Mountain-Prairie Region

Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem

Final Environmental Impact Statement

March 2000


CHAPTER 5

DEIS Comments and Responses

Introduction

Public review of the Draft EIS was extensive. Comments on the DEIS were received from over 24,000 individuals, organizations, and government agencies. These comments arrived in over 2,660 letters, DEIS summary forms, resolutions, and hearing testimonies. Ten petitions were received with over 21,000 signatures. Fifteen form letters were identified. The great bulk of the public comments received were directed at registering opposition to or support to the reintroduction of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Many comments were essentially votes, and contained a statement of opinion and were not substantive input to correct or improve the content of the EIS or proposal. Comments that provided substantive input to environmental issues or alternatives to toward improvement of the EIS were in the minority.

Publishing all of this comment was unreasonable due to the large volume and unspecific nature of much of the content in the letters and cards. Therefore, if became necessary to reduce the size of the FEIS. All public comments are, however, on file and open to the public at the USFWS Grizzly Bear Recovery Office in Missoula, Montana.

The letters published in Chapter 5 of the FEIS are the letters and responses to federal, state, local governments, Indian tribal organizations, and all agencies authorized to develop and enforce environmental standards [NEPA 102(2)(c)]. All of the extensive material and comments from individuals and organizations not published in the FEIS were reviewed during the content analysis process for major issues. Those issues are described and responded to in the section that follows the agency letters. Many issues are not environmental but are responded to anyway.

In addition, 18 letters from the most prominent and/or vocal large private organizations representing the diverse points of view and concerns about the proposal are included and responded to in detail as representative examples of the commentary and issues raised by the public at large on both sides of the issue. All other letters are available to the public at the location mentioned previously. Only in this way could the FEIS be kept to a reasonable size and be responsive to CEQ Rules of reducing unnecessary paperwork (sec. 1500.4(c) CEQ Regulations).

 

This document contains the responses to comments on the DEIS.  To view the original comment, click on the highlighted text identifying the individual or group making the comment.  The original comment documents are in PDF format. 


Federal, Congressmen Carolyn B. Maloney and Christopher Shays: Letter #529

1. Thank you for your comments supporting Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Populations of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone and North Continental Divide Ecosystems are recovering to the extent that their populations are expanding outside of the recovery zones. Grizzly bears taken from outside of the established recovery zone boundaries in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems will not be counted as part of the mortality quota. In addition, the delisting of the Yellowstone Population is proceeding.

Contribution of bears from either ecosystem will be based on the current mortality levels for that ecosystem. Mortality data are updated annually and any removal of bears from either ecosystem will be predicated on achievement of the mortality limits. Since these data are updated each year, it is necessary to recalculate mortality levels for both the NCDE and YE prior to making a decision on the origin of any relocated bears. The specific number of grizzly bears that can be obtained from the NCDE or YE is unknown at this time. The female contribution will be designed to minimize impacts on the source population and no female grizzly bears will be removed from within the NCDE or YE recovery zone boundary or from within 10 miles outside the boundary. The male contribution can be a higher number because population increase is affected little by removal of subadult males. Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

Your comment is noted and declined since sufficient explanation about the minimal impact of removal of bears from the Northern Continental Divide or Yellowstone Ecosystems, and the cautions that would be used prior to any such removals are already present in the FEIS. The requested additions will not be added as the description of Alternative 4 is sufficient to represent the intent of the alternative.

Federal, Congressman Rick Hill (Montana): Letter #876

1. There were efforts by the conservationists and industry folks who crafted the Citizen Management Committee (CMC) concept to engage affected communities into the process early on but, for the most part, these efforts were rejected. We must agree with you that when people aren't part of the process in the beginning they don't believe in the process. We also totally agree that local empowerment can't be forced on a community, it has to come from within the community.

2. While it is true that grizzly distribution is related to food, distribution is also directly related to habitat security. Most grizzly bears will avoid areas of human activity and we expect this to be the case with any bears placed in the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE). An example is the results of the placement of 4 grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains of northwest Montana. This area has high human population density within a closer distance than the BE wilderness reintroduction areas, but not one of these bears ever came into any type of conflict on private lands nor had any conflict of any kind with people in the release area. We expect that grizzly distribution will be related to the distribution of both food and security. Bears that occupy areas of human habitation will be subject to management action and removal. More specifically, under Alternative 1, grizzly bear occupancy will be discouraged on private lands outside the national forest boundaries in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana. If a grizzly bear enters these areas, the public will be notified and updated until the bear is removed.

3. Communications between the Director of the USFWS and the Governor of Montana are ongoing on this matter (Appendix 24). Because budgets are established by congress on a year-to-year basis it is not realistic to identify long term funding. The DEIS outlined expected costs of managing and monitoring the reintroduced grizzly bears. These costs would be provided to Montana and Idaho by USFWS should they choose to accept management responsibility. If the state of Idaho chooses not to accept management responsibility for grizzly bears, these USFWS funds will be used to manage and monitor the bears without state of Idaho involvement.

4. The reintroduction of grizzly bears to the BE has not been decided and will not delay the delisting process for the YE. If the decision on recovery of grizzly bears in the BE is to reintroduce, it will not have an impact on other recovery efforts in Montana.

5. The economics discussion has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. Given the size of the Primary Analysis Area, it is cost prohibitive to analyze social impacts to a more detailed level than is provided in the FEIS.

6. The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Governors of Idaho and Montana would authorize a Citizen Management Committee. This committee would implement the Bitterroot Chapter of the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary of the Interior. The Endangered Species Act of 1973, Section 4 (F)(2) states that, "The Secretary (of the Interior), in developing and implementing recovery plans, may procure the services of appropriate public and private agencies and institutions, and other qualified persons."

7. A small portion of the Experimental Area extends over the crest of the Bitterroot mountains into Western Montana. Unless the CMC determines otherwise, private lands outside the National Forest Boundary in the Bitterroot Valley would be an area where any human-grizzly bear conflicts would be considered significant. Grizzly bear occupancy would be discouraged in these areas and grizzly bears would be captured, destroyed, or returned to the recovery area. The USFWS would work with State and Federal agency partners to respond to incidents. The Special Rule and Nuisance Bear Guidelines (Appendix 15) will establish protocols that allow landowners to respond to incidents.

8. Self defense or defense of others is a clear standard in the law, and there is significant case law relating to this in court records. See Chapter 2, Alternative 1 and Appendix 12 for protections under experimental nonessential designation. Alternative 1 has been revised to clarify the role of the CMC.

9. The preferred alternative (Alternative 1) has been modified to include a Scientific Review Panel of 3 appointed by the Governors of Idaho and Montana and the Secretary to attempt to resolve conflicts between the Secretary and CMC over actions or decisions of the CMC. The Panel would review information pertinent to the conflict, and make recommendations to the CMC as to whether their actions are in compliance with the Special Rule and are leading to grizzly bear recovery. If the recommendations are not accepted by the CMC and the conflict continues, the Secretary would review the recommendations. If the Secretary decides to proceed, he/she must also confer with the two Governors before resuming management responsibility. We do not feel arbitrary challenges would occur because it is to the benefit of the Secretary of the Interior for the CMC to be successful.

10. Under the Natural Recovery Alternative, there is only a remote likelihood that recovery of grizzly bears in the BE would occur through natural recolonization because grizzly bears do not readily colonize distant, disjunct areas such as the BE.

11. Habitat quality has been studied extensively (see Appendix 3). Also, the USFWS contracted further habitat studies, as directed by Congress, during preparation of the FEIS. Appendix 21 presents four papers that address habitat quality and capability for supporting a viable population of grizzly bears in the BE.

12. Under alternative 2, the likelihood of natural recolonization of grizzly bears in the BE appears remote. If recovery occurs, it could take 100-160+ years. If status quo continues, and no grizzly bears recolonize, then grizzly bear recovery in the lower 48 states would be negatively affected, and local communities would not benefit from the presence of this rare and magnificent species in the BE.

13. and 14. The USFWS considered but does not support Alternative 4.

Federal, Senator Conrad Burns (Montana): Hearing Testimony #2516

1. Following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the USFWS prepared a DEIS for public review and comment. The habitat quality of the BE has been studied extensively by Scaggs (1979), Butterfield and Almack (1985), Davis and Butterfield (1991) and Merrill et al. (1999). All four of these studies concluded that the BE contains suitable habitat essential to the maintenance of a grizzly bear population.

