Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Politics

Poll takes the pulse of sportsmen on western gray wolf issue

A gray wolf runs through the snow in Yellowstone National Park.

Gray wolves in the western United States remain a highly contentious issue. Populations of the reintroduced animals have reportedly exceeded expectations, so much so that the predators were removed from Endangered Species Act protection (at least temporarily, until U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s Aug. 5 ruling which placed gray wolves back on protected status).

States are looking to overturn this decision and are seeking the authority to manage packs within their boundaries -- including the possibility of allowing wolf-hunting seasons, as were held in Idaho and Montana last year.

Among those stakeholder groups attempting to be heard on the matter -- state and federal legislators, animal-rights activists, ranchers and sportsmen -- are America’s hunters. But when surveyed on the subject as to how best to proceed, they seem to have some gray areas.

Asked if they believe western gray wolf populations have recovered and should be removed from the Endangered Species List, well over half of the respondents to the September HunterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com polls said yes, with 57.1% responding in the affirmative. But about 36% stated that they "did not know" if populations are recovered, with only 6.7% saying they are not.

One thing respondents seem united on is their distrust of the motivations behind animal welfare groups’ opposition to delisting the gray wolf or turning over management authority to the states. An overwhelming 65% believe these groups are acting out of an interest to limit hunting opportunities, with almost 40% saying the organizations are doing so as a means to boost membership and donations. Only 16.1% believe these groups are acting out of genuine concern for conserving and restoring wolf populations. Comments submitted by survey respondents supported these beliefs, with many suggesting animal rights groups will say or do anything they can to put a stop to hunting in any form.

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Constitutional right to hunt, fish on four state ballots

A hunter and his son. Those going to the polls in Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee on Nov. 2 will be asked to decide  whether hunting and fishing deserve the added protection of being a state constitutional right.

"When you have something protected in your constitution, then it is very difficult to use the courts or other types of ballot activities to thwart, for example, hunting and fishing," state Sen. Steve Faris (D.-Ark.), the bill's lead sponsor there, told Reuters.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states -- Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin -- guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions.  California and Rhode Island have language in their respective constitutions guaranteeing the right to fish but not to hunt.

"They start with cats and dogs, and the next thing you know, someone says it's inhumane to shoot a deer," added Faris.

The "they" Faris refers to are animal-rights organizations, which are decidedly anti-hunting.

Ashley Byrne, a New York-based campaigner for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, described the hunting and fishing ballot proposals as "a desperate attempt to prop up a dying pastime," adding that although PETA had not mounted any campaigns against the amendments, it would "continue to educate people about how hunting is cruel and unnecessary."

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Judge returns gray wolves to protected status, halting wolf hunting plans in Idaho and Montana

A gray wolf runs through the snow in Yellowstone National Park.

A federal judge Thursday returned gray wolves to protection under the Endangered Species Act, effectively halting the possibility of wolf hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana this year.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy said in his ruling that de-listing portions of the Northern Rockies wolf population in Idaho and Montana while leaving those in Wyoming protected violated the Endangered Species Act, and that wolf populations cannot be managed based on political boundaries such as state lines.

"The Endangered Species Act does not allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list only part of a 'species' as endangered, or to protect a listed distinct population segment only in part as the Final Rule here does," Molloy wrote.

In separate statements, Montana and Idaho wildlife officials decried the decision.

"If we understand the ruling correctly, Judge Molloy is telling the federal government that because Wyoming still doesn't have adequate regulatory mechanisms to manage wolves, you can't de-list the wolf in Montana and Idaho," said Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

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Scuba diving is declared hazardous activity in California, limiting government liability in case of accidents

A diver swims in the kelp tank at the California Science Center.

A new law that will take effect Jan. 1 declares scuba diving a hazardous activity in California.

AB 634, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this month, adds the sport to the list of recreational activities considered hazardous and releases state and local governments from liability in lawsuits associated with it, reports the Dana Point Times. Other sports currently on the "hazardous" list include  surfing, water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and white-water rafting.

"Fear of frivolous lawsuits has hampered efforts to expand recreational activities in many communities,"  the bill's author, Assemblywoman Diane L. Harkey (R-Dana Point), said in a statement. "I am pleased that Gov.  Schwarzenegger signed into law our legislation reducing liability for local and state governments while allowing for more recreational activities such as scuba diving, aiding coastal economies, the environment and the state of California."

The legislation, backed by California Ships to Reefs, was created with sunken-ship-based scuba diving in mind, because "diving in and near sunken ships can be hazardous, requiring special training and equipment beyond that for normal scuba diving," Harkey said.

Harkey added that because the government will no longer be held liable in lawsuits in which a scuba diver is injured or killed while diving, coastal communities may be more likely to create artificial reefs -- a benefit to both the marine environment and to divers interested in exploring them.

