Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wolves Could Be Removed from the Endangered Species List

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Friday it had struck a deal with wildlife advocates to remove some 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list.

Federal protections could be lifted from the wolves if a federal judge signs off on a settlement agreement filed on Friday in U.S. District Court in Montana.

The wildlife groups had sued to keep roughly 1,600 wolves in the Northern Rockies on the endangered species list.

Under the proposed agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups, the estimated 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana would be delisted and management of the animals, including target population numbers and hunting quotas, would be handed back to those states.

The government in 2009 approved wolf-management plans by Idaho and Montana and removed federal protections in those states, which established public hunts.

But the Fish and Wildlife Service declined delisting in Wyoming because its plan would have allowed most wolves to be shot on sight.

A U.S. District Court ruling in 2010 relisted wolves in Idaho and Montana. The federal judge in the case sided with 14 conservation groups, which had argued wolves in the Northern Rockies were part of a single population and that protections could not be left intact in Wyoming while they were lifted in the other two states.

Ten of the 14 conservation groups behind that legal action are now seeking to settle with the Fish and Wildlife Service, opening the way for licensed hunting in Idaho and Montana.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer on Friday hailed the move, calling it "a significant step forward."

"We need the authority to respond to the challenges wolves present every day," he said in a statement.

But it is by no means clear if the proposed agreement - even if the federal judge approves it - will give Montana and Idaho that authority.

Four of the 14 conservation groups have not agreed to settle, which could mean more legal filings to come.

Wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near extinction in the Northern Rockies before being added to the endangered species list.

Federal protection of wolves has been especially controversial since they were reintroduced to the wilds of central Idaho in the mid-1990s over the strong objections of ranchers and hunting outfitters, two powerful constituencies in the West.

Wolf foes say the animals are a constant threat to livestock and to big-game animals like elk.

Mike Clark, head of Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said that conservation group and nine others hope the settlement will provide relief in a region where anti-wolf sentiments have been running high.

"It's a way for people to accept that wolves are here to stay and to find a permanent way to manage them," he said.

The proposed agreement comes as a host of U.S. senators and representatives from Western states have pushed to delist wolves through congressional action, which would be unprecedented in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Idaho officials said they were still reviewing the legal filings and would not be prepared to comment until next week.

Representatives of the four conservation groups that have not signed onto the settlement could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Outdoors: As winter winds to close, we’re getting a whiff of spring

Mark Blazis Outdoors 

Considering the brutal winter of 2011, it's understandable why some species evolved hibernation strategies, avoiding the daily stresses of cold and starvation. After enviably sleeping without care through the last several months, they're finally waking. 

Skunks now are obnoxiously debuting with overpowering odor statements and road-kill displays. Worcester's Bashar Agha estimates there are over a hundred of them on the hills above Shrewsbury Street, not far from his Perfect Fit tailor shop. I actually smelled my first overly eager skunk this year early on Feb. 5, while driving along Grafton Street, when snowdrifts were still five feet deep. He came out, no doubt, looking for food or a mate. They've been housing, largely unnoticed, in hollow logs, burrows, under steps, sheds, wood piles or any number of human-built structures raised off the ground. 

Waking males intent on breeding now are fighting and spraying other males, while females are just as prone to spray overly presumptive males. Great horned owls, having no sense of smell, are dining enthusiastically on them as they move about — temptingly fat and vulnerably slow in the night. After a winter of slim pickings, skunks afford the owls a much appreciated, easy meal. Few local great horned owls consequently lack their scent. Many of our dogs will similarly be sprayed as well. 

One scent-removal formula that works consists of 1 quart hydrogen pyroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid detergent. This combination loosens the oils that tenaciously hold the odor and prove otherwise impossible to break down. It has restored my bird dog from banishment to reacceptance in our home more than once. 

First put on clothing you don't mind later trashing. Then carry your dog into your tub, soaking and rubbing his malodorous areas — particularly his head and the front of his body, being careful to protect his eyes. Let the solution work for about five minutes. Sniff your dog carefully to make certain you've treated every affected area. You'll later regret taking shortcuts. Then rinse your dog thoroughly in cool water. 

Wearing disposable rubber gloves will make your own re-entry into your family's living space more acceptable, too. You'll know very soon if you missed any sprayed areas on your dog, especially after a rain, which seems to bring back remnants of the odor. Odor Gone, a product made in Quincy (617-471-1961), reportedly prevents even a post-rain skunk odor from returning. 

This formula should always be made fresh and never stored, as it can in time expand and break the container. The pyroxide is not without side effects, however. My liver-and-white Brittany has developed temporary blonde highlights after treatment, a small price to pay for acceptance back into our family pack. 

