Good wolf news is invariably mixed with not so good wolf news.
This week we saw a reprieve in the Idaho Fish and Game’s plan to eradicate 60% of the wolf population in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area until November of 2015. But what then?
I applaud Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, The Center for Biological Diversity, Wilderness Watch, as well as Earthjustice who is representing them, for their efforts in halting this baseless culling of wolves. Read Ken Cole’s report in The Wildlife News for details.
Journey and his new family have been enjoying a peaceful summer in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest of southeastern Oregon. But two threats to their homeland cast a shadow on their seemingly safe existence.
The Oregon Gulch Fire started yesterday morning just north of the Oregon/California border during one of the many lightning storms we’ve been having lately. The fire spread quickly and is still raging today.
I was at the Green Springs Inn on Highway 66 last evening waiting for my son, Dylan and friend Erick to meet me for dinner after they finished fly fishing at the Klamath River, a dozen miles to the east. The Inn was filled with talk of the Gulch Fire, only about ten miles away as the crow flies. A great plume of smoke, looking like a puffy cumulus cloud, rose high in the sky behind us. From the time it took me to sip a glass of Pinot Gris, the extent of the fire reportedly went from 1,700 to nearly 3,000 acres.
The USFWS continues to report that Journey and his family are living somewhere in southeast Jackson County and southwest Klamath county, in the very vicinity of the fire.
I drove from the Inn east for five miles to Copco Road, the gateway to the fire. Television news crews were setting up. Huge earth-moving equipment was being hauled in to build trenches to contain the fire. Single engine aircraft and helicopters buzzed overhead. Firefighters poured in from neighboring Medford and Ashland. I spoke to someone from the sheriff’s department about the fire. When I asked if she’d heard anything about the wolves, she gave me a blank look. Hard to imagine someone not knowing about Journey and kin, but it appears there are a few out there.
A dark orange sunset, color tainted by the spreading smoke, was ahead of me as I returned to the Inn. Finally, Dylan and Erick arrived and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. They came with tales of large, brown trout and of seeing deer bounding to safer parts of the forest. They’d watched helicopters repeatedly dunking huge buckets into the Klamath river to help fight the fire.
By the time we finished two platefuls of nachos, over 5,300 acres had burned. The fire had traveled south into California and east into Klamath county. We heard that 500 more firefighters were arriving the morning. The folks at the Greensprings Inn were also concerned about Journey and his family. They’ve long been avid wolf supporters. When Journey first entered the area, the Inn threw him a party, complete with a talk by Amaroq Weiss and large pins sporting a picture of a grey wolf and the words, “Welcome to the Greensprings!”
By this morning, the fire has consumed over 7,500 acres of land. Journey and the new pack may be miles away. Let’s hope so, and let’s hope the families and firefighters in the Greensprings are safe as well.
The Bybee Timber Sale was originally proposed in 2012, has gone through several appeals and revisions, and is now on hold thanks to the ever diligent folks at Oregon Wild. Yet if this appeal doesn’t hold, the The Bybee logging project would drastically affect 1,300 acres in the proposed Crater Lake Wilderness, just north of where Journey now resides. The logging efforts and the twelve miles of roads they would construct would sever several intact wildlife corridors, the very pathway Journey used to travel to southeast Oregon in the winter of 2011.
I spoke about the logging issue with Morgan Lindsay, Outreach Director for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, better known as KS Wild. Morgan educated me about the details of the Bybee sale. She told me that no trees have fallen in the project yet, and hopefully, none will. KS Wild, part of the Pacific Wolf Coalition, is very active in protecting forest land in the area as well as the animals that live in them. Check out their website and join the KS Wolf Pack for updates on Journey and the status of wolves in the area.
Life is never simple, especially if you’re a wild wolf, doing everything you can to survive in a world that seems hell-bent on destroying you. But there is always hope, especially with the individuals and organizations who continue to put time and energy into raising their voices to protect our natural resources. Thanks to all of you who strive to make this a better world, not only for the wild creatures and the environment, but for those humans who appreciate these elements as well.