Who is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service servicing?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1997:

WASHINGTON D.C.––In the last week of January,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service embraced a partnership with
the trophy hunting organization Safari Club International, permitted
the U.S. Navy to kill every endangered ovenbird on
Farallon de Medinilla 2.5 times each, and advanced a scheme
to kill coyotes, purportedly to rebuild the endangered
Columbian whitetailed deer population on the heavily overgrazed
Washington mainland sector of the Julia Butler Hansen
Refuge, along the Columbia River.

The Washington mainland sector now hosts 60 hungry
deer––and 70 cattle, who graze free in consideration of
improving the habitat, refuge manager James Hidy told
Longview News reporter Andre Steppengritz. Thousands of the
deer lived in the area for milennia before the cows came, but
Hidy and biologist Alan Clark opined in their Environmental
Assessment for the Management of Coyotes that the deer don’t
readily digest grass that hasn’t been cropped first by cattle.
In the first week of February, President Bill Clinton
asked Congress to increase the USFWS budget by $33.8 million,
$11.4 million of it for work to save endangered species
and $14.9 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System
plus wildlife law enforcement.
“The increase in funding will not only allow refuge
managers to make habitat improvements,” a USFWS press
release promised, “but also open up more opportunities for the
public to enjoy wildlife-related recreation such as fishing,
hunting, and bird watching.”
Quiet about the Farallon de Medinilla and Julia
Hansen Butler refuge debacles on the eve of the budget
request, USFWS trumpeted the Safari Club liaison.
“I cannot overstate the importance of the linkage
between America’s hunting tradition and our conservation mission,”
acting USFWS director John Rogers told media at a
January 30 signing ceremony. “The agreement we sign tonight
is a continuation of a significant legacy that has conserved
wildlife in this country for nearly 100 years.”
Added a USFWS release, “SCI will provide its chapters
with information about the refuges and refuge managers in
their local areas. SCI staff in Tucson and Washington will
help the chapters design appropriate programs. These programs
will be eligible for matching grants to the chapters from
SCI. The agreement serves as a model for carrying out provi-
sions of President Clinton’s March 1996 Executive Order, particularly
its dual focus on both the biological health of the
National Wildlife Refuge system and priority recreational and
educational uses.”
The latter circumlocution referred to the order by
which Clinton broke with almost a century of tradition recognizing
conservation as the only purpose of National Wildlife
Refuges, and designated hunting as a primary purpose too.
The Clinton administration backed the order by opening 23
National Wildlife Refuges to hunting between then and the
November 1996 national election. Of the 508 National Wildlife
Refuges, 297 now permit hunting.
“Clinton is pandering to America’s hunters in an election
year,” charged National Rifle Association spokesperson
Jim Manown, objecting that Clinton didn’t authorize hunting
throughout the refuge system––a longtime NRA goal.
The NRA has had a sweetheart deal with USFWS,
similar to the Safari Club’s, since 1992.
Safari Club legacy
Perhaps the most prominent aspect of the Safari Club
legacy involving USFWS in recent years was the Richard
Mitchell case, parts of which are apparently still in litigation,
almost a decade after investigation of his activities started.
As Washington Post staff writer Kim Masters
explained in December 1990, “To the government, Richard
Mitchell was a scientist at USFWS, hired to identify endangered
species and set up programs to protect them. But to big
game hunters, Mitchell was a man who could lead them to
remote reaches of China and Pakistan and give them the chance
to hunt rare and endangered species. When Mitchell co-founded
the American Ecological Union in 1984,” Mitchell continued,
“Safari Club International became one of its major supporters,
contributing tens of thousands of dollars to fund surveys
of animal populations. Federal investigators say Mitchell
agreed to coax hard-to-get hunting permits from foreign authorities
and give Safari Club members first crack at them. It could
not be determined exactly how much money the Safari Club
gave. In July 1987, Safari Club official Don Morgan informed
club members of Mitchell’s plans to get hunting permits for
wild goat and sheep in Pakistan.”
