[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 2 (Tuesday, January 4, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 380-382]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-48]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

National Park Service


Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Non-Native Deer Management 
Plan Point Reyes National Seashore; Marin County, CA; Notice of 
Availability

SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-190, as amended), and the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR part 1500-1508), the National 
Park Service (NPS), Department of the Interior, has prepared a Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement identifying and evaluating five 
alternatives for a Non-Native Deer Management Plan for Point Reyes 
National Seashore administered lands. Potential impacts, and 
appropriate mitigations, are assessed for each alternative. When 
approved, the plan will guide, for the next 15 years, non-native deer 
management actions on lands administered by Point Reyes National 
Seashore. The Non-Native Deer Management Plan and Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement documents the analyses of four action alternatives, 
and a ``no action'' alternative. Five other preliminary alternatives 
were considered but rejected because they did not achieve the 
objectives of the non-native deer management plan or were infeasible.
    Planning Background: Axis deer (Axis axis) are native to India and 
fallow deer (Dama dama) are native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean 
region. Axis and fallow deer were introduced to the Point Reyes area in 
the 1940s and 1950s, before establishment of the Seashore. Between 1976 
and 1994, NPS rangers removed more than 2,000 non-native deer. In 1994, 
cullling was discontinued. Since then, non-native deer have not been 
actively managed and numbers and range have increased to, or surpassed, 
pre-control levels. Seashore staff estimates current numbers of axis 
and fallow deer to be approximately 250 and 860, respectively.
    The purpose of the Non-Native Deer Management Plan (NNDMP) is to 
define management prescriptions for non-native deer. Both the park's 
General Management Plan (GMP) and Resource Management Plan (RMP), 
identify goals for management of these exotic species. The park's 1999 
RMP indicates ``Regardless of potential competition and disease issues, 
the presence of these non-native deer compromises the ecological 
integrity of the Seashore and the attempts to reestablish the native 
cervid fauna comprising tule elk and black-tailed deer'' and notes that 
three scientific panels comprised of federal, state, and university 
researchers and managers recommended the removal of non-native deer to 
promote restoration of native deer and elk. The objectives of the plan 
are:
     To correct past and ongoing disturbances to Seashore 
ecosystems from introduced non-native ungulates and thereby to 
contribute substantially to the restoration of naturally functioning 
native ecosystems.
     To minimize long-term impacts, in terms of reduced staff 
time and resources, to resource protection programs at the Seashore, 
incurred by continued monitoring and management of non-native 
ungulates.
     To prevent spread of populations of both species of non-
native deer beyond Seashore and GGNRA boundaries.
     To reduce impacts of non-native ungulates through direct 
consumption of forage, transmission of disease to livestock and damage 
to fencing to agricultural permittees within pastoral areas.
    The primary problems associated with the presence of these 
nonnative deer are their interference with native species and native 
ecosystems; conflicts with the laws, regulations and NPS policies 
regarding restoration of natural conditions and native species; and the 
impacts on ranchers in the park, on park operations, budget. In 
addition there is the potential for each of these impacts to increase 
as deer populations expand beyond park boundaries. The objectives of 
the planning effort are to solve these problems.
    The planning area for the NNDMP includes NPS lands located 
approximately 40 miles northwest of San Francisco in Marin County, 
California. These lands include the 70,046-acre Point Reyes National 
Seashore, comprised primarily of beaches, coastal headlands, extensive 
freshwater and estuarine wetlands, marine terraces, and forests; as 
well as 18,000 acres of the Northern District of Golden Gate National 
Recreation Area (GGNRA), primarily supporting annual grasslands, 
coastal scrub, and Douglas-fir and coast redwood forests. Thirty-five 
percent, or 32,000 acres, of Seashore lands are managed as wilderness.
    Proposed Non-Native Deer Management Plan: Alternative E is the 
agency-preferred alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS). Under this alternative (Removal of All Non-Native Deer 
by a Combination of Agency Removal and Fertility control -Sterilants or 
Yearly Contraception), all axis and fallow deer inhabiting the Seashore 
and the GGNRA lands administered by the Seashore would be eradicated by 
approximately 2020 through lethal removal and fertility control. 
Culling would be conducted by NPS staff specifically trained in 
wildlife sharpshooting. The contraceptive program would incorporate the 
latest contraceptive technologies to safely prevent reproduction, for 
as long as possible, and with minimal treatments per animal. Because no 
long-acting ``sterilant'' has been approved for use in wildlife by the 
Food and Drug Administration, studies on safe and efficacious use of a 
candidate drug would have to be conducted at PRNS before it could be 
used for management and population control. Population models of 
Seashore fallow deer indicate that under this alternative, if the 
contraceptives used were effective in

