FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE USES REFUGES AS PROP FOR FUR TRADE

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1997:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Any illusions that animal and
habitat defenders might have had that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service is acting in good faith as regards trapping in National
Wildlife Refuges would appear to be shattered by a newly leaked
28-page memo issued to “All Refuge Managers” on January 28
by Stan Thompson, acting Division of Refuges chief.
The Thompson memo makes clear, in thinly veiled
language, that refuge managers are to back fur trade opposition
to the twice-delayed European Community ban on the import of
pelts from animals possibly caught by leghold trapping.
The memo further indicates that a Congressionally
mandated internal review of trapping within National Wildlife
Refuges is to be done in such a manner as to produce documents
of propaganda value in opposition to the EC ban.


Attachments including a four-page memo from Jim
Beers of the USFWS Division of Federal Aid outline a strategy
of emphasizing the use of leghold traps in association with
endangered species recovery, toward obtaining an agreement
with the EC in lieu of the pelt import ban that will enable U.S.
authorities to whitewash present trapping practices.
“The way in which this issue proceeds is probably
more than a little indicative of the future of hunting, fishing,
and fish and wildlife management,” Beers warned.
ANIMAL PEOPLE received the Thompson memo
only 72 hours after Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told a House
of Representatives hearing that wildlife refuges ought to hold
“the conservation needs of wildlife paramount.” Babbitt argued
against a bill by House Resources Committee chair Don Young
(R-Alaska), deferred in the last Congress, which would eliminate
the legal conflict of interest between the conservation mandate
of the National Wildlife Refuges and recreational wildlife
killing, by making hunting, fishing, and trapping all official
refuge purposes. Although hunting, fishing, and trapping have
always been permitted on some refuges, the sole official purpose
of the system has always been conservation.
Kissing up to hunters, fishers, and trappers, President
Bill Clinton on March 27, 1996 issued an executive order recognizing
“compatible hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and
photography, and environmental education and interpretation”
as official refuge purposes, and calling hunters and fishers “first
partners” in managing the refuge system. Clinton and his presidential
predecessor, George Bush, have granted the National
Rifle Association, Safari Club International, and other hunting
advocacy groups “partnership” status in aspects of National
Wildlife Refuge management including public education. The
word “compatible,” however, kept conservation as the nominal
priority––even as Clinton opened another 23
refuges to hunting by November 1996.
Exactly 300 of the 509 National Wildlife
Refuges now permit hunting, about twice as
many as a decade ago.
A case in point
The Thompson memo and attachments
reached ANIMAL PEOPLE ten days
after Julia Butler Hansen Refuge manager
James Hidy on February 28 issued a Summary
of Comments and Responses, Finding of No
Significant Impact, and Public Notice of
authorization to proceed, as required by the
National Environmental Policy Act, preparatory
to hiring a USDA Animal Damage
Control trapper to kill coyotes whom Hidy and
refuge biologist Al Clark blame for the failure
of the resident Columbian whitetailed deer to
reach population targets. The diminutive deer
in 1973 became one of the first animals protected
under the Endangered Species Act, and
the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge was among the
first designated critical habitats for an endangered
species. Hidy and Clark have run the
refuge ever since. It consists of three small
wooded islands and a large tract of open fields
on the Washington side of the Columbia River,
near the town of Cathlamet.
From the creation of the refuge, cattle
have grazed there free of charge––and hay
and silage have been taken from the refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
set the target Julia Butler Hansen Refuge deer
population at 400 individuals, a density of 50-
plus per square mile. Wildlife managers usually
recognize five to 10 deer per square mile
of good habitat as optimal, 20 as problematic,
and 35 as dangerously high. The initial refuge
deer count showed 214 individuals. It grew
only to 235 by 1983. Concluding that the deer
were not getting enough to eat to bear twins,
as deer normally do, Hidy and Clark invited
hunters to shoot most of the resident elk population.
Responding to public outrage, USFWS
biologists produced two studies purporting that
Columbia whitetailed deer cannot eat mature
grass, and would starve if cattle didn’t keep
the grass short. Killing the elk––as many as
350, according to local media––did induce the
deer herd toincrease to 500 in just two years.
As the elk recovered, however, the deer
declined, then crashed when spring 1996
flooding killed all but an estimated 60 members
of the Washington mainland herd.
That’s when management took a
chapter from cattle ranch management and
blamed coyotes for failure.