In 1988, Mitchell set up a safari to China for former
Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams and his wife
Carolyn, whom longtime hunting writer Ted Williams identified
in a January 1991 Audubon expose as the purported “queen
of the Dallas Safari Club,” a major SFI chapter. When they
brought back the pelt of an endangered argali sheep, and were
charged with illegal wildlife trafficking, Mitchell’s USFWS
division, the Office of Scientific Authority, tried to undercut
the Division of Law Enforcement by contending that the particular
subspecies in question was not covered by the Endangered
Species Act protection of the argali sheep. As that case went
on, Mitchell led another trip to China.
“The trip was set up through the Safari Club,”
Masters recounted. “In a January 1988 letter” to participant
Donald Cox, who paid $172,000 to finance an American
Ecological Union study, “the Safari Club enclosed a list of animals
that would be available, including the imperiled Tibetan
antelope and the endangered Chinese mountain sheep. The letter
asked Cox to indicate ‘each animal you want…so that we
may give Dr. Mitchell some lead time.’”
Among the hunters who followed Mitchell’s directions
in associating themselves with museums in order to legally
import trophies from endangered species as “specimens,”
Ted Williams wrote, were SCI Hall of Famers Andrew
Samuels, Thornton Snider, and Donald Cox, along with
“prominent SCI member” Paul Asper, who set up his own
museum according to the Mitchell plan.
SCI responded to USFWS Division of Law
Enforcement actions against members by lobbying openly and
aggressively to cut DLE funding, amend the Endangered
Species Act to permit trophy imports, and oust personnel who
insisted on enforcing the ESA as written.
The Nature Conservancy
SCI and the NRA are only two of the major pro-hunting
organizations whose clout within the USFWS may be
reflected in various failures of the USFWS to fulfill both legal
mandates and public expectations in protecting wildlife.
Another, alleged former USFWS special agent Carroll Cox in
the January/February 1997 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, is
The Nature Conservancy, whose annual budget of more than
$300 million exceeds the budgets of the 10 biggest anti-hunting
advocacy groups combined. Not a hunting organization per se,
TNC buys land for conservation purposes, permits hunting as
legal, and aggressively pursues the extirpation from holdings
of all non-native wildlife, often hiring Animal Damage Control
staff to do the killing. TNC-sponsored snaring of wild pigs and
goats in Hawaii is especially controversial, because of the
length of time that many of the animals suffer after getting
caught. Carroll Cox, not related to Donald Cox, contends that
the snaring kills many of the endangered birds that it purports
to protect, but adds that this is just the tip of a sulfuric volcano.
In our January/February 1997 edition, Carroll Cox
charged that Chuck Cook, TNC representative to the then-U.S.
trust territory of Palau, in 1991 helped cover up poaching and
wildlife parts trafficking involving sea turtles, dugongs, and
saltwater crocodiles, toward persuading Palauan officials to
adopt a “sustainable use” philosophy of conservation.
Palau has since then assumed greater responsibility
for self-administration.
ANIMAL PEOPLE tried to obtain Cook’s response
to Cox before our January/February edition went to press, but
only heard from him two weeks later, on January 9.
“I know Carroll Cox and enjoyed working with him
on his several trips to Palau,” Cook faxed. “However, he has
never discussed these allegations with me. I would be perfectly
willing to swear under oath that I was and remain unaware of
the smuggling of endangered species and turtles to Japan
through Palau, which Cox alleges. TNC is a strong advocate
for law enforcement wherever we work,” Cook continued.
“We do believe that enforcement conducted in collaboration
with local authorities is significantly more effective in the long
term than enforcement by outside authorities. In the case of
Palau, not only did we not ignore the aggressive poaching of
endangered saltwater crocodiles, but we also organized and
supported the ecological survey by Harry Messel and Wayne
King,” that Carroll Cox cited, which “documents the decline
of the saltwater crocodile and suggests how prime habitats
should be protected. We gave the government of Palau a grant
of $10,000 to hire a conservation officer. We worked with the
government of Palau in an attempt to revise the Palau endangered
species act, to provide tougher enforcement and penalties.
