Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

This week’s column explains how West Virginia’s trout fishermen are getting the short end of the budgetary stick:

The shoe has dropped.
West Virginia wildlife officials now know how the recent federal budget sequestration is going to affect them — and you.
It’s not pretty if you’re a trout fisherman.
Division of Natural Resources administrators said the upcoming 5.1 percent cut in federal Sport Fish Restoration funding will give the DNR $186,000 less each year to spend on fish management. Curtis Taylor, the agency’s wildlife chief, said the state’s trout-stocking program will probably take the worst hit.
“It won’t affect [stockings] this year, but in the future we’re talking about stocking fewer trout, smaller trout, and cutting streams that currently receive weekly stockings to one stocking every two weeks.”
The trout program is so vulnerable because nearly three-fourths of its $2.6 million annual budget comes from federal Sport Fish Restoration money. Sportsmen who buy fishing tackle pay an 11 percent federal excise tax, which in turn gets returned to state fish agencies based on the amount of fishable water and the number of fishing license buyers in each state.
West Virginia’s small population and lack of water make it a “minimum state,” one that receives the minimum cut of Sport Fish funding. DNR officials spend $1.8 million of that annual allocation on the trout program.
Why so much? Trout stocking is expensive.
“During our last fiscal year, we spent $478,000 on trout food and $211,000 on vehicle expenses,” Taylor said.
Personnel costs usually eat up most of any agency’s budget, but Taylor said the trout program is a notable exception.
“Most of the money associated with the trout program is in raising and stocking fish,” he explained. “To reduce staff wouldn’t be smart.”
Instead, DNR officials hope to cut costs by raising fewer fish. It currently costs about $1 to raise a trout from an egg to catchable size. Further money could be saved by cutting back on feedings, which would result in smaller trout.
That would remove at least one source of pride from the state’s hatchery workers, because on average West Virginia stocks the largest trout of any eastern state.
Cutting back on the number of stockings would create even bigger savings. Taylor said the state’s stocking list includes 33 streams that receive weekly stockings from March through the end of May.
“If we move all of those to a biweekly schedule, it would save 264 stocking runs,” he added. “With gas at $4 a gallon, that’s a considerable saving.”
The worst thing about the trout-program cuts is that they probably won’t be a one-year thing. The sequester could last as long as 10 years, and even at the end of that time there’s no guarantee  Congress will let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release the money to the states.
Wildlife funding got cut, too, but because excise-tax receipts from guns and ammo have been running far above average the past two years, the cuts are offset by the higher receipts.
The bottom line is that Congress is doing something it has no legal authority to do — to divert money from the Sport Fish Restoration and Wildlife Restoration funds. Those monies belong to sportsmen. They paid the taxes with the promise they’d get the money back.
And now, here in West Virginia, we who bought fishing rods and reels and lures and lines will not get our full share of what we paid into that system.


In the modern political world, no crisis is allowed to go to waste — even when it’s a manufactured crisis.

Consider what’s going on in California, where lawmakers in the state Senate have voted to outlaw the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats. Never mind that the state is crawling with bears and bobcats; never mind that only a minority of the bears and bobcats killed each year have been pursued by dogs.

So where’s the crisis? A California fish and game commissioner had the temerity to travel to Idaho for a perfectly legal mountain lion hunt, and then had the temerity to pose for a photo with the cat he killed. Democratic lawmakers went nuts (The commissioner, not surprisingly, is a Republican). All of a sudden, anyone who hunted with dogs was Public Enemy No. 1. (wanna guess which party the commissioner belongs to?).

In a leap of logic all too typical of politicians in the Land of Fruits and Nuts, someone decided that since the commissioner participated in an Idaho hunt where hounds were used, then by golly hunting with hounds should be outlawed in California! A bill was written, and now it has passed the upper chamber of the state Assembly.

