BIG WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE, JANUARY 23, 2008


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2008



CONTACTS:
Michael Moss, Goat Ranchers of Oregon, xxx-xxx-xxxx
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, xxx-xxx-xxxx

RANCHERS SUE TO STOP FEDERAL COUGAR KILLING
Say Plan Violates Federal Law, Lacks Scientific Credibility

PORTLAND, Ore. - A coalition of ranchers and wildlife advocates filed suit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to stop the federal government from indiscriminately killing cougars across the state. The plaintiffs, led by the Goat Ranchers of Oregon, charge that officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services did not examine all the adverse environmental impacts of their decision to kill cougars on behalf of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The plan to kill up to 2,000 cougars in Oregon will hurt ranchers and farmers. By killing established adult cougars, government officials are skewing the population towards younger cats more often implicated in conflict with domestic animals. By implementing a plan based on bad science and inaccurate cougar population estimates, officials are actually creating the problem their plan claims to address,” said Michael Moss of the Goat Ranchers of Oregon and a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

In 2006, the state approved a plan to kill up to 2,000 cougars across Oregon. The federal government then agreed to help carry out that plan. In its lawsuit, the ranchers contend the federal government’s implementation of the plan is based on scientifically flawed data. For instance, a study published in The Journal of Wildlife Management in 2006 found that cougar populations in the Pacific Northwest are actually declining due in part to increased human intrusion on cougar habitat and a young age structure of the cougar population caused by heavy hunting. The Journal study also recommended reduced hunting levels, particularly among adult females, throughout the Pacific Northwest.
 
“There is absolutely no scientific basis for killing as many as 2,000 cougars in Oregon as proposed by the Oregon Department of Wildlife,” stated Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “By maintaining the health of deer and elk populations, the cougar is a critical component of the web of life in Oregon.”
 
Though agriculture interests have typically been staunch opponents of protecting cougars, a growing number of ranchers and farmers in the state are coming to the defense of the big cats. They said that rather than killing cougars, Oregon should educate ranchers and farmers, as well as the general public, about how to avoid conflicts with wildlife. The pro-cougar ranchers and farmers said individuals can take simple steps – like avoiding feeding wildlife, bringing companion animals in at night, sheltering domestic farm and ranch animals, installing motion lighting around their property, recreating with others while in cougar country, and educating their families about cougars without instilling undue fear – to prevent encounters with cougars and other wildlife. The ranchers' suit claims the USDA largely ignored the use of non-lethal, preventative alternatives for managing cougars.
 
In addition to the Goat Ranchers of Oregon, the lawsuit was brought on behalf of Big Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Mountain Lion Foundation, and Umpqua Watersheds.

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