Wildlife Services sprays tons of herbicide into Dakota marshes to destroy blackbirds

Another reason to eliminate this destructive agency-

In the Western United States we think of Wildlife Services as the agency that kills a host of native wildlife to benefit cattle and sheep growers, but their noxious actions are more far flung. In the Dakotas they are expanding their program of dumping the herbicide Rodeo into cattail marshes so the blackbirds will have no resting or roosting sites.

This is to benefit sunflower farmers who could solve the “blackbird problem” by not planting sunflowers next to marshes.

Story:  USDA taking applications for Cattail eradication. Associated Press





  1. Mike Avatar

    This is some of the dumbest behaviour I’ve ever heard of. What are people thinking when they engage in activities like these?

  2. Salle Avatar

    This reminds me of the malithion spraying conducted in central California during the 1980’s, once again at the behest of monocroppers. There was widespread protests that fell on deaf ears. I was “hauling” produce back then and remember wondering what it was doing to my health. In the late 1980’s I lived in San Diego and they started spraying even heavily populated areas where there were many avocado growers complaining of med-fly infestations, apparently the quarantines in central CA didn’t contain them after years of spraying. I remember the protests in San Diego. The state told everyone taht it was “harmless” but the also told everyone to keep their pets indoors for something like 72 hours and to keep their vehicles in their garages or cover them to avoid damage to the paint and windshield coatings. Say what?

    And then there was that clown who wanted to show everyone how “safe” malithion was by drinking a glass of it in public and on TV. He died of cancer a few years later.

    So some county official in Tennessee who, Tuesday, drank a glass of tap water from the tainted river where that coal ash spill fouled the waters, did this in front of the press. I wonder how long he’ll last…

    Just because they didn’t drop dead ten minutes after these stunts doesn’t mean they will live more than five years afterward. Cancer takes a while to do its thing.

    I wonder what studies of amphibians will show after this stupid attempt to control nature for the sake of the almighty dollar for a chosen few. And at taxpayer expense, once again.

  3. kt Avatar

    I remember a decade or so ago when there was a “mysterious” gull die-off at Lake Lowell (Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge). Cause was finally determined: Wildlife Service had put out some avian toxin at the greasy, rancid potato waste french Fry plant operated by Simplot in Caldwell.

    Simplot just couldn’t run a tidy plant, and the waste was spilled all over in back of the plant.Of course, this attracted gulls So instead of Wildlife Services just telling Simplot to clean up their mess, and the gull problem would go away – Wildlife Services poisoned the gulls with something that allowed them to fly back to the Refuge where they roosted, and die there. Wildlife Services – a pack of sadistic, sick killers.

    Like when ranchers in the Pahsimeroi leave dead cows (likely from drinking the manure-polluted waters) strung all over the landscape and somehow wolves then kill a cow or two . The whole area is turned into a frenzied Killing Zone for wolves by Wildlife Services – rather than requiring responsible actions like actually controlling livestock on the part of the slovenly welfare public lands ranchers.

  4. Brooke Funk Avatar
    Brooke Funk

    Ugh, and what do you think this is going to affect the rest of the area. Those blackbirds have a purpose there. Let’s wait and see. Do bugs eat sunflower seeds?

  5. Salle Avatar

    Nearly every herbivore in that area, ground rodents included, eat sunflower seeds. Another DDT episode anyone?

  6. Steve C Avatar
    Steve C

    They kill blackbirds so they wont eat sunflower seeds. People elsewhere buy the sunflower seeds and use them to feed birds… Something doesnt quite add up.

  7. Don George Avatar
    Don George

    This is typical action for Wildlife Services of all types. Selling off the land, using chemicals, and bowing down to big money interest. Its only going to get worst. I cannot believe that Obama selected Ken Salazar as Secretary of Interior. I wonder if Obama or Salazar have ever been in a National Park. Last year I spoke with a ranger in Rocky Mt.
    National Park. Her comment was that rangers were being selected from Federal office jobs and labs and had no Outdoor experience whatsoever. What a shame!

  8. Salle Avatar

    And those who were good at their jobs are also losing them to veterans who seem to think they are still in a combat zone. Yellowstone has a bunch of them now, and the folks who were putting in time to work their way up to permanent status have lost all that effort toward building a career with all the right stuff behind them had to find other less rewarding work.

  9. Chris H Avatar
    Chris H

    It does not mention what herbicide they use. Regardless, that it only targets cattails does not tell the whole story.