If you can stomach it, here’s the full story from the Associated Press:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The state Senate voted Monday to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats, a practice the bill’s author compared with shooting animals in a zoo.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, introduced the legislation after a California fish and game commissioner posed for photos with a mountain lion he killed during a legal hound hunt in Idaho.
Before the vote, Lieu described the practice in which packs of dogs chase the animals until they are exhausted and climb trees, holding them until the hunter arrives.
“It’s been likened to shooting a bear at a zoo,” Lieu said. “It’s simply not fair.”
He also noted that dogs are sometimes injured or killed and called the practice inhumane and unsportsmanlike.
The Senate passed SB1221 with a 22-15 vote and sent the bill to the Assembly, despite objections by Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said hunting is in danger of following logging and gold mining to the list of endangered activities in the state.
“It is an attack on rural California,” he said of the legislation.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said he saw no difference between using dogs to hunt bears and hunters’ use of dogs to point out and flush pheasant. He also argued that California needs the $400,000 generated annually by hunting fees as it struggles with a massive budget deficit.
The use of hounds to tree bears is a practice dating back hundreds of years across the U.S. and Europe.
Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows, said shooting treed bears is more humane because a clean shot results in fewer wounded bears that can then escape.
Lieu said two-thirds of states already ban the use of hounds to hunt bears.
Between 1,500 and 1,800 bears are killed by hunters each year in California, with less than half tracked with dogs, according to state wildlife officials. The state has a black bear population estimated at about 30,000, up from about 10,000 in the 1980s.
California has an estimated 70,000 bobcats. It issued about 4,500 tags to hunt bobcats last year. About 11 percent of the bobcats were killed with the use of dogs.
Scimitar-horned oryx in Texas

Boy, that’s some gratitude for you. Texas game ranchers pulled a few African antelope species back from the brink of extinction, and the federal government rewards them 1.)  by making it impossible to profit from controlled hunting for the animals; and 2.) devaluing the animals to the point they become impossible to sell.

From the Associated Press:

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — For years, hundreds of Texas ranchers have made big money on exotic antelopes, with hunters paying up to $10,000 to bag just one dama gazelle, a rare animal with short horns curving outward.
Starting Wednesday, however, the U.S. government will stop allowing anyone to hunt the dama gazelle or two other exotic antelopes native to Africa, the addax and the scimitar-horned oryx — unless ranchers obtain a permit.
The move to give the animals full protection under the federal Endangered Species Act is being praised by animal-rights groups that abhor such hunts and has upset the ranchers whose efforts have led to a rise in the numbers of those exotic animals. The ranchers say they won’t be able to afford the upkeep for their antelopes — but they also can’t legally kill the entire herds or release them.
Texas has the largest population of the animals in the world — far more than even their native Africa. In 1979, Texas had less than three dozen scimitar-horned oryx, just two addax and nine dama gazelles, according to the Exotic Wildlife Association. But by 2010, the state had more than 11,000 scimitar-horned oryx, about 5,100 addax and nearly 900 dama gazelles, according to the association
Knowing that the new regulations were set to take effect, some ranchers have sold their exotic antelopes. But prices have dropped by up to 40 percent and will drop an additional 50 percent after Wednesday, said Charly Seale, executive director of the Texas-based Exotic Wildlife Association.
The ranchers can apply for federal permits to continue the hunts, but most are refusing because they say it’s government intrusion. Seale said just 10 percent of ranchers have sought the permits and he does not expect more to apply. Others are so irate they’ve threatened to kill the herds or just set them free, but that may not happen because both options are illegal under the federal act, Seale said.
“They are very prolific and had been valuable because a lot of people wanted to hunt them,” Seale said. “We’ve built our herds with our own money, and we increased an extinct population, one of the biggest conservation efforts in the world. And now they’re telling us we can’t do it? It’s ridiculous.”
The scimitar-horned oryx, which has horns up to 4 feet long curving toward its back, was declared extinct in the wild in 2000. The three species were listed on the Endangered Species Act, but they were exempt from the no-hunting rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Now the rule is being enforced so the animals won’t be killed in “canned hunts,” said Priscilla Feral, president of the Connecticut-based Friends of Animals that successfully challenged that exemption.
“The ranchers care about offering them in trophy hunts on property from which they cannot escape,” Feral said. “They only live so they can die. To call that conservation is ludicrous.”
Ranchers allowed just 10-15 percent of their herds to be killed each year, said Seale, who has a South Texas ranch with exotic animals. The dama gazelle is the rarest of the three, but hunters still shelled out big bucks for the others — up to $5,000 for the chance to bag a scimitar-horned oryx and $7,000 for an addax, known for its long, thin, spiral-shaped horns.
Because trophy hunters have known that the hunting restriction was approaching, they have flocked to Texas ranches in recent months, thinning the herds even more. But ranchers — even those with other exotic animals that are not affected by the rule — say they’re left with few options. The herds are too expensive to feed without the hunting revenues, and obtaining a permit means the government can make unannounced inspections.
“We’ve applied for permits, but the process is cumbersome,” said Aaron Bulkley, owner of the Texas Hunt Lodge, which has 23 ranches northwest of San Antonio. “This rule will have a major impact to our business. There is no fix to this.”
Only a few animal sanctuaries for such animals exist, and “they don’t want 100; they want two or four,” Bulkley said. The Exotic Wildlife Association plans to send about two dozen of the animals to a nature preserve in Senegal.
The rule will not only hurt the $1.3 billion exotic animal industry in Texas but will cause the scimitar-horned oryx population to be reduced to 1,000 in a decade, Seale said.
However, the animals becoming extinct in Texas is better than what’s been going on, Feral said.
“Now they’re saying they will shoot them now rather than later,” she said. “(Having the three species in Texas) is not an advantage to anyone other than those in the hunting business.”


