Defenders Takes Legal Action to Reform ADC

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(07/25/1996) - Washington, D.C. - A day after Senate passage of a bill raising appropriations for the Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control (ADC) program, Defenders of Wildlife today initiated legal action to reform the program, which killed more than 7.8 million predators and other animals between 1990 and 1994.

The nonprofit conservation organization charged that the increase was doubly irresponsible because the agency, named as one of the chief "pork" projects by taxpayers' groups and recently covered on NBC's "The Fleecing of America," is late on its annual report to justify spending. The ADC is one of very few agencies operating without rules and regulations.

Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said, "The American public would be shocked and horrified if they knew that their tax dollars were being spent to kill hundreds of thousands of animals every year for the benefit of special interests." He noted that ADC represents a subsidized killing of coyotes and other predators at the behest of western livestock producers.

"Americans would be even more shocked if they learned that ADC is trapping, snaring, cyanide poisoning, aerial hunting, and shooting these animals without the environmental safeguards required of other agencies, without any formal regulations controlling their actions, without adequate scientific data, and without public scrutiny. ADC is both reckless and wasteful."

Today Defenders filed a petition to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish formal rules and regulations for the ADC program.

The conservationists pointed to the program's consistently lax approach to normal federal procedures and recent Congressional directives to use non-lethal controls.

Schlickeisen also criticized Congress for the vote yesterday to appropriate $26.8 million for the ADC program's operations as part of the 1997 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, a $200,000 increase over the amount requested by the Administration and over last year's appropriation. "It's special interest, pork politics at its worst," Schlickeisen said, especially because ADC still has not released its report explaining how it spent its 1995 funds. "How can Congress make an intelligent decision as to how to fund this program without knowing how ADC spends its money?" Schlickeisen asked.

An obscure 1931 law assigns the ADC program the task of "eradication, suppression, and bringing under control" of animals deemed injurious to agriculture and other human activities. Since that time, according to a recent issue of Defenders magazine, "ADC has waged a quiet but unsettling war against coyotes and nearly two dozen other species of wildlife. Besides nearly 100,000 coyotes killed annually, ADC has destroyed hundreds and in some cases thousands of mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, beavers, ravens and other popular species." Statistics show that in the process, ADC accidentally has killed many non- target animals, including federally protected wolves, black-footed ferrets, and bald eagles as well as lynxes and wolverines that have been considered for addition to the endangered species list.

However, the magazine notes that these actions are not based on science or even demonstrated to protect livestock: "With coyotes, the irony is that despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the federal government, state agencies, the livestock industry, and private individuals on eradication campaigns, the species has emerged more abundant, more widespread, and better able to withstand persecution."

ADC's disregard for current science is legendary within the scientific community," Schlickeisen emphasized. "It's a byproduct of never proposing any rules or regulations to oversee the agency's actions. Our petition is designed to encourage ADC to adopt regulations that would stop the worst abuses."

Green Scissors '96, a report produced by a coalition of conservation and taxpayer groups led by Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense, recently identified the ADC program as one of the top environmentally damaging and fiscally irresponsible government programs. Last month, Rep. Pete DeFazio (D-OR) sponsored an amendment cutting $13.4 million from the ADC program, but the amendment was defeated by a vote of 139-279. The next week, NBC News featured the ADC program on "Fleecing of America," its weekly spotlight on government waste.

A petition for rulemaking may be submitted by any member of the public to a federal agency pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Defenders' petition for rulemaking asks ADC to follow the APA by proposing enforceable regulations. Defenders urges ADC to:

  1. Increase accountability to the public: By instituting data collection and analysis systems that more completely document the agencies activities and expenditures, ADC would increase opportunities for public involvement. To ensure full participation (without litigation), ADC should develop provisions for public appeals for ADC programs on public lands.
  2. Emphasize Non-Lethal Methods: ADC kills more wildlife than even predator control advocates would find necessary. ADC should require field personnel to implement non-lethal controls, which are currently given almost no consideration. Defenders is particularly concerned about the common practice of prophylactic killings committed to prevent speculative livestock losses or killings initiated before verifying losses claimed by ranchers.
  3. Decrease ADC's ecological impacts: By failing to acknowledge the ecological value of predators, ADC perpetuates the outdated belief that humans and predators cannot co-exist. The agency should abandon its practice of wholesale killing of predators in fear of alleged future harm to livestock and instead target lethal controls at individual problem animals responsible for confirmed losses. Defenders also suggests that ADC shift its emphasis to programs that protect human health and safety, control the spread of exotic species, and ensure healthy native wildlife populations.

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 (Media)