MENDOCINO, Calif.— Animal-protection and conservation organizations filed suit today challenging Mendocino County’s contract renewal with Wildlife Services, a notorious federal wildlife-killing program that killed close to 3 million animals in the United States in 2014.
“Mendocino County is using taxpayer money to kill its native wildlife, which is highly valued by many Mendocino residents,” said Elly Pepper, Natural Resources Defense Council wildlife advocate. “Instead, it should put that money towards nonlethal practices, which preserve our native wildlife while effectively deterring predators from livestock.”
According to the complaint, the county’s renewal of the contract violates the California Environmental Quality Act and a previously signedsettlement agreement, in which the county agreed to comply with the Act before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services. The coalition consists of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote and a Mendocino Country resident.
“By claiming exemptions from CEQA, Mendocino County is attempting to avoid performing any environmental studies on Wildlife Services’ environmental impacts,” stated Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Through this lawsuit, we hope to ensure Mendocino County officials follow through on the obligations they agreed to in our settlement agreement.”
Mendocino County’s previous $144,000 contract authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to kill hundreds of coyotes, as well as bears, bobcats, foxes and other animals in the county every year, without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives.
Although hundreds of county residents sent postcards and letters to the Board of Supervisors and showed up to make public comment at two meetings, the Board renewed the contract without taking the time to fully investigate the program, learn about the public’s concerns, and consider alternatives, as required by the Act.
”Unfortunately, despite the county’s promise to consider nonlethal alternatives that are better for wildlife and taxpayers, county supervisors decided to do an end run around the law,” said Amy Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They have misled and disappointed hundreds of their constituents.”
Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate killing of millions of animals annually has many damaging impacts on the environment. Peer-reviewed research shows that such reckless slaughter of animals — particularly predators — results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. The program’s controversial and indiscriminate killing methods are employed largely at the behest of ranchers to protect livestock and have come under increased scrutiny from scientists, the public and government officials. In addition the agency has been responsible for the countless deaths of threatened and endangered species, as well as family pets.
“We are encouraging Mendocino County to explore and adopt alternative, nonlethal models (like the Marin County Livestock & Wildlife Protection Program) that are more ecologically, ethically and economically defensible — and more effective at protecting livestock,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Marin-based Project Coyote.
“ALDF and its allies will continue to push for CEQA compliance and wildlife protection in Mendocino County,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “California deserves more than shady dealings from their elected officials.”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system through litigation, legislation, supporting prosecutors, and advancing the emerging field of animal law. For more information, visit aldf.org.
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places: www.biologicaldiversity.org.
Project Coyote is a North American coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, predator friendly ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.