Groups Demand Transparency
Washington, DC — A federal agency which spent $101,500,000 to kill a record 2.7 million animals in 2004, has refused to release its 2005 and 2006 records which show, among other things, how many animals they killed and the methods they used. By declining to post its records in its electronic reading room as mandated by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services has not only violated federal transparency laws, it is in contempt of a federal court’s order, argued Sinapu and Forest Guardians in their demand letter, which they sent today to the agency.
According to 2004 figures, APHIS-Wildlife Services killed a record 2.7 million wildlife at taxpayer expense. Birds constituted the overwhelming majority of animals exterminated, with starlings registering the greatest single species death total at 2.3 million. Mammalian carnivore deaths exceeded 101,000 and included 445 badgers, 1,918 bobcats, 397 black bears, 359 cougars, 75,674 coyotes, 3,907 foxes, and 191 wolves.
Formerly known as Animal Damage Control, the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services responds to requests from ranchers, farmers, and municipalities to remove problem wildlife.
· FOIA requires that agencies make public records—especially ones repeatedly requested—available for public inspection and readily available.
· Wildlife Services has failed to disclose public information in the past, and was held accountable in federal district court. In July 2000, Wildlife Services’ attorneys signed a consent decree agreeing to post “repeat record requests” on it website annually. In August 2000, the decree became a federal District Court order.
· Under the court order, Wildlife Services agreed to annually post tables, which among other things show the numbers and kinds of species killed, methods used (including leg-hold traps, snares, aerial gunning, hounding, and poisons such as sodium cyanide and strychnine, etc.), and the expenses involved.
“Wildlife Services’ controversial wildlife-killing program, cannot hide from scrutiny, even though it is clearly unpleasant for the agency,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu.
“The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to maintain a level of public transparency,” said Melissa Hailey, attorney for Forest Guardians. “It is gravely unfortunate that taxpayers are forced to fund an agency that slaughters our nation’s wildlife, and especially one that refuses to come into compliance with federal disclosure laws.”
Wendy Keefover-Ring, Sinapu: 303.447.8655, Ext. 1#
Melissa Hailey, Forest Guardians: 505.988.9126, Ext. 159