May 31, 2018 500 AM
SOUTH BREWSTER COUNTY – The National Park Service (NPS) requests public comments on a plan to manage trespass livestock in Big Bend National Park. The 30-day review and comment period for the park’s Trespass Livestock Management Plan and Environmental Assessment begins June 4, and continues through July 3. To protect the park’s natural and cultural resources, and the visitor experience, the National Park Service proposes to manage livestock that illegally enter or are pushed into the park.
Trespass livestock in the park originate primarily from Mexico. Among other harmful impacts to the park, trespass livestock damage soils, vegetation, archeological sites and historic structures, and reduce park visitors’ ability to experience the intended natural and untrammeled conditions of wilderness.
NPS, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and contract staff would collect the animals using live-capture methods. The animals would primarily be captured using traditional mounted wrangler round-ups. In accordance with federal regulations related to livestock entering the US from Mexico, the animals would be transported to the USDA quarantine facility in Presidio, Texas, for quarantine, health screening, and eventual sale at auction. Helicopter herding would on occasion assist mounted wranglers. Baited corral traps and limited strategic fencing could also be used. Unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) technology could assist the program in the future. No lethal means are planned.
For decades trespass livestock have entered the park, primarily from Mexico, and have been subject to varying responses by park managers and USDA. Although up to 250 have been documented, NPS surveys suggest an average 110 horses, cattle, and burros may be in the park at any one time.
The environmental assessment considers two alternatives: No-action, which would allow continued and increasing impacts from trespass livestock on the park’s natural and cultural resources and the visitor experience; and the proposed action alternative.
The Plan and Environmental Assessment are being prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act to provide a decision-making framework that 1) explores a reasonable range of alternatives to meet project objectives; 2) evaluates potential issues and impacts to park resources and values; 3) identifies measures to lessen the degree or extent of these impacts; and 4) describes an approach and methods for trespass livestock management over the long-term.
The plan is available for review and download at the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment web site, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bibe. The NPS prefers comments be submitted in writing on the same site. However, comments may be submitted by email to: [email protected]; by mail to: Superintendent, PO Box 129, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834-0129, or in writing at public meetings.
The public, organizations, and others are invited to submit written comments throughout the 30-day period, June 4 through July 3, 2018.