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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Gray wolf review stalls

In this April 18, 2008, photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is a gray wolf, the species that would lose federal protection in most of the Lower 48 states under a proposal made by wildlife officials.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – A federal agency is delaying an independent analysis of a plan to drop legal protections for wolves across most of the nation because of concerns about the selection of experts to conduct the review, an official said Tuesday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June called for removing gray wolves across the Lower 48 states from the endangered species list, with an exception for the struggling Mexican wolf in the Southwest. Agency Director Dan Ashe said the wolf had recovered to the point that it could thrive and even enlarge its territory without federal oversight, although some advocates and members of Congress said the move was premature.

The law requires a team of scientists to evaluate the basis for such a proposal before a final decision is made. The agency hired a private contractor to select and oversee the peer review panel, which is standard procedure to make sure the analysis meets standards for quality and independence, spokesman Gavin Shire said. Full story.

Did politics or prudence stall this review?

Grizzly killers lose hunting rights

Two men who killed a grizzly bear in Pend Oreille County are prohibited from hunting for two years and will be on probation for five years, according to a plea deal approved this week.

Brandon D. Rodeback, 26, and Kurtis L. Cox, 30, of Moses Lake, killed the bear on Oct. 1, 2007, while hunting in a designated grizzly bear recovery zone near Ione.

They skinned and buried the bear in Moses Lake. A tip to authorities led to federal charges in July. The men pleaded guilty Monday to transporting wildlife against federal law, a misdemeanor.

In addition to probation and forfeiture of hunting rights, Rodeback and Cox will pay a $3,000 fine and $14,857 to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for endangered species recovery projects, according to court documents.

The bear was tagged with a radio transmitter and had been followed for the past 14 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called the bear’s death “a set-back to state and federal efforts and protect this iconic species.”

“With grizzly bear populations struggling to survive, every single bear is critical to the species’ recovery,” according to a prepared statement.