The USFWS has completed a habitat-based population viability assessment of the BE, and it is included as Appendix 21 in the FEIS. This assessment indicates the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. This number is 10-15% higher than the USFWS recovery goal estimate because further evaluation of the habitats in the southern portion of the Ecosystem indicate that even though the forb and berry production in these dry habitats is relatively low, the southern half of the Bitterroot Ecosystem contains substantial stands of whitebark pine as well as populations of elk and deer that can provide food for grizzly bears. Further, the remoteness of the area and the paucity of roads will help to ensure that a viable population of grizzly bears can persist in the Bitterroot Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. Appendix 21D presents data on presence of a variety of grizzly bear foods in the BE. In summary, these assessments provide the best scientific information available to indicate the habitats in the BE are capable of supporting a viable population of grizzly bears.

Following the NEPA process, the USFWS did not consider or find it possible to reintroduce grizzly bears into the BE in fiscal year 1998. A record of decision is not projected to be prepared until spring 2000.

Federal, Senator Larry Craig (Idaho): Hearing Testimony #2535

1. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is by no means imposing its will on a state. The States have been involved with project scoping, public meetings, habitat assessment, recovery planning, and a host of other Bitterroot issues during the last 10+ years. The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1982) called for evaluation of the Bitterroot Ecosystem as a potential recovery area. The USFWS is the primary agency responsible for recovery and conservation of threatened species, including grizzly bears, in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975. The USFWS is mandated by Congress to conserve listed species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The USFWS is proceeding with the National Environmental Policy Act process.

2. The ESA of 1973, in section 4(F)(2) Determination of Endangered Species and Threatened Species says, "The Secretary (of the Interior), in developing and implementing recovery plans, may procure the services of appropriate public and private agencies and institutions, and other qualified persons. ESA section 10(j) allows the USFWS increased flexibility to manage a population designated as experimental nonessential. If the preferred alternative is adopted, the final rule will detail the authority and responsibilities of the CMC.

3. The USFWS has completed a habitat-based population viability assessment of the BE, and it is included as Appendix 21 in the FEIS. This assessment indicates the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. A metapopulation analysis (Appendix 21C) predicts the addition of the Bitterroot population will reduce the probability of extinction for grizzly bears in the lower 48 States by 88-99%, depending on different growth rate variances used in the model. In all cases examined in the report, there is a significant reduction in the probability of extinction for grizzly bears in the United States with a restored Bitterroot population. The addition of population areas (such as the proposed Bitterroot population) causes a geometric decline in extinction probability, and greatly improves the probability of existence and therefore the effectiveness of conservation for the grizzly bear.

Federal, Senator Dirk Kempthorne (Idaho): Hearing Testimony #2632

1. Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone National Park have been responsible for the deaths of 5 people from 1839-1994. Earthquakes have taken the lives of 28 people and drowning has resulted in the loss of 101 people during that time period.

Threats to public safety potentially posed by grizzly bears are discussed in the FEIS for all proposed alternatives (Chapter 2) and analyzed using data from similar areas in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (Appendix 11). Further measures have been added to the FEIS preferred alternative (Alternative 1) to address the issue of public health and safety.

Also, there are behaviors that people who hike, hunt and recreate in grizzly bear country can employ to reduce the chances of a grizzly bear encounter. There are also actions that people can take if they accidentally encounter a grizzly bear which are quite effective in reducing the chances of being mauled. Grizzly bear depredation on domestic livestock would likely be minimal during the estimated 50-110 years until the population of grizzly bears in the BE is fully recovered. It is estimated that after a recovered population of 280 grizzly bears is achieved, depredation incidents involving livestock would be between 4-8 cattle and between 5-44 sheep per year.

2. We also feel it is important that the plan to reintroduce grizzly bears into the BE is supported by Idahoans. We feel strongly that the reintroduction of grizzly bears does not present a "very great danger" to Idahoans. The area in Idaho and Western Montana proposed for grizzly bear recovery consists of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness which contains approximately 5,785 square miles of National Forest Lands of designated wilderness. These two Congressionally designated wilderness areas are national resources.

Regarding comments on removal of depredating bears in the cattle allotment on the Bridger-Teton Forest, where Mr. Schram works; the portion of the allotment where the depredation took place was in Situation I grizzly bears habitat and the bears were not removed. The permit specified that any losses in Situation I habitat would not result in removal of grizzly bears. There were depredating bears removed from this allotment in Situation II habitat as per the protocol in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines. The ranch where Mr. Schramm works was reimbursed for all verified losses due to grizzly bears by the state of Wyoming.

3. Dr. Mark Boyce was contracted by the USFWS to do a habitat-based population viability analysis (PVA) of the proposed BE Grizzly Bear Recovery Area. Results of Dr. Boyce's PVA results are presented in FEIS Appendix 21. A metapopulation analysis (Appendix 21C) predicts the addition of the Bitterroot population will reduce the probability of extinction for grizzly bears in the lower 48 States by 88-99%, depending on different growth rate variances used in the model. In all cases examined in the report, there is a significant reduction in the probability of extinction for grizzly bears in the United States with a restored Bitterroot population. The addition of population areas (such as the proposed Bitterroot population) causes a geometric decline in extinction probability, and greatly improves the probability of existence and therefore the effectiveness of conservation for the grizzly bear. Even without the Bitterroot, the probability of extinction of all grizzly bears south of Canada is low.

The habitat quality of the BE has been studied extensively by Scaggs (1979), Butterfield and Almack (1985), Davis and Butterfield (1991), and Merrill et al. (1999). All four of these studies concluded that the BE contains suitable habitat essential to the maintenance of a grizzly bear population.

Dr. Boyce also completed a habitat-based population assessment of the BE, and it is included as Appendix 21(A,B) in the FEIS. This assessment indicates the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. This number is 10-15% higher than the USFWS recovery goal estimate because further evaluation of the habitats in the southern portion of the Ecosystem indicate that even though the forb and berry production in these dry habitats is relatively low, the southern

half of the Bitterroot Ecosystem contains substantial stands of whitebark pine as well as populations of elk and deer that can provide food for grizzly bears. Further, the remoteness of the area and the paucity of roads will help to ensure that a viable population of grizzly bears can persist in the Bitterroot Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. Appendix 21D presents data on presence of a variety of grizzly bear foods in the BE. In summary, Appendix 21 provides the best scientific information available to indicate the habitats in the BE are capable of supporting a viable population of grizzly bears.

4. The Citizen Management Committee (CMC) is made up of individuals from primarily the two states in the BE. The CMC will be responsible for preparation of a plan to ensure grizzly bear recovery occurs in the BE. The plan will address human health and safety issues as well as livestock issues. Delisting of the grizzly bear from the authority of the Endangered Species Act will not occur until a recovered population occurs in 50-110+ years in the future.

State, Montana Representative Aubyn Curtiss: Letter #99

1. Thank you for your comments on the DEIS for Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Ten petitions were received on the DEIS containing 21,362 signatures. Of the total signatures, 76.6 percent favored grizzly bear reintroduction. Six of the ten petitions were adamantly opposed to reintroduction and contained "local" signatures from the states of Montana and Idaho totaling 5,002 people. These signatures represented the 23.4 percent of petition signatures opposed to reintroduction.

There is no language in the ESA to this effect. However, Alternative 1 was crafted to address these issues, and to minimize social and economic impacts to local communities. There is no intent to infringe on the rights of citizens or ignore existing law or ride roughshod over the rights of citizens who live adjacent to the proposed reintroduction area. The proposal calls for citizen management of grizzly bears to take place within the nonessential experimental area and the recovery area.

State, Idaho Governor Philip Batt and Attorney General Alan Lance: Letter #203

1. Thank you for your suggestion. This alternative has been added as Alternative 1A.

2. The concept of management flexibility is related both to the decisions made and to who is making those decisions. An analogy is travel from one city to another. Several routes, speeds, and dates of departure are possible, but the destination is the same. We believe that when a person is making his or her own decisions, they generally feel more comfortable than when such decisions are made by others. This is the concept that is the foundation of the CMC. If local people are making the decisions that will lead to recovery, they will feel more involved and more in control and therefore more comfortable than if those decisions were being made by others. The CMC will be making the decisions that will lead to grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot ecosystem. The flexibility that is referred to in the July 22, 1997 letter from Mr. Sutta refers both to the decisions made by the CMC and the creation of the CMC itself. As an example of management differences, the CMC may choose to implement a hunter education program in response to illegal killing of bears with eventual recommendations to limit hunting in certain areas if the education program is unsuccessful in stopping illegal killing. The USFWS, if it were managing the situation, might choose to suggest immediate limits on hunting. Different possible approaches to the same problem are evidence of management flexibility. The objective of both actions is the same. How they achieve the same result may be different. This flexibility facilitates local control by the CMC. The creation of a CMC to manage a listed species is possible under the ESA section 10(j) experimental approach of reintroduction due to its increased flexibility.

