November 20, 2007 at 5:23 am Leave a comment


From   ANIMAL PEOPLE    October 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C.–HR 767, possibly the most sweeping feral animal extermination mandate ever put before Congress, unanimously cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on October 23, 2007, completely eluding any visible notice from national humane organizations. No national humane organization issued a legislative alert about HR 767. No national humane organization even mentioned it in online lists of animal-related bills under consideration–not even Alley Cat Allies, whose concerns are most directly targeted. Introduced by Representative Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), HR 767 is officially titled the Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance, and Immediate Response Act, or REPAIR Act. Informally, it is called the Kind Act, but the closest approach to kind language in it is a passage requiring that funded extermination programs must minimize “adverse impacts to the structure and function of national wildlife refuge ecosystems and adverse effects on  nontarget species.” 

 No restrictions are placed on the species that may be targeted, or the methods that may be used to kill them.   An October 22 press release from Kind’s office promoting HR 767 mentioned only purple loosestrife, black locust, and zebra mussels as examples of invasive species, but the bill appears to have originated chiefly out of birder antipathy toward feral cats.  “In response to the exploding threat that invasive species pose to the health and abundance  of many birds,” said publicist Steve Holmer of the American Bird Conservancy, an organization built on fierce opposition to neuter/return feral cat control, “Kind championed legislation which provides grants to states to identify harmful non-native species and establish priorities for preserving native birds, fish, other wildlife, and their habitats.

The REPAIR Act now moves to the Senate, where ABC hopes to see quick passage.” A native of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Kind still has one of his two constituency offices in LaCrosse–the same city where birder Mark Smith in 2005 organized a campaign to authorize hunters to shoot feral cats.  “I look at feral cats as an invasive species, plain and simple,” Smith told Associated Press. The 12,031 attendees at the annual state-wide caucuses of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress voted 57% to 43% in favor of the proposal, which was endorsed by most of the major pro-hunting organizations in the state. Governor Jim Doyle bucked hunter opinion in making clear the next day that he would veto an actual bill to allow cat shooting.  Kind is described in his campaign biography as “an avid outdoor recreation enthusiast, hunter and fisherman,” who “loves to duck hunt on the Mississippi River, and hunt turkey and deer up on the family [beef] farm with the boys.” Kind is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.  

Birders nationwide, especially in Wisconsin, have been inflamed against cats since 1996 by excessive projections of cat predation on birds promoted by University of Wisconsin at Madison wildlife biology professor Stanley A. Temple. Temple argues that cats kill from 7.8 to 100 million birds per year in Wisconsin alone, with 39 million a “reasonable estimate.”  About 7.8 million is actually the upper end of likelihood, based on the preponderance of data from other sources.  Credible estimates of bird predation by cats nationwide range from 100 million per year,  projected in 2003 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Management Office  biologist Al Manville, to 134 million per year, projected in 2000 by Carol Fiore of the Wichita State University Department of Biological Sciences. 

The Congressional Research Service, operated by the Library of Congress, notes that HR 767 “Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide (1) a grant to any eligible applicant to carry out a qualified control project to control harmful nonnative species; and (2) a grant to any state to carry out an assessment project to identify harmful nonnative species, assess the needs to restore, manage, or enhance native fish, wildlife and habitats, identify priorities, and identify mechanisms to increase capacity building for native fish, wildlife, and habitats.”

HR 767 also “Directs the Secretary to establish a Cooperative Volunteer Invasives Monitoring and Control Program to document and combat invasive species in national wildlife refuges,” according to the Congressional Research Service. In plain English, this means HR 767 allows the federal government to enlist birders to spot non-native animals and plants, and dispatch recreational hunters, trappers, and fishers to kill them. This is consistent with an August 17, 2007 executive order in which U.S. President George W. Bush directed “Federal agencies…including the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture”, to “Manage wildlife and wildlife habitats on public lands in a manner that expands and enhances hunting opportunities, including through the use of hunting in wildlife management planning.”

HR 767 also stipulates that “The Congress findsSHarmful nonnative species are the leading cause of habitat destruction in national wildlife refuges,” a highly debatable claim in view of  the impacts of global warming, water and air pollution, and food chain build-ups of toxic   substances, including lead from hunters’ ammunition as one of the deadliest to aquatic birds.  Other “findings” ratified by HR 767 are that “More than 675 known harmful nonnative species are found in the National Wildlife Refuge System,” none actually named in the bill, and that “Nearly eight million acres of the National Wildlife Refuge System contain harmful nonnative species.” A further “finding” is that, “The cost of the backlog of harmful nonnative species control projects that need to be carried out in the National Wildlife Refuge System is over $361,000,000, and the failure to carry out such projects threatens the ability of the System to fulfill its basic mission.”

According to HR 767, “The term `harmful nonnative species’ means, with respect to a  particular ecosystem in a particular region, any species, including its seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem and has a demonstrable or potentially demonstrable negative environmental or economic impact in that region.”

HR 767 provides that “The Federal share of the incremental additional cost of including in a control project any pilot testing or a demonstration of an innovative technology” to exterminate non-native species “shall be 85%SThe Federal share of the cost of the portion of a control project funded with a grant under this section that is carried out on national wildlife refuge lands or waters, including the cost of acquisition by the Federal Govern-ment of lands or waters for use for such a project, shall be 100%.”

A simple translation is that if killing feral animals who enter a National Wildlife Refuge from private property requires buying the property, the feds will pay for it.  National Wildlife Refuge System chief Geoff Haskett testified at a June 21, 2007 hearing on HR 767 that “In 2006, over two million acres of refuge lands were infested with invasive plants. About 14% of these acres have been treated thus far. In addition,” Haskett said, “there are 4,471 invasive animal populations recorded on refuge lands.  “In 2008,” Haskett added, “the refuge system budget allocates $8.7 million to treat over 255,000 acres infested with invasive plants, and control infestations on 100,000 acres. The system will control 245 invasive animal populations.”


Entry filed under: AMERICA.


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