[env-trinity] Times Standard: Judges rule for Klamath, wolves

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed Jan 30 08:09:50 PST 2019


Judges rule for Klamath, wolves

A pair of judicial rulings in the past week werehailed by local groups as victories for environmental protection and wildlife safety.

In one decision, a federal judge ruled last Friday that a planned timber project at the Klamath National Forest would cause “irreparable” harm to the forest’s aquatic resources and target the forest’s valuable large-growth trees for post-wildfire logging.

On Monday, a state court judge in another case sided against the cattle ranching industry’s claim that a wolf sighted in California belongs to a different subspecies than the wolves that exist on the

state’s Endangered Species Act. The decision will prevent local farmers from hunting wolves to protect their livestock.

“It’s been a good week for us,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata. “We always say, ‘When it rains, it pours.’”

Multiple factors played a part in a judge ruling the Klamath National Forest services’ plan to log the forest’s larger trees would disrupt the area’s longterm sustainability as a natural habitat.

For one, the court determined the plan would disproportionately log the forest’s large-diameter trees over its smaller growth. Animals like the northern spotted owl that rely on large trees would see their habitat threatened, the judge decided.

Cutting down smallergrowth trees does more to help a forest prone to wildfires than going after the big ones, said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.

“The Klamath National Forest focuses on economic recovery rather than looking at wildlife and public safety,” Brown said. “We’ve been suing them quite a bit to get them to look at the harm of focusing on largediameter trees.”

The idea, Brown said, is that by cutting down only the larger trees, the forest services management can “salvage” large trees with short shelf lives after a wildfire season. Loggers want to buy fresh wood, not burnt wood with infestations, so the forest services try to cash in as quickly as possible on what remains of the big trees, she said.

But there’s an irony to such thinking: Going after large grows ends up costing more in work and effort than the revenue from selling them off, bringing pennies on the dollar, Wheeler said.

“You could buy entire log trucks of salvaged wood for less than the price of a latte,” Wheeler said.

Meanwhile, the court determined that forest services needs to develop an environmental impact statement instead of a regular environmental assessment report, the former being a much deeper dive into the potential harms posed by the Klamath project.

Post-fire forest clearing is necessary, Wheeler said, but not in the way the Klamath National Forest services designed its plans. Wheeler noted other national forests — like Six Rivers, Shasta-Trinity and Mendocino — have taken on much safer post-fire safeguarding projects.

Klamath forest supervisor Patty Grantham, listed as a defendant in the case, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Protecting gray wolves

In Monday’s court ruling, a state court judge determined gray wolves belong on the state’s Endangered Species Act, despite pushback from cattle ranchers who argued the wolves aren’t of a subspecies that originated in California.

So much historical debate surrounds how wolf species should be classified that the state Fish and Game Commission acted “reasonably” in listing the gray wolf on the Endangered Species Act without getting caught up in the specifics, the judge determined.

“A wolf is a wolf is a wolf,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They fit the same ecological niche.”

The cattle ranching industry had acted out of a desire to protect livestock from wolf attacks. If the wolves weren’t classified as an endangered species, then farmers could be within their rights to kill them.

“Wolves hurt and kill cattle and other farmanimals, which is why ranchers need more flexibility in co-existing with wolves

— and why we filed the lawsuit,” Jim Houston of the California Farm Bureau Federation said in an email. “The state listing gives ranchers limited options to protect their animals.”

“We are committed to working with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to figure out ways to reduce the burdens of raising livestock in areas with wolves,” Houston continued, “but we do not expect it to be easy.”

Only around 5,500 wolves even exist in the contiguous 48 United States, Weiss said. Addressing wolf attacks with violence, she said, is scientifically proven to be counterproductive.

“Killing wolves disrupts the pack,” Weiss said. “It kills off the older wolves that know how to hunt wild prey, leaving the younger wolves who are more inclined to hunt livestock. It’s also been established that if you kill the wolves at one ranch, the next wolves go to the next ranch to kill cattle.”

Setting up red-f lag fences, sometimes electrical ones, or even bordering a farm with wolf urine can repel wolves without threatening their existence, she added. She added that wolves tend to be shy, making them not much of a threat to humans.

For some cattle ranchers, the thought of wolves signifies danger. To some wildlife conservationists, the sight of one is a source of joy.

“I, for one, am excited about the return of wolves to California,” Wheeler said. “They’re important players in our ecosystems, and they regulate the populations of prey species beneath them. I hope to see a wolf in the hills at some point soon.” 


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