"Today, California has removed a major impediment to artificial reefing," said Joel Geldin, chairman and CEO of California Ships to Reefs, a nonprofit organization that hopes to establish a regional system of reefed ships along the California coast. "We are enthusiastic about the new unlimited opportunities ahead to create a network of artificial reefs on the state’s coastline, improving ocean life and enhancing our recreational diving and fishing industries."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A diver swims in the kelp tank at the California Science Center. Credit: Leroy Hamilton / California Science Center

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks seeks several changes for 2010 wolf hunting season

Two gray wolves in the wild.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department has released its proposal for this year's gray wolf hunting season. It includes numerous changes, including an increased quota, a longer open season and a possible archery-hunting season.

FWP wildlife managers are seeking to increase the statewide quota to either 186 or 216 wolves, up from the 2009 quota of 75 animals. They would also like to create 14 wolf hunting units in three zones, and allow subquotas in some areas during the early season backcountry hunt, including the area directly north of Yellowstone National Park.

"In a word, it’s all about balance," said Ken McDonald, FWP’s chief of wildlife. "Smaller and more wolf management units represent lessons learned from the 2009 hunting season. Some areas contributed more to the harvest than expected and prevented us from addressing management needs in other areas. We want to adjust that to ensure a widely distributed harvest and yet still target areas where we’re seeing impacts on prey, like elk and deer, and where recurring livestock depredations are anticipated."

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission will meet Thursday in Helena to consider the proposal. If approved, a public comment period expected to run through June 14 will follow. A final decision is scheduled to be made July 8.

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Obama administration launches $78.5-million plan to combat Asian carp invasion

Asian carp can jump as high as 10 feet out of the water when disturbed by a passing boat. Boaters and water skiers have been injured by the airborne fish.

The Obama administration on Monday announced a $78.5-million strategy to try to block voracious Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

The plan calls for navigational locks and gates in Chicago-area waterways to be opened less frequently than usual, reports the Associated Press.

Administration members believe that the measure is part of an effective strategy to keep the fish at bay until long-term biological controls can be developed.

"Today, we have an opportunity to work together to prevent environmental and economic damage before it happens," said Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She referred to the plan as "an unparalleled effort on the part of the federal government."

Six other Great Lakes states -- Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- are opposed to the plan as it stands, asking that the locks be closed permanently to halt the invasive fish from advancing to The Lakes, where it is feared the carp would adversely affect sport and commercial fishing.

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Wisconsin hunting program will match returning military personnel to landowners with nuisance deer

White-tail deer buck.

Wisconsin state lawmakers have approved a special gun deer hunt for returning servicemen and women who missed the regular hunting season because they were deployed.

The program will match military personnel to private landowners whose crops are being damaged by nuisance deer, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.

State Rep. Chris Danou believes a special hunt is a great way to recognize the more than 3,000 soldiers returning to Wisconsin and thank them for their service.

"These guys missed out on almost a year of their lives," Danou said.

The original bill was inspired by a soldier serving in Iraq who wrote to legislators last month asking about the opportunity to go deer hunting after coming home, to provide venison for his family.

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Hawaii implements nation's first marine debris action plan


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released news of a sweeping plan to actively assess and remove man-made marine debris from coastal waters and coral reefs on and near the Hawaiian islands.

This is the first such plan implemented in the nation, and hopefully not the last. Marine debris is not only a blight undersea and along shorelines, it is also hazardous to all forms of sea life. Thousands of pounds of marine debris wash ashore each year.

"This rollout demonstrates NOAA’s continued commitment to working with partners from across the state of Hawaii on the issue of marine debris,” David M. Kennedy, acting assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said in a news release. “We are proud to take part in the development of the nation’s first marine debris action plan in Hawaii.”

Numerous agencies have been working with NOAA's Marine Debris program to develop the Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan. Building on ongoing and previous marine debris community efforts, the plan establishes a framework for activities and projects across the state in an effort to, in part, reduce fishing gear disposal at sea, land-based debris in waterways and the current backlog of marine debris both on land and in the ocean.

Various strategies and activities fall under each of these goal areas, many of them already underway by Hawaii’s marine debris partners. These include emergency response and cleanup efforts as well as prevention and outreach campaigns.

“For too long marine debris has marred the natural beauty of our ocean and threatened our marine ecosystem,” Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye said.“I am proud that Hawaii is taking the lead in finding a solution to this global problem.”

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Thousands of pounds of derelict nets wash ashore and snag on reefs across the Hawaiian archipelago each year. Credit: NOAA MDP

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Oregon may require locator beacons for Mt. Hood expeditions

Trees in the foreground belie the immensity of Mt. Hood as early morning sunlight glints off the mountain peak.

