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The following is from a US Fish and Wildlife Service news release:

September 1, 1999

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will hold a series of public meetings in September and October to solicit public comments on the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating potential remedies to address the destructive effect of rapidly increasing white goose populations on migratory bird habitat in the United States and Canada.

The Service will host nine separate scoping meetings at sites across the country to discuss the management options it proposes to evaluate in the EIS and to gather public comments on those options or other potential remedies proposed by the public.

"These meetings offer members of the public a chance to shape the direction of our efforts, and to propose their own potential solutions as we attempt to halt the spreading destruction of arctic breeding habitat caused by increasing white goose populations," said acting Service Director John Rogers. "We encourage everyone, whether they attend a meeting or not, to comment on the scope of this important issue."

The Service has identified a series of potential responses to population increases of white geese, a term that encompasses both greater and lesser snow geese and Ross' geese, that will be evaluated in the EIS. Those responses are based on public comments received for an Environmental Assessment of the problem that was completed in 1998. The final set of alternatives to be analyzed in the EIS will be determined based on comments received during the public scoping process that began with the May 13 publication of a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in the Federal Register.

Among the alternatives being considered is the creation of a conservation order and the legalization of additional hunting methods such as electronic calls, unplugged shotguns and expanded shooting hours. The Service will also consider the effects of taking no action.

The EIS will also evaluate a management alternative that includes direct population control strategies on the birds' wintering grounds and migration routes in the U.S., including trapping and culling programs. While the Service does not have the authority to implement direct population control measures on the breeding grounds in Canada, it proposes to evaluate those measures in consultation with Canadian wildlife officials.

Additional management alternatives may be identified by the scoping process. Increasing agricultural and refuge development along waterfowl flyways through the Midwest and South is thought to have provided geese with ample forage during their yearly migrations. As a result, adult mortality rates for snow and Ross' geese have fallen steadily over the past three decades, triggering explosive population growth. The Service is also concerned about the rapid growth of the greater snow geese population, and proposes to stabilize that population at about one million birds.

Annual winter population counts of mid-continent lesser snow and Ross' geese estimate that the combined population has more than tripled in the past 30 years, from just over 800,000 birds in 1969 to approximately 2.8 million birds today. Scientists believe the actual spring breeding population may be at least 4.5 million birds. The spring population of greater snow geese has expanded from less than 50,000 birds in the late 1960s to approximately 700,000 today. With a growth rate of approximately nine percent per year, the population is expected to reach one million by 2002 and two million by 2010.

The fragile Canadian Arctic, with its short growing season, cannot support populations of that size. For example, large areas of the breeding grounds around Hudson Bay have been denuded of all vegetation by geese through overgrazing, a situation that scientists believe may also be contributing to the decline of breeding populations of other migratory bird species that share the breeding grounds and winter in the United States.

The public scoping meeting for New Jersey is as follows:

September 29, 1999
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
"A" Wing Lecture Hall
Jimmie Leeds Road
Pomona, Atlantic County
7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Service welcomes public comment on the scope of the EIS and will accept oral and written comments at the scoping meetings. Written comments may also be submitted by November 22, 1999, addressed to the Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 634, Arlington, VA 22203. For further information contact the Office of Migratory Bird Management, (703) 358-1714. Alternatively, comments may be submitted electronically by November 22, 1999, to the following email address:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 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.

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