3. This alternative has been added to the FEIS.

4. The implementation of recovery actions in approved recovery plans by public/private groups is exempt from FACA as per Section 4 of the ESA.

5. Such possible management plans would include such things as specific management of nuisance bears and the response protocol to do so, or public outreach and education plans for users in the area. The CMC could also make recommendations to land management agencies concerning activities that might impact bears if the CMC sees problems that need to be addressed. An example could be a recommendation on improved sanitation to minimize attractions to bears at recreation sites. The CMC does not have authority to implement management actions on public lands. Land management agencies would have to follow the appropriate public processes such as NEPA, if necessary, or public comment such as with possible Forest Plan amendments, should the management agencies choose to implement any CMC recommendations.

6. Responsiveness to comments received in the public comment period is not possible if, as the letter suggests, no changes can be made in the Final EIS unless the public has seen such comments. Under NEPA the purpose of the DEIS is to solicit comment, and the responsible agency can then be responsive to that comment in the FEIS and ROD.

7. The assumption in this statement is that grizzly bear recovery and multiple use management of public lands are incompatible. This is not the case. Regulations exist on public lands that limit access to provide habitat security for big game, limit road building to minimize sedimentation in streams for endangered fish, require adequate storage of garbage, and limit illegal killing of wildlife. These regulations would also promote grizzly bear recovery. Many existing laws and regulations on public lands in the Bitterroot Ecosystem would serve to promote grizzly bear recovery and provide secure habitat for grizzly bears in this area.

8. This clause refers to possible CMC recommendations to land management agencies that might result in amendments to Forest Plans, should they be accepted. The clause refers to the fact that the CMC can make such recommendations should they see fit, not to any specific recommendations. This is a reference to a process not to a specific recommendation. Any changes in Forest Plans would have to go through public review as per direction of the National Forest Management Act (NMFA).

9. Discussions of road and trail closures in this FEIS are related to grizzly bear management. There are many other reasons why land management agencies would implement trail and road closures for motorized and non-motorized use that are unrelated to grizzly bears. These type closures are not governed under this FEIS.

The FEIS does not recommend any trail closures, and the USFWS does not anticipate any permanent trail closures in the Bitterroot Ecosystem related to grizzly recovery. Under Alternative 1, the CMC could make recommendations to land and wildlife management agencies for trail or road closures necessary for grizzly bear management in the Experimental Area, but the decision on implementation of closures would be made by the responsible agency. If the CMC recommendations would require significant changes to existing plans and policy, and the agencies tentatively agree to accept those recommendations, then the requirements of NEPA may apply. Any consideration of trail closures for whatever reason would be part of the environmental analysis of the land or wildlife management agency that implements them. The CMC can make recommendations on a wide range of issues. What they recommend is up to them and any impacts of any recommendations accepted by land management agencies would be part of the public process of that agency.

10. This refers to possible hunting restrictions implemented on public lands as per state game department responsibilities. The FEIS does not recommend any hunting restrictions so it cannot address any potential impacts of actions not recommended therein. The USFWS does not anticipate any hunting restrictions in the BE related to grizzly recovery. Any consideration of hunting restrictions for whatever reason would be part of the analysis process of the state game management agency that implements them. The CMC can make recommendations on a wide range of issues including hunting. What they recommend is up to them and any impacts of any recommendations accepted by state game management agencies would be part of the public process of that agency.

11. Comment noted. These updated figures have been added to the FEIS as available, although the specific impact of any such changes will be limited. The economic analysis in the FEIS considers projected impacts of each alternative and presents the economic ramifications of those projected impacts.

12. While it is true that grizzly distribution is related to food, distribution is also directly related to habitat security. Most grizzly bears will avoid areas of human activity and we expect this to be the case with any bears placed in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. An example is the results of the placement of 4 grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains. This area has high human population density within a closer distance than the BE wilderness reintroduction areas, but not one of these bears ever came into any type of conflict on private lands nor had any conflict of any kind with people in the release area. We expect that grizzly distribution will be related to the distribution of both food and security. Bears that occupy areas of human habitation will be subject to management action and removal.

13. Cost inflation is assumed but the exact rate of inflation is not known, thus making accurate and specific budgets for future years uncertain. The listed costs can be assumed to increase by 2% per year. For the purposes of this planning document, our cost projections serve to give a present lump sum useful to compare effects of various alternatives. We note that the estimates will be subject to future inflation, but due to uncertain time frames and inflation rates, and considering how the cost estimates are used in this FEIS, we will not adjust the estimates for inflation. However, additional costs have been added to Appendix 7, based on public comment.

14. While the CMC concept does not "guarantee" balanced decision-making which will consider the impact of the CMC's decisions on the local communities, we can think of no better way to balance the recovery of the grizzly with the needs and interests of local people than to have local people on the decision-making committee itself. The Governors of Idaho and Montana will recommend local citizens to the Secretary, who will select 7 from Idaho and 5 from Montana, based on their diversity of knowledge and experience in natural resource issues, and for their commitment to collaborative decision-making.

15. The CMC does not have authority over public land management decisions. Such decisions are the purview of the USDA Forest Service National Forests and the processes and public involvement of these Forests. The CMC can make recommendations to the National Forests concerning grizzly bear-related activities. Recommendations made by the CMC are not public land allocation decisions. However, implementation of these recommendations is up to the land management agencies. Most public lands outside wilderness areas within the Experimental Area are currently subject to the concept of multiple use per NFMA and other national laws and policies. Such multiple use management is supposed to address the needs of both wildlife and human needs to the exclusion of neither, as per NFMA. Decisions about new roads or land developments on public lands are made by the public land management agencies. The CMC does not have authority to "approve or disprove" such decisions. The management of public lands in and around the Recovery Area is the purview of the public land management agencies, not the CMC.

16. The DEIS does not "minimize potential threats to public safety that may be caused by grizzly bears". Threats to public safety potentially posed by grizzly bears are discussed in detail in the DEIS and FEIS using data from similar areas in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (see FEIS Chapter 2, Chapter 4, Appendix 11).

17. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. Additionally, pertinent questions from the public survey (Duda and Young 1995) used in the analysis of existence values is attached as an appendix to the FEIS (Appendix 17A). In addition to these changes in the FEIS the following comments are offered to address concerns raised about the existence value estimates.

Impacts associated with grizzly reintroduction in the BE can be measured using different accounting frameworks. The one which perhaps most people are familiar with relates to expenditures; how much more or less money is spent in an area as a result of a management change. Expenditure changes are rightfully of concern to local areas impacted by management actions. Changes in local expenditures impact local workers, businesses, and governments. From a national perspective, however, expenditure gains in one area tend to be offset by expenditure losses in another. Expenditure impacts (particularly from tourism) are largely distributional impacts, benefitting one area at the expense of another.

A second accounting framework, a benefit-cost framework, measures not expenditures, but societal benefits and costs. Benefits and costs can be closely, or loosely tied to actual market transactions. In the case of grizzly reintroduction, livestock losses are closely tied to market transactions while existence values are less obviously tied to the market.

It is important not to confuse these two accounting frameworks. The estimated annual existence value associated with grizzly reintroduction as reported in the DEIS and FEIS would NOT be characterized by increased expenditures in the Recovery Area. Rather, these estimates represent aggregate increases in value to people in the U.S. accruing as a result of grizzly reintroduction. A portion (but only a very small portion) of this non-market value would accrue to residents of the local area surrounding the recovery area.

While the use of contingent valuation methods to estimate passive use values associated with proposed management changes is not a perfect tool, it is the only accepted tool currently available to economists to measure these types of non-use values. The general approach of using contingent valuation to measure passive-use values has been subject to a court test in a challenge to the 1986 DOI CERCLA regulations (Ohio v. DOI, 880 F.2d 432,474 (D.C. Circuit 1989)). Additionally, in 1992 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) appointed a distinguished panel (including several Nobel laureates in economics) to evaluate the approach in the context of implementing the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. In both instances the method has been judged to be a useful tool for valuation in the context of litigation. For example, the NOAA panel concluded that: "CV assessment, including lost passive-use values" studies can produce estimates reliable enough to be the starting point of a judicial process of damage (Arrow et al. 1993). It is clear from the above statement that passive-use value estimation using contingent valuation does not produce an irrefutably accurate estimate of value, nor is it claimed to. Rather, the method employed in the DEIS and FEIS provides a rough approximation of the existence value associated with grizzly restoration. 18. The habitat suitability of both the Recovery Area and the area north of the Lochsa River in the North Fork of the Clearwater River drainage is evaluated in detail in the habitat evaluation appendices added in this Final EIS. The suitability of the area south of the Salmon River is also addressed separately in these appendices. The reader is referred to these appendices for a full review of this information (See Appendices 21A, B, C, D). This information has also been included in pertinent sections of FEIS Chapters 2, 3, and 4.

