December 18, 2018

“Are Those BLACK DUCKS IN Those Trees?” “No, those are Cormorants.”

By Jim Beers

Recently, a colleague (XXX) in Finland sent me and several North American associates the following email about wolves Europe.

From: XXX
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2018 11:36 PM
To: Jim Beers

Subject: RE: France to let wolf population grow by 40% despite anger from farmers | World news | The Guardian

I bet they mean an annual growth of 40 %!!

 We are facing the same problems with wolves as we have seen with the Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) here in Europe. In 2009 we had approx. 2,000 breeding pairs in Finland and our authorities agreed, that’s enough. Now the population is up to 50,000 breeding pairs and recently we were allowed to shoot 50!!

 These birds were originally brought to Europe from China where they are used for fishing. Its name Sinensis means “from China”. Although it is an invasive species it is strictly protected all over Europe and thus allowed to terrorize the nature. I attach two photos giving a picture of their impact on the once so beautiful archipelagos of Stockholm (Sweden) and South-West Finland.

 Enjoy the nature now, tomorrow it is too late.

XXX

My response:

XXX, my good friend,

 If we were kids I would think you were copying my homework.  Knowing you has made me aware of how Finland and United States’ STATES (our federal government is more like Brussels) are alike.

 Speaking of cormorants:

Back in the 1970’s; when anytime someone in Washington said “this is environmental” the politicians rolled over on their backs, peed in the air and bellowed like a buffalo, while all the bureaucrats wagged their tails and ran over to the enviro lobbyists and begged for “treats”, i.e. money; the US Fish and Wildlife Service did everything they could in those days to ingratiate themselves with the emerging radical organizations since “hunting and fishing will soon be outlawed and where will our salaries come from?” was their belief.

Earlier, in 1917, the US federal government seized absolute legal jurisdiction and authority over 217 “migratory” bird species from State governments.  They did this by signing a treaty with Canada and Britain.  (When the President signs such a treaty after the US Senate ratifies it, it becomes “the Law of the land” per our Constitution.)

Certain birds like pelicans, hawks and owls were purposely excluded from the treaty as were cormorants.  The reasons cormorants were excluded were that they ate lots of young sport and commercial fish so the sport fishermen, the commercial fishermen and the general public saw those fish as important food sources since we were fighting in WW I at the time.  That meant that the individual states kept exclusive legal authority and jurisdiction over cormorants.  Thus wherever cormorants were raiding fish hatcheries; or depressing certain sport or commercial fisheries mainly by killing the young or the food of the desired fish; or killing trees cormorants roosted in by crapping in the trees and making the ground acidic beneath (as I am sure you know, cormorant crap rivals heron crap as extremely powerful where concentrated like gull or heron rookeries, islands, etc.; or where they were exterminating fish like goldfish in ponds or otherwise creating a mess (cormorant crap on the sides of buildings makes even the hardest radical wrinkle up their nose, wonder about disease and generally look the other way these days when told the cormorants will be live-trapped gently and driven in new SUVs to a location in “the wilderness” where they will be released together to begin life in their new and “natural ecosystem” (in other words killed and buried secretly by bureaucrats fearful for their pensions); etc., etc.  Today, cormorant concentrations and seal concentrations assemble at the mouths of big salmon rivers and work together.  The seals kill adult fish entering the rivers from the sea to spawn and the cormorants eat the young fish migrating to the sea. Government “experts” and radicals bamboozle the public with all sorts of Rube Goldberg ineffective and expensive schemes like “range riders” and “guard dogs” for wolves that are similarly intended only as placebos for tinker belles.

Anyway, cormorants were kept at tolerable levels for 50 years after the 1917 Treaty under a wide variety of State controls and management regimes.  Fishermen, hatchery folks, and an assortment of rural folks that had been at one time or another harmed by or were aware of the problems created by the presence of too many cormorants, such as picnic area customers that could no longer use the picnic area, insisted what the STATE government HAD to do because their State and Local residents demanded it.  Unlike Washington’ or Brussels’ politicians that act as if seemingly immune to local demands and concerns the voters that the State politicians answered to could actually vote them out and replace them. Thus cormorants could be killed year-around in some states by hatchery or fish farm operators or killed under easily obtained permits in others and violations of these various laws, like locals shooting out a roost in some high-concentration area, were “lightly” enforced something like an Indian that kills a wolf today. (This latter happened recently here where I live in Minnesota.)

Everyone was happy with that 1917-1972 cormorant situation except the federal bureaucrats that wanted MORE power, employees, salaries and higher pensions; AND politicians like Presidents Nixon (tangled up in “Watergate”) and his successor Ford that wanted to be elected President when running against soon-to-be President Carter in.  On the heels of the Vietnam War in the early 1970’s radicals of all sorts and especially environmental/animal rights’ radicals were seen to have a rich potential for political donors and voters. Nixon and Ford and a bevy of Senators and Congressmen began passing an orgy of new federal laws seizing State natural resource jurisdictions and authority by the bushel.  It was as if we were in a war and everything was an “emergency.  Suddenly, in the 1970s, the federal government was the sole dictatorial arbiter and “owner” under the new laws of “endangered species”; “clean water”; estuarine areas”; “animal welfare”; “American ‘antiquities’”; marine mammals in state waters; “fish and wildlife improvement”; and “free-roaming horses and burros”.  Wilderness Declarations by Presidents became as common as passing out “freedom medals”.  National Forests and National Wildlife Refuges began evolving into (“National”) Parks where there were no roads, no hunting, no fishing, no trapping, no logging and less and less grazing.  It was in this lemming-like national enthusiasm that the radicals and bureaucrats saw and seized another opportunity.

