FoA sues FWS to protect Utah prairie dogs from eradication

For Immediate Release

August 22, 2018

Mike Harris, director, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program; 720 841-0400<>

Jennifer Best, assistant director, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791/<>

A change in federal policy that would allow the removal and killing of thousands of threatened Utah prairie dogs imperils the species to appease a relentless local drive for development, Friends of Animals asserts in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Utah.

FoA’s lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenges the agency’s April 2018 decision to rollback previous habitat conservation plans and mitigation methods established to protect the prairie dogs, which were declared an endangered species in 1973 after their population dropped to a few thousand.

More than 7,000 prairie dogs could be removed or killed over a 10-year period under the new FWS plan, plus an additional 15,000 independent of development, totaling more than a quarter of the entire population. Between 350-1,750 acres of their habitat would be lost as well.

“Most every move federal wildlife managers in the Trump administration take derails protections for threatened wildlife such as prairie dogs,” said Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral. “They neglect to see the moral and scientific value of seeing these social, intelligent animals as a benefit to western grassland ecosystems, or worthy of our affection and protection. We’re not about to give anyone a green light to drive these animals to extinction.”

The new FWS plan fails to consider the impact that the killing or relocating will have on the connectivity of the prairie dog habitat and there is no indication there is even sufficient and suitable land to translocate the prairie dogs, FoA said in the complaint. Even if moved, 90 percent of prairie dogs will not survive past their first year in the new location and two-thirds of new sites fail completely.

FWS’s new plan comes despite a federal appeals court victory in 2017 by Friends of Animals. In that decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a state district court decision that gave Utah the right to override ESA protections with its own management plan that threatened the survival of prairie dogs.

Now, catering to the interests of developers, FWS has devised a new plan that authorizes unlimited removal and killing of prairie dogs across the entire range of their habitat and allows developers to translocate the dogs only when deemed feasible.

Prairie dogs, which are found only in North America and are social animals, play a significant role in the biological diversity of ecosystems. They fertilize and aerate soil, reducing noxious weeds and help create more nutrient-rich grass for other animals. More than 100 species benefit directly from prairie dog habitats including bison, antelope, mice, burrowing owls and predators such as golden eagles, rattlesnakes, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, foxes and ferrets. But humans have continually pushed into their ecosystem, targeting their population for extinction through poison, shooting and habitat destruction. And despite ESA protections, local officials and property developers have continued to try to push for less restrictions from the federal government to get rid of the species.

FWS’s new plan violates the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the agency to carefully consider a wide range of alternatives and to vigorously examine the environmental impacts of alternatives, FoA alleges in the lawsuit.

“Any progress that has been made to save Utah prairie dogs after decades of poisoning and other indiscriminate killing is lost with this plan, which contains no real measures to protect these intelligent and valuable animals,” said Jennifer Best, assistant legal director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “With this lawsuit, Friends of Animals will continue to fight to have science and the inherent value of animals considered by the federal government before it authorizes the plundering and killing of threatened and endangered species.”

Bi-State Sage-Grouse Lawsuit Filed!


March 10, 2016
Online Messenger #331
Yesterday, Western Watersheds Project and our allies at the Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors, and WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to afford Endangered Species Act protection for the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse. These genetically-distinct sage-grouse occur only on the California-Nevada border north and south of Mono Lake and face multiple threats to their survival.

The Service’s September 2015 finding that the Bi-State sage-grouse did not warrant protection was an abrupt about-face from its 2013 decision to protect the bird. That itself was a hard-fought outcome of a 2010 lawsuit, and now, we’re in court again seeking meaningful conservation for a population that remains at risk while the agency dithers.

In refusing to protect the bird, the Service relied upon new funding for measures in the Bi-State Action Plan. But that would fund activities on a mere 40,000 acres of private lands – less than one percent of the bird’s habitat.

Most of the 4.5 million acres of Bi-State sage-grouse habitat is on public lands, the bulk of which are grazed by livestock. Not a single federal land management plan has been amended to protect Bi-State sage-grouse, and the few proposed amendments will not conserve the bird. Ongoing livestock grazing on public lands will continue to threaten the grouse’s survival – from nest trampling, fenceline deaths, increased predation, vegetation composition changes, increased invasive species proliferation and increased fire risks.

Yesterday’s challenge seeks to remand the recent decision back to the Service so it can make an objective decision based on science, not politics.

Thanks to Stanford Law Clinic and the Center for Biological Diversity for representing us in this case.

The complaint is available online here.

Take Action to Protect Our Nation’s Wildlife

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Take Action to Protect Our Nation’s Wildlife
Dear Jim,

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is still collecting public comments on a proposed rule to limit predator control activities on Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges. At stake is an opportunity to stop:

• brown and black bear trapping
• brown bear baiting
• the killing of black bears, wolves and coyotes in their dens
• the aerial gunning of bears

Please send a message to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of the proposal.

