Group sues USDA over predator killing program

May 2, 2012, 12:29 AM

Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) – The Great Depression-era program the Department of Agriculture uses to kill coyotes, mountain lions and other predators that threaten livestock is outdated, illegal and a waste of federal money, conservationists say in a new lawsuit.

Wildlife Services, an agency under USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, has refused for nearly two decades to conduct the environmental reviews necessary to justify the mass killings with traps, snares, poisons and aerial gunning, according to lawyers for WildEarth Guardians based in Sante Fe, N.M.

They are asking in a lawsuit filed Monday that a federal judge in Nevada shut down the agency that spent $127 million in 2010 to exterminate more than 5 million animals.

“We want the court to ban its poisons, silence its guns, and pull up its traps because it’s a horrendous misuse of our tax dollars to slaughter the nation’s bears, wolves, coyotes, and myriad other species,” said Wendy Keefover, the group’s director of carnivore protection.

APHIS spokeswoman Carol Bannerman said Tuesday agency officials had not yet reviewed the suit and she had no immediate comment directly on pending litigation, but added that the conservation group had misrepresented the agency’s overall mission.

“Wildlife Services conducts its programs, at local request, and seeks to manage local damage, not to eradicate any native species,” she said Tuesday.

About 38 percent of the agency’s 2010 budget was spent to protect agricultural resources, she said in an email, and the service also chased away more than 20 million animals from areas where they were “causing damage or conflicts.”

“That included making airports safer from wildlife strikes, collecting almost 90,000 samples of 47 diseases carried by wildlife, and protecting 131 different types of threatened or endangered species,” Bannerman said.

The suit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas said the program primarily benefits a small number of larger agribusiness operations in the West. It says the agency ignores modern science about critical roles of native carnivores in the ecosystem.

“Wildlife Services continues to rely on their environmental analysis from the early 1990s because they want to avoid public scrutiny of their expensive and ineffective program,” Ashley Wilmes, the group’s staff attorney based in Boulder, Colo., said on Tuesday.

Wildlife Services conducted its last programmatic environmental impact statement on the “wildlife-killing” program in 1994, based largely on outdated studies from the 1980s, the lawsuit said. It argues a new EIS is required under the National Environmental Act.

From 2004-10, the agency spent $1 billion to kill nearly 23 million animals, along with thousands of “non-target” species that were killed accidentally, mostly by traps and poisons, the lawsuit said.

The Sacramento Bee reported in a series that began April 28 that the agency had accidentally killed more than 50,000 animals since 2000 that were not causing problems, including federally protected golden and bald eagles and more than 1,000 dogs, including family pets.

The service’s roots date to 1915 when Congress spent $125,000 to kill wolves in hope of boosting beef production for World War II, beginning in Nevada. The government initiated “massive poisoning and trapping campaigns that greatly diminished America’s wildlife” after Congress passed the Animal Damage Control Act in 1931, the lawsuit said.

About half of Wildlife Services’ budget is funded from federal tax dollars and the other half from states, local governments and industry groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Sheep Industry Alliance, and American Farm Bureau Federation.

They were among more than 150 organizations that wrote to the chairman of the House and Senate appropriations committees in March urging continued support for Wildlife Services. They said wildlife damage to U.S. livestock, aquaculture, small grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products has been estimated to reach nearly $1 billion annually. That includes $619 million crop losses and $126 million in livestock deaths, they said.

“As a result, WS is an essential program in agriculture production in the United States,” the groups said in the March 27 letters to Sen. Daniel Inoue, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

The lawsuit argues most modern livestock producers lose few sheep or cattle to carnivores when compared to unintended losses due to illness, disease, birthing problems and weather.

“All this killing has no real benefit-even to the massive agricultural industry it purports to support,” Keefover said.

The lawsuit said killing coyotes does not work as a long-term strategy to benefit livestock because new migrants move into the unoccupied territory. It said coyotes benefit populations of sage grouse and other game hens because the coyotes help control populations of foxes, badgers and ravens, which are more likely to prey on sage-grouse eggs and their young.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on T...
Associated Press

Powell: ‘No guarantee’ Fed can tame inflation, spare jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said there’s “no guarantee” the central bank can tame runaway inflation without hurting the job market. Speaking Wednesday at a European Central Bank forum in Sintra, Portugal, Powell repeated his hope that the Fed can achieve a so-called soft landing — raising interest rates just enough to […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Ex-Coast Guard employee pleads guilty in test-fixing case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former U.S. Coast Guard employee has pleaded guilty in a test score-fixing scheme that happened over seven years at an exam center in Louisiana, federal prosecutors said. U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans, in a news release Tuesday, said Eldridge Johnson entered the plea June 23 to one count each of […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Yellowstone bison gores Colorado man, causes arm injury

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — A bull bison gored a Colorado man in Yellowstone National Park this week, park officials said. The 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs was walking with his family near Giant Geyser in the Old Faithful area on Monday when a bull bison charged the group, park officials said. A video […]
10 hours ago
CORRECTS SPELLING OF FIRST NAME TO HERSHEL, NOT HERSCHEL -  Law enforcement officers lead a process...
Associated Press

Last remaining WWII Medal of Honor recipient dies at 98

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died Wednesday. He was 98. Williams’ foundation announced on Twitter and Facebook that he died at the Veterans Affairs medical center bearing his name in Huntington. As a young Marine corporal, Williams went ahead of his […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Singer Janet Jackson performs during the European MTV Awards in Bilbao, Spain, on Nov. 4, 20...
Associated Press

Essence Fest is back in New Orleans after two-year hiatus

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Black culture, in all its glory, will be on display over the 4th of July holiday weekend in New Orleans as thousands converge on the city for the in-person return of the Essence Festival of Culture. The multiday event begins with a Thursday performance by comedian Kevin Hart in the Smoothie […]
10 hours ago
Follow @KTAR923...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Sponsored Articles


Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Group sues USDA over predator killing program