At this time, the radicals wanted, and were given federal control of hawks, owls, pelicans AND CORMORANTS, or all the migratory birds not listed on the 1917 Treaty.  This was done by the US signing Migratory Bird Treaties with Japan and Russia in 1972.  The public perception was that this was just another federal “rescue” of “unprotected” wildlife that was headed to eventual extinction and the ONLY hope for them was federal control and legal punishment for the vile people killing them and a body of regulations that forbid any management and allowed the beautiful and “important” cormorants to live peaceful existences as they did up until European immigrants arrived to destroy the ecosystem.  One government announcement even characterized it as “Environmental Detante”. There was hoopla about how cormorants would “balance” the ecosystem and benefit native fish (“fisheries” were unmentioned).  It was just like the “restoring the willows along streams”; “they only eat the sick (or mice and small rodents when a different crowd appears) and the lame” nonsense today about wolves.

So, our cormorants became much more numerous like yours under Brussels and censuses were minimized and mostly lies soon thereafter, but who could deny the censuses?  Again, just like wolves today.  Government fish hatcheries came up with all sorts of “non-lethal” cormorant controls like nets, firecrackers and exploders that never worked for long but anyway the hatcheries and thefisheries they supported were being steadily reduced anyway as fishing became unacceptable and spending fish dollars on the new “environmental” programs was easier for government bureaucrats that justifying the New Wave stuff.

Many of our big Midwestern rivers hosted growing cormorant roosts that became ubiquitous coincidentally as Asian carp were imported by American catfish farmers using them to keep their ponds clean.  The federal government had allowed importation of the Asian carp while simultaneously charged with denying importation of “Injurious” Wildlife like boa constrictors, pythons, snakeheads – each of which have become established as I write – looked the other way as the carp were imported.  Almost immediately, the catfish ponds flooded (imagine that in low-lying water areas where ponds used stream water and flooding was routine) and the Asian carp escaped and simply eliminated fish life and aquatic vegetation everywhere. The Illinois River in my home state of Illinois was once a great waterfowl wintering area with lots of aquatic plant food and nearby fields for enormous wintering flocks of ducks.  Today, the Asian carp have eradicated all those waterfowl food plants AND all the sport fish like bass, bluegills, catfish and bullheads.  The last estimate I saw, Asian carp made up 95% of the fish biomass in the River.  Millions and millions are spent in Chicago in a vain attempt to keep the Asian carp in the Illinois River/Chicago River drainage from breaching an electric weir that they hope will forever keep Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan and eventually all the Great Lakes.  What role did the growing cormorant populations play in the demise of sport and commercial fisheries?  No one knows or investigates, or honestly could be expected to tell the truth about it.  This is only one small example of what is going on.

Anyway, by the 1990’s when I was expelled from the federal government, cormorants were seriously affecting fisheries in the Great Lakes and many US rivers, especially in the Eastern 2/3’s of the Lower 48 States.  The federal tinker belles had no idea what to do but they wanted to appear to be doing something.  I attended one silly meeting where this came up painted a pretty big cormorant impact on Great Lakes sport fisheries.  One of the New Wave young ladies asked, “why don’t we just open a hunting season on them?”  As if hunters would line up to shoot and buy licenses, equipment and ammunition for an inedible and smelly bird that you had to use or be in violation of the law for “wanton waste”. She, like her cohort, believed that some hunting (wasn’t “hunting” responsible for the extinction of buffalo, passenger pigeons, dodoes, grizzly bears and wolves???) would miraculously put cormorants into a tailspin toward extinction that could be cut off when it got too near, by federal bureaucrats?  I remember sitting there thinking about the duck hunts I had been on and all the decoys (I have a nice collection) I used.  I imagined a cormorant decoy with its face upturned; another with a big lump in its throat; another beginning a dive; yet another with the tail of a big perch sticking out his bill; and perhaps two cormorants (actually one decoy) that appear to be fighting over a young walleye.  It would have looked like about a thousand mallards feeding on a pile of bait like corn or buckwheat!    The mind boggles at the unreality of these government wildlife programs today.  Our State agencies have become little more that federal subcontractors in all this.

So XXX, we have more in common then we knew.  None of this is going to get any better without drastic change and without a more knowledgeable public and a rejection of this mad notion that the people in Brussels or New York or Berlin or Los Angeles can force the sheepherder in Italy or the hunter in Finland or the rancher in Idaho or the camper in Montana or the dog owner in Wisconsin to live with animals they do not want and that cause them harm and financial loss be they wolves or cormorants.