The bill did not pass,” Cook noted, “due to the widespread
local fear of crocodiles. We made a lucrative financial
offer to purchase the crocodile farm” on Palau, that Messel and
King suggested should be used to breed crocodiles for release,
“with the intention of releasing their 45 crocodiles back into the
wild. The owner turned us down because others were encouraging
him to continue studying crocodile farming. We have not
changed our position that crocodiles should not be captured or
farmed,” Cook asserted.
“I have spent the past six years working with the
Palau Conservation Society, the government, and the people
of Palau,” Cook finished, “to improve Palau’s conservation
laws and their enforcement, as well as to revive local customs
which have traditionally protected the islands’ environment.”
As Carroll Cox is willing to swear under oath that
Cook w a s aware of significant sea turtle trafficking through
Palau to Japan, and as Cox has for four years actively sought
the chance to testify about this and other alleged USFWS shortcomings
that purportedly involve TNC, ANIMAL PEOPLE
asked both Cook and Cox to further support their claims.
Each did. On January 13, Cook faxed, “Upon my
arrival in Palau in July 1990, the national government did not
have a conservation law enforcement program. It was a high
priority for TNC to work with the Palau national government to
re-establish this critical conservation program. This was
accomplished in 1993 through a new program established within
the Bureau of Resources and Development, with funding
support from TNC and others. If Mr. Cox feels that Pacific
island nations should not have their own conservation law
enforcement program, enabling them to develop the political
will and professional capacity to enforce both local and international
wildlife laws, that is his prerogative. However,” Cook
continued, “since 1993 there have been several instances of
Palauan customs and law enforcement officials arresting other
Palauans for wildlife violations involving fruit bats, giant
clams, and protected fish species. I should also note,” Cook
said, “that none of TNC’s conservation activities or strategies
prevented or worked against the U.S. government law enforcement
officials in cooperating with Palau officials to enforce the
laws over which they had jurisdiction.”
At the March ANIMAL PEOPLE deadline, Cook
still had not responded to our request for particulars of the
Palauan wildlife law enforcement arrests.
Seeks release of documents
In the January 13 fax, Cook explained further,
“Regarding TNC’s involvement with endangered species protection
in Palau, we were simply trying to strengthen the existing
endangered species act, as well as the local capacity to
enforce any tougher laws which resulted. In general, we were
aiming to revise provisions of Palau conservation law to get rid
of inconsistencies between current Palau law, U.S. law, and
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
On a more detailed level, we were aiming to add the saltwater
crocodile, green, loggerhead, and olive ridley sea turtles plus
the giant clam to Palau’s endangered species list, as the 1976
list did not include them. We also pushed for tougher restrictions
on the harvest of the hawksbill sea-turtle during the hunting
season provided for by Palau law.”
Coming back around to Carroll Cox’s specific allegation,
Cook reiterated that, “With regard to the smuggling of
millions of dollars worth of turtle shells, my original statement
to you of January 9 still stands. One must remember,” he
faxed, “that I work for a non-governmental organization, and I
am not privy to, nor do I have access to, confidential U.S. government
law enforcement information regarding wildlife trafficking,
smuggling, etcetera. If Mr. Cox has that documentation,”
Cook asserted, “it would seem prudent to release the
documents to all concerned parties. I am aware of the Cox turtle
shell ‘bust’ at the local Ben Franklin store,” Cook further
stated, referring to the central incident in Cox’s allegation,
“and was residing in Palau at the time. As I recollect the
events,” Cook said, “the turtle shell, which was manufactured,
processed, and packaged in the Philippines, was bought
by the Ben Franklin store from some retailer in the Philippines,
and sold publicly to tourists. It seemed strange to me that there
were invoices for the transaction of the purchased turtle shell;
and would this be classified as smuggling? At any rate, TNC
does not condone or support these types of activities, and I fail
to understand the linkage of these actions to my organization.
