The second lawsuit in three weeks has been filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program over the federally sanctioned killing of wolves and other wildlife.
Most recently the Western Environmental Law Center filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle on March 3 on behalf of five conservation groups, alleging that Wildlife Services has overstepped its authority in killing wolves to protect livestock. The agency’s efforts are based on outdated analysis of how to deal with wildlife, the complaint states, and more often than not the job is bungled—as with the shooting last year of the female leader of a wolf pack instead of another wolf that had been seen attacking livestock, Reuters reported.
“Wildlife Services’ activities related to wolves in Washington have been extremely harmful,” said Western Environmental Law Center attorney John Mellgren in a statement. “The science tells us that killing wolves does not actually reduce wolf-livestock conflicts, but Wildlife Services is continuing its brutal assault on this iconic animal, and it needs to stop.”
In mid-February, five conservation groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Idaho over what they called the indiscriminate killing of wolves, coyotes and other wildlife, the Associated Press reported on February 13.
“The lawsuit notes that the federal agency in 2013 killed more than 200,000 animals, much of that number representing the killing of birds that can pose problems on cattle feedlots or dairies,” AP said of the Idaho lawsuit. “The agency in 2013 also killed 2,739 coyotes and 79 wolves.”
Both suits allege that Wildlife Services’ actions are antithetical to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which mandates that federal agencies conduct thorough environmental analyses of the effects of their activities. The Idaho lawsuit also includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants because the groups allege that it is inadequately enforcing the Endangered Species Act by not challenging Wildlife Services, AP said.
The Endangered Species Act protects wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington State, according to Reuters, but in eastern Washington, protection is up to the state. The same is true in both Idaho and Montana, Reuters said.
In western Washington, the Wildlife Service’s activities constitute negligence under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires an in-depth environmental impact statement, said the Washington plaintiffs—Cascadia Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, Kettle Range Conservation Group, Predator Defense and The Lands Council.
“The agency completed a less-detailed environmental assessment, but the document contains significant gaps and does not address specific issues that will significantly impact wolves and the human environment,” the groups’ statement said. “The EA prepared by Wildlife Services fails to provide data to support several of its core assertions. For example, Wildlife Services claims that killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research from Washington State University directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves actually leads to an increase in wolf-livestock conflicts. The EA also fails to address the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.”
Wolf culling is causing controversy in several states and at least one Canadian province.