August 11, 2003
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the management of double-crested cormorants in the United States. The document analyzes various options for managing rapidly growing cormorant populations to reduce resource conflicts. Cormorants have been documented to have negative impacts on resources such as commercial aquaculture, recreational fisheries, vegetation, and the habitat of other colonially-nesting birds. The preferred alternative in this EIS will give local authorities a more active role in double-crested cormorant management. Next week, the Environmental Protection Agency will publish a mandatory notice in the Federal Register, marking the beginning of a 30-day comment period on the EIS. After this period, the Service will publish a final rule and record of decision.
The EIS evaluates six management alternatives including continuing current management practices, implementing only non-lethal management techniques, issuing depredation permits with more flexible criteria, issuing a “public resource depredation order” to address public resource conflicts, reducing regional cormorant populations, and establishing frameworks for a cormorant hunting season. The Service believes a “public resource depredation order”will be the most effective alternative.
“Since populations are increasing and cormorants have been shown to cause localized impacts to natural and economic resources, we believe local management is the best approach to reduce conflicts,” said Service Director Steve Williams.
Under the EIS’s preferred alternative, a new “public resource
depredation order” will authorize States, Tribes, and U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to manage and control double-crested
cormorants to protect public resources (fish, wildlife, plants, and
habitats). The order applies to 24 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida,
Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).
Agencies acting under the order must have landowner permission, may
not adversely affect other migratory bird species or threatened and
endangered species and must satisfy annual reporting and evaluation
requirements. The Service will ensure the long-term conservation of
cormorant populations through annual assessments of agency reports and
through regular population monitoring.
Cormorants have been federally
protected under the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act since 1972 after their populations dropped
precipitously due to factors such as the use of the pesticide DDT. Today,
the population is at historic highs in many areas due in large part
to the presence of ample food in their summer and winter ranges, federal
and state protection, and reduced contaminant levels. The total estimated
population of double-crested cormorants in North America is approximately
2 million birds.
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
542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other
special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries,
64 fishery resources 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 Aid program, which distributes hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment
to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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Atlanta, GA 30345