“Another problem with the legality/illegality of the
sale of turtle products in Palau,” Cook concluded, “has to do
with a local Palau law which allows for harvesting the hawksbill
during certain months of the year. Consequently, if the
hawksbill sea turtle has been captured legally, the Palau
National Code does not prohibit the sale of such jewelry in the
retail stores. Obviously it is difficult to distinguish legally harvested
hawksbill shell products from non-Palauan, illegal turtle
products. Again, TNC’s efforts to revise the Palau ESA
included attempts at tighening up these types of loopholes.”
Cox mostly just faxed documents. A February 15,
1990 letter from USFWS official Robert P. Smith to Kevin
Taketa of TNC’s Hawaii and Pacific Program proposed “a
rather non-traditional position/role for a TNC employee located
in a central area of west Pacific,” stipulating that “Palau in
western Micronesia would be an excellent location.”
Apparently describing the job Cook filled in July 1990, the letter
outlined in detail Smith’s hope that TNC could broker a deal
to protect the endangered Rota fruit bat by providing “The
Mayor of the Village of Songsong on Rota” a supply of “50 or
more fruit bats guaranteed each year so he can serve them at the
annual Rota Fiesta,” thereby perpetuating the custom of eating
an endangered species. The outline for this scheme concluded
with the suggestion that, “Marty Fujita may know of a ‘bat
source’ from her Indonesia travels and contacts.”
This suggestion came in a sentence separate from
specific mention of ways and means of obtaining bats within
CITES and Endangered Species Act restrictions; the use of
quotations around “‘bat source’” suggests unusual and perhaps
euphemistic useage, and Indonesia is known as a hub of illegal
wildlife trafficking, including in fruit bats.
Carroll Cox identified Fujita, then a Conservation
and Research Center employee at the National Zoological Park
in Front Royal, Virginia, as a close associate of Cook, and
thought she might be his wife. Cook supplied no identification
of her, and ANIMAL PEOPLE found no mention of her in
online standard biographical references.
The Smith letter does not compromise either Cook or
Fujita, but does seem to indicate that Smith sought to bring
TNC to Palau precisely to facilitate arrangements that might
compromise USFWS if they ever became known.
Carroll Cox also faxed a memo by Smith, dated
December 11, 1990, describing Smith’s activities from
November 11, 1990 to December 7, 1990, including a stay at
the TNC headquarters in Palau on the night of November 15,
1990, followed by meetings on November 16 which appear to
have specifically included Cook’s participation. Illegal traffic
in parts of dugongs and saltwater crocodiles was discussed;
further, Smith purchased dugong skull ivory as evidence at the
same Ben Franklin store that Cox later raided, while an unidentified
party, possibly Cook, took photographs.
The next sentence read, “On the matter of saltwater
crocodiles, Demei Otebed escorted Chuck Cook and me to the
residence of Joshua Eberdong,” the crocodile farmer whom
TNC later tried to buy out. Wrote Smith, “I advised him that
his activities were likely not in compliance with the ESA, and
asked him not to capture any more crocodiles from the wild.”
The memo went on to describe Cook’s participation
in a meeting on December 3 with “several gentlemen from
Japan who hope to conduct sea turtle research on Palau,” a
phrase recollecting Japanese “research whaling,” which
includes killing minke whales and selling their meat in contravention
of the intent of the ongoing International Whaling
Commission moratorium on commercial whaling.
“I informed both gentlemen that any further research
on turtles would require a research permit under Section 10 of
the ESA,” Smith continued, “and that large-scale ‘headstarting,’”
or capturing and captive-rearing hatchling turtles for
later release, “would likely not receive such permit authority.”
Perhaps the reference to “sea turtle research” was all
about headstarting, but this isn’t clear from the language of the
memo, especially in view of paragraphs which Smith enumerated
A, B, and C, that describe turtle hunting “in direct conflict
with the prohibition against ‘take’ found at Section 9 of the
ESA,” as well as commercial traffic in items made from turtle
shell which were sold at the Ben Franklin store, and only then
give headstarting any mention.
