Today, wildlife advocates notified federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services of their plans to legally challenge the program’s beaver killing in California over its harm to endangered salmon. Wildlife Services, a program under the Department of Agriculture, killed more than 1.3 million non-invasive animals in 2017, including 956 beavers in California. The challenge aims to force the program to reconsider its lethal beaver management to recognize the crucial role beavers play in the health of endangered salmon populations.
A strong body of scientific research shows beavers benefit salmon and steelhead by building better habitat conditions, including creation ponds used by salmon and by increasing stream flow in summer months. Beavers’ role is so important that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) included beaver population restoration as a goal of the recovery plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho salmon. The challenge alleges Wildlife Services failed to consult with NMFS over impacts to endangered salmon from lethal beaver removal, as required by the Endangered Species Act.
“Beavers nature’s engineers,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at EPIC. “They create ponds and reconnect rivers with floodplains. Where beavers thrive, salmon do too. At a time when we are spending millions of dollars a year to improve salmon habitat, including the construct ‘beaver dam analogues,’ human-made facsimiles of beaver dams designed to help improve stream flow and create more and better salmon habitat, it is absurd that we are spending taxpayer money to kill more beavers.” said Wheeler.
Beyond salmon, beavers benefit other threatened and endangered species, including willow flycatchers, tidewater goby, and California red-legged frogs.
The Environmental Protection Information Center is represented by Pete Frost and Andrew Hawley of the Western Environmental Law Center. Today’s notice letter starts a 60-day clock before EPIC can file its challenge in federal court to compel Wildlife Services to comply with the Endangered Species Act.