Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of USDA’s predator control efforts in Idaho, arguing the environmental effects were inadequately studied.
The complaint, filed by Western Watersheds Project, Wildearth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity and Predator Defense, seeks to stop “killing projects” by USDA’s Wildlife Services division until a new analysis is complete.
An environmental assessment by USDA authorizing predator control by Wildlife Services in Idaho violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to disclose the full “direct, indirect and cumulative effects” of these activities, the complaint said.
Wildlife Services should have conducted a more comprehensive “environmental impact statement,” or EIS, that took into account the total effects of killing black bears, coyotes, cougars and wolves in addition to poisoning ravens and starlings, the plaintiffs claim.
“It does not disclose how the areas in which it conducts these activities may overlap with one another or how they may act in concert to increase or change impacts on the environment,” according to the complaint.
A spokesman for USDA said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
A more extensive analysis is necessary because Wildlife Services has committed to killing ravens at the direction of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to protect the greater sage grouse, the complaint said.
Similar lawsuits against Wildlife Services have recently yielded mixed results for environmental groups.
A complaint filed by Wildearth Guardians challenging environmental studies that underpinned USDA’s predator control programs in Nevada and elsewhere was initially dismissed by a federal judge in 2013.
However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case in 2015 and USDA settled it last year, agreeing to update the environmental studies and avoid killing predators in Nevada’s wilderness areas and wilderness study areas until then.
Several of the same plaintiffs in the recent Idaho case also filed a complaint in 2016 against Wildlife Service’s agreement to kill wolves at the behest of Oregon wildlife regulators.
A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit last month, finding that USDA wasn’t required to perform an environmental review of the program because Oregon officials could kill wolves regardless of the federal agency’s participation.