Bald eagle ruling boomerangs on tribe


Remember that agreement from the federal government that would have allowed a Native American tribe to kill two bald eagles for religious purposes? From all appearances, it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.  Northern Arapaho tribal officials believe their people have been gypped.

From the Associated Press:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming tribe that received the nation’s first federal permit allowing members to kill bald eagles for religious purposes renewed a legal challenge against the government Friday, calling the permit a “sham” because of restrictions against killing the birds on the tribe’s reservation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 9 granted the Northern Arapaho a permit allowing members to kill two eagles only outside the Wind River Indian Reservation. The Arapaho share their reservation with the Eastern Shoshone, who opposed the killing of eagles on the tribes’ shared land.
Many American Indian leaders nationwide and those in the Northern Arapaho tribe initially hailed the permit decision as a victory for native sovereignty and native religions, which the federal government actively suppressed well into the last century.
However, in an amended lawsuit filed against the government Friday, the Arapaho Tribe takes issue with the permit provision that would require tribal members to kill eagles off the Wind River Reservation. The tribe states that the state of Wyoming prohibits killing eagles off the reservation while the federal permit itself requires adherence to state law.
“Any tribal member taking an eagle pursuant to the March 9, 2012, permit is subject to arrest and prosecution by the State of Wyoming, whether the take occurs on federal, state or other lands ” tribal attorney Andy Baldwin and his associates wrote in the amended complaint.
A spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver said the agency had no comment on the tribe’s amended complaint because the issue is in litigation.
In its amended complaint, the Northern Arapaho tribe argues that federal government action barring tribal members from taking bald eagles for religious purposes violates their free exercise of religion.
Baldwin said the tribe discussed the permit concern with federal officials before filing the amended complaint but declined further comment. Attempts to reach tribal officials weren’t immediately successful.
Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of threatened species in 2007. The birds remain protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Several Indian tribes have been allowed permits to kill golden eagles for religious purposes.
The Northern Arapaho first filed suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service last fall seeking to force the federal agency to grant an eagle permit. That court action came more than two years after the tribe first applied for a permit.
The tribe’s lawsuit filed last fall followed the contentious federal prosecution of Winslow Friday, a young tribal member who killed a bald eagle without a permit in 2005 for use in his tribe’s Sun Dance. Friday shot the eagle on his reservation.
Former U.S. District Judge William Downes dismissed the charge against Friday in 2006 saying it would have been pointless for him to apply for a permit. “Although the government professes respect and accommodation of the religious practices of Native Americans, its own actions show callous indifference to such practices,” Downes wrote.
A federal appeals court reinstated the criminal charge against Friday. After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case, he ultimately pleaded guilty in tribal court and was ordered to pay a fine.
In response to written questions from The Associated Press earlier this month, Matt Hogan, assistant regional director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, stated that Wyoming would not have to give its permission for Northern Arapaho members to kill eagles off the reservation.
“Permission for take of eagles would not be required by the State of Wyoming,” Hogan stated in a March 14 email. “However, one of the permit conditions is consent from the landowner from where the bird will be taken.”
In a status report to a federal judge presiding over the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s lawsuit filed March 13, federal lawyers stated that the Eastern Shoshone Tribe had informed the Fish and Wildlife Service that they opposed the killing of eagles on the Wind River Reservation because they believed it was against the tribes’ joint law and order code. Attempts to reach Eastern Shoshone officials for comment Friday weren’t immediately successful.

Outfitters seek to overturn hunting license law

One of the drawbacks to making laws is that someone inevitably wants to overturn them.

