DENVER (CN) – Environmental groups are calling out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for agreeing to fund a state’s carnivore-kill experiment.
Last December, FWS agreed to fund 75 percent of a multimillion-dollar project proposed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife aimed to boost local mule deer populations, but according to a petition filed Wednesday in the state Supreme Court, the agency failed to adequately analyze the project’s environmental impact.
In efforts to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement for an environmental assessment, FWS adopted another released by the Department of Agriculture in January 2017.
The petition names as defendants the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim Kurth, as well as Ryan Zinke, secretary for the Department of Interior, asking the court, to “give the public a more meaningful opportunity to analyze the environmental effects of and submit comments.”
In order to help boost local mule deer populations, CPW is looking to run a multimillion-dollar pilot program that would execute cougars and black bears, and measure whether more mule deer young survive to adulthood each year.
Along the Piceance Basin, over the course of three years, hunters would trap and kill up to 45 cougars and 75 black bears, a project costing $645,000. Another $4 million plan would target populations along the Upper Arkansas River, lasting nine years and resulting in the death of some 234 mountain lions, more than half the area’s population.
Described as “outdated predator control techniques” by the petitioners, this proposal would also do little to mitigate the habitat impacts of mining and drilling for coal, natural gas and oil shale.
“It’s appalling that the Fish and Wildlife Service bankrolled this killing without bothering to truly examine the environmental risks,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and the group’s leading representative. “Reckless oil and gas drilling has destroyed mule deer habitat, and outdated predator-control techniques can’t fix that. Slaughtering bears and mountain lions will only further damage these ecosystems.”
Filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society and WildEarth Guardians, the petitions describe their members as having “long worked to protect black bears and cougars in the American West and recognize that these carnivores promote healthy functioning of ecosystems… (recognizing) the ecological value of native carnivores and their importance to healthy, resilient ecosystems.”
In a release, the Center for Biological Diversity described the targeted predators’ greater impact to the ecosystem—black bears are responsible for “broad dispersion of seeds,” and carrion left behind by mountain lions “feeds more bird and mammal scavengers than that of any other predator on the planet.”
According to the National Park Service, mule deer are most often consumed by mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats, but also, “fall victim each year to a mechanized predator, the automobile.”