Thursday, 23 August 2012 07:19

Commentary: Ravens, road kill and reality.

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By:  Pat Laughlin - 

I recently attended the Elko County Commission meeting and sat in on the discussion concerning predator control to protect sage grouse. I was also interviewed by the Elko Free Press concerning raven control for sage grouse. I need to set the record straight on a couple of issues.

First, it’s important to understand the players in this game being acted out here in Nevada. The raven is a migratory bird protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Second, the same FWS is also responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act. The very same people protecting the raven are going to decide our fate here in Elko County on whether the sage grouse is listed as an endangered species. The same people …

So, you’re not convinced the FWS is protecting ravens? Putting ravens above the well-being of our economy, your family and mine? Just read the “6 point raven plan” put forth by the FWS. Number 2 states, and I quote, “control access by ravens to road kill and ranch carcasses.” Number 5 states, “ensure adequate herbaceous ground cover in nesting habitat.” I will spare you all six points of the raven plan but all six will need to be implemented before the FWS will support killing more ravens to protect our way of life here in Elko County. When I read this at the Commission meeting I nearly fell out of my chair.

My first thought was how will we ever accomplish this? Drive every road in Nevada … every morning picking up every dead rabbit.

Here’s an example of how NDOW showed me last weekend that they support this road kill program. I noticed a dead doe at the corner of Silver Street and Errecart Boulevard last Friday. Saturday when it was still there, I called the sheriff’s office as well as NDOW’s hotline number to report it. NDOW put the blame on NDOT and said that they would contact them to have it removed. Two days later, I witnessed a City of Elko crew picking up the doe, not NDOW or NDOT. You can’t tell me that numerous NDOW and NDOT employees didn’t drive by that doe in a three-day period of time on one of the busiest streets in Elko.

Then it hit me. This 6 point raven plan is nonsense … complete and utter nonsense written in a way to make sure it can never be accomplished and to make sure the FWS will never need to support killing more ravens in Nevada. The FWS does not want to kill predators … for any reason … no matter what … period.

And I have to add, where is NDOW Director Ken Mayer in all of this? I’ve heard the listing of the sage grouse would be like the spotted owl times 100. The listing could devastate mining, ranching and everything we like to do outdoors. Director Mayer represents Nevada. He should be looking out for us. Our economy, our families, our wildlife. Instead our California transplant director supports the FWS, the BLM and the FS at every turn and serves up the “6 point raven plan” as gospel to the Elko County Commission.

When was the last time you ever heard Ken Mayer take a stand for Nevada? For Elko County? He scheduled a meeting with the Elko County Commissioners several weeks in advance and cancelled the night before without offering to reschedule. Do you think he cares about Elko County?

Governor Sandoval should be embarrassed that he re-appointed Ken Mayer after Governor Gibbons fired the man over these same issues. Maybe Governor Sandoval doesn’t care about our economy, our families or our wildlife either. He had better rethink his position and his appointees if he expects Elko County to help re-elect him.

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:44

Elko County Wildlife Board Got it Right

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Charlie Myers - 

I attended several hours of the Nevada Commission on Wildlife’s board meeting held in Elko recently. Two items of concern to me were the sage grouse hunting season and predator control.

The hunting season for sage grouse came up on the agenda; each County Advisory Board (CAB) made their recommendation to the Wildlife Commission. The Elko CAB recommended a one-week reduction in sage grouse hunting. Several other rural CABs made the same recommendation.

There was a brief discussion by the board and an NDOW biologist, Mr. Espinoza. His comments to the board did not agree with the CABs as he felt the “wing” program had too many advantages to reduce the week the CABs were requesting.

The board vote 6 to 3 to not reduce the sage grouse hunting season. So, I want to get this all straight. Not all hunters put their “wings” in the barrels, which makes the data skewed to start with, interesting. Then take into account that our Wildlife Commission wouldn’t reduce by one week the hunting season on a bird that very well could get listed under the Endangered Species Act. The bird that is being managed under the BLM Interim Management Policy — a policy which is probably stricter than being listed as an Endangered Species. The bird that has already caused the loss of the China Wind Project and several million dollars in tax revenue to Elko County.

