on heading out early but I rallied for the afternoon hunt. Deer have to eat, all that digestion gives off heat as a byproduct, I figured I had as good a  chance the second day into a cold snap as any.

The tree was no good either. The deer was only visible through a gap in the trees and moving to the tree was out of the sight line.

When I stepped back to where I could see, there was the deer, still looking at me. So I went down on one knee again intent on seeing if I could at least steady up. Moving forward is out of the question. A deer might wonder what the heck the stupid animal is floundering in snow but something moving towards it is a potential threat.

I’d caught my breath with all my fumbling so pulling off my mitten with my teeth I put the thing in my sights, my finger inside the guard and the second the crosshairs lined up on the sweet spot the gun went off.

Where once I’d seen a solitary doe looking from between trees a long ways away, I now saw bits of three or four deer glimpsed running through the trees. Must have been more than one. One thing with shooting is there are no do overs. I put my mitten back on and started walking up to where the deer had been.

When I got to about where I thought the deer had been standing I got to wishing I’d taken a more careful look. It was quite a ways. So I went a little further. Sure enough there was a tiny bit of red, a flek really, not a drop but something that looked like it had entered the snow with some velocity. But no deer. This is fairly open country mind you, one can see a few hundred feet in most directions. Very widely spaced thin aspen.

So I walked in the direction the deer had run looking for more blood. None. The deer noticing me walking towards them bounded away, no obvious limping. I stopped and put my glasses on them. No red spots. I watched them turn and walk back right downhill. They were stepping pretty in that exaggerated step they use when ready to bolt in an instant. Any limp would really show up on that kind of walking. I wanted to put the wounded one down, and in my freezer but I just couldn’t decide which one was wounded without a limp or a red spot.

I could have just picked one to be the wounded one, like a big doe or something, but I wasn’t to that point yet. Our freezer had been empty since the summer. That’s a lot of empty space. Cheap factory farmed pork and chicken sometimes tastes a little off. Beef is way out of my paygrade, even hamburger. The deer were temptingly close.

I walked back to where I’d seen that splatter of blood in the snow. Sure enough, there it was, one fleck of red, and all the deer tracks. I couldn’t make believe it wasn’t there. The deer were still there, not looking at me really but further down the slope, and that gave me an idea. I walked down a little and a rock caught my eye, except all rocks were covered with the light snow, and there it was, a doe deader than all get out. I approached from the nose and put muzzle to eyeball looking for blink, no use catching a hoof from a dead deer.

Three or four years old, not a giant but not a fawn either. I put my pack down took out my cleaning kit and my tag, signing and scratching in all the right places, then I called my wife and told her I’d be very late. It was a fine shot, double lung, no damage to heart or liver meat. I shoot those big copper bullets that go very fast, same bullet for all animals, keeps me from having to learn new things.

I cleaned quickly but carefully. My hands more nimble as they warmed up from handling the guts. The temps were right at zero when I left my truck, no doubt well below zero with the light mostly gone. Much of the work of cleaning is done as much by feel as anything else the guide hand under the back of the knife holding the belly away, keeping the lungs and stuff away while sawing up through the breast bone, holding the bladder away while sawing through the little bone at the front of the hips, reaching way up inside the carcass to cut across the windpipe and then while pulling the whole thing out slicing away those connectors by the diaphragm.

Cutting the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys out of the rest of the guts I felt the cool air on my hands. I slipped the innards into a cheesecloth bag, peeled my thick surgical gloves off inside out and tossed them too in the bag and into my pack, knives folded and away in cleaning kit, zipped my tag carefully in my breast pocket and put my mittens back on. Nippy.

I tied a parachute cord around the neck of the deer and a large loop to go around me. It drug, if not easily. It was work to get it up to where it was standing when I shot it. I should have known, shot deer run downhill. I’d pull for five paces then stop, cough, pant, catch my breath, pull five more paces. Once I started downhill things got much easier. Depending on the gradient I could go quite a ways before stopping.

I wear highly specialized technical gear for extreme temperatures and hunting. On my feet I wear boots with lots of wool socks. For pants I wear cotton sweat pants under loose cotton poly army surplus over trousers that have elastic cuffs and waist, Up top a lightweight down jacket from Costco under a cheap orange polyester hoody and an orange fleece hat. Works for me just fine.

