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How a Public/Private Partnership Skirted the Law and Destroyed a National Treasure and What We Must Do to Restore The Rule of Law and the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd

Do You Realize Now What You Have Done?


By Rena Wetherelt -- Sky Country Journal —— Bio and Archives--December 22, 2015

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I was there as a witness in the famous Montana Hunting District (HD) 313 standing above Deckard Flats, the first weekend of hunting season 2015, imagining the largest migrating elk herd in North America funneling en masse from their summer home in Yellowstone National Park, north to the alpine meadows of southern Montana, the winter range of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd.

I saw the vacant animal trails furrowing down the ridge from the horizon worn from the elk streaming single file in jagged rows, shrouded in a cloud of steam and spreading out across Deckard Flats like ants from a hill. My friend, Robert T. Fanning, Founder of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, described how it was twenty years ago. Horsemen decked with orange riding in as the minute of pre-dawn came and the first shots of the season brought down the first bull elk of a hunting culture passed down since the earliest days of the western frontier. We were alone, except for a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) Warden, there as a matter of bureaucratic habit to make sure no shots were fired before thirty minutes before sunrise-his presence unnecessary. There were no elk to harvest, no swarms of hunters to fire.

When MTFWP announced the closure of Deckard Flats to hunting a few days later, it was the most drastic bureaucratic admission yet of the failure of the experimental introduction a non-native species of wolf into the Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystem done by a public/private partnership twenty years ago. The recent question asked by Russian President Vladimir Putin crossed my mind. “Do you realize now what you have done?”

Background

The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd numbered over 19,000 in 1995. 2990 Antlerless Permits were issued in HD 313 that year. The District was a General Tag area, home to moose, around 300 big horn sheep, abundant mule deer and antelope. People came from around the state to fill their freezer with wholesome, nutritious wild meat, crowding the roads and parking lots with horse trailers. Trophy hunters and adventurers from around the world converged on Gardiner and Jardine, Montana. Outfitters with pack mules and horses took paying visitors into the most beautiful backcountry, teeming with the wildlife nurtured there for more than a hundred years. The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd was used to seed elk in areas all across the nation. On the southern border of the Yellowstone National Park, where resident elk remained in the rugged Tetons near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, winter feeding stations were set up. Volunteers and state wildlife managers fed hay to the elk during the deep snows of winter.

The basic tenants of the North American Model of Wildlife Management were followed from the earliest days outside the Park… The wildlife belongs to the people, is managed by the best available science, and management is funded by the sale of hunter, angler, and trapper licenses. To augment state game and fish departments, the federal government established a Pittman-Robertson Fund using taxes from the sale of firearms, ammunition and other sporting equipment, and by law distributed the proceeds to the states. This model was responsible for the abundant wildlife, including wolves, living here in a healthy forest paradise in 1995. Man, in a reasoned fashioned, guided by laws and regulations was the apex predator when wildlife left the protection of the Park. The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd provided a wholesome source of wild food and a robust economy for the generations living that culture. Then, everything changed.

The latest computer modeling calculates the current Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd at approximately 4000. Anguished locals over the last twenty years have been forced to stand by and watch their beloved wildlife be chased down, hamstrung, sport killed, starved down, drowned in rivers and lakes and eaten alive by voracious packs of Canadian wolves. In the 2015 elk survey, so few bulls were counted in what is left of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, the herd is in danger of collapsing into what biologists call a predator pit; the condition of not being able to raise enough calves to sustain the herds’ survival. When heavy snow about a week later was expected to trigger the migration MTFWP declared Deckard Flats off limits to hunting for the first time ever. They did not, however, increase the harvest quota of three wolves. Science is not guiding wildlife management anymore.

What Happened?

In 1993, twenty years after gray wolves were placed in the Endangered Species List, the US Congress appropriated funds for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to do an Environmental Impact Study regarding wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The resulting study considered five different scenarios, from allowing nature to take its’ course, to introducing a non-native species of wolf. A panel of wildlife experts was polled, concluding that the prey base could sustain a population of 78-100 wolves grown slowly over twenty years. In one of the actions covered under the description of the Clinton Administration’s War on the West, Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt ordered the USFWS to chose option number five; introduce a non-native, experimental species of wolf. USFWS opened a public comment period. Cattle and sheep producers, outfitters and sportsmen objected vehemently. Western state Congressmen saw to it that funds to implement wolf introductions were not appropriated. Flurries of lawsuits were filed. Despite the opposition and Congressional denial of funds, in 1995, USFWS with assistance from private organizations flew to northern British Columbia, Canada and returned with canus lupus occidentalus, North America’s largest wolves.