New Mexico legislators already know that, of course, but lately they’re getting their noses rubbed in it. From the Associated Press:

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Outfitters from four Western states argued Wednesday in federal court that their constitutional rights to conduct business in New Mexico were being upended by changes to the state’s hunting draw.
A coalition of several outfitters from Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington have asked the court to issue an injunction and temporary restraining order to keep New Mexico’s law from taking effect.
U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo ordered the proceeding to continue Thursday after hearing a few hours of testimony and evidence.
The law spells out how many New Mexico residents, non-residents and outfitters can be awarded hunting tags through New Mexico’s draw system. Tens of thousands of hunting licenses are sold in the state every year, and a portion of those are doled out through the draw by the state Game and Fish Department.
The quota system was changed last year after New Mexico hunters fought to ensure in-state hunters received a larger portion of the hunting tags.
At the center of the dispute is language that New Mexico legislators included in the law that mandated 10 percent of hunters cannot apply for a license through the draw unless they hire a New Mexico-based outfitter.
Before this year, the location of an outfitter’s business didn’t matter.
“Regulations that prohibit out-of-state residents from doing business in another state are clearly prohibited by the Commerce clause under well-established case law,” the out-of-state outfitters said in their complaint.
Hunting, guiding and outfitting are part of a big business in New Mexico, where rural communities depend on money spent by outdoor enthusiasts. Studies have shown hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation annually contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy.
New Mexico sportsmen are concerned the court case will put in limbo their efforts to ensure a larger portion of tags for in-state hunters.
Before the law was changed, less than 80 percent of the draw licenses were reserved for residents, with the remainder going to non-residents and outfitters. On average, that was the lowest percentage for residents of any state in the Rocky Mountain region, according to the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
With 84 percent of tags now earmarked for residents, the federation said in-state hunters actually have better odds of drawing a license.
“The bottom line is the problem that is being expressed has to do with this requirement to hire outfitters,” said Jeremy Vesbach, director of the wildlife federation. “Nobody is challenging the idea that residents can have a preference, but they’re trying to take down the whole building over it. They want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Vesbach also disputed the outfitters’ claims that they’re being barred from doing business in New Mexico. He said they can still compete for business, like they do in other states, they just wouldn’t be eligible for New Mexico’s “outfitter subsidy pool.”
The deadline to apply for big game draw licenses is March 28, and some 70,000 hunters have already applied, according to a department official who testified Wednesday. The Game and Fish Department is supposed to conduct the draw in early May.
Department officials declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Cougar killing might cost official his job

Dan Richards and the cougar that might cost him his job

Imagine losing your job because you took part in a perfectly legal hunt.

That’s might just happen to Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission. Richards killed a mountain lion in Idaho, where it’s legal to do so. Animal rights activists in his home state of California — where mountain lion hunting is illegal — went bonkers. They put pressure on Democratic members of the state Assembly, who introduced legislation to oust Richards from his post.

The legislative effort was short-lived, but the San Jose Mercury News reports that  members of the Commission recently voted 4-1 to change the rules by which commission presidents are chosen. Armed with the rule change, they could vote Richards out of his presidential post as early as May 23.

Animal-rights and environmental groups are salivating at the prospect. The Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club openly lobbied for Richards’ ouster.

I think the Commission’s vote says more about the people being appointed to the Commission than it does about Richards. For years, in the interest of “diversity,” animal-rights and enviro groups have sought to load up state game commissions with people who represent their points of view. In California, it would appear that the effort has achieved critical mass.

If the attempt to oust Richards succeeds, where will it lead? Will good people fear to run for office because they had (gasp!)  “animal killings” in their past? Would politics become a “hunters need not apply” prospect?

I sure hope not.

A fishing ban with no teeth

If you’re going to ban something, wouldn’t it seem like a good idea to tell people what the penalties would be for defying the ban?

Apparently the  U.S. government doesn’t grasp that concept. Three years ago the feds outlawed fishing in three U.S.-controlled areas of the Pacific Ocean, but have never put penalties in place to enforce the ban.

