[Federal Register: August 11, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 154)]
[Page 47603-47604]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

RIN 1018-AI39

Notice of Availability; Final Environmental Impact Statement on 
Double-Crested Cormorant Management

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of Final Environmental Impact Statement 
on double-crested cormorant management.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public of the availability of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on double-crested cormorant 
management. The FEIS follows publication of a Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement (DEIS) and a proposed rule, each of which had 
extensive public comment periods. The FEIS analyzes the direct, 
indirect, and cumulative impacts related to double-crested cormorant 
management and provides the public with responses to comments received 
on the DEIS.

DATES: The period of availability for public review for the FEIS ends 
30 days following publication of the EPA notice of availability in the 
Federal Register. After that date, we will publish a final rule and 
Record of Decision.

ADDRESSES: You can obtain a copy of the FEIS by writing to the Division 
of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MBSP-4107, 
Arlington, VA 22203; by emailing us at cormorants@fws.gov; or by 
calling us at 703/358-1714. We will also post the FEIS on our Web site 
at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/cormorant/cormorant.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Millsap, Chief, Division of 
Migratory Bird Management, at 703/358-1714.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On November 8, 1999, we published a notice 
in the Federal Register (64 FR 60826) announcing our intent to prepare, 
in cooperation with the Wildlife Services program of the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 
(APHIS/WS), an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to address 
``impacts caused by population and range expansion of the double-
crested cormorant [DCCO] in the contiguous United States.'' The notice 
of intent also marked the beginning of a public scoping period. The 
purpose of scoping, which included 12 public meetings, was to identify 
significant issues to be addressed in the EIS. More than 900 people 
attended the public scoping meetings, with 239 providing oral comments, 
and over 1,450 people submitted written comments. Comments fell into 
two categories: issues of concern and suggested management options. 
Issues of concern included impacts on sport fishing, local economies, 
aquaculture/commercial fishing, bird species, ecological balance, 
vegetation, human health and safety, and private property. Management 
options that were suggested included controlling DCCO populations, not 
managing DCCOs, removing DCCOs from the protection of the Migratory 
Bird Treaty Act, hunting, focusing on non-lethal control, allowing 
State management of DCCOs, changing the permit policy, oiling eggs, 
giving APHIS/WS more authority, basing decisions on the best science, 
using population objectives, and increasing education efforts. The 
scoping period ended on June 16, 2000.
    On December 3, 2001, we published a notice in the Federal Register 
announcing the availability of the DEIS for public review (66 FR 
60218). This was followed by a 100-day public comment period, which 
included 10 public meetings. The DEIS analyzed the predicted 
environmental impacts of six management alternatives for addressing 
problems associated with increasing DCCO populations. These management 
alternatives were: (1) No Action, or continue current cormorant 
management practices (Alternative A); (2) implement only nonlethal 
management techniques (Alternative B); (3) expand current cormorant 
damage management practices (Alternative C); (4) establish a new 
depredation order to address public resource conflicts (Alternative D 
-- proposed action); (5) reduce regional cormorant populations 
(Alternative E); and (6) establish frameworks for a cormorant hunting 
season (Alternative F). The biological and socioeconomic resource 
categories evaluated in relation to each alternative included DCCO 
populations, fish, other birds, vegetation, federally listed threatened 
and endangered species, water quality and human health, economic 
impacts (aquaculture and recreational fishing economies), fish 
hatcheries and environmental justice, property losses, and existence 
and aesthetic values.
    We received 994 letters, faxes, and email messages commenting on 
the DEIS. Of the 994 letters received, 764 of these stated a preference 
for a specific alternative. These results were: 32.2 percent chose 
Alternative D (proposed action) as the best alternative; 25.8 percent 
chose Alternative E (population reduction); 16.9 percent chose 
Alternative A (No Action); 11.8 percent chose Alternative F (hunting); 
11.8 percent chose Alternative B (non-lethal methods); and <1 percent 
chose Alternative C (increased local damage control). Our responses to 
significant comments can be found in Chapter 7 of the FEIS.
    In response to concerns about the public resource depredation order 
being too broad in scope, we made two changes to the order which were 
subsequently described in a proposed rule published in the Federal 
Register on March 17, 2003 (68 FR 12653). These changes limit the 
public resource depredation order to 24 States (rather than the 48 
originally proposed in the DEIS) and limit its applicability to land 
and freshwater (not saltwater). The 24 States were chosen based on 
locations of significant numbers of wintering, migrating, or breeding 
birds from the Interior and Southern DCCO populations. Saltwater areas 
were excluded because impacts have not been documented there.
    Additionally, we changed the order so that it applied only to State 
fish and wildlife agencies, federally recognized Tribes, and APHIS/WS, 
and we expanded allowable control techniques to include egg oiling, egg 
and nest destruction, cervical dislocation, shooting, and 
CO2 asphyxiation. APHIS/WS was added since it is the chief 
Federal wildlife damage control agency and has considerable expertise 
in managing DCCOs. Control techniques were selected to include all 
effective and humane techniques. As stated in the proposed rule, these 
modifications do not constitute significant changes to the DEIS 
analysis and are addressed, as needed, in the FEIS.
    Following publication of the proposed rule, the public had 60 days 
to provide comments. This comment period led to additional 
modifications to the proposed action, including the addition

