Gray Wolf Recovery and Public Grazing
There has been a great deal of controversy over the recent decision by Washington State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to remove an entire wolf pack that had been caught several times killing a rancher’s cattle. As of this writing WDFW has killed 11 members of the Profanity Peak Pack, including a breeding female. Furthermore, WDFW previously removed another wolf pack from the same area to protect a rancher’s private
cattle and profits.
In every state where wolves have been removed from the federal endangered species list, wolf management has been returned to state control and “depredation” of wolves that kill livestock is common. The State of Wyoming even established a trophy wolf hunt.
This instance, however, is different. The wolves in question were living on the Coleville National Forest and the cattle were grazing on that land under a permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service. Killing wolves that kill livestock on private land is one thing, but most Americans believe that the public lands should be managed for public wildlife, not private cattle.
While one conservation group supports the removal, most have condemned the wolf killing. The Center for Biological Diversity’s Amaroq Weiss, a long-time wolf expert who has participated in developing several state plans for wolf management, said that Washington State’s Wolf Management protocol is not based on science, adding, “We don’t support the killing of public wildlife on public land.”
Coming to a forest near you
Closer to home, the Modoc National Forest has proposed reestablishing grazing on a forest where the now-famous OR-7, nicknamed Journey, was wandering not long ago.
OR-7 has now found a mate and is rearing young in Southern Oregon, but he could return to California at any time. There is also another new wolf pack in the area; its members were caught on camera not far from the Modoc National Forest (See “Another Potential Wolf Spotted” in Aug/Sep EcoNews).
Because of its robust elk herds and open habitat, most of the Modoc is prime wolf habitat. The wanderings of OR-7, the more recent OR-25, and the newly spotted wolves have indicated that the open forest habitat and robust elk herds of Northeast California are likely to be where wolves first reestablish in California.
In its Biological Evaluation in support of a decision to reestablish grazing in the Ash Valley Area, however, the Forest Service claims that while “potential habitat is present within project area,” wolves are “not expected to be impacted by the proposed action...due to its (the wolf’s) transience and capacity to use a variety of habitat.” Neither the Biological Evaluation nor the related environmental analysis acknowledges that wolf packs may be in the area and that there would be pressure from ranchers and others to kill or remove wolves if they happen to prey upon cattle newly returned to the Spring Valley area.
To remind Modoc National Forest officials that returning cattle to Spring Valley would in fact “impact” the gray wolf and its prospects for reestablishment in California, send an email message to Big Valley Ranger Chris Christofferson (email@example.com) and mention your opposition to reestablishing grazing in the Spring Valley area and support for wild wolves on public lands.
To learn more about the proposed Spring Valley Grazing Project, including accessing the Biological Evaluation and other specialist reports, visit www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=33996.
Wolves in the Klamath-Siskiyou?
Scientists also have concluded that the Klamath Mountains of Northwest California are suitable habitat and have a sufficient prey base to support returning wolves.
It is just a matter of time before wild wolves howl again on the Siskiyou Crest and deep in the Klamath Wilderness. Conflicts with cattle grazing on public land within wilderness are possible, perhaps inevitable. There will be harsh and insistent calls to kill or remove the wolves. It will fall to members of the environmental community to defend them.
One need not be a Sierra Club member to participate in these outings. Please join us!
Saturday, October 8—North Group Humboldt Redwoods SP Grasshopper Peak Hike. Join us for this late-season adventure, 13.5 miles round-trip. Now that we are all in top condition from the year’s activities, let’s hike this 3,379-foot mountain before the days get too short. We will revel in lush old-growth redwoods, fall color, and, weather permitting, vistas near and far of the Mattole and Eel river country, the Lassics, and the Avenue of the Giants. We can see the succession of recovery since the 2003 Canoe Fire burned a portion of Grasshopper’s southern flank. Bring lots of water and lunch, and dress for the weather. No dogs. Medium difficulty, 3,100 feet elevation change. Carpools: 7:30 a.m. at Herrick/Hikshari Park’n’Ride, or in Arcata by prior arrangement. Leader Ned, firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-825-3652. Heavy rain cancels.
Wednesday, November 2—Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park Hobbs-Saddler-Trestle Trails Hike. Starting within a ridge-line swath of old growth, we soon enter maturing second-growth, descending eventually to lush creekside flats. Our trail broadly skirts the (empty) campground, fords Mill Creek, then returns upwards via switchbacks (some steep) through rugged forest to close our loop. Bring water, lunch, hiking footwear. No dogs. Carpools: 9 a.m. Ray’s Valley West parking, 10:30 a.m. Mill Creek Campground Road gate (off Hwy. 101, 7.6 miles north of Wilson Creek). Leader Melinda 707-668-4275, email@example.com. Steady rain cancels.
Sunday, November 6—North Group Horse Mountain Botanical Area Hike. Two loop trails, each just over 2 miles, mostly on dirt roads: one to the west of our parking area, past the old “Ski Chalet” site, with views of the King Range, the Siskiyous, and the coast, and another loop to the north and east among rugged Jeffrey pines, red rocks, and a short stretch of cobblestone-strewn single track, looking at the Trinity Alps, the Yolla Bollys, and maybe a peek at Mt. Lassen. Bring lunch, water and good boots. No dogs. Medium difficulty, 5 miles, less than 2,000 feet elevation change. Carpools: 9 a.m. in Valley West (Ray’s) Shopping Center, or meet 10 a.m. at Horse Mtn. parking area. Leader Ned, firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-825-3652. Heavy rain cancels.