The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is questioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the agency’s decision to prosecute a tree-trimmer who accidentally knocked herons out of a tree.
Ernest Pulido is expected to face charges from the U.S. Attorney’s Office within a week for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He could face a maximum fine of $15,000 and six months in jail.
Pulido was hired by the U.S. Postal Service to prune trees May 3 outside an Oakland, Calif., branch, where postal officials were upset with birds pooping on mail trucks.
One branch that Pulido cut contained nesting black-crowned night herons, one of more than 1,000 species of birds protected under the act.
No birds were killed. Five were injured and taken to a bird rescue in Fairfield, where the facility said all would heal and be able to be returned to the wild. One bird suffered a fractured beak while the offers suffered bruises and scrapes. Pulido is currently paying for the birds’ care.
Even though nothing has indicated the tree-trimmer intentionally targeted the birds, Pulido is being referred for prosecution.
“The Committee is concerned that Mr. [Ernesto] Pulido is being subjected to an unfair and unnecessary prosecution because FWS is responding to public pressure to act but does not want to seek redress from a fellow federal agency, the U.S. Postal Service,” Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote to Fish and Wildlife Director Daniel Ashe.
“During my time as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, many agencies have failed to take action and the Justice Department has declined or failed to prosecute federal employees for offenses including: receiving thousands of dollars in impermissible gifts from lobbyists; watching pornography on government computers while on the job; operating private businesses from their offices; lying on official timecards for years; and spending outrageous sums of taxpayer dollars at Las Vegas conventions,” he wrote.
“When so many government workers are offered a pass, referring and prioritizing charges against a private citizen for incidental and relatively minor injuries to a non-endangered species – commissioned by a federal agency no less – appears nothing short of bureaucratic bullying.”
Issa’s letter noted the agency’s December decision to allow renewable energy producers lengthier permit periods under which they can “take” — kill, injure or disturb — bald and golden eagle populations.
By Fish and Wildlife’s own estimate, wind turbines cause a total of 33,000 bird deaths each year.