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Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon

February 3, 2016
Bethany Cotton (503) 327-4923 bcotton@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Services’ Authority to Kill Wolves in Oregon

Indiscriminate Killing is Scientifically and Ethically Bankrupt
Contact: Bethany Cotton (503) 327-4923 bcotton@wildearthguardians.org

Additional contacts:

JohnMellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.org
NickCady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
AmyAtwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.org
BrooksFahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.org
CamillaFox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org

PORTLAND,Ore. – Conservation groups filed alawsuit today challenging the authority of the federal wildlife-killing programWildlife Services to kill any of the approximately 81 remaining gray wolves inOregon. The legal challenge, filed by the Western Environmental Law Center onbehalf of four conservation groups, with Cascadia Wildlands representingitself, comes weeks after a federal court ruled that Wildlife Services’controversial wolf killing program in Washington is illegal.

Thegroups contend that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves onbehalf of livestock interests should replace common-sense, proactive andnonlethal alternatives such as those reflected in the Oregon Gray WolfManagement Plan. The National Environmental Policy Act requires this analysisand public disclosure. In Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Services completedvague plans to target wolves for livestock depredations but did not explain whynonlethal alternatives would be inadequate.

“Federallaw requires Wildlife Services to conduct a full and fair evaluation of theecological impacts of its wolf-killing program in Oregon, and it failed to doso,” said John Mellgren, the Western Environmental Law Center attorney arguingthe case. “In addition to protecting gray wolves from being killed, our recentvictory in Washington will help to shed light on this secretive federalprogram, and we hope to continue that process in Oregon.”

Afederal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture,Wildlife Services kills roughly 1.5 million to 3 million native animals peryear, including wolves, grizzly bears, mountain lions, otters, foxes, coyotes,birds and even domestic pets — with little oversight or accountability.Wildlife Services employs inhumane tools to kill wildlife including aerialgunning, leghold traps, snares and poisons. A 2013 internal audit revealed thatWildlife Services’ accounting practices lacked transparency and violated stateand federal laws.

“WildlifeServices has for decades taken advantage of a legal loophole to avoidconducting any meaningful analysis of its deplorable killing program, or anyassessment of whether its programs are effective at all,” said Nick Cady, legaldirector at Cascadia Wildlands. “We believe if the agency truly takes a hardlook at its activities, the impacts and the costs, these killing programs willbe terminated.”

NEPArequires Wildlife Services to rigorously examine the environmental effects ofkilling wolves and to consider alternatives that rely on proven nonlethalmethods like range riders, livestock-guarding dogsand shepherds, and disposing of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting wolvesand other predators. In both Oregon and Washington, Wildlife Servicescompleted vague analyses that did not consider alternatives and rejectedevidence that nonlethal methods are more effective. NEPA also mandates a publiccomment period for the proposal.

“Oregonis no place for Wildlife Services,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legaldirector at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wildlife Services is a rogueagency that uses ineffective, cruel and costly methods to kill wolves insteadof common-sense, nonlethal methods that foster coexistence.”

“WildlifeServices’ refusal to ensure its activities are based on the best availablescience leads to unnecessary and harmful killing and strips the public of anopportunity to meaningfully understand and contribute to decisions impactingthe health of ecosystems on which we all depend,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlifeprogram director at WildEarth Guardians. “It’s past time the dark practices ofWildlife Services are subjected to the sunshine of a transparent publicprocess.”

WildlifeServices claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-related losses of livestock,yet recent peer-reviewed research finds that killing wolvesleads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services also failedto address the effects of killing wolves in Oregon, including impacts onecosystems, wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animalsthat may be killed or injured as a result of the wolf killing program.

“Itis telling that Wildlife Services was formerly called Animal Damage Control,”said Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense. “They changed theirname, but nothing more. This misnomer of a program is notorious for abuse ofpower, lack of transparency, illegal activity and brutal treatment of wildlife.It has been criticized by members of Congress, the public and leading predatorbiologists. Further scrutiny of Wildlife Services’ activities in Oregon is longoverdue, particularly now, as the gray wolf faces imminent delisting from stateendangered species protections.”

“WildlifeServices’ predator control program is ecologically destructive, ethicallyindefensible and economically unjustifiable,” said Camilla Fox, founder andexecutive director of Project Coyote. “The science is clear that killing wolvesis not effective at reducing conflicts and likely exacerbates problems by destabilizingwolf social structures. How many lawsuits will it take for Wildlife Services todo what’s right?”

Wolveswere driven to extinction in Oregon by the late 1940s through agovernment-sponsored eradication program. The species began to return to Oregonfrom neighboring states and Canada in the early 2000s. In 2012, wolf recoverygot back on track in Oregon. It took a legal challenge, but the state’s wolfkilling program (separate from Wildlife Services’) was put on hold and the wolfpopulation grew from 29 to 81. In November 2015, the Oregon Fish and WildlifeCommission stripped Oregon’s wolves of much needed state endangered speciesprotections. Oregon’s wolves face a long road to recovery and ongoing threats —including that of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.

JohnMellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Nick Cady with CascadiaWildlands represent the following organizations in the lawsuit: CascadiaWildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, PredatorDefense and Project Coyote.

Downloada copy of the complaint here.

Other Contact
John Mellgren, Western Law Environmental Center, (541) 359-0990, mellgren@westernlaw.orgNick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.orgAmy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 504-5660, atwood@biologicaldiversity.orgBrooks Fahy, Predator Defense, (541) 937-4261, brooks@predatordefense.orgCamilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
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