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Historical overview of USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services


Division of Ornithology and Mammalogy "educated" farmers about birds and mammals, and tested poisons on sparrows.


Division of Biological Survey.


Bureau of Biological Survey. In 1905-1907, the Bureau investigated and published methods of coyote and wolf killing methods with USFS. In 1913, it began rodent killing on California forests. In 1914, started predator control demonstrations.


Congress appropriated $125,000 to the Bureau for predator control.


Eradication Methods Laboratory moved from Albuquerque to Denver.


Control Methods Laboratory-soon renamed, Denver Wildlife Research Center.


Office of Ornithology and Mammalogy within Bureau of Biological Survey was given "Division" status and renamed Division of Economic Investigations.


Division of Predatory Animal and Rodent Control.


American Society of Mammalogists issued statement concerning predator control abuses. Congress held oversight hearings as a result and nearly cancelled $1M funding.


Pres. Herbert Hoover signed Animal Damage Control Act, which authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to "promulgate the best methods of eradication, suppression, or bringing under control" on both public and private lands a whole host of species, including "mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, prairie dogs, gophers" (7 U.S.C. § 426).


Section of Predator and Rodent Control, Division of Game Management.


Pocatello Supply Depot in Idaho, "manufactures and sells specialized wildlife damage control material not readily available from commercial sources"  (USDA-APHIS-ADC (1997) Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Chapter 2, p. 36)).


Division of Predator and Rodent Control (PARC).


Branch of Predator and Rodent Control; moved from Division of Game Management to U.S. Department of Interior withthe Biological Survey and Bureau of Fisheries (birth of USFWS).


Sec. Int. Stewart Udall commissioned a committee led by Aldo Leopold's son, A. Starker Leopold, to look into abuses by PARC.


The "Leopold Report" issued to Congress; it found agency to be excessive and indiscriminate with lethal toxicants, especially with Compound 1080. The Leopold Commission advocated for an overhaul of PARC to curtail excessive wildlife killing. A Congressional hearing led to minor reforms: training for agency personnel, the establishment of an outside advisory panel, and a name change. PARC became the Division of Wildlife Services within the U.S. Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife. [8].


Name change to Division of Wildlife Services.


Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and others bring a series of lawsuits over lethal toxicants.


Sec. Int. Rogers Ballard Morton and CEQ appointed 7-person Advisory Committee on Predator Control headed by Stanley Cain


Cain's 207 page report offered 15 recommendations to Congress including no toxicants for predator and rodent control. Report cited an internal culture that was "resistant to change." Pres. Richard Nixon cited report in Executive Order.


Nixon Executive Order 11643 banned Compound 1080, strychnine, cyanide, and thallium by federal agents on federal public lands. Then Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA), William D. Ruckelshaus, cancelled all usage of these two toxicants for killing native carnivores by administrative order. 37 Fed. Reg. 5718 and 40 Fed. Reg. 44726, 44734-35. The order noted the acute toxicity of these poisons as well as their propensity to cause secondary and accidental poisonings. Administrator Ruckelshaus noted in his order that the device used to administer sodium cyanide pellets, "the humane coyote getter", which relied on a gunpowder explosion to propel the cyanide, likely posed a significant risk to humans.


Nixon drafted ADC Act of 1972; it would have substantially changed the agency. Hearings on the ESA and Animal Damage Control bill (to repeal 1931 ADC Act). Congressman John Dingall (D-MI) introduced ADC Act of 1972. It passed House, but failed to come to a vote in Senate.


Name changed to Office of Animal Damage Control


Pres. Gerald Ford Executive Order -- allowed for experimental use of M-44s.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requested that the EPA re-allow the usage of sodium cyanide capsules for exterminating native carnivores. It wanted to replace the "coyote getters" with a new device, the M-44, a booby-trap, which used a spring, rather than gunpowder, to propel the cyanide. The FWS claimed that the M-44 was safer than the "coyote getter." The FWS request was supported by the States of Wyoming and Montana, the Navajo Nation, National Wool Growers' Association, American National Cattlemen's Association, and National Turkey Federation. Opposition to the request came from Environmental Defense Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Earth, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Animal Protection Institute, and others. An administrative law judge concurred with the FWS and its allies and reversed the 1972 ban on cyanide -- with several stipulations. Starting in 1975, M-44s could only be used if 26 use restrictions were followed. As part of the use restrictions, M-44s were prohibited in habitats of threatened or endangered species, in wildlife refuges, and other special areas.


The FWS petitioned the EPA and requested that it be allowed to use Compound 1080 in carcasses ("bait stations"), in single-dose baits, smear posts, and so-called "livestock projection collars" (LPCs), which are harnesses that strap poison-filled bladders around the heads of sheep and goats.


Sec. Int. Cecil Andrus convened new oversight panel on Animal Damage Control. Report issued that was critical of the agency.


Andrus stopped denning and Compound 1080 research.




Name changed to Animal Damage Control (ADC). As a result of Andrus' actions, agricultural community pressured Congress; it wanted ADC moved back to USDA.


EPA held public hearings on predator control.


Sec. Int. James Watt rescinded denning ban.


An administrative judge ordered that the EPA reconsider the use of Compound 1080 in LPCs and single-dose baits, but denied FWS's request that the toxicant be administered in large bait stations and smear posts. Several non-governmental organizations and states and the federal government filed an appeal. Administrator Ruckelshaus, who had concurred with the Nixon Executive Order of 1972 rescued himself from the matter and appointed his assistant administrator to make a decision. Compound 1080 was reinstated for use in LPCs.


Pres. Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12342 rescinds Nixon's poisons ban.


