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Environmental Impact Statement: Feral Swine Damage Management

The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to evaluate alternatives for reducing damage and risks to human health and safety from feral swine in the U.S. and Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.  This site provides information on the EIS, status of the EIS project, opportunities for public involvement in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, and links to useful information on feral swine and feral swine damage management.

We are requesting public comments on the DEIS. You may view the DEIS and submit electronic comments by clicking here.  Instructions are provided below for mailing comments.


What are the conflicts associated with feral swine?
Feral swine are a harmful and destructive non-native and invasive species. Their geographic range and populations are rapidly expanding across the U.S. The population is currently estimated to exceed more than six million animals.  Experts believe that in 1982 feral swine were found in only a few counties in 17 States; in 2012 they had been found in at least 38 States (Figure 1). They are now known to exist in 41 states. Feral swine also occur in Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Feral swine can inflict significant damage to numerous assets. They physically damage crops and property; they prey on young livestock and wildlife; and they can transmit diseases to livestock, humans and wildlife. They pose other threats to human health and safety (e.g., vehicle collisions and aggressive swine). Feral swine also damage natural resources including sensitive habitats and endangered species.

Figure 1. Change in distribution of feral swine from 1982 to 2012.

Prior to the development of the EIS, to comply with NEPA, APHIS-Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) issued a number of local environmental assessments (EAs) for damage management programs that combine legally available methods to manage feral swine damage. These methods currently include “technical assistance” in which APHIS-WS provides information and recommendations to the public and other agencies on how to prevent and/or minimize feral swine damage (e.g., exclusion, frightening devices, and removal). APHIS-WS also provides direct control services using one or more methods such as corral and cage-type live traps, snares, tracking dogs, and aerial and ground shooting to remove feral swine.

Current efforts to manage problems associated with feral swine damage have helped to reduce localized damage, but the overall feral swine population and associated damage and disease threats have continued to expand. APHIS believes that a national, coordinated effort would more effectively address the growing problems associated with feral swine and would result in more efficient delivery of damage management programs to Tribes, States, Territories, individuals, and organizations that request assistance.

What is the proposed solution?
APHIS has developed a range of alternatives for a nationally coordinated feral swine damage management program.  All alternatives would be implemented according to applicable Federal laws, and in cooperation with Tribes, agencies, and organizations at the State and Territory level to adjust to varying local laws and management objectives for feral swine. The preferred alternative is the Integrated APHIS FSDM Program (Alternative 2).  It is a nationally coordinated response to reduce and, in some areas, eliminate the risks and damage inflicted by feral swine to agriculture, property, natural resources, and human health.  APHIS would serve as the lead Federal agency in a cooperative effort with other agency partners, Tribes, organizations, and local entities that share a common interest in reducing or eliminating problems caused by feral swine. 

Program activities would be implemented in all or most States and Territories where feral swine occur. In States where feral swine are an infrequent occurrence or populations are low, APHIS proposes to cooperate with local and State agencies and Tribes to implement strategies to eliminate feral swine. In areas with established or high swine populations, APHIS would work with Tribes, and State and local agencies and organizations to meet locally determined management objectives, which may include reducing statewide populations or eliminating swine from specific locations.  Key program components are threefold.

1. Baseline operational capacity to allow APHIS-WS State programs to build infrastructure and offer cost-share opportunities to address feral swine damage in States, Territories and Tribal lands with feral swine.  

2. National projects including strategic allocation of resources to reduce the range and size of the national feral swine population, research, risk analysis, outreach and education, coordination with Canada and Mexico, monitoring and other activities that support feral swine management objectives.

3. Strategic projects at the local level to address specific vulnerable areas.
 

What alternatives and environmental issues are being evaluated?
The DEIS defined and assessed a total of five alternative strategies to meet the national objectives for feral swine damage management. All of the alternatives incorporate a full range of legally available nonlethal and lethal methods for feral swine damage management. The alternatives are:

Alternative 1. Current APHIS Feral Swine Damage Management Program (Current APHIS FSDM Program (No Action Alternative). This alternative continues prior research efforts and feral swine damage management programs (State, Territory and local level programs ). 

Alternative 2. Integrated APHIS Feral Swine Damage Management Program (Preferred Alternative). This alternative is described above.

Alternative 3. Baseline APHIS FSDM Program. This alternative emphasizes baseline operational capacity to maximize the abilities of the APHIS-WS State programs to build infrastructure and offer cost-share opportunities to address feral swine damage in States, Territories and Tribal lands with feral swine. 

