The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service’s Idaho office is asking for public comment on its predator control programs beyond wolves.
The federal agency that controls wildlife that cause problems, mostly for livestock ranchers, is updating its environmental assessments, which are the legal documents on which its programs are based. The current ones were done in 1996 and 2002 and the last time a finding of “no significant impact” was issued was 2007.
The agency did an environmental impact statement on its wolf control program in 2011. Advocates for the West, on behalf of several environmental and wildlife advocacy groups, wrote Wildlife Services Idaho State Director Todd Grimm in September to say they were prepared to sue if the broader update wasn’t done.
This environmental assessment will include programs aimed at coyotes, badgers, black and grizzly bears, magpies, bobcats, ravens, dogs and wolf-dog hybrids, mountain lions, raccoons, red foxes and striped skunks.
The groups argue that the science behind animal control has changed dramatically since the agency studied it in-depth in the 1990s. Non-lethal control methods have shown success at the same or lower costs. Recent studies show little value in predator control for sage grouse conservation.
The value of beavers to western ecosystems was not addressed.
The agency has come under increasing scrutiny as conservative groups have joined wildlife advocates in questioning the proper role of government in wildlife control programs. The wolf issue, which won’t be s part of this review, also has brought new attention to this otherwise relatively obscure federal agency.
The comment deadline for the scoping period is Jan. 14. Comments should be submitted electronically to USDA Wildlife Services, or in writing to 9134 W. Blackeagle Dr., Boise, ID 83709. For more information, the agency can be reached at 208-373-1630.