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Ducks with green heads in a flooded agriculture field feeding on corn with thousands more ducks flying overhead.
Information icon Mallards fueling for their migration in a cooperative agriculture field. Photo by USFWS.

Public input requested on environmental assessment for genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges in the Southeastern United States

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has prepared a draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the potential use of genetically engineered crops (GECs) on national wildlife refuges in the southeastern United States.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, the public lands network managed by the Service, employs a number of wildlife management practices to deliver specific conservation objectives on each of the nation’s 568 national wildlife refuges. The use of GECs by farmers on refuges in the Southeast Region can help refuge managers meet the purposes of the refuge and provide wildlife forage for birds and other wildlife. Supporting waterfowl populations is a priority purpose for many southeastern refuges.

A black bird perched on a stalk of corn in a flooded agricultural field
Agriculture on national wildlife refuges can provide food for waterfowl and other species, as seen here with this American coot. Photo by Clayton Ferrell, USFWS.

Most refuges that use agriculture as a management tool do so in cooperation with local farmers in order to meet our habitat and wildlife management objectives. In exchange for use of the land, growers leave a percentage of the crops in the field as forage for wildlife.

Cooperative farming is an effective, cost-efficient way for refuges to support waterfowl populations, which provide opportunities for hunting, wildlife observation and photography, and are an indication of a healthy wetland environment.

The Service limited the use of GECs on refuges in 2014. As a result, some refuges are no longer able to provide the amount of forage they once did. There may be situations where the use of GECs is essential to meet the purposes of the refuge and the energy needs of birds and other wildlife. Therefore, in 2018, the Service announced an update allowing for the reconsideration and possible use of GECs.

This draft PEA evaluates potential impacts of the use of GECs in the southeastern United States based on the best available science. The Service is soliciting public comment on the draft PEA until April 19, 2020.

Comments and questions must be submitted in writing to or mailed to Pamala Wingrove, Branch Chief, Conservation Planning, USFWS, Southeast Region, 1875 Century Boulevard NE, Atlanta, GA, 30345.

The Service will offer an informational webinar on April 6-7. The times are 1p.m. EDT on April 6 and 7 p.m. EDT on April 7.

Learn more and download a copy of the draft PEA.


Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist, (404) 679-7291

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. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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