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Environmentalists Demand Records Regarding Poison Dump on Bay Area’s Farallon Islands
SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the Bay Area-based national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a public records request with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) for documents pertaining to the contracts made with Island Conservation, a nonprofit who has been paid millions of taxpayer dollars to dump rat poison on various islands in an effort to eradicate non-native species of rodents to protect specific bird species. The requests were made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) out of growing concern that Island Conservation may soon drop a controversial poison known as brodifacoum on the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco, perhaps executing the eradication this fall. The highly persistent poison is known to be consumed by non-targeted species, who, slowly die, and are consumed by other wildlife, resulting in the secondary poisoning of wildlife and contamination of the food chain. ALDF, along with co-petitioners Sonce Devries, a retired USFWS biologist, and Maggie Sergio, an environmental writer, suspect a mismanagement of funds and conflicts of interest between FWS and Island Conservation that would question the legitimacy of the agency contracts.
Brodifacoum is the one of the deadliest pesticides to wildlife since DDT, and was recently banned for the consumer market by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The California state legislature is currently considering “Assembly Bill 2657” which would ban the use of such “anticoagulant rodenticides” in any state/national park, state or federal wildlife refuge, or state conservancy.
According to public documents, the FWS plans to pay Island Conservation approximately $1.3 million to drop 1.3 metric tons of brodifacoum on the Farallon Islands—a project which was opposed by the American Bird Conservancy, The Ocean Foundation, National Sierra Club, Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, and WildCare. The Environmental Protection Agency issued an 18 page comment letter expressing serious concerns if this project is allowed to move forward. Although the FWS claim this poison drop is urgently needed to protect a shorebird species known as Ashy Storm Petrel at risk for extinction, just last October the agency declined to list the bird as endangered. In 2008, the Ornithological Council created a highly critical report of the Rat Island, Alaska poison drop, in which they found nearly 500 dead birds, including 46 bald eagles, eight months after the eradication. Other studies indicate a 38% failure rate of such controversial methods. ALDF will be asking the Farallon Islands National Marine Sanctuary to oppose this unethical poison drop and continue to explore other alternatives including contraception technology currently being tested.
“With massive death counts and millions of taxpayer dollars at stake, government transparency is essential,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “ALDF looks forward to a swift and thorough response to shed light on the decision making process for such an extreme action in one of the jewels of California’s National Wildlife Refuge system.”
Copies of the FOIA petition available upon request.