Lawsuit Claims USDA Program Harms Environment by Killing Predators

WildEarth Guardians filed an environmental complaint in the District of New Mexico on Thursday claiming that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Janet Bucknell in her capacity as its Deputy Administrator have not considered the environmental impact of the department’s practice of killing predators, and have not submitted Environmental Impact Statements, which they are allegedly required to do. 

The complaint said the department “continues to kill predators and numerous other native wildlife species without supplementing stale environmental analyses that rely upon decades-old science for its so-called ‘Predator Damage Management’ in New Mexico.” This reportedly violates the national Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). 

Wildlife Services, the USDA program involved in the lawsuit, reportedly traps and kills wolves, bears, coyotes, and mountain lions each year in an attempt to save livestock and resources. WildEarth Guardians claimed that this uses millions of government funds, but does not have “modern scientific support” and uses “cruel and often archaic methods to capture and kill wildlife,” including shooting from an aircraft, poisons, neck snares, and other traps. The plaintiff said these actions are mostly at the request of livestock producers. 

The defendants have, according to the complaint, been killing wildlife for over 100 years and have eradicated wolves, bears, and other dangerous animals from many areas in the United States. The program reportedly kills about 1.3 million animals yearly. The complaint purported that “family pets and federally-protected endangered and threatened species have been and will continue to be accidentally injured or killed by the agency’s indiscriminate killing methods.” 

The complaint claimed that the targets of Wildlife Services’ operations are critical to their ecosystem and that the actions have unintended consequences. The plaintiff, represented by their own counsel, is seeking a declaration that the programs in New Mexico violate federal law and are “otherwise arbitrary and capricious,” injunctive relief, and a monetary award.