U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service’s Southeast Region Ends Evaluation For Use Of Genetically Modified Crops On National Wildlife Refuges

BATON ROUGE – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Region is ending the development of a Programmatic Environmental Assessment to evaluate the use of Genetically Modified Crops (GMCs) in agricultural practices intended to support waterfowl on its National Wildlife Refuges. 

         The Service will continue farming to support wildlife on selected refuges in the Southeast, but refrain from using Genetically-Modified Crop seeds. The Southeast Region farms about 40,000 acres on fewer than 50 refuges, leaving about a third of the crops for wildlife. Refuge managers in the Southeast stopped using GMCs in 2012, while work on the Environmental Assessment was underway.

         The Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System Leadership Team issued a memorandum on July 17, 2014, announcing phasing out of the use of GMCs to achieve wildlife management objectives throughout the Refuge System by January 2016. Upon issuance of the memorandum, the Southeast Region determined that the need to continue the preparation of the Programmatic Environmental Assessment evaluating the use of GMCs in its agricultural program no longer exists and abandons any further preparation.

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         The decision, that is available now in the Federal Register reading room, will be posted officially on June 8, 2015. It closes out the previously announced notice of intent to draft an Environmental Assessment on the use of GMCs on refuges in the Southeast. This action also informs the Court overseeing the settlement reached with the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, from a 2011 lawsuit, Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Salazar, et al., Civil Action No. 11-1457 (D.C. 2011), that we will no longer use GMC seed on refuges in the southeastern United States. 

         The Southeast Region refuges have roughly four million acres for use by wildlife and the American public throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Caribbean. GMCs were primarily used on certain refuges in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina to meet the Service’s conservation objectives to provide migratory birds, especially waterfowl, with dependable high-energy food during the winter months.

         On April 30, 2013, the Service published a notice in the Federal Register inviting public input on its intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Assessment, and requested information and suggestions from the public on the issues that should be considered during the National Environmental Policy Act planning process and in the Programmatic Environmental Assessment. This process included five public scoping meetings in Columbia, North Carolina; Decatur, Alabama; Dyersburg, Tennessee; Natchez, Mississippi; and Alexandria, Louisiana.  The Service also created a website for public to submit comments and suggestions.

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         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. 

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