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Environmental Groups Sue Federal Agencies Over Idaho Wildlife Killing Programs

Jim Peaco | Yellowstone National Park
Flickr Creative Commons
The plaintiffs allege the federal agencies are killing animals, including wolves, without scientific evidence the killings are neccessary.

A group of pro-wildlife organizations filed a lawsuit Wednesday against two federal agencies over animal control operations in Idaho. The suit names the USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The court filing alleges:

“Wildlife Services spends millions of dollars and thousands of person hours to kill thousands of wolves, coyotes, foxes, beavers, cougars, birds, and other wildlife species across Idaho each year, using aerial and ground shooting, poisons, traps, explosives, and other methods. Yet the agency has flouted its duty under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze these activities and disclose their likely impacts to the public through a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement.” - U.S. District Court document

The groups suing include national organizations like Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity, as well as the Idaho group Friends of the Clearwater. They say the federal animal killings are done for the benefit of the agricultural industry and not justified by good scientific evidence.

A Western Watersheds Project spokesperson calls the programs, “morally wrong, environmentally counterproductive, and procedurally illegal.”

Idaho spokesmen for Wildlife Services and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said they could not comment on litigation. But on its website, Wildlife Service’s Idaho office describes its mission.

“Every day, the Wildlife Services (WS) program in Idaho helps citizens, organizations, industries, and Government agencies resolve conflicts with wildlife to protect agriculture, other property, and natural resources, and to safeguard human health and safety. WS’ professional wildlife biologists and specialists implement effective, selective, and responsible strategies that value wildlife, the environment, and the resources being protected.” – aphis.usda.gov

Andrea Santarsiere, an Idaho based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, says the lawsuit seeks to halt Wildlife Service’s Idaho killing programs until the agencies conduct impact studies which include an assessment of impacts on endangered species. She also says the agencies should start releasing more information to the public about the programs in question, which she characterizes as secretive.

“We don’t have a lot of information as to their activities,” Santarsiere says. “One thing that we’re really concerned about is we know that their activities such as trapping, poisoning often kill unintended targets. But there’s no requirement at this time for them to release that information. And the public has no idea the impacts their activities are having.”  

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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