The story, from the Associated Press:

HONOLULU (AP) — An environmental group has petitioned the federal government to outline what fines or other penalties it will impose on companies that fish within three marine national monuments in the Pacific.
All commercial fishing was banned in the areas — which lie around Rose Atoll near American Samoa, the Marianas Trench near Saipan, and remote Pacific islands including Palmyra Atoll — when President George W. Bush created the monuments more than three years ago.
The Marine Conservation Institute, a Bellevue, Wash.-based group, said the government’s failure to draft rules explaining what kind of penalty it will impose for a violation is holding up its ability to enforce the ban.
The organization last week petitioned the two co-managers of the monuments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to create such rules.
Fishermen or their boats could harm unique ecosystems, the petition said, such as when a fishing vessel sank and damaged coral at Kingman Reef near Palmyra in 2007, or when fishing boat ran aground and spilled 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel at Rose Atoll in 1993.
Nesting sea turtles and the world’s largest population of giant clams are at risk, the petition said.
William Chandler, the institute’s vice president for government affairs, said the group has been advocating for the regulations for years but were told they were under consideration and in the works.
“This is not supposed to be a three-year or four-year process. In one more year we’ll hit the four-year mark,” Chandler said. “People need to know these places don’t have the full panoply of legal protections that they could and that they’re supposed to.”
Wende Goo, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the agency is reviewing the petition.
Barry Stieglitz, refuge supervisor at the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges, said he shares the institute’s “frustration.” But he said his agency has gained responsibilities without winning more funds to help fulfill them.
“The federal fiscal situation is such that we haven’t received any additional resources with which to work on implementing the marine national monument,” he said.
The agency would need to assign someone full-time to develop the rules, but people who could be given the job are focused on existing projects like getting rid of rats at Palmyra Atoll, he said.
Lesli Bales-Sherrod, a spokeswoman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, said there have been cases of commercial fishing in the monuments since 2009 when they were created and commercial fishing was banned.
NOAA enforces the prohibition with outreach, education and verbal warnings, as is the case with NOAA’s enforcement of many new regulations, she said.
Lt. Gene Maestas, 14th Coast Guard District spokesman, said the Coast Guard monitors ships in the monument and patrols the area with planes and ships.
The Coast Guard can cite U.S. flagged commercial vessels for fishing in the monuments, but it’s up to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement to prosecute the citations.
Regulations banning commercial fishing went into effect quickly at the first marine monument Bush established, the Papahanaumokuakea monument northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands.
Stieglitz said that’s because officials had been working on the regulations already in anticipation the government would create a national marine sanctuary there. The rules were already drafted and only needed to be published when Bush issued a proclamation establishing a marine monument there in 2006.
Commercial fishing regulations must be created from scratch for the three monuments Bush established in 2009.

Celebs don’t have to wait for Iowa deer tags

In Iowa, some deer hunters are more equal than others. If you’re Ted Nugent or Bo Jackson or Toby Keith, you pay a hefty premium and get to skip the usual three-year wait for a non-resident deer tag. From the Associated Press:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Some question whether Iowa needs to continue giving celebrities easy access to deer hunting in the state, but it appears unlikely that the promotional program will be scrapped.
The state program gives 75 celebrities, such as rocker Ted Nugent and former professional athlete Bo Jackson, an opportunity to buy a special out-of-state deer hunting permit each year. Other nonresidents might wait years to buy a similar permit.
The celebrity program began in 1998 to help promote the state as a top hunting destination.
Iowa Bowhunters Association President Randy Taylor tells the Des Moines Register that he’s not sure the state really needs the promotion anymore.
“There is no deer hunter nationwide who doesn’t consider Iowa one of the trophy hot spots in the nation,” Taylor said.
Iowa routinely receives thousands more requests than can be filled each year from out-of-state hunters. So the program isn’t popular with the people who sometimes wait years for one of about 6,000 nonresident permits to harvest deer of any sex.
A state committee ranks celebrity applications on a point system. The applicants most likely to win a hunting tag are the ones the state believes will garner the most media exposure for Iowa.
The celebrities pay the same $551 fee that other nonresidents pay for the hunting tag. Iowa residents pay $89 for theirs.
A few of the special celebrity tags are given to nonprofit conservation groups that often auction them off to nonresidents. Those auctions can raise $6,000 to $10,000, and the proceeds are split with the state.
Steve Dermand, who helps oversee the program for Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources, says he’s heard the complaints, but he doesn’t think anyone is ready to eliminate the program.
“When this started, Iowa was just becoming recognized as having a good deer resource. This came along during that growth time,” Dermand said. “Now, Iowa is high-enough profile, the state is in all the hunting magazines and where to go for whitetail.”
State Sen. Dick Dearden of Des Moines, chairman of the Senate natural resources committee, said he doubts the program will be eliminated. He also doesn’t expect a change in the number of general out-of-state tags.
So it’s likely that celebrities like country singers Toby Keith, Aaron Tippin and Miranda Lambert will continue to get access to deer hunting in Iowa along with professional hunters like Mark Luster.

