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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks comments on Draft Environmental Assessment

January 12, 2011

From press release

The Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is inviting public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment that considers two issues: 1) the use of row crop farming as a technique to manage National Wildlife Refuge System lands in the Midwest Region, and 2) the use of glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans on these lands.

The Midwest Region includes 54 national wildlife refuges and 12 wetland management districts in eight states: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Farming is used on 31 national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in the Midwest Region. Farming has traditionally been a tool in restoring native habitats, controlling noxious weeds and providing foods for migratory birds and resident wildlife.

Over the past several years, the Service has been steadily reducing its use of farming as a management tool. Approximately 20,000 acres of the Midwest Region’s 1.5 million acres are currently farmed by the Service. This is a 5,000-acre decrease from 2005, and it is expected that farming on Service lands within the Midwest Region will be further reduced over the next 10 years.

Even though farmed acres on Service lands in the Midwest Region are projected to continually decline over the next 10 years, revisions in regional farming policy and changes in agricultural practices, such as the increased use of genetically-modified crops, has prompted a need to reevaluate farming on Service lands in the Midwest Region.  Through the completion of an Environmental Assessment, the Service will evaluate environmental impacts of farming practices on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System within the eight-state Midwest Region.

The draft Environmental Assessment is available in portable document format at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/planning/farmingNEPA. To request a paper copy, call Jane Hodgins in the Division of Conservation Planning at (612) 713-5395.

Four alternatives are evaluated in the draft Environmental Assessment:

→ Alternative A: Continue Farming for Multiple Objectives, Genetically-modified Glyphosate-tolerant Corn and Soybeans Allowed (No Action)

→ Alternative B: Farming for Habitat Restoration Objectives Only, Genetically-modified Glyphosate-tolerant Corn and Soybeans Allowed

→ Alternative C: Farming for Multiple Objectives, No Genetically-modified Glyphosate-tolerant Corn and Soybeans

→ Alternative D: Limited Row Crop Farming, No Genetically-modified Glyphosate-tolerant Corn and Soybeans

The draft Environmental Assessment identifies Alternative A as the Service’s preferred alternative. All of the alternatives evaluated will result in reduced row crop farming on Refuge System lands in the Midwest Region over the next 10 years.

Comments on the Environmental Assessment are due by Feb. 14. Comments are welcome either via e-mail at r3planning@fws.gov or via standard mail at:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Conservation Planning

Attention: Farming EA

BHW Federal Building, Room 530

1 Federal Drive

Ft. Snelling, MN 55111

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service is both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for its scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information, visit http://www.fws.gov.

From the Jan. 12-18, 2011 issue

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