But we are going to continue to hunt this bird. The bird that caused the loss of 60,000 acres in oil and gas leases and the loss of that revenue to Elko County. A bird because of its habitat caused another 100,000 acres in possible leases to not even be considered, worth another $2.7 million. Yet we continue to hunt a bird that could negatively impact 11 states, Elko County and every resident and rancher in our area.

Our CAB got it right, reduce the hunting season. The sage grouse is already negatively impacting our county; where’s the logic in not supporting our CABs recommendation?

It was mentioned that less than 10 percent get taken during hunting season. To me, if we took our CAB’s recommendation that could be up to 10 percent more sage grouse we wouldn’t have to worry about impacting the numbers for listing. The numbers may be small but we need to do everything possible to keep this bird from listing.

Predator control of ravens needs to be a priority as we deal with sage grouse. I came to the realization during the Wildlife Commission meeting that NDOW would get exactly what they wanted, as there were several 6 to 3 votes that day, regardless of the negative impacts to our state and county. In my opinion many on that board that day did not support their counties or hunters.

If the sage grouse gets listed the impact to Elko County will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Many outdoor activities that many people enjoy will be limited or gone, family ranches will be impacted and economic development will most certainly take a huge hit as well. But, let’s keep hunting them just because ...

———————

Charlie Myers is an Elko County Commissioner.

Published in Online Articles
Sunday, 19 August 2012 16:56

Disagree with Armchair Biologists

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

To the Editor:

Good news for Elko county sportsmen: Wellington resigns.

The article that appeared in Tuesday’s Elko Daily Free Press by Ken Wellington must have been written by Nevada Department of Wildlife. I say this because NDOW’s so-called science is bogus as is most of the article. NDOW doubled the number of deer tags from last year with only a 2 percent increase in deer population. That is bogus science.

As a county advisory board to manage wildlife member, Mr. Wellington has been gullible enough to accept NDOW’s science without question for years. He would believe NDOW’s armchair biologists over people like Cliff Gardner and John Carpenter, who witnessed the Rubies’ deer migrations numbering in the thousands in the 1950s and 1960s.

He bought into NDOW’s habitat excuse. Did he ever ask NDOW the following questions: Who will do the habitat restoration? How much will it cost? How long will it take to restore Nevada’s habitat? Probably not as apparently Wellington never questioned NDOW.

I can answer the question as to how long it will take. NDOW’s biologists will use the everlasting habitat excuse until their 30-year state pensions kick in.

The true sportsmen of Elko County will never miss Mr. Wellington but NDOW Director Ken Mayer sure will.

Cecil Fredi

(Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT and has lived in Las Vegas for 70 years.)


Published in Online Articles
Saturday, 18 August 2012 17:10

Killing Ravens to Save Sage Grouse

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

ELKO — To save one bird, we might have to weed out another, according to many in Elko County.

Pat Laughlin, president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, a nonprofit group whose main focus is predator control, said the greatest threat to sage grouse is the raven.

He’s read studies, he said, that cite raven predation as high as 90 percent for why sage grouse nests fail. The sage grouse is under threat of being added to the endangered species list.

Around 2009, Laughlin’s group began applying for heritage fund grants through the Nevada Wildlife Commission to be spent on programs weeding out ravens and coyotes. Though it took some give-and-take negotiations, eventually funds were secured.

“I finally had to make a deal with (the Nevada Department of Wildlife) ... that they were going to have total control of the projects. Where the money was spent, where the work was done,” Laughlin said.

In addition to ceding control, Laughlin said, NDOW also pulled $5,000 per year for raven control and $10,000 per year for coyote control from the funds for the purpose of studying the animals.

“They were supposed to be monitoring and keeping track. To this day I haven’t heard anything,” Laughlin said.

Despite that, Laughlin’s group continued the projects until last month when suddenly the money was pulled.

“Their biggest reason was we weren’t getting the money on the ground fast enough and we weren’t getting the work done,” Laughlin said. “They thought we were doing an injustice to the sportsmen of Nevada.”

