From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 20 - August 10, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Predator program under attack

by Cat Urbigkit

Some environmental groups aren’t pleased with the U.S.Forest Service’s proposal to revise its directives on predator damage management in wilderness areas in a manner that seeks to strengthen the Forest Service’s role in working with USDA Wildlife Services and state wildlife agencies in wildlife damage management activities.

The Forest Service proposal recognizes that Wildlife Services and state wildlife agencies have the authority and expertise to conduct wildlife damage management activities in wilderness, thus the Forest Service is removing a provision in current policy that requires case-by-case regional forester approval for predator management activities in wilderness areas.

A coalition of environmental groups submitted a letter of protest to the Forest Service. Those groups included Defenders of Wildlife, Wolf Recovery Foundation, Wolf Education and Research Center, the Rewildling Institute, Idaho Conservation League and a variety of smaller groups from throughout the West.

The letter contends that the relationship between Wildlife Services and the Forest Service should be characterized as “mission creep,” with Wildlife Services gaining greater latitude and jurisdiction over the killing of animals on Forest Service land. The groups call the proposed revisions “both unnecessary and unlawful.”

The groups contend that the proposal would expand Wildlife Services’ role from limited cases where significant livestock losses were being caused by predators to almost any circumstance involving “management goals,” including management of wildlife diseases and the protection of other wildlife from predation.

The letter contended that allowing goals to be established through a collaborative process would allow involvement of “local interests hostile to native wildlife.”

By disregarding the case-by-case approval requirement, the proposal “would open the door to widespread and largely unrestricted unlawful killing of predators within national forest wilderness and plainly represents an unlawful abdication by the Forest Service of its authority and responsibility for managing wilderness areas.”

Predator killing is “antithetical” to wilderness preservation, according to the letter, and one of the most common activities to be undertaken under the new directive “is the killing of predator species such as wolves and mountain lions to augment game species ... a form of wildlife engineering in which natural predator-prey processes are subjugated so that one species is favored over another.”

The groups also took issue with the statement that wildlife agencies have authority over wildlife species on national forest lands. The groups insist that the extent of other agencies’ jurisdiction “is at the discretion of the Forest Service.”

Defenders of Wildlife and the other organizations requested that the proposed revisions be withdrawn in their entirety.

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