Lead and Pigs: Agencies Seek Public Comments | Government and politics

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The United States Forest Service, in support of a project called Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR), is seeking public input on a draft plan to restore impact-damaged resources and areas on lead mining in southeastern Missouri, as well as feral hog damage.

The proposed plan uses the funds raised to offset damage to the natural habitat caused by past heavy metal mining activities – including lead mining – by using these funds for restoration work. Because feral hogs also pose a serious threat to natural communities in Missouri, the project also proposes to use the funding for the continued removal of feral hogs.

The Wild Hog Environmental Assessment and Restoration Plan Project (RP/EA Project) is a project developed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Forest Service, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The primary objective of the project is to address ecological impacts on natural resources in the Viburnum Trend mining district, while identifying proposed projects that will restore natural resources that have been damaged and ecological services lost due to hazardous substances.

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The project location includes portions of Washington, Iron, St. Francois, and Reynolds counties, with an emphasis on state and federal lands, and may include private lands with voluntary landowner participation.

The draft RP/EA is open for public comment until July 28. @usda.gov.

The full draft is available on the USDA Forest Service website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/landmanagement/?cid=FSEPRD629017. The site also contains a presentation that gives brief information about the project, and a press release that also gives information on how to comment.

Project objectives include the significant reduction in the number of hogs in the project area, the protection of existing private, state and federal lands in the project area, the protection of native plants, and the protection of habitats for migratory birds, species threatened and endangered.

The document also lists benefits that will be seen in pig control, including: improved habitats in areas endowed with natural resources, increased quality of vegetation in degraded or destroyed areas, reduced destruction of migratory birds and their habitats, as well as reducing the degradation of aquatic resources. and riparian habitats, complements existing restoration practices in the project area, and enhances habitat for federally threatened and endangered species.

The NRDAR has three feral hog disposal ratings of different alternatives. The first alternative is that no further action would be taken, as it would only be a continuation of the ongoing efforts to remove and monitor the pigs. No habitat would be restored or enhanced beyond what agencies and organizations are already doing in the area with limited existing resources.

Alternative two – the preferred alternative, according to the agencies – involves three years of feral hog removal funded by the NRDAR and two years funded by other agencies for a total of five years. There would be two full-time employees with the United States Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and equipment, and seven weeks of flight operations each year.

Alternative three is five years of feral hog removal fully funded by the NRDAR. The rest of this alternative is identical to the second alternative, with two full-time USDA APHIS employees and equipment and seven weeks of flight operations per year.

Over the past 30 years, feral hogs have increased their geographic range from 17 to 38 states and have well-established populations in southern and central Missouri counties. Wild hog hunting in the Mark Twain National Forest has not been permitted since December 2019 due to a forest ordinance. There are a few exceptions, such as people with a valid Missouri deer or turkey license (who are actively hunting in accordance with the license) to shoot a feral hog in the event of an encounter.

Although not prohibited, hunting feral hogs on other private land is strongly discouraged, and people are advised to report feral hog sightings and damage to the Missouri Department of Conservation at 573-522-4115, ext. 3296 or online at https://mdc.mo.gov/feral-hog-sighting-damage-report, or at the nearest Forest Service office.

Danielle Thurman is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at [email protected] or 573-518-3616.

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