Beers for the road at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1998:

James Beers, former chief of
wildlife refuge operations for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and now USFWS liaison to
state wildlife agencies, recently told August
Gribbin of The Washington Times that USFWS
has attempted to oust him because he accepted
the National Trappers Association’s
“Conservationist of the Year” award for his
role in killing a European Union attempt to ban
imports of leghold-trapped fur.
This, Beers claimed, offended
USFWS brass who wish to cozy up with animal
rights activists. He didn’t name names.
He is reportedly now trying to press a whistleblower
complaint against higher-ups for transfering
him from Washington D.C. to

ANIMAL PEOPLE in April 1997
revealed a Beers memo to wildlife refuge managers
which in effect ordered them to use
leghold traps for types of predator control
which might be portrayed as benefiting endangered

Though Beers was transferred, a
similar strategy seems to remain in effect. On
October 11, for example, at invitation of
USFWS and the Hawaii Department of Land
and Natural Resources, the Peregrine Fund is
expected to offer for formal ratification a plan
already informally shared with EnviroWatch
and ANIMAL PEOPLE, which proposes to
save a native Hawaiian songbird called the
po’ouli by undertaking what it euphemistically
terms “ecosystem-based habitat management.”
Translated into English, that means
killing all potential predators and competitors
for habitat, while trying not to trap, poison,
or shoot other endangered species and protected
birds who use the same mountainside.
Translated into politics, that means
keeping the good old boys of the Wildlife
Services branch of the USDA on the USFWS
payroll as subcontractors. (They used to be
called Animal Damage Control.)
What’s in it for the Peregrine Fund is
a continued close relationship with USFWS.
Everyone gets government money, and the
po’ouli might just survive––though there are
only three known specimens, it is not certain
that they include both genders, and USFWS
has been officially aware that the po’ouli was
on the verge of extinction ever since it was discovered
in 1973, without finding a previous
need for waging war on its behalf.

Canada geese
Such cooperation of public and private
agencies for mutual benefit is of course
not unique to the U.S.
EnviroWatch investigator Carroll
Cox spent much of the summer probing a
transaction in which the city of Mississauga,
Ontario, with permission of the Canadian
Wildlife Service, ordered the removal of about
500 moulting and therefore temporarily flightless
Canada geese from waterfront parks,
where they were alleged nuisances, to the
vicinity of a private hunting concession operated
by the Long Point Regional Conservation
Authority, and––when that site had more
geese than it had plants the geese could eat––to
a boat launching area at Canyon Lake on the
Grassy Narrows First Nation Reserve.
In Mississauga, activists concerned
with the fate of the geese were told the
removal would spare their lives, but in truth,
Cox reported, “permits were given out to local
residents around Canyon Lake to shoot the
geese, after they complained about the nuisance
to their lawns and drinking water. I also
found,” Cox said, “that for publicity purposes
the Grassy Narrows First Nation was improperly
blamed for the relocation” from Long
Point to Canyon Lake. An undercurrent to the
affair: while some Canada geese from
Mississauga might make popular targets at
Long Point, come the start of hunting season,
too many would deplete the wild rice that the
hunting concession needs to attract migratory
flocks. Thus, when the resident geese were
shot, there would be no more arriving.
Canada goose, snow goose, and
most kinds of ducks have soared to record or
near record population levels across North
America since midwestern flooding in 1993
and 1994 restored thousands of ponds, but
drought this summer may bring a crash.
“Tell-tale signs of trouble are to be
found pretty much everywhere,” Ed Struzik of
the Edmonton Journal warned on September
21. “Prairie ponds are disappearing at an
alarming rate; botulism is striking harder and
in more places than ever before, and goose
populations have grown so fast that they have
turned tens of thousands of square kilometers
of productive tundra habitat into a wasteland.”
The wildlife management response:
shoot more waterfowl before they die anyway.
Both U.S. and Canadian wildlife agencies are
moving to liberalize waterfowl hunting
rules––and a measure recently passed from the
U.S. House to the Senate, at urging of House
Resources Committee chair Don Young (DAlaska),
would weaken the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act enforcement regulations so severely
that the prohibition on hunting over a baited
field might be rendered moot: to win a conviction,
game wardens would have to be able to
prove that hunters knew the field had been
baited. Unless a warden happens to catch a
hunter in the act of baiting, that’s unlikely.
Keeping bird conservationists quiet,
Young is also author of a House bill, paralleling
the Neotropical Migratory Bird
Conservation Act by Spencer Abraham (RMichigan)
to allocate $8 million to protect
neomigratory songbirds––whose North
American nesting habitat is chiefly jeopardized
by deer. This too is a pretext for more hunting,
though deer proliferation is itself a consequence
of aggressively hunting bucks, so that
the wintering herd each year consists disporportionately
of bearing does. (See “Deer
hunting kills birds,” March 1998, online at

