Thursday, November 12, 2009

Corridor Ecology

Recent word from the Itinerant Warbler working in the Wyoming Red Desert is it is threatened yet again by energy development. Maybe you've been to this enchanting place or perhaps driven through on I-80. It is a mix of High Desert and Surreal Energy Development. Approaching from Wyoming's Snowy Range the scene is striking and impressionable. Well worth a trip, this is a place to take a moment to contemplate how the flora and fauna have come to survive.

There another charismatic species, the Pronghorn Antelope, is facing impending disruption and at odds with capitalist energy desecraters. The Wyoming Red Desert harbors one of the oldest migratory herds we have in the lower 48. There are 50,000 head and one of their paths approaches the Y2Y corridor. This specific route has been used for thousands of years by many species.

The upside is Pronghorn Antelope are quite predictable in their annual routes and use of land. Their migratory path can be narrowed down with such precision that it is possible to conserve this area in particular.

Let's give these creatures and other species in this unique ecosystem a chance. Go here to tell Wyoming's Senators you value wild places and don't want this kind of energy development.

How does this relate to Montana? Montana too is a state on the precipice of alternative energy development. We have Pronghorn Antelope and species intimately connected to the Y2Y corridor. The issues in Wyoming are stepping stones to decisions that can be made in Montana.

Population ecology can have many hidden connections. One such connection involves Grey Wolves and Pronghorn Antelope. Healthy Wolf populations benefit Pronghorn Antelope offspring. This is by Wolves keeping Coyote numbers in check. Coyotes are the greatest danger to Pronghorn Antelope fawn surviving. When Coyotes are up in numbers the Pronghorn Antelope loose more offspring, thereby decreasing the size of the herd.

Montana allows trophy hunting of both Pronghorn Antelope and Grey Wolves.

Since May of 2009 Grey Wolves have been delisted and this past fall has proven significant mis-management and limited foresight by the ruling governance of fish and wildlife . One of the major problems among, a whole gamut of other issues, is poached wolves are not included in the removal quota. Additionally, there is limited punishment for poachers and so no incentive to discourage their negligence.

A local hunter here that poached two of the individuals from the 2 North Fork packs was fined a meager $1135 and his hunting license was not even revoked. This is disturbing as the Grey Wolf, not a few months ago, was riding as an Endangered Species. The Columbia Falls hunter and and an unknown other poached a total of 3 wolves in the North Fork Area. In combination of quota and poached wolves the two packs were physically reduced by about 17%. This doesn't factor in wolf mortality that occurs by human negligence, human locomotion and age, pack dynamics or injury related natural causes throughout the year. There is a potential loss of nearly 30-40% total pack reduction this year alone when all is said and done.

FWP is patting themselves on the back saying this " couldn't of been a more scripted" wolf harvest. What?

There seems to be no respect or reverence within the managing authority for predator populations that now have limited ranges due to habitat loss, human conflict and what appears to be unrestricted hunting. These wolves had stabilized and balanced their population size long before humans thought they could do a better job. Still, we continue to disturb natural cycles of ecosystems.

A common sentiment of wolves by wolf hunters is they interfere with their elk hunting and cattle ranching. This view does not persist in the hunting of pronghorn antelope. Pronghorn are not looked on as a threat, whereas, wolves "threaten" elk populations and cattle ranchers.

Did we not learn anything from wolves keeping Yellowstone elk in check? What else would we lose if the Aspen Groves were lost? Values are poorly placed at times. Additionally, wolves are hunted within wilderness areas such as the Bob Marshall, the North Fork (should have wilderness designation) and at the edge of National Parks like Yellowstone and Glacier-not near ranches. They are indiscriminately being killed.

Corridor ecology can have dramatic implications in preserving genetic diversity within species and balancing interactions between all predators, plants and other fauna.

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