OIG Audit Emphasizes Need for Wildlife Services Reform

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(C) USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Responding to Congressional requests and well over a hundred thousand letters from the public, almost two years ago the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (OIG) agreed to conduct an audit of the agency's Wildlife Services predator control program.

The OIG released its findings last week: nothing is wrong with Wildlife Services! Or in the OIG's words "Our observations of both the field specialists' activities and WS' aerial hunting operations revealed no systemic problems with the process or manner with which WS conducted its predator control program."

Hmmm...We're talking about the same agency, right? The one that up and lost $12 million dollars, whose employees treat animals inhumanly and kill endangered species, whose own reporting indicates that it kills 98% of the big carnivores it interacts with, and whose staff recently crashed a plane while trying to shoot coyotes, resulting in their deaths?

How did the OIG deliver such stellar feedback for an agency that is widely known for its blunders and lack of transparency? By making the review as narrow as possible and completely ignoring crucial issues it had promised to examine, after prodding from NRDC and its colleagues. Indeed, when the OIG first announced the audit, it said it would: (1) determine whether wildlife damage management activities were justified and effective; (2) assess the controls over cooperative agreements; (3) assess Wildlife Services' information system for reliability and integrity; and (4) follow-up on the implementation of prior audit recommendations. Instead, OIG did not provide any findings or recommendations on the first and fourth subjects since the "audit did not reveal problems with wildlife damage management activities, or with WS' system for tracking controlled materials."

The OIG's selection of states in which to examine Wildlife Services programs for the audit may also have a part to play. Indeed, OIG's selected sample states included only the states with the least number of non-target kills. Given that non-target kills are one of the agency's biggest problems, examining only states where this isn't as big of an issue diminishes the audit's credibility.

The OIG's conclusion that all is well with Wildlife Services when it is so obviously not significantly underscores the need to reform this agency. In particular, we must limit Wildlife Services' legal authority when it comes to predator management. The fact that the audit found that Wildlife Services had not broken any laws just emphasizes that its discretion is ridiculously broad. And even if it hasn't broken laws, Wildlife Services' actions just aren't right.