Friends of Animals, Predator Defense Institute sue feds over coyote killing, refuge grazing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:

TACOMA, Washington––Accusing the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service of mismanaging the endangered Columbia whitetailed
deer to the verge of extinction at the southern Washington
refuge created for the species 34 years ago, Friends of Animals and
the Predator Defense Institute on May 27 sued Interior Secretary
Bruce Babbitt, the Interior Department, and Julia Butler Hansen
National Wildlife Refuge manager James Hidy in the U.S. District
Court for the Ninth Circuit.
Friends of Animals, of Darien, Connecticut, has more
than 100,000 members nationwide, and partners with the Interior
Department in projects including wolf reintroduction and protection
of African elephants from poaching. The Oregon-based Predator
Defense Institute, involved in wildlife policy review, is best
known for exposing allegedly misrepresented Oregon Department
of Fish and Wildlife reports of puma activity.


Hidy, claiming coyotes are keeping the Julia Butler
Hansen Refuge whitetailed deer herd from recovering to target
numbers, in February hired a trapper from the Animal Damage
Control program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who killed
at least five coyotes at the refuge this spring, and is to keep killing
coyotes for three more years.
“Trap to save trapping”
The hiring came days after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Refuges acting chief Stan Thompson issued a memo to
refuge managers indicating that they should find ways to emphasize
the use of leghold traps for species conservation, in support of government
and fur industry efforts to keep the European Community
from enforcing a ban on the import on furs commonly taken with
leghold traps. The ban is due to take effect in June.
Before the trapping could start, Hidy and staff produced
an Environmental Assessment––but FOA and PDI contend it violates
the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered
Species Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act, because a
formal Environmental Impact Statement was not prepared; Hidy et
al failed to consider alternatives to killing coyotes; failed to consider
that coyote predation was not the main cause of falling deer
numbers; failed to consider climatic impacts on the deer; and
failed to consider the effect on the deer of extensive cattle grazing
and hay harvesting done at the refuge.
Deer starve, cattle graze free
FoA and PDI cite numerous studies and reports done at
the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge over the years which establish that
the deer herd is limited by persistent malnutrition and lack of cover,
both results of the cattle grazing and hay harvesting. The land has
been managed essentially as it was before the refuge was designated.
If those trends continued, the 1972 federal proposal to form the
refuge warned, “This could eventually cause the extinction of the
Columbian whitetailed deer, which is dependent upon a large
amount of river-type cover.”
Little such cover remains on the mainland part of the
refuge, where the herd has fallen to about 60, from a high of 500
briefly reached 12 years ago, after Hidy had most of the resident
elk shot in 1983 to make more food for the deer without reducing
the cattle grazing. As the elk recovered, the deer again declined.
The ranchers using the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge in
effect get the grass for free. On paper, they paid the refuge
$23,356 in 1996––but the same contracts credited them for “mowing,”
chiefly by having cattle eat the grass short; fertilizing a mere
12 of the 1,632 acres used for haying and grazing; and transporting
cattle to and from the several refuge islands. The ranchers were
then further credited for fence repair to whatever extent necessary to
insure that they would pay no cash. Fence repair credits for 41
hours and 50 hours of fence repair, respectively, went with leases
of 612 and 457 acres, yet fence repair credits of 31 hours and 21
hours were issued with leases of just 47 and 44 acres.
Julia Butler Hansen Refuge manager James Hidy has
repeatedly refused to disclose the names of the leaseholders, as
requested by ANIMAL PEOPLE and other news media under the
Freedom of Information Act. His refusals are now under appeal,
and may also become subject of legal action

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