Kangaroos
Paying repeated fact-finding visits to
the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, ANIMAL
PEOPLE pointed out in a 23-page response to
the Environmental Assessment of the projected
trapping that the deer survived for thousands
of years at the site without cattle, but became
endangered only after cattle came; that the
cattle not only take food from the deer, but
also prevent the growth of cover; that the
refuge offers less than half the cover generally
considered optimal for herd growth; that much
of what cover is available is on swampy or
submerged ground, inappropriate for resting
fawns; that the absence of rabbits from the
refuge indicates both the extent of soil compaction
by cattle hooves and the improbability
that coyotes den there; that there is no evidence
on most of the grazed and/or foddercropped
part of the refuge that the fields have
ever been harrowed, fertilized, or reseeded,
the services that refuge management claims to
get in trade for free grazing; the role of fodder-cropping
in removing whatever tall grass
cover the fawns might otherwise have, which
refuge management claimed was adequate
cover; the role of the grain shaken off grass
stems during haymaking in bringing quick
population exposions of meadow voles, which
in turn draw coyotes to catch them; and the
slim chance that the refuge ever supported the
2,200 cows that management claims once
coexisted there with the elk and deer. This
would have required keeping the cows at
almost stockyard density.
World-recognized predator expert
Paul Joslin of the Wolves and Whales
Conservation Society filed parallel criticisms,
and offered the use of roadkill to bait coyotes
away from fawn resting areas as an alternative
to killing coyotes. Friends of Animals offered
to pay the cost. The Joslin proposal was supported
by more than 400 letters of comment.
Hidy wrote in his Finding of No
Significant Impact that of the 400 responses he
received, “none included substantial new data,
nor were convincing arguments made with
countered information presented in the
Environmental Assessment,” which he and
Clark wrote, essentially making themselves
the judges in their own case.
Two adult female coyotes and one
male were killedduring the first week of trapping,
apparently drawn by scent lures.
None of the coyote massacre critics
knew the Thompson memo existed until after
the killing began. It was forwarded through
former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law
enforcement officer Carroll Cox by another
whistleblower still within USFWS. Cox, formerly
one of the USFWS staff most praised
and honored for vigorous pursuit of poachers
and wildlife traffickers, was dismissed after
blowing the whistle on other USFWS activities
which appear to contradict and circumvent the
agency mandate to conserve wildlife. Cox is
now suing USFWS, alleging wrongful dismissal
both as a whistleblower and as a victim
of discrimination, having been among the first
Afro-Americans to wear the USFWS badge.
Since ANIMAL PEOPLE put the
Cox case on page one of our January 1997 edition,
other government personnel have sought
his help in exposing further alleged failures of
their agencies to obey wildlife protection law.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has received documents
through Cox involving almost every wildlife
agency in the Pacific states.
Such information was instrumental
in exposing in March how the USFWS ignored
factual findings to authorize the U.S. Navy to
bomb habitat for endangered ovenbirds, sea
turtles, humpback whales, and 15 other federally
protected species on Farallon de Medinila,
a tiny island in the western Pacific.
That revelation shook loose still
more documents. Cox told ANIMAL PEOPLE
he is receiving and relaying information
from some people he never previously knew,
and others whom he viewed as part of the
problems within various agencies, whose dissatisfaction
he previously hadn’t suspected.
What the memo said
“As we enter into a review of animal
trapping within the Refuge System,”
Thompson wrote to the National Wildlife
Refuge managers on January 28, three days
before an informal hearing on the proposal to
trap coyotes at the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge,
“some perspective on the activities that are
occurring in the national and international arenas
on this subject will be valuable. To this
end, I have attached a variety of information,”
he said, “primarily related to the activities of
the Fur Resources Technical Subcommittee of
the International Association of Fish and
Wildlife Agencies,” a private organization
that unofficially represents U.S. wildlife management
in negotiations with the EC.
The first attachment advertised “special
pricing on quantities of 500 or more” of a
pro-trapping video, Balancing Nature:
Trapping in Today’s World. “There are two
versions,” the advertisement explained, “a
28-minute version with women from 25 to 40
designated as the target audience and a shorter
9-minute version designed for the delivery of a
‘why trapping’ message to North America’s
governmental decision-makers.”
The producers were Scott Huber, a
wildlife damage control employee of the South
Dakota Fish and Game Department, and
Butch Isom, assistant director of the Nebraska
Game and Parks Commission. Joining Huber
and Isom in the scripting were Tom Decker,
furbearer biologist from the Massachusetts
Department of Fish & Wildlife, and Tom
Krause, of the National Trappers Association.
