July 1, 2013
Proposal Seeks to Improve the Listing Process for Injurious Species, Says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A quick response to preventing harmful species from entering the United States and crossing state lines is the intent behind today’s proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to refine the environmental review process when listing species as injurious wildlife.
The Service is proposing an exemption known as a “categorical exclusion” that would generally preclude the need for preparing an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the action of listing species as “injurious.” Injurious species can spread quickly across the U.S. landscape, potentially harming native wildlife and their habitats as well as human activities. For example, the injurious zebra mussel, a tiny but prolific invertebrate from Eurasia, can clog water intake cooling pipes, shutting down some electric power plants in the United States.
Under federal law (the Lacey Act), the Service can “prescribe by regulation those wild mammals, wild birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles, and the offspring or eggs of any of the aforementioned, that are injurious to human beings, or to the interests of agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, or to the wildlife or wildlife resources of the United States.” A species designated as injurious would then be prohibited from being imported into the United States or transported across state lines. Currently, the listing process can take several years because it includes many steps, in particular a review under NEPA that includes a rather lengthy environmental assessment. During this time, a species that could have been stopped entering the United States or a crossing a state line could become irreversibly invasive.
All the environmental assessments the Service has prepared to date have concluded that the action of listing the species as injurious would have no significant effect on the human and natural environment. This is because the listing action helps keep species out of the United States that are not naturally found here or helps prevent the spread of injurious wildlife into new areas within the country where they are not naturally found, thus having no effect on the environment.
In a notice appearing in today’s Federal Register, the Service proposes a process that would generally require an abbreviated review for the regulatory action that places a species on a federal list of injurious species. This categorical exclusion, if finalized, will help streamline the process intended to keep out injurious species or to prevent their spread across state lines.
The Federal Register notice opens a 30-day public comment period ending on July 31, 2013. The notice can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-07-01/pdf/2013-15707.pdf . You can find more information on this categorical exclusion at http://www.fws.gov/injuriouswildlife/catex.html .
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