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Our View: Government pork: Shooting pigs from helicopters is expensive

September 25, 2018

For the third time in about 18 months, sharpshooters in helicopters are looking for feral pigs in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. For the third time in about 18 months, we’d like to point out that this exercise is a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources — especially when there’s a much cheaper solution that gets ignored because of federal red tape.

Make no mistake, the pigs that make their homes in the wildlife refuge are a real problem. They uproot native vegetation and damage fragile habitat at the refuge, a breeding ground for migratory birds and a nesting area for threatened and endangered species such as southwestern willow flycatchers and western yellow-billed cuckoos. Those feral pigs are also dangerous to humans and their pets, both by aggressive behavior and disease.

There’s little doubt they need to be removed.

Here’s the thing: It’s not cheap to hire trained marksman to shoot at pigs from helicopters that cost about $650 per hour. The first go-round in February 2017 had a pricetag of about $25,000 for the four-day hunt. It’s likely the second outing had similar costs.

The federal government is spending a lot of money — $20 million nationwide — to eradicate feral pigs, but it continues to ignore the great resource it has that could help put an end to the pig problem at minimal expense to taxpayers: Local hunters.

As we’ve said before, there are plenty of hunters who would gladly participate in an organized pig hunt, knowing they’re providing a public service by protecting native ecosystems. However, it’s illegal to hunt in national wildlife refuges.

There ought to be a way to get around those rules in special circumstances, and it shouldn’t take an act of Congress — although, maybe that’s exactly what we need. Congressman Paul Gosar, known for his crusades against so-called “pork” in government budgets, should lead the charge to allow temporary pig hunts in the wildlfe refuge. John McCain suggested doing exactly that a couple of years ago. The occasional helicopter shoots are making a dent in pig populations to be sure, but ongoing attention from local hunters could ensure that their numbers don’t thrive again.

— Today’s News-Herald

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