Cattle fever is a severe and often fatal disease of cattle transmitted by cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus (= Boophilus) annulatus, and southern cattle ticks, R. microplus. These parasites typically attach themselves to the skin inside an animal's thigh, flanks, and forelegs or along the belly and brisket and spread cattle fever through infected saliva. Infection can cause anemia, seizures, aggressiveness, jaundice, and even death. To combat fever ticks, APHIS created the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) in 1906. With the help of mounted patrol inspectors (also known as tick riders) and systematic quarantines, the CFTEP eradicated cattle fever and cattle fever ticks from the continental United States in 1943, with the exception of a permanent quarantine “buffer” zone between Texas and Mexico—a country where these ticks remain well established. Today, this buffer zone extends over 500 miles from Del Rio, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico.
Controlling Cattle Fever Ticks
Current efforts to control fever ticks along the quarantine line include a partial tick control barrier fence, livestock movement quarantines, and tick treatments for cattle and deer. While these methods are effective, the free-ranging movement of deer and stray livestock across non-fenced properties and an increase in the overall white-tailed deer population has led to increased fever tick infestations in South Texas in recent years. As of October 2009, 72 premises outside the quarantined area were found to be infested, compared to 8 infested premises in October 2006 — a nine-fold increase in 3 years.
Tick Control Barrier
In response to increasing tick infestations, APHIS proposes extending and filling in gaps in existing fencing in three Texas counties: Maverick County, Zapata County, and Starr County. The extended barrier would limit the movement of tick-infested wildlife beyond the quarantine zone by using 8-foot high game fencing. The proposed segments would encompass approximately 6 miles in Maverick County along El Indio Highway 1021 and, on the west side of U.S. Highway 83, 47 miles in Zapata County and 13 miles in Starr County.
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Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
Regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) require a Federal agency to prepare an EIS when there is potential for the proposed action to significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Before moving forward with its proposal, APHIS will prepare an EIS to examine the potential environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives to that action. There are four phases to the EIS process.
Preparation of the EIS
The first step in the EIS process is called “scoping.” Scoping takes place through a series of meetings, conversations, and written comments from individuals or groups that wish to help the Agency identify alternatives to the proposed action as well as issues that should be examined in the EIS.
APHIS has published a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS and to hold public meetings to receive comments on the scope of the EIS for the proposed tick control barrier for the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program.
Some issues that APHIS is seeking public comment on include the proposed barrier's potential effect on:
An alternative to the proposed action that APHIS will consider in the EIS is taking no action, i.e., not moving forward with funding toward the installation of a tick barrier. APHIS is also seeking input on other alternatives that should be considered.
APHIS is holding a series of public meetings where interested members of the public are invited to provide their comments.
If you are unable to attend a meeting but would like to provide a comment, you can do so online or by mail. To view supporting and related materials and provide your comments online, you can visit the Federal eRulemaking web site.
To provide your comments by mail, you can send them to Docket No. APHIS-2010-0100, Regulatory Analysis and Development, Policy and Program Development, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2010-0100.
We will consider all comments that we receive on or before March 17, 2011.