Earthjustice and a Wyoming couple, Jim and Cat Urbigit, whose hobby it was to study the native wolf, each filed lawsuits on behalf of canus lupus irremmotus, the native timber wolf. Cat Urbigit’s 2008 book “Yellowstone Wolves” chronicles their personal attempt to save the smaller, more coyote-like, more solitary subspecies. She notes in her book, canus lupus irremmotus, first defined by A.E. Goldman in 1944 was a medium to large wolf. Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, entitled EXPERIMENTAL POPULATIONS, allows the Secretary of the Interior to release an experimental population, “but only when, and at such times as, the population is wholly separate geographically from nonexperimental populations of the same species.” In order to carry out this option the USFWS had to ignore the administrative record of hundreds of wolf sightings over the years. US District Judge William Downes granted an injunction pending litigation ordering the USFWS to cease the operation, but stayed the order on the grounds that the released wolves be collared and tracked.

In January of 1996, with a further trimmed budget and despite a Newt Gingrich led debt ceiling battle resulting in a “government shutdown”, again this public-private coalition imported and released more Canadian wolves on the unsuspecting native wildlife bringing them in by helicopter to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area of Central Idaho near the magnificent Lolo Herd, and releasing more near the Montana border of the Park just below Deckard Flats.

Robert Nowack former USFWS Office of Endangered Species employee wrote the forward in “Yellowstone Wolves”. He writes, “Cat provides the best available compilation of reports showing that wolves occurred in the Yellowstone region from the 1920’s, when they supposedly had been extirpated, until the 1990’s when the introduction of Canadian wolves occurred.” Her position as he put it, “The grand plan to move wolves from Canada - from another subspecies - to Yellowstone in the 1990s was not a true reintroduction but an introduction of a non-native and aggressive life form that would genetically swamp the surviving native wolves.” Five years later Downes ruled for the Urbigits and Earthjustice, ordering the removal of the experimental population. The decision however was appealed to a higher court and overturned. The mantra from the coalition of wolf stakeholders was, “Wolves are here to stay. We just have to learn to live with them.” The lovely and illusive irremmotus was the first casualty of an enormous wolf with-as it turns out-Eurasian genetics and diseases.

Living With Wolves

Living with wolves means living with death. A Jackson Hole area man wrote of going to a winter elk feeding station by snowmobile and finding “20 to 30 dead or dying elk, some with their mouths and noses shredded, some with partially eaten hind-quarters unable to get up.” The man said he threw up, went home and has been unable to sleep since. Montana biologist, Kurt Alt, testified before the Montana State Legislature in 2003 that moose in the affected area were in a predator pit. At an outfitters rally in the town square of Jackson Hole in 2010, grown men, their voices choked with tears, related the conditions on the ground, a virtual killing fields for the Eurasian gray wolf. One local outfitter related how the big horn sheep had to cross Deckard Flats along the same path as the migrating elk. As they come across, he said, “...wolves are just wiping them out”. Central Idaho’s Lolo Herd, treasure of the rugged, inaccessible River of No Return Frank Church Wilderness Area was likewise devastated. The adjoining Bitterroot Valley of Montana, another national hunting destination was completely destroyed by over predation. Outfitters went out of business, mules and other equine hunting partners sold off, unaffordable. Hospitality businesses counting on millions of hunter dollars every fall now dusty and run down or closed. Lion hunting hounds are a magnet for wolves. Local residents shared the grief of families who found their beloved dogs on the hunt for lions, ripped to pieces.

