Washington State University silences researcher to placate ranchers and politicians

SOURCE:  SEATTLE TIMES

A motion-triggered wildlife camera at the den site of the Profanity Peak pack captures pack members on camera last June 30. Seven pack members were killed by Department of Fish and Wildlife after the wolves killed cattle grazing on public land at the Colville National Forest. (WSU wolf livestock research program)

A WAR OVER WOLVES

Outspoken researcher says his university and lawmakers silenced and punished him

By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter

By a slow slide of river deep in Washington’s wolf country, Robert Wielgus laughs at the tattoo on his arm of Four Claws, the grizzly that almost killed him.

“I would rather face charging grizzly bears trying to kill me than politicians and university administrators, because it is over quickly,” said Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University.

A Harley-riding, self-described adrenaline junkie at home in black motorcycle leathers with a Stetson and a .357 in the pickup, Wielgus, 60, is no tweed-jacket academic. For decades he has traveled North America wrangling bears, cougars and wolves to collar and study their behavior, including collaborations with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Wielgus now finds himself crosswise with ranchers, lawmakers and WSU administrators — and their lobbyists. He’s lost grant funding for his summer research, has been forbidden from talking to media in his professional role and has been reviewed — and cleared — for scientific misconduct.

To understand why involves a look at state policy concerning a menagerie of animals: cougars, sheep, cattle and wolves. And one more animal: homo sapiens.

In Washington, it turns out, wolves and livestock are getting along better than the people who manage and study them.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a national nonprofit specializing in government scientist whistleblower protection, in April filed a 12-page complaint against WSU officials, alleging the university punished and silenced Wielgus to placate ranchers and state legislators who objected to his research. WSU officials declined to comment for this story, citing possible litigation.

Read the rest of this story HERE.

6 comments on “Washington State University silences researcher to placate ranchers and politicians

  1. WHERE are Washington’s senators and representatives?
    It’s easier to target something that can’t fight back.

    Navy War Games over Olympic National Park and Forest
    By conniegallant

    Perhaps I have missed it, but I have not seen a Daily Kos headline referencing the Navy War Games happening on the public forest lands and rich coastal waters of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

    The US Navy plans to permanently use and periodically close large swathes of the Olympic National Forest, along with airspace over it and the Olympic National Park as well as the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, for electromagnetic warfare testing and training. They are also ramping up their use of explosives and sonar and training activities in the waters surrounding the Olympic Peninsula. Their stated goal is to turn the western portion of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and surrounding waters into an Electromagnetic Warfare Range. The area encompasses a world heritage site and one of our national treasures: the Olympic National Park.

    An unknown number of Growler jets will engage in electronic warfare testing and training over the Olympic Peninsula, by flying 8 to 16 hours per day for 260 days per year. The Navy’s stated intent is to turn the area into an Electronic Warfare range. The public is worried about jet noise, pollution, electromagnetic radiation, stress, loss of our tourism-based economy, decline in property values, and a number of other issues. According to the Navy’s own statistics on older aircraft, a jet flying at 1000 feet of altitude will produce 113 decibels, which is above the human pain threshold and enough to cause permanent damage to hearing.

    The people of the United States deserve to know that the US Navy (and other military agencies) are engaging in more domestic training on and over our public lands, ignoring the public’s demands for more information and adherence to environmental guidelines. No one is disputing the need for the military to train – but doing so at the health risk of our forests, rich coastal waters, wildlife, and human population is simply not acceptable.
    The US Navy is also ignoring our political representatives’ requests for listening to the public.

    For more information posted on a local citizen’s group, go to:
    http://westcoastactionalliance.org/
    Please pass this information along – the national parks, forests, and rich coastal oceans belong to all of us!

    https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/4/21/1379272/-Navy-War-Games-over-Olympic-National-Park-and-Forest

    Like

  2. Could you clarify something please (caveat: I’m new to this particular issue and don’t know any of the invovled parties). If there are photographs of cattle literally “swamping” the wolf den, it is clear the cattle were where nobody involved could rightly want them to be. Their owner is required to release and rotate them within the established regimens mandated by the USFS, as mentioned. A release site four miles from a den, with required dispersal and rotation seems very close to a den site to me, as four miles is nothing to most canines. If range riders were on site and aware of the den location, why then are there photos of cattle on the den site itself? Surely a permittee with a 73 year history on a single site would be well aware of the environs. Why didn’t the range riders keep the cattle at a safer distance, or stay with them when they neared the den site?

