Here Is The News Release Sent Out By WWP March 4, 2003
A U.S. Department of Agriculture plan that would kill badgers, foxes, coyotes, and ravens across hundreds of square miles of public lands in southern Idaho was rejected today in federal District Court in Boise, Idaho.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill handed a major victory to the Committee for the High Desert, Western Watersheds Project, Idaho Conservation League and Defenders of Wildlife in finding that Wildlife Services' predator killing plan lacked adequate environmental analysis. Winmill called the Wildlife Services analysis "troublesome."
"For the third year in a row, we have stopped the killing of alleged sage grouse predators throughout Idaho," said Todd Tucci, attorney for Advocates for the West, representing the conservation groups. "Hopefully, this decision will put an end to the nonsense that predators are depressing sage grouse populations. Every objective biologist knows that degraded habitat, and not predators, is causing sage grouse populations to plummet."
The predator control plan is a joint scheme between Wildlife Services of the USDA (formerly Animal Damage Control) and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
In his ruling, Winmill noted: "The [environmental assessment] contains an unusual twist: it proposes to kill sage grouse predators in specific locations but does not study those locations."
"The court has confirmed that Wildlife Services' radical approach is totally out of line," said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP. "If the agency continues to flout the environmental laws of this country in its obsession to kill wildlife, we will track every step in its management of public lands."
In April 2002, the four conservation groups sued the USDA over its plan to kill foxes, badgers, coyotes, ravens and other wildlife species in southern Idaho. The groups sought a restraining order to prevent Wildlife Services from eliminating species believed to prey on sage grouse across large tracts of southern Idaho.
In response to the lawsuit, the USDA agreed to postpone its program until at least 2003.
"It is long past time for Wildlife Services to have satiated its appetite for the indiscriminate killing of predators," said Katie Fite, conservation director of CHD.
"Trying to restore declining sage grouse populations by killing thousands of foxes, badgers and coyotes and ravens misses the point," said Justin Hayes of ICL. "Sage grouse are in decline because of decades of poor land management. Hopefully this will be the last time that we see the federal government propose to kill wildlife on public lands via cyanide based poisons and aerial gunning."
Winmill's ruling marks the third consecutive year that the USDA's wildlife killing plan has been stopped through legal challenges. The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, which participated in the environmental assessments of the program, are co-defendants in the lawsuit.
"The court saw right through Wildlife Services' attempts to justify its inadequate environmental analysis," said Mike Leahy, natural resources counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. "Wiping out predators under the guise of studying sage grouse is a bad idea to begin with."
"Perhaps Wildlife Services will learn from its past failures and become an agency that complies with, rather than violates repeatedly, our country's most important environmental laws," said Tucci.
The case name is Committee for Idaho's High Desert, Western Watersheds Project, Idaho Conservation League, and Defenders of Wildlife v. Mark Collinge et al., Case No. CV. 02-0172-S-BLW.