Tag Archives: department of interior

Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas Muley Does To Be Captured, Collared For Studies

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Starting in early January, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will conduct mule deer captures from helicopters in three study areas along the east slope of the Cascades in Okanogan, Chelan, and Kittitas counties.

WASHINGTON WILDLIFE MANAGERS HOPE TO CAPTURE AND RADIO COLLAR 50 MULE DEER LIKE THESE IN OKANOGAN COUNTY AND 50 MORE IN BOTH CHELAN AND CHELAN KITTITAS COUNTIES TO TRACK THEIR MOVEMENT FOR PREDATOR-PREY AND CONSERVATION AND LAND MANAGEMENT STUDIES. (ERIC BELL)

The Department will use contracted professional crews to capture approximately 50 adult female mule deer in each area. Humane methods and experienced crews are used to make the captures as safe as possible for both deer and humans.

The deer will be fitted with GPS/satellite collars to track them to evaluate movement and migration patterns and learn more about habitat use of the populations. Each animal will be collared and released at the site where they are captured. The collars are programmed to remain on the deer for four years before dropping off.

The studies in Chelan and Kittitas counties are funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are part of a major collaboration between the U.S. Department of the Interior and WDFW. Captures and collaring in Okanogan County are part of an ongoing collaboration between WDFW and the University of Washington called the Washington Predator-Prey Project that is studying interactions between mule deer and large carnivores in the Methow watershed.

“The information gained from these studies will be used to assess the movements of each population and help prioritize habitat conservation and management efforts in eastern Washington where many habitat-related issues have the potential to effect mule deer populations in the long term,” said Sara Hansen, WDFW Deer Specialist.

Mule deer have lost winter habitat in recent years along the lower elevations of the east slope of the Cascades to human development and declining habitat quality due to increasing effects of environmental factors including drought, wildfire, and invasive plant species.

Captures are scheduled to begin in Okanogan County the first week of January and continue south as work is completed in each study area.

Mule deer are broadly distributed in Washington from the crest of the Cascade Mountains east to the Idaho border, providing hunting and viewing opportunities for thousands of people each year.

WDFW Says 2016 DOI Opinion On Skokomish Border ‘Factually And Legally Deficient’

Washington state salmon managers are appealing to the Department of the Interior to set aside a 2016 opinion that has kept sport anglers from fishing the lower Skokomish for plentiful Chinook and coho for four years.

Citing research by two outside historians drawing on multiple documents, maps and statements from the late 1800s and early 1900s dug out of the National Archives and elsewhere, WDFW says that a federal Solicitor General reached “an erroneous conclusion” that the boundaries of the Skokomish Reservation stretched all the way across the river to the other bank.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SOUTH BANK OF THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The Oct. 3 letter from WDFW Director Kelly Susewind to DOI Secretary David Bernhardt says the opinion “was issued without
input by Washington State, and our subsequent analysis shows it is factually and legally deficient.”

And it requests that the matter be given immediate attention as the start of the 2020 North of Falcon salmon season negotiations is just a few months away.

“With this new information in hand, I am writing to request that Solicitor Opinion M-37034 be reversed, or at a minimum be withdrawn,” Susewind asks Bernhardt and DOI.

The Skokomish River is important because it sees one of Puget Sound’s larger returns of kings, reared at a state hatchery near Shelton, and is productive from the bank. In the starving orca era, terminal salmon fisheries will be increasingly important.

But with that opinion hanging over their heads, WDFW has had to close its seasons to keep state anglers out of legal limbo with the feds. Fishermen rallied in summer 2016 in protest. The 2017 run saw tens of thousands of Chinook in excess of broodstock needs.

HUNTER SHELTON SHOWS OFF A SKOKOMISH RIVER CHINOOK FROM THE LAST SEASON IT WAS OPEN TO SPORT ANGLERS, 2015. IT BIT EGGS UNDER A BOBBER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

And so with negotiations with the Skokomish Tribe stalled and raising the issue with the myriad Western Washington tribes at North of Falcon a nonstarter, the agency is now looking for relief from DOI.

While respective of tribal sovereignty, treaty fishing rights and historical links to the Great Bend of Hood Canal, Susewind’s letter just as firmly makes the case that at no time was the entire width of the river part of the tribe’s reservation, nor was it ever ceded to the Skokomish by the federal government before statehood.

That argument is supported by General Land Office Survey plat maps from 1861, 1873 — which in particular paid close attention to the boundaries of the reservation, according to WDFW — 1874, 1885 and 1909, along with what Susewind calls “perhaps the most significant piece of evidence on this point,” an 1874 letter discovered in the National Archives.

