Grant County commissioners in New Mexico voted 2-1 against renewing a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program last Thursday because the federal agency, which kills wildlife on behalf of the livestock industry, ignored requirements within its last contract.
“USDA’s unwillingness to stay within guardrails that were locally crafted and designed to protect our cherished wildlife should disqualify them from getting one more penny,” said Grant County resident Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.“I hope more counties will follow suit and kick out these rule-breaking federal trappers and poisoners.”
In a 2020 compromise with residents who opposed the program’s ongoing slaughter of wildlife, commissioners approved a contract with Wildlife Services and renewed that contract unchanged in 2021. It provided $25,000of federal grazing fee funds to match an additional $57,159 in federal appropriations, but required the agency to “prioritize nonlethal methods” of livestock protection. Yet, in a final quarterly report belatedly released before last week’s vote, and in previous reports, the agency did not document any instances of nonlethal protection.
“This rogue agency ignored its pledge to reform its practices so as to take less of a toll on wildlife,” said Silver City resident Glenn Griffin. “Money for killing coyotes, mountain lions, and bears would be better spent on county road maintenance.” Grant County is largely rural and includes much of the Gila National Forest.
“Again and again we see Wildlife Services prioritize killing native animals rather than trying long-term, cost-effective, nonlethal coexistence practices,” said Chris Smith, southwest wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “It seems like every year they disrespect the Grant County Commission by failing to transparently and thoroughly report on what the commission has contracted them to do.”
The livestock industry and Wildlife Services are expected to seek a re-vote in the county commission, with the inclusion of two commissioners who were absent from the vote last week.
“Killing wildlife to address conflict with humans as the misnamed Wildlife Services agency appears to prioritize, does not address the root cause of the conflict,” said Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.“Instead, this killing just perpetuates more and more conflict which results in more and more wildlife death, not only squandering county funds, but also harming nature.”
“We applaud the Grant County Board of Commissioners for staying true to their commitment to prioritize nonlethal methods of wildlife management,” said Nina Eydelman, chief program and policy officer for wildlife with Animal Protection New Mexico. “The county is rightfully holding USDA Wildlife Servicesaccountable when they repeatedly disregarded this contract provision by using cruel and indiscriminate poisons instead of nonlethal means.”
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