Author Archives: jimservi

End of the Day by Jared Warren

End of the Day by Jared Warren

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Wisconsin Outdoor News: Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out

Unless Congress acts, wolf delisting years out
By: Jim Servi
First published in Wisconsin Outdoor News on November 3, 2017.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

Washington D.C. – The August 1st ruling on the federal protection status of Western Great Lakes wolves by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was touted by sportsmen’s organizations as a short-term setback for wolf management, but one that would likely set the stage for ultimately returning Great Lakes gray wolves to state management. However, unless recently introduced Congressional bills are approved, that delisting process “may take 2-4 years,” according to George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation Executive Director.

The rationale is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) essentially needs to start the delisting process over with the Great Lakes wolves as a “distinct population segment.” The August 1st ruling states: “The central dispute in this case is whether the Endangered Species Act (ESA) permits the Service to carve out of an already-listed species a “distinct population segment” for the purpose of delisting that segment and withdrawing it from the Act’s aegis. We hold that the Act permits such a designation, but only when the Service first makes the proper findings.”

With that language, the USFWS can delist wolves in distinct locations, such as the Western Great Lakes region or Northern Rocky Mountain area of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming while maintaining Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection in all other locations. “Basically, the lower court decision from 2014, there were about ten things that the judge ruled on, one of them was the most damaging to relisting wolves in the Great Lakes and that was a provision that they could not be delisted until their former range was re-populated again,” Meyer explained, referencing the December 19, 2014 decision by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell that returned federal protection to wolves. “You don’t need to be a scientist to know that is impossible. Had that decision been affirmed, there was no way to ever delist (wolves) under the ESA.”

The Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; Friends of Animals and Their Environment argued that since wolf populations haven’t recovered in all their former range, that they must remain under federal protective status. Based on this most recent ruling, they have limited options for recourse. The first reason is due to the prominence of the court issuing the ruling. “The appellate court (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit) issuing the ruling is really the second most powerful court in the country and is viewed strongly by the Supreme Court,” Meyer discussed, meaning the Supreme Court would likely not take up the case or would affirm their ruling. Second, is that the groups advocating for additional protection technically won the case. “They cannot go to the Supreme Court because they won the case. Now, they can ask the DC Circuit to add a word or two, but basically, they have to accept the opinion and that’s it,” Jim Lister, legal counsel for the U.S. Sportsmen Alliance, explained.

Assuming there is no appeal, the next step for the USFWS would be to re-start the delisting process with a specific focus on the distinct population segment of the Western Great Lakes gray wolves. USFWS guidance on Delisting a Species under Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act states: “To delist species, we are required to determine that threats have been eliminated or controlled, based on several factors including population sizes and trends and the stability of habitat quality and quantity.” That begins with developing a recovery plan with benchmarks from partners and stakeholders in the recovery effort. The aforementioned recovery plan has been in place for several decades with continuous monitoring efforts by the Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with substantial assistance from the US Forest Service, National Park Service, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Service, Tribal natural resource agencies, and the USFWS.

A 5-factored analysis is then completed, answering the following questions:

  • Is there a present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of species habitat or range?
  • Is the species subject to overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes?
  • Is disease or predation a factor?
  • Are there inadequate existing regulatory mechanisms in place outside the ESA (taking into account the efforts by the States and other organizations to protect the species or habitat)?
  • Are other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence?

These questions will need to be answered with the framework of the Great Lakes wolves as a distinct population rather than wolves as an entire species. With the recovery goals met and 5-factor analysis approved, the USFWS would then publish their proposal to delist in the Federal Register. At this point, three species specialists would need to conduct a peer review while seeking input from the public, scientific community, Federal and State agencies. If that process indicates continued support, as it has in the past, the USFWS would publish a final rule to delist, again in the Federal Register. At that point, Great Lakes wolves would be removed from the Endangered Species List and the population, now under state management, would be monitored for five years to ensure their sustainability.

