A settlement agreement has ordered United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS) to cease all predator damage management actions in certain areas of Nevada until the program can prove compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The recent settlement affects over 6 million acres of wilderness in Nevada, and comes following several years of legal action by WildEarth Guardians against the federal program. The group first filed suit against USDA in 2012, arguing that the programmatic environmental impact statement used by the WS Nevada program, issued in 1994, was outdated and no longer appropriately assessed the potential biological and environmental impacts of WS’ actions. WildEarth Guardians argued that the outdated analysis meant that predator damage management actions by the program were no longer in compliance with NEPA. WS responded with a motion to dismiss, which was granted in part by a district court in March 2013. An appeals process resulted in a settlement agreement between the two parties on Oct. 5th.
In the settlement, WS agreed to immediately cease all predator damage management actions in wilderness or wilderness study areas in Nevada until an updated NEPA analysis is completed. The agreement includes exceptions for emergency situations in which there is a threat to public health or safety.
WS regularly responds to and assists with managing human-wildlife conflict, including damage caused by predators. In August, the program in Nevada worked on over 3 million acres to manage livestock damage caused by various predators. That month, WS helped farmers and ranchers in Nevada protect over $84 million in agricultural products, using both lethal and non-lethal methods to deter damage caused by predators.
“[WS] is dedicated to resolving human and wildlife conflicts with the most up-to-date information and best scientific analysis available,” said spokeswoman Pam Manns in a statement to E&E News on Oct. 12. An updated environmental assessment will ensure that all predator damage management actions taken by the Nevada program meet this standard.
The Wildlife Society supports the use of science in policy and management decisions, and that science-based wildlife damage management, including lethal and non-lethal methods, is an important part of modern wildlife management.
| Jennifer Becar is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.
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