Guest Editorial: Cost of wolves goes beyond dead calves
By Scott Nielsen, President, Cattle Producers of Washington
As wolf problems continue to grow in Eastern Washington for ranch families, many don’t understand how the aggression of wolves is creating losses that go far beyond the death of one animal.
Ranch families rely on the bounty and benefit of summer pastures to help their cattle access fresh nutrients while absorbing the positive effects of open areas and sunshine. Calves become bigger and stronger, young cattle learn important herd behaviors and the entire herd benefits from diverse feed while being carefully supervised by the rancher. Unfortunately, the summer months are often when wolf attacks increase, as cattle are ranging on larger open areas on both private and public land.
When wolves begin attacking a cattle herd, there is long term damage that will haunt the ranch family into the coming years. Reduced breeding rates, for example, have the potential to harm the economics of the ranch family well into the next spring and fall. Without the presence of aggressive predators, the breed rate for most cattle herds is 98 percent. The presence of wolves can reduce the breeding rate from 20 to 30 percent, creating a significant loss in a future calf crop. Cows that don’t not breed often have to be sold at a diminished, salvage value price.
Continual interruption of the breeding cycle and losses of calves on an average sized cattle ranch can grow into losses that are impossible to absorb. Most cattle ranches operate on a one to two percent net income each year after the expenses of the ranch are paid. A loss of income immediately impacts ranch families that rely on the money from each year’s calf crop to pay the grocery bills and mortgage. Annual declines in income can prevent investments in education or new equipment.
On the personal level, a loss of this magnitude may result in loss of a college education for a family member, or having to put off the purchase of equipment necessary to operate more efficiently. Consider the trickle down effect; the college or university loses a tuition, and the equipment dealer loses one major equipment sale that negatively affects the bottom line of the dealership. More rural families in the service and education sector are affected.
The cost of wolves is high when control measures are low. Wolf control in Washington State over the last five years has not kept pace with population growths, creating predictably negative consequences. If Washington is to have wolves on the landscape, it cannot be at the cost of local economies and ranch families.
September 14, 2015
Cattle Producers pulls participation from Wolf Advisory Group
Organization notes group is ineffective at dealing with wolf issue
Due to the inept and pointless nature of the Washington State Wolf Advisory Group, the Cattle Producers of Washington issued a formal letter this week withdrawing their participation from the group saying, “no more.”
The grass-roots cattlemen’s group criticizes the WAG, noting that during the last three years it has been in existence, the advisory group has actually accelerated the seriousness of the wolf issue by blocking and deliberate action from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife(WDFW).
“The involvement of the WAG has consistently prevented any real action by WDFW, creating dire circumstances for the ranch families and communities that have been negatively impacted by the wolf’s presence,” said CPoW President Monte McPeak in the letter. “Continuing to participate in this advisory group would work in opposition to our organization’s purpose of ‘sustaining, improving and protecting Washington State’s cattle industry’. We say ‘no more’ to this kind of nonsensical, irresponsible approach.”
CPoW said that WAG meetings have usually consisted of theoretical discussions about wolves in Washington and while ignoring the data and management tools from other states. WDFW has also delayed deliberate action or failed to act as it waited for some kind of unattainable consensus from the WAG. In addition, when ranchers did have problems, lethal removal was not seriously discussed despite mounting evidence that the ranch operation was being affected to the point of crippling it.
“The majority of the WAG members always want ‘one more’ depredation before removing wolves,” the letter criticized. “The number of livestock attacked or killed by wolves, particularly in Eastern Washington, continues to rise every year with no abatement, but additional funds continue to be spent in an unconscionable way on the WAG” the letter noted. “In addition, while wolf advocates were incensed about the $76,000 spent to remove the Wedge wolf pack in 2012, they are perfectly willing to spend $850,000 on an environmental consultant if it means that lethal removal will consistently be off the table.”
