Two environmental organizations today filed a formal notice of intent to sue Wildlife Services, a federal extermination program, over its killing of hundreds of beavers annually in Oregon. The lawsuit aims to hold Wildlife Services accountable for harming threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, for which a healthy beaver population is essential.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture program kills beavers—Oregon’s state animal—with traps, snares and firearms.
“Killing beavers in Oregon just one year after federal fish experts announced that beavers are essential to providing high-quality habitat for salmon is just perverse,” said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates. “If this state is committed to saving salmon, we have to be equally committed to preserving the remaining fraction of beavers that historically lived in Oregon.”
“The science shows that Wildlife Services’ killing of these incredible little animals is ecologically destructive and cruel,” said Collette Adkins, a Center attorney and biologist. “Beavers are nature’s engineers, building dams and creating ponds that help endangered fish and frogs. I hope this lawsuit gets the feds to stop trapping beavers in places where their ponds benefit endangered wildlife.”
Numerous studies show beavers benefit endangered salmon and steelhead by creating ponds that provide fish with natural cover and food. Despite these well-established ecological benefits, Wildlife Services killed more than 400 beavers in Oregon in 2016, even in areas where endangered aquatic wildlife are known to rely on beaver ponds for survival.
Wildlife Services has never analyzed how its killing of beavers impacts Oregon’s threatened and endangered species, as required by the Endangered Species Act.
“It’s time to end open season on Wildlife Services’ killing Oregon’s state animal — the beaver,” said Andrew Hawley with the Western Environmental Law Center. “This ‘wild west’ approach to animal management doesn’t pass muster when you’re likely harming endangered species. We’ll hold Wildlife Services accountable to the law, whether they like it or not.”
Today’s notice letter starts a 60-day clock until the groups can file their challenge in federal court to compel Wildlife Services to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The conservation groups are represented by Andrew Hawley of the Western Environmental Law Center and Collette Adkins of the Center for Biological Diversity.