Pulling the deer warmed me up quite a bit and I rolled my hat up above my ears, must have been ten below. The area I hunt is National Forest but difficult to access. I’ve only seen a couple hikers up there in the many many times I’ve hunted. There are no trails thank god. The quarter moon behind clouds was more than enough to see by. I didn’t find my way back to my truck I just walked. Getting the deer into the back of the truck was a bit of a struggle. Mule deer are big. I figure it took me less than a couple hours to walk out. Truck defrost started blowing warm air after I was mostly down out of the mountains. Made it home before the kids went to bed.

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A couple weeks ago when Craig Johnson's snowmobile broke through the ice and he was soaked to the chest in arctic waters a long way from nowhere, things looked grim.

The shore ice is freezing up pretty solid about now. Later in the winter it will be eight feet thick and strong enough to drive a D9 Cat on. Driving on the ice saves time, the ice is flat and smooth. For whatever reason Craig broke through, like I said wetting himself to the chest. He wasn't far from land and he hoofed it the mile and a half to where he sought shelter in the below zero temps at the remnants of a tent platform used during the milder seasons for hunting and fishing.

Tracks out onto the shore ice.

He sat for 3 days emptying his gun at a wolverine that figured it had found a meal eventually fending it off with a stick. When found rescuers put him in a tent awaiting a flight, and he was in a lot of pain. Often people who spend a lot of time freezing end up loosing some parts, I hope that's not the case here and that Craig makes a timely and full recovery.

http://www.adn.com/...

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In a surprise ruling issued late Friday a federal judge relisted under the Endangered Species Act all wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Usually it takes the lawyers a couple days to go over these decisions and figure out exactly what is said in the 100 plus page ruling, and even more time trying to guess where it will eventually lead.

In the short term there should be no effect on either wolves or other wildlife in the Western Great Lakes, (WGL). The annual hunts are past, and so few wolves were harvested that populations were expanding anyway.

Wolf advocates though surprised have been appreciative of what is a "win" for their side. David Mech America's widely accepted leading wolf researcher and founder of the International Wolf Center said of the ruling, "It sure is going to surprise a lot of people, especially wolf biologists,’’ . Star Tribune Unfiltered comments coming as they did Friday evening after the sun had crossed the yardarm, from directors of conservation orgs and state wildlife agencies were less sanguine.

Scientifically I don't think there is much argument amongst scientists, or state and federal wildlife managers. Minnesota alone was home to roughly twice the number of wolves as in the entire northern rocky mountains. The current cull rate was exceeded by population increases. The current delisting had been held up for a decade by obstructive litigation.

Wolves however are a political issue, not a scientific one, and are seen in moral terms as seen in many diaries and comments here at DK. Wolves come with a complete quasi scientific mythology and vocabulary. It is no doubt from this perspective that the judge who might well have never taken a step off the pavement ruled.

I personally like many others who live far away from this conservation action could care less about listing or delisting in the WGL. It will have no direct affect on me or on anyone I know, but there is a potential upside.

Wyoming also had a confusing relisting recently via a judge on the other side of the continent that seemingly didn't make much sense, and made even less sense when Wyoming promptly complied with the judge's wishes yet received no relief being required to return to the years long delisting process.

Wyoming by itself currently has about zero political clout, come January they will have much more. Also amongst the WGL legislators is Al Franken, a longtime and strong supporter of delisting, one of five Democratic senators from the WGL.

A rider such as was passed for Idaho and Montana, is certainly something on the minds of everyone now. A rider perhaps including the WGL and Wyoming and maybe even areas not yet delisted. The Montana/Idaho rider simply affirmed the delisting of the US Fish and Wildlife Service but it was a de facto override of the Endangered Species Act. The ESA has been long overdue for a reset, whether it's by nibbling away via riders, a rewrite of the EAJA, or other forms I just don't know. I'm sure there are some Republican legislators who along with their financial backers are chomping at the bit, not to delist wolves but to put some serious hurt on the ESA. This ruling will no doubt add pressure and cover to do so.

I'd think the pendulum is about to swing back, how far is anyone's guess.

Update: To the predictable trolls. I don't even read troll comments, and based on past experience I'm not missing much. What I wrote speaks for itself. I'm sure there will be ample opportunities to revisit the subject, indeed the Sage Grouse rider is but a sample of what's to come.

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