Conservation Groups Sue To Force NEPA Analysis Of Fur Export Program

May 4, 2016

Conservation groups say the federal government is overlooking the environmental ramifications of trapping furbearing animals for export. They’re suing to implement a review process.

Furbearer pelts have been a hot commodity on the international market. In 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued tags allowing the export of 59,000 bobcat pelts from the United States.

"What we’re saying is, how can removing 59,000 animals from the environment not have an impact on the environment?"

That’s Bethany Cotton of WildEarth Guardians, which along with the Western Environmental Law Center is suing the Fish and Wildlife Service.

They say the agency has never publicly reviewed the environmental impacts of the pelt export program. The U.S. is part of an international treaty set up in the 70s to outlaw the unregulated ivory trade. The pelt export program is a part of that treaty. The plaintiffs say the government’s refusal to evaluate it is illegal.

"Our case argues that Fish and Wildlife Service should have gone through a National Environmental Policy Act  review process when it makes decisions about when to issue permits," Cotton says.

Plaintiffs say the government also overlooks the impact pelt-related trapping has on non-target animals that are also caught in traps and snares.

The suit was filed this week in Missoula District Court.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service does not comment on pending litigation.

But in a statement emailed to Montana Public Radio late yesterday, spokesman Ryan Moehring noted,  “The (pelt) tags and permits are backed by certain findings, including that the export is of legally acquired skins and that the export is not detrimental to the survival of the species.”