Fish and Wildlife sued in Missoula for failing to protect Montana’s endangered species

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By Darrell Ehrlick (Daily Montanan)November 30, 2021

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. (National Park Service)

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Missoula on Monday challenges a Trump-era policy change that would allow more hunting and fishing at national wildlife sanctuaries, saying lead ammunition and tackle could further harm species endangered, and that loosening of the rules could lead to hunters accidentally taking endangered species, such as grizzly bears.

The lawsuit covers a number of wildlife refuges, including the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, as well as nearby refuges in Arizona, Florida, Texas and South Dakota.

“We are going to court to make sure that wildlife sanctuaries in our country really provide refuge for endangered wildlife,” said Camila Cossio, lawyer for the center. “The Fish and Wildlife Service ignores the major risks that sport hunting and fishing poses to endangered animals.”

The lawsuit claims the US Fish and Wildlife Service failed to fully consider the impacts of licensing lead-based ammunition and fishing gear that have the potential to indiscriminately poison wildlife.

In addition, he said the federal agency had also failed to consider the impacts of additional hunting in refuges, intended to bolster and protect endangered species. Not only does the lawsuit raises grizzly hunting issues in Montana, but also jaguars in Arizona, ocelots and jaguarundi in Texas and Florida, and waterfowl including the Audubon’s crested caracara, wild stork. timber and the whooping crane.

“More than 500 species protected by the Endangered Species Act – nearly a third of all species listed in the United States – are found in wildlife sanctuaries,” the complaint says. “The Hunting and Fishing Rule has opened up or extended over 2.3 million acres of refuge land for hunting or sport fishing. “

The lawsuit outlines two concerns for all national wildlife refuges that are included in the legal challenge, including lead-based ammunition and tackle, and the risks that hunters will accidentally mistake one of the endangered species for a species. similar not threatened.

“The refuge system is essential for biodiversity,” the costume said. “Many safe havens are the only places in the world for species on the brink of extinction.”

For example, the lawsuit raises concerns that at the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, hunters may accidentally kill a grizzly bear instead of a black bear. Meanwhile, hunters at Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota may accidentally kill whooping cranes while hunting sandhill cranes. Finally, reversing the Trump era of lead-based fishing and hunting gear would reintroduce the potent neurotoxin where birds and fish can accidentally eat and be poisoned by lead.

“Grizzly bears use Montana’s Mission and Swan mountain ranges as habitat, and the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge provides a corridor for grizzly bears to access both ranges,” the court record said.

Lawyers for the Center for Biological Diversity said the federal government’s analysis before the new hunting rules were implemented was flawed.

“The environmental scan must disclose and analyze the direct, indirect and cumulative effects of the proposed action on the environment,” the lawsuit said.

Lawyers said the agency’s own characterization of lead exposure and poisoning went against the new hunting rules.

“The agency’s analysis of the cumulative impacts of lead is limited to two paragraphs and contradicts their own public statements in the media,” the lawsuit said.

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