Vanishing pigeons
“More than 1,000 racing pigeons,
valued at close to $200,000, have been spirited
out of backyard coops in four counties” during
the past two years, Philadelphia Inquirer
staff writer Monica Yant reported on
September 6, one day before the 65th annual
Labor Day pigeon shoot in Hegins. “Until this
crime wave, thefts of racing pigeons were virtually
unheard of.” Hegins shoot chief organizer
Bob Tobash denied involvement, but
Fund for Animals national coordinator H e i d i
P r e s c o t t told Yant that rescuers who recover
wounded pigeons from the shoot parking lot
often find scars on their legs indicating that
fanciers’ identification bands have been
snipped off. There was no formal protest at
this year’s Hegins shoot. Michelle Ridge,
wife of Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge,
recently outspoken on the subject of violence
involving children, declined a Fund invitation
to speak out against the shoot, which involves
children as witnesses, occasional participants,
and collector/killers of wounded pigeons who
fall within the shooting area.
Dallas judge John Marshall o n
August 23 issued a restraining order against a
three-day pigeon shoot hosted by the D a l l a s
Gun Club, located in nearby Carrollton,
pending investigation as to whether the shoot
and the care of the birds while awaiting their
turn to be shot met legal standards, but the
shoot had already almost finished––and at that,
wrote Dallas Morning News reporter Joy
Dickinson, gunfire continued for another hour,
though she wasn’t able to see whether pigeons
were the targets. About 2,000 pigeons reportedly
died of heat stress even before the scheduled
killing began. On September 1,
Carrollton city attorney Karen Brophy t o l d
the city council that they cannot adopt an ordinance
against such shoots, as demanded by
humane groups, because it would conflict with
state law. The Dallas Gun Club plans to hold
another pigeon shoot on the weekend of
October 15-18.

Vanishing hunters
Six hundred hunters reportedly
attended the four-day Governor’s
Symposium on North America’s Hunting
H e r i t a g e, held in mid-August in Hershey,
Pennsylvania, to discuss ways of increasing
hunting participation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service data shows that the number of licensed
hunters fell by 300,000 in 1997, to 14.9 million:
just 5.5% of the U.S. public. Colorado
Division of Wildlife “educator” P a t r i c i a
D o r s e y told a symposium seminar that to
recruit youth, hunters must overcome the stigma
created when children in hunting garb massacre
classmates––as occurred in multiple
recent incidents, including at Jonesboro,
Arkansas, and Springfield, Oregon.
Ontario minister for Natural
Resources John Snobelen in September quietly
cut the minimum age for hunting from 15
to 12, without previously notifying premier
Mike Harris, and over the objections of the
Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, who
like almost everyone else but ranking members
of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and
H u n t e r s only found out about the change
through the media, two weeks after the fact.
Mitch Skandalakis, Republican
nominee for lieutenant governor of Georgia,
thinks he has a surefire formula for both stealing
votes from the rural support base of
Democratic nominee Mark Taylor a n d
arresting the decline of hunting: just abolish
hunting and fishing license fees. Counters
Jerry McCollum, president of the G e o r g i a
Wildlife Federation, “If he thinks he’s doing
the sportsmen of Georgia a favor, think
again.” Hunting and fishing licenses support
the state wildlife agency––and that buy-in,
replicated in every state and at the federal
level, is why wildlife agency policies at all
levels favor hunters even though ecological
intelligence, consideration for property rights
and public safety, and basic humane consideration
all do not.

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