Carroll Cox further faxed the agenda for the Republic
of Palau Law Enforcement/Federal Aid Workshop of March
25-27, 1991, at which Cook was among the opening speakers,
preceding discussion of “ESA conflicts” and sea turtles.
In a written statement, Carroll Cox alleged that on
March 25, 1991, when he asked fellow participants in the
workshop why no action had been taken pertaining to Smith’s
evidence obtained from the Ben Franklin store, Cook tried to
dissuade Cox from personally visiting the store by offering to
take him fishing.
According to Carroll Cox, “Cook stated that if we
were doing law enforcement, it might reflect badly on TNC.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE obtained various other statements
and written materials confirming that the Ben Franklin
store and other gift and souvenir outlets in Palau carried dugong
and turtle parts primarily for sale to Japanese visitors.
Getting the birds
The Farallon de Medinilla bombing permit also came
to the attention of ANIMAL PEOPLE through Carroll Cox,
whom the USFWS fired in 1995 for allegedly accepting a bribe:
the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, presented by
the Shafeek Nader Foundation, founded by consumer advocate
Ralph Nader in honor of his late father. The foundation recognized
Carroll Cox for a six-year battle to enforce the
Endangered Species Act in the western Pacific despite “shameful
orders to falsify documents and ignore compelling investigations”
that often revealed compromising behavior on the part
of USFWS higher-ups. After ANIMAL PEOPLE p u b l i s h e d
Carroll Cox’s story in our January/February edition, he was
retained by Friends of Animals as a wildlife consultant.
Carroll Cox established that USFWS and the National
Marine Fisheries Service not only have issued permits to the
Navy to bomb Farallon de Medinilla despite the presence of the
endangered Micronesian megapodes ovenbird and 15 other
migratory bird species protected by U.S. law, but also made no
apparent reference to safeguarding either sea turtles, who nest
on the island, or resident colonies of humpback whales and
spinner dolphins. Animals of least 18 species protected by U.S.
law may be killed by the continued use of the island as a target.
“The Navy offered to monitor the area and count the
number of birds killed by their cluster bombs,” Carroll Cox
said. “This should be pretty easy, given that when these bombs
are used on people you usually don’t find any traces of them.
The bigger problem is what will the USFWS do to address the
endangered species issue. My sources advise that there is a
chance it will be swept under the rug.”
Carroll Cox’s full description of the Farallon de
Medinilla situation is on page 17. (Letters of protest may be
addressed to Senators and Congressional representatives.)
Cow refuge
ANIMAL PEOPLE couldn’t get to Farallon de
Medinilla to do in-person investigation, but we were able to
spend a day in and around the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge,
near Cathlamet, Washington, after the USFWS published the
Environmental Assessment required in order to authorize coyote
shooting and trapping by contracted staff of the USDA
Animal Damage Control program. The project would coincide
neatly with ADC strategy to seek a softer image by killing
wildlife on purported behalf of endangered species, as well as
to subsidize cattle and sheep ranching.
The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge includes three small
wooded islands in the Columbia River plus the Washington
mainland sector. The endangered Columbian whitetailed deer
also inhabit several other islands just upstream and part of the
Oregon shore, as well as a separate refuge 200 miles away near
Roseburg, Oregon. The deer were among the first species protected
by the Endangered Species Act, back in 1973, but
advances in genetic understanding and a lack of genetic
research on the Columbian herds has called their status into
question: by appearance, they seem to be just an isolated subgroup
of common Virginia whitetails.
The Environmental Assessment argues that coyote
predation has kept deer numbers on the Washington mainland
sector of the refuge from recovering to the target level of more
than 400. Starting with 214 deer, plus the cows, the refuge
still had only 235 in 1983 when manager Hidy and biologist
Clark recognized that the deer just weren’t getting enough to
eat. They therefore invited hunters to shoot most of the elk on
the refuge. Without the elk, the deer population ballooned to
500 by 1986, but fell into annual decline by 1988. Flooding
last spring drowned about 150 deer from all parts of the refuge,
dropping the Washington mainland count to 60.
