PRESS RELEASE

GROUPS DENOUNCE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO DISCOUNT SWAN SURVEY RESULTS

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Fund for Animals and PEER today denounced the federal government’s repeated failure to allow science, rather than the politics of hunting, to guide management decisions for recovering imperiled Rocky Mountain trumpeter swans.

In the ongoing legal challenge to stop the sport hunting of imperiled trumpeter swans in Utah, Nevada and Montana, The Fund for Animals recently filed a declaration in DC district court from a leading trumpeter swan expert. The declaration described new federal survey information indicating a significant decline in the population of U.S. breeding birds within the last year. According to the survey, the Tri-State population of Rocky Mountain trumpeter swans has declined from 362 adult birds in September 2001 to only 274 adult birds in September 2002. In addition, there was significant cygnet mortality, resulting in an overall population decline of 35%.

The federal government has responded by filing a motion to strike this declaration, not disputing the accuracy of the numbers, but rather arguing that the information is not part of the original record, and therefore, should not be considered by the court. Just a few days ago, The Fund filed its response in opposition to the government’s motion.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would just as soon bury this new survey information along with the birds because it confirms the extreme vulnerability of this population,” stated Andrea Lococo, Rocky Mountain Coordinator of The Fund for Animals.

The trumpeter swan is already listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Birds of Management Concern list, a registry of bird species that “are likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.” The Fund and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation petitioned the FWS to list the U.S. breeding population of trumpeter swans under the Endangered Species Act in August 2000, citing numerous biological and environmental threats facing this population. However, the FWS failed to meet its statutory obligation to process the petition, and much to the astonishment of trumpeter swans advocates and experts, decided instead to open a hunting season on the birds, forcing The Fund and other swan advocates to turn to the courts for relief.

PEER documented the politics underlying this decision in an expose entitled “Swan Dive: Trumpeter Swan Restoration Trumped by Politics.” Reflecting the concerns of anonymous FWS staff, the white paper harshly criticizes the agency for its decision to allow rare trumpeter swans to be hunted. According to Eric Wingerter, PEER’s National Field Director, “The Service’s contention that swans may have moved elsewhere is wishful thinking, but not very likely. Agency officials are either trying to mislead the public or are in denial.”

For copies of the declaration and cross motions, please contact Andrea Lococo at 307-859-8840 or at alococo@wyoming.com. For copies of the PEER report “Swan Dive,” contact Eric Wingerter at 202-265-7337 or ericw@peer.org

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