FERAL SWINE DAMAGE MANAGEMENT: A NATIONAL APPROACH
The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) evaluating alternatives for reducing damage and risks to agriculture, natural and cultural resources, property, and human health and safety from feral swine in the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. APHIS has decided to implement a nationally coordinated, integrated feral swine damage management program (Alternative 2, preferred alternative). This site provides a summary of the selected feral swine damage management program, information evaluated in the EIS, public involvement in the NEPA 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 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 efforts to reduce problems associated with feral swine damage have been conducted locally. Although they have helped to reduce localized damage, the overall feral swine population and associated damage and disease threats have continued to expand. APHIS believes that the selected nationally coordinated, integrated feral swine damage management program will effectively resolve the growing problems associated with feral swine and will result in more efficient delivery of damage management programs to tribes, states, territories, individuals, and organizations that request assistance.
How did APHIS decide to manage feral swine damage?
APHIS evaluated a range of alternatives for a nationally coordinated feral swine damage management program. APHIS selected the preferred alternative, 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 and cultural resources, and human health. APHIS will 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. The program will be implemented according to applicable federal, state, tribal and local laws, and in accordance with local management objectives for feral swine. The selected alternative is also the environmentally preferable alternative.
Program activities will 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 will cooperate with local and state agencies and tribes to implement strategies to eliminate feral swine. In areas with established or high swine populations, APHIS will work with tribes, and territory, 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.
What alternatives and environmental issues were evaluated?
The FEIS defined and assessed a total of five alternative strategies to meet the national objectives for feral swine damage management. All of the alternatives incorporated a full range of legally available nonlethal and lethal methods for feral swine damage management. The alternatives considered were:
Alternative 1. Current APHIS Feral Swine Damage Management Program (Current APHIS FSDM Program (No Action Alternative). This alternative would have continued prior research efforts and local feral swine damage management programs.
Alternative 2. Integrated APHIS Feral Swine Damage Management Program (Preferred Alternative). This is the selected alternative described above.
Alternative 3. Baseline APHIS FSDM Program. This alternative emphasized 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 placed emphasis on national FSDM projects and strategic local projects. Funding would not have been allocated to establish baseline capacity in all States with feral swine, but would have focused 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 have distributed National APHIS FSDM Program funding to States, Territories, Tribes, organizations representing Native peoples, and research institutions based on proposed projects that met program needs as identified for Alternative 2. All feral swine control actions would have been implemented by grant recipients or their agents. APHIS’ role would have been administrative.
The alternatives were compared by assessing their effects on a number of potentially affected environmental resources and issues:
In addition to the environmental consequences for the resources and issues listed above, the FEIS contains a detailed discussion of the ability of the alternatives to meet established national management objectives. The FEIS also contains information on public comments provided on the Draft EIS and agency response to comments. Summaries of the environmental consequences can be found in both the ROD and FEIS.
Who were the lead and cooperating agencies?
APHIS has been 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 served 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 also participated.
Scoping for the EIS began early in the NEPA process and involved cooperating agencies, the general public, tribal governments, APHIS stakeholders, and minority and historically underserved communities. APHIS held a public scoping meeting in May, 2013. Input from scoping was used to help develop the content of draft EIS. APHIS released its draft EIS in December, 2014 for a 45-day public comment period. After careful consideration of the public comments, APHIS released its final EIS on June 6, 2015. The FEIS was available for public inspection for 30-days prior to the release of the ROD.
Record of Decision
The ROD completed on July 14, 2015 documents the final agency action in the NEPA process. Feral swine damage management will be conducted according to the decision.
Who can I contact about APHIS feral swine damage management programs?
For more information about APHIS’ national feral swine damage management program, please contact Dr. Dale Nolte, Feral Swine Program Manager, USDA-APHIS-WS National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521; (970) 266-6049; firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also obtain information on feral swine damage management programs in your area by contacting the APHIS Wildlife Services state office near you. Contact information for the APHIS-Wildlife Services state offices may be obtained from Dr. Dale Nolte listed above, or by calling (866) 4USDA-WS (866-487-3297).
Copies of the ROD and FEIS may be obtained by contacting Dr. Kimberly Wagner at telephone (608) 837-2727, or by sending a request to Feral Swine EIS, USDA APHIS-WS, 732 Lois Drive, Sun Prairie, WI 53590.