Fire Wildlife Services! Local Organizations’ Letter to Humboldt County

Bird Ally X; Environmental Protection Information Center
North Group, Redwood Chapter, Sierra Club;
Klamath Forest Alliance; Friends of the Eel River
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
July 18, 2014
Humboldt County Supervisors
825 5th St., Room 111
Eureka, CA 95501

Re: Support for Terminating Humboldt County’s Contract with APHIS-Wildlife Services
Dear Supervisors Bohn, Fennel, Bass, Lovelace, and Sundberg,

The undersigned organizations write to express our support for the June 30, 2014 request from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Center for Biological Diversity, and other groups to terminate Humboldt County’s contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s APHIS- Wildlife Services (Wildlife Services) and bring the county’s wildlife control activities into compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Wildlife Services program relies on antiquated and cruel methods to kill wildlife, and it operates under a heavy veil of secrecy despite being funded by taxpayer dollars. Non-lethal alternatives are time-tested and prove to cost less while being more effective in protecting livestock, and we urge Humboldt County Supervisors to join Marin County, Sonoma County, and the City of Davis in moving toward an alternate approach.

According to the Washington Post, Wildlife Services killed more than 4 million animals last year alone, including 75,326 coyotes, 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,700 foxes, 973 red-tailed hawks, and 419 black bears.1

The agency uses snares, traps, poisons, and aerial gunning to kill wild animals, often killing pets and other non-target animals by mistake. An investigative series by the Sacramento Bee found that between 2000 and 2012, Wildlife Services “accidentally” killed more than 50,000 non-problem animals, more than 1,100 dogs, and several imperiled species – including bald and golden eagles.2

In addition to endangering outdoor recreationists and their pets, these practices disrupt the natural balance of wildlife populations, degrade habitat, and increase disease, causing the “loss of many ecosystem services that benefit human society directly and indirectly.”3

In spite of these impacts, Wildlife Services operates with a complete lack of transparency or oversight of its actions, and has steadfastly refused requests from the public, lawmakers, and others to disclose details on the lethal methods it employs, the poisons it uses, and how its money is spent.

Bipartisan members of Congress, including Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif. are calling for national reforms and requested a congressional investigation of the program. And due to related questions and controversies, the Office of Inspector General is now conducting an audit of Wildlife Services.

Marin County ended its contract with Wildlife Services in 2000, choosing instead to develop and implement its Livestock and Wildlife Protection Program, which assists ranchers with livestock protection in a nonlethal manner. The Marin County Agricultural Commissioner calls it a “good move” that substantially reduced livestock losses to predators, saying it cost more to operate in the beginning than today, but it now operates at about half the cost as it did under the Wildlife Services contract.4

The City of Davis voted unanimously to end its contract with Wildlife Services in January 2013 after the agency killed five coyotes, including four pups, without consulting City staff, which “did not concur that these animals exhibited behavior that warranted removal.”5

The City of Davis now implements a Coyote Management and Coexistence Plan at an estimated cost of $8,000 a year. Sonoma County also recently elected to forego its contract with Wildlife Services and is now exploring a program similar to the one used in Marin County.

We encourage you to take this opportunity to take the lead of other local governments and help establish a regional model the rest of the nation can emulate. Humboldt County citizens are known for their environmental ethics and forward-thinking ideas. The time has come to end the outdated practices employed by Wildlife Services here, and to come together as a community to realize a better solution that protects our public trust resources and values.

Sincerely,

Monte Merrick
Bird Ally X
PO Box 1020 Arcata, CA 95518
mm@birdallyx.net

Natalynne DeLapp
Environmental Protection Information Center
145 G Street, Suite A Arcata, CA 95521
natalynne@wildcalifornia.org

Diane Fairchild Beck, Conservation Chair
North Group, Redwood Chapter, Sierra Club
PO Box 238 Arcata, CA 95518
dfbeck@northcoast.com

Kimberly Baker
Klamath Forest Alliance
PO Box 21 Orleans, CA 95556
kimberly@wildcalifornia.org

Scott Greacen
Friends of the Eel River
PO Box 4945 Arcata, CA 95518-4945
scott@eelriver.org

 

1) Fears, D., USDA’s Wildlife Services killed 4 million animals in 2013; seen as an overstep by some, Washington Post (June 7, 2014)

2) Knudson, T., The killing agency: Wildlife Services’ brutal methods leave a trail of animal death, Sacramento Bee (Apr. 28, 2012)

3) Bergstrom, J.B., Arias, L.C., Davidson, A.D., Ferguson, A.W., Randa, L.A. & Sheffield, S.R., 2013, License to kill: reforming federal wildlife control to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function, Conservation Letters, v. 6, p. 1-12

4) Scully, S., Sonoma County’s contract for wild animal control under fire, Press Democrat (June 1, 2013)

5) Staff Report from Robert A. Clark, Interim Public Works Director, City of Davis to Davis City Council (Jan. 15, 2013)