Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comments on the proposed delisting of the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains

Through April 9, 2007 the US Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on their proposal to delist the gray wolf in the northern rocky mountains of the United States from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Species.  You can view the proposal at . They have concluded the public hearings, but are still accepting email and paper comments. You may email your feedback to .

As you might expect from reading my blog, I am not a supporter of the proposal.  Here is a copy of the comments that I submitted in opposition to the plan.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

I am writing this message to provide my feedback on the proposed de-listing from the Federal Endangered Species List, the Gray Wolf within the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Having read the proposal published in the Federal Register, I would like to express my opposition to the plan as highlighted. I will hereby explain my objections.
I, first and foremost, disagree with delisting the gray wolf before they have had the opportunity to reach and maintain their carrying capacity across the broad ecosystem. It is clear from the statistics mentioned in your proposal that wolves have reached the carrying capacity in the greater Yellowstone area and most likely in the Northwest Montana Recovery Area, illustrated by multiple years of steady or declining population levels. It is also clear that they have not reached the carry capacity within the state of Idaho, illustrated by their continued population growth.

Reaching and sustaining the carrying capacity of the environment is critical for a number of reasons.
1. Trophic Cascade. Research cited in your proposal, indicates that the presence of a top predator, such as the wolf, has a dramatic positive impact on a health of an ecosystem. If the population of wolves, as the keystone predator, is artificially restricted, our eco-systems will not receive the full health benefit and will continue to have problems effecting people, wildlife, and specifically other endangered and threatened species. The states, specifically Idaho and Wyoming, have made it very clear that they intend to manage the population to the lowest number possible. Neither state's plan includes an acknowledgement of the criticality of the wolf in the trophic cascade. This omission alone should be the basis for rejecting their plans.

2. Dispersion throughout the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) Distinct Population Segment (DPS). Much of your proposed distinct population segment does not include wolves today (Eastern Washington and Oregon, Northern Utah, etc). This is due to the fact that these areas are not the premier territory for wolves. It should not then be assumed that these are not acceptable territories. If we artificially restrict the population of wolves in the premier territory, then they will not disperse to other acceptable territories. The results is that those other acceptable territories will not receive the benefits of the trophic cascade and will not be returned to healthy ecosystems.

3. Dispersion beyond the NRM DPS into other endangered areas. Per the proposal, wolves will remain endangered beyond the NRM DPS. Once again, if wolves are artificially limited inside the NRM DPS, how can we expect them to disperse to these other endangered areas. We will be removing dispersal candidates and decreasing competition, in turn, decreasing the chance of wolf dispersion. Many of these areas do include prime habitat for wolves, for example, northern Nevada, Central Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, etc. If we are patient, and give the population a chance, they will disperse to these areas. As you cite in the proposal, a number already have. We have to let the population rise and competition rise, for more dispersion to occur.

The bottom line is that we have learned, after re-introduction, that the role of the wolf in our ecosystems is far more important than previously expected. We have to be patient and let these benefits be achieved broadly within and outside of the NRM DPS. By de-listing wolves at this time, we will prevent these benefits from being widely achieved.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Boise Peregrines

Last week I had an early morning meeting which I called in to from home. This delay caused me to take the later bus to work, arriving at the bus stop in downtown Boise shortly after sunrise. I looked up to see what I assumed to be two Peregrine Falcons perched on the same perches they used last year. These perches are the two western most points of the Key Bank building. I couldn't be 100% sure they were Peregrines. This morning I had another early morning meeting, once again delaying my arrival downtown until after Sunrise. This time I brought my binoculars! Sure enough - Peregrine Falcon confirmed. I hope to have photos some time in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blog Translations

On a friends blog I was made aware of cool tool called The Dialectizer.  In case you are tired of reading my blog in plain old (slightly hacker) English, you may switch to any of these excellent choices (click the link to view the whole blog in that perspective):

Redneck - Rob's Idaho Perspeckive
Jive - Rob's Idaho Perspective
Elmer Fudd - Wob's Idaho Pewspective
Swedish Chef - Rub's Idehu Perspecteefe-a
or my favorite:
Hacker - r obs idAho perspectived (many of my common misspellings included!) Enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring hits Boise!

