Publicly funded predator control in the West is raising more than coyote hackles. The newest scuffle was sparked by an Internet Web page, not by poisons and traps.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the
Albuquerque-based animal rights group, New West Research, obtained
files from Wildlife Services, the federal agency formerly known as
Animal Damage Control. Then it set up a Web page called "Hall of
Shame," listing the names, addresses and phone numbers of New
Mexico ranchers helped by the agency.
accepting government handouts, then you have to accept the fact
that the information is public," says Camilla Fox of the
California-based Animal Protection Institute. "We think it's the
public's right to know where deadly poisons and traps are being
used on public lands."
The Web site has critics
such as People for the USA and the American Farm Bureau Federation
crying foul. PFUSA's Dave Skinner says ranchers enter into a trust
relationship with the government when they sign up for government
services. He and the Farm Bureau say environmentalists violate that
trust when they disseminate "private" information on the
Like Web sites listing names and
addresses of abortion doctors, Skinner says, a list called the Hall
of Shame turns ranchers into targets. "I'd never recommend that a
Web site like that be censored," he adds, "but (there need) to be
consequences if anything happens to the ranchers."
Now, Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, filed
by both sides, are proliferating. In response to a suit filed by
the Farm Bureau this fall, a Waco, Texas, judge issued a temporary
restraining order that stops government documents from going to the
Animal Protection Institute, at least until the Farm Bureau's suit
* Ali Macalady