For Immediate Release, September 8, 2014
BOISE, Idaho— Four conservation organizations today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program over its large-scale, often secretive killing of wild animals in Idaho. The program kills millions of animals nationwide every year, and in 2013 killed more than 3,000 mammals in Idaho alone via aerial gunning, neck snares, foothold traps, and toxic devices known as M-44s that spray sodium cyanide into the victim’s mouth, causing tremendous suffering and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.
“It’s long overdue for Wildlife Services to be held accountable for killing wildlife and releasing pollutants into our environment,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “We want an explanation for this deplorable expenditure of public funds.”
The lawsuit will challenge Wildlife Services’ renewal of its efforts in Idaho to eradicate coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes and other important carnivores from the landscape for the benefit of private livestock and agricultural interests. Wildlife Services also plans to remove dozens of beaver dams using explosives that will harm bull trout, a protected species. The program admits that its trapping activities will harm threatened grizzly bears and Canada lynx. Trapping also targets fishers, which are in rapid decline in the Northern Rocky Mountains due to a vast increase in trapping activities in Idaho. Conservation groups have petitioned to protect the fisher under the Endangered Species Act.
“One of the many problems with this program is the many unintended victims left in its wake, including endangered species,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Grizzly bears, lynx and bull trout are all suffering at the hands of Wildlife Services, and that needs to stop.”
Wildlife Services has come under increasing criticism for the sheer number of animals that it kills and injures, (including many non-target animals), the ineffectiveness of its methods, its cruel and inhumane tactics, and its antiquated attitude about carnivores, which scientists demonstrate are critically important to maintaining intact ecosystems in the western United States. Beavers similarly play a key role in healthy ecosystems and are critical to successful climate adaptation. New research demonstrates the essential role beavers play by stabilizing streams, slowing snowmelt runoff, and improving fish habitat, among other benefits.
“Native carnivores and beavers are key parts of healthy, thriving ecosystems,” said Drew Kerr, carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Wildlife Services needs to join the 21st century and follow the best available science to ensure its activities don’t further damage Idaho’s ecosystems.”
After members of Congress demanded an investigation of the program’s practices earlier this year, the Agriculture Department commenced an audit of its wildlife control activities. Due to the lack of any regulatory framework to govern the program, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies filed a comprehensive petition for reform in December 2013.
Wildlife Services has never conducted either an analysis of the statewide environmental impacts of its activities or of the impact of beaver dam destruction.
“Wildlife Services–what a euphemism–has never shown itself to be biologically or fiscally sound,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “In fact, in the case of coyotes, the killing program seems to be a never-ending bloodbath that harms other species as well.”
Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and Friends of the Clearwater are represented by Boise-based law firm Advocates for the West.