Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the MMHSRP
The National Marine Fisheries Service, Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program has prepared a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The public comment period has been extended and will now close on July 28, 2021.
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (CEQ), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces the availability of a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects associated with continued implementation of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP). Any activities conducted or funded by NMFS in support of the implementation of the MMHSRP are considered a major federal action subject to the requirements of NEPA. Additionally, the issuance of a new scientific research and enhancement permit to the MMHSRP under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) to conduct a subset of MMHSRP activities is also considered a major federal action. Therefore, in 2009, the MMHSRP published a PEIS analyzing the anticipated individual and cumulative effects of these activities on the human environment and included various mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of the MMHSRP’s activities on the human environment. This PEIS has been used as the NEPA analysis during the issuance of scientific research and enhancement permits to the MMHSRP, as well as the NEPA analysis for awarding grants under the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program.
Since the initial PEIS was published in 2009, changes have been made to increase efficiency and improve human health and safety during marine mammal entanglement response, stranding response, carcass disposal, rehabilitation, and release of animals back to the wild. Additionally, more information on the effectiveness of the MMHSRP’s activities and mitigation measures has been collected. Using a programmatic approach, NMFS identified and prepared a new qualitative analysis of environmental impacts covering a range of activities conducted in support of the MMHSRP, including the implementation of updated policies and best practices, protocols, and procedures. Scoping was conducted in 2018, and comments received were used to guide the preparation of this draft PEIS. This draft PEIS will supersede the PEIS published in 2009 and assesses the potential environmental effects of MMHSRP activities under a range of three alternatives, characterized by different methods, mitigation measures, and levels of response. These three alternatives are:
- Continue Program Implementation at Current Activity Levels and Denial of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit (No Action Alternative).
- Improved Program Implementation and Issuance of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit (Preferred Alternative).
- More Stringent Protocols and Best Practices and Issuance of a New Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit.
For all potentially significant impacts under any of these three alternatives, the proposed PEIS identifies avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures to reduce these impacts, where feasible, to a level below significance. These mitigation measures also include the issuance of best practices and guidance documents that are contained in the PEIS as appendices.
The MMHSRP welcomes public comment on this draft PEIS, including the best practices and guidance documents, and you can comment in a number of ways, including:
- The preferred method of filling out the following Google Form (https://forms.gle/d3zTanFQTS8HvqLd6).
- If your comments are extensive, you can send an email to: email@example.com.
- You can also send comments by mail to: Office of Protected Resources (1315 East-West Highway, 13th Floor, Silver Spring, MD 20910, but please know that mail is not regularly checked by MMHSRP staff as we are all working remotely due to impacts from COVID-19)
The public comment period has been extended and will now close on July 28, 2021. Please contact Stephen Manley (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions about the PEIS or the public comment process.