The People Have Spoken: Treat our Wildlife with Respect and Compassion

Bobcat kitten

The Southwest Environmental Center and our partners have launched a People’s Contract for Coexistence with Wildlife in response to the Doña Ana County Commission’s reversed decision on non-lethal wildlife control and the potential renewal of the county’s contract with federal agency Wildlife Services.

“The People’s Contract is a document by the people and for the people that outlines the kind of relationship we want to have with our local wildlife,” said Amanda Munro, communications director for the Southwest Environmental Center. “Tuesday’s decision did not reflect publicly-held values. We believe that it is not necessary to exterminate animals because they pose an inconvenience to someone, that traps and poisons have no place on our public lands, and that coexistence with local wildlife is possible.”

“Transparency, accountability, the best available science, and an ethic of coexistence are the essential pillars of this contract,” said Chris Smith, southern Rockies wildlife advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “It’s time for counties to stand up to this opaque, rogue, killing agency and serve their constituents with a plan that actually protects people, property, and native wildlife for the long-term.”

The People’s Contract would prohibit Wildlife Services from using leghold traps, snares, and dangerous M-44 sodium cyanide bombs. It would also preclude expensive and wasteful aerial gunning of wildlife. Instead, the contract emphasizes the need for coexistence with native wildlife through long-term, proven non-lethal deterrence methods and husbandry practices that would save public funds and benefit ecosystem function.

Wildlife Services has come under intense scrutiny across the western United States for practices that scientists have called ineffective and inhumane. High profile events like the poisoning of an Idaho boy and family dog and Wildlife Services employees torturing trapped animals are just some of the causes for backlash against the agency.

The county’s annual contract with Wildlife Services is up for renewal on Tuesday, July 9th when county commissioners will again take up this issue at a public meeting.

Doña Ana County residents can sign on to the People’s Contract here, and are encouraged to call their county commissioners to voice their support for the contract.
 

BACKGROUND:

This April, the Doña Ana County Commission passed a resolution 4:1 that ensured “Farm and Ranch Improvement Funds” (or FRIF) used for predator and rodent control must be used only on non-lethal methods going forward. Less than two months later, that resolution was repealed. e commission repealed their resolution 4:0.

FRIF can also be spent on soil and water conservation, road maintenance, and noxious weed control, but for years the County has exclusively used up to $17,000 --matched with an equal amount of general county funds--to pay a federal agency called Wildlife Services to “control” predator animals and rodents, mostly through lethal methods.

April’s resolution would not have affected the county’s contract with Wildlife Services as long as the agency spent half of their budget on non-lethal animal control. However, the agency and their supporters vehemently opposed the resolution and put immense pressure on the commissioners.

Tuesday June 25th, the county commission repealed their April resolution and replaced it with one that imposes modest new reporting requirements on Wildlife Services but essentially continues the status quo establishes modest reporting requirements for the agency. 

The resolution passed also contains language that describes the indiscriminate and cruel practice of using leghold traps to capture animals as “effective and humane” despite abundant evidence to the contrary.