The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 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) EIS process, and links to useful information on feral swine and feral swine damage management.
What are the conflicts associated with feral swine?
Feral swine are a harmful and destructive non-native, or invasive, species. Their geographic range and populations are rapidly expanding across the U.S. The population is currently estimated to exceed more than five million animals. They are found in 40 percent of all counties in the U.S., and in most states including AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MI, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, and WV (Figure 1).
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. Feral swine also occur in Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Figure 1. Distribution of feral swine from 1982 to present
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.
To comply with NEPA, APHIS-Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) has 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 at a much faster rate than available resources have been able to address them. 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 is proposing to implement a nationally coordinated feral swine damage management program in cooperation with Tribes, agencies, and organizations at the State level to adjust to varying local laws and management objectives for 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 local management objectives, which may include reducing statewide populations or eliminating swine from specific locations.
The proposed action would incorporate an integrated approach to feral swine damage management issues using the latest scientific research findings, improvements in management methods and new techniques, and communication and outreach tools to manage feral swine conflicts. Methods that would be evaluated for potential use and/ or recommendation by APHIS may include, but are not limited to fencing, frightening devices, cage traps, corral traps, drop nets, telemetry to locate pigs, hunting with dogs, shooting from ground or from aircraft, the toxicant sodium nitrite, the reproductive inhibitor GonaCon™ and public hunting.
What alternatives and environmental issues will be evaluated?
The EIS will consider a range of reasonable alternatives that will include the proposed action described above, and a “no action” alternative, which can be defined as a continuation of current ongoing management practices (40 CFR 1502.14(d)). Under the no action alternative, current APHIS feral swine damage management actions, as conducted in a number of States, would continue without expansion and national coordination. We welcome additional recommendations for management strategies to be addressed in the EIS.
Environmental Issues for Consideration
We have also identified the following potential environmental issues for consideration in the EIS:
Potential effects on feral swine populations.
Potential direct or indirect impacts on protected and sensitive species and on non-target animals.
Potential environmental effects of carcass disposal methods.
Potential direct or indirect effects on Tribal resources and values.
Potential direct or indirect effects on hunters and others who benefit from feral swine.
Potential direct or indirect economic effects.
Potential effects on social values such as ethical perspectives and humaneness.
In considering reasonable alternatives, the EIS will study the effects of the project on these environmental issues. The environmental issues evaluated at the local level have not been significant. A decision to implement the proposed action, however, would expand the current program capabilities to a national scale and encourage additional national and local level partnerships to address feral swine conflicts. Comments that identify other issues or alternatives that should be considered in the EIS would be extremely helpful.
Planning and scoping for the EIS is underway. The scoping comment period will close on June 12, 2013. All comments must be electronically submitted or postmarked by 11:59 p.m. EDT, June 12, 2013 to be fully considered in the draft EIS. The draft EIS is expected to be issued in the fall of 2013. A final EIS is expected to be issued in spring, 2014.
Scoping - How to get Involved
We are requesting public comments to further outline the scope of alternatives and environmental impacts and to define issues to be addressed in the analysis. We will also be hosting a public meeting to discuss the scope of the EIS on May 23, 2013 (see information below). We are particularly interested in receiving comments regarding biological, cultural, or ecological issues that should be addressed in the analysis and we encourage the submission of scientific data, studies, or research to support the comments.
We will accept comments on the proposal by any of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Click here
Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send your comment to Project Managers, Feral Swine EIS, USDA APHIS-WS, 732 Lois Drive, Sun Prairie, WI 53590.
At the public meeting in person at the USDA Center at Riverside, 1st floor, Conference Centers A-D, 4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737.
By visiting APHIS/WS/Feral Swine for details on how to access the public meeting via the Internet and to submit comments.
APHIS will review and consider all comments received during the comment period and any other relevant information in the development of the EIS. All comments received will be available for public review.
May 23, 2013 Public Scoping Meeting Information
APHIS will be hosting a public meeting at the APHIS Conference Center in Riverdale, MD from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT to inform the public about the proposal to manage feral swine damage and to hear about the issues and alternatives that we should consider in the EIS. For those who are unable to attend in person, the meeting will be streamed on the Internet as a live Webcast. Learn more and register for the meeting.
It is not necessary to attend the meeting to be involved in the EIS process and submit comments.
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.
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 will serve as cooperating agencies in the development of the EIS: USDA Forest Service, USDI National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, National Invasive Species Council; National Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; and National Association of Departments of Agriculture.
Regulations.gov Docket for EIS - includes notices, public comments and site for submitting comments electronically