The comment period ends July 20 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule and associated draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) to responsibly manage conflicts associated with double-crested cormorants in the United States.
USFWS Press Release
Cormorants are fish-eating birds that can have negative impacts on wild fisheries, fish hatcheries and aquaculture facilities, resulting in substantial economic impacts and human health hazards. These impacts can also be felt at our nation’s National Fish Hatchery System, which contributes to many conservation efforts as well as angling opportunities for our nation’s 58 million recreational anglers and associated economies. Double-crested cormorants are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act making any lethal control of these birds illegal without explicit authorization from the Service.
“This is the latest in a series of actions the Service is taking to balance native wildlife by responsibly managing double-created cormorant populations under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The rule proposes to establish a new special permit for state and federally recognized tribal wildlife agencies to undertake additional cormorant control activities when permissible. States and tribes must first attempt control using nonlethal methods and determine that those methods are ineffective before resorting to lethal control. The activities allowed under the special permit would include controlling cormorants to help reduce conflicts with wild and publicly stocked fisheries on state or tribal-owned lands. In addition, states will have additional flexibility to manage cormorants at state or tribal-owned hatcheries and release sites.
Under this new proposal, a new special permit for interested states and tribes would complement existing measures to address conflicts with cormorants to protect human health and safety, personal property and threatened and endangered species.
On January 22, 2020, the Service published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and announced our intent to prepare a DEIS as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The public provided input, and the Service considered all comments in developing this proposed rule. A summary of those comments is included in the DEIS.
“The Association supports the development of a rule which would provide the needed flexibility for state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to effectively manage cormorants,” said Secretary Kelly Hepler of South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “We look forward to working with our federal partners to balance our conservation responsibilities while working to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 5, 2020, opening a 45-day comment period until July 20, 2020. The notice and DEIS will be available at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0103, and will include details on how to submit your comments.
Next Steps after Comment Period
Late Summer 2020 – Draft EIS review and analysis
Upon the close of the comment period of the draft EIS and draft rule, the Service will consider all substantive comments and, if necessary, conduct further analyses. The Service will then prepare a final EIS, which informs the development of the final rule.
Fall 2020 – Publication of final EIS
A final EIS is then published, which provides responses to substantive comments. A Notice of Availability is published in the Federal Register, announcing the availability of both draft and final EISs to the public.
The EIS process ends with the issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD), which is the final rule. The ROD explains the Service’s decision, describes the alternatives considered, and discusses any plans for monitoring, if necessary.