USDA seeks comment on draft feral swine program

APHIS opens public comment period for Feral Swine Damage Management Program, encourages response from stakeholders.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Dec. 11 the opening of a 45-day public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the APHIS Feral Swine Damage Management Program and is encouraging response from stakeholders at all levels.

The DEIS evaluates strategies to manage threats to human and animal health and address the increasing damage associated with expanding populations of feral swine, APHIS said, adding that the DEIS reviews the potential environmental effects of alternatives for reducing feral swine damage. The statement will be available for public review and comment for 45 days following the date of publication in the Federal Register by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Feral swine have expanded their range from 17 to 39 states in the last 30 years and cause damage to crops, kill young livestock, destroy property, harm natural resources and carry diseases that threaten other animals as well as people and water supplies, APHIS said.

Feral swine cause $1.5 billion in annual damage and control costs and the diseases these animals carry present a real threat to domesticated swine populations. Feral swine are able to carry and transmit up to 30 diseases and 37 different parasites to livestock, people, pets and wildlife.

APHIS's Wildlife Services program is proposing to lead a national approach to reduce feral swine damage to agricultural, cultural, natural and property resources, and human health and safety throughout the U.S. and territories wherever feral swine are found. Before making a decision on the best way to manage feral swine damage, the National Environmental Policy Act requires that APHIS evaluate the potential impacts to the environment associated with the national strategies.

APHIS anticipates that EPA will publish a notice that APHIS's DEIS is available for public review in the Federal Register in December. A copy of the DEIS provided to EPA can be reviewed at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0031-0063. APHIS encourages public input on its DEIS and is contacting, in writing and electronically, previous commenters and other stakeholders to receive comments. APHIS will consider all public comments submitted during this 45-day period before issuing a final EIS.

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