Monthly Archives: January 2008

Conservation Groups Merge To Create a Force of Nature for the American West’'s Wild Places, Wildlife and Wild Rivers

Gray wolfGroup Expands to Westwide Scope, Retains Fierce Approach

Santa Fe, NM –- Sinapu and Forest Guardians, two regional conservation groups have joined forces to create a stronger organization to protect and restore the wild places, wildlife and wild rivers in the American West. The new organization, WildEarth Guardians, creates a conservation force that will pressure policy-makers and government agencies to better protect and restore the lands, wildlife and waters from the Great Plains and Desert Southwest across the Rockies and through the Intermountain West.

For nearly two decades Sinapu, based in Boulder, Colorado, has worked to defend and restore large carnivores across the Southern Rockies while Forest Guardians has worked to protect and restore national forests, endangered species and rivers in the Greater Southwest. Integrating and expanding upon the two groups’ specialties, WildEarth Guardians has four core programs: Wildlife, Wild Rivers, Wild Places and Climate & Energy.

““We’’ve created a bigger, bolder and better organization to achieve our goals to restore wolves across the West, protect iconic western rivers such as the Rio Grande and keep wild places like the Sagebrush Sea intact,”” said John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. “”With the merger and other staff additions we’’ve assembled a powerful team of incredibly talented, passionate and hard-working advocates for wild nature,”” Horning added.

Both organizations collaborated closely over the last two years, and agreed to merge a year ago. WildEarth Guardians will continue to do much of the same work, but has also amplified its strategic focus in several critical respects.

“”The work of restoring and protecting wild carnivores will be enhanced considerably as a result of this merger,”” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, formerly of Sinapu, and now the Carnivore Protection Director for WildEarth Guardians. “”We will have more resources to defend habitats and key corridors for large carnivores,”” she added.

Among WildEarth Guardians priorities are: restoring wolves to the American West, including protecting Mexican wolves in the Gila bioregion, and reintroducing wolves to the Southern Rockies; protecting the Rio Grande from its headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico; restoring keystone species such as prairie dogs across the American West; restoring wildfire as a natural and restorative process in healthy western forest ecosystems; abolishing the USDA’’s Wildlife Services wildlife-killing program; and inspiring residents of the West’s urban and rural communities to become a cohesive and powerful voice for the protection of wild nature.

Two other new developments at WildEarth Guardians that parallel the merger announcement and name change include the creation of a new Climate & Energy program, and the formal integration of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign into WildEarth Guardians.

The Sagebrush Sea Campaign, which had been a sponsored project of Forest Guardians until recently, focuses on protecting and restoring the vast sagebrush-steppe landscape in the Interior West. To protect native wildlife and ecosystems of the Sagebrush Sea, the Campaign Director, Mark Salvo, will lead WildEarth Guardians’ efforts to obtain Endangered Species Act protection for the Greater sage-grouse, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and Gunnison sage-grouse. These three iconic grouse species have dwindled precipitously in the recent past because of habitat destruction due to livestock grazing, energy exploitation, and urban development.

“The Climate & Energy program will fight fossil fuel extraction including coal and oil and gas while promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. “Unless we do more to bring about a shift away from dirty energy and towards clean, renewable energy and efficiency, the climate crisis is going to have a devastating effect on the wild places, wildlife and wild rivers of the American West,”” said Robert Ukeiley, the Climate & Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.

WildEarth Guardians also has its own legal department. The organization has hired four staff attorneys over the last year to provide the legal muscle necessary to enforce environmental law and ensure that government agencies are protecting wildlands, imperiled species, biodiversity and clean air and water. In the past, the organizations have relied exclusively on outside law firms.

“”The law is one of our most powerful tools to protect our public lands and endangered species,”” said Jay Tutchton, WildEarth Guardians’ general counsel, who has successfully brought about the protection of more than 100 endangered species. “”By having experienced litigators on our team, we can move quickly and make sure that endangered species have a fighting chance.””