The $850,000 that WDFW will pay their new consultant, Francine Madden, over the next two years was particularly offensive to CPoW who highlighted that Madden has closed two of the WAG meetings to the public in order to create a “secret and obscure” environment.
The group also emphasized that they will continue to work for sensible solutions to the wolf issues through channels they consider legitimate.
“CPoW has advocated, and will continue to advocate, for sensible solutions to the wolf issue that mitigate the damage to ranches, to communities and to local economies. We will not support those venues that belittle and diminish the impact to our ranch members,” President McPeak wrote. “We call on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to abolish the WAG and courageously take on real wolf management that results in fairness for those impacted by wolves. WDFW should not stand idle as livestock operations that are vital to rural communities perish under inadequate public policy.”
For more information, visit cattleproducersofwa.com
Wolf packs continue to proliferate in Eastern Washington,highlighting the need for better wolf management as they have now begun attacking livestock just south of Spokane County:
CPoW continues to advise Washington Fish and Wildlife on wolf plan
For the last year, representatives from the Cattle Producers of Washington have attended meetings of the Wolf Advisory Group designed to advise the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to implement the state wolf plan.
The following link lists the committee members, meeting schedule, meeting minutes and other details regarding the committee. CPoW is proud to be able to represent the cow calf producer at these meetings and advocate common sense solutions to challenges created by a growing wolf population.
Here is an article explaining why the feds are putting their plans to delist the wolf in the lower 48 on hold:
Public Employees Sue Over ‘Political Deals’ Behind
WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2013 (ENS) – The Obama Administration’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, as detailed in a draft Federal Register notice released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, is temporarily on hold.
The reasons for the indefinite delay announced this week were not revealed nor were the records of closed-door meetings to craft this plan that began in August 2010.
Today a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the records from those meetings was filed by PEER, a nonprofit national alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals.
The draft Federal Register notice would strike the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened or endangered species but would keep endangered status for the Mexican wolf. No protected habitat would be delineated for the Mexican wolf, of which fewer than 100 remain in the wild.This step is the culmination of what officials call their National Wolf Strategy, developed in a series of federal-state meetings called Structured Decision Making, SDM. Tribal representatives declined to participate.
On April 30, 2012, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for all SDM meeting notes, handouts and decision documents. More than a year later, the agency has not produced any of the requested records, despite a legal requirement that the records be produced within 20 working days.
Today, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain all of the SDM documents.
“By law, Endangered Species Act decisions are supposed to be governed by the best available science, not the best available deal,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to a letter from the nation’s leading wolf researchers challenging the scientific basis for the de-listing plan.
“The politics surrounding this predator’s legal status have been as fearsome as the reputation of the gray wolf itself,” said Ruch.
To support its argument that politics trumps science in deciding how to handle the nation’s wolves, PEER also made public today a letter from 16 scientists to the new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe expressing “serious concerns with a recent draft rule leaked to the press that proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 States…”
“Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule,” wrote the scientists, who specialize in carnivores and conservation biology. “Based on a careful review of the rule, we do not believe that the rule reflects the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves, or is in accordance with the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”
Among other problems with the delisting proposal, the scientists say it ignores the positive influence of large carnivores such as wolves on the ecosystems they inhabit.
“The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains. The Service’s draft rule fails to consider science identifying extensive suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. It also fails to consider the importance of these areas to the long-term survival and recovery of wolves, or the importance of wolves to the ecosystems of these regions,” the scientists wrote.
“The extirpation of wolves and large carnivores from large portions of the landscape is a global phenomenon with broad ecological consequences,” the scientists wrote. “There is a growing body of scientific literature demonstrating that top predators play critical roles in maintaining a diversity of other wildlife species and as such the composition and function of ecosystems. Research in Yellowstone National Park, for example, found that reintroduction of wolves caused changes in elk numbers and behavior which then facilitated recovery of streamside vegetation, benefitting beavers, fish and songbirds. In this and other ways, wolves shape North American landscapes.”
