Agencies release revised plan, assessment for protecting Canada lynx affected by Maine trapping programs Maine to manage at least 4,785 acres for Canada lynx
August 5, 2014
USFWS, Meagan Racey, 413-253-8558
MDIFW, Mark Latti, 207-287-5216
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one step closer to making a decision on permitting Maine’s state-regulated trapping programs for effects to the federally protected Canada lynx. The Service and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reviewed public comments on the necessary documents for the permit and have released revised versions for public review and comment through September 5, 2014.
The agencies previously released draft versions of MDIFW’s incidental take plan and the Service’s environmental assessment for public comment in November 2011, followed by three highly attended public information sessions. The Service received about 285 unique letters, 129 comment cards from public information sessions and 6,100 form letters commenting on issues from outreach and monitoring measures to lynx handling procedures and enforcement.
The revised plan describes measures proposed by MDIFW to minimize the effects of incidental trapping on lynx, such as increased trapper outreach, compliance monitoring by wardens and veterinary oversight, and it incorporates several new methods of trapping and new trapping regulations. MDIFW proposes to offset, or mitigate, for the effects on lynx by maintaining at least 4,785 acres of lynx habitat in the state’s Bureau of Parks and Lands Seboomook Unit in northern Maine. The agency has added the predator management and animal damage control programs as activities to be covered under the plan, but the addition has not changed the expected effect on lynx.
The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to “take”—meaning trap, capture, collect, harass, harm, wound or kill—federally threatened or endangered wildlife, such as the threatened Canada lynx. Some activities, such as trapping for common species like bobcat or fisher, have the risk of incidentally taking protected species. An incidental take permit would allow trapping through the recreational, predator management and animal damage control programs to continue as MDIFW undertakes practical measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate take of lynx.
Incidental take plans, known also as habitat conservation plans, identify the impacts to wildlife from a project or program; the steps the applicant will take to reduce or compensate for such impacts; what alternative actions were considered; and how conservation efforts will be funded.
To learn more and comment on the documents:
Visit the Maine Field Office website, http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/, for questions and answers about the revised documents, species information and an archive of the draft documents.
Visit www.regulations.gov and enter docket FWS-R5-ES-2014-0020 to review comments submitted during the 2011-2012 comment period, the Service’s response to comments, and the revised plan and assessment.
Submit comments at www.regulations.gov or by hard copy to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2014-0020; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. Please reference the docket number for this notice.
After the comment period ends, the Service will determine whether the application meets the permit issuance requirements.
Copy of an email sent to various recipients from Mark McCollough of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has updated its draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) revised incidental take plan (ITP) for incidental trapping threatened Canada lynx. The agencies will make both available for a 30-day supplemental public comment period. They will be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, August 6. There will be a 30-day comment period ending September 5, 2014. No public meetings are planned.
In summary, from 1999 to 2013, 84 lynx have been reported incidentally trapped in Maine (seven were caught in killer-type traps and 77 in foothold traps). Under the revised plan, the MDIFW anticipates that up to 13 lynx per year, or 195 total, might be incidentally trapped in restraining traps (e.g., foothold, cage traps and cable restraints) following issuance of the 15-year permit. The MDIFW expects that the majority of lynx caught in these traps will be released with little to no injury. They are requesting the permit to allow for up to three lynx fatalities as the result of incidental trapping. The MDIFW does not anticipate take in killer-type traps and take of orphaned kittens. The MDIFW seeks incidental take coverage for lynx that might be trapped in fur trapping, predator management (coyote control), and animal damage control programs. The agency proposes to phase in cable restraints, a new form of trapping for Maine, rescind regulations governing the size of foothold traps, and resume use of cage traps in northern Maine. The MDIFW will conduct a number of minimization measures that include increasing trapper education; a trapper hotline; biologists responding to lynx trapping incidents; assessing, classifying, and treating injures; rehabilitating injured lynx; and a protocol to care for kittens in situations where a female is trapped and injured and must be removed from the wild for rehabilitation. To mitigate for potential lynx mortalities, the MDIFW will maintain and enhance at least 4,785 acres of lynx habitat on a 10,411-acre area in the Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands Seboomook Unit in northern Maine.
The documents are available for review today at the Federal Register Reading Room at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/08/06/2014-18548/incidental-take-plan-maine-department-of-inland-fisheries-and-wildlifes-trapping-program. The Service is releasing the revised versions of the plan and the Environmental Assessment for a 30-day supplemental public comment period. We encourage you to submit comments. Written comments may be submitted electronically by September 5, 2014, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov, or in hard copy, via U.S. mail, to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R5–ES–2014–0020; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. The docket number for this notice is FWS–R5–ES–2014–0020.
Following this comment period, the Service will evaluate the revised plan and comments we receive to determine whether the permit application meets the requirements of section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). We will also evaluate whether issuance of a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit complies with ESA section 7 by conducting an intra-Service consultation and biological opinion.
All documents associated with MDIFW’s 2008 and 2014 incidental take permit applications (including the Service’s draft Environmental Assessments) will also be posted at the Service’s Maine Field Office website Canada lynx page: http://www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html. We are also posting public comments that we received during our 2011-2012 90-day public comment period. Responses to these public comments are appended to our 2014 draft Environmental Assessment.
The Service issued the attached press release and question-and-answer documents this afternoon.
Please contact Laury Zicari, field office supervisor (207 866-3344 x111, Laury_Zicari@fws.gov), or myself (contact information below) if you have any questions. We encourage you to comment through www.regulations.gov.
Please distribute to others who may be interested in this issue.
Sincerely, Mark McCollough
Mark McCollough, Ph.D.
Endangered Species Specialist
Maine Field Office
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service