How Legal Was The Introduction Of Canadian Wolves Into The Northern Rockies? By Toby Bridges
Jun 12, 2010 - 9:48:12 AM
Stephen King would be hard pressed to come up with a blockbuster novel that is more suspenseful than the hate, fear and distrust that plagues the Western Wolf Recovery Project. One thing is for certain, if this story is ever written, based on truth, it will be filled with lies, deceit, secrecy, collusion, theft, threats, massive killings, human endangerment and government failure - all with a touch of international flavor. And that plot thickened on May 16, 2010, in Bozeman, MT, when former Chief of National Wildlife Refuge Operations, Jim Beers, spoke to a crowd of about 300 on the topic of the "Criminal Activities Associated With The Introduction, Protection, And Spread Of Wolves In The Lower 48 States". (For more go to: Friends
of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd)
Jim Beers, a 32-year veteran of USFWS and a former Chief of Operations for the National Wildlife Refuge System, witnessed the theft of $60- to $70-million
from Pittman-Robertson wildlife habitat and fisheries funds by USFWS to fund the wolf project, to construct a new USFWS office in California, and for USFWS
personal bonuses. He is now sharing that information to angry sportsmen, who want something done.
Beers, a 32 year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, went to work with that agency in 1969, as a wildlife biologist banding waterfowl in Minnesota. Through the years, he also served as a special agent, worked the Port of Entry in New York City to curtail the traffic of threatened and endangered wildlife (and the products made from those animals), and eventually worked his way up to Chief of Operations for the National Wildlife Refuge System. During the mid 1990s, he began working with the distribution of the excise taxes collected on firearms, ammunition, archery and fishing tackle back to state wildlife agencies, under the Pittman-Robertson Act. Those funds are to be used exclusively for bankrolling state wildlife habitat and fisheries improvement, to ensure hunting and fishing opportunities for sportsmen. And the amount collected annually totals into the hundreds of millions of dollars. (For 2009, the amount distributed back to state wildlife agencies amounted to more than $700-million.)
In his presentation to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon sportsmen, guides & outfitters, media and politicians, Jim Beers shared how he worked his way up through the ranks. And while working with the Pittman-Robertson funds, he was also appointed to work with U.S. Trade Representative groups and the State Department to address a European Union ban on furs taken with leg hold traps in the U.S. and Russia.
Beers has always considered himself a wildlife manager, holding a Bachelors Degree in Wildlife Resources. He sees the use of leg hold traps as an effective tool for managing furbearers, such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes and mink. And made an all out effort to get the European ban removed from U.S. furs. And thanks largely to his efforts, it was.
He says that he was fully aware of USFWS regularly meeting with "environmental" and "animal rights" groups in secrecy, and entering into under the table agreements with them. After the defeat of the efforts to outlaw the use of leg hold traps in the U.S., he noticed a very different attitude toward him. Beers feels that the outcome was not what USFWS may have agreed to with groups pushing for the elimination of leg hold traps in this country.
Years ago, the shooting, hunting and fishing industry self-imposed an excise tax on the sales of firearms and ammunition (as well as fishing tackle), and the money collected was supposed to go back to states wildlife agencies to fund habitat improvement. When Congress denied USFWS funding for wolf introduction, the agency wrongly used this money to introduce wolves into the Northern Rockies.
Later in the 1990s, while working with the distribution of sportsmen provided excise taxes, he began to question why the amount of Pittman-Robertson funds being distributed to state wildlife agencies had failed to increase over a several year period. This was during the Clinton administration, and a fear that the administration would make it increasingly difficult to buy firearms and ammunition resulted in frenzy buying and stockpiling. With such record sales, Beers rationalized that there should be a parallel increase in the amount of excise taxes collected - but he was not seeing that trend in the amount he had to distribute. His probing of this issue must have hit a nerve or two with upper USFWS management, and he suddenly found himself put on administrative leave, and told to "Go Fishing...With Pay!"
He was also threatened, and told to not discuss the issue with anyone, or he could lose his job and health benefits. However, while Beers was not officially "on the job", co-workers handling the distribution of Pittman-Robertson monies often asked him to take a look at this or that, and for advice. While stepping into the office to "visit" on one opportunity, one of those co-workers asked him to look over a massive print out of the expenditures made with Pittman-Robertson funds, and Jim was surprised to find numerous uses of the taxes collected to fund non-hunting and non-fishing related projects. Those included funding for wildlife management lands used for the building of a prison, to fund park improvements, and for purchasing USFWS vehicles. None of which qualify for funding under the Pittman-Roberts Act.
USFWS failed to submit an accurate Environmental Impact Statement detailing how wolves would affect other wildlife populations, the economic loss due to lessened hunting opportunities, how wolves would hamper livestock production, the dangers wolves pose human inhabitants of the Northern Rockies, and health risks involved with the introduction of an animal that is known to carry some 30 different parasties and diseases.
So, what does all of this have to do with wolves? Read on.
Beers blew the whistle on the misappropriation of monies that were supposed to be used exclusively for wildlife habitat and fisheries improvement. And Congress launched an official inquiry.
What they discovered was that USFWS had embezzled as much as $60- to $70-million from the excise taxes collected on sportsman purchases of guns, ammo, archery and fishing tackle. According to Beers, when USFWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark was questioned about the unauthorized use of these monies, her comment was something to the effect of, "I was told the money was to be used where I felt it was needed."
Many Montana, Idaho and Wyoming residents have historically relied on the harvest of big game as a primary source of food. Opportunities to harvest surplus animals, like this cow elk, are now being severely curtailed. Wolves have made sure that there is no surplus game in many areas, with seasons, permits and limits being severely cut back.