“Given the importance of wolves and the fact that they have only just begun to recover in some regions and not at all in others,” the scientists wrote, “we hope you will reconsider the Service’s proposal to remove protections across most of the United States.”
PEER charges that the resulting National Wolf Strategy used political and economic factors to predetermine the answer to scientific questions, such as the biological recovery requirements for wolves and ruling out areas in states within the species’ historical range which lack sufficient suitable habitat.
“This closed-door process lacked not only transparency but also integrity. It involved no independent scientists, let alone peer reviewed findings,” Ruch said. “It is not surprising that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not want to see this laundry airing in the public domain.”
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, is a former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service who served during the Clinton Administration.
“The gray wolf delisting proposal represents a major retreat from the optimism and values which have been the hallmark of endangered species recovery in this country for the past 40 years,” says Clark. “Instead, the proposal reflects a short-sighted, shrunken and much weaker vision of what our conservation goals should be. The Service has clearly decided to prematurely get out of the wolf conservation business rather than working to achieve full recovery of the species.”
Clark and five other heads of environmental organizations – Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club – last week sent a letter to Secretary Jewell asking that she reconsider the nationwide wolf delisting plan.
“Maintaining federal protections for wolves is essential for continued species recovery,” the letter says, adding that the unwarranted assault on wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains after wolves in those states lost federal protections highlights the “increasingly hostile anti-wolf policies of states now charged with ensuring the survival of gray wolf populations.”
Since wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were delisted in 2011, more than 1,100 wolves have been killed in these Northern Rockies states.
Gray wolf populations were extirpated from the western United Stated by the 1930s, explains the Fish and Wildlife Service. Public attitudes towards predators changed and wolves received legal protection with the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
Subsequently, wolves from Canada occasionally dispersed south and successfully began recolonizing northwest Montana in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, 66 wolves from southwestern Canada were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
Recovery goals of an equitably distributed wolf population containing at least 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs in three recovery areas within Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming for at least three consecutive years were reached in 2002, according to the Service.
Interior Department draft rule ends protections for grey wolves across Lower 48 states
BILLINGS, Mont. – U.S. wildlife officials have drafted plans to lift protections for grey wolves in the mainland 48 U.S. states, a move that could end a decades-long recovery effort that has restored the animals but only in parts of their historic range.
The draft U.S. Department of Interior rule obtained by The Associated Press contends that roughly 6,000 wolves now living in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes are enough to prevent the species’ extinction. The agency says having grey wolves elsewhere — such as the West Coast, parts of New England and the Southern Rockies — is unnecessary for their long-term survival.
A small population of Mexican wolves in the Southwest would continue to receive federal protections, as a distinct subspecies of the grey wolf.
The document was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday the rule was under internal review and would be subject to public comment before a final decision is made.
If the rule is enacted, it would transfer control of wolves to state wildlife agencies by removing them from the federal list of endangered species.
Wildlife advocates warn that could effectively halt the species’ expansion, which has stirred a backlash from agricultural groups and some hunters upset by wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds such as elk.
Some biologists have argued wolves will continue spreading regardless of their legal status. The animals are prolific breeders, known to journey hundreds of miles (kilometres) in search of new territory. They were wiped out across most of the U.S. early last century following a government sponsored poisoning and trapping campaign.
In an emailed statement, the agency pointed to “robust” populations of the animals in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes as evidence that grey wolf recovery “is one of the world’s great conservation successes.”
Wolves in those two areas lost protections under the Endangered Species Act over the last two years.
In some states where wolves have recovered, regulated hunting and trapping already has been used to drive down their populations, largely in response to wolf attacks on livestock and big game herds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently reported that wolf numbers dropped significantly last year in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana for the first time since they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s.
Federal officials have said they are monitoring the states’ actions, but see no immediate threat to their survival.
| Apr 26, 2013 |