The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Department), has prepared an EA to analyze management options, including a No Action alternative, for responding to the declining Unimak Island caribou herd (UCH).
In 2009, all hunting for caribou on Unimak Island, including subsistence hunting, was suspended for conservation reasons. While caribou herds throughout Alaska commonly undergo major fluctuations in population size, the current downward trend of the UCH may be noncyclic and irreversible without management intervention. Since 2005, there has been little calf recruitment into the UCH and it has an unusually low number of males in proportion to females. From 2002 through 2009, the UCH declined from a population of approximately 1,261 to the present low of 400.
In March 2010 the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) established the “Unimak Wolf Management Area.” This action established state caribou and wolf population objectives for Unimak Island and authorized the Department to conduct wolf control operations to achieve those objectives. The Department is a cooperating agency with the Service in the preparation of this EA in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because of the broad authorities both agencies have for managing fish, wildlife, and habitat resources on Unimak Island.
The BOG’s Unimak plan is included in Appendix C of this EA, along with a modification recently proposed by the Department that will be considered by the BOG’s spring 2011 meeting. The BOG’s approved Unimak Wolf Management Area plan is the “Proposed Action” in this EA. We also analyze a “no action” alternative and two additional predator control alternatives. The Service has not identified a preferred alternative at this time. We are interested in the public’s views.
The decision to be made by the Service is twofold. First, is to determine which alternative addresses the current state of the UCH in the manner that is most consistent with, and necessary to achieve, the Refuge purpose and mission, and to the extent practical, is in accordance with the Department’s mission and mandates. Second, is to determine if the alternative chosen would be a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment in accordance with NEPA. A positive finding on the latter decision would require the development of an Environmental Impact Statement before proceeding with a proposed action.
The document is available online at http://alaska.fws.gov/nwr/planning/nepa.htm
For more information on this issue, go to: http://alaska.fws.gov/nwr/planning/nepa.htm