U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228
Office of Public Affairs
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240
26 July 2007 Contact: Nicholas Throckmorton, 202/208-5636
Final Environmental Impact Statement for Light Goose Harvest Completed
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released a Final Environmental Impact Statement that examines five alternatives for managing light goose populations. The preferred management alternative would allow the use of expanded hunting methods and implementation of a conservation order already allowed by some State wildlife agencies in the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Publication in the Federal Register began a 30 day public inspection period for the impact statement.
Following the public inspection period, the Service will publish a Record of Decision in the Federal Register announcing which management alternative will be implemented. The Record of Decision will be accompanied by a final rule that implements the regulation governing the approved management strategy.
During the last few decades, populations of greater and lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese have grown to historic highs. Collectively called “light geese,” they have denuded their fragile arctic tundra breeding habitat to a point that many areas will take decades to recover. Birds are showing lower-than-normal body size and suffering a decrease in gosling survival due to habitat degradation. Populations of other arctic species, such as the stilt sandpiper and yellow rail, are also declining due to the damage to their breeding habitat caused by overabundant light geese.
After an extensive study of arctic light goose populations completed in 1997 by the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group, and in the wake of dozens of scientific papers describing the problem, the Service implemented two rules in 1999 designed to give 24 southern and Midwestern States the opportunity to reduce mid-continent light goose populations. The rules were withdrawn after a court challenge but Congress passed legislation in 1999 that reinstated their provisions while the Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement. The legislation allowed for the use of "unplugged" shotguns”, electronic calls and expansion of shooting hours to one-half hour after sunset while all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons are closed. In addition, a conservation order was created allowing take of light geese outside of traditional hunting seasons. The Service published a draft EIS for public comment in 2001.
The current breeding population of mid-continent light geese exceeds 5 million birds. This is an increase of more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s and more than 5 percent per year. The management goal for mid-continent light geese is to reduce the population by 50 percent. Since implementation of the conservation order in 1999, the harvest of light geese has more than doubled but the population goal has yet to be attained.
The document is available on the internet at <http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/>.