The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) put the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on notice Friday that the organization plans to take legal action regarding serious violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with a massive deer cull proposed for Long Island, New York. The “Long Island Deer Project” is to be administered by Wildlife Services, a program of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The project involves the use of federal sharpshooters to kill up to 5,250 white-tailed deer on eastern Long Island over the course of 40 days, at an estimated cost of more than half a million dollars. The majority of this cost will be borne by federal and New York taxpayers, including a $200,000 allocation of state tax dollars to the Long Island Farm Bureau.
Despite the large geographic scope of this project and the massive number of deer proposed to be killed, APHIS has not prepared the required environmental impact statement under NEPA. The agency’s reliance on an 11-year old environmental assessment that was based on a presumption of killing 1,000 deer annually, and its failure to consider new science on deer management and non-lethal control, are brazen violations of federal law.
“Unfortunately, Wildlife Services’ decision to slaughter over 5,000 deer without complying with federal law is par for the course for this rogue federal program,” says Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Given such behavior, it’s no wonder this program has been subject to intense criticism by many scientists, members of Congress, and the public as it spends tax dollars to slaughter our nation’s wildlife.”
Established in 1931, Wildlife Services has used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to kill native predators, birds, and other wildlife species with little or no oversight or transparency. In so doing, the program has killed federally protected endangered and threatened species, as well as domestic pets; its killing techniques have also harmed people. Wildlife Services has a long track record of ignoring science, disregarding non-lethal alternatives to wildlife damage control, and evading or simply disregarding compliance with federal environmental law. The program has recently come under increased congressional scrutiny, and is being audited this year by the USDA Inspector General.