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Contact: Nicholas Throckmorton 202-208-5636

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the release of a final
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that outlines various alternatives to
reduce, manage, and control resident Canada goose populations and reduce
related damages. Of the alternatives, the Service's proposed action will
allow state wildlife agencies, landowners, and airports more flexibility in
controlling resident Canada goose populations.

The Service took this action in response to widespread concern about
overabundant populations of resident Canada geese, which can damage
property, agriculture, and natural resources in parks and other open areas
near water.

"Resident Canada geese populations have increased dramatically over the
past 15 years," said Service Director H. Dale Hall. "These high population
levels have been shown to cause problems for natural and economic
resources, and we believe increased local management with national
oversight is the best approach to reduce conflicts and bring the population
under control. Through this approach, the Service will continue working to
expand and protect hunting opportunity while providing airports, private
landowners, and State and local officials the tools they need to address
resident Canada goose issues."

"Resident Canada goose management is particularly challenging because of
the diversity of society's perspectives regarding the year-round presence
of these birds, but the growth of these resident populations causes
problems that compel population management," said John Cooper, president of
the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. "The Service
worked closely with the State fish and wildlife agencies in the development
of the strategies reflected in the rule to provide a full suite of options
to the states to manage resident populations. We sincerely appreciate that
close engagement by both the Service and the State fish and wildlife
agencies and look forward to continued close cooperation with the Service."

During the last ten years, the resident Canada goose population in the
Atlantic flyway has increased an average of 1 percent per year to more than
1 million birds. The Mississippi flyway has seen a growth of 5 percent per
year to 1.6 million birds.

The preferred alternative in this FEIS consists of three main program
components. The first component creates four specific control and
depredation orders for airports, landowners, agricultural producers and
public health officials. These orders would be targeted to address
resident Canada goose depredation, damage and conflict management.
Presently, State and Tribal fish and wildlife agencies or their authorized
agents, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services
division, need a Federal permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service to
control resident Canada geese where they are causing conflicts with public
resources. These new orders will allow take of resident Canada geese
without a federal permit provided agencies fulfill certain reporting and
monitoring requirements.

The second component consists of expanded hunting methods and opportunities
and would be targeted to increase the sport harvest of resident Canada
geese. Under this component, States could choose to expand shooting hours
and allow hunters the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns.

The third component consist of a new regulation authorizing a resident
Canada goose population control program, or Management Take. Under
Management Take, the take of resident Canada geese outside the existing
sport hunting seasons (September 1 to March 10) would be authorized and
would enable States to authorize a harvest of resident Canada geese during
the August 1 through August 31 period. These dates are important because
wild migratory Canada geese have not arrived from the breeding grounds in
Alaska and Canada.

The agricultural depredation order, the expanded hunting opportunity and
the Management Take component of the FEIS will not include Alaska, Arizona,
California, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Utah and parts of
Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico. Only State wildlife agencies
and Tribal entities in the Atlantic, Central, and Mississippi Flyway could
implement these components for resident Canada geese. The Pacific Flyway
requested these states not be included because they have fewer issues with
resident Canada geese. For agricultural issues, states in the Pacific
Flyway will continue to apply for federal permits.

The Service received more than 2,900 submitted written comments on the 2002
draft EIS and more than 400 people attended 11 public meetings across the
country. Written comments were received from 2,657 private individuals, 33
State wildlife resource agencies, 37 non-governmental organizations, 29
local governments, 5 Federal/State legislators, 4 Flyway Councils, 4
Federal agencies, 3 tribes, 3 businesses, and 2 State agricultural
agencies.

Based on comments on the draft EIS, the Service modified the perferred
alternative by removing some areas from some components of the program
(Pacific Flyway States), adding some affected publics (airports), and
changing some of the program administration (State administration to
Federal administration).

The final Environmental Impact Statement will be available Friday, November
18, at < The Service intends to issue a Record of Decision and final rule
on the issue after the 30-day public inspection period on the FEIS.

For the most part, resident Canada geese generally stay in the same area or
migrate only short distances. There is no evidence that resident Canada
geese breed with migratory Canada geese that nest in northern Canada and
Alaska. The rapid rise of resident Canada geese populations has been
attributed to a number of factors. Key among these is that most resident
Canada geese live in temperate climates with relatively stable breeding
habitat conditions. They tolerate human and other disturbances, have a
relative abundance of habitat such as mowed grass and waterways, and fly
relatively short distances for winter compared with migratory Canada goose
populations. The virtual absence of waterfowl hunting and natural
predators in urban areas provides additional protection to those portions
of the resident population.

Expansion of existing annual hunting season and the issuance of control
permits have all been used to reduce resident goose numbers with varying
degrees of success. While these approaches have provided relief in some
areas, they have not completely addressed the issues.

B-Roll is available by calling the number above.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife,
plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates national
fish hatcheries, fishery resource offices, and ecological services field
stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to
state fish and wildlife agencies.
For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
visit our home page at
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News releases are also available on the World Wide Web at
http://news.fws.gov
 
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