It’s All a Game: New Tags Allow Wolf-Pelt Transport To Canada

USFWS Helps to Market Wolf Pelts: ‏

Fish & Wildlife

Wed Jan 21 10:57:00 MST 2015

With the recent approval from the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Montana wolf hunters and trappers who harvest wolves will now obtain internationally recognized pelt tags to allow for the export of wolf pelts directly out of country, usually to Canadian fur auction houses.

Montana’s CITES wolf-pelt tags were obtained under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of CITES-listed wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

“This is a big change from the past couple of years in terms of hunter and trapper harvest opportunity to sell wolf pelts,” said Brian Giddings, statewide furbearer coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena.

Any hunter or trapper who harvests a wolf taken during the 2014-2015 season—Sept. 6, 2014 through Feb. 28, 2015—can now have it tagged with a CITES pelt tag.

As a condition of CITES approval, however, no prior season harvested wolf can receive a CITES tag, Giddings said.

Additionally, Montana’s wolf CITES tags cannot be used for any other method of mortality such as road-killed, federal Wildlife Services’ control action, landowner/livestock control, or incidental take. Nor can CITES tags be used for wolves taken on Tribal lands.

Hunters and trappers have strict reporting requirements. Upon the harvest of a wolf, hunters and trappers must call 1-877-FWP-WILD—1-877-397-9453—within 24 hours to file a report. Wolf pelts must be tagged within 10 days of harvest.

State tags issued earlier this hunting and trapping season can be replaced with the new wolf CITES tags by contacting the nearest FWP regional office. Once one receives a wolf CITES tag the old state-issued wolf tag can be removed and discarded.

For more information on CITES wolf-pelt tags contact your nearest FWP office.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf hunting season, visit FWP online Click “Hunting Guides” and choose Wolf.

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U.S. Gun Owners Outnumbered Hunters by 5 to 1 in 2011

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February 4, 2013 – 3:05 PM

( — In 2011, gun owners in the United States outnumbered hunters by 5 to 1.

There were 13.7 million hunters in the United States over age 16 — 12.7 million of whom used rifles, shotguns or handguns for hunting, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

That means hunters constituted only 15.9 to 18.1 percent of the estimated 70-80 million gun owners in the U.S. in 2011 — the latest year for which statistics are available.

In a Dec. 28 national report, USF&W said 13.7 million individuals over age 16 self-identified as hunters, and that 12.7 million used guns (shotguns, rifles or handguns) while hunting.

Another 2.9 million hunters used antique muzzleloaders to hunt, but according to USF&W, there is overlap between this figure and other figures due to self-reporting.

Around 4.5 million hunted with bows and arrows.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), meanwhile, estimates there were between 70 and 80 million American gun owners as of January 2011.

Those 70-80 million gun owners had in their possession almost 300 million firearms, about 100 million of which were handguns.

A spokesperson for the NRA told that gun-owner estimates are conservative because they may not take into account those who inherit firearms from family members or other instances when gun owners wouldn’t be reflected in data sets.

According to a Gallup poll from October 2011, 47 percent of all Americans reported ownership of a gun in their home or on their property. Gallup estimated that 34 percent of Americans age 18 and over personally own a gun.

The Dec. 28 report, titled “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” compiled statistics on fishing and hunting trends in the United States for 2011. The Survey is released every five years.

The government also found that hunters age 16 and over spent more than $3 billion on firearms in 2011 and spent $1.3 billion on ammunition. Approximately 52 percent of all hunters went target shooting in 2011 and 22 percent went to shooting ranges.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

All That Is Necessary for the Triumph of the Geese Killers is for Us to Do NOTHING

The public appears to  have entered an era of indifference to the plight of Canada geese trying to coexist with humans.  The major newspapers and news stations are utterly uninterested in running any geese stories.  Not “newsworthy enough”.  This kind of don’t-give-a-shit atmosphere is EXACTLY what communities and law enforcement and the USDA like best of all: prime goose-slaughter conditions.
The lone standouts: City Living Seattle will be running an article by Christie Lagally, it looks as if the Woodinville Weekly will do one, and you may also see letters to the editor by Diane Weinstein. Please, when you do, comment and write your own letters; let editors know this is a subject that still matters a LOT to a LOT of noisy, articulate, persistent people.  Allowing, by our apathy, the slaughter of Canada geese for reasons of selfishness and convenience is dangerous, not least because it allows an abusive mindset to grow. We do not need even ONE new USDA killer to be offered a job, one that will then need to be justified by more goose killing.
The petition for the geese on, asking Puget Sound area officials to stop killing geese has 1,300 signatures and is growing very slowly.  1,300 people against gassing geese families??  Even Ms. Glass-All-Empty here knows THAT isn’t true.  Have you signed? Have your friends? Have your family members?  You know how the whole situation would change if half a million names were on that petition?! Please, share the link as widely as possible.
Silly you. Did you think you could take a nap? You can’t EVER nap. Because the Other Side never sleeps.

