Leading National Bird Group Challenges Army Corps Plan To Kill 16,000 Birds

Friday, August 22, 2014
American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a leading national bird conservation organization, has raised multiple objections to assertions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in their proposal to kill 16,000 cormorant birds on East Sand Island (ESI), in the Columbia River Estuary, as part of a plan to reduce predation of juvenile salmonids including salmon smolt by the birds.
 
The Army Corps plan to kill the Double-crested Cormorants over a period of four years, was outlined in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for their Double-crested Cormorant Management Plan to Reduce Predation of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Estuary.
The conclusions reached in the DEIS prompted ABC to send a 23-page comment letter on August 19 to Sondra Ruckwardt at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District Office. The Army Corps had solicited comments to their proposal via a June 12 public announcement.
 
According to ABC’s Dr. George Wallace, who wrote the comments and who is also the organization’s Vice President for Oceans and Islands, “We have deep concerns about the DEIS and the preferred alternative… The determination that the breeding population on ESI must be reduced to approximately 5,600 breeding pairs is not based on any rigorous or peer-reviewed analysis.”
 
About 15,000 pairs of Double-crested Cormorants (DCCO) are estimated to nest on ESI.  Adult DCCOs are large, brownish-black birds with a small pouch of yellow-orange skin on the throat. The island provides excellent breeding habitat for the birds and a base from which to depart in search of small fish, which they capture in hooked beaks while diving into water.
 
Dr. Wallace added that, “Salmon smolt consumption by cormorants has varied from levels that are considered acceptable by NOAA Fisheries (two million smolts in 2005) to those considered highly unacceptable (20 million smolts in 2011), despite little change in size of the ESI DCCO colony. The lack of a direct correlation between smolt consumption and DCCO colony size means that the number of smolts saved from management to reduce colony size is difficult to predict based on colony size alone.”
 
ABC asserts that the lethal approach being recommended by the Corps in reducing the numbers of DCCO is offered “…without adequate justification and explanation of why the same result cannot be achieved through non-lethal methods.” ABC says that the expected benefits to salmon hinge not in how cormorant numbers are controlled (through harassment or lethal control), but in the habitat modification that must occur to maintain the breeding DCCO population at the Corps’ target of 5,600 breeding pairs.
 
Furthermore, ABC says the recommended alternative would reduce the entire western DCCO population by approximately 25%, constituting a depredation control order going beyond local ramifications to encompass the entire western DCCO population. It is not clear if permits issued under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for this type of action can be legally used to reduce an entire regional population of a species protected under the MBTA.  ABC says further that the MBTA requires that permits for lethal control not be issued until it has been demonstrated that non-lethal methods are ineffective.
 
“Even then, lethal control cannot be the sole method of control and must be used in concert with non-lethal methods. We question the legality of issuing a depredation permit that apparently violates basic operating tenants of the MBTA,” Dr. Wallace said.
ABC also charged the Corps with misinterpreting scientific data to make its case and then completely ignoring other science that offered findings that appear to not support the proposed action.

TFWC Updated On Chronic Wasting Disease, Boating Statistics, Endangered Species, And Budget Process

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission heard updates on chronic wasting disease (CWD), Tennessee’s In Need of Management, Threatened, and Endangered Wildlife Listing, boating statistics, and budget process during its July meeting. The two-day session concluded Friday and was held at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building. Chuck Yoest, assistant ... (click for more)

Public Invitation Issued To Hear Results Of South Holston Smallmouth Bass Tagging Study

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency invites the public to attend a meeting to learn about the results of a recent smallmouth bass tagging study performed on South Holston Lake. According to Fisheries Biologist John Hammonds, the study was conducted in January and February 2017.  In order to mimic a real world scenario, volunteer anglers caught the fish out of water ... (click for more)

Pair Arrested In Connection With Lookout Mountain Vehicle Thefts, Break-Ins

Police on Lookout Mountain said two arrests have been made tied to the theft of  two vehicles stolen from a home in Lookout Mountain, Ga., last week.   In connection to the vehicle thefts, seven other vehicles were entered and several items were stolen. Lookout Mountain, Ga., Chief Todd Gann said, "Early  Wednesday  morning, a Georgia resident noticed ... (click for more)

Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news. Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us on Facebook ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Dear Friend Jake

Two weeks ago four of us piled in a car to go down to Canton, Ga., so we could tell Jake Butcher goodbye. Bob McKamey, former mayor Ron Littlefield, a dazzling guy named Steve Wilson, and myself. This would be the last time any of us would see Jake. It was a spectacular day and anyone who doesn’t believe in such goodbyes is missing out on the greatest moment in their life. It is ... (click for more)