For Immediate Release: August 26, 2013
Groups Sue Feds for Failure to Prosecute Endangered-Wildlife Kills
Wildlife Poachers Immune from Prosecution
New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
505-843-8696 x 102
Tuscon, AZ. WildEarth Guardians and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance late last week filed an amended complaint alleging that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to prosecute individuals who have killed animals protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of its secretive “McKittrick Policy.” Under this policy, the DOJ will only prosecute cases for the illegal killing of ESA-protected species when it can prove the impossible: the mental state of the killer and that he knew the identity of the species at the time he pulled the trigger. This policy is plainly inconsistent with both the intent of Congress in enacting the ESA’s criminal provisions and with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) interpretation of the ESA. In the amended filing, the groups ask the federal court to require that the DOJ “consult” with the FWS on this policy under the provisions of the ESA.
“The McKittrick Policy has become the ‘poacher-protection act,’ with devastating results, especially for exceedingly rare Mexican wolves,” said Wendy Keefover, Director of Carnivore Protection for WildEarth Guardians.
During the tenure of DOJ’s policy, 48 Mexican wolves were illegally shot in the wild. Only two of these incidents resulted in a federal prosecution for illegal “take” (harm or killing) under ESA. The groups believe that the McKittrick Policy has emboldened individuals who are opposed to the conservation of endangered species to disregard the law, as they know that an illegal shooting will almost certainly not lead to federal prosecution. For the Mexican wolf, the effects of the Policy have been cataclysmic: illegal shooting is by far the highest source of mortality for the free-roaming Mexican wolf population.
Plaintiffs obtained additional new information since the first filing that shows that both state and federal wildlife officials have been critical of the McKittrick Policy, including then director the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jamie Rappaport Clark, who wrote that the policy “will result in little to no protection for this Nation’s most critically endangered species,” and former U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming, David Freudenthal (who later served as Wyoming’s governor), who stated that the policy should be rescinded because a hunter should never pull a trigger unless the target has been positively identified.
“The McKittrick Policy is a literal get out of jail free card provided by the very agency charged with prosecuting wildlife crimes,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, “and unfortunately, without enforcement, some endangered species will just be live targets to those who shoot illegally.”
The groups seek to get the policy rescinded as it would send a clear message that shooting Mexican wolves and other federally-protected animals will not be tolerated by the U.S. government.
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