It was written in May of that year by federal Indian Agent Edwin Eells, who is described by Susewind as being tasked with attending to the Skokomish Tribe’s “needs,” and sent three months after President Ulysses S. Grant established the borders of the reservation via executive order.

It states:

“The present reservation lies on the North side of the river extending from the mouth about 3 1/2 miles up the river.”

FEDERAL INDIAN AGENT EDWIN EELLS’ MAY 25, 1874 LETTER TO H.E.P. SMITH, COMMANDER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, ON THE LOCATION OF THE SKOKOMISH RESERVATION’S SOUTHERN BORDER STATES IT IS THE NORTH BANK OF THE SKOKOMISH RIVER. (NATIONAL ARCHIVES)

According to Susewind, the correspondence from Eells to H.E.P. Smith, Commander of Indian Affairs in Washington DC, was “apparently never discovered or considered” by DOI’s Hilary C. Tompkins, who authored that 2016 opinion.

“The correspondence clears any ambiguity about whether the local federal Indian agents intended the Reservation to extend across the entire River to its south bank and encompass the River’s full width — they did not,” Susewind asserts.

As for her opinion, Tompkins argued that tribal fishers’ use of weirs “required use and control of the entire width of rivers and their beds.”

She wrote that the 1855 treaty with the tribe and Grant’s order essentially reserved the riverbed along the border of the reservation so that it did not pass to Washington at statehood under what is known as the Equal Footing Doctrine.

At statehood, navigable waters were conveyed to the states by the federal government, an act affirmed in a 1926 Supreme Court decision and essentially upheld in a 2001 ruling that there had to be clear and compelling reasons not to, both cited by Susewind. The Skokomish is considered navigable, in pioneer days to above the reservation’s western boundary.

Tompkins assessment was panned by Dr. Gail Thompson of Gail Thompson Research of Seattle, who stated Tompkins “conducted inadequate research and overlooked much information that would have led to a different conclusion.”

“I conclude that the anthropological and ethnohistoric data do not support the Solicitor’s Opinion that the riverbed adjacent to the reservation was included within its boundaries,” Thompson writes in a 77-page report entitled “Anthropological and Ethnohistoric Information Related to the Riverbed Adjacent to the
Skokomish River.”

“To the contrary,” Thompson continues, “government maps and documents consistently show that the southern boundary of the reservation was located along the north bank of the Skokomish River.”

MAPS FROM 1861, 1873 — LIKE THIS ONE — 1874, 1885 AND 1909 CITED BY A PAIR OF RESEARCHERS CONSISTENTLY SHOW THE SOUTHERN BORDER OF THE SKOKOMISH RESERVATION TO BE THE NORTH BANK OF THE SKOKOMISH RIVER. (GENERAL LAND OFFICE)

Dr. Douglas Littlefield of Littlefield Historical Research in California also looked into the issue, and his 111-page report concludes:

“Based upon extensive historical research in multiple archival sources, governmental reports, and historical newspaper accounts, [my] report clearly demonstrates that federal Indian Agents in Washington Territory expressly did not intend to include the bed of the Skokomish River when they established the boundaries of the Skokomish Indian Reservation. Instead, contemporaneous understanding by Indian Agents as well as other historical observers was that the Reservation’s southern boundary lay along the low-water mark of the north bank of the Skokomish River. The historical evidence in support of this conclusion is substantial and includes U.S. General Land Office survey plats and field notes as well as extensive documentation from the files of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and published annual reports of that agency.”

His “Historical Report on the Skokomish River and the Southern Boundary of the Skokomish Indian Reservation” states the border was defined by federal officials in the Office of Indian Affairs and confirmed by Grant’s order.

Littlefield’s and Thompson’s services were procured through the state Attorney General’s Office.

How this all turns out will be very interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, the work that WDFW has put into challenging the 2016 DOI Solicitor General’s opinion is notable.

The depth of the research, the tone of Susewind’s letter and who else he cc’ed it to — the state’s Congressional delegation, numerous DOI officials, the Skokomish Tribe, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, and select Olympia lawmakers — lend it a confident air.

Word of it emerged publicly this morning during the Director’s Report to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

But the question is whether the feds have enough time to review these new facts and make a decision in time for this coming North of Falcon, or when.

ANGLERS CARRY SIGNS AT A 2016 RALLY TO REOPEN THE SKOKOMISH TO SPORT FISHING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Pronghorn Capture-collar Project Could Identify Key SE Oregon Habitat

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW will capture 155 pronghorn antelope in the southeastern part of the state during the week of Sept. 22 in order to deploy GPS transmitters to identify migration patterns and winter range.

