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Oral Rabies Vaccination Program EA

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Date: January 3, 2005
Contact: David Manski, (207) 288-8720

Northeast Region Northern Coastal Barrier Network Parks:
Acadia National Park, ME
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, ME
Assateague Island National Seashore, MD
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, MD
Hampton National Historic Site, MD
Thomas Stone National Historical Site, MD
Cape Cod National Seashore, MA
Fire Island National Seashore, NY
Gateway National Recreation Area, NY and NJ
Colonial National Historical Park, VA
George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument, VA

The U.S. Department of Interior (USDI), National Park Service (NPS), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) and various state agencies (i.e., health departments, agriculture departments, and wildlife agencies), is proposing to implement an oral rabies vaccination (ORVAC) program at several park units in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia to stop the spread of specific raccoon (Procyon lotor) rabies variants or “strains” of the rabies virus and reduce or eliminate this strain of the virus from the eastern U.S. If not stopped, these strains could potentially spread to a much broader area of the U.S. and cause substantial increases in public and domestic animal health costs because of increased rabies exposures. The program would involve the distribution of ORVAC baits to create zones of vaccinated raccoons that would then serve as barriers to further cease the advancement of raccoon rabies virus variants. The action would involve the use of APHIS-WS federal funds to purchase and distribute ORVAC baits.

Currently, cooperative rabies vaccination programs are already being conducted on various land classes in each of the aforementioned states in addition to numerous other states in the eastern U.S. By participating, the NPS would aid in enhancing the effectiveness of the national program. If baiting programs were conducted around these large land masses, reservoirs of the virus would likely still exist, creating holes in the program and potentially making the program less effective at stopping the forward advance or eliminating the raccoon strain of the rabies virus. No cumulative impacts are anticipated from the distribution of ORVAC into the environment. The ORVAC vaccine and bait that would be used has been found safe to use on raccoons and other animal species, has a negligible risk of causing adverse affects to humans, is readily consumed by target animal species, and does not cause bioaccumulation in the environment. A limited number of baits would be distributed one time per year, thereby limiting the potential for persons to be exposed to an ORVAC bait or to bait distributing equipment.

To evaluate alternatives and determine environmental consequences, we have prepared an environmental assessment (EA) for this project. We would like your input regarding this EA to help us in making an informed decision.

Goals of the ORVAC program
The primary goals of the proposed raccoon ORVAC program are:

    • To cooperate with involved state agencies and APHIS-WS in eliminating or stopping the northward and westward advance of the raccoon strain of rabies in the eastern U.S. by approving the use of ORVAC on NPS lands to immunize portions of target species populations along the leading edges of the rabies fronts; and

    • To cooperate with involved state agencies and APHIS-WS in reducing the incidence of rabies cases involving wild and domestic animals and rabies exposures to humans in the areas where the ORVAC programs are conducted.

ISSUES
From comments received during the scoping period and interactions and input received from those involved with the national ORVAC program, the following issues were determined to be germane to the proposed action:

  • Potential for adverse effects on people that become exposed to the vaccine or the baits.
  • Effects of the ORVAC V-RG vaccine on raccoons.
  • Potential for adverse effects on nontarget wildlife species, including threatened or endangered species.
  • Potential for adverse effects on pet dogs or other domestic animals that might consume the baits.
  • Potential for the recombined V-RG virus to “revert to virulence” and result in a virus that could cause disease in humans or animals.
  • Potential for the V-RG virus to recombine with other viruses in the wild to form new viruses that could cause disease in humans or animal.
  • Potential for aerially dropped baits to strike and injure people or domestic animals.
  • Potential impacts on visitor use/experience.
  • Potential effects on NPS wilderness areas.

ALTERNATIVES
Two preliminary alternatives were developed by an internal scoping process. Those alternatives include:

  • The proposed action (described above); and
  • A no action alternative. The no action alternative would preclude any involvement by NPS in rabies prevention or control in the Northeast Region of the NPS. However, APHIS-WS, involved state agencies, and rabies task forces would continue the ORVAC program on lands not managed by the NPS.

OPPORTUNITY FOR PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

Please submit your written comments by February 14, 2005 to receive full consideration in the environmental assessment decision-making process. Faxed comments should also be mailed. The EA is available on the NPS website at http://nps.gov/nero/science/rabies or you may request a hard copy.

Send comments to or request a hard copy of the EA from:
Wendy Servoss
Environmental Coordinator
USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services
6213-E Angus Drive
Raleigh, NC 27617
Phone: 919-786-4480 ext. 229
Fax: 919-782-4159

Please note that names and addresses of people who comment become part of the public record. If you wish us to withhold your name and address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your comments. We will make submissions from organizations, businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses available for public inspection in their entirety.

Did You Know?

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The Guide's Guide to Acadia National Park, originally created to share important information about the park's facilities and natural and cultural resources with commercial guides, is available to the public on this website. The guide contains everything you would want to know about the park. More...