19. The additional appendices added relating to habitat suitability in the Recovery Area and adjacent lands address this issue. These appendices show that sufficient food resources exist in the Recovery Area to provide the seasonal food requirements of any introduced grizzly bears. Significant areas of major berry-producing shrubs, and other foods exist inside and adjacent to the Recovery Area to support the needs of reintroduced bears. The reader is referred to these appendices for further details on this issue (See Appendices 21A, B, C, D).

20. Consideration of the risk to salmon and steelhead recovery is addressed in the consultation undertaken with NMFS concerning these possible effects. No impacts to these recovery programs is anticipated since all bears placed in the Bitterroot Ecosystem will be bears that have no experience eating fish or fishing. As per the consultation with NMFS, if there is taking by grizzly bears of these fish, USFWS will reinitiate consultation with NMFS to further address and minimize such effects. The NMFS Biological Opinion on the effects to anadromous fish from the restoration of grizzly bears to the Bitterroot Ecosystem is included as FEIS Appendix 9B.

21. The DEIS outlined expected costs of managing and monitoring the reintroduced grizzly bears. These costs would be provided to Montana and Idaho by USFWS should they choose to accept management responsibility. If the state of Idaho chooses not to accept management responsibility for grizzly bears, these USFWS funds will be used to manage and monitor the bears without state of Idaho involvement. Funding would be available to the state of Idaho to carry out their responsibilities if grizzly bears were reintroduced.

22. Any bears removed from within the recovery zone of any ecosystem through human causes are counted as lost to that ecosystem and are therefore equivalent to a mortality in that system. Thus, if a nuisance bear is destroyed by managers, sent to a zoo, it is a loss to that population. Any bears removed from any ecosystem in the lower 48 states is equal to a mortality - such bears no longer live in that system. Such removals are not considered "surplus", but are instead counted as mortalities for that ecosystem. Strict mortality limits exist for each ecosystem for all human-caused removals or mortalities in order to assure population health in each ecosystem. Any bears removed from within the recovery zone of any ecosystem for introduction into the Bitterroot Ecosystem would be counted under this mortality limit system to assure the health of the source population.

Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

23. The comments received by the Governor and Attorney General of Idaho are noted. The results of the public hearings on the DEIS yielded a majority of those who commented in favor of grizzly bear recovery, supporting both Alternative 1 and Alternative 4. The public comment process is not a vote count, and the following statistics are presented solely for the purpose of responding to your comment. From the 260 total hearing testimonies that indicated a clear preference, approximately 60% testified in favor of grizzly bear recovery and 40% opposed recovery. At Idaho hearings, 148 testimonies indicated 49% favored and 51% opposed grizzly bear recovery. At Montana hearings, 112 testimonies indicated 75% favored and 25% opposed recovery of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

State, Idaho Grizzly Bear Legislative Oversight Committee: Letter #495

1. Wording has been added to Alternative 1 establishing a Scientific Review Panel to judge the effectiveness of the CMC. If the USFWS representative on the CMC has concerns that CMC actions or decisions aren't leading to recovery, and after initial attempts to settle the dispute have failed, the USFWS representative can convene a review panel. This panel will make recommendations to the Secretary of Interior regarding the effectiveness of the CMC in making decisions that will lead to recovery. This will serve to insulate the CMC from direct political pressure and influence. To assure scientific input in CMC decisions, two scientific advisors will be appointed to serve on the CMC and to attend all meetings (see Chapter 2, Alternative 1).

2. We agree that adequate financial support is necessary to allow management and monitoring of bears. Wording has been added to stress that the USFWS should evaluate costs of recovery on an ongoing basis. The CMC will also be responsible for evaluating management costs and requesting additional funding to meet monitoring and management needs as required. The allocation of dollars among land management agencies will be done on implementation of the program, based on responsibilities assigned the various agencies.

3. We agree that any removal of bears from either the YE or NCDE should not impact recovery efforts in those ecosystems. To assure this, bears will only be removed from those ecosystems if it is agreed by both the USFWS and the affected state that such removals will not exceed the allowable mortality quotas for that ecosystem. No bears which would be classified as nuisance bears under the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines would be placed in the Bitterroot. Only those bears with no history of conflict with people or livestock would be used for reintroduction in the Bitterroot.

4. The recovery area is the area of recovery emphasis, but it is not the only area where bears are expected to eventually reside. Alternative 1 specifically directs the CMC to make recommendations to accommodate grizzly bears within the experimental area, on the adjacent public lands surrounding the recovery area. Recovery emphasis means that the initial placement of bears will be in the north wilderness - the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness north of the Salmon River. Recovery emphasis also means that initial education and outreach efforts toward users of the Bitterroot will be directed to users inside the recovery area. It is expected that grizzly bears will occupy public lands inside and adjacent to the recovery area eventually, as the restored grizzly population gradually increases over decades. The occupancy of these public lands will be managed so as to be compatible with other uses. This means that bears that come into conflict with people or lawfully present livestock will be managed as per appropriate protocols. It also means that users of these public lands must apply common sense in hunting and recreation, and appropriate standards of storage of garbage and other attractants to minimize bear-human encounters. Such sanitation standards by users of public lands will benefit many other wildlife species and maintain the values of public lands, as well as benefitting grizzly bears.

5. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. Refer to response to comment letter by Idaho Governor Batt (letter # 203), issue #17, on page 5-32. This response provides further information regarding the economic analysis in the Final EIS.

6. The preferred alternative has been revised to allow the use of guard dogs to harass problem bears. A permit would not be required.

7. Consideration of the risk to salmon and steelhead recovery is addressed in the consultation undertaken with NMFS concerning these possible effects. No impacts to these recovery programs is anticipated since all bears placed in the Bitterroot will be bears that have no experience eating fish or fishing. As per the consultation with NMFS, if there is taking by grizzly bears of these fish, USFWS will reinitiate consultation with NMFS to further address and minimize such effects (Appendix 9B).

8. These evaluations are referenced in the appendices on habitat quality for grizzly bears in the BE (Appendices 3 and 21).

9. Funding for state management is included in the budget section. We agree that the additional costs of grizzly recovery under the ESA should be provided by the USFWS.

10. We agree and a section on public outreach and education is included in the Final EIS, Chapter 2.

State, Montana Senator Steve Benedict: Letter #523

1. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is very interested in the quality of habitat in the experimental population area and the recovery area. Butterfield and Almack (1985) and Davis and Butterfield (1991) evaluated suitability of habitats in the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE) based on the essential grizzly bear habitat criteria of Craighead et al. (1982). Butterfield and Almack concluded that the BE is an "ecologically superior area for grizzly bear recovery" and the BE "more than satisfies these habitat criteria." Davis and Butterfield (1991) concluded from their five year comprehensive study of grizzly bear habitat in the BE, "The Bitterroot Grizzly Bear Evaluation Area appears to meet many of the criteria defined by Craighead et al. (1982) for grizzly bear habitat. Dr. Mark Boyce was contracted by the USFWS to do a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) of the proposed BE Grizzly Bear Recovery Area. Results are presented in FEIS Appendix 21. Dr. Boyce also completed a habitat-based population assessment of the BE, and it is included as Appendix 21(A,B) in the FEIS. This assessment indicates the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. This number is 10-15% higher than the USFWS recovery goal estimate because further evaluation of the habitats in the southern portion of the Ecosystem indicate that even though the forb and berry production in these dry habitats is relatively low, the southern half of the Bitterroot Ecosystem contains substantial stands of whitebark pine as well as populations of elk and deer that can provide food for grizzly bears. Appendix 21D presents data on presence of a variety of grizzly bear foods in the BE. Also, the remoteness of the area and the paucity of roads will help to ensure that a viable population of grizzly bears can persist in the Bitterroot Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana. In summary, Appendix 21 provides the best scientific information available to indicate the habitats in the BE are capable of supporting a viable population of grizzly bears.