Congress moved ADC to USDA (under Dept. of Interior since 1939) via a rider.


Draft EIS issued for public comment.


The FWS released its Biological Opinion, which stated that M-44s could affect endangered species including the Florida panther, jaguarundi, ocelot, gray wolf, San Joaquin kit fox, grizzly bear, Louisiana black bear, California condor, and Hawaiian and Mariana crows. It restricted geographical locations where M-44s could be used to protect those animals. With regards to Compound 1080, the FWS's Biological Opinion determined that this toxicant could harm gray wolves, the Louisiana Black Bears, and grizzly bears, and thus the FWS restricted this chemical agent's use from specified areas where those species occurred.


Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement issued under the National Environmental Policy Act.


EPA issued its Reresistration Eligibility Determination on M-44s. It concluded that, "the M-44 did not pose unreasonable risks to humans or the environment" if the toxicant was used pursuant to newly-revised 26 use restrictions, that included specific restrictions to protect endangered species as outlined by FWS's 1993 Biological Opinion.


Name changed to Wildlife Services (WS)


Bass-Defazio Amendment: June 23 cuts $10M funding; restored next day because of lobbying efforts by the Farm Bureau, Congressman Joe Skeen, and others.


American Society of Mammalogists issued another statement condemning indiscriminate predator control by WS.


Federal District Court issues the Waco decision which favors Farm Bureau and prevents release of public information -- oversight of agency declines.


USDA-Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that USDA-APHIS-WS lost 60 pounds of strychnine-treated baits and over 2,000 cyanide capsules. Acting Inspector General Joyce Fleishman testified before Congress that WS could not account for its state-level inventory of toxins.


USDA-OIG's audit found WS out of compliance with storage of hazardous pesticides and drugs -- they could easily be stolen and used for unauthorized purposes.


USDA-OIG's audit found that WS had not secured its aircraft from potential terrorists threats.


USDA-OIG's audit found that WS had still not secured "dangerous biological agents and toxins."


USDA-OIG's audit found WS out of compliance with toxics regulations; unauthorized persons had access to toxicants; poison applicators had inadequate training; inventories of toxins were open to theft, transfer, or sale. Of the site the OIG visited, none were in compliance with storage of toxins.


Two WS aerial gunning craft crashed resulting in 2 fatalities and 2 serious injuries. Snce 1979, WS experienced 54 total aerial-gunning accidents; 23 minor injuries: 9 serious injuries; and 10 fatalities.


WS noted that it had serious internal problems in a newsletter that stated:

In the wake of several accidents in WS' programs, WS is conducting a nationwide safety review focusing on aviation and aerial operations, explosives and pyrotechnics, firearms, hazardous chemicals, immobilization and euthanasia, pesticides, vehicles, watercraft, and wildlife disease activities. The review will be conducted by subject matter experts from WS, federal and state government, and private industry. We expect the review to be completed in the next year.


WildEarth Guardians et al. submit a rulemaking petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requested a ban on sodium cyanide M-44s and Compound 1080 livestock protection collars. (Docket number, EPA-HQ-OPP-2007-0944) because of abuses and hazards associated with these toxicants. The EPA organized a public comment period from November 2007 to March 2008. EPA received 53,000 public comments in opposition to these two predator poisons.


WS's issued a safety review of its internal program. The document failed to look at public safety issues -- an enormous omission given the Inspector General reports -- but it did look at employee safety matters. In the instance of the aerial gunning program, for instance, the report found that the agency operated in the highest caliber and worthy of a "gold standard." The report stated: It is the opinion of the Aviation Resource Management Survey (ARMS) Team that the WS aviation program is being operated in a safe, efficient, and effective manner. The WS aviation program meets the requirements of the ICAP [Interagency Committee on Aviation Policy] Gold Standard Certificate program.


January 16, 2009, the EPA made a determination not to cancel or suspend these toxicants; on January 30th, WildEarth Guardians asked the Administrator Lisa Jackson to reconsider the decision in light of the change in Administrations. Again, WildEarth Guardians received an adverse decision. In March, WildEarth Guardians met with EPA officials in Washington, DC. They agreed to take another look at the petition.


WildEarth Guardians issued its report to the Obama Administration and Congress: "War on Wildlife: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 'Wildlife Services,' and called for the abolition of WS.


WildEarth Guardians submits petition to Obama Administration and requests a ban on aerial gunning and poisoning activities on federal public lands.


Guardians documented 129 accidents such as pilots flying into power lines and trees; gunners
shooting their own engines; and plummeting into their own turbulence when doubling back.


WildEarth Guardians settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency finally
produced reports that Guardians requested under the Freedom of Information Act related to the
aerial killing of wildlife. As a result, the Service is now sending a letter to all States in 2012 to
notify them of their reporting requirements under the Airborne Hunting Act.


Wildlife Services reported it killed nearly 1,400 house cats, more than 400 domestic dogs, 14
American white pelicans, and 2,983 meadowlarks in FY 2011.


WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit that challenged WS’s 18-year-old management guidance as
flawed and devoid of modern scientific principles, and for operating aerial-gunning craft in
designated wilderness areas.


Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Friends of the Clearwater provided notice of intent to sue for violations of the ESA relating to Idaho
Wildlife Service’s ongoing operations and programs, as well as violations of compliance with the
National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). It was apparent that WS’s operations in Idaho were being conducted with either no or inadequate compliance with NEPA.


Hundreds of wolves are slated to be killed in Montana and Idaho by hunters and aerial gunning by
government agents because northern Rockies wolves are to be delisted under Endangered Species