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Thrill Kill at the EPA

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I’ve been reviewing stacks of documents from a Rozol FOIA Request to EPA and US Fish and Wildlife Service during this malignant time in our country. Rozol (chlorophacinone) is an extrmely hazardous rodenticide used to kill black-tailed prairie dogs (and many other rodents), causing a prolonged, cruel and inhumane death. The animal slowly bleeds to death over several days. A very similar sinister chemical is marketed as Kaput. Non-target animal species deaths from Rozol have been documented – ferruginous hawks, golden and bald eagles, migratory songbirds, badgers, swift foxes and many more. Wildlife Services, ranchers and developers apply the chemical across ten states. Its use as vole poison spans the country. EPA re-authorized Rozol for prairie dog killing in 2012, after a Biological Opinion from USFWS cleared the way.

Hamstrung federal agencies engaged in an intricate dance of denial to avoid outlawing Rozol, even though they knew the risks and cruelty of the chemical. In assessing impacts on the beautiful Aplomado falcon in Texas, documents describe the extreme sensitivity of raptors to the poison, and toxicity of the maggots on carcasses. The disconnect between common sense about the chemical’s dangers, and the final weak and twisted re-authorization rationales couldn’t be more striking. Grave concerns of biologists are apparent.

Label requirements to control non-target species deaths and secondary poisoning risk are minimal: Poisoners are supposed to return every two days for a while and remove carcasses if they find them. In the meantime, hawks, eagles, badgers and foxes whisk away weakened animals. Burrowing owls are exposed to the poison in carrion or through eating other poisoned small mammals and birds. Meadowlarks or Canada geese eat the poison bait. Predators and scavengers often die away from the poisoned site, which masks just how many animals are being killed.

The EPA re-authorization of Rozol and the USFWS Consultation took place under the tenure of Lisa Jackson at EPA (who later moved on to Apple and the Clinton Foundation) and cattle rancher Ken Salazar at Interior. Despite the serious secondary poisoning risk, and continued studies showing Rozol killing wildlife, its use has still not been reined in. In fact, other uses of the chemical (sold as Vole bait) have been expanded with aerial application snuck into state Ag. Department regulations in some states.

Rozol recently has made the news. It was illegally applied in large amounts near the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline route in spring 2016. Some domestic bison died. Six bald eagles were found dead, with the cause still under investigation. A large buffalo herd remains quarantined. Questions about human exposure to Rozol are being raised. How will the investigation (and prosecution of responsible parties) play out under the Trump Administration?

An EPA Executioner

EPA and USFWS have been unable to stop non-target animal poisoning from Rozol, or illegal use of the chemical, despite its makers (Liphatec) serious violations, receiving the largest fine in EPA history in 2014.

Oversight of use is tangled in MOUs with state Ag. Departments. This is not enough for the Trump ghouls. Now the “Beachhead” Team has landed at the EPA.

Trump’s EPA nominee Pruitt’s sins against the environment are well known. Media has focused on oil and gas and climate science in reporting on the dismantling of EPA. Who’s doing the hands on dirty work of gutting what is left of regulatory controls on toxics at EPA? The Idaho Statesman fawned over “Farmer and Rancher” Layne Bangerter sworn in, as one of the EPA executioners on the beachhead team. Bangerter had been Senator Mike Crapo’s natural resource aid. Before that, he was a professional wildlife killer (trapper, poisoner, aerial gunner of coyotes, wolves, bears, badgers, ravens and other wildlife) with the rogue federal agency Wildlife Services.

I recall when Wildlife Services was pushing a “Sage-grouse Predator Killing” reign of wild land terror in Idaho. The scheme was to exterminate coyotes, badgers, ravens – anything that looked cross-eyed at a grouse, and magically boost populations – while livestock on public lands were left free to strip the protective grass cover from nests. Bangerter and another Wildlife Services person were at a Fish and Game Commission meeting selling death – demonstrating how M-44 sodium cyanide poison devices “Coyote Getters” worked. The proposal was halted by a federal court.

After years of helping Sen. Mike Crapo attack clean water, wildlife and public lands  – Bangerter surfaced in summer 2016 as Trump’s Idaho Campaign Chair. He was reported to be an “advisor” to Eric Trump on western public lands issues, and was to be an elector until the conflict with his taxpayer-funded job leave emerged.

Throughout his years with Crapo, Bangerter remained a mass killer of coyotes in heinous contests, winning prizes for stacking up dead animals. In one event alone the Scottsbluff Star Herald on 1/9/15 reported on the 2014 World Championship Coyote Calling Contest …. Nemnich and Bangerter, from Boise, Idaho, took the top prize in the contest, Nemnich said, with a bounty of 15 coyotes. They also had the heaviest coyote, weighing 36 pounds. Their winnings came to $4,500 and they received matching custom AR-15s and World Champion belt buckles”. Such slaughters have been described here in Beaver Utah and here in Salmon Idaho .

Marine biologist Carson wrote the Sea trilogy, and Silent Spring, described as having “altered the balance of power in the world”. Largely because of Carson’s work, knowledge of toxic chemical harms was seared into the public consciousness, and EPA was created as an agency in 1970. FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act) was passed in 1972. Now the Trump Beachhead Team is gutting what remains of the agency’s regulatory controls, and striking fear into federal workers – thrill killing the legacy of a great woman scientist and writer, the founder of the environmental movement.

Next on the Chopping Block: Slashing and Burning BLM and Monuments?

Wealthy Utah Trump enthusiast Don Peay has been the driving force behind Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), a group that emerged in Utah, and spread into Idaho. SFW vociferously advocated for gray wolves to be de-listed, hunted and trapped, siding with Cattlemen groups in blaming predators for depleting deer and elk herds. SFW was featured in a High Country News story of an Owyhee predator killing contest organized by their Idaho leader Nate Helm (a former natural resources aid to Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in the days before Craig’s arrest for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport restroom). Bangerter was a star of the slaughter

“A big pickup, an ATV in the back, comes rumbling in … It’s Layne Bangerter and Mike Svedin, and they are loaded down with a harvest of coyotes”.

Peay is an ardent supporter of Utah politician Mike “There will be Bloodshed” Noel for appointment as BLM Director. Noel has been called the most anti-environmental legislator in Utah. His attacks on wildlife and the public lands are legion, including those of the past few days on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Peay is a friend of the Trump family, schooling Eric Trump on western issues. BLM is already just about as weak as an agency can be and still function – particularly in its regulation of public lands livestock grazing and oil and gas development. Cattle rancher bully Noel, or his ilk, would seem a perfect choice in Trumpworld to complete its evisceration. Even if Noel is not chosen, those who have Trump’s ear will likely push to see their agenda fulfilled.

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Katie Fite is a biologist and Public Lands Director with WildLands Defense.

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