WildEarth Guardians has 18 staff members—15 full-time and 3 part-time—and a budget of nearly $1.5 million in 2008. The group has offices in Denver, Boulder, Santa Fe and Phoenix as well as more than 10,000 members and e-activists from all across the country, the majority of whom live in the Four Corners states.

While the merger, name change and staff additions are each new and different, much will remain the same about the organization’s work according to Horning. “”A WildEarth Guardian is a staunch guardian for wild nature, with legal and ethical duties in the same way that guardians are appointed by the courts to represent the interests of children. That core value has always been with us, and it will always be at the heart of our work,”” continued Horning.

“”Our mission is to protect the wild and we will use the law and mobilize the public to make sure wild nature in the West is defended and restored,”” said Horning. ““This is an exciting time to be a Guardian—, both new and old.””

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Predators Do More Than Kill Prey

A recent post in the online magazine Science Daily offers an interesting insight into the complex nature of the effects that predation has upon prey and the ecosystem. Those of you who visit this blog regularly, and who are locked in a heated battle of wills over claims that wolves are going to eat themselves out of business might want to read it [click here for the article]. Happy New Year!

Livestock Lobby Pressures to Retain Wildlife Poisons

Two Front Battle to Block Legislative Ban and EPA Registration Revocation

Washington, DC — As a public comment deadline looms, the livestock industry is ramping up to fight growing calls to ban two of the most deadly poisons used to kill wild mammals, according to documents released today by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This battle takes place against a backdrop of rising concern about a massive federal program to kill predators and other wildlife deemed a problem by ranchers, primarily in the West.

The two poisons are sodium cyanide (used in M-44 ejectors) and sodium fluoroacetate, commonly called Compound 1080, used in “livestock protection collars” strapped onto the heads of sheep and goats. The poisons are distributed by Wildlife Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which used these two agents during 2006 to “dispatch” an average of 1.6 animals every hour. The poisons are part of a $100 million Wildlife Services’ program which killed more than 1.6 million animals during 2006.

The public comment for a proposal before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the two poisons ends this January 15th. Last week, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) also introduced legislation outlawing production and use of the two agents, which EPA classifies as having the highest degree of “acute toxicity.” The basis for the proposed bans is growing reports of accidental poisonings of pets and “non-target” wildlife, including endangered species, and environmental damage.

Compound 1080 is registered for use in only 11 states and are outlawed in several countries, as well as California and Oregon. Because it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and water soluble, Compound 1080 is poses a significant bio-chemical threat if introduced into urban water supplies. In November, Wildlife Services announced a nationwide safety review of its pesticide and hazardous chemical operations.

“Protecting sheep from coyotes does not require waging chemical warfare,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, noting that even rancher groups concede that the two poisons account for only a small percentage of coyote removal. “The industry’s own figures show that a wide range of effective alternatives exists.”

Nonetheless, the ranching lobby has opened a vigorous double-barreled campaign to block the poison bans. For example, nearly a month before Rep. DeFazio introduced his bill, the industry recruited Rep. John Salazar (D-CO) to circulate a letter discouraging co-authors. In the letter, Rep. Salazar touted the benefits of Compound 1080, even though it is outlawed in his state. In 2001, however, someone in Grand Junction, Colorado illegally used Compound 1080 to poison 30 pets; even the policeman who handled the carcasses was sickened.

In addition, the industry is urging its members to submit public comments to EPA opposing the ban. In a surprising contrast, Mark and Jane Truax, members of the American Sheep Industry Association, wrote supporting the ban, pointing out that buying a guard llama ended coyote predation on their ranch.

“Scattering incredibly potent poisons across the range should not be a mainstay of modern wildlife management,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization in partnership with Sinapu organized the petition that EPA accepted for comment this past November. “Many of us are perhaps naively hopeful that the Environmental Protection Agency makes this decision on the merits.”

EPA had previously banned Compound 1080, but the Reagan Administration reversed the ban.

Press Release
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, January 9, 2008Contacts:
Wendy Keefover-Ring ||Sinapu || 303.596.3756
Carol Goldberg || PEER || 202.265.7337
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Listening to Cougar

New anthology of cougar stories edited by Marc Bekoff and Cara Blessley Lowe.

Listening to Cougar