Animal Protection Groups File Suit Over Arizona Mountain Lion
April 16, 2003
WASHINGTON, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Eight animal protection and conservation organizations filed a complaint in U.S. District Court today over a federally funded project to "study" the declining bighorn sheep population by killing the majority of mountain lions in the Four Peaks Wilderness Area within the Tonto National Forest in southeastern Arizona. The groups argue that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service have violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, and other federal laws by authorizing, assisting, and funding the Arizona Game and Fish Department's mountain lion killing project.
"This so-called study is simply predator killing disguised as science, and it panders to the trophy hunters who want to mount more bighorn sheep over their mantles," said Michael Markarian, President of The Fund for Animals. "Killing mountain lions with cruel and inhumane methods such as snaring and hound hunting is appalling to Arizonans and is a fleecing of public monies."
Internal memoranda from Arizona Game and Fish Department biologists indicate that disease transmission from domestic sheep, habitat degradation, and drought are all threats to the bighorn sheep population. While disease transmission from domestic sheep is the greatest concern, there is a federally-permitted domestic sheep "driveway" located within the study area in the Tonto National Forest, through which thousands of domestic sheep are herded periodically to reach summer grazing allotments, sharing habitat and water sources with bighorn sheep. Despite the knowledge that mountain lion predation is the least of these factors related to bighorn sheep survival, the three-year, federally-funded study seeks to kill 75% of the mountain lions within the study area, and to capture up to 15 bighorn sheep several times a year with nets shot out from helicopters.
"This 'study' is both bad science and bad wildlife management," said Stephanie Nichols-Young, President of Animal Defense League of Arizona. "Many individuals and organizations, including former department biologists, pointed out the problems in the public process. Unfortunately, these comments were ignored. Mountain lions are the last big carnivore in Arizona, and the agencies won't do their job to protect them."
The suit was filed by The Fund for Animals, Animal Defense League of Arizona, The Humane Society of the United States, Mountain Lion Foundation, Forest Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Protection Institute, and Flagstaff Activist Network. The groups are represented by the public interest law firm Meyer & Glitzenstein. A copy of the 32-page complaint filed today is available online at www.fund.org/uploads/AZlioncomplaint.pdf or by calling The Fund for Animals at 301-585-2591 Ext. 314.
SOURCE The Fund for Animals
CO: Fund for Animals; Animal Defense League of Arizona; Meyer &
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