Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Judge puts wolf back on endangered list

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Ruling ends killing of animals that threaten livestock, pets

By Lee Bergquist – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A federal judge on Monday overturned a decision that removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

The ruling immediately halts the practice of killing wolves that threaten livestock and pets in the three states.

Forty-five wolves have been killed in Wisconsin this year, either by government personnel, at the request of landowners, a state official said.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, including the Humane Society of the United States.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington, D.C., said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not remove wolves from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region while wolves remained endangered in other parts of the country.

In July, a federal judge in Montana issued an injunction in the Rocky Mountain region after states opened a hunting season on wolves.

With the wolf population sufficiently recovered in Wisconsin, the state Department of Natural Resources had supported the lifting of protections.

Wolves were delisted on March 12, 2007. That allowed the state to take over regulating the wolves.

Since then, landowners who complained that wolves were harming or killing livestock or pets could obtain a permit to kill wolves. In practice, however, most wolves have been shot by personnel with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Wisconsin authorities have also allowed landowners to kill wolves without a permit, if they found wolves attacking their livestock.

In 2008 that has happened twice. Adrian Wydeven, biologist for the DNR, said the agency was disappointed by the ruling. He said the DNR will go back to the Fish and Wildlife Service in the hope of getting permission for authorities to kill problem wolves in limited cases.

With strong support from the hunting organizations and farming groups, the DNR said in August that it might initiate the first public hunt of wolves in more than 50 years.

“Hunting is totally off the table at this point,” said Wydeven, the agency’s top expert on wolves.

Bob Welch, a lobbyist representing the Hunters Rights Coalition, called the ruling a flawed decision.

“The facts on the ground have not changed,” Welch said. “There are plenty of wolves in the Great Lakes region.”

The estimaged population of wolves last winter was 537 to 564 wolves, according to the DNR.

The agency’s goal for recovery has been 350. In 2000, Wisconsin had fewer than 250 wolves.

Karlyn Berg, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said her organization was pleased by the ruling.

There are instances when problem wolves need to be killed, but she said, “people want to continue to go back to the old way of management that humans have to kill a certain number of wolves to make everything hunky dory.”

Positives of ethanol touted

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

From The Edgerton Reporter’s National Agriculture Week

By Jason Francis – The Edgerton Reporter

Ethanol has been fueling a heated debate in Wisconsin the past year, as a bill requiring all regular unleaded gasoline to contain 10 percent ethanol by late 2007 was proposed in the state legislature.

Former state Sen. Bob Welch, now a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition and Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, was the guest speaker at Edgerton Rotary Club 'Farm Day' program on March 21

The measure passed the Assembly in December and had the support of Gov. Jim Doyle, but the Senate narrowly voted to table the matter probably until next January.

Critics of the bill say there are too many unanswered questions about ethanol’s potential impact on gas prices, the environment, engines and fuel efficiency. Critics also stood in opposition to the bill on principal because it would be a government mandate.

But former state Sen. Bob Welch and an army of other supporters of the bill argue that the use of ethanol would lead to decreased reliance on foreign oil, the addition of thousands of jobs in the ethanol industry, and improved farming economy and cheaper gas for consumers.

Ethanol is a fuel additive typically made from corn.

“Ethanol is good for Wisconsin, good for consumers, good for your engine, good for the environment and good for America.” said Welch.

Now a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition and Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Welch was the speaker at the Edgerton Rotary Club ‘Farm Day’ program on March 21 in honor of National Agriculture week.

Ethanol is a fuel additive typically made from corn. Ethanol is also used in alcoholic beverages.

Currently, there are 18 ethanol refineries in Minnesota and 12 in Iowa (with three more on the way).

In Wisconsin, there are only four refineries, which produce 200 million gallons of ethanol per year. But four more plants will open within 18 months in the state, including one in Milton. The plants use about 20% of Wisconsin’s corn crops, which ranked sixth in the nation in production in 2004.

“We are moving quickly to catch up with other states,” said Welch, a 20-year veteran of the state legislature..

