[Federal Register: August 7, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 152)]
[Page 47084-47085]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Finding of No Significant Impact and Final Environmental 
Assessment for the Management of Mute Swans in the Atlantic Flyway

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has prepared a 
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) and a Final Environmental 
Assessment (FEA) for the management of mute swans (Cygnus olor) in the 
Atlantic Flyway. The specific Service action under the preferred 
alternative of integrated population management will be the issuance of 
migratory bird depredation permits authorizing the take of up to 3,100 
mute swans annually. The Service can also issue depredation permits 
that authorize egg addling, pinioning (i.e., amputation of the outer 
wing, a commonly used method of flight restraint in waterfowl) and 
sterilization, and live-trapping and relocation.

ADDRESSES: The Record of Decision--including FONSI, FEA, and related 
documents--will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the following location: U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4501 North 
Fairfax Drive, Room 4000, Arlington, Virginia. These documents can also 
be viewed on the Service's Web site at http:/migratorybirds.fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John L. Trapp, (703) 358-1965.


Description of Action

    The EA on which the FONSI is based was made available to the public 
on July 2, 2003 (68 FR 39593) for a 15-day public comment period. We 
received comments from 13 State wildlife agencies, 53 organizations, 
and approximately 2,620 individuals. The Service's preferred 
alternative was supported by 13 State wildlife agencies; 43 
organizations dedicated to bird conservation or science, wildlife 
conservation, and wildlife management; and 24 individuals. The 
Service's proposed action was opposed by 10 animal-rights organizations 
and at least 2,589 individuals who believe that lethal take (i.e., 
shooting) is inhumane and that the proposed action is not supported by 
the available scientific evidence. More than 95 percent of the 
individual responses were prompted by Web-based action-alert form 
    The specific action to be undertaken by the Service will be the 
issuance of migratory bird depredation permits to State wildlife 
agencies, the Wildlife Services program of the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, national 
wildlife refuges, and others to take mute swans in the Atlantic Flyway, 
in accordance with 50 CFR 21.41 and the State-specific take guidelines 
presented in the FEA, to allow for the

[[Page 47085]]

integrated population management of mute swans. Each permit application 
will be reviewed to ensure that the planned activity meets the goals 
and objectives of the Atlantic Flyway Mute Swan Management Plan 
(Atlantic Flyway Council 2003) as specified in the FEA, that the 
proposed take does not exceed the Service's State-specific take 
guidelines, and that the cumulative impacts will not irreparably harm 
the Flyway-wide population. The State-specific take guidelines will be 
reviewed annually and revised as necessary to ensure that Statewide and 
Flyway-wide populations are not reduced below target levels.

Finding of No Significant Impact

    The following constitutes the full text of the FONSI signed by the 
Service Director:
    ``The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed issuing migratory 
bird depredation permits authorizing the take of up to 3,100 feral mute 
swans (Cygnus olor) annually in the Atlantic Flyway for the next ten 
years. The primary goal in implementing this action is to minimize 
environmental damages attributed to mute swans in a feasible and cost-
effective way, consistent with the Service's responsibility to manage 
and conserve mute swan populations under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 
and conventions and other applicable law. A secondary goal--and the 
most effective means for achieving the first goal--is to reduce 
populations of feral mute swans to pre-1986 levels.
    The need for the action stems from documented scientific evidence 
of the negative impacts that a growing population of mute swans is 
having on wetland habitats and native species of fish and wildlife, the 
threats that mute swans pose to human health and safety, and the damage 
that they can cause to commercial agricultural crops. The action will 
support implementation of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy on 
management of mute swans on national wildlife refuges, and 
implementation of the Atlantic Flyway Mute Swan Management Plan.
    The proposed action (Integrated Population Management) was selected 
    (1) It provides Federal, State, and other wildlife managers with 
the broadest array of tools and management flexibility for dealing with 
local, regional, Statewide, and Flyway-wide problems caused by an 
expanding population of mute swans.
    (2) Lethal take of adult birds, as authorized by the proposed 
action, has been shown to be the only effective method for reducing 
populations of long-lived birds such as the mute swan, and hence is the 
only effective method for reducing the detrimental impacts of mute 
swans on wetland habitats, native fish and wildlife species, and human 
    (3) Egg addling--while a useful technique for arresting 
productivity and stabilizing populations and thus an important 
supplement to lethal take--is not an effective technique, in and of 
itself, for reducing populations.
    (4) Non-lethal techniques such as harassment, exclusionary devices, 
translocation, and behavioral modification can be effective for dealing 
with nuisance problems caused by individual swans, or small groups of 
swans, but are not substitutes for population reduction.
    The proposed management action will not have significant 
environmental impacts because:
    (1) The mute swan will not be extirpated in the Atlantic Flyway, 
nor in any of the eight States that comprise the ``core'' of its range 
in the Atlantic Flyway.
    (2) A 67 percent reduction in the number of mute swans will return 
the Atlantic Flyway population to a pre-1986 level of about 4,675 
birds. Mute swans survived and thrived in the Atlantic Flyway at much 
smaller populations than this for more than 80 years.
    (3) The removal of about 8,000 birds from the Atlantic Flyway will 
have no effect on the viability of U.S., North American, or worldwide 
populations of the mute swan, which number approximately 21,400, 
23,000, and 614,000 birds, respectively.
    (4) Pinioned mute swans of domestic origin held in captive or semi-
captive conditions on private properties or in municipal parks will not 
be affected by the proposed action, and will remain available for 
viewing and enjoyment.
    (5) Reduction of mute swan numbers consistent with the Atlantic 
Flyway management plan will prevent further damage to (a) submerged 
aquatic vegetation (SAV) and SAV restoration efforts, (b) populations 
of other fish and wildlife (including those of threatened and 
endangered species) and their habitats, (c) commercially and 
recreationally valuable shellfish and finfish, and (d) recreationally 
important birds (especially waterfowl), and will to some degree offset 
the damage that has been done by the relatively recent increase in mute 
swan numbers. Therefore, this action will merely help to maintain the 
long-term status quo.
    (6) The potential risk of emotional trauma and physical injury to 
humans because of attacks initiated by territorial mute swans in 
coastal habitats frequented by people seeking outdoor recreational 
opportunities will be minimized.
    (7) Opportunities for people to view and enjoy feral mute swans in 
a wild state will be reduced but not eliminated in any of the eight 
States that comprise the ``core'' of its range in the Atlantic Flyway, 
and thus such opportunities remain readily available to people willing 
to make a reasonable effort to seek them out.
    Based on a review and evaluation of the attached Environmental 
Assessment entitled Management of Mute Swans in the Atlantic Flyway, I 
have determined that the issuance of migratory bird depredation permits 
authorizing the lethal take of up to 3,100 mute swans annually, plus 
addling of eggs in up to 1,750 nests, does not constitute a major 
Federal Action that would significantly affect the quality of the human 
environment within the meaning of Section 102(2)(c) of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Therefore, the preparation of an 
Environmental Impact Statement is not required.''

    Dated: August 1, 2003.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 03-20281 Filed 8-5-03; 2:51 pm]