We can assure you that human health and safety is our number one concern, and we have addressed this issue in the Final EIS. The analysis of public comments on the Draft EIS indicated of those who responded, more supported grizzly bear recovery than opposed it.

State, Idaho Senator Laird Noh: Letter #550

1. The USFWS has made a strong effort to involve the citizens that reside and recreate in and adjacent to the Bitterroot Ecosystem in every phase of the planning process that led to this proposal. Please refer to Appendix 1 for a detailed chronology of grizzly bear recovery efforts for the Bitterroot Ecosystem. A Citizen Involvement Group (50 members) was formed in 1992 to guide the development of the Bitterroot chapter of the recovery Plan. Several public meetings were held in 1993 to gather public comments on grizzly bear recovery in the BE. In 1993 the Idaho Legislature authorized the formation of the Grizzly Bear Oversight Committee for Idaho, consisting of the chairs of the Idaho Senate and House Resource Committees, and representatives each from timber, mining, livestock, recreation, and wildlife. This committee still exists, and is comprised of a number of members from towns adjacent to and south of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. In 1994 open houses were held by the USFWS, Citizens Involvement Group, and Legislative Oversight Committee in in number of towns in Idaho and Salt Lake City, UT. And in 1995, the NEPA process for this proposal began with public scoping for 75 days, which included open houses in Grangeville, Boise, and Salt Lake City (among other locations). The Citizen Involvement Group and Legislative Oversight Committee also provided input on the proposal. Since 1995, EIS Team members have met with numerous federal and state agencies, elected officials, and public groups around the BE, including areas south of the proposed recovery area. A public comment period on the DEIS was open for 120 days, during which public hearings were held in Boise, Salmon, and Challis in southern Idaho (among other locations). The EIS Team sent 60 letters offering to meet with county commissioners, chambers of commerce, and agencies within all counties adjacent to the proposed recovery area to present results of the public comments on the DEIS and answer questions. Responses were few, but briefings were given to all that requested them, including the county commissioners in Salmon and Challis, Idaho.

2. Further scientific analyses have been conducted and their results added to the FEIS (see Chapters 4 and 6). Also more definitions for terms used in the FEIS, specifically Alternative 1, have been added to the FEIS.

3. There are portions of the recovery area that receive greater use by humans than other areas. It would be expected that these areas could experience greater risk of grizzly/human interaction, if grizzly bears occupy these areas. However, our projections indicate an initial population reintroduced to the central portion of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness would require at least 40-50 years for female bears to expand their range to the Salmon River. Further, grizzly bear densities in the drier habitats south of the Salmon River are expected to be lower than in the higher quality habitats north of the Salmon River. During this time, the USFWS and its agency partners would have sanitation equipment in place across the recovery and experimental areas, and have an information and education program well-established such that backcountry users would be informed and equipped to recreate in grizzly bear habitat. The EIS does present analyses and projections for expected rates of human injury and nuisance bear incidents. These are presented for each alternative in Chapter 4. Appendix 11 provides further information on risk to human safety from grizzly bear recovery. This appendix explains the rationale for the Chapter 4 analyses to evaluate human safety effects.

4. Thank you for your comment.

5. Appendix 7 costs are updated in the FEIS.

6. The livestock depredation analysis has been updated to include the most recent information available from the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems. See Chapter 4, "Impacts on Domestic Livestock" section for each alternative for an explanation of how and why the analyses were performed.

7. Any grizzly bears in excess of the original 25, will only be reintroduced to the BE to replace mortalities that occur. No nuisance bears from the YE will be reintroduced to the BE. YE issues relative to this proposal are addressed in the FEIS.

8. The CMC will be responsible for these management decisions. We believe 24 hrs is adequate. Alternative 1 has been updated.

State, Idaho Senator Marguerite McLaughlin: Letter #1183

1. The preferred alternative would not place any additional restrictions on public access to National Forests because of grizzly bear reintroduction. Although some people would avoid recreating in the recovery area as a result of reintroduction, other people may increase their recreation use of the area due to the presence of grizzly bears. Reintroduction of a nonessential experimental population of grizzly bears into the BE is not expected to impact existing land uses in the BE, including timber harvest and minerals extraction activities. The CMC could recommend changes to current land practices, if needed, and with the least impacts to resource use industries, including recreating industries, while prioritizing grizzly bear recovery. Risk of injury related to grizzly bears would increase with reintroduction, but rates of injury would be extremely low, possibly in the range of 1:100 million visitor days. See Appendix 11 for more information on Risks to Human Safety.

2. Thank you for your comment.

State, Idaho Representative Lenore Hardy Barrett: Hearing Testimony #2148

1. Thank you for your comments. The USFWS intention for the proposal to recover grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem is specifically focused on addressing recovery of a threatened species under the ESA. The USFWS is the primary agency responsible for recovery and conservation of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in 1975, and as such the USFWS was mandated by Congress to conserve this species and the ecosystem upon which it depends. The Bitterroot Ecosystem was listed in the 1975 Federal Register listing as an area where grizzly bears were known or thought to occur, and where USFWS should insure their conservation. The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1982, 1993) and the Bitterroot Chapter of the Recovery Plan (USFWS 1996) identify actions necessary for conservation and recovery of the species. The Bitterroot Chapter of the Recovery Plan calls for the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the proposed action and a range of alternatives to recover the grizzly bear in the BE. The USFWS is proceeding with the National Environmental Policy Act process. The USFWS preferred alternative (Alternative 1) proposes to reintroduce grizzly bears into a recovery area comprised mainly of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Grizzly bears will be accommodated in a larger surrounding Experimental Population Area which is comprised of USDA National Forest lands. These two Congressionally designated wilderness areas and the surrounding USDA Forest Service lands are national resources, and are managed on behalf of the American people. Based on surveys conducted for the DEIS process, the results of public scoping, and results of public comments and hearing testimony, the majority of Americans support the USFWS efforts to recover grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

State, Montana Representative Alan Walters: Hearing Testimony #2296

1. Livestock grazing occurs at very low densities within the recovery area and is not expected to be impacted. Projections indicate that a grizzly bear population level of 280 bears in the recovery area, yearly livestock losses to depredation by bears could range from 4-8 cattle and 5-44 sheep.

Recreation impacts in the form of permanent trail closures within the wilderness would likely not occur. Temporary closures of trails may occur in response to a dangerous situation that might result in human injury or bear mortality, but these closures would only last as long as necessary to prevent human- bear conflict.

Habitat would continue to be managed by the land management agencies. The USFS would still conduct its management under the guidelines of the respective Forest Plans and applicable environmental laws. State land managers and private land owners would not lose any of their management authority.

2. The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act (Federal Register V. 40 No. 145, Part IV-3173-4). The US Fish and Wildlife Service was mandated by Congress to conserve listed species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Thus, the USFWS proposes to recover the grizzly bear and restore part of the Bitterroot Ecosystem by reestablishing the species within this portion of its historical range.

State, Idaho Representative Twila Hornbeck: Hearing Testimony #2386

1. The last verified death of a grizzly bear in the Bitterroot Ecosystem occurred in 1932 and the last tracks were observed in 1946. Although occasional unverified reports of grizzly sightings persist in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, no verified tracks or sightings have been documented in more than 50 years. Based on the best scientific evidence available, and the lack of verified evidence for more than 50 years, there appear to be no grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem at this time.

2. The USFWS conducted four public hearings in Idaho to gather comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. From the 148 decisive comments received at the Idaho hearings, 51% were against and 49% were supportive of grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. The public comments are not used by the USFWS as a vote, however, these statistics indicate that the citizens of Idaho are mixed in their views of grizzly bear recovery in their state. Grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem is expected to have a negligible effect on local economies. It is expected that grizzly bear recovery efforts could cause increased tourism in central Idaho, similar to the increased tourism in Yellowstone Park as a result of gray wolf recovery efforts there.

3. Thank you for your comment.

State, Idaho Representative Don Burtenshaw: Hearing Testimony #2642

1. Thank you for your comment. If grizzly bears are reintroduced into the Bitterroot Ecosystem, it would be the first attempt by the USFWS to recover a grizzly bear population through reintroduction. In 1990-91, 4 subadult grizzly bears were released into the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem in northwest Montana to augment the existing population. Because the other 5 ecosystems are known to support existing populations of grizzly bears, those bears are listed as "threatened" under the ESA. Since the BE does not have an existing population of grizzly bears, the USFWS has the option of listing the reintroduced population as "nonessential experimental" rather than "threatened." Such designation would allow these bears to be treated as a species "proposed for listing" rather than "threatened" for the purpose of section 7 of the ESA. This allows the USFWS greater management flexibility by limiting the consultation requirements of Section 7 and by permitting special rules to be written covering section 9 takings of the ESA. Because reintroduced grizzly bears would be classified as a "nonessential experimental" population, the Service's management practices can reduce local concerns about excessive government regulation on private lands, uncontrolled livestock depredations, and the lack of State government and local citizen involvement in the program. Under Alternative 1, the nonessential experimental population and management by the Citizen Management Committee are expected to have minimal impacts to current land use practices on federal lands in the BE.

