Monthly Archives: July 2008

BLM Agrees to Reconsider Allowing Oil & Gas Drilling Activities in Critical Wildlife Habitat

BLM is currently taking public comment

Santa Fe-The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has agreed to reconsider its allowing oil and gas drilling activities in critical wildlife habitat in Northwest New Mexico. BLM is currently taking public comment on whether to allow exceptions to rules that protect wildlife during key breeding and wintering periods.

Pollution, noise, and physical barriers like pits and trenches from oil and gas drilling and construction activities severely endanger wildlife like elk, pronghorn and deer during winter when wildlife are already facing challenges to survival. While BLM adopted seasonal closures of public lands in New Mexico to oil and gas activities to protect wildlife, it has allowed these seasonal closures to be systematically violated due to pressure from the oil and gas industry and the Republican administration’s Energy Plan. WildEarth Guardians, a west-wide conservation group, reviewed the government’s own documents and found nearly 1,000 breaches of seasonal closures in New Mexico, including 441 in the northwestern portion of the state.

In May of this year, WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit in federal district court against BLM over the agency’s allowing breaches of seasonal closures designed to protect wildlife. In July, BLM sent out a letter indicating that it was reconsidering the granting of permission to oil and gas companies to breach the seasonal closures designed to protect wildlife. BLM is taking public comment on its reconsideration until August 20th. A copy of BLM’s letter, which includes the address to mail public comments, can be found at: http://ga4.org/guardians/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=26333625

Dr. Nicole Rosmarino, WildEarth Guardians’ Wildlife Program Director, said: “BLM promised the public that wildlife would enjoy increased protection from oil and gas drilling during critical winter periods but has routinely broken that promise. Hopefully BLM will provide wildlife more of the protection it needs, rather than allowing a mad rush to drill our public lands.” In addition to WildEarth Guardians, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and members of the New Mexico Game Commission have voiced concerns over the BLM’s pattern of allowing exceptions to wildlife closures.

In an earlier lawsuit in 2005, WildEarth Guardians, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, and the Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance sued the BLM over allowing exceptions to timing restrictions designed to protect lesser prairie-chickens in southeast New Mexico. The lesser prairie-chicken is an imperiled bird that has been a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection for over a decade. The lawsuit was settled with the requirement that BLM conduct surveys for the bird and solicit public comment prior to allowing those exceptions. Since the settlement, fewer than 10 exceptions have been granted annually in lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

Federal Government Exterminating More Wolves, Coyotes, and Black Bears

Record $117 Million Spent to Eradicate 2.4 Million Animals – Group Calls on Congress to End Lethal Control Program

Washington, DC – The federal government spent more than $117 million to exterminate 2.4 million wild animals (representing a total of 319 species, including some that are federally protected) and pets in 2007, according to records released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In comparison, the agency killed 1.6 million animals in 2006 and spent $108 million.

While the euphemistically named “Wildlife Services”-a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-continues to emphasize extermination over practical non-lethal solutions, it has been criticized for its sledgehammer and indiscriminate approach to wildlife management. The past decade shows an escalating number of slain endangered species, including wolves and eagles, while the agency’s expenditures soar.

“Wildlife Services is killing more wildlife in the U.S. than ever, including endangered species, song birds, and other wild animals the public holds dear. While paying lip-service to civility, this gun-slinging, poison-toting agency’s first response is to kill,” stated Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians. “We’re asking Congress to take away their guns, poisons, and low-flying aircraft by terminating lethal control funding,” added Keefover-Ring.

A record 340 gray wolves with an additional four Mexican gray wolves were killed in 2007-the highest number since 1996-the year when the agency was forced to make its records public. While Wildlife Services’ budget continues to climb, so too does the number of mammalian carnivores such as coyotes, wolves, bears, badgers, and cougars it kills:

· 2004: budget of $101.5 million, 102,345 mammalian carnivores killed (2.7 million total animals);

· 2005: Budget of $99.8 million, 99,346 mammalian carnivores killed (1.7 million total animals),

· 2006: Budget of $108.6 million, 117,113 mammalian carnivores killed (1.6 million total animals); and

· 2007: Budget of $117 million, 121,520 mammalian carnivores killed (2.4 million total animals).

Notably, in 2007, Wildlife Services killed 829 more black bears, 2,449 more coyotes, and 62 more wolves than in the previous year. The trend in the agency’s carnivore killing from 2004 moves steadily skyward. In 2007, Wildlife Services exterminated a record 121,520 native carnivores.

States that spent the most dollars in 2007 often used those resources to eradicate coyotes: Texas spent the most at $13.8 million to kill 19,123 coyotes, California came in second on expenditures, spending $6 million to kill 7,759 coyotes. In fifth place in spending, $3.8 million, Wyoming killed the second most coyotes in the nation: 10,915.

“Coyote eradication is expensive business,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, “in 2007 Wildlife Services killed a record 90,326 coyotes across the nation, but the agency experienced two separate aerial-gunning aircraft crashes that resulted two fatalities and two serious injuries. It makes sense invest in guard animals and electric fences rather than waste the taxpayer funds to kill the nation’s wildlife for a handful of individuals.”

Numerically, bird species continue to endure the greatest numbers of losses from Wildlife Services. The 2007 kill numbers show this sampling:

· 1,176,641 starlings-while the species is non-native, the poison used to kill it is indiscriminate, poisoning native birds (raptors such as hawks and eagles can die from secondary toxicity);

· 307,622 blackbirds and 30,715 grackles because they eat grain and seeds. Ironically, birds are killed for feeding on sunflower crops, despite being grown for bird food; and

· large numbers of water-loving birds including 3,337 ducks, 15,739 cormorants, 21,957 gulls, and 3,138 egrets.

Many of the animals killed by Wildlife Services are not even targeted for control by the agency, but are “non-target” kills taken by indiscriminate killing methods. Across the U.S. in 2007, Wildlife Services accidentally killed, reindeer, peregrine falcons, porcupines, mule deer, pronghorn, alligators, fish, turtles, ringtails and others in lethal traps and snares. Dozens of foxes were unintentionally killed by “M-44s”, a device which releases cyanide into the mouth of any animal that triggers it.

“Wildlife Services has turned some of the most remote areas in the country into killing fields,” stated Keefover-Ring.

WildEarth Guardians has called upon Congress to defund Wildlife Services’ lethal control operations because the agency is a waste of taxpayer funds, it indiscriminately harms wildlife, pets, and people, and puts the nation at risk with its unsafe practices.

Contact: Wendy Keefover-Ring | WildEarth Guardians | cell: 303.596.3756; ofc: 303.635.1711