Endangered Species
Mountain-Prairie Region
PEER REVIEW

About the Document:

Title:  Proposed rule: Proposed establishment of a nonessential experimental population status and reintroduction of black-footed ferrets in eastern Wyoming

Type of review:  Influential

Estimated Peer Review Timeline:

Draft document disseminated:  October 2006

Peer review initiated:  October 2006

Peer review to be completed by:  November 2006

Rule to be finalized:  June 2007

About the Peer Review Process:

In accordance with the peer review requirements of the Office of Management and Budget’s Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review, scientific information influential to rulemakings regarding a threatened or endangered species status shall be peer reviewed.  This fall, the Service will publish a proposed rule to establish a nonessential experimental population status and reintroduction of black-footed ferrets in eastern Wyoming and open a 60-day comment period.  We intend to initiate peer review concurrent with the public comment period.  This review will also satisfy the peer review requirements of our July 1, 1994 peer review policy (59 FR 34270).

The Service will solicit comments from independent scientific reviewers.  The Service will request that the U.S. Forest Service; the states of Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming (states with extensive experience in black-footed recovery); and Prairie Wildlife Research (a non-profit group actively involved in black-footed ferret recovery) nominate potential peer reviewers.  We will request that the State consider the following criteria for any potential nomination.

  •         Expertise:  The reviewer should have knowledge, experience, and skills in one or more of the following areas:  black-footed ferret biology and management, prairie dog biology and management, reintroduction techniques, and conservation biology.  

  •         Independence:  The reviewer should not be employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or other agencies within the Department of Interior.  Academic and consulting scientists should have sufficient independence from the Service or Department if the government supports their work.

  •         Objectivity:  The reviewer should be recognized by his or her peers as being objective, open-minded, and thoughtful.  In addition, the reviewer should be comfortable sharing his or her knowledge and perspectives and openly identifying his or her knowledge gaps.

  •         Advocacy:  The reviewer should not be known or recognized for an affiliation with an advocacy position regarding protection of the black-footed ferret under the Endangered Species Act.

  •         Conflict of Interest:  The reviewer should not have any financial or other interest that could impair his or her objectivity or create an unfair competitive advantage.  If an otherwise qualified reviewer has an unavoidable conflict of interest, the Service may publicly disclose the conflict.

While expertise is the primary consideration, the Service will select peer reviewers (considering, but not limited to, these nominations) that add to a diversity of scientific perspectives relevant to the proposed rule.  We anticipate sending the document to the peer reviewers this fall with responses requested approximately 30 days later.  We will not be providing financial compensation to peer reviewers.  We will solicit reviews from at least five qualified experts.

The Service will provide each peer reviewer with:  information explaining his or her role and instructions for fulfilling that role, the draft proposed rule, a full list of citations noting whether the source has been peer reviewed, and all citations (or in the case of some longer documents, the relevant pages of the document) in an electronic format, on a CD.  The purpose of seeking independent peer review is to ensure use of the best scientific and commercial information available and to ensure and to maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information upon which the proposed rule is based, as well as to ensure that reviews by recognized experts are considered in formulating the final rule.  Peer reviewers will be asked not to provide advice on policy but, rather, to focus their review on identifying and characterizing scientific uncertainties.  Specifically, peer reviewers will be asked to consider the following questions and to provide any other relevant comments, criticisms, or thoughts: 

  1. Are the data used in the proposed rule complete?  If not, provide pertinent information that may be missing.

  2. Have the data been used accurately and appropriately with reference to this potential reintroduction?

  3. Does the proposed rule accurately and adequately delineate those aspects of ferret biology and life history that are pertinent to this reintroduction?

  4. Does the proposed rule accurately and adequately outline and justify a strategy for establishment of a nonessential, experimental population designation for a reintroduced population of black-footed ferrets in the Thunder Basin of Wyoming?

  5. Is the presence of plague in the area accurately and adequately addressed?

Peer reviewers will provide individual, written responses to the Service.  Peer reviewers will be advised that their reviews, including their names and affiliations, will: (1) be included in the administrative record for this rulemaking; and (2) when the peer review process is completed, will be available to the public upon request.  We will summarize and respond to the issues raised by the peer reviewers in the final rule.  Because this peer review will run concurrently with public review of the proposed rule, peer reviews will not be provided public comments.

About Public Participation:

The public is currently being provided an opportunity to comment on this planned peer review process.  Comments must be received by August 15, 2006.  Send comments on this peer review plan to: Brian Kelly, Field Supervisor, Wyoming Field Office, Ecological Service, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Suite 308, Cheyenne, WY 82009.  Comments on this plan may also be submitted by electronic mail to >r6espeerreview@fws.gov<.  The subject line should read "Proposed Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population Status and Reintroduction of Black-footed Ferrets in Eastern Wyoming."

Previously, the public was given the opportunity to provide input on the possible reintroduction of black-footed ferrets onto the Thunder Basin National Grassland at several times during the Land and Resource Management Plan revision process (62 FR 8680, February 26, 1997; 66 FR 39161, July 27, 2001) (see http://www.fs.fed.us/ngp/ for additional information).  The plan specified that an area of Thunder Basin National Grasslands would be managed as a 3.63 Black-Footed Ferret Habitat Reintroduction Area with the intent of managing for a future ferret reintroduction.  The 3.63 Black-footed Ferret Habitat Reintroduction Area designation, after extensive public review and comment, was incorporated into the Grassland Plan.

This fall, the Service will publish the proposed rule to establish the nonessential experimental population status and reintroduction of black-footed ferrets in eastern Wyoming.  The public may comment on the proposed rule through the normal comment process associated with rulemaking.  Public comments will be accepted for 60 days.

Contact:

For more information, please contact Brian Kelly, Wyoming Field Office Supervisor
at 307-772-2374.

Last updated: May 18, 2011