As it sometimes does, the spring weather hit Boise hard this weekend. As a result, we put up the skis and broke out our tandem bicycle. Two beautiful days of riding! Of course, not all of our time was spent on the bike. Sunday afternoon, we spent three hours out in our local trail system - Hull's Grove, birdwatching. It was a very fruitful day. We hiked about a mile from our house to the "lower pond". Here we found the usual red winged blackbirds, but for the first time this spring, the female Belted Kingfisher was there. A pair of kingfishers has occupied each of the ponds for the past few years. We also noticed a Pied-billed Grebe! Also the first of the year, although we have seen one there periodically each of the last two years. We tried to get a good photo, but it just didn't work out. Each time the grebe would slip under the water before I got set up.
Moving on up the trail toward the "upper pond" we counted the American Robins, Northern Flickers, and Black-billed Magpies. Passing the sand cliffs we spied the female Great Horned Owl in on her nest. The first hatchlings should arrive any day now. It was nearly a month ago when we last saw them copulating. The upper pond was occupied by a Mallard pair and a number of Red-winged Blackbirds. The kingfishers have not yet arrived. A pair of American Kestrels started flying around over our heads. I captured this shot of the male in flight. A short distance further down the trail the male kestrel flew over carrying a mouse. We watched as it perched upon a nearby tree. I worked my way around the tree for better lighting, climbing up the hillside to get a better angle.

I was rewarded with great lighting and a great angle. We watched as the kestrel continued to eat. Karyn asked why they always start with the head? My reply - they have to start with one end or the other, I'd start with the head too! I had my eye up to the viewfinder or I would have seen the female kestrel flying in to get some dinner as well. The male wasn't sharing and flew off down the valley with the female close behind.

Walking down the "Owl's Roost" path, we observed the male Great Horned Owl (pictured here) sitting in the tree. His viewpoint looks across the small valley, directly at teh sand cliffs where his mate is sitting on the nest. The couple, assuming to be the same, has successfully fledged a total 10 chicks from that nest in the past 3 years.

The Redtailed-Hawk was also sitting on her nest where she fledged 3 chicks last year. The male was not to be found. Not always the most exciting of birds, but one of my favorite small birds, is the white-crowned sparrow (pictured here). There are a few predictable locations to find them on this particular route.

The highlight of the day was a group of waxwings. We originally counted 36 and thought that they were Cedar waxwings. Upon closer inspection (via photos after I got home), most are Bohemian Waxwings. This is a first time that I have found bohemians. There were a few Cedar Waxwings mixed in as well, but the vast majority were bohemians.

The flock continued to dip down a drink from this small stream. With the spring like weather, the trail was very busy with hikers, bikers, and runners. They didn't seem too put out by it. I moved around to get the light at my back and squatted down about 10 feet from the stream. I waited for the birds to return. Finally a gap in pedestrians occurred and I was rewarded with these close up shots, amoung many others.
Other birds not mentioned in this post: California Quail, House Finch, House Sparrow, Mourning Dove, European Starling, and Dark-eyed Junco.

This article is featured in the I and the Bird #45 blog carnival.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Further distinction at the Idaho Legislature

The streak of irrational thought continues in the Idaho Legislature. This week the Revenue and Taxation committee cemented their desire for our state to continue to spiral toward collapse by voting down HB246 which would have provided local transit authorities (defined by state law) to ask local residents if they would like to fund public transportation. The resulting vote continues to tie the hands of the treasure valley (the name for the Boise/Nampa/Caldwell metro area) by providing no state funding for transit and preventing a local option as a funding source. The result - Idaho, 47th out of the 50 states for public transit per capita, will further slide in transit services. We remain one of only 4 states that prevent local option funding and provide no state funding (Mississippi, Alaska, and Hawaii are the others). Complicating the funding is that our metro area is now large enough that we no longer qualify for federal funds for operations, thus service levels not counting inflation will likely decrease by 25%.

