[Federal Register: April 14, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 73)]
[Page 20194-20195]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Migratory Bird Permits; Environmental Impact Statement on Double-
Crested Cormorant Management

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of meetings.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) invites 
public participation in the scoping process for an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) on the management of the double-crested cormorant in 
the United States. We are preparing this EIS under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 
The EIS will consider a range of management alternatives to address 
population expansion of the double-crested cormorant. This notice 
describes issues of concern and possible management alternatives; 
invites further public participation in the scoping process; identifies 
the locations, dates, and times of public scoping meetings; and 
identifies the Service official to whom comments may be directed.

DATES: Written comments regarding EIS scoping should be submitted by 
June 16, 2000, to the address below. Dates and times for the ten public 
scoping hearings are listed in the table under SUPPLEMENTARY 

ADDRESSES: Written comments on the proposed EIS and management plan can 
be sent by the following two methods:
    (1) by mail to Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Room 634, Arlington, VA 
22203; or
    (2) by email to cormorant__eis@fws.gov.
The public may inspect comments during normal business hours in Room 
634, Arlington Square Building, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA. 
The scoping hearings will be held at the locations listed in the table 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon Andrew, Office of Migratory Bird 
Management, (703) 358-1714.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On November 8, 1999, we published a notice 
of intent (64 FR 60826) to prepare an EIS and accompanying national 
management plan to address impacts caused by population and range 
expansion of the double-crested cormorant in the contiguous United 
States. This action is in response to increasing reports of resource 
conflicts between humans and cormorants. In addition to encouraging 
public input, we are involving natural resource agencies with 
jurisdiction or expertise in this issue, including U.S. Department of 
Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife 
Services, a cooperating agency in the development of the EIS, and 
concerned State agencies, especially those of Michigan, Vermont, 
Minnesota, Texas, and New York, who will participate through the 
International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Double-Crested Cormorant Populations

    The double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), a species 
native to the 48 contiguous United States and Alaska, has been 
federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1972. This 
protected status, in addition to decreased levels of organochlorine 
contaminants in the environment and increased food availability, has 
contributed to dramatic population increases of this large, fish-eating 
waterbird over the past two-and-a-half decades.
    The size of the North American breeding population has been 
estimated at about 372,000 pairs, or 852 colonies (Tyson et al. 1997). 
Hatch (1995) estimated a total population of 1 million-2 million birds. 
The double-crested cormorant breeds widely throughout much of the 
coastal and interior portions of the United States. It has been found 
breeding in 46 of the 48 contiguous United States. However, it is not 
uniformly distributed across this broad area. Greater than 60 percent 
of the breeding birds belong to the Interior Population. This is the 
fastest growing of the six major North American breeding populations 
(Hatch 1995), which includes the Great Lakes basin and northern prairie 
States and provinces. From 1970-1991, in the American and Canadian 
Great Lakes region, the number of double-crested cormorant nests 
increased from 89 to 38,000, an average growth rate of 29 percent 
(Weseloh et al. 1995). The contiguous United States breeding population 
increased at an average rate of 6.1 percent per year from 1966-1994 
(Sauer et al. 1996).
    In many parts of the United States, increased cormorant populations 
have led to conflicts with humans and various natural resources. Such 
conflicts include concerns over impacts to local economies, human 
health, the aquacultural industry, vegetation, fish populations, and 
bird populations. Management actions that we presently permit include 
population monitoring and research; information and education efforts; 
harassment; fitting of exclusionary devices at aquacultural facilities; 
issuance of depredation permits to take cormorants, their nests, or 
their eggs; and a Depredation Order (63 FR 10560) for taking birds at 
aquacultural facilities in 13 States. The preparation of an EIS is 
necessary in order to analyze alternative management strategies in the 
development of a national cormorant management plan that will more 
effectively deal with conflicts.


    As stated in the notice of intent, we will develop management 
alternatives to be considered in the EIS after the scoping process, 
based on the Service's mission and the comments received during 
scoping. As of March 3, 2000, we had received 205 written comments in 
response to our notice of intent. From those letters, the following 
management options were identified, in order of frequency:
    1. Control/reduce cormorant populations.
    2. Protect cormorants.
    3. Initiate a hunting season on cormorants.
    4. Remove cormorants from protection of Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    5. Oil cormorant eggs.
    6. Use population objectives in cormorant management.
    7. Do not develop a management plan as one is not needed.
    8. Expand Depredation Order to other States.
    9. Let States manage cormorants.
    10. Change depredation permit policy.
    11. Emphasize non-lethal control.
    12. Give USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services more authority.
    We are soliciting your comments on these options and any other 
issues, options, and impacts to be addressed in the EIS.

Issue Resolution and Environmental Review

    After completion of the scoping process for the EIS, we will 
prepare a discussion of the potential effects, by alternative, which 
will include, but will not be limited to, the following areas: (1) 
Double-crested cormorant populations;

[[Page 20195]]

(2) other bird populations; (3) native and sport fish populations; (4) 
vegetation; (5) aquacultural stock; and (6) socioeconomic factors.
    We will conduct an environmental review of the management 
alternatives in accordance with the requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act, as appropriate. We are furnishing this notice 
in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.7 to obtain suggestions and information 
from other agencies, tribes, and the public on the scope of issues to 
be addressed in the EIS.

Public Scoping Meetings

    Ten public scoping meetings will be held at the locations and times 
listed below:

                Date                          City                  Location                     Time
April 25, 2000.....................  Washington, DC........  Department of Interior  10 am.
                                                              Building Auditorium,
                                                              1849 C Street, NW.
April 27, 2000.....................  Portland, Oregon......  Red Lion Hotel          7 pm.
                                                              Coliseum, 1225 N.
                                                              Thunderbird Way.
May 9, 2000........................  Burlington, Vermont...  Clarion Hotel and       7 pm.
                                                              Convention Center,
                                                              1117 Williston Road.
May 10, 2000.......................  Watertown, New York...  Dulles State Office     7 pm.
                                                              Building Auditorium,
                                                              317 Washington Street.
May 11, 2000.......................  Syracuse, New York....  Carousel Center Mall,   7 pm.
                                                              Skydeck, Sixth Level,
                                                              9090 Carousel Center
May 15, 2000.......................  Green Bay, Wisconsin..  Ramada Inn, 2750        7 pm.
                                                              Ramada Way.
May 16, 2000.......................  Mackinaw City,          Mackinaw City Public    7 pm.
                                      Michigan.               Schools, Gymnasium,
                                                              609 West Central.
May 17, 2000.......................  Hauppage, New York....  Windham Watch Hotel,    7 pm.
                                                              1717 Vanderbilt Motor
May 22, 2000.......................  Jackson, Mississippi..  Primos Northgate,       7 pm.
                                                              Convention Hall B,
                                                              4330 N. State Street.
May 23, 2000.......................  Athens, Texas.........  Texas Freshwater        7 pm.
                                                              Fisheries Center,
                                                              5550 Farm Market Road

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited is available from the 
Office of Migratory Bird Management (see ADDRESSES section).
    Authorship: The primary author of this notice is Shauna Hanisch, 
Office of Migratory Bird Management.

    Dated: April 7, 2000.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 00-9281 Filed 4-13-00; 8:45 am]