RE: Review and Rescission of the Forest Service Grazing Permit for Bill McIrvin and the Diamond M Ranch
Approval of a Cultural Closure Request for the Kalispel Tribe, then its Denial by James Pena
This complaint requests that the U.S. Forest Service (“USFS” or “Service”), responsible for the management of Colville National Forest, review and/or rescind the grazing permit of Diamond M Ranch, located in Laurier, Washington and owned by Bill McIrvin, for continued failure to practice adequate animal husbandry techniques to protect endangered species held Sacred by Traditional Native American Cultural Beliefs on federal land, which include documented overgrazing in the form of pictures.
McIrvins past as well as current history proves ill intent beyond a reasonable doubt. This behavior is in violation of USFS policies and regulations. Diamond M Ranch’s failure to abide by cooperative agreements with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (“WDFW”), concerning livestock/predator interactions, have single-handedly resulted in the lethal control and eradication of nearly 20% of “Sacred” gray wolves (Canis lupus) within Washington state and have accounted for three-quarters of all state-sponsored lethal control events since the return of “Sacred” gray wolves to the state in 2008. His refusal of WDFW supplied Range Riders on or about July 6th as reported by WDFW.
We have provided documented picture evidence with the original complaint to previous managers, which USFS seems to only care about overlooking showing the blatant disregard for following the regulations set out in his Permit by not monitoring Overgrazing. The pictures submitted themselves show sufficient good cause to terminate McIrvins Allotments. The stand of Grass that was placed there for the Creators wildlife, all of which Traditional Native Americans Hold Sacred, then down to nothing but dust.
This permittee’s ongoing needless and potentially deliberate creation of conflict with wildlife threatens to violate USFS policies governing sensitive species, viable wildlife populations, and cumulative adverse effects on native wildlife. For these reasons, Protect The Wolves™ representing 57,750 followers requests USFS to review permittee operations of Diamond M Ranch and develop conditions that would avoid continued violations of USFS policies and regulations, or state and federal laws. Furthermore, if the permittee is unwilling to cooperate with USFS personnel on adherence to agency rules, then we urge the USFS to restrict or rescind the grazing permits of Diamond M Ranch for its Lambert and CC Mountain allotments.
In addition, Protect The Wolves™ requests that USFS list the gray wolf (Canis lupus) as a sensitive and “Sacred”species and adjust accordingly protections afforded to the wolf under the Service’s Forest Management Plan for Colville National Forest, as well as All other National Forests. 2
The Wolf, one of all the 4 leggeds, and winged-ones holds significant Sacred Cultural value to all Indigenous peoples that practice the Traditional Teachings, as such are no different to them than the Christians bible is to them.
Diamond M Ranch Wildlife Conflict
- Wedge Pack
Bill McIrvin runs the largest cattle ranch in Washington, Diamond M Ranch, and grazes his cattle on a large portion of federal lands within the Colville National Forest. In the summer of 2012, Mr. McIrvin requested WFDW assistance in the eradication of the Wedge Pack of gray wolves, a species listed as endangered under state law. This resulted in the slaughter of 7 wolves by marksmen from helicopters, at a time when wolf populations within the state numbered only 521 – thus constituting roughly 13% of all wolves statewide. This eradication was ordered despite conflicting opinions given to WDFW by a variety of experts as to whether the initial livestock injuries and deaths of Mr. McIrvin’s livestock were even attributable to wolves. During the months these events took place, Mr. McIrvin had refused to cooperate in implementing adequate nonlethal conflict-prevention measures, as required by Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Furthermore, in public statements to the media, Mr. McIrvin made abundantly clear his disdain for wolves, government agencies, and conservation efforts; with many people having heard him state that “the only good wolf is a dead wolf.”
Following this event, Washington State University (“WSU”) began engagement with the Washington Wolf Advisory Group on outreach and research efforts to reduce confrontations between wolves and livestock. This initiative achieved great success statewide with non-lethal deterrent measures through a combination of range-riding, avoidance of known den sites, use of fencing, use of guard dogs, and radio-collaring of livestock. Additionally, the WDFW offered financial recompense to ranchers who were cooperating signatories of the WDFW Cooperative Damage Agreement and had lost livestock due to wolf depredation. Mr. McIrvin and Diamond M Ranch had refused to cooperate with WSU or WDFW, they refused to enter into a Cooperative Damage Agreement, and they failed to employ the vast majority of predator avoidance measures recommended by WDFW.