    Also, it isn’t clear here if Wielgus asked the rancher to radio collar any cattle, and was refused, as your comment simply indicates this isn’t standard practice without addressing Wielgus’ assertion the rancher was specifically asked. Was the rancher asked, or not, to radio collar any cattle, and if so by whom?

    Your comment also predicates Wielgus’ intent in asking for some cattle to be collared was “to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves”, yet you follow this with a comment that such collaring is “not 100% effective” against predation, something Wielgus did not evidently claim and surely wouldn’t?

    I don’t see evidence in your comments of “inappropriate” language by Wielgus, but perhaps a failure to “go along to get along” attitude, which seems a well established part of his character, and surely not news to anyone at the university.

    It’s unclear here how or why Weilgus’ research integrity should be questioned, or how the apparent intent to discredit him and his work correlates with academic freedom, something much vaunted in American universities but which is widely under fire today. On the basis of what is written here, it’s hard not to conclude he is being unfairly silenced.

    Like

  3. Seems to be a pattern emerging here:

    https://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/zion-explores-cap-on-number-of-visitors-as-other-parks-fiddle.html

    ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST RABID ANTI-WOLF LEGISLATOR

    Washington’s Rep. Kretz Threatened University to Fire Scientist and End Research

    Posted on Aug 17, 2017 | Tags: Animal Slaughter, Scientific Integrity, War on Wolves, Washington

    Washington, DC — A Washington state legislator has engaged in an unrelenting and improper campaign to fire a university professor in retaliation for his peer-reviewed research, according to an ethics complaint filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The complaint charges Deputy Minority Leader Joel Kretz, Representative of the 7th Legislative District, with 14 counts of unethical behavior, including attempted bribery of Washington State University (WSU) administrators and threats against academic researchers in reprisal for their scientific findings.

    PEER lodged the complaint with the Washington State Legislative Ethics Board. Under state law, legislators are forbidden from employing “improper means” in their advocacy, such as communications that state employees might reasonably perceive as a threat. The Board has subpoena power and the complaint lists current and former state employees, WSU faculty members, and graduate students as eyewitnesses.

    The complaint recounts numerous instances where Rep. Kretz contacted WSU administrators and researchers over the past six years and issued a stream of threats in order to dictate the direction of Washington’s carnivore conservation research, particularly as it related to the interactions of wolves with livestock. For example, Rep. Kretz threatened to withhold funds for WSU’s plant sciences building unless Dr. Robert Wielgus was terminated and his Large Carnivore Conservation Lab defunded.

    “Extortion is not a legislative prerogative in the State of Washington,” stated PEER Counsel Adam Carlesco, who filed the complaint, noting that Rep. Kretz has freely admitted to his strong-arm tactics with university administrators and has engaged in violent rhetoric – stating that Dr. Wielgus, one of the foremost carnivore biologists in North America, “ought to be drawn and quartered and a chunk of him left everywhere in the district.” Carlesco added that “Representative Kretz has crossed far beyond the bounds of proper legislative advocacy, wading into the realm of harassment.”

    While Rep. Kretz’s strenuous efforts have yet to result in the firing of Dr. Wielgus, they have blocked him from procuring grant funding for large carnivore research and the loss of his summer research salary (which he has had for close to 20 years). In addition, Rep. Kretz subjected Dr. Wielgus to baseless investigations and public denunciations. These actions have halted large carnivore research at WSU and wolf/livestock interaction research across Washington.

    A legislator who violates state ethics laws while holding elected office may be required to pay any damages incurred to the state resulting from the violations, costs incurred from necessary investigations, and a civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars.

    “Current Washington State University leaders enabled Rep. Kretz’s misconduct by allowing him to influence the content of its scientific work,” Carlesco added, noting that WSU went so far as to issue an inaccurate press release condemning Dr. Wielgus concerning the controversial state action to kill a wolf pack on Profanity Peak in northwestern Washington. “The point of Dr. Wielgus’ research is to show ways in which wolves and other predators can coexist with livestock. Unfortunately, some Washington legislators cannot coexist with scientific research that undermines their political agenda.”

    ###

    Read the PEER complaint

    Look at legislative blackmail at WSU

    See infringements on Dr. Wielgus’ academic freedoms

    Revisit the Profanity Peak controversy

    Like

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