A Crime Against Nature


Imagine running one of the great American marathons. Or, if you are in the kind of shape I am in, imagine jogging, then walking, and in the end possibly crawling to the finish line of an American marathon. Whatever your condition, by the time you reach the finish line you’d be in dire need of…

Another BUCIP: Wild Horses in the West


It’s been a while since WC wrote about a BUCIP – a Big, Ugly, Complicated and Intractable Problem. The typical BUCIP is complicated, with multiple sides, entrenched stakeholders and packed with emotional positions. The problem of wild horses in the West is a classic BUCIP. Wild horses1 are an introduced species, not native to North…

Jocotoco Antpitta

Some Notes on DEIJ and Conservation


DEIJ, for anyone show has been living under a rock, is “diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” and it is a powerful and developing theme in many national and international current events. In the context of conservation, DEIJ raises issues of environmental justice, acknowledgement of historic treatment and mistreatment of races and people of color, recognition…

Idaho Joint Resolution 103 Debunked


In a weird, ritualized exercise, a kind of would-be attempted magic, each year the Idaho state legislature adopts a Joint Resolution condemning the very idea of breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams. The resolution is packed with lies, half-lies and distortions. It also simply ignores the proposal from their fellow Republican Rep. Mike Simpson…

Male Sage Grouse Strutting His Stuff

Sage Advice


There’s a place just a few hours drive from Boise where the old magic still works.  You want to get there on an early spring morning while it’s still dark. Park, stay in your vehicle, but roll the windows down. It will be cold in the pre-dawn darkness, but the reward is hearing that strange…

A Tale of Two Bird Counts


WC has participated in a fair number of Christmas Bird Counts. For non-birders, the Christmas Bird Count is an annual census of birds, a citizen science project that has been held during the Christmas holidays for some 120 years now. It provides one of the longest baseline studies of populations of bird species across North…

The Consequences of Greed


U.S. District Judge David Barlow – a Trump-appointed federal judge – killed the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to lease 59 parcels in Utah’s Uinta Basin for oil and gas development. His December 10 decision was a very near thing, and serves as a lesson in both the consequences of greed and the serious deficiencies…

Lessons from Pebble Mine


Okay, the good guys won. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that determines whether a permit for a mine should be issued, denied such a mining permit to Pebble Limited Partnership. The Corps determined that Pebble Mine “would not comply with the 404(b)(1) Guidelines” – the Clean Water regulations – “and would…

Mt. Polley, British Columbia, Mine Disaster

“Trust the Process”?


Mark Hamilton, past president of the University of Alaska and a man WC formerly respected, gave a presentation on behalf of Pebble Mine in late September. He told his audience to “trust the process.” Seriously? Anyone interested in the Pebble Mine project has seen Environmental Investigation Agency’s secret videos and read the reports where the…

Condor Candor


The California Condor captive breeding program is a qualified success. From a low of 22 birds, all in captivity, there are now more than 500 birds, some 200 in the wild. That’s a very impressive recovery, and a credit to a lot of hard-working folks at The Peregrine Fund, San Diego Zoo and Los Angeles…

Tom Collier, Pebble Mine Partnership CEO, testifies before Congress (Source: Gray DC)(GRAYDC)

Is Every Mine Promoter a Liar?


A long time ago, WC was stuck defending a young bank robber. It was court-appointed; there was no option for declining. The 20-year old bank robber had three accomplices, all of whom were testifying against WC’s client. The District Attorney wouldn’t make a plea offer, for reasons completely unrelated to the bank robbery charge. So…

Moose, Silver Creek, Diaho

Field Notes: Silver Creek


Silver Creek, in southcentral Idaho, is one of the state’s great conservation success stories. Managed – rescued, in fact – by The Nature Conservancy, it is a highly successful model of what can be done when collaboration is successful. It started in 1976 when the local community urged The Nature Conservancy to purchase 479 acres…

Dead migratory birds collected from White Sands Missile Range and sites in Doña Ana County, N.M. (Photo Martha Desmond, New Mexico State University)