2. The grizzly bears that inhabited the Bitterroot Ecosystem in the early 1900's prior to being extirpated by humans, made use of healthy salmon populations as a food resource. Current salmon populations are listed as either "threatened" or "endangered." If salmon populations in the BE were restored in the future, they could provide an additional food source for the reintroduced grizzly population. However, most interior grizzly bear populations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and British Columbia exist in areas without access to salmon. These populations are able to sustain themselves largely on vegetable food sources. The three source populations that have been identified for the Bitterroot reintroduction fit this category, and do not have access to salmon as a food source. Since the reintroduced bears would have no experience using salmon as a food source, it is not expected they would seek the few, scattered salmon that exist in the BE as a food source. The USFWS formally consulted with the National Marine Fisheries Service and prepared a Biological Assessment of the anticipated effects of grizzly bear reintroduction to the BE on listed chinook, sockeye, and steelhead salmon. If grizzly bears are reintroduced, the Biological Opinion prepared by NMFS (See Appendix 9B) lists actions both agencies would take to minimize effects of grizzly bear recovery on salmon recovery efforts.

3. Fear of the grizzly bear is a valid concern. The USFWS evaluated the potential risk to human health and safety from grizzly bear reintroduction in the Bitterroot by looking at statistics from other grizzly bear ecosystems. Grizzly bears and humans have co-existed in the Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, Selkirk, and Cabinet Yaak-Ecosystems for many years with minimal human injuries or mortalities. To identify actual risk factors, it is best to compare areas of similar habitat, human population, recreational activities, and grizzly bear densities. The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), outside Glacier National Park, has habitats similar to those in the northern portion of the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE). NCDE has grizzly bear population densities of about 1 bear per 20-30 square miles, which exceeds the projected recovered grizzly bear densities for the BE. The NCDE also has human recreation consisting of hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and big game hunting. Within the NCDE, excluding Glacier National Park, there has been 1 bear-inflicted human mortality and one injury since 1950. Within the Yellowstone Ecosystem (YE), excluding Yellowstone National Park, there have been 3 grizzly bear-inflicted human mortalities in the last 159 years. The USFWS would take actions to reduce the risk of human/bear conflicts (See response to JoAnn Wood, letter # 2644, comment #3, page 5-47).

State, Idaho Representative JoAnn Wood: Hearing Testimony #2644

1. Between 1899 and 1975, grizzly populations in the lower 48 States receded from estimates of over 50,000 to less than 1,000 grizzly bears. Grizzly bear distribution has been reduced to less than 2 percent of historical range in the lower 48 States. In 1975, the USFWS determined the listing of grizzly bears as threatened was warranted based on biological evidence of population declines, habitat loss, and population isolation (Federal Register, Vol. 40, No. 145). The Endangered Species Act defines a "threatened species" as one which is likely to become an "endangered species" (a species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range) within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. In 1975, six isolated populations of grizzly bears in the conterminous United States were officially listed as threatened under the ESA. The ESA required the USFWS as the lead agency, to develop a recovery plan detailing efforts necessary to conserve and recover grizzly bears and eventually remove the species from "threatened" status in the lower 48 States. The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1993) identifies requirements for federal agencies to make efforts to reduce human induced mortality and minimize habitat loss for grizzly bears within the identified grizzly bear ecosystems. These requirements may restrict some human activities on federal lands, but certainly do not "lock up" these areas solely for grizzly bears. Under Alternative 1, recovery would be emphasized in the Recovery Area, which encompasses 3,702,400 acres of designated wilderness. "Nonessential experimental" status allows for increased management flexibility and all decisions of the CMC would minimize social and economic impacts to the extent practicable.

2. The June 17, 1997 meeting to gather public input on grizzly bear habitat criteria for revisions to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan was open to the general public, and all individuals had equal opportunity to comment

3. Thank you for your comment. The USFWS would take actions to reduce the risk of human/bear conflicts. Only bears with no history of conflicts with people would be considered candidates for reintroduction. Suitable bears would be released at remote wilderness sites within the BE to reduce the likelihood of encounters with humans. All released bears would be fitted with radio-collars and their movements would be monitored to keep the public informed of general bear locations and recovery efforts. A proactive information and education program and sanitation improvements would be initiated during the first year of implementation and would continue through the implementation phase, and into the monitoring and management phase. During the first several decades following reintroduction, chance of human injury caused by grizzly bears would be exceedingly small due to the low density of bears in the area. This risk would apply to all humans equally who use the recovery area.

4. Thank you for your comment.

5. Historically, the grizzly bear was a widespread inhabitant of the Bitterroot Mountains in central Idaho and western Montana. Conservative estimates indicate trappers and hunters killed 25 to 40 grizzly bears annually in the Bitterroot Mountains in the early 1900's. A major influx of hunters, trappers, and settlers at the turn of the century, and later sheepherders were responsible for direct mortality and elimination of grizzly bears from the Bitterroot Ecosystem. The last verified death of a grizzly bear in the BE occurred in 1932 and the last tracks were observed in 1946. As grizzly bear populations in areas such as the Yellowstone Ecosystem recover, their numbers increase, and the population expands outside the designated recovery zone as young bears establish new home ranges. However, data indicates that in the lower 48 States, within the 4 ecosystems (Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak) where more than 550 grizzly bears have been radio-collared, not one radio-collared bear has been documented to move from one ecosystem to another. Thus, it is highly unlikely grizzly bears could become reestablished in their native Bitterroot Ecosystem through natural immigration from other occupied ecosystems like the Yellowstone, Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk, or Northern Continental Divide.

State, Montana Governor Marc Racicot: Letter #2747

1. We agree.

2. No bears will be removed from any ecosystem in the U.S. if the mortality limits for that ecosystem have been reached or are even close to being reached. In addition, the USFWS will agree to make the decision to remove bears from any ecosystem in Montana or Wyoming only in consultation with the Fish and Game Department of that state. The USFWS has no intentions to allow the removal of any bears from any ecosystems in the U.S. to impede recovery of those source populations and will work in concert with the Fish and Game Departments of those states to judge these possible impacts to assure that this is the case.

Contribution of bears from either ecosystem will be based on the current mortality levels for that ecosystem. Mortality data are updated annually and any removal of bears from either ecosystem will be predicated on achievement of the mortality limits. Since these data are updated each year, it is necessary to recalculate mortality levels for both the NCDE and YE prior to making a decision on the origin of any relocated bears. The specific number of grizzly bears that can be obtained from the NCDE or YE is unknown at this time. The female contribution will be designed to minimize impacts on the source population and no female grizzly bears will be removed from within the NCDE or YE recovery zone boundary or from within 10 miles outside the boundary. The male contribution can be a higher number because population increase is affected little by removal of subadult males. Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

Additional information and analysis of the impacts to source populations has been added to the FEIS (See Source Populations sections, Chapters 3 and 4)..

3. Since no Record of Decision (ROD) will be signed until the end of the NEPA process, there has been no decision formally made to implement any option. Upon completion of the NEPA process and signing of a ROD, we will know what alternative has been selected and what details must be completed to implement that alternative. Since there has been no formal decision to implement reintroduction, there can be no request made of the Canadians for any bears. The details of timing and number of bears required, should reintroduction be selected, will be important to the Canadian authorities in their consideration of participation in supplying some bears. The Canadians have been kept abreast of the Bitterroot grizzly bear restoration issue and are willing to consider supplying bears should that alternative be selected and if they are formally requested to do so.

4. Point noted and we agree that adequate funding is necessary and should be supplied to the states so they can participate in the recovery effort. The allocation of dollars among land management agencies will be done on implementation of an alternative, based on responsibilities assigned to the various agencies.

5. To address these concerns, Alternative 1 has been modified to incorporate a Scientific Review panel to evaluate the performance of the CMC instead of the Secretary of Interior alone deciding about the performance of the CMC. If it is selected, the Special Rule will reflect these changes.

