The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the setting of annual regulations permitting the hunting of migratory birds.

The Service uses the annual process to evaluate and establish a framework for hunting seasons and numbers of birds which may be taken in each of four flyways across the nation. Waterfowl and other bird species are hunted for food and recreation through regulations set each year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in consultation with state fish and wildlife agencies.

The draft SEIS proposes to adjust the process for authorizing migratory bird hunting in accordance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Act) of 1918. The Act is the Federal authority under which migratory bird hunting seasons are regulated. The Act implements four treaties between the United States and Russia, Mexico,Japan, and Canada. Bird species protected by the Act include nearly all species native to North America, many of which migrate to and from the treaty nations. The Act prohibits the “take” of birds without a permit or authorization (e.g. hunting season).

The document published in the Federal Register on July 9, 2010, provides and analyzes alternatives for each of the seven components in terms of their potential impacts on migratory bird species, other wildlife species, special status species, vegetation, outdoor recreational activities, physical and cultural resources, and the socioeconomic/administrative environment. The draft SEIS proposes seven components of this action for which there are several alternatives. These include:

• Recommendations on annual hunting regulations that rely on a well-defined process of monitoring, data collection, and scientific assessment. These recommendations are crafted through public review and valuable input on technical assessments or other documents related to proposed regulatory frameworks by established flyway technical committees and flyway councils. After final regulatory frameworks are adopted, each state selects its seasons within the federal frameworks.

• Duck regulatory packages set the framework of regulations that apply to the general duck hunting seasons. They include opening and closing dates, season lengths, daily bag limits, and shooting hours. Two alternatives regarding how frequently duck regulatory packages should be reviewed and adopted are presented in the draft SEIS.

• Proposed action concerning the subsistence hunting regulations process for Alaska. Regulations governing subsistence harvest of migratory birds provide a framework that enables the continuation of customary and traditional subsistence uses of migratory birds in Alaska.

Also included in the draft SEIS is a discussion of the impact of cumulative harvest of migratory bird hunting on national wildlife refuges.