Ridiculous weather and follow-up on Wyoming tribe eagle permit

Crazy warm spring

Shooting hoops with the boys last Thursday evening, we killed a couple of those early season big, dumb mosquitoes. Oh the Ides of March. Heading to church two evenings later, I saw no fewer than a half-dozen dead muskrats along the roads. Outdoor News Publisher Glenn Meyer said he counted at least 50 in his weekend travels around central Minnesota. Clearly the “muskrat rut” was on for the furbearing rodents.

My dad has been keeping track of several phenology indicators that collectively tell whether the spring and fall seasons are early, late, etc., on his place in southeast Minnesota. One of these is first bud openings on the lilac and nannyberry bushes. For the previous four years the dates of first leaf opening were April 11, April 1, April 17, and April 20. This year, the first leaves appeared last Friday, March 16.  Really brings it home, eh?

I swear if any of my neighbors start mowing their lawns before the end of March, I’m moving to Nunavut.

Bald eagle permit

You probably could tell from my print column this week that I’m a little whipped about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issuing a permit for a Wyoming tribe to kill some bald eagles.

Sacrifice of rare, or at best uncommon, birds – otherwise protected by multiple federal and state laws – is unnecessary in 2012. Bald eagles have only been off the Endangered Species List a few years, and golden eagles remain a species of special concern in some parts of the country. One of my outdoor writing heroes, Ted Williams, has written about the tribal killing of golden eagles extensively. Outdoor News reprinted one of his stories on the topic years ago. You can read it again here.

Per my column, we have a taxpayer-subsidized national eagle repository near Denver to provide American Indians with eagle feathers. Yet this Wyoming band says that’s not enough. Bottom line for me and I hope most Americans: Killing bald eagles? Is nothing sacrosanct anymore?

Here’s a link to the USFWS’s sorry-ass explanation for why it issued the permit. As you can see from the comments, most folks aren’t buying it.

Here’s also an on-the-record statement from the agency: 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to the conservation of bald eagles throughout all regions of the country, consistent with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

It is almost always illegal to kill bald eagles, and our efforts are squarely focused on preventing the deaths of the birds. The Service also must comply with other laws and obligations, including the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the Federal government’s trust responsibilities to Native American tribes.

In recent decades, the Service has issued a very modest number of permits for the take of bald or golden eagles to Native Americans for use as part of religious ceremonies, but only when the religious needs cannot be met by the National Eagle Repository.

In this instance, after careful consideration, the Service has issued a permit, pursuant to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, to the Northern Arapaho Tribe of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming for the one-time take of up two bald eagles.

Finally, the USFWS sent me this file, which shows the number of eagle permits the agency has issued the past decade. It’s relatively small, and I hope to hell it doesn’t grow any longer. As you can see, one band had a permit to kill 40 golden eagle “nestlings” last year.

Bald and golden eagles belong to all of us. Time for the general public to get angry and demand that the USFWS stop issuing these permits. If you agree, write U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe at 1849 C Street, Washington DC 20240.

2012 Minnesota Fishing Challenge

Jim Kalkofen joined me on Outdoor News Radio this week to promote a great event for a great cause: the 2012 Minnesota Fishing Challenge. The event, which will occur June 2 on Gull Lake near Brainerd, supports Minnesota Teen Challenge. Jim spent 18 years at In-Fisherman, and after retiring “for about a day” he’s been working on this tournament – now in its fourth year – which has raised many thousands of dollars to help young people struggling with addiction. Al Lindner will serve as 2012 fishing challenge host and Steve Pennaz is honorary tournament director.

Minnesota Teen Challenge has been around for 25 years, and its mission is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Entries fees for a two-person boat are $100, and spots remained as of this week. For more details about the event, you can visit with Kalkofen, who will be at the Northwest Sportshow next weekend, Booth 822. You also can call (218) 833-8777 for more information or visit the Mn Teen Challenge website here.

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