American Sheep Industry responds to Chicago Tribune Editorial Board’s one-sided take on Wildlife Services
January 20, 2017
This week, American Sheep Industry Association President Burton Pfliger responded to an editorial published by the Chicago Tribune titled "Why do the feds slaughter wildlife? 'Wildlife Services' targets predators for dubious reasons."
While the editorial recognized USDA Wildlife Service's role in protecting livestock and civil aviation, it called into question the use of lethal methods of predator control and objectified the program's benefits to ranchers without considering the full breadth of the program's benefits to wildlife and infrastructure. Due to concise word limits in place by the Chicago Tribune, Pfliger's 400 word response is as follows:
To the Editor, Chicago Tribune: The editorial board asks, "Why do the feds slaughter wildlife?," citing concerns about a program that millions of American citizens rely on. As the board recognized, the work done by USDA Wildlife Services controls non-native species, the spread of disease and limits the dangers of bird strikes at airports.
The spread of wildlife-borne disease is a growing concern. Wildlife Services is often the first line of defense in eliminating diseases like West Nile, avian influenza, H1N1 and chronic wasting disease. Wildlife Services also prevents the entry of invasive species and invests in conservation efforts to benefit game species. Although these may seem contradictory, Wildlife Services bridges the gap between the needs for commerce and protecting wildlife populations.
While the "Miracle on the Hudson" brought the danger of bird strikes into everyone's living room, it is not just farmers and civil aviation that benefit. In fiscal year 2014 alone, Wildlife Services conducted more than 66,000 projects to reduce wildlife damage to property in urban and suburban homes, schools and critical infrastructure across the country. Every American benefits from its work to reduce deer collisions with automobiles. Each year, more than 1.2 million deer-vehicle collisions injure tens of thousands and cause more than $4 billion in damage.
Wildlife Services protects more than our nation's domestic food supply. Every year, wildlife causes more than $12.8 billion in damage to natural resources, public infrastructure and private property. Of that amount, damage to agriculture includes $137 million for livestock, $619 million to crops and $146 million to fruits, nuts and vegetables. Wildlife Services is one of the most efficient programs in the federal government. Every dollar spent on predator control saves $3 in livestock losses alone. Through matching funds and cooperative agreements, Wildlife Services receives more funding from states, counties and private industry than their annual federal appropriation. This not only benefits taxpayers, but shows the importance of this program to local governments.
Wildlife Services relies on the best science and lethal and non-lethal methods. There is no quick fix to issues that arise between populations and wildlife. Every tool must be considered and that is why Wildlife Services is supported by every natural resource and professional wildlife management organization in the country. As a nation, our commitment is not only to commerce, but to wildlife and our natural heritage. Wildlife Services is vital to striking that balance and ensuring that all interests are met.
–American Sheep Industry