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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday announced the release of a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that outlines various alternatives to reduce, manage, and control resident Canada goose populations and reduce related damages. Of the alternatives, the Services proposed action will allow state wildlife agencies, landowners, and airports more flexibility in controlling resident Canada goose populations.
The Service took this action in response to widespread concern about overabundant populations of resident Canada geese, which can damage property, agriculture, and natural resources in parks and other open areas near water.
" Resident Canada geese populations have increased dramatically over the past 15 years," said Service Director H. Dale Hall. "These high population levels have been shown to cause problems for natural and economic resources, and we believe increased local management with national oversight is the best approach to reduce conflicts and bring the population under control. Through this approach, the Service will continue working to expand and protect hunting opportunity while providing airports, private landowners, and State and local officials the tools they need to address resident Canada goose issues."
" Resident Canada goose management is particularly challenging because of the diversity of societys perspectives regarding the year-round presence of these birds, but the growth of these resident populations causes problems that compel population management," said John Cooper, president of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. "The Service worked closely with the state fish and wildlife agencies in the development of the strategies reflected in the rule to provide a full suite of options to the states to manage resident populations. We sincerely appreciate that close engagement by both the Service and the state fish and wildlife agencies and look forward to continued close cooperation with the Service."
During the last ten years, the resident Canada goose population in the Atlantic flyway has increased an average of 1 percent per year to more than 1 million birds. The Mississippi flyway has seen a growth of 5 percent per year to 1.6 million birds.
The preferred alternative in this FEIS consists of three main program components. The first component creates four specific control and depredation orders for airports, landowners, agricultural producers and public health officials. These orders would be targeted to address resident Canada goose depredation, damage and conflict management. Presently, state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies or their authorized agents, such as the U.S. Department of Agricultures Wildlife Services division, need a federal permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service to control resident Canada geese where they are causing conflicts with public resources. These new orders will allow take of resident Canada geese without a federal permit provided agencies fulfill certain reporting and monitoring requirements.
The second component consists of expanded hunting methods and opportunities and would be targeted to increase the sport harvest of resident Canada geese. Under this component, States could choose to expand shooting hours and allow hunters the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns.
The third component consist of a new regulation authorizing a resident Canada goose population control program, or Management Take. Under Management Take, the take of resident Canada geese outside the existing sport hunting seasons (September 1 to March 10) would be authorized and would enable States to authorize a harvest of resident Canada geese during the August 1 through August 31 period. These dates are important because wild migratory Canada geese have not arrived from the breeding grounds in Alaska and Canada.
The agricultural depredation order, the expanded hunting opportunity and the Management Take component of the FEIS will not include Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Utah and parts of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. Only state wildlife agencies and tribal entities in the Atlantic, Central, and Mississippi Flyway could implement these components for resident Canada geese. The Pacific Flyway requested these states not be included because they have fewer issues with resident Canada geese. For agricultural issues, states in the Pacific Flyway will continue to apply for federal permits.
The Service received more than 2,900 submitted written comments on the 2002 draft EIS and more than 400 people attended 11 public meetings across the country. Written comments were received from 2,657 private individuals, 33 state wildlife resource agencies, 37 non-governmental organizations, 29 local governments, 5 federal/state legislators, 4 flyway councils, 4 federal agencies, 3 tribes, 3 businesses, and 2 state agricultural agencies.
Based on comments on the draft EIS, the Service modified the preferred alternative by removing some areas from some components of the program (Pacific Flyway States), adding some affected publics (airports), and changing some of the program administration (state administration to federal administration).
The final Environmental Impact Statement will be available Friday, November 18, at <http://migratorybirds.fws.gov>. The Service intends to issue a Record of Decision and final rule on the issue after the 30-day public inspection period on the FEIS.
For the most part, resident Canada geese generally stay in the same area or migrate only short distances. There is no evidence that resident Canada geese breed with migratory Canada geese that nest in northern Canada and Alaska. The rapid rise of resident Canada geese populations has been attributed to a number of factors. Key among these is that most resident Canada geese live in temperate climates with relatively stable breeding habitat conditions. They tolerate human and other disturbances, have a relative abundance of habitat such as mowed grass and waterways, and fly relatively short distances for winter compared with migratory Canada goose populations. The virtual absence of waterfowl hunting and natural predators in urban areas provides additional protection to those portions of the resident population.
Expansion of existing annual hunting season and the issuance of control permits have all been used to reduce resident goose numbers with varying degrees of success. While these approaches have provided relief in some areas, they have not completely addressed the issues.
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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