OREGON WILDLIFE MANAGERS PLAN TO CAPTURE AS MANY AS 155 PRONGHORN ANTELOPE TO STUDY THEIR MIGRATIONS AND WINTER RANGE USE IN THE STATE’S SOUTHEASTERN CORNER. THIS BAND WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN NORTH-CENTRAL OREGON. (CHAD ZOLLER)

In partnership with federal agencies, ODFW wildlife biologists working under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Secretarial Order 3362, aim to improve habitat quality in western big game winter range and migration corridors through this data-collection operation.

Since data are lacking for pronghorn movements across most of southeastern Oregon, this operation will provide important information in identifying where critical corridors occur on the landscape.

The timing of the project primarily falls after the archery deer and elk seasons but before the rifle deer season starts Sept. 28. Some hunters scouting for deer may see the capture crew operating in the Malheur, Harney and north Lake County areas. Hunters should be aware that low-flying helicopter flight patterns during this four to five-day period are targeting pronghorn for capture. ODFW and its contractors will work to avoid impacting deer hunters who are pre-season scouting in the area.

“We don’t expect the helicopters to have an impact on hunters who are scouting,” said Don Whittaker, ODFW ungulate coordinator. “Pronghorn and mule deer should be in different areas during this operation since the animals use different places on the landscape. There are some exceptions such as Steens Mountain and the Trout Creek mountains, but as a whole, there won’t be much overlap,” added Whittaker.

Background info from DOI SO 3362 State Action Plan

Movement and migration corridors are important biological parameters for ungulate populations. These areas are best delineated using movement data collected from animals using GPS transmitters and modern, rigorous geospatial analyses. While Secretarial Order 3362 recognizes the need for habitat improvement and conservation of migration corridors, more data are needed in Oregon to properly identify where critical corridors occur on the landscape.

In particular, data are lacking for pronghorn movements across most of southeastern Oregon. ODFW is currently collecting GPS data from hundreds of mule deer throughout their eastern Oregon ranges that will facilitate identification of critical movement and migration corridors on all land ownerships, including the timing of migration and potential barriers

The majority of pronghorn habitats in Oregon occur on BLM lands. Rigorous data documenting movement and migration corridors for pronghorn in Oregon is currently extremely limited.

Feds To Propose Delisting Gray Wolves In Rest Of WA, OR, Lower 48

Editor’s note: Updated 12:15 p.m. March 7, 2019, with comments from WDFW.

Federal wildlife overseers are proposing to delist gray wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon and elsewhere across the Lower 48.

A WDFW IMAGE SHOWS A TEANAWAY PACK MEMBER IN CENTRAL WASHINGTON SHORTLY AFTER COMING TO AND WEARING A TELEMETRY COLLAR. (WDFW)

The news was reported by the Associated Press this morning.

“Today, Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon propose a rule to delist the gray wolf in the Lower 48 states and return management of the species back to the states and tribes,” confirmed a USFWS spokesperson.

Bernhardt is in Denver for the 84th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference.

The official termed the recovery of gray wolves — which began with the formation of packs in Northwest Montana in the 1980s and then federal reintroductions in Central Idaho and Yellowstone in the 1990s — “one of our nation’s great conservation successes, with the wolf joining other cherished species, such as the bald eagle, that have been brought back from the brink with the help of the (Endangered Species Act).”

Yes, a success, but also a flashpoint, and surely this latest attempt will lead to more court challenges, like those that derailed 2013’s proposal.

That one followed on 2011’s successful delisting in the eastern two-thirds of Washington and Oregon, as well as all of Idaho and Montana.


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Last June, federal officials again began reviewing the status of wolves outside the Northern Rockies recovery zone, with the goal of putting it out for public comment by the end of 2018.

That didn’t quite happen, but now it appears that it has.

“Once the proposed rule has published in the Federal Register, the public will have an opportunity to comment,” the USFWS spokesperson said via email.

If it goes through, among the notable impacts would be that WDFW and ODFW would have a more level playing field for dealing with wolf depredations. They can lethally remove members of livestock-attacking packs in far Eastern Washington and Oregon, but west of a line that snakes across both regions they can’t.

Still, it wouldn’t be an immediate free-fire zone, as both states stress nonlethal conflict avoidance tactics in trying to prevent depredations in the first place.

