APNM's lawsuit against ADC's cougar killing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lisa Jennings
January 12, 2000

ADC’s Cougar Killing Violates Federal Law

Albuquerque, NM -- Animal Protection of New Mexico, Inc. (APNM), and Defenders of Wildlife prevailed in court yesterday in a lawsuit challenging the role of the federal Animal Damage Control (ADC; now called Wildlife Services) in killing cougars throughout New Mexico. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico held that the federal predator control program violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to consider important information about cougars published in a report of a ten-year study of cougars in the state. The study was conducted by Ken Logan of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute and has been referred to as the Logan Report.

Specifically, United States District Judge James Parker found, "Because Defendants do not have an accurate estimate of the cougar population based on scientific data, because there is no data to support the EA’s [Environmental Assessment] assertion that the cougar population is stable, and because Defendants have failed to provide a satisfactory explanation of their utilization of the 28% or 30% sustainable harvest level, it is not possible to know whether the cougar population is actually declining in any of the three districts. If it is, any impact on the cougar population from the predator damage management program-even the deaths of seven to eleven cougars each year-could have a significant impact on the human environment."

The Court stated that the Defendants’ conclusion that the predator damage management program will not have any significant effects on the environment appears to be based on "assumptions, presumptions, or conclusions themselves–not facts based on any evidence, documents, or data in the Administrative Record."

The Court further pointed out that "Defendants seemed to have plucked from the Logan report…without considering all of the data contained in the report," illustrating the point that agencies routinely pick and choose whatever "science" tends to support the status quo of killing wildlife without consequence.

The Court agreed with APNM’s position that ADC did not base its predator damage management of cougars on sound science and remanded the agency’s decisions for further study. While the decision will not affect cougar hunting nor enjoin ADC’s killing of cougars in New Mexico, it does require ADC to "gather the necessary scientific data and conduct the required scientific analysis to determine whether the predator damage management program will have a significant effect on the human environment."

"We hope that federal and state agencies are paying attention to this decision and see it as a wake-up call. If arbitrary agency decisions with the potential to harm wildlife can’t be challenged through the process of public involvement, they will be challenged in the courts," said Elisabeth Jennings, Executive Director of APNM. "ADC is a particularly egregious agency in that there is no appeals process. Unless you go to court, you get what you get, like it or not."



Also see, APNM/Defenders of Wildlife Lawsuit (in PDF) May 6, 1998