September 9, 2015 – Following a routine audit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services (WS) predator damage management program, the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG) found WS was in compliance with all applicable Federal and State laws. OIG also determined that WS was a necessary and important wildlife management program that protects the health and safety of people, animals and property, as well as wildlife itself.
“WS consistently strives to run a professional, transparent program” said APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea. “This audit confirms that we are successfully carrying out our mission of resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife, and helping to create a balance that allows coexistence while reducing damage.”
In the audit, OIG sought to determine if WS’ operations were justified and effective, assess the controls over cooperative agreements, examine WS’ information system reliability and integrity, and follow up on prior audit recommendations.
WS complied with all of OIG’s requests for information and assistance throughout the audit process. Auditors visited five states and 12 district sites and accompanied 40 specialists in the field . They witnessed aerial control operations and field work, and spoke with more than 100 program leaders and researchers, State fish and wildlife officials, and property owners. The process did not reveal any systemic problems in the conduct of the control program.
Auditors did make recommendations to help WS improve its record keeping, and WS has issued directives to implement procedures to help alleviate future concerns.
Wildlife is a publicly-owned natural resource that serves an important public good, but it can also create substantial damages and recurring nuisances. Annually, predators account for the loss of more than 500,000 head of livestock valued at $138 million; birds cost catfish, rice and sunflower farmers up to $50 million a year. Most often those needing help are small producers, least able to absorb losses. To mitigate these serious economic impacts, WS works closely with, and at the request of State wildlife agencies, State agriculture departments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. National Park Service, and many other local, State, and National partners to manage wildlife damage.
OIG Auditors reported that, WS experts use a science-based Integrated Wildlife Damage Management (IWDM) decision-making model and make decisions in compliance with applicable State and Federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. WS conducts activities to minimize negative impacts to overall native wildlife populations.
The full version of the audit can be viewed at: http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33601-0002-41.pdf