Wyoming Wolves In Crosshairs

Members of the Basin Creek wolf pack chase one another in an open meadow. Yellowstone National Park, WY

We had heard from the lookout warden on Mount Sheridan that the Basin Creek pack – in our direction of travel – were active and we had a good chance of spotting them. Marla and I were backpacking in the Yellowstone backcountry, on a lollipop loop that circumnavigated Heart Lake. We added the hike up Mount Sheridan that afforded us a commanding view of Heart Lake and the Two Ocean Plateau, an enormous swath of wild country that’s perfect for wolves. At Basin Creek, we watched five or six wolves, one of them black as coal, playing like dogs on the forest edge. The next morning, they appeared in fog, rising on hind legs to play fight, then chased one another all across the meadow. A pair of cow elk entered the meadow, sniffed the air, then moved swifly to the forest sanctuary, their heads up as they sprinted away from their natural enemy. It was one of the most memorable wild experiences of our lives. Continue reading “Wyoming Wolves In Crosshairs”

Wyoming Wolves – Shoot On Sight!

This gray wolf could be shot on sight if new legislation is enacted. Upper Green River Basin, Wyoming Canis lupus

Wyoming’s new shoot on sight proposal takes the species straight from endangered status to Medeival wildlife management. Look, I’m no wolf-hugger, but I’m for a pragmatic approach to species management that’s grounded in science. I understand that wolves kill, sometimes overkill, and they need to be managed; but they’re also an apex predator in a complex, yet still functioning Western ecosystem, and shirking our responsibilities after recovering the species accomplishes what? The wolf in the image above could be easily shot for the crime of being a wolf – he happened to be in the area because big numbers of migrating elk – 1,000 or so – were moving north from winter feeding grounds. A lone wolf, doing what he is hard-wired to do. For a little while I thought we had come a long way in managing this most misunderstood species. I couldn’t have been more wrong, nor more disappointed in Secretary Salazar. What will it cost to recover the species again after we give the wolf-haters a few years of open season?

Wyoming Range Comments

Mule Deer Does at Sunset, Sublette County, Wyoming

The deadline for comments on the proposed PXP drilling of Noble Basin in the Wyoming Range is March 11. This plan to drill in the Greater Yellowstone, right in the migration path of mule deer and pronghorn, is protested by every user group that is familiar with this special place. Commenting is really easy and it’s so important that our voices be heard. Just go to the Citizens For The Wyoming Range site, watch the video and click on the link to submit a comment. The number of comments on this plan are approaching a record!

If you’re wondering why it matters to comment on a place you may never know, may never see, consider that we’re talking about the Greater Yellowstone. Sure the National Parks are protected, but wildlife and people need wild places in the buffer lands around the parks. Roadless wilderness in the West, places where generations of people hunt and fish, hike, bird watch, and just be in nature are becoming increasingly rare. This isn’t some extremist position against energy development; it’s regular folks standing against the destruction of a special place. If you care about Yellowstone, if you care about the West, please tell the US Forest service that this place is too special to drill.

Letter To Bridger-Teton

Wyoming Range Storm Light Aerial View, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming ~ Aerial Support Provided by LightHawk

I wrote a letter to the Bridger-Teton USFS Supervisor today, opposing the plan to develop a gas field in the Wyoming Range. I’ve written about it here in “Please Don’t Drill Here” and “Please Don’t Drill Here Part 2”. I’ve also shared images with the USFS from my LightHawk mission and visits to Lookout Peak and North Horse Creek drainage. I’ve been asked what my special connection to this place is and I don’t have a definitive answer. I’ve never hunted, fished, or backpacked here. Marla and I have never pitched a tent in the Wyoming Range. But I’ve seen it from the air and the ground, I know the area a little bit, and it stands for something. It stands for the last wild places left in the West, for a functioning ecosystem, for traditional land uses and Western Heritage. We’re running out of places. Here’s a link to an article in the Jackson Hole News.

My letter follows, along with contact information if you would like to write one as well. Continue reading “Letter To Bridger-Teton”

Drink This Pennsylvania!

Pinedale Mesa Chemical Waste Fracking Pond, Sublette County, WY ~ Don’t worry Pennsylvania, the water is fine.

The assault on American rivers and water supplies continues in Pennsylvania, where gas drillers are allowed to dump their chemical-laden fracking water into rivers. Elected officials and drilling companies tell concerned citizens not to worry, the water is safe. What is the role of government if not to regulate this industry? Let’s go through this one more time – natural gas drilling is a very dirty business that involves pumping nasty chemicals deep into the earth, and PA doesn’t require disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking). See “Frack Me” on this blog. The Federal government needs to take the fracking chemical issue out of states hands and regulate the industry. Wasn’t the BP gusher like five minutes ago?

Protecting The Sagebrush Sea

Sage Sparrow in Wyoming Big Sagebrush, Gunnison Basin, Colorado. Sage sparrows are a sagbrush obligate species in decline.

Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians Sagebrush Sea Director wrote a nice piece in New West Politics calling for the Obama administration to protect important lands in the sagebrush sea. The vast sagebrush landscapes of the American West are one the of most imperiled ecosystems on earth. Mark has dedicated much of his career to the ecosystem and makes a compelling argument for protecting the American West. There are some pretty wild comments below the article, so I added my two cents 🙂

Wilderness – A Fine Christmas Present

Marla and our buddy, Tim Poppe admire the view from the 14,083′ summit of Mount Eolus, Weminuche Wilderness Area, CO

Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that (then George Bush’s Interior Secretary) Gale Norton’s 2003 “no more wilderness” policy would be overturned. Millions of acres of wild lands, mostly in the West, are now eligible for Wilderness protection. People who apparently hate wilderness are already shouting about locking up Western lands… from what? More drilling and subsidized mining and logging? Secretary Salazar is to be commended for taking this important step to develop responsibly and make certain that important National treasures are identified and protected. Sometimes progress is measured by reason, temperance, stepping back and admiring the view.

“Climate Is Gone”

This just in from that great climatologist, “Fracking” Carl Rove. Carl tells us that “climate is gone” and “I don’t think you don’t have to worry about fracking regulations” (hydraulic fracturing – see my post “Frack It”). Well, he didn’t actually tell us, or Matt Lauer this morning. Carl was hangin’ out with polluters in Philly. Read about it here.

In spite of your scientific brilliance Mr. Rove, we’re still worrying about clean air and water… oh, and that inconvenient climate thing.

** A followup side note: I read through a bunch of hate posts (on another site – I’m not getting any hate mail yet.) aimed at environmentalists who want to stop drilling, which misses the whole point. We want to know what chemicals are in fracking fluids and regulate fracking. We tried the no science, no regulation approach and it hasn’t worked out so well.

Vote The Environment

Turn on the boob tube these days and you’ll get an earful of he said, she said political extremism that’ll make your head spin – with pundits putting a daily spin on polls from every perspective… except the environment. It boggles my mind that in this economy first atmosphere, candidates can’t take a breath and give us their position on environmental issues. Oh sure, we still hear echoes of the Drill Baby Drill chant and we’ve turned away from the disaster in the Gulf after the hemorhaging stopped, (did the millions of gallons of oil magically disappear?) but shouldn’t we know something about candidates vision to solve the looming energy crisis? What about climate change? And don’t we have a right to clean air and water? As I was thinking about this post, I visited Patagonia’s Vote The Environment page and took the time to view League of Conservation Voters scores for elected officials. I guess I forgot that some politicicans vote for the environment 0% of the time. How is that possible?