Laughlin had no reservation saying he believed NDOW’s reasons to be lies. But, according to NDOW Director Ken Mayer, the money was better spent elsewhere.

The U.S. has a treaty with Canada and Mexico which puts restrictions on the number of migratory birds killed — ravens included. NDOW requested an increase in raven permits, and in 2011, Fish and Wildlife authorized 4,265 ravens to be killed for the year. Only 3,062 ravens were killed, though, according to a June NDOW common raven kill project summary report.

“Therefore, Permit Authorization by USFWS does not appear to be a limiting factor for killing ravens in Nevada. Rather, unused permit authorization seems to be the result of limitations on permitees’ capacity to carry out the work,” the report states.

Even so, Mayer said he still hears requests for killing more ravens, some even asking to double the number.

“We are never going to get 10,000 birds,” Mayer said. “How do you kill that many?”

Laughlin said it could be done.

“You could take out as many birds out as you want,” he said. “He just has to request the work and it will get done.”

NDOW has a $400,000 pot of money allocated exclusively for predator control, generated from $3 of every hunting tag sold. To kill 2,000 ravens, Mayer said, it costs between $32,000 and $40,000.

NDOW has managed to spend the predator control money, but in Mayer’s estimation, more funds reserved to kill ravens isn’t necessary because of the cap.

“We’ve been spending that,” Mayer said. “I don’t know how much more I can spend.”

Over a three-year period, the Nevada Wildlife Commission authorized $382,000 of heritage program funds to be used for predator control, on top of what was available, Mayer said. The commission’s authorization was unnecessary, he said.

There is a chance the number of raven permits will increase, though.

At a recent Elko County Commission meeting, Jeff Williams summarized a letter submitted by Mayer which stated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would write a letter of support to increase the number of ravens allowed to be killed if a six-point raven control plan was implemented.

The plan calls for increased measures to control ravens’ access to garbage dumps, ranch carcasses, road kill and ground squirrel carcasses. The plan also addresses the need for better ground cover for grouse nests, and killing specific ravens, Williams said. Except, the plan doesn’t seem feasible to the commission.

“We have no control over a lot of that,” Williams said.

Regardless, the county commission has long said predator control is one of the most necessary steps to saving sage grouse. Mayer doesn’t entirely agree.

“They are the only ones I know of in the nation that are convinced of that,” he said.

When the Fish and Wildlife service prioritized threats to sage grouse, it listed predator control as number 12, Mayer said.

As Laughlin sees it, listing predation as the 12th priority is an oversight at best, and deliberate negligence at worst on the part of Fish and Wildlife.

Mayer was scheduled to attend last Thursday’s county commission meeting, but canceled the night before. When asked why, he said he was too busy.

 

Published in Online Articles

NDOW director Ken Mayer has held the post for almost three years. During these two plus years, he has done nothing to bring back our deer. Quite the contrary, in the last two legislative sessions, there were bills proposed to enhance our mule deer. He opposed both of them.

 

Recently, a bolt of lightning must have struck the director. On July 8, chief of big game, Mark Atkinson announced that Tony Wasley had accepted the new position of Mule Deer Wildlife Staff Specialist. This is the same Tony Wasley, Elko based biologist, who recommended killing 987 does this year. But it gets better with this mule deer specialist. A 2004 press release by Kelly Clark on NDOW’s website quotes some of Wasley’s mule deer studies and comes up with this conclusion: “Most hunters ask what we can do to achieve higher numbers of deer. Pray for good summer rain. Nevada is the driest state in the Union and water is key in wildlife management. Without rain and snow to keep creeks running, springs fresh, grasses, forbs and brush tender and green for food and cover, deer numbers dwindle.”

Published in HA Newsletter 34
Monday, 30 September 1996 17:00

ELKO COUNTY HAS "HAD AT" WITH NDOW

County votes to draft bill to abolish NDOW

Elko County Commissioners unanimously voted to assist a local sportsman's group and introduce legislation next session to eliminate the Nevada Division of Wildlife and restore its predecessor, the Nevada Fish and Game Commission.

Published in HA Newsletter 13

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