Gray Wolves are Recovered; Next Up, the Mexican Wolf

What an Ashehole…

wolfWe are proposing to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species throughout the United States and Mexico. Photo by Gary Kramer/USFWS

As many of you probably know, my dad had a great, 37-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and he describes the outfit as a collection of people who get things done — doers.  Nowhere is that trait more proudly displayed than in our four decade effort to restore the gray wolf to the American landscape, bringing the species back from extirpation and exile from the contiguous United States.

I’m the 16th Director of the Service. It was the 10th, John Turner, a Wyoming rancher and outfitter, appointed by a Republican President, who signed the record of decision that set in motion this miraculous reintroduction and recovery. It’s never been easy. We’ve had critics, fair and unfair. We’ve had great partners. Sometimes they have been one in the same. But this organization and its people have been constant. Steadfast. Committed. Professional. Determined. Now add successful!

More information on the wolf recovery

This great predator again roams the range, ridges and remote spaces of the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes in one of the spectacular successes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  These recovered populations are not just being tolerated, but are expanding under professional management by our state partners.

Today, for one reason, and one reason only, we are proposing to remove the gray wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species throughout the United States and Mexico — they are no longer in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.



National Elk Refuge Biologist Eric Cole affixes a collar on a male black wolf pup. We have been working on gray wolf recovery for decades. Photo by Lori Iverson/USFWS

Due to our steadfast commitment, gray wolves in the Lower 48 now represent a 400-mile southern range extension of a vast contiguous wolf population that numbers more than 12,000 wolves in western Canada and about 65,000 wolves across all of Canada and Alaska. Canadian and U.S. wolves interact and move freely between the two nations.

Of course, the gray wolf is not everywhere it once was, nor can it be; think Denver, or Minneapolis, or Salt Lake City, or even the now grain- and livestock-dominated American Plains. It’s not everywhere it can be, but our work has created the potential that it may be one day.

One thing, though, is certain: It is no longer endangered or threatened with extinction.  The ESA has done its job. Broader restoration of wolves is now possible. Indeed, it is likely. As we propose to remove ESA protections, states like Washington and Oregon are managing expanding populations under protective state laws.

And as in almost every aspect of our work, there is vigorous debate.  Can a species be considered “recovered” if it exists in only a portion of its former range, or if significant habitat is yet unoccupied?  Our answer is “yes” and we don’t need to look far for other examples.


Bison on the National Bison Range in Montana. Photo by USFWS

Consider the plains bison, another magnificent, iconic animal that once roamed and ruled North American plains, coast to coast. We aren’t certain how many, but possibly 75 million. Today, there are about half a million, and they inhabit a fraction of their historical range.

But are they threatened or endangered?  No.  And in 2011, we denied a petition to give the bison Endangered Species Act protection. Wild populations are secure and growing. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about bison; it means they do not need the protections of the ESA.

Like the bison, the gray wolf no longer needs those protections.

Some say we’re abandoning wolf recovery before it is complete. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we’re proposing to hand over the management of these keystone predators to the professionals at the state and tribal wildlife agencies. We’ve been working hand-in-glove with these folks to recover the gray wolf. Their skill helped bring gray wolves back, and now they’ll work to keep wolves as a part of the landscape for future generations.

I’ve always liked the analogy of the ESA as biodiversity’s emergency room.  We are given patient species that need intensive care.  We stabilize them; we get them through recovery.  Then we hand them to other providers who will ensure they get the long-term care that they need and deserve.

We have brought back this great icon of the American wilderness.  And as we face today’s seemingly insurmountable challenges, today’s critical voices, today’s political minefields, let this success be a reminder of what we can accomplish.  We can work conservation miracles, because we have.  The gray wolf is proof.

Mexican wolf

our 2012 count showed a record number of Mexican wolves in the wild. Photo by Jim Clark/USFWS

Now it’s time for us to focus our limited resources on Mexican wolf recovery and on other species that are immediately threatened with extinction.

That is why we also proposed today to continue federal protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf, by designating it as an endangered subspecies under the ESA and proposing modifications to the regulations governing the existing nonessential experimental population.

We have received good news on the Mexican wolf recently – the 2012 population count showed a record high number of Mexican wolves in the wild.  We have a long way to go, but we are seeing success, and we will apply the same steadfast commitment, the same dedication and the same professionalism that has been the hallmark of our gray wolf success.

By employing the full protections of the ESA for the Mexican wolf, I am confident that one day we’ll be celebrating their full recovery just like we are, today, with the gray wolf.