- Profanity Peak Pack
In the summer of 2016, Mr. McIrvin chose to release his 227 head of cattle onto a 30,000+ acre tract of Forest Service land near Kettle Falls and Profanity Peak pursuant to his FS grazing permit. Ranch personnel had entered the FS land near Profanity Peak, within the Lambert allotment, and installed salt block attractants within 200 yards of an established wolf den site; a site that had been occupied the year before and was well known by county commissioners, WDFW, and area ranchers. During this summer, Mr. McIrvin had continued to eschew recommended protocols for avoiding livestock/wolf confrontations, and by placing the salt blocks, indeed sought to attract his cattle directly to this wolf den site. As expected, attacks on livestock began shortly thereafter resulting in the deaths of 12 of McIrvin’s cattle. However, 3
3. OPT Pack
In the summer of 2019, Mr. McIrvin chose to release his cattle onto the same 30,000+ acre tract of Forest Service land near Kettle Falls and Profanity Peak pursuant to his FS grazing permit. He chose to Refuse Federal or State Range Riders as reported on or about July 6th, 2019. Prior to August 16th, The Capital Press reported that 6 Wolves had already been slaughtered, then the morning of the court hearing WDFW slaughtered an additional 4 as reported by The AGS Staff Attorney at the hearing. The consistent ongoing problems that McIrvin has created over the years have established a pattern of proof that he has no concern for Rules or Regulations as they pertain to his Permits, and burdens the Taxpayer unfairly.
Mr. McIrvin refused offers of financial compensation by the State for his lost cattle, and instead demanded that WDFW eradicate the entirety of the wolf den at Profanity Peak.
In the late summer and early autumn of 2016, against the protestations of wildlife ecologists and researchers in large carnivore biology, WDFW began the hunting and eradication of the Profanity Peak wolf pack. This was achieved through the use of marksmen hovering overhead in helicopters and resulted in the slaughter of all adult members of this pack and the likely starvation of all pups. This operation cost Washington taxpayers around $135,000 and will likely do little to curb livestock/wolf confrontations in the future, as numerous studies have demonstrated that lethal control is largely ineffective at reducing state or local levels of depredation.2
2 Wielgus RB, Peebles KA (2014) Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations. PLoS ONE 9(12): e113505. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113505 ; Chapron G., Treves A., 2016, “Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of large carnivore,” Proc. R. Soc. B. 283: 20152939. Available at: http://faculty.nelson.wisc.edu/treves/pubs/Chapron_Treves.pdf.
Since the eradication of the Wedge pack, WDFW and WSU researchers have sought to have Mr. McIrvin join the state-sponsored Cooperative Damage Agreement, which has worked remarkably well at avoiding depredation events and has gained the support and acceptance of the majority of area ranchers. Despite its efficacy and recompense measures, Mr. McIrvin and the Diamond M Ranch have continually refused to become a signatory of the State’s Cooperative Damage Agreement. They have also failed to cooperate with WDFW or to follow the recommendations of conservation biologists for best management practices.
Resulting Adverse Effects on Colville NF wolves
Research from across the nation has shown that lethal control is not an effective or efficient means of ensuring long-term state or local level depredation reductions.3 However, lethal control is currently being employed with a near annual regularity on federal lands in eastern Washington. The majority of wolves killed by state efforts were suspected of preying upon livestock grazing on FS land; principally the livestock of a single FS permittee, Mr. McIrvin, who has willfully disregarded best management practices for avoiding livestock/predator interactions while operating on those public lands. Based upon preliminary data from Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory, Mr. McIrvin’s cattle depredation rates were roughly 15 times higher that the state wide average. Due to the Mr. McIrvin’s lack of cooperation with state conservation efforts, his continued disregard of best management practices, and prompt requests for lethal control, WDFW has eradicated 14 wolves – or around 15% of the state’s gray wolf population – at the behest of one USFS grazing permittee. These eradication’s which targeted all adult pack members have also contributing to the likely starvation of all the packs’ pups as well as wounding animals causing unneeded suffering. 4
USFS Policies Contravened
- “Sacred” Gray Wolves Warrant FS Protection as a “Sacred Cultural” Sensitive Species
