Washington, DC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent decision to authorize a hunting season in Utah for the rare trumpeter swan ignores established biology in succumbing to political pressure, according to a white paper written by agency scientists and released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In the PEER report, entitled Swan Dive, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) employees explain how the agency has been co-opted into authorizing legal harvest of trumpeter swans from the last native nesting population in the lower 48 states. This population, called the Tri-State Population (with remnants in Montana’s Centennial Valley and adjacent parts of Wyoming and Idaho) is also the subject of a pending petition for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Hunting of the more numerous tundra swan has been legal in Utah since 1962. State officials do not want tundra swan hunters to face penalties for shooting trumpeters, which bear some resemblance but are significantly bigger than tundra swans. Both Utah and FWS have gone to great lengths to justify a legal hunt:
· Spending $120,000 to disprove that trumpeters migrate to Utah despite mounting numbers of trumpeter carcasses in the state;
· Reclassifying the Tri-State Population as a mere flock lacking biological significance; and
· Trying fruitlessly to develop a survival strategy for the trumpeter that does not rely on migration.
As Tom Aldrich, Utah State Waterfowl Coordinator explained, “Some hunts take precedence over the restoration effort.”
“The Fish and Wildlife Service has undercut its own mission to boost its relationship with Utah game officials,” commented Eric Wingerter, PEER National Field Director who worked with the agency employees who wrote Swan Dive. “Sadly, the Service is throwing away decades of its own good work with trumpeter restoration.”
Read the Full Report. This is a PDF file.