OUTFRONT: A defenders roundup

Coming to Light 

“Over the past decade, millions of animals have met a grim fate at the hands of a ‘hit-man-for- hire’ arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which gets away with operating like a private contractor while taxpayers like you and me foot the bill,” says Charlotte Conley, a Defenders’ conservation associate.

She is referring to Wildlife Services, a little-known agency within the USDA whose targets include wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, prairie dogs, beavers, foxes and some unintentional victims too, like kit foxes, river otters, pronghorn, golden eagles, wolverines and even family pets. But a federal audit, pushed for by Defenders because of the agency’s lack of transparency, may soon shed some light on whether these lethal—and often brutal—control activities are justified in terms of cost and effectiveness. “There is plenty of evidence suggesting lethal control of our native wildlife is not the most effective solution,” says Conley. “Yet Wildlife Services has never had to justify their methods or even prove it tried nonlethal management first.” 

Right Decision

Slow-speed zones for ships navigating key areas for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale became permanent in December. 

Ship strikes are a leading cause of death for whales in the heavily trafficked Eastern Seaboard. “Defenders fought hard for this positive step forward,” says Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders’ president. “Now we need the National Marine Fisheries Service to address the problem of fishing gear entanglement.”

The Truth Is Out There

The Truth Is Out ThereFor wolves, this could be a game-changer: A panel of independent scientists unanimously confirmed in February that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposal to remove federal protections for wolves was not based on the “best available science,” as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. 

“This is what Defenders has been saying all along,” says Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders’ president. “There are serious, scientific problems behind the premature move to delist, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell needs to withdraw this proposal.” Last year, FWS proposed removing almost all gray wolves from protection. But in some states, such as Oregon and Washington, wolf recovery has only begun. In other states, such as California and Colorado, it would make it unlikely that wolves would be able to return even though suitable habitat exists. In 2011, FWS lifted wolf protection in six states, where hunting now occurs at what many fear are unsustainable rates. “If this peer-review process tells us anything, it’s that FWS is not treating wolf recovery the same as it treated the recovery of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and the American alligator,” says Clark. “These species all reached recovery throughout their range before ESA protections were removed.”


More Articles from Spring 2014

Howling wolf, © Joan Poor
State’s aggressive tactics undermine species’ restoration
Sharing the Air
Wind energy is crucial to battling climate change. Can it expand without harming eagles?
Ignoring the lessons learned from unsustainable clear-cutting in the 1970s and 1980s, Oregon politicians are pushing legislation that would dramatically accelerate logging in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.
House cat, © Rob Manix
Some cat owners probably awoke this morning to a carcass on their doorstep: a bird, a mouse or maybe a mole. These “gifts” are tokens of their feline’s late-night prowling and a glimpse of the ecological havoc wreaked by the domestic cat.
Sage-grouse, © Tatiana Gettelman
In the rugged, open scrublands of east-central Montana lives the sage-grouse, a plucky bird that once thrived across the sagebrush sea. Today, however, the population is plummeting from habitat loss.
The species was once the most abundant bird in the world - but went extinct in a matter of decades. What can we learn from the plight of the passenger pigeon?
Grizzly Bear,  © Diana Robinson
Large carnivores—big cats, wolves, bears and more—face enormous threats from loss of prey and habitat to use of their parts in traditional medicine.
Sonoran Pronghorn,  © Mark Milburn
With an oblong face and a black nose splotch, the Sonoran pronghorn stands out against the cacti-strewn landscape of the American Southwest.
Arkansas is the 23rd state stricken with the deadly white-nose syndrome in cave-dwelling bats after state biologists confirmed its presence in two northern long-eared bats in January.
The numbers are in and they’re disappointing, says Eva Sargent, Defenders’ Southwest director. The population expanded by only eight individuals from the 2012 year-end population of 75 wolves.

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