Sign-on Support Letter

If you or your organization is interested in signing the support letter (below), please email communications@islandconservation.org. Thank you!

Sign on logos

(As of) August 23, 2013

Gerry McChesney, Manager
Farallon Island National Wildlife Refuge
9500 Thornton Avenue
Newark, CA 94560

Re: Restoring Farallon National Wildlife Refuge Native Species and Ecosystems

Dear Mr. McChesney,

The undersigned members of the conservation community are signing on to this letter to show our strong support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) goal to restore native wildlife populations and healthy ecosystems at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge by removing the damaging, invasive House Mouse. Over the past 10 years, USFWS has investigated how to remove the mice. We applaud your thorough and transparent decision making processes that have carefully investigated all possible alternatives for mice removal.

The islands of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge are a unique wildlife haven in need of ongoing restoration, protection, and management. Referred to by some as “California’s Galapagos”, the Farallones host the largest seabird breeding colony in the United States (outside of Alaska and Hawai`i), and 25% percent of California’s breeding seabirds (more than 300,000 individuals of 13 species). Before human-caused disturbances more than one million seabirds bred in the Farallones. We commend the USFWS’s 34-year efforts to restore the Farallones by removing invasive plants and animals. Introduced, invasive cats and rabbits were removed with positive ecological responses. Today, the invasive House Mouse is the last non-native, invasive vertebrate remaining on the Farallones with plague-like levels, some of the highest observed densities in the world. The presence of invasive house mice is negatively impacting the threatened Ashy Storm-petrel[1], other seabirds, Burrowing Owls, Farallon arboreal salamanders, Farallon camel crickets, and the islands’ vegetation.

The rare and threatened Ashy Storm-petrel’s declining population is of particular concern. About fifty percent of the world’s Ashy Storm-petrel population breeds on the Farallon Islands. Unfortunately, the presence of the introduced, invasive House Mice threatens this globally significant storm-petrel colony by sustaining an unnatural wintering population of predatory Burrowing Owls. The Burrowing Owl is a natural, but temporary vagrant visitor to the islands that now remains on the island to feed on the mice. When the mouse population crashes each winter, the owl shifts its predation and diet, killing hundreds of petrels instead of continuing its normal migration. Ashy Storm-petrels on the Farallones have declined by 40% from 1972-1992, and their population has not yet recovered.

Removing the mice from the Farallones is one of the best ways to restore the island’s natural defenses against climate change. In a time of rapid environmental change, it is important to stabilize and bolster native wildlife populations and ecosystems’ natural defenses against meteorological changes and rising sea levels caused by a changing climate. We applaud the Service’s effort to consider concrete ways to protect Farallon wildlife in light of climate change.

The USFWS has undertaken a transparent and thorough process to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for mouse removal. Preparing an EIS, required by the National Environmental Policy Act, ensures that scientifically informed decisions are made about actions that may affect our environment. We appreciate that the best available science is being used to determine how to safely and effectively remove the mice and restore the Farallon Islands.

While we do not support unregulated, chronic, and often unpermitted and unsupervised domestic use and misuse of rodenticides, we recognize rodenticides have been used to successfully remove invasive, alien rodents from islands and provide for long-term ecological restoration with minimal short-term impacts to ecosystems. Unregulated, domestic use of rodenticides in the US often results in many non-target impacts to wildlife. However, the use of rodenticides is an important management tool for the conservation and recovery of threatened island species. Current licensed and permitted techniques for removing rodents from islands using an aerial application of rodenticide have had a very high rate of success. Rodents have been safely removed from over 500 islands world-wide, more than 90% of which used rodenticides[2]. While the USFWS has not made a decision as to which (if any) action might be taken to remove mice, we accept that the USFWS may consider using rodenticides, balancing short-term risks with long-term ecosystem recovery and species protection.

The use of rodenticides is an important management tool for the conservation and recovery of threatened island species. Mice have been successfully removed from over 43 islands using rodenticides[3]. Several of these islands are similar to the South Farallones’ climate and ecology. The small size of the South Farallones makes them a likely successful candidate for this conservation tool.

Thank you for making every effort to restore and enhance the unique and valuable Farallon Island ecosystem. The undersigned members of the conservation community support your efforts to date and look forward to providing detailed comments when the Draft EIS is available for public comment later this year.

Sincerely,

David Ainley, Ecologist

Joelle Buffa, Certified Wildlife Biologist

Phil Capitolo, Biologist, University of California, Santa Cruz, Institute of Marine Science

Jack Dumbacher, Curator, California Academy of Sciences, Ornithology and Mammalogy
Department, Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability

Moe Flannery, Collection Manager, California Academy of Sciences, Ornithology and
Mammalogy Department, Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability

Chris Kelley, Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association

Michael Ellis, Footloose Forays

Michael Lynes, Executive Director, Golden Gate Audubon Society

Peter Pyle, Staff Biologist, The Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station, California, and
Former PRBO [now Point Blue] Farallon Biologist

William Waldman, Chief Executive Officer, Island Conservation

Barbara Salzman, President, Marin Audubon Society

Mark Rauzon, Marine Endeavors

Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Deputy Regional Director, Pacific West Region, National Park Service

Michelle Hester, Executive Director & Board of Directors, Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge

Michael Ziccardi DVM MPVM PhD, Director, Oiled Wildlife Care Network

Ellie Cohen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

Gordon Bennet, President, Save Our Seashore

David Lewis, Executive Director, Save The Bay

Jennifer Rycenga, President, Sequoia Audubon Society

Debi Shearwater, Shearwater Journeys, Inc

David Wimphiemer, California Naturalist

If you or your organization is interested in signing the support letter, please email communications@islandconservation.org. Thank you!


[1] Listed as: “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species; http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/106003987/0; “Species of Management Concern” by the USFWS; and “Species of Special Concern” by the CA Department of Fish and Game.

[2] Database of Island Invasive Species Eradications (DIISE) http://eradicationsdb.fos.auckland.ac.nz/

[3] Ibid.