A broad range of industries representing food producers, wildlife, sportsmen and natural resources this week expressed their strong support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Wildlife Services (WS) programs. A letter, signed by 75 national and state organizations, was sent to Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Jack Kingston (Ga.), chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, explaining the importance of this critical agency.
Wildlife causes more than $12.8 billion in damage per year to natural resources, public infrastructures, private property and agriculture. WS works to prevent, minimize or manage this damage and to protect human health and safety from conflicts with wildlife. Wildlife damage to livestock, aquaculture, small grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products has been estimated at almost one billion dollars annually. Wildlife predators cause over $126 million in death loss to livestock; field crop losses due to wildlife total $619 million annually; losses to vegetables, fruits and nuts total $146 million annually; and 70 percent of catfish farmers incur wildlife-related damage resulting in losses of $10 million to $13 million annually from double-crested cormorants in Mississippi alone. Consequently, WS is an essential program for agriculture production in the United States.
Reducing the spread of wildlife-borne diseases to humans, livestock and other wildlife; the protection of natural resources; and working to lessen the number of wildlife strike occurrences by aircraft are just a few of the charges directed toward the WS agency.
It has been WS cooperative nature that has made it the most cost effective and efficient program in the federal government in the areas of wildlife damage management and public health and safety. WS has over 2,000 cooperative agreements and has 82,644 access agreements to professionally monitor and manage wildlife on private, state and federal lands. Cooperators include agriculture, forestry, private industry, state wildlife agencies, departments of health, schools, counties, local government, American Indian nations, homeowner associations, conservation groups and others that, together with WS, mitigate the damage and dangers that public wildlife can inflict. In fiscal year 2007, $56 million in cooperator dollars went to WS while the remainder of the $117 million budget was funded through federal appropriations. The majority of WS budget - 43 percent - is spent on protecting human health and safety.
"Our organizations are committed to working with you to strengthen the resources of WS and to ensure a continued federal partnership in the responsible management of our nation's wildlife," the organizations concluded.
The content of the complete letter is available by following the In Support of Wildlife Services link on www.sheepusa.org.
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33