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Previous Federal Actions Regarding Endangered Species Act Status of Gray Wolves

 

Federal Register Proposed Rule to Delist Gray Wolf in the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment

 

Wolf in snow. Photo by USFWS

Photo by National Park Service

Below are the Supplementary Information and a portion of the Background sections. Download a PDF of the entire Federal Register Proposed Rule to Delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment - 61 pages; 2.43 MB PDF

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR -  Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2011–0029]

[92220-1113-000; ABC Code: C6]

 

RIN 1018–AX57

 

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants;

Proposed Rule To Revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife for the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the Eastern United States, Initiation of Status Reviews for the Gray Wolf and for the Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon)

 

AGENCY:  Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

 

ACTIONS:  Proposed rule, initiation of status reviews.

 

SUMMARY:  We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or USFWS) are re-evaluating the listing of the Minnesota population of gray wolves (Canis lupus) and propose to revise it to conform to current statutory and policy requirements.  We propose to identify the Minnesota population as a Western Great Lakes (WGL) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the gray wolf and to remove this DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  We propose these actions because the best available scientific and commercial information indicates that the WGL DPS does not meet the definitions of threatened or endangered under the Act. 

 

This proposed rule, if made final, would remove the currently designated critical habitat for the gray wolf in Minnesota and Michigan and the current special regulations for gray wolves in Minnesota.  We also propose to revise the range of the gray wolf (the species C. lupus) by removing all or parts of 29 eastern states that we now recognize were not part of the historical range of the gray wolf.  New information indicates that these areas should not have been included in the original listing of the gray wolf.

 

In this proposed rule, we recognize recent taxonomic information indicating that the gray wolf subspecies Canis lupus lycaon should be elevated to the full species C. lycaon. Given that a complete status review of this newly recognized species has never been conducted, we are initiating a rangewide review of the conservation status of C. lycaon in the United States and Canada.  This rule also constitutes the initiation of our five-year review of the status of gray wolves under section 4(c)(2) of the Act, as well as the initiation of status reviews specific to gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and Mexican wolves in the Southwest United States and Mexico.

 

DATES: 

Comment submission:  We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before July 5, 2011. 

 

Public hearings:  We will hold two public hearings on this proposed rule scheduled on May 18, 2011 and on June 8, 2011.  Informational meetings will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by the public hearings from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

 

ADDRESSES: 

Comment submission: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

 

Electronically:  Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Enter Keyword or ID box, enter FWS–R3–ES–2011–0029, which is the docket number for this rulemaking.  Then, in the Search panel at the top of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document.  You may submit a comment by clicking on “Submit a Comment.”

 

By hard copy:  Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R3–ES–2011–0029; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov.  This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

 

Public hearings:  We have scheduled an informational meeting followed by a public hearing in Ashland, Wisconsin, on May 18, 2011, at the Northern Great Lakes Center, 29270 County Highway G.  We have scheduled an informational meeting followed by a public hearing in Augusta, Maine, on June 8, 2011, at the Augusta Civic Center, 16 Cony Street. See the Public Hearings section below for more details.

 

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Laura Ragan, 612-713-5350. 

 

Direct all questions or requests for additional information to:  

GRAY WOLF QUESTIONS,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive,

Ft. Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056. 

 

Additional information is also available on our website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf.  Individuals who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance. 

 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Public Comments

We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will be as accurate and as effective as possible.  Therefore, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited.  In particular, we are seeking targeted information and comments on our national wolf strategy and our proposed revision of the Minnesota listing; see items (1)-(2) below.  Also, as part of this proposed rule we are announcing initiation of a 5-year status review for C. lupus in the conterminous United States and Mexico; initiation of status reviews specific to, respectively, gray wolves in the Pacific Northwest and in the Southwest United States and Mexico; and initiation of a status review for C. lycaon throughout its range in the United States and Canada.  For these status reviews to be complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we request information on items (9)-(11) below from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties.   

 

(1)  Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant information concerning our analysis of the current gray wolf listing and the adequacy of our national wolf strategy, with particular respect to our recommended gray wolf listing units (i.e., taxonomic or population units);

 

(2) Information that forms the basis for revising the currently listed Minnesota group of gray wolves under section 4(c) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S. C. 1531 et seq.), with particular respect to the factors in section 4(a) of the Act, which are:

 

    (a)  The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;

    (b)  Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;

    (c)  Disease or predation;

    (d)  The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or

    (e)  Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

     

(3) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning any current or likely future threat, or lack thereof, to wolves in the WGL DPS;

 

(4)  Additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, population trends, and threats with respect to wolves in the WGL DPS;

 

(5)  Current or planned activities in the WGL DPS and their possible impacts on the wolves and their habitat;

 

(6)  Information concerning the adequacy of the recovery criteria described in the 1992 Recovery Plan for the Eastern Timber Wolf;

 

(7)  The extent and adequacy of Federal, state, and tribal protection and management that would be provided to wolves in the WGL DPS as delisted species; and

 

(8)  The proposed geographic boundaries of the WGL DPS, and scientific and legal supporting information for alternative boundaries that might result in a larger or smaller DPS, including information on the discreteness and significance of the proposed DPS.

 

(9) New information concerning the biology and conservation of the gray wolf in the conterminous United States and Mexico that may be informative to the 5-year status review of Canis lupus, with particular attention to the listing units described under (1) above, including:

 

    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;

    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;

    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;

    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends;

    (e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable gray wolf habitat;

    (f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to extant gray wolf populations, their habitat, or both; and

    (g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the gray wolf, its habitat, or both.

     

(10) Information concerning the status of the gray wolf in the Pacific Northwest United States and the gray wolf subspecies baileyi (Mexican wolf) in the Southwest United States and Mexico, including:

 

    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;

    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;

    (c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;

    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends;

    (e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable habitat;

    (f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to these populations, their habitat, or both; and

    (g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for these populations, their habitat, or both.