The opening of ethanol plants mean the addition, on average of 250 well-paying jobs, he said.

“The average wage at an ethanol plant is $50,000 a year with full benefits. These are not McDonald’s jobs, these are high-paying, skilled, manufacturing-era kind of jobs we don’t see much of anymore.”

Each ethanol refiner also translates into the addition of $110 million to the local economy, leading to the creation of 100 to 500 jobs, Welch added.

With common use of ethanol in gas, the price per bushel of corn farmers receive would increase seven to 19 cents, Welch said.

“For you non-farmers that may not sound like a lot. But for you guys that farm, that is like doubling the profits.”

There are currently two types of ethanol gas available at some gas stations in the state now, E10 and E85.

E10 includes 10 percent ethanol, E85 contains 85 percent ethanol

E10 can be used in almost all vehicles made since 1980, but E85 can be used in only a select amount of vehicles because it can hinder fuel delivery systems over time.

Flex-fuel vehicles, which are made by General Motors, Ford and some other carmakers, are designed to allow the use of E85.

“Our homegrown auto companies…have a huge advantage over the foreign companies in terms of flex-fuel vehicles.” said Welch.

According to a USA Today article, Ford estimates that five million flex-fuel vehicles are currently on the road. GM is pledging to build more than 400,000 of the vehicles per annually starting this year.

Oil companies are resisting the ethanol revolution because of the high profit margin involved in their industry, said Welch.

“They make more money when they drill (oil), when they ship it, when they pope it, when they refine it, when they wholesale it and then finally that 10 cents at the end.”

Out of 4,273 gas stations in the state, about 4,000 are controlled by the “big oil companies,” Welch said.

In Minnesota, where E10 is already used extensively, people pay on average about 10 cents less per gallon than in Wisconsin, he said. E85 runs 60 per gallon lower in Minnesota than regular gas in Wisconsin.

There are some drawbacks to the use of ethanol in fuel. For example, using E10, gas mileage decreases by between one and three percent.

But having slightly low air pressure in tires can lower mileage that much, said Welch, and the savings E10 affords customers more than makes up for the cost of the mileage drop.

The environmental impact of using ethanol for fuel is also debatable on a few fronts, though Welch said the positives easily surpass the negatives.

E10 burns cleaner than gas. It reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 25-50 percent, toxic benzene by 25 percent, particulate matter by 50 percent and greenhouse gases by 19 percent, Welch noted.

But in a report released in September, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources finds that requiring 10 percent ethanol at all the state’s gas pumps would pollute the air as much as a 350-megawatt coal-fired power plant and would likely result in more counties being identified in ozone health advisories.

“This is a short-term debate, however, because as we move to E85, there is no longer any debate. E85 is better for the environment times eight (than E10),” Welch said.

The ethanol bill did have the support of numerous environmental groups.

Another plus of ethanol is that it is a renewable resource.

“We grow the corn in Wisconsin, process it in Wisconsin, truck it to the stations in Wisconsin and you put it in your car,” said Welch.

“And next year they plant the corn again.”

Noting that much of our countries oil comes from Middle Eastern countries, Welch’s speech before the Rotary Club ended on a somber not.

“Every place in the world that has oil – almost unanimously – they are not nice people,” Welch said.

Countries like Iran, Libya and Venezuela all support themselves with the sale of oil, he said.

“They are making their money off us. We are paying them to build bombs to blow up our soldiers.”

If the united States mandated the use of E10, it could cease the importation of oil from Saudi Arabia, Welch said.

“Seventy cents out of every dollar spent at a gas station (in the United States) goes overseas. With ethanol, 70 cents of every dollar stays here.. That is a very big deal.”

The United States should follow in Brazil’s path, Welch said.

“Right now in Brazil every car has to be a flex-fuel vehicle and they are burning between 40 percent and 100 percent ethanol in every car in that country. They are completely energy efficient.

“They did it and we can do it.”

The bill requiring E10 gasoline is expected to be considered by the state legislature again early next year.