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The Forest Service, in yet another giant step backward (when will this ever change and how far back does the agency want to go?), is revising its policies regarding predator control in designated wilderness. You heard right: in designated wilderness! This proposal would further weaken regulations intended to minimize predator control.

Predator by M. PettisIt was but a decade plus a few years ago that the Forest Service largely prohibited predator control in wilderness. Today the agency would basically turn predator control over to Wildlife Services, the federal agency formerly named Animal Damage Control, and state wildlife agencies (which, more often than not, see predators as threats to recreational hunting for elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, bighorn sheep— with little interest in wildness or function ecosystems.) It is hard to imagine but the proposal would allow "predator control" of ducks and cormorants, for example, that eat game fish!

Changes in policy include: (1) Actually allowing cyanide filled M-44s and poison bait collars to be used in wilderness. While the policy discourages this horrific device, it specifically allows it to be used when other predator control methods are deemed “not effective.” (2) Actually allowing aircraft landing, aerial gunning and use of motorized vehicles in wilderness for predator control if approved by the Regional Forester after determining they are indeed necessary. This is a profound change in policy which simply prohibited these activities. (3) Actually allows the Regional Forester to target local populations for predator control rather than the "offending individual." (4) Actually places the Forest Service as one of numerous decision makers, along with Wildlife Services and state wildlife agencies, reduces public involvement, allows state wildlife agencies to do predator control to enhance recreational hunting, and allows "collaborative groups" to set predator control objectives.

The policy formally recognizes leg-hold traps, suffocation traps, snares, aerial gunning, M-44s and denning (the horrid snaring of coyote pups from their dens and killing them.)

In good conscience, with common sense, a level of professionalism, long gone in the agency, and even the simplest understanding of wilderness, we all know, including those who authored this proposal, predator control is an anathema to wilderness.

Dick Carter

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