The recent death and disappearance of three climbers on Oregon's 11,249-foot Mt. Hood has revived debate about requiring mountaineers to carry personal locator beacons on the mountain.

Following an eerily similar incident in 2007 -- one climber was found dead and two others never located -- the Oregon Legislature considered a bill requiring winter climbers to carry the device, though it never passed the Senate.

Backers of such a stipulation contend that locator beacons would help search-and-rescue teams pinpoint lost climbers, reducing the risk for those searching, and saving time and expense.

Those opposing such a requirement believe it could lead to climbers taking excessive risks because they assume they will be located and rescued.

As a casual hiker, I would never attempt to ascend mountains such as Mt. Whitney or Mt. Hood -- locator beacon or not -- knowing they are out of my league.

But I'm curious what readers' thoughts are. Would personal locator beacons be a good idea to help track down the lost and reduce risk to rescuers, or would hikers and climbers attempt more difficult paths, believing that if they got stuck or lost someone would come save them?

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Trees in the foreground belie the immensity of Mt. Hood as early morning sunlight glints off the mountain peak. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press

Rocker Huey Lewis baits ducks to stop hunting near his Montana property

Huey Lewis and the News perform at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Musician Huey Lewis is in the news. He and several of his Montana neighbors have installed duck feeding stations along a waterway near their properties to effectively stop waterfowl hunting in the area, the Associated Press reports.

At issue is the Mitchell Slough, which the Montana Supreme Court ruled a public waterway, subjecting it to the state's stream access laws. Those who live along the 15-mile tributary to the Bitterroot River contend that it is a man-made feature and not subject to the public access regulations.

Lewis said that he and other area residents -- who include investor Charles Schwab -- began placing feeders along the slough about two months ago, contending that the waterway is too close to homes for safe hunting.

"I'm feeding ducks all over the place -- many of my neighbors are," Lewis said. "The reason is, the Supreme Court decision has changed everything here, and now we have public access. And most of us believe the Mitchell is unsuitable for duck hunting."

It is not legal to hunt waterfowl in an area that has bait stations for birds.

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Pamela Anderson joins PETA in anti-seal hunt ad campaign

Pamela Anderson poses in the new PETA tee-shirt. Pamela Anderson is in Canada today to help launch a new anti-seal hunting ad campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Anderson will be making an appearance at the Ontario legislature in Toronto to call for an end to the annual hunt, which takes place every spring on the eastern coast of Canada.

"I can only hope that by bringing attention to the slaughter, the international outcry will force the Canadian government to end this shameful practice," Anderson said in a statement.

The advertising campaign will feature the Canadian native as well as other celebrities wearing PETA's "Save the Seals" T-shirts.

Ads will appear in entertainment magazines and on blogs beginning this fall, to focus attention on the hunt and to keep pressure on the government year-round instead of just during the hunting season, when protests are expected.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Pamela Anderson poses in the new PETA T-shirt. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images

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Sportsmen's and gun groups up in arms over passage of AB 962

A Smith & Wesson .357 is shown with various caliber handgun ammunition.

*Updated to reflect that this law goes into effect on Feb 1, 2011 and not July, 2010

Sportsmen's and pro-gun groups are up in arms over a recent bill signed by Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that puts restrictions on the purchase of certain ammunition beginning Feb. 1, 2011.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the California Assn. of Firearms Retailers are highly critical of the decision to sign into law AB 962, which will require firearms dealers and ammunition vendors to keep a registry of all buyers of handgun ammo. The bill also bans all mail order and Internet sales of such ammunition and reloading components.

"The governor vetoed a piece of firearms legislation, SB 41, far less burdensome to retailers than AB 962, stating it was too cumbersome," Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general council, said in a news release. (SB 41 would have required additional paperwork and documentation on the date of delivery of all firearms to a buyer.)

NSSF has estimated that AB 962 will cost the state almost $3 million in lost sales tax, $629,000 in increased operating costs for state agencies and more than $35 million in lost retail sales annually.

"This legislation will drive many small, independent retailers already struggling in a poor economy out of business or force them to flee California," said CAFR President Marc Halcon.

"Those retailers who can afford to stay will be forced to substantially raise prices to law-abiding consumers who, under AB 962, will now be fingerprinted like common criminals simply for exercising their Second Amendment rights," continued Halcon. "It is silly, at best, to think criminals will stand in line to be fingerprinted to buy ammunition from licensed retailers."

"Gov. Schwarzenegger has just created an underground black market for ammunition," Halcon added.

Ammo sales, already at an increased level from gun enthusiasts, including hunters and target shooters fearing stricter gun laws, will likely now become more robust in the coming months.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A Smith & Wesson .357 is shown with various caliber handgun ammunition. Credit: Judi Bottoni / Associated Press

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter please visit @latimesoutposts


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.