USFWS Grants Landowner Permit to Kill Critically Endangered Red Wolf

USFWS Grants Landowner Permit to Kill Critically Endangered Red Wolf

Landowners who own property in the vicinity of the Red Wolf Recovery  Program, a 27-year federal project aimed at restoring to the far-eastern  edge of North Carolina one of nature’s most fragile species, claim red  wolves are invading their private property and impacting their  longstanding cultural tradition of deer hunting.   Although the deer  population has dropped somewhat, NC Wildlife Resources Commission  representatives believe the decline is more likely the result of  increased doe hunting than impacts by red wolves.

USFWS Red Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Dave Rabon, said opposition to  red wolves isn’t pervasive. Cultural differences in Eastern North  Carolina make it difficult for people to support a government-funded  predator program. “A lot of them will work with us,” he said. “But  they’re not going to advertise it. They’re not going to put a bumper  sticker on their car.”

Fourteen red wolves died in 2013 that the coalition knows about,  including nine dead by suspected or confirmed gunshot wounds. Another  wolf was found killed, apparently shot, on Jan. 7.  “Because of the  similarity of appearance between red wolves and coyotes, it is nearly  impossible for individual hunters to avoid shooting red wolves,” said  the recent lawsuit that the Red Wolf Coalition and other wildlife groups  filed against the state in its claim that it is not doing enough to  protect.

To date, there are no known red wolf attacks on humans and few  documented livestock kills. Still, resentment started building early on.  Though red wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act,  locals were promised that they would be classified as “nonessential and  experimental,” giving landowners more leeway in dealing with them.

Farm owner Jett Ferebee has recently been granted by the USFWS the  first (and only) known permit to kill one of the red wolves that they  had not been able to trap and remove it from his Tyrell County  property,  as long as the taking was done while trying to legally kill  coyotes on his farm.

Relief for landowners depends on what they expect,” said USFWS Red  Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Dave Rabon.”  Canids of some kind, whether  wolves or coyotes, will always be in the area.  With Mr. Ferebee,” he  said, “we’ve been very successful removing animals from his property  when he’s called us. But it’s temporary. They’re going to come back.  Something is going to come back.”   Rabon added that opposition isn’t  pervasive. Cultural differences in Eastern North Carolina make it  difficult for people to support a government-funded predator program. “A  lot of them will work with us,” he said. “But they’re not going to  advertise it. They’re not going to put a bumper sticker on their car.”

Fourteen red wolves died in 2013 that the Red Wolf Coalition knows  about, including nine dead by suspected or confirmed gunshot wounds.  Another wolf was found killed, apparently shot, on Jan. 7.   “Because of  the similarity of appearance between red wolves and coyotes, it is  nearly impossible for individual hunters to avoid shooting red wolves,”  said the lawsuit that the Red Wolf Coalition and other wildlife groups  filed against the state.

If successful, the suit could stop coyote hunting altogether in the  five eastern counties. If it does, one can expect continued conflict  between pro-recovery efforts and landowners.

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered  canids.  Once common throughout the eastern and southcentral United  States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the  20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and  habitat loss.  We oppose USFWS’ action to allow this landowner to  lethally remove a red wolf. Thus, we ask that you express your  opposition with a respectful email to the parties below:

By email: (Regional Director, Southeast Region) (Assistant Regional Director, Southeast Region) (Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Service Reopens Comment Period on Wolf Proposal

February 7, 2014
Contacts: Gavin Shire, 703-346-9123 ,

Independent scientific peer review report available for public review

Following receipt of an independent scientific peer review, thecopyrighted Hayden wolf walking U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the comment period on its proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies and remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List. The Service is making that report available for public review, and beginning Monday, February 10, interested stakeholders will have an additional 45 days to provide information that may be helpful to the Service in making a final determination on the proposal.

The independent scientific peer review was hosted and managed by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), a highly respected interdisciplinary research center at the University of California – Santa Barbara. At the Service’s request, NCEAS sponsored and conducted a peer review of the science underlying the Service’s proposal.

“Peer review is an important step in our efforts to assure that the final decision on our proposal to delist the wolf is based on the best available scientific and technical information,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “We thank the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis for conducting a transparent, objective and well-documented process. We are incorporating the peer review report into the public record for the proposed rulemaking, and accordingly, reopening the public comment period to provide the public with the opportunity for input.”

The peer review report is available online, along with instructions on how to provide comment and comprehensive links relating to the proposal, at

The Service intends that any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best available information. Comments and materials we receive, as well as some of the supporting documentation used in preparing this proposed rule, are available for public inspection at under the docket number FWS–HQ–ES–2013–0073.

The Service will post all comments on This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes. Comments must be received by midnight on March 27.

The Federal Register publication of this notice will be available online Feb. 10 at by clicking on the 2014 Proposed Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

The Service expects to make final determination on the proposal by the end of 2014.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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