Both are on the IAFWA Fur Resources
Technical Subcommittee on Trapping.
The second attachment to the
Thompson memo was a January 9 letter to the
IAFWA executive committee by IAFWA legal
counsel Paul A. Lenzini.
“While the interest of the Fur
Resources Committee has been to preserve the
European market,” Lenzini explained, “I considered
it my special responsibility to assure
that we 1) avoid any international agreement at
the federal level which could be the basis for a
claim of federal preemption of state authority,
i.e. a binding international agreement; and 2)
avoid assertions in any international agreement
which would purport to bind the states to any
particular course of action.”
Continued Lenzini, “In late
November (1996), it appeared that the
Government of Canada and the Russian
Federation, which each have less at stake here
than the United States, were willing to enter
into what we in the U.S. viewed as a binding
international agreement with the European
Union. The U.S. declined to do so, both on
grounds that the executive branch lacked the
authority, and on policy grounds as well.”
Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the State Department, representing
the U.S. in international trade agreements,
are parts of the U.S. Executive Branch.
“As a substitute,” Lenzini went on,
“the EU Commission proposed that the U.S.
and the EU enter into a so-called Agreed
Minute wherein the U.S. would endorse a set
of standards for humane trapping to be
annexed thereto. Unfortunately, the EU also
sought a commitment that traps not meeting
the standards be phased out within four years,
from date of ratification of the Canadian agreement,
whether or not, when tested, conventional
legholds meet the standards. At the
same time, the EU is willing to extend a safeguard
clause permitting a state wildlife agency
to continue using any trap which fails to meet
the standards, including the conventional
leghold trap, if a workable alternative is
unavailable, so long as an effort is underway
to find a replacement trap. The ability to point
to language saying that the leghold trap will be
prohibited in the U.S. is of importance to the
EU Commission, and the fact that by reason
of the safeguard, legholds might actually continue
in widespread use here is apparently of
no concern.”
Lenzini alleged, in effect, that the
EU Commission would accede to a Big Lie, if
phrased so as to deflect public pressure.
However, Lenzini added, “Discussions with
the EU since early December have run
aground on the inability to commit states
which are sovereign in this matter to this or
any other specific course. Off and on during
December,” Lenzini explained, “I have been
in contact with the Office of Legal Adviser at
the State Department. Legal advisers at State
offered helpful suggestions and wording
changes so that the U.S. package could not be
constued to be binding. The Bureau of Oceans
and International Environmental Affairs also
offered helpful suggestions.”
Enclosing a draft of the so-called
Agreed Minute, Lenzini said he was satisfied
that it “would not constitute a binding international
agreement should it be agreed to by the
EU and would not constitute a basis on which
it could be successfully be claimed that there
had been federal preemption of state authority
to regulate traps and trapping methods.”
The proposed Agreed Minute
requires neither the U.S. nor the European
Community to do anything more than “encourage
and support research, development, monitoring
and training programs,” which “promote
the use and application of traps and trapping
methods for the humane treatment” of
furbearing mammals.
The language in effect defines the
use of “traps and trapping methods” as
“humane,” without defining the term
‘humane’ itself, then commits the U.S. and
EC to promoting “the use and application” of
such undefined “traps and trapping and trapping
methods,” so as to reaffirm the role of
wildlife agencies in supporting fur trapping as
presently practiced, against public opposition.
European Union environment ministers
and foreign ministers have to date been
skeptical of the Agreed Minute. Trappers did
gain some ground in mid-February, when The
Netherlands, holding the EU presidency,
agreed to extend the deadline for reaching
agreement with the U.S. Canada, and Russia
on trap standards from April to June, before
imposing the ban on the import of furs possibly
caught by “inhumane” means.
However, on February 24, reported
Caroline Southey of The Financial Times,
“EU foreign ministers agreed on a mandate for
fresh talks with Canada and Russia on the banning
of leghold traps, dismissing as too weak
a deal struck by European Union negotiatiors.
The mandate for fresh negotiations includes
reducing the period over which the use of traps
will be phased out, and introducing an arbitration
system in the event of countries failing to
impose the ban. The ministers also called for
a similar deal with the U.S.”
Added Southey on March 4, “European
Union environment ministers confirmed
their earlier rejection of a provisional deal
struck between EU negotiatiors, Canada, and
Russia. The ministers have insisted that any
agreement must include a comprehensive and
immediate ban on the use of all leghold traps.”
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to
press, further dickering was set for March 17.

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