FWS Seeks Public Comment for Carp Removal

FWS Seeks Public Comment for Carp Removal

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a draft environmental assessment for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The purpose of the proposed action is to enhance environmental conditions in Utah Lake, UT, to improve the recovery potential for the June sucker (Chasmistes liorus), a species federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, by reducing the population of common carp (Cyprinus carpio). The public will have 30 days until December 17, 2009, to submit their comments.

Detailed information on the proposed project is contained in the draft EA and Appendices. Public comment on the proposed exchange and the draft EA will assist the Service in deciding whether to approve the project. Copies of the draft EA are available online by clicking on the title of the document at //mountain-prairie.fws.gov/federalassistance. Those without internet access may request copies by calling the Service's Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration at (303) 236-8165. Comments should be sent to: Chief, Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, Colorado, 80225.

The need for the proposed action is that current environmental conditions limit recovery potential including: 1) a lack of habitat complexity in the form of rooted aquatic plants; 2) degraded water quality; and 3) low biodiversity. The goal of the proposed action is to reduce the current population of common carp in Utah Lake by a minimum of 75 percent, maintain the population at or below this reduced level, and to monitor and evaluate the ecological response of the Utah Lake system. Progress towards recovery of the endangered June sucker has been positive over the past decade in areas such as water management, habitat enhancement, and augmentation. Ultimately, however, ecosystem, community, and species-specific impacts associated with the non-native common carp population limit the recovery potential for the species. Common carp dominate the Utah Lake fish community, both in numbers and biomass, and through their foraging behavior eliminate the potential for restoring aquatic plants which provide habitat complexity and cover from predators. A more balanced fish community and productive fish habitat should result from decreased carp numbers in Utah Lake. This action would be undertaken cooperatively by the Utah Ecological Services Office of the Service, the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and in coordination with partners to the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program.

The preferred alternative would reduce the population of common carp in Utah Lake by at least 75 percent of current levels using mechanical removal and would maintain the population at or below this reduced level. Target harvest rates of common carp would be five million pounds annually over a period of six consecutive years. Commercial fishing operations using large nets (primarily seines) would be the principle method to capture and remove common carp from Utah Lake. Other capture techniques such as trapping, electricity, trawling, or baiting may be used in specific localized situations if determined beneficial. Implementing actions such as this to promote the recovery of the June sucker by controlling the effects of invasive species is consistent with the Utah Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Utah Wildlife Action Plan; UDWR 2005) and supports many actions in the approved Recovery Plan for the June sucker (FWS 1999).

The proposed carp removal project constitutes a Federal action subject to the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended. The Service is therefore required to prepare a draft EA to analyze the effects on the human environment and document the findings. The Service will use this draft EA to determine if the proposed action is likely to result in significant impacts to the human environment. If it is determined that there are no significant adverse impacts, the Service will issue a final EA and a Finding of No Significant Impact. If it is determined, conversely, that significant impacts might occur, the Service will be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

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. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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