Cattle grazing and forage cropping of both hay (long
grass) and silage (short) have visibly depleted the Washington
mainland sector. The USFWS seeks to keep the deer herd at a
density of more than 50 per square mile. Game managers elsewhere
who try to produce abundant whitetails for hunting generally
agree that 20 per square mile risks habitat damage, even
without cattle grazing and fodder cropping; 35 per square mile
risks malnutrition. Whitetailed deer usually conceive twins,
but malnourished deer reabsorb one fetus or both, to bear single
fawns or none, and the population crashes.
This appears to have happened at the Julia Butler
Hansen Refuge. The deer on the physically isolated
Washington mainland sector apparently don’t get adequate
food to begin with, are obstructed by roads and channels
from migrating into new habitat, and are outcompeted for
the food that remains after fodder cropping by the cattle, who
graze all day whereas deer tend to graze just at dawn and dusk,
when they feel safe. If the cattle had been removed when the
coyote-killing was proposed, or were removed even in
February, enough more fawn births might be expected to more
than offset the effects of predation––but that was a measure the
USFWS neither took, nor considered, so far as the
Environmental Assessment indicates.
Apart from the food shortage, the Washington mainland
sector also affords the deer less than half of the 65% tree
cover that game managers recommend to produce maximum
herd growth. The Environmental Assessment claims the refuge
offers 33% tree cover, yet the wooded areas are chiefly windbreaks,
rarely more than a few feet deep.
Noting that coyotes are known to have killed fawns
on the refuge only in their first 42 days of life, coincidental
with the coyote whelping season, predator biologist Paul Joslin
of the Conservation Society for Wolves and Whales suggested
at a January 31 discussion meeting hosted by USFWS that providing
roadkills for the coyotes could meet the needs of nursing
coyote mothers while preventing predation on the young deer.
USFWS biologists present then insisted that the coyotes
around the refuge never eat roadkills, though observational
studies have never documented that either coyotes or any
species of canid will pass up a free meal to hunt
instead––unless the free meal has been poisoned.
ADC staff insisted that none of the ranching neighbors
of the refuge are known to poison coyotes.
A more likely explanation for the failure of coyotes to
take local roadkills is that they rarely visit the part of the refuge
near the main highway, including the mostly open fields harboring
the Washington mainland herd. Generations of cattle
hooves have compacted the soil. Water stands on the surface;
rabbits and other burrowing mammals can’t find homes. Since
there are few rabbits, there is little food to attract coyotes to
the refuge before fawning, and as they quit attacking the fawns
once the fawns are fully mobile, they have no reason to linger.
Coyote predation at the refuge, Joslin explained,
involves visitor coyotes taking advantage of the lack of
cover––not a longterm resident population, as the
Environmental Assessment asserts. “If you start killing visitor
coyotes,” Joslin added, “you’ll just keep creating a void that
attracts more visitor coyotes. The hills around the refuge are
full of coyotes, and they increase their litter size as you put
pressure on their population, so you’ll keep killing more and
more coyotes and still lose just as many fawns. You might lose
more, because you’ll get more coyotes.”
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral has
offered to donate the funds to bring roadkill to keep coyotes
away from the fawns this year, if the USFWS evicts the cattle
from the refuge, stops the forage cropping, and refrains from
trapping. Apart from obvious humane concerns, since trapping
with use of carcass bait would condition the coyotes to
avoid the roadkill.
“If the USFWS is serious about enabling the recovery
of the Columbian whitetailed deer,” Feral said, “we’ll help.
But we are not going to just stand by while the USFWS uses a
quarter-century of refuge mismanagement to create an imageboosting
makework project for the ADC.”
(Public comments on the proposed coyote killing,
due by February 20, may be addressed to James A. Hidy,
Refuge Manager, Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, USFWS,
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge & Satellites, HC 01, Box
910, Ilwaco, WA 98624-9707. Copies may be addressed to
Senators and Congressional representives.)

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