Governor spars with feds over wildlife shipments

Bison near Gardiner, Mt. (AP Photo)

This issue has the potential to get very interesting before everything gets settled. Can you say “states’ rights?”

From the Associated Press:

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s governor on Tuesday issued an executive order blocking the Interior Department from transporting fish and wildlife anywhere within the state or across state lines — raising the stakes in his ongoing tussle with federal officials over their management of wildlife.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he was concerned the federal agency’s actions have allowed animal diseases such as brucellosis and chronic wasting disease to spread across the region.
He also said he wants to halt the transfer of bison to other states from the National Bison Range. Because those bison have traces of cattle genes, the Democratic governor said the animals were “genetically impure mongrels” that should not be used for conservation purposes.
Interior officials earlier this month rebuffed a proposal from Schweitzer to relocate dozens of bison from Yellowstone National Park onto the bison range near Moiese. The agency cited worries over brucellosis despite repeated tests on the Yellowstone animals to ensure they were disease-free.
But the governor said the agency’s rejection marked only the latest in a string of confrontations he has had in recent years with federal officials over wildlife. The order will remain in place until federal officials show cooperation with Montana over wildlife, he said.
“It’s their cavalier disregard for wildlife genetics and disease,” Schweitzer said. “They don’t seem to be interested in changing their behavior.”
It was not immediately clear what effects Tuesday’s move could have.
Interior Department spokesman Adam Fetcher said agency officials were reviewing the order after receiving a copy of it late Tuesday.
Besides the 18,500-acre bison range, the Interior Department operates fish hatcheries, wildlife refuges, national parks and other lands and facilities in Montana. Federal hatcheries near Kalispell and Ennis combined distribute more than 1 million trout annually to stock waterways across the state — activities now presumably prohibited under Tuesday’s order.
Previously, Schweitzer has called on the federal government to stop the artificial feeding of animals at the National Elk Refuge in neighboring Wyoming. Biologists have said the practice concentrates wildlife populations and increases the chances of disease transmission.
Brucellosis — one of the two diseases cited in Schweitzer’s order — can cause infected pregnant animals to miscarry. It has been eradicated nationwide from livestock but persists in elk and bison in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological affliction found in elk and deer. Similar to mad cow disease, chronic wasting causes an animal’s body to sharply deteriorate, leading to behavioral abnormalities and eventually death.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — part of Interior — manages about 400 bison at the Moiese range in concert with bison populations at refuges in Montana, North Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The agency occasionally moves animals from refuge to refuge, FWS spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger said.
“We will move bison between these isolated meta-populations to ensure genetic diversity,” Katzenberger said. “But we have no plans to move any bison within the next year.”
Besides the National Bison Range, FWS manages bison populations at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve in North Dakota, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska.
Katzenberger said the federal agency does not move any other wildlife across state lines.
Schweitzer rejected that claim and said there was a long history of the Fish and Wildlife Service transporting bighorn sheep from Montana to others states across the West.


Man ticketed for helping wildlife officers

In the spirit of “no good deed goes unpunished,” the National Park Service is trying to fine an Alaska man for helping to retrieve a caribou shot by two state wildlife officers.

From the Associated Press:

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — National Park Service authorities have issued a $225 citation to a Cantwell man who helped two off-duty state troops retrieve a caribou they shot while hunting.
The troopers asked 25-year-old Justin Norton to use his all-terrain vehicle to help them collect the caribou from Denali National Park and Preserve, about 150 miles south of Fairbanks. Wildlife Trooper Jim Ellison had legally shot the animal a day earlier.
But Norton, who has lived in Alaska just six months, isn’t a qualified subsistence user, so it’s illegal for him to drive a four-wheeler in the park. Park Service officials met him at a restaurant Friday to issue the ticket for the Aug. 26 incident.
Norton knew the troopers through his girlfriend’s family.
“I was home sick that day and they called me up and said, ‘We shot a caribou. Can you come help us? We’ll give you some meat,'” Norton told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Norton said one of the troopers knew he was new to Alaska but nobody told him he shouldn’t be driving an ATV in the park. He didn’t know it was illegal, and if it was, he assumed the troopers would tell him, he said. Neither trooper was available for comment on Friday.
Norton doesn’t blame Ellison and Trooper Eric Jeffords for the ordeal, he said. They’ve offered to pay his ticket, but Norton said he was inclined to fight it.
“The park service is bullying me,” he said. “I don’t like to be pushed around.”