Mendocino County to Perform Environmental Study on Lethal Animal Program
County Settles Second Lawsuit with Animal Protection Coalition Over Controversial Wildlife Services Program
For Immediate Release
UKIAH, Calif. — In a major victory for opponents of animal cruelty and advocates of wildlife conservation, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has agreed to perform a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and immediately suspend its contract with a controversial wildlife killing agency. The agreement settles a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental and animal protection groups against Mendocino County.
The settlement concerns Mendocino County’s contract with Wildlife Services, which operates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and kills hundreds of coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, and other wildlife in Mendocino County every year. Under the terms of the settlement, Mendocino County must evaluate the merits of a non-lethal predator control program and prepare an EIR under CEQA if it decides to enter into a contract with Wildlife Services in the future.
Mendocino County’s agreement to study the wildlife control program operated by Wildlife Services signals a critical change in policy. In 2014, the coalition sued Mendocino County for failing to comply with CEQA before hiring Wildlife Services. The lawsuit settled in April 2015, with the county agreeing to comply with CEQA prior to renewing its annual contract with Wildlife Services. However, in June 2015 the county reinstated its contract with Wildlife Services before completing an EIR, as required by CEQA. Instead, the county claimed that lethal predator control would have no impact on Mendocino County’s ecosystem and was exempt from CEQA. In July 2015, the coalition sued Mendocino County a second time for breaching the agreement and once again violating CEQA.
In 2014, Wildlife Services killed approximately 47,000 animals in California (out of nearly 3 million killed nationwide), using traps, snares, poison, and other devices.
Mendocino County’s contract with Wildlife Services authorized the program—at a cost of $144,000 to taxpayers—to kill animals without assessing the ecological impacts or considering alternatives.
Peer-reviewed research shows that the reckless slaughter of native predators causes broad ecological destruction. Indiscriminate methods used by Wildlife Services have also killed more than 50,000 non-target animals since 2000, including family pets, endangered condors, bald eagles, and millions of other birds. Studies show such mass killing, in addition to being cruel and inhumane, negatively impacts the biodiversity of ecosystems.
These lawsuits mark the advocacy groups’ first attempts to require a local government to comply with state law when entering into contracts with the federal agency.
Represented by the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the coalition consists of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Mountain Lion Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote and a Mendocino County resident.
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