The California Superior Court issued a decision last week in a lawsuit against Monterey County's contracted predator killing program.
In June, 2016, the Mountain Lion Foundation joined other wildlife protection organizations in a lawsuit against Monterey County, California. The suit challenged renewal of the county's contract with a federal agency - USDA Wildlife Services - to kill mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes as "pests."
Last week the court concluded that Monterey County violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to assess the environmental impact of its killing program. According to the decision, the county wrongfully claimed an exemption from CEQA. The county argued that its contract for predator control could not result in "significant environmental change." The court found "no evidence" to support that claim.
Lynn Cullens, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, said that "the decision confirms what we have known all along: mountain lions contribute substantially to environmental quality and public health. You deserve the right to consider and comment on plans to kill mountain lions, bears, coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife. We need to let people know about the slaughter that is happening in their own backyards."
Over the past six years, Wildlife Services has killed more than 3,500 animals in Monterey County using traps, snares, and firearms. Their contract authorized them to do so without fully assessing the ecological damage caused by the kills.
The court's action extends beyond a single county. Other local governments will think twice before rubber-stamping a killing plan.
The lawsuit was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote, and the Mountain Lion Foundation. Christopher Mays and Mary Procaccio-Flowers of the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati served as counsel for the organizations.
Just last year Wildlife Services killed 1.6 million native animals nationwide and not just mountain lions: 3,893 coyotes, 142 foxes, 83 black bears, and thousands of other creatures. Family dogs and protected wildlife like wolves and eagles are also at risk from the agency's indiscriminate methods.
Peer-reviewed research shows that reckless slaughter of animals - particularly predators - results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. It's such a difficult concept to convey: that animals are far more than "problems" to be solved with a gun. Killing simply doesn't resolve conflicts with wildlife.
Cullens continues: "While we work to expand the conservation of mountain lions we are mindful that we must also keep a close eye on government agencies and demand that hard-fought protections are not rolled back or ignored. Please, make a donation today to help us take on the next challenge. We rely on your support to protect America's Lions."