6. The FEIS has been modified to state that trail use restrictions for public safety are expected to be rare, and that such restrictions, if they did occur, would be short-term in response to a rare instance such as a grizzly bear feeding next to a trail on a carrion source. We have added the additional statement that the CMC should develop a trail restriction policy to enhance public safety, as a recommendation to land management agencies.

7. The suggested wording has been added.

8. Grazing allotments on public lands are managed by land management agencies under the mandates of NFMA and other laws and policies. The CMC can make recommendations to land management agencies on such grazing allotments, but specific management direction is the responsibility of the land management agencies, not the CMC. Grizzly recovery would not supercede agency grazing policies, but the CMC could make recommendations to these agencies to modify allotment management to minimize conflicts. The specific way that the CMC chooses to view livestock grazing areas will be a discussion of the CMC. We do not believe it is desirable nor necessary to so prescribe CMC management direction in such a fashion.

9. The FEIS states that no changes in black bear hunting are anticipated, but that the CMC could recommend changes if the CMC believes that such changes are necessary to achieve recovery. The Fish and Game Departments in both Idaho and Montana would make decisions and implement any changes. This allows the CMC to be responsive to threats to grizzly bear recovery such as excessive grizzly bear mortality by black bear hunters. We do not believe it is desirable nor necessary to so proscribe CMC management direction by stating they cannot make such a recommendation should they think it necessary.

10. The FEIS does evaluate the expected time of achievement of a population of approximately 280 bears given expected survival probabilities. The number of bears chosen for reintroduction in the preferred alternative was a balance between the availability of bears, the ability to capture and relocate a given number of bears each year, and the time to reach recovered population status. While we agree that it would be desirable to place more bears each year both from the standpoint of a higher probability for success and a shorter time to recovery, we do not think it is possible to capture and relocate more than approximately 5-6 bears per year and the availability or more bears than that in any single year is also limited. Thus, we believe that the numbers selected in the preferred alternative will achieve recovery while establishing a target number of bears that can be relocated over the 5-year placement period.

11. The costs of capturing bears may be slightly low, but there are new technologies available such as helicopter capture that would allow rapid capture of the necessary number of animals in rapid fashion. For example, recent helicopter captures of grizzly bears in the Flathead area of British Columbia (the source area for the bears placed in the Cabinet Mountains) yielded 4-8 grizzly bears per day. The use of this method would allow rapid and efficient capture of the necessary bears for the Bitterroot in a cost effective manner. FEIS costs have been updated.

12. While some black bears would be captured if snares or culvert traps would be used, there would also be benefits of such captures by providing additional opportunities to gather data on age, sex, and reproductive status of resident black bears. Such data are important to management and estimation of the impacts of sport hunting on these black bear populations. In this way, any grizzly captures with associated black bear captures would benefit black bear management in the trapping areas at no cost to state fish and game departments.

13. The suggested wording has been added.

14. The private lands in the Bitterroot Valley are an exclusion zone where grizzly bears would not be tolerated. Any grizzly bears leaving public lands and entering the private lands in the Bitterroot Valley would be captured and relocated back into the wilderness, or if a repeat offender at visiting these private lands, could be destroyed. The impacts in the Bitterroot Valley would be minimal given this policy.

County, Elmore County Commissioners (Idaho): Letter #43

1. ESA Section 10 permits the use of experimental populations for the conservation of listed species. The grizzly bear is listed as a threatened species. Special regulations adopted by the Secretary of the Interior would implement special conservation measures for a reintroduced population of grizzly bears. These regulations would permit a "Citizens Management Committee" type of conservation entity to oversee and manage this grizzly bear conservation project.

2. We believe there is sufficient suitable habitat in central Idaho to support a viable grizzly bear population. The best available scientific information supports this (see Appendix 21). However, it is highly unlikely grizzly bears could become reestablished in their native Bitterroot Ecosystem through natural immigration, as proposed in Alternative 2. Data indicates that in the lower 48 States, within the four ecosystems (YE, NCDE, CYE, SE) where more than 550 grizzly bears have been radio-collared, not one radio-collared bear has been documented to move between ecosystems.

3. A federal agency cannot legally prevent natural recovery of grizzly bears under existing laws and regulations. Under Alternative 3, legislation would need to be passed to change existing laws and regulations such that recovery could be prevented.

4. The official actual numbers of livestock losses (5 cattle, 53 sheep, 4 dogs) attributed to the reintroduced wolves in Central Idaho through March 1998 is below estimates made for livestock losses during the Wolf EIS preparation. Suspected livestock lost to wolf depredation is inspected by Animal Damage Control specialists to verify cause of death. For the above losses, ranchers have been compensated $8,946.00. The 1994 wolf EIS estimated livestock losses for 100 wolves to be approximately 10 cattle and 52 sheep per year.

5. The likely source population of grizzly bears for a reintroduction effort would be "interior" bears that are not accustomed to a fish diet. Reduced number of Salmon in this grizzly bear recovery area should not affect recovery. See response to Idaho Representative Don Burtenshaw #2642, issue #2, page 5-45. Also see Appendix 9B, Biological Opinion from National Marine Fisheries Service.

6. The congress of the United State has passed the Endangered Species Act giving Federal jurisdiction over recovery of listed species. The Act does not prohibit, and in fact encourages stateaction and participation. The proposed action does not violate Amendment Ten to the Bill of Rights.

County, Valley County Commissioners (Idaho): Letter # 547

1. Thank you for your comment. The USFWS would take actions to reduce the risk of human/bear conflicts. Only bears with no history of conflicts with people would be considered candidates for reintroduction. Suitable bears would be released at remote wilderness sites within the BE to reduce the likelihood of encounters with humans. All released bears would be fitted with radio-collars and their movements would be monitored to keep the public informed of general bear locations and recovery efforts. A proactive information and education program and sanitation improvements would be initiated during the first year of implementation and would continue through the implementation phase, and into the monitoring and management phase. During the first several decades following reintroduction, chance of human injury caused by grizzly bears would be exceedingly small due to the low density of bears in the area.

2. One of the most common issues raised by the public throughout the NEPA process for the Bitterrroot Grizzly Bear Recovery proposal has been the need to restore the grizzly bear as a missing component of the Bitterroot Ecosystem. This species is native to the ecosystem, and was extirpated due to human activities. The USFWS, through the NEPA process has attempted to balance the needs of the grizzly bear with the social and economic issues that have been raised by the public. Alternative 1, the USFWS preferred alternative, would reintroduce grizzly bears as a "nonessential experimental" population which would allow for flexibility in their management. This alternative is not expected to impact land uses in the BE, including timber harvest and mineral extraction activities, as long as they meet the existing standards and guidelines of the USDA Forest Service Forest Plans. The CMC comprised of local citizens of Idaho and Montana would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary of Interior for the Bitterroot grizzly bear population. Recommendations to reduce potential impacts to grizzly bear recovery would be made by the CMC to land management agencies, if the need arises. The CMC can make recommendations to land and game management agencies regarding changes to plans and policies, but the final decision on implementation of those recommendations will be made by those agencies, and the requirements of NEPA may apply.

3. See answer #2 for letter #2642, from Idaho State Senator Don Burtenshaw (page 5-45). Also, the USFWS Biological Assessment (Appendix 9A) and the National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion (Appendix 9B) both indicate there would be no significant adverse impacts to all other endangered and threatened species in the analysis area from grizzly bear recovery under Alternative 1.

4. Local governments were contacted during scoping and have had numerous opportunities to comment throughout this NEPA process. See Chapter 5, "Consultation and Coordination in Development of the Proposal and EIS," page 5-3.

County, Boise County Commissioners (Idaho): Letter # 716

1. See 50CFR 17.80 pages 175-176 for explanation of congressional intent of Experimental Nonessential population. See FEIS Appendix 12. Also see, "The Reintroduction of Gray Wolves to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho," FEIS 1994. USFWS. Helena, MT 59601 (pages 6-2 and 6-5).

The term "nonessential," as it is used in the Alternative 1 proposal to reintroduce a "nonessential experimental" population of grizzly bears, means that the reintroduced bears are not essential to the continued existence of the grizzly bear species. However, the term "nonessential" does not mean that the project itself is not essential to the recovery of the species in the lower 48 States.

2. The official actual numbers of livestock losses (5 cattle, 53 sheep, 4 dogs) attributed to the reintroduced wolves in Central Idaho through March 1998 is below estimates made for livestock losses during the Wolf EIS preparation. Suspected livestock lost to wolf depredation is inspected by Animal Damage Control specialists to verify cause of death. For the above losses, ranchers have been compensated $8,946.00. The 1994 wolf EIS estimated livestock losses for 100 wolves to be approximately 10 cattle and 52 sheep per year.

