An environmental group has filed suit against the federal government in a bid to shut down the USDA’s predator control program.

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The Great Depression-era program the Department of Agriculture uses to kill coyotes, mountain lions and other predators that threaten livestock is outdated, illegal and a waste of federal money, conservationists say in a new lawsuit. Wildlife Services, an agency under USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, has refused for nearly two decades to conduct the environmental reviews necessary to justify the mass killings with traps, snares, poisons and aerial gunning, according to lawyers for WildEarth Guardians based in Sante Fe, N.M.

They are asking in a lawsuit filed Monday that a federal judge in Nevada shut down the agency that spent $127 million in 2010 to exterminate more than 5 million animals. “We want the court to ban its poisons, silence its guns, and pull up its traps because it’s a horrendous misuse of our tax dollars to slaughter the nation’s bears, wolves, coyotes, and myriad other species,” said Wendy Keefover, the group’s director of carnivore protection.

But proponents say the wildlife services program benefits local farmers and ranchers and saves millions in crop and predation losses by controlling predators and other nuisance species.

“Wildlife Services conducts its programs, at local request, and seeks to manage local damage, not to eradicate any native species,” she (agency spokesperson Carol Bannerman) said Tuesday. About 38 percent of the agency’s 2010 budget was spent to protect agricultural resources, she said in an email, and the service also chased away more than 20 million animals from areas where they were “causing damage or conflicts.”That included making airports safer from wildlife strikes, collecting almost 90,000 samples of 47 diseases carried by wildlife, and protecting 131 different types of threatened or endangered species,” Bannerman said.

Your thoughts? Is it a vital government service, or a waste of taxpayer money that mostly benefits large agribusiness entities that can easily afford to pay for their own predator control?

According to the story, the agency spent $127 million on control efforts in 2010. It further states that about half of the agency’s budget comes from the federal government, while the other half comes from state and local governments and ag industry groups. So if that’s true, roughly $63.5 million federal dollars were spent on ADC programs in 2010. In the current budget environment, would you rather have that $63.5 million going to predator control or going to other federal conservation programs that benefit hunters and anglers?