Alternative 4. National and Strategic Local Projects Program. This alternative places emphasis on national FSDM projects and strategic local projects. Funding would not be allocated to establish baseline capacity in all States with feral swine, but would focus on National and strategic local projects selected for their ability to help achieve National goals of containing and eradicating feral swine. 

Alternative 5. Federal FSDM Grant Program. This alternative would distribute National APHIS FSDM Program funding to States, Territories, Tribes, organizations representing Native peoples, and research institutions based on proposed projects that meet program needs as identified for Alternative 2.  All feral swine control actions would be implemented by grant recipients or their agents.  APHIS’ role would be administrative.

The alternatives were compared by assessing their effects on a number of potentially affected environmental resources and issues:  

  1. Effects on threatened and endangered animals and plants and critical habitats.
  2. Effects on other non-target animals.
  3. Effects on soils, vegetation and water quality.
  4. Odor/air quality impacts.
  5. Effects on recreation including feral swine hunting opportunities; opportunities for hunting other game species; effects on the aesthetic enjoyment of the natural environment; and disturbance to recreationists.
  6. Climate change impacts.
  7. Effects on human health and safety.
  8. Socio-cultural impacts including cultural/historic resources; effects on Tribes, traditional cultures and ceremonial values; and humaneness and ethical perspectives.
  9. Economic effects.

In addition to the environmental consequences on the resources and issues listed above, the DEIS contains a detailed discussion of the ability of the alternatives to meet established national management objectives.

Who are the Lead and Cooperating Agencies?
APHIS is the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act. This means that APHIS is responsible for the content of the EIS and any resulting decisions. The following agencies and organizations are serving as cooperating agencies in the development of the EIS: USDA Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior (USDI) Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and National Invasive Species Council; Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The USDI Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are also participating. 


Project Status

Draft EIS

The Draft EIS is now available for public review and comment.  The public comment period will be open for 45 days after the Environmental Protection Agency publishes a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register.  We anticipate that the Federal Register notice will be published on December 19, 2014.  Once the Notice of Availability is published we will post the closing date of the comment period on this webpage and on the Federal eRulemaking Portal. 

We will accept comments on the DEIS by either of these two methods:

Scoping and Development of the DEIS
We used scoping early in the NEPA process to involve cooperating agencies, the general public, tribal governments, APHIS stakeholders, and minority and historically underserved communities to help identify alternatives and issues to evaluate in the EIS. A public scoping meeting was held on May 23, 2013, and scoping comments on the EIS were taken through June 12, 2013. We have also continued to work with our cooperating and other participating agencies during the development of the DEIS.   A summary of the issues and alternatives identified during scoping may be found in the “Additional Information” section below.

What’s Next? 
After we thoroughly consider and respond to public comments on the DEIS, we will prepare a Final EIS. The Final EIS will include our responses to public comments. The Final EIS will be issued in a similar manner as the DEIS via publication in the Federal Register, notifications and Final EIS postings on this and other APHIS web pages, and by announcements made in Regulations.gov  and through the APHIS Stakeholder Registry.  Interested individuals can register for updates on APHIS activities including announcements pertaining to the feral swine EIS from the APHIS Stakeholder Registry.

We expect the Notice of Availability of the Final EIS to be published in the spring of 2015.  A Record of Decision will be issued 30-days following the publication of the availability of the Final EIS in the Federal Register.

Regulatory Guidelines
The APHIS-WS program is authorized by the Animal Damage Control Act (7 U.S.C. 426) to work with other Federal agencies, Tribes, States, Territories, local government, and private individuals and organizations to protect American resources from damage associated with wildlife. The APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) program will be participating in the development of the environmental impact statement (EIS). The APHIS-VS program works in a variety of ways to protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of U.S. animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics by preventing, controlling, and/or eliminating animal diseases and monitoring and promoting animal health and productivity. The authority for the mission of VS is found in the Animal Health Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 8301 et seq.).

Under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), Federal agencies must examine the potential environmental impacts of proposed Federal actions before actions are taken. In accordance with NEPA, the regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (7 CFR parts 1500-1508), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1b), and APHIS’ NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372), APHIS has decided to prepare an EIS to review potential alternatives for a national feral swine management strategy.

Notices
Regulations.gov EIS Docket - includes notices, public scoping comments, public comments on the DEIS, and is the site for submitting comments electronically.

 



Additional Information