Public invited to comment by Jan. 15
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the availability of a draft environmental assessment titled "White-tailed Deer Damage Management in New York." The EA, prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services' New York office, describes the need to manage white-tailed deer to reduce and prevent damage associated with these animals in New York; discusses potential issues associated with managing damage caused by deer; and the environmental consequences of alternatives for WS involvement in deer damage management throughout New York.
The proposed action (preferred alternative) is to implement an integrated approach using a variety of methods to reduce deer damage. DEC issues permits to landowners, municipalities and resource management agencies to address deer damage. As a cooperating agency on this EA, DEC is encouraging the public to review and provide comments on it.
The abundance of deer in many parts of New York is causing myriad problems, particularly in suburban and urban areas, where deer densities are highest. Agricultural, horticultural and silvicultural damage, impacts to biodiversity and native plant communities, and threats to human health and safety are consequences often associated with high deer populations. Deer population levels in most parts of the state are managed primarily through regulated recreational hunting, but there is typically little land accessible to hunters in developed areas.
DEC issues damage permits in situations where hunting is not able to reduce deer populations sufficiently to alleviate negative impacts. Some communities and landowners who receive permits choose to hire WS to carry out the damage reduction activities. Actions proposed in the EA could be conducted on public and private property in New York when the resource owner (property owner) or manager requests assistance, a need for action is confirmed, and agreements specifying the nature and duration of the activities to be conducted are completed. WS would conduct most deer damage management projects in urban or suburban environments and properties where access to the general public is limited due to safety or security concerns.
WS prepared the EA to facilitate planning, program management and interagency coordination to clearly communicate with the public the analysis of the impacts of managing deer damage across the state of New York, and to consider comments from the public on the proposed action. Six types of potential adverse effects of damage management activities were analyzed in detail: effects on deer populations; effects on non-target plant and wildlife species; effects on human health and safety; effects on the sociocultural elements of the human environment; humaneness and animal welfare concerns of methods; and effects on the regulated deer harvest.
Alternatives examined in the EA include an alternative in which WS continues the current "integrated" deer damage management program; an alternative in which WS is restricted to providing technical assistance (information) only; and an alternative in which no deer damage management is conducted by WS.
The preferred alternative is for WS to continue a deer damage management program that includes the use of the full range of legal non-lethal and lethal management techniques. A major goal of the program would be to resolve and prevent damage caused by deer and to reduce threats to human safety. To meet this goal, WS, in consultation with DEC, would continue to respond to requests for assistance with, at a minimum, technical assistance, or, when funding was available, operational deer damage management. Based on site-specific evaluations, property owners or managers that request assistance from WS would be provided with information regarding the use of non-lethal and lethal techniques. Preference would be given to non-lethal methods when practical and effective.
After receiving any necessary DEC permits, property owners or managers could choose to implement WS' recommendations on their own, use volunteer services of private organizations, use contractual services of WS, use contractual services of other nuisance wildlife management businesses, or take no further action.
Interested parties may obtain a copy of the EA and submit comments on it by entering "APHIS-2015-0093" in the search box at www.regulations.gov. Comments may also be sent to USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, 1930 Route 9, Castleton, NY 12033-9653, but electronic submission of comments is preferred. All comments must be received by the close of business on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, to receive full consideration. All comments received, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record and will be released for public review as required and allowed by law.