Author: Laura Zuckerman, Reuters, SALMON, Idaho

  • Proposed wind energy project could kill endangered birds

    The Obama administration is evaluating a plan to allow a 200-mile corridor for wind energy development from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that would allow for killing endangered whooping cranes. The government’s environmental review will consider a permit sought by 19 energy developers that would permit turbines and transmission lines on non-federal lands in nine states from Montana to the Texas coast, overlapping with the migratory route of the cranes. The permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would allow the projects to “take” an unspecified number of endangered species. Under the Endangered Species Act, “take” is defined as killing or injuring an endangered species

  • Northern Rockies Wolves are safe for now

    A federal judge on Saturday rejected a plan negotiated between the government and wildlife advocates to remove most wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species List. The deal struck earlier this month between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups would have lifted federal protections from an estimated 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana, allowing those states to restore licensed hunting of the animals. A similar plan for removing Endangered Species Act safeguards for wolves in Montana and Idaho, and turning management of the animals over to state game officials, was implemented by the federal government in 2009. But 14 conservation groups challenged that move in court, and a U.S. district judge in Missoula, Montana, sided with the environmentalists in August of 2010, ordering federal protections of the wolves restored. The same judge, Donald Molloy, refused Saturday to approve the latest de-listing plan, which 10 of the 14 conservation groups had hammered out with the Obama administration. The four remaining groups opposed the settlement.

  • Idaho House declares wolves a “disaster emergency”

    The Idaho House on Tuesday approved a measure that declares the state’s wolves a “disaster emergency” — akin to a flood or wildfire — and gives the governor broad powers to eliminate them. The bill, approved by a 64-5 vote, now heads to the Senate, where a dozen members have signed on as sponsors. The legislation says the state’s estimated 800 wolves are compromising public safety, destroying herds of big-game animals like elk and damaging hunting and agricultural industries. Under existing Idaho law, a state of emergency allows the governor to marshal his police powers to lessen the impact of a declared threat. “Folks, there is an emergency,” House Speaker Lawerence Denney said during debate on the bill. Federally protected wolves have been at the center of a bitter debate in the Northern Rockies since they were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone in the mid-1990s over the objections of ranchers and hunters who feared for livestock and wildlife.

  • Yellowstone bison get Montana governor’s pardon

    Montana’s governor on Tuesday barred Yellowstone buffalo exposed to a livestock disease from entering his state, effectively granting a temporary reprieve for the 217 buffalo targeted for slaughter. The order by Governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, cited worries about brucellosis, a bacterial infection that can cause cows to miscarry, to temporarily delay government plans to ship buffalo exposed to the disease to slaughterhouses in Montana. Schweitzer’s move is the latest twist in a weeks-long saga over buffalo, or bison, that sought to escape the deep snows of Yellowstone Park in search of food in nearby Montana lowlands. Government wranglers have corralled 525 of the straying bison, 217 of which have tested positive for exposure to brucellosis and were slated to be killed.

  • Study links Yellowstone bison fate to genetic flaw

    A congenital defect combined with U.S. government plans to kill bison exposed to an infectious cattle disease could doom America’s last wild herd of pure-bred buffalo at Yellowstone National Park, a genetics expert said in a new study. The findings were posted on Monday in Nature Precedings, an online archive for pre-publication research by scientists, as the government and environmental groups clashed in court over an icon of Western wildlife that dates to prehistoric times. Government managers continue to corral hundreds of bison whose search for food has led them to stray from Yellowstone into nearby Montana grazing lands.

  • Yellowstone bison debate

    Less than a week after 25 wild buffalo from the nation’s last purebred herd were permitted to roam into Montana, officials have shot and killed one bison and were debating the fate of 14 others. Government wildlife managers on January 19 drove a trial band of buffalo, or bison, from Yellowstone National Park into nearby Gallatin National Forest in Montana to use winter grazing grounds for the first time in more than a century. The plan represented a hard-won agreement among federal and state governments, ranchers and conservation groups over an animal that symbolizes the American West.

  • Grizzly conflicts predicted

    Conflicts between people and grizzlies in the Yellowstone National Park region are likely to rise this year as more bears try to recolonize areas now inhabited by people, wildlife managers said on Tuesday. The news comes as federal and state agencies gather beginning on Wednesday in Montana to craft measures they hope will reduce the number of grizzlies they must kill in 2011 for threatening people and livestock. Problems between Yellowstone area grizzlies and people reached unprecedented levels last year, with bear managers in Wyoming alone grappling with an all-time high of 52 grizzly captures. But the estimated 600 grizzlies in the park and nearby Wyoming, Montana and Idaho won’t be the focus of renewed efforts to contain conflicts.

  • The Bears are hungry in the Rockies

    A shortage of berries and other foods that hungry bears normally rely on to bulk up before hibernation has sent conflicts with humans spiraling to unprecedented levels in the Rocky Mountain West. Wildlife officials in parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say they are experiencing a record year for so-called problem bears, which wander from the wilds into civilization — and into trouble. State and federal bear biologists say they are overrun this season with reports about errant grizzly and black bears foraging in everything from garbage cans to garages, in every place from golf courses to city centers.