Ft. Snelling, Minn. The court-ordered Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the management of North America’s burgeoning
snow goose flocks is nearing completion.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologist Jim Kelly says
an internal review of the document was recently finished. After
revisions are made, the draft EIS will go to Washington D.C., where
likely it will be released for public comment by the agency’s
acting director this summer.
During the 60-day public comment hearing, the USFWS will conduct
about nine public hearings on the draft EIS across the United
States. When the comment period ends, the agency will review the
comments, possibly make revisions to the document, and then release
a final EIS as well as a final rule to implement new regulations
for managing snow geese.
Mid-continent populations of “light geese,” as waterfowl
managers refer to snow, blue, and Ross’s geese, have benefited from
agricultural changes that altered their habitat and allowed bird
numbers to expand to the point where they are threatening the
ecological health of their tundra nesting grounds. To reduce the
population, managers decided to liberalize hunting rules and bag
limits, and to allow spring shooting. Animal protection groups
opposed the decision and sued, resulting in the court-ordered
Congress stepped in to allow the management plan to proceed
during the EIS process.
Continuation of the liberalized spring hunting is likely to be
included in the preferred management alternative within the draft
EIS. In fact, the USFWS is likely to suggest expanding liberalized
hunting to include the Atlantic Flyway’s greater snow geese as a
way to address crop depredation in the St. Lawrence Valley and
The greater snow goose flock was estimated at 814,000 in spring,
2000 and is growing at a rate of 9 percent per year. Waterfowl
managers estimate the population will reach one million by 2002 and
two million by 2010. With liberalized hunting, harvest may
stabilize the population.
The present liberalized hunts seem to be working on controlling
growth the mid-continent population. During the 1999-2000 season,
the most recent figures available, huntes in the U.S. and Canada
killed 1.4 million light geese. Although states are still compiling
harvest data for the 2000-2001 hunt, Kelly anticipates the harvest
may be down somewhat. Poor production led to fewer young geese in
the migrating flocks. Less wary young of the year generally
comprise a sizeable amount of the hunter kill.
Kelly expects the agency will continue to use “citizens” to
control goose numbers, rather than resorting to goose culls
conducted by the agency. He said there is little public support for
such action and virtually no support for a “no action