By JIM MATTHEWS
The Cleveland National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management are moving ahead with plans to attempt to eradicate wild hogs on public lands in San Diego, Riverside, and Orange counties. The comment period on the joint Environmental Assessment (EA) ended Thursday this week, and it has drawn outrage from hunters and anyone concerned about fiscal responsibility within government agencies.
While the document never talks about the initial or long-term cost of the project, Greg Cheatham with HuntWildPig.com has conservatively estimated it would exceed $100 million over five years with massive public closures in the affected areas.
The entire budget for the Cleveland is around $7 million each year.
“After reading the plan, I feel that this would be a futile act, and a waste of taxpayer’s dollars to put in action,” said Cheatham in his letter to the Forest Service.
Cheatham is diplomatic. It’s simply moronic and unnecessary.
The EA tries to make wild hogs out as a massive destroyer of the Cleveland National Forest’s pristine resources, but the only documentation of verified damage is on a couple of pre-historic archeological sites, which could be fenced for a few hundred dollars, far less money than this massive and expensive air and ground assault on the relative small population of wild hogs in the region would cost.
I get frustrated with EAs that have no evidence of damage, only speculation. It says wild pigs “are” competing with native species, but offers no scientific proof of this. It lists several T&E species and says “irretrievable and irreversible harm may occur” to these species, but offers no evidence this has happened or the likely scenario how wild hogs could impact each species. It doesn’t offer examples from other forests in California with the same or similar species and how wild hogs there have impacted them. Why? Because the wild hog damage on public lands where public hunting is allowed has been minimal in California. It is insignificant at worst and could be argued to be non-existant.
The EA goes on to suggest pig wallowing “may be” detrimental to water quality in watersheds used by San Diego City for drinking water, but the photo “documentation” shows two wild hogs drinking in a pristine stream, not any actual damage.
Other photos that show “damage” illustrate how wild hogs have helped control non-native arundo along a watershed, and helped break soil (by rooting) in a meadow compacted by decades of cattle grazing that “could” encourage new vegetation growth.
It is ironic to me that cattle grazing on the Cleveland is still allowed, but that a smaller population of wild hogs has caused a huge uproar.
The one thing the document calls for that is both advisable and good science is an assessment of hog numbers and their current impacts. There then needs to be a credible analysis if wild hogs are causing impacts that threaten anything in the long term to justify such a huge expenditure of public tax dollars. Are hogs worse than cattle grazing, hiking, backcountry camping, or wildlife deaths caused on the many roads in the forest? It’s highly unlikely.
Second, the EA’s distribution map shows that wild hogs exist outside of the proposed treatment areas, which means this is not a permanent fix. The hogs will return. Will we have to spend millions of dollars every few years, effectively pounding money down a rat hole for a project with dubious resource protection values.
The forest service’s own plan calls for the agency to “contain and control” non-native species. It never uses the words eradicate. Sport hunting and natural predation can contain and control the existing wild hog numbers.
The Forest Service would be hard pressed to find evidence that wild hog populations anywhere in California have caused significant damage on public lands where sport hunting is allowed. Sport hunters and natural predation prevent the hogs from settling into one area and overpopulating it. While hog range has expanded in California, there is no evidence that hog numbers in a specific region are ever-increasing and grow to the point of significantly damaging public lands.
The assessment of impacts is advisable so the National Forest has a benchmark on today’s wild hog population and some definitive handle on the damage the population is causing, if any. But to embark on a wildly expensive project that will likely fail in eradicating the hog population is a boondoggle beyond belief.
[Hunters interested in more information should go to Cheatham’s web site at http://www.huntwildpig.com/wild-pig-in-cleveland-national-forest/.]
RHODE TO MAKE OLYMPIC HISTORY?: As the Summer Olympics kick off, history could be made by Southern California shotgun shooter Kim Rhode. If she medals in either international trap or international skeet, she’ll become the first athlete in history to medal in an individual sport in five consecutive Olympic Games.
Rhode won a gold medal in Atlanta at 17 years old during the 1996 Olympics and has won gold, silver, and bronze in the three Olympics between then and now. Does the American media care about this incredible feat?
Even in Europe, which is arguably more anti-gun than the United State, they appreciate great achievement in the shooting sports. When I covered the Olympics in Los Angeles, I was doing daily stories for Associated Press and Gannett News Service on the shooting sports. During these events there were only two reporters there from the United States, most days, along with a larger group of reporters and television crews from outside the country. When Italian shooter Luciano Giovannetti won the gold medal in international trap, he became the first person in history to win back-to-back golds in that event and the media tent was crammed with over 500 press from around the world (and still no one from the USA).
An Italian reported told me that Giovannetti would become as famous as "your Babe Ruth" in Italy. Kim Rhode is poised to become shootings’ Cal Ripkin Jr., yet I somehow doubt that she will be swarmed by our nation’s network media if she medals.