    Salle, did the official in Tennessee really drink that water or did he just say that is what it was? If he did, I sincerely hope he pays the price. (I guess I should not be that way but……)

    Chris H. The herbicide is Rodeo. Someone should google it. Ralph Maughan

  10. Salle Avatar

    Chris H,

    I did not see it, I only heard it on NPR Wednesday morning:


    There are probably pictures and video somewhere, have to “google” it.

    herbicide, let’s see… Monsanto?? Maybe?? Roundup? Or something really nasty. I don’t think Roundup works on cattails. What the hell are they thinking? Oh yeah, it’s all about money and controlling nature for the farmers who produce for ADM or ConAgra or…? So what if it turns into a barren wasteland? It can just be used for some extractive interest thereafter. Of course, they could just be growing those seeds for birdfeed… It’s just that the blackbirds don’t have a cash incentive to keep WS from killing them.

    Oh, and look at this little ditty of news that I found this morning, forgot to bookmark it, and spent nearly all afternoon trying to find it again, yikes.

    Guess who’s coming to Montana…


  11. Salle Avatar


    And here’s the video…


    Old codger doesn’t have a long time to worry about it from the looks of him. Guess it don’t matter… at least to him, the next two or three generation after him might have something to worry about though.

  12. eric mills Avatar
    eric mills

    The late U. Utah Phillips once wrote,

    “Earth is not dying. It’s being killed. And those responsible have names and addresses.”

    Without a doubt, Homo sapiens is the ONLY stupid species on the planet.

  13. Layton Avatar

    “They kill blackbirds so they wont eat sunflower seeds. People elsewhere buy the sunflower seeds and use them to feed birds… Something doesnt quite add up.”

    One thing that really doesn’t add up here is that they didn’t kill the blackbirds . They killed the cattails where they were roosting so they would go away.

    Rodeo is pretty selective and it doesn’t harm anything but the target — cattails. They did this RATHER than using some sort of a method that WOULD kill them.

  14. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The resource oriented ranger ended back in the late ’70’s with the feds PACE test. Anyone with the highest score got the first pick of fed jobs. Before that a ranger had to have a biology type degree.

    One of my district rangers in Yellowstone, a real yellowstreak brown noser, told me, while we were riding down the trail (a guy who just an hour before broke my favorite trail clearing two bitted axe by missing a 20″ diameter tree laying in front of him) that he and a fellow PACE high scoring friend, and just out of college, took a tour around the country looking at fed job potentials. He went on to tell me his choice came down to a back country supervisor job open at Yosemite or as a public health VD agent tracking down the chain of infectors. He told me he still didn’t know what the right choice would have been….

    He said there was less stress in his present job but he could have risen through the ranks much faster working the VD angle.

    From this beginning of the end for rangerdom came law enforcement priorities. No degree, no biology, no public service indoctrination…nothing but law renforcement background or training to get the “hallowed” ranger job. Yellowstone in the ’80’s saw SS types pulling hair out by the roots of defensive tactic students during training sessions during cuffing exercises. This advanced in the ’90’s to students having arms broken by those same type goons applying restraint manuvers.

    I would have to tow these increasing numbers of “legends in their own minds” around in the back country during boundary patrol once in a while. They did it not even for the perceived glory… but because this one week in the back country punched their ticket for job advancement.

    By the time I left one could not get explain to them they did not need the bullet proof vest they insisted on wearing while riding a horse in the back country….. because anyone that might do harm to them had high powered rifles.

    Same for the duty belt with all its objects sticking out for reins and lead ropes to catch. In fact by the late 90’s it was made a requirement that all law enforcement rangers HAD to wear a duty belt every moment they were in uniform (I never did). It was all so stupid, but all this I repeat because this is how RANGERDOM and public service attitudes changed in 20 some years in Yellowstone.

    If you ever want to see stupidity in all its glory view some of those Stevens Creek Corral bison handling videos. See everyone of those “rangers” in full duty belt regallia on the catwalks handling the ropes for the closing and opening of the gates below them. See the coils of rope at their feet. Again see the stupidity of it all …all because most of those left to wear them need the status it conveys to them. Hell, one doesn’t even need to pump iron to get that big chest sticking out there.

    Yes, there might be a few left who adhere to other than Rambo illusions but I guarentee they need to periodically lay on the couches of Shrinks or are on Prozac in order to get through the day to day reminder they do not thinking like one of the “normal” SS boys.

    Mor later on these field personnel’s leaders, the ones outsiders read of fighting for environmental causes but really just want to rise to the top.

  15. Chris H Avatar
    Chris H

    Ralph, Salle and Layton thanks for filling in the blanks for me.

  16. Salle Avatar

    Mr. Jackson,

    I know you have the “inside scoop” on all that poop. Thanks for sharing some of it here. I once wanted to work in the park, prior to 2000. Now, I believe, I am beyond the acceptable hiring age so I just live close enough to get there when the urge strikes… though I would have liked to have been an interpreter. Never was one of the “rootin’ tootin’ cowboy” George W types, don’t think they have anything of value to offer visitors to the park. But they might have a calling now that loaded guns will be allowed… wonder if that’s a compensatory move to give those guys a reason to exist.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan