[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 159 (Friday, August 16, 2013)]
[Pages 50082-50083]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19939]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-NWRS-2013-0036; FXRS12610800000-134-FF08RSFC00]

South Farallon Islands Invasive House Mouse Eradication Project; 
Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, California; Environmental Impact 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for public comment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a 
proposed project to eradicate non-native, invasive house mice from the 
South Farallon Islands, part of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge 
off the coast of California. The draft EIS, which we prepared in 
accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 
describes the alternatives identified to address the problem of 
invasive house mice on the South Farallon Islands.

DATES: We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before 
September 30, 2013. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal 
eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES section, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.

ADDRESSES: Document Availability: You may obtain copies of the 
documents in the following places:
     Internet: http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS-
    [cir] San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
Headquarters, 1 Marshlands Road, Fremont, CA 94555.
    [cir] The following library:
    [ssquf] San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street, San 
Francisco, CA 94102.
    Submitting Comments: You may submit written comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R8-NWRS-2013-
0036, which is the docket number for this notice. Then, on the left 
side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the 
Notices link to locate this document and submit a comment.
     By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R8-NWRS-2013-0036; Division of 
Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 
N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We request that you send comments only by the methods described 
above. We will post all information received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section 
below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gerry McChesney, Refuge Manager, 510-
792-0222, ext. 222 (phone).



    In 2009, the Service completed a Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
(CCP) and Environmental Assessment/Finding of No Significant Impact to 
guide the management of the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) 
over a 15-year period (75 FR 5102, February 1, 2010). The wildlife 
management goal of the selected management alternative in the CCP is to 
protect, inventory, and monitor, as well as to restore to historic 
levels, breeding populations of 12 seabird species, 5 marine mammal 
species, and other native wildlife. One of the strategies identified to 
meet this goal is the eradication of the non-native, invasive house 
mouse (Mus musculus) from the South Farallon Islands, and the 
prevention of future human introduction of mice.
    We now propose to eradicate invasive house mice from the South 
Farallon Islands. The purpose of this project is to benefit native 
seabirds, amphibians, invertebrates, and plants, as well as to enhance 
ecosystem processes on the islands. The South Farallon Islands have 
sustained ecological damage over many decades from the presence of 
invasive mice. Eradicating house mice would eliminate the last 
remaining invasive vertebrate species on the Refuge, thereby enhancing 
the recovery of sensitive seabird populations on the islands.
    In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Farallon 
National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) as a preserve and breeding ground for 
marine birds under Executive Order 1043. The Refuge originally 
encompassed only the North and Middle Farallon Islands and Noonday 
Rock. In 1969 the Refuge was expanded to include the South Farallon 
Islands, and is still managed with the same basic purpose today. 
Several areas are designated wilderness as regulated by the Wilderness 
Act of 1964 (PL 88-577). Wilderness areas include all islands and 
islets in the Refuge except for Southeast Farallon Island. The isolated 
nature, varied and extensive habitats, and adjacent productive marine 
environment make the Farallon Islands an ideal breeding and resting 
location for wildlife, especially seabirds and marine mammals. The 
Refuge comprises the largest continental U.S. seabird breeding colony 
south of Alaska, and supports the world's largest breeding colonies of 
ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa), Brandt's cormorant 
(Phalacrocorax penicillatus), and western gull (Larus occidentalis). 
Prior to the introduction of non-native mammals, the wildlife of the 
Farallon Islands were nearly devoid of land-based predatory threats. 
Introduced European rabbits and cats, which were later removed, and 
mice, which remain on the South Farallon Islands today, have had 
noticeable negative impacts on native species.
    Invasive house mice directly and indirectly cause negative impacts 
to the populations of small, crevice-nesting seabirds on the South 
Farallones, particularly storm-petrels. In order to reduce this impact, 
the Service has identified mouse eradication as a critical step in 
fulfilling its main purpose to protect and restore the native ecosystem 
of the South Farallon Islands. Eradicating mice would increase the 
survivorship and local population sizes of at least two seabird 
species, the ashy storm-petrel and Leach's storm-petrel (Oceanodroma 
leucorhoa). The eradication project would also benefit native 
amphibians, invertebrates, and plants, including the endemic Farallon 
arboreal salamander (Aneides lugubris farallonensis) and endemic 
Farallon camel cricket (Farallonophilus cavernicolus).


