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This April, the Doña Ana County Commission passed a resolution 4-1 that ensured “Farm and Ranch Improvement Funds” (or FRIF) used for predator and rodent control must be used only on non-lethal methods going forward.
Less than two months later, that resolution was repealed, 4-0.
FRIF can also be spent on soil and water conservation, road maintenance, and noxious weed control, but for years the county has exclusively used up to $17,000 – matched with an equal amount of general county funds – to pay a federal agency called Wildlife Services to “control” predator animals and rodents, mostly through lethal methods.
April’s resolution would not have affected the county’s contract with Wildlife Services as long as the agency spent half of their budget on nonlethal animal control.
However, the agency and their supporters vehemently opposed the resolution and put immense pressure on the commissioners.
On June 25, the county commission repealed their April resolution and replaced it with one that imposes modest new reporting requirements on Wildlife Services but essentially continues the status quo establishing modest reporting requirements for the agency.
The resolution passed also contains language that describes the indiscriminate and cruel practice of using leghold traps to capture animals as “effective and humane” despite abundant evidence to the contrary.
New Mexico conservation groups have launched a “People’s Contract for Coexistence with Wildlife” in response to the Doña Ana County Commission’s reversed decision on non-lethal wildlife control and the potential renewal of the county’s contract with federal agency Wildlife Services. Transparency, accountability, the best available science, and an ethic of coexistence are the essential pillars of this contract. It’s time for counties to stand up to this opaque, rogue, killing agency and serve their constituents with a plan that actually protects people, property, and native wildlife for the long-term.
The People’s Contract would prohibit Wildlife Services from using leghold traps, snares, and dangerous M-44 sodium cyanide bombs.
It would also preclude expensive and wasteful aerial gunning of wildlife. Instead, the contract emphasizes the need for coexistence with native wildlife through longterm, proven non-lethal deterrence methods and husbandry practices that would save public funds and benefit ecosystem function.
Wildlife Services has come under intense scrutiny across the western United States for practices that scientists have called ineffective and inhumane. High profile events like the poisoning of an Idaho boy and family dog and Wildlife Services employees torturing trapped animals are just some of the causes for backlash against the agency.
The county’s annual contract with Wildlife Services is up for renewal on Tuesday, July 9, when county commissioners will again take up this issue at a public meeting.
Doña Ana County residents are encouraged to call their county commissioners to voice their opinions on this contract..
Chris Smith is the Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate for WildEarth Guardians: firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-395-6177.