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blocking fertility for at least 4 years, eradication could be 
accomplished with fewer fallow deer lethally removed. Because the 
effectiveness of long-term contraceptives on axis deer is unknown, 
similar models have not been developed for this species. Studies on 
sterilant efficacy and deer population response to treatment will be 
used adaptively to guide the non-native deer management program. The 
goal will be to maximize benefits to natural resources and minimize 
safety risks to NPS staff, while striving to reduce numbers of animals 
killed.
    Alternatives To Proposed Plan: The NNMP / Draft EIS analyzes four 
alternatives besides the preferred alternative. Alternatives E and D 
(Removal of All Non-Native Deer by Agency Removal) are both identified 
in the Draft EIS as the ``environmentally preferred'' alternatives and 
are considered equally likely to best protect the biological and 
physical environment of the project area. Both would result in 
eradication of non-native deer within 15 years and consequently would 
result in complete removal of all adverse impacts caused by non-native 
deer to wildlife, vegetation, soils, special status species and water 
resources.
    Alternative A--No Action. This alternative represents the current 
non-native deer management program. It would perpetuate the non-native 
deer management practices undertaken since 1994, when ranger culling 
was discontinued. No actions to control the size of non-native deer 
populations would be taken. In order to ensure protection of native 
species and ecosystems, continued monitoring for at least 15 years 
would be an integral part of this alternative as well as all other 
alternatives considered.
    Alternative B--Control of Non-Native Deer at Pre-Determined Levels 
by Agency Removal. Alternative B would focus on the use of lethal 
control to reduce the size of non-native deer populations. Culling 
would be conducted by NPS staff specifically trained in wildlife 
sharpshooting. Non-native deer populations would be maintained at a 
level of 350 for each species (700 total axis and fallow deer). Because 
fallow deer concentrations are currently higher than this, and axis 
deer populations are lower than this target, the focus of initial 
reductions would be on fallow deer. This target population level was 
chosen because of its history, and for management reasons. However, the 
number would be re-evaluated by resource managers regularly and could 
be changed based on results of ongoing monitoring programs. Efforts 
would be made to reach target (reduced) levels in 15 years and to 
ensure continued presence of both species in the Seashore. Because 
fallow deer currently exceed 350 animals, and axis deer have 
historically done so, any chosen population control method would need 
to be used in perpetuity to maintain each species at this population 
size. Because the management time frame is very long (theoretically 
lasting forever), the total numbers of deer lethally removed could be 
very high.
    Alternative C--Control of Non-Native Deer at Pre-Determined Levels 
by Agency Removal and Fertility Control. As in Alternative B, non-
native deer populations would be maintained at a level of 350 for each 
species (700 total axis and fallow deer), but through a combination of 
lethal removals and fertility control. This target population level was 
chosen because of its history, and for management reasons. However, the 
number would be re-evaluated by resource managers regularly and could 
be changed based on results of ongoing monitoring programs. Culling 
would be conducted by NPS staff specifically trained in wildlife 
sharpshooting. The contraceptive program would incorporate the latest 
contraceptive technologies to safely prevent reproduction, for as long 
as possible, and with minimal treatments per animal. Because no long-
acting ``sterilant'' has been approved for use in wildlife by the Food 
and Drug Administration, studies on safe and efficacious use of a 
candidate drug would have to be conducted at PRNS before it could be 
used for management and population control. Population models of 
Seashore fallow deer indicate that under Alternative C, if the 
contraceptive used were effective in blocking fertility in does for at 
least 4 years, population control could be accomplished with fewer 
fallow deer lethally removed. Because the effectiveness of long-term 
contraceptives on axis deer is unknown, similar models have not been 
developed for this species. Studies on sterilant efficacy and deer 
population response to treatment would be used adaptively to guide the 
non-native deer management program in maximizing benefits to natural 
resources and in minimizing safety risks to NPS staff, while striving 
to reduce numbers of animals killed.
    Because fallow deer numbers are currently higher than 350, and axis 
deer populations are lower than this target, the focus of initial 
reductions would be on fallow deer. Efforts would be made to reach 
target (reduced) levels in 15 years. Because the goal of this 
alternative will be to control axis and fallow deer at a specified 
level and not to eradicate them from PRNS, annual culling and fertility 
control would continue indefinitely. Because the management time frame 
is very long (theoretically lasting forever), the total numbers of deer 
removed and treated with contraceptives could also be very high under 
this alternative.
    Alternative D--Removal of All Non-Native Deer by Agency Personnel. 
In Alternative D, all axis and fallow deer inhabiting the Seashore and 
the GGNRA lands administered by the Seashore would be eradicated 
through lethal removal (shooting) by 2020. Culling would be conducted 
by NPS staff specifically trained in wildlife sharpshooting. The 
management actions included in this alternative would continue until 
both species were extirpated, with a goal of full removal in no more 
than 15 years. This time frame minimizes the total number of deer 
removed (a longer period of removal would mean more fawns are born and 
more total deer are killed) and is reasonable from a cost and logistics 
standpoint. Because of their current large numbers (250 axis deer and 
860 fallow deer), it is expected that total removal of both species 
would require a minimum of 13 years. Monitoring during program 
implementation would be done to assess program success and to guide 
adjustments in the location, intensity and logistics of removal.
    Actions Common to All Alternatives--In order to ensure protection 
of native species and ecosystems and to assess success of any 
management program, continued monitoring for at least 15 years would be 
an integral part of any Alternative Chosen. All actions which involve 
direct management of individual animals, ranging from aerial 
surveillance to live capture and lethal removal, would be conducted in 
a manner which minimizes stress, pain and suffering to every extent 
possible. All actions occurring in designated Wilderness, from 
monitoring to active deer management, would be consistent with the 
``minimum requirement'' concept.
    Scoping Summary: On April 10, 2002, a ``Notice of Scoping for Non-
Native Deer Management Plan at Point Reyes National Seashore'' was 
published in the Federal Register (v67, n69, pp 17446-17447). Through 
public scoping and internal analysis by the Seashore's 
interdisciplinary NNDMP/EIS team, it was determined that an 
Environmental Impact Statement, rather than an Environmental 
Assessment, should be prepared. As mandated by NEPA, an EIS was chosen 
because data was deemed insufficient to decide whether the project had 
potential to be controversial