While the “Sacred” gray wolf is delisted under the federal Endangered Species Act within the Northern Rocky Mountain region, which includes eastern Washington, the species is still listed as endangered under Washington state law. See WAC 232.12.014; RCW 77.15.120. As a state listed species, the gray wolf requires protection by the Forest Service and designation as a “sensitive species” within its eastern Washington range. The Forest Service Manual states at Section 2670.5.19 that “Sensitive Species” are “[t]hose plant and animal species identified by a Regional Forester for which population viability is a concern, as evidenced by: (a) Significant current or predicted downward trends in population numbers or density (b) Significant current or predicted downward trends in habitat capability that would reduce a species’ existing distribution.” Furthermore, under Section 2672.11, Regional Foresters “shall identify sensitive species occurring in the region based upon … state lists of endangered, threatened, rare, endemic, unique, or vanishing species, especially those listed as threatened under State law.” The Forest Service Manual states at Section 2672.1 that “[s]ensitive species of native plant and animal species must receive special management emphasis to ensure their viability and to preclude trends toward endangerment that would result in the need for Federal listing. There must be no impacts to sensitive species without an analysis of the significance of adverse effects on the populations, its habitat, and on the viability of the species as a whole. It is essential to establish population viability objectives when making decisions that would significantly reduce sensitive species numbers.” (emphasis added)
As of the end of 2016, the gray wolf population numbered approximately 115 wolves, belonging to 20 separate packs, in the State of Washington (human population: 7,288,000; cattle population: 1,150,000).4 Due to its miniscule and fragile population, it is a criminal offense under state law for private citizens to kill a wolf; however, the State allows WDFW to exterminate wolf dens that have predated upon area livestock. Ranchers as well as their livestock can be compared to a an unwanted infestation upon the resources of our Children. Since the removal of federal protections to this species under the Endangered Species Act, WDFW has killed around 30 wolves, also likely leading to the starvation of numerous orphaned pups, needless suffering by wounding animals due to the use of a scopeless Shotgun at the behest of livestock ranchers, constituting roughly 25% of the state’s current 2019 wolf population. In comparison, loss of 20% the wolf population due to human-caused mortality within Wisconsin was sufficient grounds for a federal judge to rule that such wanton slaughter of wolves justified a continued federal endangered listing, as they were obviously failing to be protected under state law and regulation. 5
McIrvin has established a pattern of willfully setting up our ” Sacred” Species for further eradication just as what was once allowed to happen due to the same Old West Mentality of the past.
5 Humane Society v. Jewell, 76 F. Supp. 3d 69 (D.D.C. 2014)
It was promising that the draft Land Management Plan for Colville National Forest now lists the gray wolf as a sensitive species;6 however the applicability of this plan was still six months away at the time of the first complaint was submitted and not until after the 2017 grazing season. Furthermore, it is evident that WDFW’s lethal control program is serving as little more than a regulatory work-around for a private rancher to utilize state resources for the slaughter of endangered species within grazing areas that they wish 5 to use. The “Sacred” gray wolf, without a doubt, fits the USFS’s definition of a sensitive species within Washington and is absolutely deserving of protection under the Agency’s regulations; protections that cannot wait until November 2017 simply due to being a Species held Sacred by Traditional Native Americans for thousands of Years.
- Continued Viability Requirements
Even apart from the need for a “Sacred” sensitive species designation, the Service is required to ensure that it protects endangered species within the issuance of its permits and the realization of its forest usage plans; however the Service has failed to abide by its own rules in its permitting of grazing lands. In regulations promulgated as required by the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1600 et seq., USFS management planning requires that “wildlife habitat shall be managed to maintain viable populations of existing native and desired non-native vertebrate species in the planning area.” 36 C.F.R. 219.19 (emphasis added). Federal courts have further held that the Forest Service must use common sense and apply its fish and wildlife expertise in implementing these requirements. Seattle Audubon Society v. Mosely, 798 F. Supp. 1484 (W.D. Wash. 1992). This would require the use of the Best Available Science which includes studies by Dr. Robert Wielgus, and now Grizzly Recovery Coordinator Hilary Cooley.
It is evident that the continued leasing of Forest Service land for grazing, within habitat of the state-listed endangered gray wolf, can, and in this case does, cause very real and devastating impacts on the continued viability of the “Sacred” gray wolf in eastern Washington. The failure of a Forest Service grazing permittee to cooperate with WDFW, to refuse State Range Riders or to employ adequate animal husbandry practices has directly resulted in the slaughter of now 3 wolf packs; or roughly 30% of the state’s wolf population. Allowing this situation to continue constitutes a flagrant disregard of the USFS’s duty to use common sense application of agency expertise in classifying sensitive species, to maintain policies that preserve the continued viability of sensitive species and other native species on USFS land, and to ensure no impacts occur without an analysis of adverse effects.