“If you very carefully read the opinion, they (USFWS) need to fix three things they did wrong,” Lister, who has been actively following the appeal process for years, explained. “The simplest issue, the DC Circuit asked them to account for present impact of the loss of their historical range when recovery began. Essentially, they (USFWS) would have to say something like, we acknowledge that wolves roamed over much of North America, their range shrunk through the 1800s and first half of the 1900s, until only a pocket of wolves were left in Minnesota. With protective measures, over the next 50 years, the range of wolves has steadily increased. That 50 years gives us confidence that with their current range they are no longer in danger of extinction now or in the future.”

“Second, they have to address the impact on the chance of other wolves outside the Great Lakes region surviving if they (Great Lakes wolves) are delisted,” Lister continued. “They (Great Lakes wolves) have very little to do with wolves in California, Oregon, Washington, and the northern Rockies because of the vast gaps and unsuitable habitat. We thought the 2011 delisting addressed that, but the DC Circuit wants them to clarify. This shouldn’t be difficult considering they already have extensive records and solid evidence. And there are no wolves anywhere else in the Eastern United States, so by carving out the Great Lakes wolves, there will be no impact on recovery of wolf populations elsewhere. That’s what they need to prove and explain.”

“The most abstract and toughest to explain is the distinct population segment,” Lister acknowledged. “The ESA recognizes full species, essentially every wolf on the entire globe. When you take a distinct population segment, there are wolves that don’t fit, such as California or Washington, so they need to add another paragraph explaining why other wolves are kept on the endangered species list. The lawyers need to explain how the ESA has the flexibility to do that.”

The USFWS has been through this process several times before with gray wolves, and it is unclear how much will need to be completed again and what can be re-used, but it does appear they will have to start from the beginning. “The ruling was sent back to the USFWS and they can’t just mend what they’ve done,” Meyer said. “They have to start again at an early stage of the delisting process.” That process could take 2-4 years, but may prove to be unnecessary if either the House of Representation bill, HR424, or Senate bill, S1514, muster enough support for passage.

The House bill, Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017, has 17 co-sponsors including five Wisconsin representatives and bi-partisan support. It is direct and to the point declaring, “This bill requires the Department of the Interior to reissue two rules that removed protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 for the gray wolf populations located in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes (all of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, as well as portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio). In addition, this bill prohibits judicial review of the reissued rules.”

However, “the key has always been the Senate,” Meyer explained. “It (The Senate bill) has bipartisan support in Wisconsin and passed out of the Senate natural resources committee after several areas were added that brought in Democratic support. To avoid a filibuster, they need 60 votes and have 55 right now. They put the other things on to get five more votes, then it goes to the House, which would likely pass as is.” Looking more closely at S1514, titled “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act” or the “HELP for Wildlife Act,” the additional elements include construction and expansion of public target ranges on Federal land, amendments to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act, re-authorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and Chesapeake Bay Program, modifying the definition of sport fishing equipment under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and expanding partnerships to improve fish habitat conservation. Although the original focus was delisting wolves, the intent of the Senate bill is to add enough balanced provisions to gain passage through bi-partisan support.

The “Reissuance of Final Rule regarding Gray Wolves in the Western Great Lakes” is addressed in Section 7 of the Senate bill. It states: “Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on December 28, 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 81666), without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance shall not be subject to judicial review.” There is also a similar section reinstating the removal of Federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming. That final rule referenced on December 28, 2011 officially removed gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List, and returned management of gray wolves to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

There have been several other similar Congressional bills that have ultimately floundered. However, Meyer is “more optimistic” than he has been. “They are likely to have all that done by December and there is a better than usual chance it will get done legislatively, I’d say 60-40 chance, maybe 65-35 percentage chance, that it will get enacted into law.”

Photo courtesy of Jeff Steber

 

Submit Your Picture Now for the Forever Changed 2018 Photo Contest

The Forever Changed Photo Contest will be back in 2018!  Which means, we’re now accepting photos for January for the Forever Changed 2018 Photo Contest. Photos will be collected throughout the remainder of December and I’ll begin posting them in early January.

