AWI Sues Monterey County over Wildlife Services Contract

AWI and allies filed a lawsuit in June challenging the renewal by Monterey County, California, of its contract with the US Department of Agriculture’s deadly Wildlife Services program. The lawsuit asserts that the renewal of the contract violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because the county failed to analyze the environmental impacts of its agreement and wrongfully claimed an exemption from CEQA. Furthermore, county officials held no public hearings about their CEQA exemption claim and have not disclosed the details of the agreement.

The groups hope for a similar outcome to that achieved earlier this year regarding a lawsuit filed against Mendocino County over its Wildlife Services contract. After the groups sued Mendocino County in 2014—and again in 2015 when the county breached a settlement agreement—the county finally buckled. In April 2016, it agreed to immediately suspend its Wildlife Services contract, prepare a full environmental impact report under CEQA, and weigh nonlethal predator control options.

More than 15 years ago, Marin County voluntarily replaced its Wildlife Services contract with a nonlethal predator control program that decreased predation by 62 percent at one third the cost. More recently, Sonoma County also opted not to renew its contract with Wildlife Services.

Monterey County’s previous contract authorized Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and other animals every year without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives. Over the past five years, Wildlife Services has killed 3,563 animals in Monterey County using traps, snares, and firearms.

The USDA program’s indiscriminate (and often exceedingly inhumane) killing methods have come under increased scrutiny from scientists, the public, and government officials. Peer-reviewed research shows that such reckless slaughter of animals—particularly predators—results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. Each year, the program kills thousands of nontarget animals in the United States, with threatened and endangered species and family pets among the unintended victims.