The plan required a 2/3 majority vote of the citizens of the transit district to invoke and had a number of other protection clauses. In the end, the legislature refused to allow the voters of the Treasure Valley to vote on the issue. Democracy denied!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Idaho Legislature at its finest...

Spring is the time of year where we in Idaho are constantly amazed at who can get elected in our state. With the legislature in session, there is daily news about the future laws of our state. If I didn't live here, I would never believe what gets discussed in the halls of our statehouse.

With Idaho ranked 50th out of 50 states in child care standards, our legislature voted down a measure to require minimum safety standards and criminal history check for Idaho day-care centers, ensuring that Idaho will stay at the bottom of the list. Was it the expense? The Bureaucracy? No, it was voted down to try and influence mothers to stay at home! “What can we do to keep mom at home?” Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona or Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said, “Being separate from your mother … there’s reason to believe this could be harmful.” (Source: Spokesman Review) What planet do these guys live on?

The legislature voted down any hike in minimum wage. They are so against a minimum wage bill that they actually introduced one to say that the minimum wage will not be above what is federally mandated. Basically, they wasted time considering a bill which would make the law exactly what the current policy is. We know from the Idaho Foodbank that 16.3% of all Idahoans live in food-insecure households. That is, about 198,000 Idahoans – 88,000 of them children. The people in the Statehouse don't seem to care about these people.

In consideration of a community college bill, the legislature once again voted along predicable lines by voting down an option to make it easier to establish. The city of Boise ranks as the largest metropolitan area in the US that does not have a community college. The surprise came in some of the comments - Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, said she didn’t think much of arguments that the state needs more workforce training, like that provided by community colleges. “I really find it a little offensive to imply that we’ve got a bunch of dummies out there in the workforce,” she said. (Source: Spokesman Review)

In August, our temporary Governor called a special session to provide property tax relief by raising the sales tax. It passed of course. Idaho being one of the few states with a sales tax on groceries, essentially passed on a 20% tax increase on groceries for those that don't own property. At the time it was mentioned that grocery sales tax options would be considered in the regular session. Well, here we are. True grocery tax relief (lowering tax on groceries) was never seriously considered. What was considered is a grocery tax credit. This tax credit applies to your annual tax return. The governor proposed a scaled plan to provide more credit to lower incomes and seniors. Specifically - Senate Tax Chairman Brent Hill, R-Rexburg - “I was not happy with the governor’s proposal – I felt like it was taking a tax rebate and turning it into a welfare program.” (Source: Spokesman Review) The result is that everyone is expected to get a tax credit on their tax return with a little more for seniors. I am not sure how this helps people living paycheck to paycheck.

The legislature looks poised to pass a third parental consent abortion bill after their first two were overturned in the courts at huge expense to the state. This particular bill doesn't look any more likely to stand up.

The Idaho Fish and Game proposed a hunting tag fee of $27 for killing a wolf should management of wolves be handed over to the state. The legislature thought that was too unreasonable and lowered the fee to $9. Of course, our anti-wolf governor gets his tag for free. This makes the process of offering the tags a huge money loser for the state. Basically tax payer subsidized hunting. In an anti-tax state such as our, I am not sure how this can be justified.

So what does all of this mean? Take a single mother as a test case. Working in a minimum wage job she is already below the national poverty line. Her children are probably hungry. In August the legislature increased her grocery taxes by 20%, while giving her landlord a nice bonus on their property taxes. Her children are in a day-care environment where they are at the highest risk in the nation for physical abuse. What is her path out? Education in our non-existent system? This legislature doesn't give a damn about people like this. At least she won't have to pay too much for a wolf tag. Disgusting.

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