Battle over how to protect birds from predators - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Battle over how to protect birds from predators

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A program to protect endangered birds from predators at Mission Bay will go ahead after the San Diego City Council denied appeals Tuesday by two animal welfare organizations and the Sierra Club. 
The program has caused controversy because the California least tern and light-footed Ridgway's rail are safeguarded in part by trapping and shooting other wildlife, such as cats, gulls, crows and rats. 
The appeals primarily addressed a more narrow issue of whether city officials correctly declared that the 25-year program is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA. 
The council voted to uphold the determination on an 8-1 vote. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf dissented without comment. 
Representatives of the Sierra Club and San Diego Animal Advocates contended that not enough supporting evidence backed the city's exemption. 
Jane Cartmill, of the Advocates group, criticized an "unbelievable lack of transparency" from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the program under contract with the city and California Department of Fish and Wildlife. She said the predators also have lives, and they shouldn't be sacrificed over the protected bird species. 
Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the Humane Society in San Diego, wrote that "suggesting we trap and kill one group of wildlife to save another is contrary to the mission of San Diego's oldest nonprofit, and not the answer." 
He suggested a substitute program to trap and neuter feral cats, matched with an education campaign to reduce the number of felines owned as pets that are allowed outdoors. He said that will "produce measurable results in the years ahead." 
City officials contend that the program, developed in 1990 and focused on certain nesting points around the bay - including Mariner's Point and the north end of Fiesta Island - has been performed under terms of Mission Bay master plans and in accordance with local, state and federal law. The Ridgway's rail are protected along the northern sector of the bay. 
The city received backing from another environmental organization, the San Diego Audubon Society, which asked the council members to reject the appeals. 
Rebecca Schwartz Lesberg, the society's conservation director, wrote that while the city should provide the public with more information on its predator control measures, the appeals could interfere with this year's breeding season for the birds. Suspending predator control would cause "irreparable harm" to the birds, she wrote. 
Predator populations have been increased by human activity and aren't threatened, according to Schwartz Lesberg

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