Livestock producers have suffered tremendous loss. Elk have been displaced from the forest, seeking refuge and food in the valley ranches eating hay and tearing down fences. Montana biologist Caroline Sime et al in a report titled, “Gray Wolves and Livestock in Montana 1987-2006” reported “62% of all Montana livestock producers experienced at least one confirmed wolf kill. Only 50% of reported wolf kills were confirmed. 85% of confirmed livestock kills occurred on private property. One study found that confirmed wolf losses were a fraction, 1/8th of actual wolf caused losses.” With each of these losses, including horses, llamas, guard dogs, sheep, goats, cattle and pets, comes grief and rage for ranch families whose sole purpose is to protect and nurture their livestock. Producers in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, California, New Mexico, and other states are now dealing with the invasive species.

The wolf is infested with a deadly, cancer-like parasite Echinococcus Granulosus (EG). The State of Idaho has been proactive in testing the experimental wolf for the parasite. A 2014 study conducted for Idaho by Colorado State University traced the genotype strain of EG with which the wolves are almost 100% infected, to “an equally aggressive Eurasian genotype not native to North America”. Quoting from a letter by the Tim Kemery, Field Coordinator Custer County WPCA, “One very significant issue that has been highlighted by this Sampling Project has been the Invasive Origins of the G8/G10 Strains of Echinococcus. Both Strains are Eurasian and are not native to our Western States.” Humans and wildlife in the region are now infected with the “wolf worm”. The introductory statement from the 2014 European Scientific Council on Companion Animal Parasites included the following statement, “Alveolar Echinococcus and Cystic Echinococcus are neglected “malignant” parasitic diseases deserving the same attention as cancer.” Neglected perhaps because the spread of the parasite worldwide has coincided with the introduction and protection of the main vector worldwide, the gray wolf, and the gray wolf has powerful promoters.

Who Did This?

With abundant prey, the gray wolf’s numbers exploded. Southern Montana, northern Wyoming and Central Idaho reached delisting targets in 2002. The USFWS delisted the wolf in 2008, 13 years after the first releases. But there was a hitch. Defenders of Wildlife and a dozen other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department objecting to the delisting on various grounds, including the claim that there was no “genetic connectivity” between the wolves in the three states. The judge found in favor of the plaintiffs and wolves were back on the Endangered Species List safe from any management. Again in 2011 USFWS delisted the wolves. Again, a similar group sued the government, and again, the same judge ruled in their favor. A close examination of the lawsuit revealed the reason law firms are so eager to donate their time, and why so many groups are lined up as plaintiffs. The judge grants the prevailing party costs and attorney’s fees, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the judge awarded them, “such further and additional relief” as he deemed just and proper. Environmental groups are being paid damages as well as attorney fees by the taxpayer when they prevail. Karen Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne, Wyoming attorney launched her own personal investigation of the amount of money being funneled to not-for-profit corporations through the Endangered Species Act. She learned that the Paperwork Reduction Act, also passed with much fanfare in the Clinton Administration, released some Executive Branch agencies from the burden of reporting how much they are paying out in damages; however she uncovered in her words, billions-and why not? The same groups, with their handy Washington, DC lobbying arms, helped write the legislation and regulations they now exploit. Defenders of Wildlife partnered with the USFWS on wolf releases from the beginning. From an article on their website titled, Historic Reintroduction Continues Despite Budget Cuts (01/22/1996), “The endeavor was temporarily stalled by a $200,000 funding reduction and the government shutdowns until Defenders of Wildlife and two other private organizations came forward to help finance the capture and transport of the latest set of wolves.” The article quotes then President of Defenders of Wildlife, Rodger Schlickeisen, “Although our country had made a national commitment to restore threatened and endangered species, some Members of Congress want to renege on that promise by cutting the funding for wolf restoration and other programs.” Not-for-profit corporations were not the only private partners in the fraudulent release.

Rosa Koire, head of the California group, Democrats Against UN Agenda 21, exposes how wealthy international hobbyists “such as Ted Turner, are using the release of large carnivores to destroy our wild food sources, the well armed hunting culture, and the cattle ranching industry of the west, furthering their agenda to turn the west into vast tracks of land where humans do not dwell.” Turner’s private foundation continues to facilitate wolf introduction efforts across the west.

