Thursday, June 27, 2013

Documents show politics, not science, dominated US wolf de-listing meetings

Obama & Sec. Jewell: Politics over science at Interior, again.
Science Was Afterthought in Developing Preferred Alternatives for Wolf Recovery

TUCSON — The federal government’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act was hammered out through political bargaining with affected states, according to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Contrary to requirements of the Endangered Species Act that listing decisions must be governed by the best available science, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service presided over a process in which political and economic considerations were at the forefront.

The 52 documents produced by Fish & Wildlife Service detail how the “National Wolf Strategy” was developed in a series of closed-door federal-state meetings called “Structured Decision Making” or SDM beginning in August 2010. The meetings involved officials from every region of the Service and representatives from the game and fish agencies of 13 states. The SDM process featured –
  • A “Focus on Values. Determine objectives (values) first, and let them drive the analysis.” An SDM flow-chart starts with Problem and goes to Objectives, to Alternatives and then to Consequences at which stage a small box labeled “Data” finally comes into play;
  • An explicit political test “Where should wolves exist? (emphasis in original) What does the public want? What can the public tolerate?”; and
  • A matrix to weigh alternatives on a scale of “legal defensibility” then “public acceptance” followed by “wolf conservation” and finally “efficiency.”
“These documents confirm our worst suspicions that the fate of the wolf was decided at a political bazaar. The meeting notes certainly explain why no outside scientists were welcome,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who had been seeking the records since April 2012. “From what we can see, Structured Decision Making was structured primarily to deal out the lower-48 population of gray wolves.”

Under a federal proposal currently out for public comment the gray wolf would be stricken from the federal list of threatened or endangered species. The Mexican wolf, with only a handful remaining in the wild, would keep its endangered status but no protected habitat would be delineated for it.

Much of the meetings were devoted to assuaging state threats to sue to halt wolf reintroductions. The tenor of these discussions was captured by a map titled “New Fantastic Alternative” which allowed unlimited hunting of gray wolves in Colorado and Utah. It also confined Mexican wolves to portions of Arizona and New Mexico.

“Politics have dominated moves to end national protections for wolves across America, and politics continue to hold back recovery of the Mexican wolf in the Southwest,” said PEER Ecologist and Southwest Director Daniel Patterson. “US Interior Department claims of 'best science' are tired and untrue as bureaucrats spin to try to please a never satisfied handful of special interests who simply hate wolves, in contrast to most Americans who respect wolves and want real wolf recovery.”

“The Obama administration keeps preaching integrity of science and transparency but seems to practice neither on any matter of consequence,” Ruch added, pointing to PEER’s detailed complaint on how politics smothered the recovery plan developed for Mexican wolves by a team of scientific experts. “In simplest terms, these documents detail how the gray wolf lost a popularity contest among wildlife managers.”

These foundational SDM documents obtained by PEER will likely provide fodder for the lawsuits that will almost certainly follow the expected final federal decision to de-list the gray wolf.

News release with links, documents, etc.

Read also Salon article on this topic

Monday, June 24, 2013

USA greens oppose Corker-Hoeven border militarization immigration bill amendment

WASHINGTON -- US conservation orgs just sent this letter to the Senate:


Dear Senator:

We are writing to express our strong objections to the Corker-Hoeven amendment to S. 744. The amendment contains measures intended to provide the illusion of security at a high cost to the nation.

The Corker-Hoeven amendment would unnecessarily mandate the construction of hundreds of miles of additional double layered walls along the Southwest border. Secretary Napolitano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Border Patrol had already constructed fencing where it was needed. She explained at the first day of the Judiciary Committee’s hearings that the Department of Homeland Security’s preference was for technology that would provide for more efficient and effective security: “We would prefer having money not so designated so that we can look at technology, air-based, ground-based, manpower, and other needs that may be more fitting to prevent illegal flows across the Southwest border.”

There is no security rationale for the mandate for hundreds of more miles of border wall. The provision to transform vehicle barriers to pedestrian wall is a direct refutation of the Border Patrol’s own decision that in those particular areas, vehicle barriers are better than walls. This provision appears to ignore previous reports, including several produced by both the Congressional Research Service and the General Accountability Office, that have failed to find any evidence that the existing border wall has made a significant contribution to border security.1    Further, the maintenance and repair costs for border walls are, as National Guard representatives have been quoted as saying, “a bottomless pit”.2    The walls constructed to date have been built at an average cost of $6.5 million per mile. Hundreds of more miles mean billions of more wasted taxpayers’ dollars and a landscape doomed to be strewn with rusting metal across America’s public lands.

1 See, for example, Congressional Research Report: Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border, 2

More wall will cause more tremendous damage to the land, wildlife and communities. While border walls are easily circumvented by smugglers going over, under or through the wall, the barriers stop the flow of water. Already, border communities and public lands have experienced serious floodingas the result of the current walls. Roads, commercial stores and public lands have been damaged by this flooding. The wall also severs the migration pathways of imperiled wildlife, including jaguars, ocelots, and big horn sheep, further contributing to their decline.

Our organizations were extremely disappointed that some very modest but important amendments proposed by Senators Ron Wyden and Barbara Boxer were not included. Among other things, these provisions would have required some mitigation of the extensive damage that will be inflicted on the fragile borderland environment from these extreme and unnecessary security measures. We fail to understand how the inclusion of these very modest improvements would have derailed or undermined any of the requirements of this amendment, and in fact they would have done a great deal of good.

More walls will only harm – not protect – America. We ask that this provision be removed from the bill and that decisions about security measures that are needed remain in the purview of the Department of Homeland Security.

Audubon * Center for Biological Diversity * Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection * Conference of Major Superiors of Men * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice * Endangered Species Coalition * Friends of Friendship Park (San Diego) * Guadalupe Ranch Corporation * International League of Conservation Photographers * Klamath Forest Alliance * League of Conservation Voters * Northern Jaguar Project * Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility * Sierra Club * Sky Island Alliance * Texas Border Coalition * The Wilderness Society * The Wildlife Society * United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries * United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society * Wilderness Watch

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Eco-news from PEER: NM Petroglyphs win, CA Sonoran Desert dunes, MI wetlands

Algodones Dunes, Sonoran Desert, SE Calif.
TUCSON -- Recent news from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (, where I serve as Southwest Director & Ecologist.

National Park Standards and Management Extended to City of ABQ-Owned Lands

BLM to Open 49,300 Acres of Algodones Dunes Plan to Off-Road Vehicles

Pending Bill Violates Federal Law and Threatens Michigan’s Wetlands Delegation