Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA.
Notice and request for comments.
We are advising the public that we have prepared a supplemental environmental assessment and proposed decision/finding of no significant impact relative to oral rabies vaccination programs in several States. Since the publication of our original environmental assessment and decision/finding of no significant impact (2001), a subsequent supplemental decision/finding of no significant impact (2002), a supplemental environmental assessment and decision/finding of no significant impact (2003), and an environmental assessment and decision/finding of no significant impact (2004) concerning expansion to National Forest System lands, we have determined there is a need to further expand the oral rabies vaccination program to include 26 States and the District of Columbia to effectively stop the westward and northward spread of the rabies virus across the United States and into Canada. The purpose of the supplemental environmental assessment and proposed decision/finding of no significant impact is to facilitate planning, interagency coordination, and program management and to provide the public with our analysis of potential individual and cumulative impacts of an expanded oral rabies vaccination program.
We will consider all comments that we receive on or before October 25, 2004. Unless we determine that new substantial issues bearing on the effects of the proposed expansion of the oral rabies vaccination programs have been raised by public comments on this notice, the proposed decision/finding of no significant impact will become final and take effect upon the close of the comment period.
You may submit comments by any of the following methods:
- Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Please send four copies of your comment (an original and three copies) to Docket No. 01-009-7, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. 01-009-7.
- E-mail: Address your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comment must be contained in the body of your message; do not send attached files. Please include your name and address in your message and “Docket No. 01-009-7” on the subject line.
- Agency Web site: Go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/cominst.html for a form you can use to submit an e-mail comment through the APHIS Web site.
Reading Room: You may read the documents discussed in this notice, as well as any comments that we receive, in our reading room. The reading room is located in room 1141 of the USDA South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC. Normal reading room hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To be sure someone is there to help you, please call (202) 690-2817 before coming.
To obtain copies of any of the documents discussed in this notice, contact Tara Wilcox, Operational Support Staff, WS, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 87, Riverdale, MD 20737-1234; phone (301) 734-7921, fax (301) 734-5157, or e-mail: Tara.C.Wilcox@aphis.usda.gov. When requesting copies, please specify the document or documents you wish to receive.
Other Information: You may view APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information, including the names of groups and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mr. Dennis Slate, National Rabies Program Coordinator, Wildlife Services, APHIS, 59 Chennell Drive, Suite 7, Concord, NH 03301-8548; phone (603) 223-9623.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
The Wildlife Services (WS) program in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) cooperates with Federal agencies, State and local governments, and private individuals to research and implement the best methods of managing conflicts between wildlife and human health and safety, agriculture, property, and natural resources. Wildlife-borne diseases that can affect domestic animals and humans are among the types of conflicts that APHIS-WS addresses. Wildlife is the dominant reservoir of rabies in the United States.
On December 7, 2000, a notice was published in the Federal Register (65 FR 76606-76607, Docket No. 00-045-1) in which the Secretary of Agriculture declared an emergency and transferred funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to APHIS-WS for the continuation and expansion of oral rabies vaccination (ORV) programs to address rabies in the States of Ohio, New York, Vermont, Texas, and West Virginia.
On March 7, 2001, we published a notice in the Federal Register (66 FR 13697-13700, Docket No. 01-009-1) to Start Printed Page 56993solicit public involvement in the planning of a proposed cooperative program to stop the spread of rabies in the States of New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia. The notice also stated that a small portion of northeastern New Hampshire and the western counties in Pennsylvania that border Ohio could also be included in these control efforts, and discussed the possibility of APHIS-WS cooperating in smaller-scale ORV projects in the States of Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and Alabama. The March 2001 notice contained detailed information about the history of the problems with raccoon rabies in eastern States and with gray fox and coyote rabies in Texas, along with information about previous and ongoing efforts using ORV baits in programs to prevent the spread of the rabies variants or “strains” of concern.
