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Groups sue to save bears

Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Wildlife Services' Bear Kill Program

Coalition Says Agency May Have Already Begun Killing Bears to Protect Corporate Timber
For Immediate Release:
May 6, 2003

Contacts:
Brian Vincent, Animal Protection Institute, 916/447-3085 x 201,  bvincent@api4animals.org
Brenna Bell, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, 541-846-0732,  brenna@kswild.org
Lori Cooper, Siskiyou Project, 541-846-6547,  lori@siskiyou.org

Groups File Lawsuit to Stop Wildlife Services' Bear Kill Program
Coalition Says Agency May Have Already Begun Killing Bears to Protect Corporate Timber

Williams, OR -- Today a coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Oregon to stop Wildlife Services' plan to kill black bears who might claw bark in Oregon tree plantations. On April 11, the agency -- a division within the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- issued a decision on its proposed continuation of its bear killing program. It is possible, the coalition said, that Wildlife Services has already killed some bears since the agency has received requests for assistance from timber companies.

Made up of the Animal Protection Institute, The Humane Society of the United States, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Predator Defense, Sinapu, Siskiyou Project, and Umpqua Watersheds, the coalition charges that Wildlife Services violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal law that requires agencies to thoroughly disclose and analyze the environmental effects of its actions before they take place. Specifically, the groups contend that the agency violated NEPA by failing to provide analysis of the effects of the bear killing on the local bear populations or the effectiveness of its program to curb the damage; that Wildlife Services relied on faulty economics that inflated the estimated damage to timber; and the agency was biased in its decision-making process. The organizations hope today's filing will prevent more bears from being killed while the court assesses whether Wildlife Services failed to comply with all applicable laws.

"The main problem is that Wildlife Services has not honestly disclosed and evaluated the impacts of its program on bears and the ecosystem as a whole," said Lori Cooper, one of the attorneys for the environmental groups. "The fact that Wildlife Services has been killing bears for the timber industry since the 1980's indicates that it wrote this Environmental Analysis in a way that justifies a decision already made years ago."

In early spring, bears peel bark from trees to get at the sugary sap that satisfies the intense energy requirements they have after emerging from their winter dens. Timber companies claim that the hungry bears damage trees on their property and want the federal government to continue trapping and killing "offending" bears. Although Wildlife Services has been engaged in this program since the mid-1980s, the agency sought public comment just this year. The disclosure of the bear kill sparked public outrage and a demand for an end to the program, as well as a flurry of media reports about the upcoming plan. Wildlife Services kills an average of 119 bears every year in Oregon because the agency claims those bears harm young trees on private and county land. Although the public has largely been unaware of this practice, the annual bear kill is funded in part with taxpayer dollars.

Most of the bears are captured with leg snares. Wildlife Services places bait to attract bears to trap sites. When a bear steps on a buried pan, a trigger sends a wire coil around the bear's foot which tightens as the bear struggles. The agency's policy is to check the traps every other day. That means that a bear could spend up to 48 hours in the snare, longer if Wildlife Services doesn't check it on time. Bears caught in snares are then shot. If the bear has cubs (yearling cubs stay with a trapped mother), Wildlife Services policy is to also kill the cubs.

According to Brenna Bell, another attorney working on the case, "Wildlife Services has not shown that its bear killing program actually helps reduce bear damage to tree plantations. It is spending taxpayer money to subsidize the timber industry, but the ironic thing is that killing bears has not been effective! This is just another example of a wasteful government program, which harms the environment to benefit a select few."

The coalition contends there are alternatives to killing bears to protect trees. An understanding of bear behavior and foraging preferences, coupled with the use of non-lethal preventive techniques and modified forest management practices, can help reduce bear damage to timber. For example, timber corporations could manage tree farms differently to mitigate conflicts. Bears are less likely to damage trees in uneven-aged forests or in forests with a diversity of tree species. Bears rarely damage bark if their traditional food sources are plentiful, such as food in large rotting logs or berries in the forest understory. Other effective forest management practices include delayed thinning of forests and avoiding fertilization.

Plaintiff's request for an injunction on this project will likely be decided by the court with the next two weeks.

###


Brian Vincent
Program Coordinator
Animal Protection Institute
Phone: 916/447-3085 x 201
Fax: 916/447-3070

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 22505
Sacramento, CA 95822

Street Address:
1122 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

-- Mohandas Gandhi
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Visit us online at:
 http://www.api4animals.org
 http://www.BanCruelTraps.com
 http://www.ChooseVeggie.com
 http://www.snowmonkey.org





Brian Vincent
Program Coordinator
Animal Protection Institute
Phone: 916/447-3085 x 201
Fax: 916/447-3070

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 22505
Sacramento, CA 95822

Street Address:
1122 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

-- Mohandas Gandhi
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Visit us online at:
 http://www.api4animals.org
 http://www.BanCruelTraps.com
 http://www.ChooseVeggie.com
 http://www.snowmonkey.org
Outrageous! 09.May.2003 16:38

PDX citizen

We do NOT owe the timber barons anything more. They have taken our forests, squeezed them for dolalrs, and now they ask us to kill our wildlife to protect their tree farms? I have an idea. Timber barons cause far more damage to trees and to ecosystems than a thousand bears. The wildlife service thinks it's acceptable to kill beings for damaging trees? Maybe we should tell them how many trees the timber barons have killed. Oh wait. They already know that -- they live in the barons' pockets.