- Cumulative Adverse Effects on Native Wildlife
USFS regulations require that the Service “[p]rovide habitat management direction to ensure maintenance of viable populations [of sensitive species] generally well-distributed throughout their range.” FSM 2620.3.2. This language has significant application here, as the eradication of both the Wedge Peak and the Profanity Peak packs by WDFW at the behest of the USFS permittee McIrvin has removed wolf populations from a large stretch of their habitat within northeastern Washington. Furthermore, the Huckleberry pack south of Profanity Peak was eradicated as well during 2014. Currently as reported by the Capital Press, 6 OPT Wolves prior to the August 16th Hearing, then 4 more the morning of the hearing. Continued failure by the USFS to address this continued abuse of lethal control on USFS lands in northeastern Washington threatens the viability of well-distributed populations; forcing wolves away from large swaths of national forest lands and spacing wolf packs further apart. It further constitutes a direct Violation under the public trust to protect the Public lands for all not just the chosen few.
Additionally, the Service must also “[e]valuate the cumulative effects of proposed management activities on habitat capability for management indicators.” FSM 2620.3.3. This provision shows that failure to review and/or rescind the permitted grazing allotments for Diamond M Ranch would be in violation of this USFS provision. When reviewing the uses of USFS land, the Service must assess what impact such activities have on the sensitive and 6 endangered species within the vicinity as well as wildlife populations generally. “Cumulative effects,” as provided in the regulation, must include continual effects of opening lands to grazing and inadequate permittee husbandry practices. By allowing Diamond M Ranch, the largest ranch in the state, to continue grazing operations without effective oversight or wildlife conflict prevention protocols, there is a demonstrable effect on the continued viability of the endangered gray wolf within Colville National Forest.
- Violations beginning with 2016 Permit Requirements flowing consistently thru 2019 Requirements
Following the 2016 depredation events by the Profanity Peak pack, WDFW and WSU staff visited the site of the depredations and the area surrounding the wolf densite. Cameras were installed by WSU large carnivore biologists that tracked the behavior of the wolf pack and Mr. McIrvin’s cattle within the area. These cameras were installed along a roadside with clear footage of the road. Researchers found that Mr. McIrvin had installed a salt-block attractant within roughly 25 feet of the road. Bill McIrvin’s 2016 USFS grazing permit contained an express restriction banning the installation of salt-block attractants near roadways or trails. Mr. McIrvin blatantly violated the provisions of his grazing permit during 2016 near Profanity Peak; resulting in grazing habits that led to the ultimate eradication of a significant portion of Washington State’s endangered gray wolf population. As per the terms of the grazing permit, a direct violation of these terms is sufficient grounds for revocation of the permit.
USFS Management Options
The USFS possesses the legal authority to revoke grazing permits and close USFS lands as a means of protecting the population and habitats of endangered species fn7; in this instance, the USFS must review or revoke the grazing permit of Diamond M Ranch to ensure the continued viability of the endangered “Sacred” gray wolf in eastern Washington, or anywhere else that is in direct conflict with a den site location. Regional Foresters are tasked with the responsibility to “coordinate the overall Regional Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species Program to ensure compliance with law and policy.” FSM 2670.44.1. While the USFS has been working with the Bureau of Land Management through the Interagency Special Status/Sensitive Species Program, the conservation strategy released by the Program is outdated (2006) and fails to consider conservation issues of the gray wolf, which has re-colonized its former range in eastern Washington since the drafting of this strategy fn8. As the Service is required to “[a]void or minimize impacts to species whose viability has been identified as a concern,”fn9 a new review of its conservation strategies is necessary that includes the sensitive status of the “Sacred”gray wolf within this region, as well as all Regions due to Native American Cultural beliefs. Furthermore, regional foresters must establish programs to determine which sensitive species are present within FS land and ensure that management objectives for the conservation of sensitive species are included in regional and forest planning. FSM 2670.44. It appears that the FS has failed to adhere to these requirements since the re-emergence of the “Sacred”gray wolf within the Colville National Forest; for this reason, it is imperative that the Service commence review of management practices to protect the “Sacred” gray wolf.
7 FSM 2670.44.15; see also 36 CFR 261.70
9 FSM 2670.32.3 7
Additionally, the regional forester is bestowed the authority to “[a]pprove closures of National Forest System lands as necessary to protect habitats or populations of threatened, endangered, proposed, or sensitive species.” FSM 2670.44.15; see also 36 CFR 261.70. Regional Forester Rodney Smoldon has already approved 1 Cultural closure request for the “Kalispel Tribe”, which 2 days later was denied by then supervisor Jim Pena. This is a direct Violation under the Trust Responsibilities in preserving lands or resources held Sacred by Native Americans for cultural Practices which include resources held “Sacred”.
