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Doña Ana County Commission approves controversial wildlife contract
LAS CRUCES, NM – Today, the Doña Ana County commissioners voted to adopt a new contract with Wildlife Services, a federal program under the Department of Agriculture that uses indiscriminate and cruel methods to “control” what they consider to be nuisance wildlife. The new contract imposed some new reporting requirements, but failed to include important measures supported by many county residents, including bans on cruel and indiscriminate leghold traps and M-44 sodium cyanide bombs. The new contract includes an amendment proposed by Commissioner Manuel Sanchez and supported by wildlife advocates that requires the agency to attempt non-lethal control twice before resorting to lethal. The amendment passed 3:2 with Commissioners Lynn Ellins and Isabella Solis opposing.
“It is disappointing that our Commissioners did not fully adopt the People’s Contract, which included bans on leghold traps, M-44 cyanide bombs, and aerial gunning of wildlife,” said Amanda Munro, communications director and field organizer for the Southwest Environmental Center. “We thank Commissioners Manuel Sanchez, Ramon Gonzalez, and Shannon Reynolds for implementing a common-sense amendment that holds Wildlife Services accountable to what they claim to be doing already: prioritizing non-lethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. However, this contract does not go nearly far enough to ensure the humane treatment of our wildlife or to promote an ethic of coexistence. This issue is not going away.”
“The unfortunate reality is that there will still be M-44 sodium cyanide bombs on public and private lands across Doña Ana County,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “These devices are known to kill pets and many non-target animals and today the commissioners implied that the risk is fine with them.”
Increased reporting requirements will allow the county and public to monitor Wildlife Services activities. Conservation groups and activists hope that future improvements to the contract will better align Wildlife Services with the desires of Doña Ana County citizens, who have voiced a preference for the non-lethal, ethical, and science-based coexistence methods articulated in the People’s Contract.
The contract–with Commissioner Sanchez’s amendment–was approved 4-1. Commissioner Shannon Reynolds opposed.