So, where did USFWS use "your" tax dollars...the money that was supposed to be for funding projects that ensure the health of the wildlife and fish resources sportsmen have worked so hard to build?
According to Jim Beers, one use was to fund the introduction of those Canadian wolves into the Northern Rockies. That's right, they used "your" money to fund dumping wolves into one of the richest wildlife areas of North America - unleashing the wildlife equivalent of cancer to destroy the past hundred years of sound wildlife conservation efforts (at the cost of hundreds of millions of sportsman dollars). And those wolves are now at out-of-control numbers, and they are dealing a death blow to elk, moose, deer and other big game populations in many areas of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Beers says another use of "your" excise tax dollars was to construct a new Regional USFWS Office in California.
The author prepares for an early spring hike with his two favorite trail buddies. If those dogs are attacked by wolves, who's responsible? Jim Beers says that the manner in which USFWS allows Defenders of Wildlife to provide reimbursement to ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, but not for losses of pets, wildlife, or human losses for that matter, violates the equal treatment insured by the Constitution.
Congress had already turned down funding for both these projects - so USFWS took it upon themselves to dip deeply into Pittman-Robertson funds to finance these projects...without any authorization whatsoever. And if these two misappropriations of funds are not enough of a slap in the face to the sportsmen who provided those monies, USFWS also used "your" money to establish a "slush fund" to provide bonuses for Director Clark, division chiefs, and managers at federal and regional levels. And they rewarded themselves well. Those who had excelled at their jobs generally received $25,000 to $30,000. But even those who only mustered a mediocre rating in how they performed their responsibilities usually received a bonus of around $5,000. What the heck, it was free money...so why not?
(I followed all of this back in the late 1990s, and I remember that some of the Pittman-Robertson monies that were wrongfully taken from hunters and fishermen were even used to reimburse USFWS employees for relocation expenses. T.B.)
How does it feel to have sportsmen provided dollars used, without any authorization whatsoever, to dump huge Canadian wolves into one of the richest wildlife areas of America - and to destroy the last hundred years of wildlife conservation? Those attending Jim Beers' presentation felt that those who headed this theft and the deceit of the Wolf Recovery Project should be held legally responsible - and should do some time behind bars.
So, what did Jim Beers receive for being so honest and forthright? How about a forced retirement, and once again the threat of losing benefits if he kept the spotlight on this issue. In fact, he was offered a payoff to keep quiet about it for three years. He took the money. Still, he kept researching elements of the Wolf Recovery Project that were handled improperly. Following are some issues which he says are in violation of the law:
Unauthorized taking of Pittman-Robertson funds to finance projects (and bonuses) that did not qualify.
That Wolf Recovery Project coordinator Ed Bangs failed to file an appropriate and accurate Environmental Impact Statement. Beers says Bangs purposely ignored all established wolf science and research, dismissing known wolf depredation impact to wildlife & livestock, and he ignored the dangers of the parasites and diseases carried which are a threat to other wildlife, livestock, pets and to humans (Beers claims that wolves carry 30 known parasites & diseases - most of which are a danger to humans). He says Ed Bangs ignored published historic record of wolf impact and health/safety issues.
Ed Bangs failed to file Form 3-177, which is required for importation of any wildlife or fish species, including wolves. The form requires declaration of the number being brought into the country, and the species/subspecies being brought into the country. Beers says there is no record of the mandatory form ever being filed.
That for USFWS to go ahead and "find funding elsewhere" for constructing the California Regional Office, and to fund the introduction of wolves even after the projects had been turned down by Congress is a violation of the agency's authority.
That USFWS wrongfully supplemented federal funds with private money to introduce wolves. (Even if approved by Congress, federal budgets cannot by supplemented with private contributions from companies or organizations - or with monies misappropriated from other federal project funds.)
Beers also claims that for USFWS to allow Defenders of Wildlife to reimburse livestock producers for the loss of stock to wolves, but for them not to reimburse for the loss of wildlife or not to reimburse for the loss of a pet or not to reimburse for losses/injury to humans caused by wolves violates the equal treatment outlined by the Constitution.
Wolf impact on other wildlife has far surpassed the pre-release claims of now very questionable "wolf experts". Fewer than 25-percent of the elk population that inhabited the Yellowstone area in 1995 remains, due to wolf depredation and stress related losses. Likewise, moose populations there were at around 1,200 before wolves were dumped in, the 2010 moose count was just 117 animals. Yellowstone now has "another" endangered species.
During his Bozeman presentation, Jim Beers did not mince words when he stated that those responsible for the wolf disaster must be held accountable. And a large number of those in attendance voiced that former USFWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark (now Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife) and Wolf Recovery Project coordinator Ed Bangs both need to do time behind bars.
Robert Fanning, who founded the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, encouraged Jim Beers to share the less than legal activities that have plagued the Wolf Recovery Project. His group now seeks to file lawsuits against USFWS and others to end the wolf carnage of our big game resources, and to seek restitution for the losses sportsmen have had to bear, thanks to a project that never did receive Congressional approval or funding.
Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd sponsored Beers' presentation, which was videoed and will be offered for sale in the near future. More on Jim Beers' talk will be published right here on LOBO WATCH and Toby's website, at www.lobowatch.com, before the end of May, along with details on how to order a copy of the presentation. All money from the sale of this CD will go into a legal fund. It is the goal of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd to take USFWS to court to ensure they stand accountable for the theft of $60-$70 million from Pittman-Robertson funds, the manner in which the money was used, and other failures to adhere to the law - as well as some of their own regulations.