Jim Beers

Wed. 11 July 2018

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Addendum

On the following day, an American colleague who was copied on my response wrote me to tell of a Wisconsin Lake he fishes.  As the federal cormorants increased, the perch fishing declined and all but disappeared (just like Minnesota moose as federal wolves increased in Minnesota).  After several years of complaining to their state agency and the state agency running out of excuses, the state bureaucrats began “oiling” (i.e. killing the chicks) of cormorants in large but untold numbers.  The cormorants declined and the perch returned in a very understandable and predictable fashion.

He also mentioned a Lake on the Upper Peninsula on Michigan where a friend of his reported the demise of a large and popular perch fishery, clearly as a result of cormorants; the same as the wolf explosion on Isle Royale in Lake Superior preceded the collapse of the moose on Isle Royale.

I mention this because it occurs to me that many might wonder why the State agency is the one getting the complaints and resolving, in a patchwork way, a federally-generated problem caused by birds under federal primary authority.  The answer may be of interest.

Historically, since 1917, when the US government actions or inactions (Asian carp; pythons; boa constrictors; snakeheads; wolves; grizzlies; black bears in the South; sea otters & abalone, clam mussel fisheries; manatees and boats; cormorants; etc.) involving fish and wildlife run into scandals or bad publicity, they do one or more things:

  1. They cover up the facts like they do about the insane “Florida Panther” “Recovery”.
  2. They mumble about “compensation” for things they caused but somehow money is never available for, or only much less is available just for long enough for opposition to fade away.
  3. They deny the truth just like the FBI has been doing for a year about their political investigations at this writing.
  4. They figure out a way to get more money and people to “solve” the self-inflicted wound.
  5. They pay some academic to publish a paper about how a disaster like the loss of the largest elk herd in the US to government wolves was worth it because “willows have been restored along streams” and rodent populations (the only thing wolves reputedly eat besides sick and dying animals) benefit from more food and their increased tunnels aerate the soil and benefit earthworms, etc.
  6. They grind out endless blather about “native” ecosystems as the ONLY ecosystem to have and how things like wolves, cormorants or grizzlies are absolutely necessary if we are to have any hope of passing on an “ecosystem” to future generations.  Then they stress that, “this is the government speaking; this is the ‘New Normal’ and you better get used to it”.
  7. Failing all of the above, they instruct the always-compliant State agencies to accept the “Return of Management to the State”.  This one never fails.  Think wolves here.  When wolves are introduced by the federal government and protected by the federal government they cause massive problems.  A few states like California, Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota (States that have never encountered a federal program they didn’t love) welcome and protect the wolves much to the pleasure of their elite political power centers like L.A., Portland, Seattle and the Twin Cities.  When the federal wolf numbers become all but intolerable the “offer” of Returning Management to the State is as enthusiastically celebrated by the public as V-E Day or V-J Day.  Now with that said, note the following.  The “Return” comes with “strings about numbers, distributions, growth, methods of control, etc., plus THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT with all its implied power for bureaucrats REMAINS IN PLACE!  What Trump or Zinke DO; Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders; Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi can UNDO even quicker with a lock-step Congress.  The federal government can seize control of the “Returned” wolves or the Southern Black Bears in a New York nanosecond as long as the ESA as written remains in place.

So, quietly, the federal government “Returned Management of Cormorants” to State governments UNDER FEDERAL OVERSIGHT since the cormorant is named in those two (Russian and Japanese) Bird Treaties.  The State discretion is kept in line with the minimum the federal government thinks it can get away with when perch fishermen complain in Wisconsin or a hatchery loses thousands of dollars and fish to cormorants that figured out how to get under the nets unnoticed.

One last item for your edification.  These federal “Returns” of fish and wildlife are not only temporary placeboes over time – they cost money, lots of money.  State Wardens spending most of their time and office support and equipment responding to complaints, damage, hand-holding, commiseration, etc. for cormorants, wolves, snakeheads, black bears, pythons, etc. costs millions per year.  Supervisors, main offices and administrative staffs all divert their time to “the New Normal”.  Where does the time and money come from?  The State may make some Appropriation gesture or get some federal dollars initially and everyone cheers but take my word and I know whereof I speak: the vast bulk of the costs (75 to 90%) come from the hunting and fishing license money and hunting and fishing federal Excise Taxes collected for the States.  This does TWO THINGS:

  1. It hides the costs of all this fish and wildlife babysitting justified by animal rights/”native” ecosystem” agendas that no one admits exist.
  2. And perhaps most important, it DEFUNDS the game management and fishery management programs. Bye, bye pheasants, walleyes, ducks, deer, moose, elk, etc., etc.: from now on you are only good for feeding cormorants, wolves, bears and cougars.  Bye, bye Bass Pro Shops, LL Bean Shoes, Browning Arms, US Fishing Tackle manufacturers, US Archery manufacturers, Hunting/fishing gear manufacturers, and all the taxes, jobs and rural benefits you once generated.  Hello, US Taxpayers to BIG tax increases to keep things that are but a shadow of the current State fish and wildlife agencies operating under federal “oversight” for????

Think of it, if you are a radical, as a “twofer”.

Jim Beers

13 July 2018

If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others.  Thanks.

Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

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