[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 83 (Tuesday, April 30, 2013)]
[Pages 25297-25298]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09898]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2013-N052; FXRS12650400000S3-123-FF04R02000]

Programmatic Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to prepare 
a programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) to evaluate the effects 
of the cultivation and use of genetically modified crops (GMCs) on 
lands that are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the 
Southeast Region (Refuge System lands). The Service's Southeast Region 
includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the 
Caribbean. We provide this notice to advise other Federal and State 
agencies, Native American tribes, non-governmental organizations, and 
the public of our intention as well as to obtain suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues to consider during the PEA planning 
    These actions are part of our effort to comply with the general 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended 
(NEPA); NEPA regulations; other appropriate Federal

[[Page 25298]]

laws and regulations; and our policies and procedures for compliance 
with those laws and regulations. As a requirement of NEPA, we must 
identify resource issues, develop alternatives for the use of GMCs, and 
evaluate the effects of each of our chosen alternatives on the human 

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by July 29, 2013.

ADDRESSES: A private consultant, Environmental Management and Planning 
Solutions, Inc. (EMPSi), will support the Internet Web site associated 
with the PEA and collect and organize comments.
    You may send comments, questions, and requests for information by 
one of the following methods:
    Email: [email protected] (this email address will transmit 
comments directly to the Service as well as to EMPSi's database);
    Online portal: https://sites.google.com/site/fwsregion4gmcpeis/home 
(this Internet Web site, which will serve as the primary source of 
information to the public on the PEA, includes a portal for sending 
comments directly to the Service through EMPSi);
    U.S. mail: Richard Warner, NEPA Coordinator, GMCPEA, 1875 Century 
Boulevard, Suite 420, Atlanta, GA 30345.

at 404-679-7110 (telephone).



    With this notice, we initiate the process for developing a PEA on 
the cultivation and use of genetically modified crops (GMCs) on our 
Refuge System lands. Our PEA will concentrate on the refuges in our 
Region that have used farming in the recent past and are likely to do 
so in the foreseeable future. The overall analysis in the PEA is 
intended, however, to apply to the entire Southeast Region.
    The specific GMCs that will be analyzed in our PEA are varieties of 
corn and soybean that could be used to provide a sufficient amount of 
food for migratory waterfowl and satisfy the conservation goals of our 
refuges. The proposed use of any other GMCs will require a separate 
NEPA analysis on a case-by-case basis.


    As part of a settlement in Center for Food Safety v. Salazar, Case 
No. 1:11 cv 01457 (D.D.C. 2011), which challenged the cultivation and 
use of GMCs on our Refuge System lands, we agreed to cease using GMCs 
after the 2012 planting season and to refrain from doing so until we 
completed the appropriate level of NEPA analysis. Up through the end of 
the 2012 planting season, certain of our refuges cultivated and used 
GMCs as a management tool to provide food for millions of ducks, geese, 
doves, cranes, and other migrating waterfowl and shorebirds that 
inhabit our Refuge System lands.
    At this juncture, we have determined that a PEA is appropriate to 
sufficiently analyze the environmental impacts of the cultivation and 
use of GMCs on our Refuge System lands. If we determine during 
preparation of the PEA that it is not appropriate for our NEPA analysis 
or if we are unable to make a finding of no significant impact at the 
conclusion of our analysis via the PEA, we will prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS) in accordance with NEPA.
    Refuge farming in the Southeast Region primarily occurs through 
cooperative farming agreements that are entered into by a refuge 
manager and a farmer. Via the agreement, the farmer is authorized to 
grow crops on a designated number of acres on the refuge. In return, 
the farmer agrees to harvest an agreed upon percentage share of the 
crop and to leave the remaining crop in the fields as a food source for 
migrating birds.
    The only GMCs that have been cultivated and used on our Refuge 
System lands are those that have been evaluated and deregulated by the 
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, as described in 7 CFR 340.6. Each of these 
GMCs was subjected to extensive scientific evaluation and regulatory 
processes before being granted non-regulated status, as described at 
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/index.shtml. Each proposal to 
grant non-regulated status to the GMCs underwent a NEPA analysis via an 
environmental assessment. These environmental assessments are posted on 
the APHIS Web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/biotechnology/not_reg.html. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
evaluates all pesticides associated with GMCs for general environmental 
effects, while the Food and Drug Administration evaluates the potential 
impact of the GMC on food safety.
    The authority for approving GMCs on refuge lands, nationwide, was 
delegated by the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to the 
Regional Chiefs of the National Wildlife Refuge System in April 2007. 
This policy may be found at http://www.fws.gov/policy/601fw3.html.
    We will conduct six public scoping meetings to solicit input on the 
issues, concerns, and alternatives for the cultivation and use of GMCs 
on refuges in the Region. Meetings will be conducted at the following 
locations: Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (North Carolina); 
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (Alabama); Tennessee National Wildlife 
Refuge (Tennessee); Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Alexandria, Louisiana. 
The addresses, dates, and times of meetings will be announced through 
local and regional media.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, suggestion or 
correspondence, you should be aware that your entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you may request in your comment that we withhold 
your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

    Dated: March 27, 2013.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2013-09898 Filed 4-29-13; 8:45 am]