The comically fat, waddling raccoons of autumn have emerged relatively svelte, having lost most of their thick rump fat and nearly half their body weight. They're indiscriminately scrounging now for remaining acorns, trash, dog food, birdseed and even compost-pile discards. It hasn't taken long for them to train me to stop putting out my trash the night before collection. 

Chipmunks are revving up, too, their body temperatures increasing an amazing 60 degrees while their heart rates triple. Last year, they dug enough holes in my lawn to make a miniature golf course. To save my yard, I purchased a quickly effective live trap from Wildlife Control Supplies in Connecticut (877-684-7262, The chipmunks were undeniably cute but unbearably destructive. One reader, his Shrewsbury property also under siege, hired a pest control service that incredibly removed over a hundred chipmunks before the damage stopped. 

Bears also have emerged from their log and brush pile sanctuaries. January-born cubs are finally getting attention from their mother, who's breathing five times faster now. It's time for her to eat again, either grasses or skunk cabbage, to free a digestive system plugged up since November. They're understandably enticed now by our birdseed and dog food. 

Woodchuck heartbeats are now pounding 10 times faster, while their body temperatures have increased nearly 70 degrees. They're going to increase the heart rates of gardeners, too, whose broccoli and cauliflower patches are sure to be targeted. 

The increased heat and faster rhythms of spring are beginning to be felt by wildlife all around us. It's time for us, as well, to emerge from our own personal degree of hibernation and feel the vital energy invigorating all who venture outdoors. 

Mark Blazis can be reached by e-mail at

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Fwd: FW: Government Taking Private Sector Jobs in one of Worst Economies since Great Depression



Subject: Government Taking Private Sector Jobs in one of Worst Economies since Great Depression



Government Taking Private Sector Jobs in one of Worst Economies since Great Depression

By Mark E. Dotson

March 5th 2011 – Dunbar, WV - In one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, the USDA – Wildlife Services has been actively taking jobs away from private Nuisance Wildlife Control companies across America - jobs that these companies depend on to take care of their families and run their small business, the lifeblood of the US economy.

In fact, the USDA - Wildlife Services has been providing government subsidized wildlife control for private individuals and commercial companies since 1972. The American Taxpayer has been footing the bill for this agency to do what many private companies are licensed, insured and completely able to do.

In very difficult economic times and unemployment at near all time highs, how could it be possible that you would have to compete with the government as a private company? The challenges of high fuel prices, foreclosures and layoffs have already made business more difficult for any service company, but then the government can come in, under bid you on a project and take it!

This recently happened to our company in my state of West Virginia which has a 10.3% unemployment rate. We were asked to provide a bat remediation proposal to the Fayette County Courthouse. We provided a proposal of $21,000 to reclaim the attic and seal the building. After following up on the bid, we were shocked to find out that the USDA – Wildlife Services was awarded the project for $4000! And the unbelievable part is that the USDA – Wildlife Services is not allowed to compete with or bid against private companies.

The government agency doesn't have to concern itself with whether they made or lost money on this project as they already are paid a salary.

So, how did they get awarded this project? They simply skirted around the bid proposal process. The county posted the project for two days in two very small newspapers with a circulation of approximately 3500.  When no "bids" came in (even though they already had two, one from our company and as well as another company), they hired USDA – Wildlife Services.

In a very bad economy, how does hiring a government agency grow jobs? It doesn't. It only grows the government. The money from the $4000 project goes back into the government's accounts and not to the local economy when local companies are not hired. The local company will buy their vehicles, supplies, rent equipment, have meals at local restaurants and require lodging if the project requires travel. This all benefits other local businesses. The private Wildlife Control Company will pay taxes on their equipment, supplies and labor back to the state they live in. The USDA – Wildlife services pays no taxes back to the state they do their work in. They only consume tax dollars.

West Virginia is not the only state plagued by this competition. Every state in the nation has a Wildlife Services division and they all compete for and take work away from each states citizens. States often match funds with Wildlife Services and now the state and federal government are spending money on problems main street business owners could readily solve. This means the U.S. taxpayer is paying for a service that is not necessary and could reduce our government debt if private companies were handling this type of work.

In fact, the budget of the USDA – Wildlife Services has skyrocketed 186% from 1996 – 2009.

This egregious act by the USDA – Wildlife Services is another form of unfair government competition with the private sector. It should be against the law for federal or local governments to compete with any private sector business. If there is a local provider, then they should be sought out. If there is not, then the government could provide technical or advisory assistance. In the end, defunding this agency and allowing licensed, trained and insured local Wildlife Control professionals is in the best interest of the American public.