Subsequently, on May 17, 2001, we published in the Federal Register (66 FR 27489, Docket No. 01-009-2) a notice in which we announced the availability, for public review and comment, of an environmental assessment (EA) that examined the potential environmental effects of the ORV programs described in our March 2001 notice. We solicited comments on the EA for 30 days ending on June 18, 2001. We received one comment by that date. The comment was from an animal protection organization and supported APHIS' efforts toward limiting or eradicating rabies in wildlife populations. The commenter did not, however, support the use of lethal monitoring methods or local depopulation as part of an ORV program.
Finally, on August 30, 2001, we published a notice in the Federal Register (66 FR 45835-45836, Docket No. 01-009-3) in which we advised the public of APHIS' decision and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) regarding the use of oral vaccination to control specific rabies virus strains in raccoons, gray foxes, and coyotes in the United States. That decision allows APHIS-WS to purchase and distribute ORV baits, monitor the effectiveness of ORV programs, and participate in implementing contingency plans that may involve the reduction of a limited number of local target species populations through lethal means (i.e., the preferred alternative identified in the EA). The decision was based upon the final EA, which reflected our review and consideration of the comments received from the public in response to our March 2001 and May 2001 notices and information gathered during planning/scoping meetings with State health departments, other State and local agencies, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Following the August 2001 publication of our original decision/FONSI, we determined there was a need to expand ORV programs to include the States of Kentucky and Tennessee in order to effectively stop the westward spread of raccoon rabies. Accordingly, we prepared a supplemental decision/FONSI to document the potential effects of expanding the programs. We published a notice announcing the availability of the supplemental decision/FONSI in the Federal Register on July 5, 2002 (67 FR 44797-44798, Docket No. 01-009-4).
Following the publication of the supplemental decision/FONSI in July 2002, we determined the need to further expand the ORV program to include the States of Georgia and Maine to effectively prevent the westward and northward spread of the rabies virus across the United States and into Canada. To facilitate planning, interagency coordination, and program management and to provide the public with our analysis of potential individual and cumulative impacts of the expanded ORV programs, we prepared a supplemental EA that addressed the inclusion of Georgia and Maine, as well as the 2002 inclusion of Kentucky and Tennessee, in the ORV program. In addition, we prepared a new decision/FONSI based on the supplemental EA that was published in the Federal Register on June 30, 2003 (68 FR 38669-38670, Docket No. 01-009-5).
Following the publication of the supplemental EA and decision/FONSI in June 2003, we determined the need to further expand the ORV program to portions of National Forest System lands, excluding Wilderness Areas, within several eastern States. APHIS-WS involvement was expanded to include National Forest System lands located within the States of Maine, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey. Numerous National Forest System lands are located within current and potential ORV barrier zones. To effectively combat this strain of the rabies virus, it became increasingly important to bait these large land masses. We prepared an EA, in cooperation with the USDA-Forest Service, which addressed the expansion of National Forest System lands in the ORV program. In addition, we prepared a decision/FONSI based on the EA that was published in the Federal Register on February 20, 2004 (69 FR 7904-7905, Docket No. 01-009-6).
Recently, we have determined the need to further expand the ORV program to include 26 States and the District of Columbia to effectively prevent the westward and northward spread of the rabies virus across the United States and into Canada. The States where APHIS-WS involvement would be continued or expanded include: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. The programs' primary goals are to stop the spread of specific raccoon (eastern States), gray fox (Texas), and coyote (Texas) rabies variants or “strains” of the rabies virus.
The August 2001 EA and decision/FONSI, the July 2002 supplemental decision/FONSI, the June 2003 supplemental EA and decision/FONSI, the February 2004 EA and decision/FONSI, and this supplemental EA and decision/FONSI for expanded ORV program activities in 26 States and the District of Columbia that are the subject of this notice have been prepared in accordance with: (1) The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), (2) regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality for implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), (3) USDA regulations implementing NEPA (7 CFR part 1), and (4) APHIS' NEPA Implementing Procedures (7 CFR part 372).Start Signature
Done in Washington, DC, this 16th day of September 2004.
Acting Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
[FR Doc. E4-2346 Filed 9-22-04; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-34-P