Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sketching in the Copalis Beach Dunes

Copalis Beach Dunes by Carlene Marie Ramus

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Greasy Fingerprints and the need for Green Decoys

By Bob Ferris

I started my morning yesterday reading Ty Hansen’s excellent article “Trashing Sportsmen: Influence Spurs Smear Campaign”  about how the fossil fuels industry and their allies are targeting responsible hunting and angling groups and calling them “green decoys” implying that they have been taken over by evil liberals of an environmental ilk.

Ty’s piece was well researched and is part of growing body of works documenting how this industry and others are investing heavily in political and programmatic mischief.  These actions include co-opting the messaging of conservation groups; criticizing those that prove true to their missions and the constituencies, wildlife and habitats they represent; or simply creating their own groups with deceptive names.  We are seeing all of this and more.

And all of this is wrapped up within a larger package that seems like an episode of “Corporations Gone Wild” where the checkbooks and arm twisting are out of control.  How significant is this effort?  That came out in a New York Times piece this past Monday that claimed that Keystone XL pipeline’s main beneficiaries and backers—the  infamous Koch brothers—were basically planning to invest $900 million in the 2016 elections—just as much as the individual political parties.  That means a single corporation is taking up one third of the political space.  (If you do not believe that is problem in a democracy, I am not sure what to say.)

The whole situation is absolutely ridiculous from the level of these investments to the irony of the manufactured criticism directed at legitimate and courageous organizations.   Organizations, I might add, that are only trying to stop the damage to our natural resources wrought by those with overflowing wallets made so by their ability to externalize the true costs of their actions.

All of this is encapsulated nicely in the above screen shot of a video of Sarah Palin (see here to play video) that is making the rounds on the internet.  She speaks nonsense to cheers and she does so centered below the words “Citizens United” which she seems to wear as a halo.  Herein lies the crux of our peril manifested by the above and our current set of elected representatives.

I remember the last time we were in this position in 1994 and Martha Marks and others including Theodore Roosevelt IV  stood up via Republicans for Environmental Protection (now known as ConservAmerica).  REP’s branding revolved around a green elephant and they made a big impact at a critical time.  My sense is that we desperately need for the “green decoys” to rise in a similar fashion.  If you are not a “green decoy” become one and if you can support those organizations carrying what has been characterized as the “green decoy” message and banner.  Quack!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lunching with a Peregrine in Nirvana-land

By Bob Ferris

Copalis Beach at sunset with dusting of dunlins.
There are times when you witness wildness.  It comes on you with scant warning, but you know.  Like when you almost step on a snake, stumble on to a deer during a dusky walk or feel that you are watched from forest’s edge.  We often forget about wildness, but are enriched when we remember and experience it.

Carlene and I were legally married on December 7th and had a beach ceremony on January 23rd to celebrate with family and friends.  Because of this double day we tend to have an “anniversary season” rather than just a day.  We also tend to celebrate that season with a honeymoon of sorts often to get warmth and sun.  This year we had two (it was our 10th after all) and the second one was to Copalis Beach on the Washington coast west of Aberdeen, Washington (hence the reference to Kurt Cobain in the title).  .

We are beach combers at heart often looking for beach glass and moonstones along with the wildlife we seek.  So Copalis’ broad, very flat and rock-less beaches were kind of change-up for us.  We had to adjust our search images and the angle of our heads to look for shorebirds and raptors.  And on our first rain-less day we scored on this beach.

Walking along the shore we spied a raptor that was eating a shorebird—pulling feathers to get to its meal.  When we stalked a little to get closer we were excited to find that it was peregrine falcon.  You’ll have to pardon the shaking video, but I have not yet mastered the seamless zooming while walking technique needed for these happenstances.

The peregrine experience was meaningful for me not only because of the story of its imperilment and
Whale bone on Copalis Beach
ultimate recovery under the federal Endangered Species Act, but because of memories of the Predator Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz (my alma mater) and the late Brian Walton its long-time coordinator.  Brian passed on in 2007 but not before materially forwarding peregrine recovery in the Pacific Northwest.  This dunlin-munching peregrine is likely fruit of this work or similar work of others as evidenced by the bright green bands on both legs.

All and all it was restful and productive week as we also had a chance to witness scores of folks using clam guns in their search for razor clams, examined the carcass of baby whale and watched the Seahawks pull the NFC Championship out of somewhere.

Off to more adventures, we will share with you soon.

Transitions and New Directions

By Bob Ferris

2015 is a momentous year for me.  This year I started my 25th year in non-profit management, observed the 20th anniversary of the Yellowstone and Idaho wolf re-introductions, and celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary.  All three worked together in my decision to shift gears from executive leadership of a particular organization to making myself available to all organizations in a consulting or short term capacity including Cascadia Wildlands.

This decision was also influenced by my desire to spend more time writing and to focus my efforts on programs, campaigns and issues rather than day-to-day operations over the long term.  It also comes from knowing myself and understanding that I am more of sprinter than a long distance actor and therefore my efforts are better employed working on projects, bringing about needed organizational change and making a big splash when one is needed.  And I would also like to spend more time with my wife Carlene as we enter our second decade together.

