In response to the threat of litigation by two environmental groups, a federal wildlife-killing program has agreed in a letter to stop killing beavers, river otter, muskrat and mink in Oregon.
Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also agreed to work with a federal agency charged with protecting imperiled animals to analyze the program’s impacts on threatened and endangered fish like salmon and steelhead.
“It is well established that beavers are critically important to healthy ecosystems, so it makes little sense for Wildlife Services to kill them without understanding the consequences of its actions,” said Andrew Hawley with the Western Environmental Law Center. “We will continue to pursue the steps necessary to ensure Wildlife Services ends the taxpayer-funded open season on beavers in Oregon.”
Numerous studies show that beavers benefit endangered salmon and steelhead by creating ponds that provide fish with food and habitat. Despite these well-established ecological benefits, Wildlife Services killed hundreds of beavers annually with traps, snares and firearms. In 2016 the program in Oregon killed more than 400 beavers — the official state animal.
In response to the groups’ November notice of intent to sue, Wildlife Services agreed to analyze the impacts of its “aquatic mammal damage management” program through consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Services under the Endangered Species Act. As a first step, Wildlife Services will prepare a biological assessment by Feb. 28. Wildlife Services has agreed to stop all its killing of beaver, river otter, muskrat and mink in Oregon while the consultation process proceeds.
“The feds’ commitment to stop killing Oregon’s beavers is good news for beavers, salmon and all of us who care about these animals,” said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney and biologist. “We’ll keep the pressure on Wildlife Services and make sure that beavers are protected, not persecuted.”
“It’s way past time for Wildlife Services recognize the unique and essential role that beavers play in building habitat upon which so many other animals depend,” said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates. “We are pleased that Wildlife Services is moving toward compliance with federal law and paying attention to well-established science.”
The conservation groups are represented by Andrew Hawley of the Western Environmental Law Center and Collette Adkins of the Center for Biological Diversity.
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