[[Page 382]]

because of disagreement over possible environmental effects. In 
addition to consulting NPS resource specialists, within and outside the 
Seashore, park managers consulted federal, state and local agencies 
about management issues of concern.
    The beginning of public scoping was announced on May 4, 2002, at a 
public meeting of the Point Reyes National Seashore Citizens Advisory 
Commission with a presentation on the NNDMP planning process. In this 
meeting, input on non-native deer management issues of concern and 
range of alternatives was solicited from the public. The public meeting 
featured a short presentation by the Seashore wildlife biologist on the 
environmental planning process, background on non-native deer, and 
issues of importance to park management. Background informational 
handouts were provided. Members of the Citizen's Advisory Committee for 
Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gates National Recreation Area 
were given the opportunity to ask questions of park staff. Five 
individuals spoke at the public meeting. A sign-up sheet at the public 
meeting provided an opportunity for members of the public to be 
included on a mailing list for upcoming information on the management 
plan in development.
    Public comments were accepted in letter or email form from May 4, 
2002 until July 5, 2002. All those who sent written comments during the 
scoping period and included a return mailing address were also put on 
the mailing list. An acknowledgment of the Seashore's receipt of 
written comments, in postcard form, was also sent to those who wrote 
letters. A similar e-mail message was sent back to those who emailed 
comments. A total of 32 written comments were received by the close of 
the public comment period. The major themes communicated by the public 
during the May 4, 2002 meeting and the subsequent scoping period 
encompassed a range, from a desire to retain non-native deer in the 
park or to use non-lethal deer control techniques, to concern about 
impacts to natural resources from non-native deer and a desire to 
eliminate all non-native deer from the Seashore.
    Commenting on the Draft EIS: The purpose of the management plan is 
to define management prescriptions for non-native deer. A public 
workshop on the proposed NNDMP will be held during late winter 2005 at 
the Point Reyes National Seashore Red Barn meeting (confirmed date and 
other workshop details will be advertised by direct mailing to 210 
individuals and organizations) and a notice placed in the local 
newspapers. All interested individuals, organizations, and agencies 
will be encouraged to provide comments, suggestions, and relevant 
information (earlier scoping comments need not be resubmitted); written 
comments must be postmarked not later than 60 days following 
publication in the Federal Register by EPA of their notice of filing of 
the availability of the Draft EIS (as soon as this date can be 
confirmed it will be announced on the park's website, and included in 
the workshop mailing). Questions at this time regarding the NNDMP 
planning process or work shop should be addressed to the Superintendent 
either by mail (see address below) or by telephone at (415) 663-8522. 
Please note that names and addresses of people who comment become part 
of the public record. If individuals commenting request that their name 
and/or address be withheld from public disclosure, it will be honored 
to the extent allowable by law. Such requests must be stated 
prominently in the beginning of the comments. There also may be 
circumstances wherein the NPS withholds from the record a respondent's 
identity, as allowable by law. As always: the NPS will make available 
to public inspection all submissions from organizations or businesses 
and from persons identifying themselves as representatives or officials 
of organizations and businesses; and, anonymous comments may not be 
considered.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Draft EIS may be obtained from the 
Superintendent, Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes, CA 94956, 
Attn: NNDMP, or by e-mail request to: Ann--Nelson@nps.gov (in the 
subject line, type: NNDMP). The document will be sent directly to those 
who have requested it, and also posted on the Internet at the park's 
Web page (http://www.nps.gov/pore/pphtml/documents.html.); and both the 
printed document and digital version on compact disk will be available 
at the park headquarters and local libraries.
    Decision: Following careful analysis of public and agency comment 
on the Draft EIS, it is anticipated at this time that the final EIS 
would be available in fall of 2005. As a delegated EIS, the official 
responsible for the final decision is the Regional Director, Pacific 
West Region. A Record of Decision would not be signed sooner than 30 
days following release of the Final EIS; notice of the decision will be 
posted in the Federal Register and announced in local and regional 
newspapers. Following approval of the Non-Native Deer Management Plan, 
the official responsible for implementation will be the Superintendent, 
Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Dated: December 17, 2004.
Jonathan B. Jarvis,
Regional Director, Pacific West Region.
[FR Doc. 05-48 Filed 1-3-05; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4312-FW-P