Furthermore, grazing permits issued by the FS may be cancelled, in whole or part, for failure to comply with any terms and conditions specified within the permit or for violation of federal or state laws and/or regulations. In this instance, the operators of the Diamond M Ranch have likely violated RCW 77.15.120’s prohibition of the unlawful taking of endangered wildlife. Further have more than likely violated by allowing overgrazing as the attached pictures will prove. Policy states a height requirement to be left, it appears to be far less than the prescribed rules. This state law provides that a person is guilty of unlawful taking of endangered wildlife when a person maliciously harasses an animal designated as endangered without a permit issued by the State. At the Direction of Len McIrvin of the Diamond M Ranch, livestock were delivered to a known location of a Rendezvous Den site, then Salt Blocks placed which were not moved for a month after request by WDFW. Len McIrvin did this when it attracted and thus intentionally grazed its cattle in the direct vicinity of a known wolf den. In doing so, Protect The Wolves Tribal Endorsers have requested that they investigate the Commercial Lien Process and apply it in this situation. Note: Commercial Liens are not stoppable by a Judge.
Need for USFS Action
The long-term use of lethal control management tactics severely threatens the continued existence of the gray wolves present on Forest Service land. For comparison, during a period where Wisconsin saw diminished federal oversight of the lethal control of wolves, their populations dropped by 20% in just 2 years.10 Then a federal court stepped in, ruling that the wolf was indeed federally endangered in that range and that Wisconsin had failed to take proper conservation measures.11 Allowing grazing on Forest Service lands in a manner that will contribute to the loss of gray wolves could contribute to a similar scenario in Washington State. This possibility is heightened by the fact that the Wolf Advisory Group has amended its lethal control policies to significantly reduce the threshold losses necessary for a rancher to request the slaughter of wolf packs; from 4 confirmed livestock depredations down to 3 suspected livestock depredations.12 The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that lax lethal control policies on the state level open the door for severe impacts on the continued viability of wolf populations, and encourages illegal private taking of species13, something that will likely occur in Washington State if preventative measures are not taken.
11 Humane Society of U.S. v. Jewell, 76 F. Supp. 3d 69 (D.D.C. 2014).
13 Chapron G., Treves A., 2016, “Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of large carnivore,” Proc. R. Soc. B. 283: 20152939. Available at: http://faculty.nelson.wisc.edu/treves/pubs/Chapron_Treves.pdf
As the WDFW has further reduced the necessary requirements to implement lethal control in recent months and demonstrated its willingness to employ such measures against the advice of wildlife biologists, it is evident that the continued grazing of livestock near known den sites is likely to lead to lethal control and is a grave threat to the continued viability of our “Sacred” gray wolf. The exercise of the Service’s permit revocation and land closure authority is necessary to ensure the continued viability of the “Sacred” gray wolf, as Forest Service lands constitute a major component of the “Sacred” gray wolf’s range within Washington.14 8 under Trust Mandates that protect what is held Sacred under Traditional Native American Cultural Beliefs.
For the preceding reasons, Protect The Wolves™ requests that the U.S. Forest Service list the now gray wolf (Canis lupus) as a “Sacred” sensitive species and adjust accordingly protections afforded to the “Sacred” wolf under the Service’s Forest Management Plan not limited to The Colville National Forest, but all current Regions as well . Furthermore, it is requested that the Forest Service review and/or revoke the grazing permits of the Diamond M Ranch, owned by Mr. Bill McIrvin, and close those lands from future livestock grazing to preserve the habitat of the “Sacred” gray wolf. These actions are necessary to avert growing appearing blatant conflicts between USFS policies and prudent wildlife management, as well as McIrvins blatant setting up and selling out what Traditional Native Americans have a strong cultural connection to our Wolves. Wolves are no less Sacred than the Grizzly Bear, as such warrant the same Protections for Cultural Beliefs..
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Sincerely, Roger Dobson, Director of Tribal Relations Cultural Practices Email: pressreleaseinfo at protectthewolves.com
ALL NGOS that have signed on, NGO List will be made Public with Time and Date Stamp of invitation for Transparency
Glenn Casamassa Regional Forester 1220 SW Third Ave Portland, OR 97204-3440 Phone: 503-808-2200
Rodney Smoldon, Acting Forest Supervisor Colville National Forest 765 South Main Street Colville, WA 99114-2507
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