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Elly Pepper’s Blog

Wildlife Services' Mammal Management Plan for Virginia

Elly Pepper

Posted September 24, 2012 in Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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According to Wildlife Services – a branch of the Department of Agriculture – mammals in Virginia, including river otters, coyotes, rabbits, and foxes, cost us a fortune but don’t provide us with any real benefits. That's what the agency stated and implied throughout its Environmental Assessment for "Mammal Damage Management" (i.e., their plan to kill a whole bunch of mammals) in Virginia, the comment period for which closed on Friday.

While it’s true that wild animals do cause some damage, looking only at that side of the equation ignores the many positives (economic and otherwise) of keeping a diversity of species on the landscape. Unfortunately, Wildlife Services’ failure to analyze them is not an isolated phenomena.  Fuzzy Math – a recently published, peer-reviewed NRDC study of Wildlife Services’ cost benefit practices – found that it is not uncommon for the agency to overemphasize losses caused by predators and minimize or discount any benefits. Wildlife Services has also consistently omitted the economic values to society that are lost when large numbers of species are killed.

                               662px-LutraCanadensis_fullres.jpg

                                           Courtesy of Dmitry Azovtsev

For example, in many of its environmental assessments, including its one for Virginia, Wildlife Services failed to fully consider the following economic values associated with wildlife:

  • Wildlife Viewing – Did you know that, according to The National Overview, 91.1 million U.S. residents fished, hunted, or watched wildlife in 2011, spending $145 billion? That’s something Wildlife Services should consider.
  • Existence or Passive Use Value – For many of us, there’s value to knowing that wildlife exists, even if we might never see it. While putting a number on this may seem abstract, it can be done using the Contingent Value Method (CVM), which has been employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as well as state fish and game agencies.
  • Value of Ecosystem Services – There is a growing recognition that maintaining a functioning ecosystem with its entire suite of inter-related species provides many economic values to society in the form of ecosystem services, such as water purification for drinking purposes, erosion control, pollination of crops, control of pests, and renewal of soil fertility.

If Wildlife Services is going to seek to justify its proposed actions in Virginia and elsewhere by providing a detailed, monetized, analysis of the economic costs of predators, it needs to monetize their benefits. 

For NRDC’s full comments on this proposal, please see here.

 

 

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Comments

Linda J SolomonSep 25 2012 12:07 PM

This is terrible news and had no idea this was happening....how can we expect the citizens of this country to care about wildlife when the damn government is killing them?

Why in the world are they doing this? This is an awful situation and I hate knowing about it!

Kelvin LimbrickSep 25 2012 12:39 PM

"...peer-reviewed NRDC study of Wildlife Services’ cost benefit practices – found that it is not uncommon for the agency to overemphasize losses caused by predators and minimize or discount any benefits."

...Wildlife Viewing – Did you know that, according to The National Overview, 91.1 million U.S. residents fished, hunted, or watched wildlife in 2011, spending $145 billion? That’s something Wildlife Services should consider.

Existence or Passive Use Value – For many of us, there’s value to knowing that wildlife exists, even if we might never see it. While putting a number on this may seem abstract, it can be done using the Contingent Value Method (CVM), which has been employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as well as state fish and game agencies.

Value of Ecosystem Services – There is a growing recognition that maintaining a functioning ecosystem with its entire suite of inter-related species provides many economic values to society in the form of ecosystem services, such as water purification for drinking purposes, erosion control, pollination of crops, control of pests, and renewal of soil fertility."

This is what I went to University for, they aren't lying. Please reconsider your plans. I travel the country to see these animals supporting local economies as I go. If I can't see them, I'm not coming to your town.

Erica ChristmanSep 25 2012 01:40 PM

Please leave nature alone. Humans, although well-meaning at times, have tried to intervene, and end up messing up the ecosystem. Humans are impinging on wildlife every day, and we wonder why bears, wolves, coyotes are entering into residential areas? Please PLAN strategy to consider all of our earth and its limited resources.

DwyerSep 25 2012 04:12 PM

I think this really missed up!!

Dave StephanSep 25 2012 07:25 PM

This is so misguided. God help us all. When will we learn to adapt to the planet instead of the other way around ?

Cathy SmothermanSep 25 2012 11:31 PM

It is extremely unfortunate that so many agencies that work with wildlife are dominated by people who think wildlife is useful only as something for people to shoot at. We need to clean out these departments all over the country. Unfortunately I don't think that will happen until after we have gone much further in destroying this planet and its ecosystems. So what if these mammals did do a lot of damage (and no, they don't!). Even if they did do a lot of damage to human structures, that would NOT be a legitimate reason to kill them.

Iris D. SmithSep 26 2012 01:13 AM

Linda J. Solomon,

Amen to your comment.

Susette HorspoolSep 26 2012 03:28 AM

Who knows these people? Why aren't we putting pressure on the individuals who work in this agency???

Linda RolfSep 26 2012 04:23 AM

Killing off native wildlife is happening nationwide. The people who head and work in Wildlife Services are supposed to have degrees in biology or zoology and yet they are coming to the conclusion that we are the only necessary species on the earth. This could not be more wrong! We have already learned that when you remove whole species from an ecosystem the result is disaster. Like many other cases this might be related to clearing public land for private development. Please get involved and find out what the truth is!

Kira LiedbergSep 27 2012 12:52 AM

What an unfortunate decision. I graduated from the wildlife program at the University of Illinois and I disagree with this plan. Besides, it will take a considerable amount of money for supplies, man hours, and disposal, if they want to focus on the economic aspect.

Elly PepperOct 2 2012 11:38 AM

Thank you all for your comments. One thing you could do to help is to send a letter to your Representative asking him or her to cosponsor a bill that would prevent Wildlife Services from using Compound 1080 and Sodium Cyanide -- two inhumane and dangerous poisons -- to kill animals. You can do that here: https://secure.nrdconline.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2773&__utma=44879099.536278568.1348679935.1349104167.1349113028.5&__utmb=44879099.3.10.1349113028&__utmc=44879099&__utmx=-&__utmz=44879099.1348760393.2.2.utmcsr=google|utmccn=%28organic%29|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%28not%20provided%29&__utmv=-&__utmk=152881468

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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