The winner will receives a 2019 Calendar of the 2018 Monthly Photo Winners, a $50 gift card of their choice* and an autographed copy of Forever Changed. If there are any other sponsors that are interested in contributing to the prize, please let me know.

Don’t forget to pre-order Forever Changed today!

To participate in the 2018 photo contest, send your pictures to jimservi10@gmail.com with the title of your picture and your name. Photos without titles will not be accepted.

This photo contest is focused on the great outdoors, recreation, travel, adventure, and the beauty of day-to-day life.  Please avoid selfies, family photos, and such.

Monthly winners will advance to the final contest to be held in December 2018 for a chance to win the grand prize and have their photograph featured on this website.

As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But, in truth it is really more than that. Good pictures makes you stop and smile, while great pictures make you stop and realize how truly great life really is. And that feeling is priceless.

Stay tuned to get your regular dose of that peaceful feeling.

Rules:

  1. Photos must be your originals. Cropping is okay but no photo-shopping.
  2. You must be the original photographer and cannot submit someone else’s photo.
  3. Only one photograph per person can be submitted each month. If you’ve won a monthly contest, you can no longer submit pictures.

*Choice will be from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s scrip program which includes a wide variety of selections.

Disclaimer: By submitting your picture for this photo contest, you are authorizing this website to post your picture here and use it for promotional purposes, including the 2019 calendar.

Forever Changed 2017 Photo Contest – Best of 2017 Voting

Vote for your favorite picture today! Savor each picture as you stroll through and vote for your favorite in the poll located at the bottom when you’re done.

These are the monthly winners from throughout the year and the overall 2017 winner will be announced on January 1, 2018. That winner will receive a $50 gift card of their choice and one of the first copies of Forever Changed.

Photographers are encouraged to promote and share their beautiful photos!

Sponsored by Forever Changed. Don’t forget to pre-order Forever Changed if you haven’t yet. Just email jimservi10@gmail.com and you’ll be added to the list.

End of the Day by Jared Warren

Mirror Image by Kathy Hass

Train From No Where by Jacki Gessler

Country Air by Karen Paul

Morning Coffee by Jeff Steber

By the Pond by Jodi Bloch

Sailor’s Delight by Addison J. Fink III

Montana Sunset by Anthony Erno

Mount Hood Meadows by Stephen Buhrmann

Somewhere Over the North Atlantic by Scott Vachavake

Exciting Stuff is Happening! Take 2

Do you ever have one of those things that you absolutely love to do, but it always takes a backseat to everything else in life? This blog is kind of like that for me. I love it and I love writing, but it always seems to be last on the priority list each day. One of my early resolutions going into 2018 is to be active and continue to add quality content for all of you.

The good news is that the blog had 1,554 visitors and 3,970 views so far this year, mostly from the 752 active followers. To all the supporters, thank you so very much.

The photo contest had some absolutely breath taking photos and we now have all the 2017 monthly winners set, so we’ll be able to see who the winner is for 2017 on New Years Day. I’ll have all those pictures compiled with the poll early next week.

More good news. One of my big goals for 2017 was to finish Forever Changed. And I did! Kind of… The first draft has been done for awhile now and I’m currently editing every chance I have to get the final product ready. We just hit 100 pre-orders for Forever Changed and the timing couldn’t be better. Queries are already being sent out to publishers and book agents as a first option for publishing. If that doesn’t work, I will be self-publishing in 2018. Exciting stuff! And it’s never to late to pre-order if you haven’t already.

The good news continues. My 90th article was just published and unless something goes drastically wrong, I will hit #100 in 2018. I guess that means I’m officially a writer. Still hard to believe since English was always my worst subject growing up. I sure hope my editors don’t read this:) New articles will be posted on Mondays, along with some of the dated articles, so even if you don’t subscribe to those papers, you can still stay tuned in.

Thanks again for all your support. This would all be pointless without all of you. Stories are meant to be read and shared and I can’t wait to hear yours.