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Wildlife Services’ Wildlife Killing Program Dealt Blow By Federal Appeals Court

Date
August 3, 2015
Contact
Bethany Cotton (503) 327-4923
In This Release
Wildlife

Monday, August 3, 2015
Wildlife Services’ Wildlife Killing Program Dealt Blow By Federal Appeals Court

Ninth Circuit Rules Program Can’t Hide Behind 20 Year Old Analysis
Contact: Bethany Cotton (503) 327-4923

San Francisco — Today, the NinthCircuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wildlife Services’, the federal wildlifekilling program, reliance on a twenty year old analysis, which itself relies onforty year old science, is not immune from environmental review. The court heldconservationists are injured by the program’s wildlife killing activities andcan challenge them in court.

“For decades Wildlife Services hasoperated in the shadows as though it were above the law,” said Bethany Cotton,wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “It is high time the trueenvironmental costs of this rogue program’s cruel wildlife killing activitiesare exposed.”

In 2014, Wildlife Services killed overtwo million native animals using taxpayer dollars. The program, under theauspices of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health InspectionService (APHIS), uses a variety of cruel and inhumane tactics to kill wildlifeincluding trapping, aerial gunning and poisoning. Many of these methods cannotdiscriminate amongst species; meaning non-target animals are at serious risk.Both non-target wildlife species and domestic companion animals have fallenvictim to Wildlife Services’ devices.

In 2012, WildEarth Guardians challengedWildlife Services’ refusal to analyze the impacts of its wildlife killingactivities in Nevada as required by the National Environmental Policy Act(NEPA). The program instead insisted that a 1994 Programmatic EnvironmentalImpact Statement (PEIS) was a sufficient analysis of its current activities,even though the PEIS relies on outdated and largely disproven “science” fromthe 1970s and 1980s. In contrast, NEPA review is designed to ensure allenvironmental impacts are analyzed and that the public has an opportunity tocomment, and therefore influence, activities conducted using public funds.

In addition to Wildlife Services’refusal to conduct an analysis taking into account current science, the programalso argued its wildlife killing activities are immune from oversight becausethe State of Nevada might conduct similar activities if Wildlife Services wereprohibited from doing so. Wildlife Services also claimed Guardians did not have“standing” to challenge the killing program. The court resoundingly rejectedboth arguments, finding that Guardians’ interests are injured by the program’sactivities and that regardless of whether State of Nevada might engage insimilar activities, Guardians can challenge Wildlife Services’ actions.

“Wildlife Services’ refusal to ensureits activities are based on the best available science further endangersalready imperiled species, puts people and companion animals at risk, andwastes our taxpayer dollars,” said Cotton. “We call on Wildlife Services toimmediately conduct a thorough analysis of the impacts of its activities, inNevada and nationally.”

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling means thechallenge will now proceed on the merits in federal district court in Nevada. Today’sruling is available here.

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“For decades Wildlife Services has operated in the shadows as though it were above the law,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “It is high time the true environmental costs of this rogue program’s cruel wildlife killing activities are exposed.”
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