 “We haven’t gotten any official confirmation, and it’s likely this would be a drawn-out process, but if protections were lifted all of Oregon’s wolves would fall under the state management plan,” ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy told Salem Statesman-Journal outdoor reporter Zach Urness. “We’re ready to handle this if the federal rules are lifted.”

WDFW’s wolf policy lead Donny Martorello echoed that sentiment.

“We have adequate protections for wolves in this state,” he said.

The agency has felt that way for several years, in fact, encouraging USFWS to delist wolves in the rest of Washington and asking a state US House lawmaker to spur the feds as well.

“The best available science shows that the gray wolf has successfully recovered from the danger of extinction and no longer requires federal protection,” said that Congressman, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Yakima Valley) in a press release. “We can see in Washington state that the wolf population is growing quickly while being effectively managed by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife in the eastern third of the state. I applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s for moving forward with a proposal to delist the wolf in the lower 48 states in order to return management to the states.”

Despite the fears of wolf advocates and highly litigious organizations, wolf populations have grown best largely in the state-managed areas.

“We’re reviewing the delisting proposal from USFWS and we empathize with concerns from colleagues in states such as California and Colorado where wolves have not yet recovered,” said Chase Gunnell, spokesman for Seattle’s Conservation Northwest. “However, given the quality of Washington’s Wolf Plan and investments in collaborative wolf management work here, we do not expect federal delisting to have a significant impact on wolves in our state. Wolf recovery is progressing well in Washington and our wolves will remain a state endangered species until state recovery goals are met.”

Martorello said that the speed at which a federal delisting proposal would likely move would “synch” with WDFW’s own look at how well the species is doing.

Today’s news comes as the state has also begun its own status review of gray wolves, which are state-listed as endangered.

“The department will review all relevant data pertaining to the population status and factors affecting existence of wolves in Washington. Based on the information collected and reviewed, the department will make recommendations to maintain the species current listing status as endangered or reclassify species to sensitive or threatened or other status,” an agency statement says.

A bill in the state legislature also prompts WDFW to wrap up the review by the end of December, though it was amended to remove the possibility of considering delisting in the eastern third of the state as well as made “null and void” if funding for the work wasn’t included in the budget.

BHA Blasts Proposed Federal Budget And Its Deep Cuts To LWCF, Natural Resource Agencies

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS

The release by the Trump administration of both its fiscal year 2019 budget request and a wide-ranging package of infrastructure programs drew criticism from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which zeroed in on deep cuts proposed for land management agencies and popular public access programs, including the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The president submitted a $4.4 trillion budget to Congress on Monday, recommending cuts of 16 percent to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture and a steep 34 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, all while adding $7 trillion to the federal deficit.

“By starving key resource management agencies of funds, the administration essentially deprives them of the tools to execute their jobs efficiently and effectively,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Economically speaking, the value of investing in our resource agencies is undeniable and contributes significantly to the $887 billion generated every year by outdoor recreationists, including hunters and anglers. Congress owes it to the innumerable communities that rely on this economy – and the citizens who sustain it – to summarily reject this shortsighted proposal and instead ensure that our federal land managers are given the resources they need to do their jobs.”

The president’s budget likewise takes aim at federal monies earmarked for conservation and access, eviscerating the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a nationwide program that uses royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf to conserve public lands and waters and expand public access opportunities. The budget proposes cutting the LWCF by 98 percent from previously enacted levels. State grant programs under the LWCF have been completely eliminated, zeroing out popular elements like the Forest Legacy Program, which supports working forests and unique public-private business partnerships.

A package of infrastructure programs also was unveiled by the administration on Monday. A closer look suggests a shell game will be played with revenue from mineral and energy development on public lands and waters to pay for deferred maintenance backlogs. BHA maintains that while these backlogs should remain a priority, Congress must ensure that they are not resolved at the expense of revenues currently allocated to the LWCF.

Trump’s infrastructure proposal also weakens standards for review and public input on public lands projects, and it sets a potentially dangerous course for the privatization of public works that could be precedent setting and threaten other federal property assets.

“The administration repeatedly affirms the importance of maintaining and expanding public access,” stated Tawney, “and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touts his department’s commitment to public access opportunities – such as his support of federal access programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, support that he cited repeatedly during his confirmation hearing.

“So why, now, is the administration throwing its support behind a measure that would eliminate funding for the LWCF and cripple the program’s ability to acquire new access, including access to currently inaccessible public lands and waters?” Tawney remarked. “You can’t claim that access is the name of the game then gut the most successful, established, bipartisan public access program in existence. Sportsmen are sorely disappointed by this abrupt about face.”