[[Page 47604]]

of another month for allowing roost control under the aquaculture 
depredation order (October to April). In compliance with Section 7 of 
the Endangered Species Act, we completed informal consultation and, 
subsequently, added conservation measures to protect bald eagles, wood 
storks, piping plovers, and interior least terns. These changes are 
considered in the FEIS analysis and will be discussed in greater detail 
in the final rule.
    Like the DEIS, the FEIS analyzed the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative environmental impacts we predict would be associated with 
six DCCO management alternatives. The first chart below summarizes the 
impacts of DCCOs under the No Action alternative (i.e., the status 
quo), as detailed in the FEIS. The second chart below summarizes 
effects on the FEIS resource categories that we predicted would occur 
as a result of implementing the proposed action.

   Alternative A: no action
Other bird populations.......  Suspected conflicts and in some cases
                                confirmed conflicts associated with
                                habitat destruction and nest site
                                competition; significance localized.
Fish.........................  Suspected and in some cases confirmed
                                conflicts; significance localized.
Vegetation/habitat...........  Destruction of vegetation confirmed;
                                significance localized.
Threatened and endangered      Suspected but not confirmed conflicts
 species.                       with Atlantic salmon and various Pacific
                                salmonids; very likely, however, that
                                other factors are more important than
                                DCCOs in the decline of salmon.
Water quality and human        Accused of being a source of groundwater
 health.                        contamination but this is not confirmed;
                                can cause direct, open water
Aquaculture..................  Confirmed economic impacts on aquaculture
Recreational fishing           Correlative evidence that DCCOs are a
 economies.                     factor behind economic declines in
                                communities dependent on recreational
                                fishing; not confirmed.
Fish hatcheries and justice..  Confirmed depredation of hatchery stock
                                with significance localized; effect on
                                ability to provide hatchery fish to low-
                                income groups not confirmed.
Property losses..............  Confirmed conflicts with some property
                                interests; significance localized.
Existence and aesthetic        Effect on values differs with
 values.                        perspective; DCCOs may appeal to some
                                individual's sense of aesthetics, while
                                not appealing to others.

   Proposed action alternative D: public
        resource depredation order
DCCO populations..........................  No significant impact to
                                             regional or continental
                                             populations; estimated
                                             annual take of 159,635.
Other bird populations....................  Local disturbances likely,
                                             but can be managed to avoid
                                             significant impacts; will
                                             help overall.
Fish......................................  Will help reduce predation
                                             in localized situations.
Vegetation/habitat........................  Will help reduce impacts in
                                             localized situations.
Threatened and endangered species.........  No adverse impacts with
                                             implementation of
                                             conservation measures.
Water quality and human health............  Will help reduce impacts in
                                             localized situations
Aquaculture...............................  Will help reduce
Recreational fishing economies............  Not likely to benefit.
Fish hatcheries and environmental justice.  Will help reduce
Property losses...........................  Could help to indirectly
                                             reduce losses.
Existence and aesthetic values............  Effects on values differs
                                             with perspective.

    Dated: August 1, 2003.
Steve Williams,
[FR Doc. 03-20376 Filed 8-8-03; 8:45 am]