I will continue to comment on a broad range of topics via blog posts at needed times and I would ask faithful readers and friends to follow what I write on the GREEN DREAMS website that I have co-created with Carlene.  Please share what you think has merit and feel free to re-post (with attribution) if so desired.  And please keep in touch (options below).

All my best,

Bob Ferris

Stopping Wolf Hunts and Denigrating Fur Wearers is Just Not Enough

By Bob Ferris

I am certainly not keen on wolf hunting and am not a fan of wearing fur either, but fighting one and criticizing the other may not be the most effective long term way to stop the killing of wolves.  We should at some point in our history realize that making something illegal or stigmatizing it does not always lead to its demise—witness cigarette smoking, prohibition and bigotry.

Put simply, wolves are killed because of fear driven by ignorance and hatred.  It is irrational and the illogical nature of this surprised many—particularly wildlife biologists—who felt that the killing of wolves post-delisting would be minimal and inconsequential.  I heard more than a few times in my circle the feeling that once someone—so inclined—took a wolf or two that the novelty would wear off and wolf recovery could continue like a car going over an annoying but foreseen speed bump.  But what we are seeing is more like a Jihad.

We should think about this as we continue to consider and comment on the federal delisting proposal.  Why? Because federal delisting is and should be about numbers, but it is also about the removal of the reasons for endangerment.  On this latter front the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has failed miserably as witnessed by the recent killing of the wolf known as Echo near the Grand Canyon.

Now there are those who will argue that the hunter mistook this important, pioneer wolf for a coyote, but here again we are dealing with an activity enabled by the same fear, ignorance and hatred that is being applied to wolves.  This mistaken identity approach may be a legal defense but it is hardly an intellectual or ethical one as the legal and illegal pursuits are simply one side of the same worthless coin.

The societal penetration and perpetuation of this ignorance and hatred—and therefore its impact on wolves—is likely deeper and longer because there are those actively throwing gasoline on the flames.  Here again it may be less important to look at the actions and players than it is to dig a layer deeper and investigate the background instigators and their motivations.  Certainly we should be angry, frustrated and disappointed in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International and others for pushing wolf hatred and spreading myths about predator impacts, but they are truly children of their income streams and governance (please see here).  We do not have to scratch too deeply below the surface to find concrete connections to the fossil fuel, timber and livestock industries.

The above relationships are problematic from an influence perspective but they are often also ironic.  One good example of the latter is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Big Bull Tour.  Here we have an event that glorifies an industry that frequently wants elk controlled and whose livestock compete directly with elk (and deer) for habitat in the West.  Further, this event is sponsored by, Lucas Oil, a member of an industry that builds roads and develops oil wells that directly displace elk and other game species.  (This nonsense gains stilts when we realize that Interior Secretary Jewell and USFWS Director Dan Ashe treat RMEF as a privileged and legitimate stakeholder. But I digress.)

So am I saying that people should not oppose wolf hunts and find the wearing of fur problematic?  The answer to that is: No.  But if that is all we do we should not think it sufficient to solve this complex problem.  We as wolf restoration advocates need to broaden our actions and enlist allies rather than becoming shriller, louder and more alienating in protest.  Moreover, we need to make the USFWS understand that their job with wolves is not complete until they make material progress in addressing this irrational and scientifically unsupported mindset.  And we need to educate more broadly, engage more inclusively and enunciate more articulately—remembering all the time that wolf recovery, like anything important involving deep-seated fear and illogic, takes time and persistence.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Managing Wildlife as if Science and Ethics Mattered

By Bob Ferris

Gregor Barnum (left) and Bob Ferris at Kingsbury Farm.
Jeffrey Hollender former CEO of Seventh Generation once posed a question at a sustainable business
conference I attended several years with our shared friend the late and missed Gregor Barnum.  What he asked was basically this: Can you describe a product that makes the world better?  He clarified that he was not looking for products that cause less damage than others or minimize impacts.  After 15 minutes or so of bamboo bicycles and yogurt cup tooth brushes (all good ideas), the crowd was stumped and could not provide an example.

I think about this episode in Vermont now as I contemplate the way we manage or mismanage wildlife, because our system seems to be one of only taking protective actions when we are doing irreparable damage and even then we pretty much muddle around.  Under this system we think that wolf and coyote derbies are fine as long they do not cause population-level damage or wipe out species.  But as we have seen with bears in the Pitt River area in BC even these minimum regulations can lead to abuses and impacts.

My question, which is a modification and amplification of Jeffery’s, goes like this: When are we going to wise up and start managing wildlife for positive results and in a manner than demonstrates that ethics and science really matter?  Under this approach folks would have to demonstrate that their actions would have a positive impact as well as being ethically or scientifically justified in order to be considered and allowed.

This proposed screen would knock out the animal killing contest or so-called derbies and likely much of what are solely trophy pursuits but would retain ethical hunting programs of abundant or super-abundant species.  This would also remove a good portion of what the greater public finds most objectionable about hunting which would be a good thing for hunting and ethical hunters.

In a world of degrading climate, increasing population and compromised habitats our guiding management principle simply cannot be one of avoiding significant additional damage but one that sets a higher standard of betterment.  Otherwise we will continue to ride this downward spiral to its logical (or illogical) conclusion.