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Parts 3.1 and 3.2, Sections 11-0303, 11-0311, 11-0903 and 11-0905 - Protection of diamondback terrapin - Regulatory Impact Statement

Regulatory Impact Statement

1. Statutory authority

Section 11-0303 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) directs the Department of Environmental Conservation (department) to develop and carry out programs that will maintain desirable species in ecological balance, and to observe sound management practices. Section 11-0311 empowers the department to give any wildlife additional protection if ten or more citizens file a petition for that protection that the Department deems is warranted. In response to such a petition, the diamondback terrapin was given a season under section 11-0311 to give it some protection prior to the protection of native turtles as small game with a closed season in 2007. Section 11-0903 provides the Department specific authority to set manner of taking, possession, open seasons and bag limits for the harvest of wildlife. Section 11-0905 provides the department specific authority to set open hunting seasons and bag limits for small game.

2. Legislative objectives

The legislative objective behind the statutory provisions listed above is to establish, or authorize the department to establish by regulation, certain basic wildlife management tools, including the setting of open seasons and bag limits and restrictions on methods of take and possession. These tools are used by the department to maintain desirable wildlife species in ecological balance, while observing sound management practices.

3. Needs and benefits

This rule making addresses two issues: (1) it eliminates the harvest season on diamondback terrapins authorized by 11-0311. Declines in terrapin populations across its range have caused concerns for the loss of adult terrapins including losses to legal harvest. New York is now the only state in the range of the diamondback terrapin that still has a legal harvest. Closure of this harvest is in response to this threat to New York populations.

(2) In 2007, all New York native turtles were granted small game status with the exception of the diamondback terrapin. This exclusion of the terrapin was solely because of the special harvest season in effect at the time. Addition of the diamondback terrapin to the list of native turtles is appropriate and consistent with its status as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need because, with the exception of the snapping turtle, there is no open season for the native turtles.

4. Costs

The costs associated with adopting the proposed regulation relate to the outreach needed to inform license holders that the season will be closed and possession of the species after that time will be illegal. These costs are minimal and can be done with a simple letter to each of the handful of persons holding a valid license at the time the rule is adopted.

5. Local government mandates

The proposed changes do not impose any mandates on local governments.

6. Paperwork

The proposed changes do not require any additional paperwork by any regulated entity.

7. Duplication

The proposed changes do not duplicate any state or federal requirement and in fact would reduce redundancy.

8. Alternatives

Make the recommended changes above. This alternative would close the season on terrapins and remove the threat of overexploitation for this declining species. This alternative makes law enforcement simple as well, as possession of live terrapins in the field would become illegal.

Amend the regulations to put bag limits that reduce the impact of collection on the population. This action may be successful, but if the value of the turtles goes up, this may still result in negative impacts as more people may be recruited to become licensed so they can collect additional terrapins. This also would fail to mitigate concerns over law enforcement as the live turtles would still be legal to sell in NY, making it impossible for law enforcement to determine if turtles they encounter were legally obtained or collected without a license.

Close the diamondback terrapin season under the existing regulation. This would continue the confusion of having one native turtle treated separately from the rest of the native turtles. Having its season closed would also be redundant to protection it could have by simply including it with the other turtles as small game with a closed season.

Make no changes. This alternative would continue to allow the commercial harvest of the species with no bag limits. Under this scenario, at any time, a company can decide to purchase a license for $10 and harvest as many turtles as they can. Turtles are long-lived species with poor productivity. A single season of high harvest could make the difference between population stability and extirpation in the state of New York.

9. Federal standards

There are no federal government standards associated with this proposal.

10. Compliance schedule

These regulations, if adopted, would become effective May 5, 2018.

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