    In 2011, we published a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an EIS 
(76 FR 20706, April 13, 2011). We then developed a range of 
alternatives to focus on the primary issues identified by resource 
specialists within the Service, national and international experts in 
island rodent eradication, public comments received after the NOI to 
prepare the EIS was released, and government regulatory agencies that 
have a stake in the decision-making process. To decide which action 
alternatives to fully analyze in the Draft EIS, we used a structured 
decision-making approach, by which we assessed and compared a total of 
49 potential mouse-removal methods. The

[[Page 50083]]

development of alternatives was also informed by Service policies 
regarding the use of pesticides and the minimum requirements analysis 
process under the Wilderness Act. Three alternatives are analyzed in 
the draft EIS:

Alternative 1: No-Action Alternative

    Under this alternative, we would not take any action to eradicate 
mice from the South Farallon Islands, maintaining the status quo. 
Native species would continue to be impacted by invasive mice. However, 
other ongoing invasive species management programs on the South 
Farallones would continue based on previous agency decisions. Low-
intensity mouse control, primarily snap-trapping, currently occurs 
within and around the residences and other buildings on Southeast 
Farallon Island. These localized control efforts would continue under 
the no-action alternative, but the mouse population on the rest of the 
South Farallones would not be subject to control efforts.
    Under this alternative, we would also continue management 
activities focused on protecting storm-petrels and their habitat on the 
islands, including invasive plant control and nest habitat 
construction. The current biosecurity measures would likely continue 
under this alternative, which could leave the Farallones at risk of 
additional invasions by non-native animal species.

Alternative 2: Eradicate invasive house mice from the South Farallon 
Islands by aerial broadcast of Brodifacoum 25D-Conservation as the 
primary method of bait delivery

    Under this alternative, the project area would be treated with the 
rodenticide Brodifacoum 25D Conservation. The primary delivery of the 
bait would be through two aerial applications, with hand baiting and 
bait stations as a secondary means of bait delivery in selected areas. 
Bait applications would be separated by 10 to 21 days. The applications 
would take place between October and December. A comprehensive gull 
hazing program would be implemented as part of the action to minimize 
the exposure of gulls to bait. Mitigation measures in this alternative 
include minimizing activities in wilderness areas, protecting cultural 
resources, minimizing wildlife disturbances, minimizing bait drift into 
the marine environment, raptor capture and hold/relocation, use of bait 
stations in certain areas with high numbers of roosting gulls, and the 
removal of carcasses of mice and non-target species, and covering the 
water catchment pad.
    Monitoring of operational, mitigation, and ecosystem restoration 
objectives would be conducted before, during, and after the proposed 
mouse eradication. In addition, in order to mitigate the risk of future 
rodent reinvasion, a biosecurity plan would be implemented prior to the 
proposed eradication to prevent and detect future rodent incursions.

Alternative 3: Eradicate invasive house mice from the South Farallon 
Islands by aerial broadcast of Diphacinone D50-Conservation as the 
primary method of bait delivery

    Under this alternative, the project area would be treated with the 
rodenticide Diphacinone D50-Conservation. Alternative 3 differs from 
Alternative 2 in the type of rodenticide used for the proposed 
eradication and the number of applications that may be necessary. A 
comprehensive gull hazing program would be implemented to minimize the 
exposure of gulls to bait. Alternative 3 would include the same 
mitigation measures described under Alternative 2, as well as the 
monitoring program and the biosecurity plan. Under Alternative 3, 
Diphacinone D50-Conservation would be broadcast primarily by 
helicopter, with some hand baiting and bait stations used in selected 
areas. However, under Alternative 3 we would need to broadcast a 
portion of the total amount of bait required during up to three or four 
applications, each separated by approximately 7 days. The number of 
applications will be determined partly by mouse uptake of bait and 
degradation of bait by rainfall. The bait application would take place 
between October and December.

NEPA Compliance

    We are conducting environmental review in accordance with the 
requirements of NEPA, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), its 
implementing regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other applicable 
regulations, and our procedures for compliance with those regulations. 
The draft EIS discusses the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of 
the alternatives on biological resources, cultural resources, 
wilderness, water quality, and other environmental resources. Measures 
to minimize adverse environmental effects are identified and discussed 
in the draft EIS.

Public Comments

    We request that you send comments only by one of the methods 
described in ADDRESSES. If you submit a comment via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire comment--including any personal 
identifying information--will be posted on the Web site. We will post 
all hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov as well. If you 
submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying 
information, you may request at the top of your document that we 
withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so. Comments and materials we 
receive, as well as documents associated with the notice, will be 
available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket 
No. FWS-R8-NWRS-2013-0036.
    We will hold one public meeting to solicit comments on the draft 
EIS. We will mail a separate announcement to the public with the exact 
date, time, and location of the public meeting. We will also post the 
time, date, and location of the public meeting on our refuge Web site 
at: www.fws.gov/refuge/farallon. We will accept both oral and written 
comments at the public meeting.

Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-19939 Filed 8-15-13; 8:45 am]