On Thursday, November 19, Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Patrick Graham announced that the state wildlife agency's Draft Environmental Impact Statement on its Wildlife Program, as well as a supplement to the draft containing FWP's preferred alternative action, would be adopted as the final EIS for the program.
After careful examination of public comment on both documents, Graham explained, and with the concurrence of the FWP Commission, "FWP found no new information to indicate that the preparation of a final EIS is necessary to analyze the consequences" of the proposed course of action.
The preferred alternative adopted will continue many current actions and policies and is a reaffirmation of the success of FWP's current wildlife program, Graham said. However, the alternative does provide for some changes to the program.
In offering this alternative, FWP believes that the factors that currently influence its operating environment will continue, including increases in the cost of delivering the present level of services. FWP also assumes that a growing human population and increased demand for services and opportunities to enjoy Montana's wildlife resources will place additional pressure on FWP to protect those resources. FWP further believes there will be an increased demand for new services that go beyond the traditional activities of hunting and trapping, and that there will be additional pressures to expand listings under the federal Endangered Species Act impacting state management, recreational opportunities and land use.
In response, FWP proposes to seek a decrease in the burden on hunters and anglers to fund all wildlife-related programs and to seek new funding for work on endangered species, preventing the listing of vulnerable species, and wildlife recreation not related to hunting and trapping.
This alternative, Graham said, provides direction for the wildlife program to develop partnerships and increased local involvement when implementing programs that provide hunter access. It also calls for expanded educational programs that emphasize Montana's hunting heritage, hunter ethics and the role of hunting and trapping in wildlife management. It will additionally expand FWP's collaborative efforts with other entities, such as the Montana Agricultural Extension Service and private enterprises, to help deal with urban and nuisance wildlife problems and take a more active role in providing land- use planners with information on methods to reduce the potential for human/wildlife conflicts.
Graham said FWP believes that the range of alternatives and the agency's analysis of the probable consequences of implementing each alternative as described in the draft EIS and the supplement have adequately addressed the important issues relevant to managing the state's wildlife resources. No new issues were raised through the final phase of public involvement. He also noted that public comment on the draft EIS and supplement focused primarily on actions and policies proposed under the analyzed alternatives and did not indicate that FWP's analysis of environmental consequences was incomplete or inadequate. "Thus," Graham continued, "we have made the decision to forego publication of a final EIS and to adopt the draft EIS and supplement to the draft as the final EIS."
Graham's notice of the agency's decision will be followed by a published "Record of Decision" that will provide the legal and administrative rationale for the decision.
Inquiries about the decision should be sent to the: Wildlife Division, POB 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.