In the late days of the Clinton Administration, Congress noticed a suspicious lack of money in the Pittman-Robertson Fund. USFWS Law Enforcement Officer Jim Beers was called in to investigate. He reported back to Congress that 40 to 60 million dollars had been illegally diverted by USFWS and used to build a new office in San Francisco, pay bonuses to their top people, and introduce wolves into the Northern Rockies. Jamie Rappaport Clark, then Director of the USFWS, went on to become President of Defenders of Wildlife, telling Congress that her boss Bruce Babbitt told her she could spend the money any way she wanted. Jim Beers tells the story in Scott Rockholm’s expose` Yellowstone is Dead. Although this was a clear violation of law, the new HW Bush Administration did not want that fight and no one was ever held accountable.

In an article titled Bennett V Spear The Endangered Species Act Fall From Grace Harvard Law Review author J. B. Ruhl cites the majority opinion in a ruling that reveals the Supreme Court’s recognition of the subversion of the Endangered Species Act. “But the Court found that the ranchers did in fact have a protected interest under the ESA through the requirement in section 7 that the agency base its decisions on the ‘best scientific . . . data available.’ That requirement, the unanimous Court explained, is intended ‘to ensure that the ESA not be implemented haphazardly, on the basis of speculation’ and ‘to avoid needless economic dislocation produced by agency officials zealously but unintelligently pursuing their environmental objectives.’” Not only are zealots in Executive Branch Federal Agencies abusing the ESA, through partnerships with private organizations, they are supporting United Nations goals and agendas. Congress has given up oversight of the bloated Executive Branch and ignores the influence by UN connected lobbyists. The Rule of Law will never be restored with the laws themselves corrupted. The Endangered Species Act has created a cottage industry and source of revenue for zealots whose goal at the top is to get control of the land, water, mineral and energy resources of the west.

Restoring the Rule of Law

Should a wave of reason sweep the land, the Endangered Species Act would be repealed and collective efforts to remove invasive weeds and animal species, manage predator populations, and treat or mitigate the spread of diseases, in other words create a healthy environment, could be done locally by each state. The long abused public/private partnerships should be outlawed. It is a tried and true technique used by the elitists around the globe to control land and people. A movement has started in the west to require the Federal Government to transfer the lands they have “held in trust” in the western states since statehood. Since the government is utterly corrupt and has proven its inability to separate science from geopolitics, it should not be given power over our lives. A wave of reason would include holding our public employees accountable for breaking the law. Transfer federal lands to the states, extinguish all the federal environmental bureaucracy, and leave land and wildlife management to the people who know and love that land and wildlife. We would then have a fighting chance to interrupt the entrenched influence in the federal government. It will never be done, however in time to save the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd. That requires immediate action.

Restoring the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd

MTFWP is now taking public comment on changes to hunting regulations in HD 313. Their suggestions include shortening the season, or limiting bull elk permits to 75, and closing part of the unit. Deckard Flats is still a killing field for the now greater percentage of animals migrating out of Yellowstone National Park and yet, MTFWP’s quota for wolves in the unit is three. Reason and best available science requires man to step in and remove the large predators from the region. Long-range and night shooter teams could be camouflaged along the trail to take out wolves that are preying on the migrating elk. Collared wolves can be located and the entire pack taken out using aerial gunning. After the wolves are cleared out and once again safe for hunting dogs, send in the lion hunters. Bears, including the now over populated grizzly should be taken out of the unit as they emerge this spring. None of these large predator species are endangered, just protected by zealots at the expense of the local people, our way of life, and the animals we love. The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd is endangered due to over predation by large carnivores. Remove the large carnivores and the herd will immediately begin to recover. Wolves taken in Montana should be tested for the thirty or so diseases of which they are vectors. If the wolves are infected with EG, mange, parvo, distemper, Moose Tania, etc., this experiment should be officially deemed a failure, and all of the wolves removed from the west.

References:

Defenders.org

Elk Stats

Phylogeography of wolves (Canis lupus) in the Pacific Northwest BYRON V. WECKWORTH,* SANDRA L. TALBOT, AND JOSEPH A. COOK

Taxes Fund Environmental Lawsuits October 17, 2009 by Mitch Lies Capital Press

Lolo Elk Heard Numbers

Tomremington.com

usnews.com

Philly.com

Yellowstone Wolves Chronicle Animal Politics

Yellowstone is Dead Scott Rockholm

Sky Country Journal ~ Telling Stories of the Rural Northwest

Rena Wetherelt - Videographer
Skycountryjournal.com
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