     

(11) Information concerning the biology, range, and population trends of Canis lycaon,, including:

 

(a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;

(b) Genetics and taxonomy;

(c) Historical and current range including distribution patterns;

(d) Historical and current population levels, and current and projected trends;

(e) Historical, current, and projected levels of suitable habitat;

(f) Past, ongoing, and emerging threats to extant populations, their habitat, or both;

(g) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its habitat, or both; and

(h) The potential role that any portion of the historical range of the C. lycaon in the United States may play in the persistence and viability of the species.

 

You may submit your comments and materials by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES.  We will not accept comments sent by e-mail or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES.  Comments must be submitted to http://www.regulations.gov before midnight (Eastern Daylight Time) on the date specified in DATES.  Finally, we will not consider hand-delivered comments that we do not receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the date specified in DATES

 

We will post your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—on http://www.regulations.gov.  If you provide personal identifying information, such as your street address, phone number, or e-mail address, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review.  However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

 

Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2011–0029, or by appointment, during normal business hours at the at the following Ecological Services offices:

 

  • Twin Cities, Minnesota Ecological Services Field Office, 4101 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, MN; 612–725–3548.
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, 2661 Scott Tower Dr., New Franken, WI; 920–866–1717.
  • East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office, 2651 Coolidge Road, Suite 101, East Lansing, MI; 517–351–2555.
  • New England Ecological Services Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 70 Commercial St., Suite 300, Concord, NH; 603–223–2541.

Public Hearings

We have scheduled an informational meeting followed by a public hearing in Ashland, Wisconsin, on May 18, 2011, at the Northern Great Lakes Center, 29270 County Highway G.  The informational meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.    

 

A second informational meeting followed by a public hearing will be held in Augusta, Maine, on June 8, 2011, at the Augusta Civic Center, 16 Cony Street.  The informational meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., followed by a public hearing from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.    

 

Peer Review  

In accordance with our policy, “Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,” which was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert opinion of at least three appropriate independent specialists regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this proposed rule.  The purpose of such review is to ensure that our decisions are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis.  We will send copies of this proposed rule to the peer reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal Register.

 

Background

National Overview 

Below we provide an overview of our proposed national approach to recovery of wolves in the conterminous United States and Mexico.  This overview provides the context for our proposed actions for wolves in the eastern United States.  In this overview, we discuss the listing history for the gray wolf, evaluate the current gray wolf listing, present the structured decision-making process we have used to date to formulate our national wolf strategy, and describe the strategy itself.

 

Gray Wolf Listing History
Here we present a brief overview of previous Federal actions relating to the listing of gray wolves and the recovery plans that have been developed pursuant to these listing actions.  Additional Federal actions for western Great Lakes wolves are discussed in Previous Federal Actions for WGL Wolves below.

 

Gray wolves were originally listed as subspecies or as regional populations of subspecies in the conterminous United States and Mexico.  In 1967, we listed the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) in the Great Lakes region (32 FR 4001, March 11, 1967), and in 1973 we listed C. l. irremotus in the northern Rocky Mountains (38 FR 14678, June 4, 1973).  Both listings were promulgated under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969; subsequently, on January 4, 1974, these subspecies were listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (39 FR 1171).  We listed a third gray wolf subspecies, the Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi) as endangered on April 28, 1976 (41 FR 17740), in the southwestern United States and Mexico.  On June 14, 1976 (41 FR 24064), we listed the Texas gray wolf subspecies (C. l. monstrabilis) as endangered in Texas and Mexico. 

 

In 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978) reclassifying the gray wolf as an endangered population at the species level (C. lupus) throughout the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for the Minnesota gray wolf population, which was classified as threatened.  At that time, we considered the Minnesota group of gray wolves to be a listable entity under the Act, and we considered the gray wolf group in Mexico and the 48 conterminous States other than Minnesota to be another listable entity (43 FR 9607, 9610, respectively, March 9, 1978).  This reclassification was undertaken because of uncertainty about the taxonomic validity of some of the previously listed subspecies and because we recognized that wolf populations were historically connected, and that subspecies boundaries were thus malleable.

 

However, the 1978 rule also stated that “biological subspecies would continue to be maintained and dealt with as separate entities” (43 FR 9609), and offered “the firmest assurance that [the Service] will continue to recognize valid biological subspecies for purposes of its research and conservation programs” (43 FR 9610, March 9, 1978).  Accordingly, recovery plans were developed for the wolf populations in the following regions of the United States:  the northern Rocky Mountains in 1980, revised in 1987; the Great Lakes in 1978, revised in 1992; and the Southwest in 1982, the revision of which is now underway.

 

More detail on previous Federal actions for the Southwest and northern Rocky Mountains wolves is provided, respectively, within the 90-day finding for Mexican wolves (75 FR 46894) and in various notices and rulemakings for the management of northern Rocky Mountains wolves (59 FR 60252, November 22, 1994; 59 FR 60266, November 22, 1994; 68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003; 68 FR 15879, April 1, 2003; 70 FR 1286, January 6, 2005; 71 FR 6634, February 8, 2006; 71 FR 43410, August 1, 2006; 73 FR 4720, January 28, 2008; 73 FR 10514, February 27, 2008; 74 FR 15123, April 2, 2009) .  Further detail on previous Federal actions related to the WGL DPS is provided in Previous Federal Actions for WGL Wolves below.

 

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Above are the Supplementary Information and a portion of the Background sections. Download a PDF of the entire Federal Register Proposed Rule to Delist the Gray Wolf Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment - 61 pages; 2.43 MB PDF

 

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Last updated: June 6, 2012