Anthropocene Extinctions


Migrating birds are dying by the hundreds of thousands, maybe by the millions. We don’t know why. All across New Mexico, lethargic, dying birds are being reported. Oh, there are lots of theories, probably as many as there are ornithologists: that they are starving because of depressed insect populations, forced by wildfires to migrate before they…

Pebble Mine Aerial Photo (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2013)

Not Even Close, John Shively


John Shively assures us that Pebble Mine is safe in his recent opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News. He promises Pebble Mine will be constructed and operated without jeopardizing the world’s most important wild salmon fishery. Let’s have a look at his arguments and see if he’s right. Most of his opinion is an argumentum ad…

Tongass National Forest, Northern Chichagof Island

Another Victory for the Tongass


Back in March, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason rejected an attempt by the U.S. Forest Service to open up Prince of Wales Island and some of the smaller surrounding islands to clearcutting of the remaining old growth forest there. In her decision, Judge Gleason left open the issue of the scope of the remedy, and…

Sawtooth Mountains at Dawn from Stanley Lake, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho

May WC Ask a Favor?


WC rarely asks his readers for a favor. It’s happened a couple of times, and each time readers have come through. This doesn’t involve any of your money, it will benefit you and your families, and it will make you feel good besides. WC wants you to contact your Representatives and Senators and ask them…

"Running from the Wolves," Adolf Baumgartner-Stoiloff, 1890(?)

Wolves


WC’s first encounter with a wild wolf came in Denali National Park – then called Mt. McKinley National Park – in the upper Sanctuary River Valley. WC had led a small group of young Boy Scouts up there on a camping trip. Refuge Valley, the West Fork of the Sanctuary River, is beautiful, an easy…

Greater Sage Grouse on a lek, southcentral Idaho

A Modest Win for the Greater Sage Grouse


The Greater Sage Grouse is in big trouble. AS WC has written here before, populations of the iconic bird have plummeted from an estimated 16 million to less than half a million. The primary cause of the population crash has been habitat loss. Back in 2015, a painfully negotiated settlement among the stakeholders would have…

Wisdom and her chick on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Ann Bell/USFWS

Introducing Wisdom


Among birders, at least, one of the most famous individual birds in the world is Wisdom. Wisdom is a female Laysan Albatross, a species that spends almost all of its life at sea. Wisdom comes to shore on Midway Island, near the center of the Pacific Ocean, only to breed. Wisdom is the oldest banded…

Jabiru, Pantanal. Brazil

The Ethical Dilemma of Birding Brazil


But at the same time, you have to wonder if visiting Brazil is the right thing to do. Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro is a far-right politician whose campaign promises included destroying the Amazon, repealing environmental protections and removing protections for Brazil’s indigenous peoples. He spews misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and racist statements. To the extent that taking a…

Environmental Protection

Good News You Might Have Missed


In the holiday frenzy and year end wrap up, there was some good news on the conservation front. At least in the legal arena. Here’s a quick recap. Western Watersheds v. BLM. Dwight Hammond and his son Steven Hammond were convicted of committing arson on their grazing allotments back in 2012. Donald Trump subsequently pardoned them and then-Interior…

BLM's Tri-State Fuel Break Proposed Project Area

Dealing with Climate Change: Wildfire Fuel Breaks


It seems increasingly likely that humanity’s inaction in the face of the existential threat of anthropogenic climate change means we are going to have more than than the 2° Celsius of global temperature increase that climatologists regarded as manageable. So, without in any way diminishing the urgency that humanity’s CO2 emissions be reduced, it’s time…

Yellowpine Pit, East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho

Compromise and Environmentalism


WC is an admitted, unapologetic conservationist and environmentalist. For most of his adult life he has been actively involved in conservation organizations. As a contributor, as a lawyer, as a member and even as a member of boards of directors. WC understands the issues and challenges conservation organizations face pretty well. And the recurring issue,…