3. The rate and result of bear-human encounters expected in the Bitterroot is believed to be most similar to that in other wilderness and surrounding lands where bears currently exist - such as the Bob Marshall wilderness complex in Montana. The USFWS believes such comparisons of bear human encounter rates and the results of such encounters presented in the FEIS are appropriate. See page 5-57, City of Salmon, issue #1, letter #1784.

County, Missoula County Commissioners (Montana): Letter #825

1. Alternative 4 is restoration of a fully threatened population of bears with full protection under the ESA. All activities on federal lands within the area of a fully threatened population would be subject to Section 7 consultation by the USFWS. As such, the management of these areas would be directed by USFWS consultation and a CMC would have no role in such consultation. The experimental population reintroduction proposed in Alternative 1 allows management flexibility as per the special rule associated with creation of the experimental population. The experimental status allows creation of a CMC as no Section 7 USFWS consultation is required for an experimental population. Thus, fully threatened status does not allow for a functional citizens management concept while experimental status does.

2. The CMC can make recommendations to land and game management agencies regarding changes to plans and policies, but the final decision on implementation of those recommendations will be made by those agencies, and the requirements of NEPA may apply. Section 7 consultation would occur under fully listed status with the decision making authority on public lands in the Bitterroot area, that of the U.S. Forest Service, not the CMC. Comments on road building, timber harvest, and the Magruder Road noted.

3. The experimental designation is supported by the USFWS because the reintroduction of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot would increase the probability of maintaining health grizzly populations south of Canada, but it is not essential to maintaining such healthy populations. Bears in the experimental population in the Bitterroot would be fully protected against illegal killing under federal law under the ESA. Grizzly bears could only be killed in the Bitterroot in self defense or defense of others (as in all fully listed populations), or, in the special circumstance on private land where a depredating bear was unable to be captured by state or federal management officials, a permit could be issued to that landowner to kill that bear. Otherwise killing of bears in the experimental Bitterroot population is illegal and would be prosecuted under federal law.

City of Clayton (Idaho): Letter #918

1. Proper sanitation is the responsibility of all citizens. Feeding of bears is not promoted nor encouraged by conservationists. Communities in and near occupied grizzly bear country use wildlife resistant dumpsters and keep household foods and pet/livestock foodstuffs properly stored. With these "common sense" precautions, these communities experience very little wildlife nuisance problems.

If the decision is made to restore grizzly bears to the BE, Information and Education and Sanitation programs would be initiated prior to reintroduction and would continue throughout the program. See Appendix 22 for a list of preliminarily identified areas in the BE that are in need of wildlife sanitation improvements.

City of Salmon (Idaho): Letter #1784

1. Human-grizzly bear encounters are a result of various factors including surprise encounters, defense of young by female bears, defense of food sources by bears, and attacks by wounded bears after being shot. Most human-bear encounters are a result of surprise encounters where bears and people come too close inadvertently. In most such cases, the bears flee the area or there is minor injury to the people.

The information referred to in the City of Salmon's Comments is found in Appendix 11 of the FEIS and states, "In the Bob Marshall Wilderness in 1956, a hunter shot and injured a grizzly bear that responded by mortally injuring the hunter. In 1995, a bird hunter in the Mission Valley shot and wounded a grizzly that responded by injuring the hunter." In the incident in the Bob Marshall wilderness where a hunter was killed by a grizzly bear, the available information indicates the bear was shot by a grizzly hunter, who was subsequently killed by the wounded bear. We do not believe that the description of these two events lead the reader to believe that the individuals were at fault and further that these comments in no way represent emotionalism.

The rate and result of bear-human encounters expected in the Bitterroot is believed to be most similar to that in other wilderness and surrounding lands where bears currently exist - such as the Bob Marshall wilderness complex in Montana. The USFWS believes such comparisons of bear human encounter rates and the results of such encounters presented in the FEIS are appropriate.

You suggested that, "A study should be made of grizzly bear/human encounters in Alaska, where bears are in a natural environment and have not been conditioned by government agencies to be familiar with human encounters." We refer you to the following Alaska studies:

Miller, Sterling and Mark Chihuly. 1987. Characteristics of nonsport brown bear deaths in Alaska. Int. Conf. Bear Res. and Manage. 7:51-58.

Middaugh, J.P. 1987. Human injury from bear attacks in Alaska, 1900-1985. Alaska Medicine. 29:121-126.

2. We completely agree that truthfulness is an essential ingredient in any EIS. The proposed alternative is an experimental reintroduction which allows more management flexibility than the management of a fully listed grizzly bear population. All existing populations in the lower 48 states are fully listed, and comparisons between the management of those populations and the experimental Bitterroot population are limited and inappropriate. The USFWS has no statutory authority over private lands in any area of grizzly range and private land uses have not been changed as a result of grizzly management. It may be true that the CMC may recommend management changes on public lands such as improved storage of garbage and other attractants to bears. The final decision on such changes is up to the land management agency, not the CMC.

3. We believe that the cost estimates for the first five years of implementing Alternative 1 are realistic and reasonable. These figures are approximations based on estimated costs. An updated detailed listing of costs and relevant expenses is listed in Appendix 7 of the FEIS.

4. We feel that the idea of a Citizen Management Committee managing the program is a very effective manner of responding to local public concerns. The CMC is not an advisory group, it is a management committee. The tasks of the CMC are detailed in FEIS Chapter 2, Alternative 1. The CMC does have agency members, but the majority of the members are citizens nominated by the governors of Idaho and Montana and appointed by the Secretary of Interior. The CMC is responsible for making decisions concerning management of bear-human conflicts, placement and monitoring of bears, and making recommendations to land and wildlife management agencies concerning issues that concern grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot area.

5. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. See response to letter #203, Idaho Governor Batt, issue # 17, page #5-32 for more information on the economic analysis results and methodology. Also, for further information, see Appendix 17, Explanation of Existence Value Calculations from Chapter IV Economic Analysis in the FEIS.

6. The FEIS details possible origin areas for bears to be relocated into the Bitterroot and the criteria for selecting these bears. All releases of bears would be inside the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area north of the Salmon River unless the CMC decides otherwise. The specifics of transport would be worked out between the agencies and the CMC upon selection of an alternative. Given experience in moving grizzly bears into the Cabinet Mountains from British Columbia, bears would likely be transported in culvert traps in trucks from the origin to a site where helicopters could be used to fly the culvert trap containing the bear into the wilderness for release. They will be released during the summer months unlike the wolves which were released in January and February. The final decisions on such details would be the responsibility of the CMC. It is important to note that no requests for bears have been made at this time.

(The USFWS decision to cancel the scheduled Public Hearing in October 1997 was in response to the statement by the Sheriff of Lemhi County that he would not provide police protection for agency personnel in attendance at the hearing. A formal Public Hearing was held in Salmon, ID on October 8, 1997 after the city Chief of Police assured the USFWS that he would provide police protection.)

City of Weippe (Idaho): Letter #1850

1. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of Interior must retain final authority and responsibility for implementation of the Act. Based on public comment, Alternative 1 (preferred alternative) has been modified to include provisions to further facilitate the functioning of the CMC, and allow for citizen management to proceed without undue influence from the Secretary of Interior.

If the USFWS representative on the CMC has concerns that CMC actions are not leading to recovery and are not in compliance with the Special Rule, he/she would provide the CMC corrective actions and a 6-month time-frame to accomplish those actions, and would consider CMC input before making a determination that CMC actions are not leading to recovery. If that determination is made, the USFWS representative would convene a Scientific Review Panel to review CMC actions and decisions and make recommendations to the CMC as to whether CMC actions, decisions, or processes are in compliance with the Special Rule and are leading to recovery. This panel of 3 would be appointed by the Secretary, Governor of Idaho, and Governor of Montana. If the CMC rejects the recommendations, and the USFWS representative determines CMC actions are not leading to recovery, he/she would notify the Secretary of Interior. The Secretary would use these recommendations to determine whether to resume lead management responsibility. Further, if the Secretary decides to resume lead management responsibility, he/she would first consult with the Governors of Idaho and Montana to attempt to resolve discrepancies between his/her alternatives and the actions of the CMC. See Chapter 2, Alternative 1 for more information.

2. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. See response to letter #203, Idaho Governor Batt, issue # 17, page #5-32 for more information on the economic analysis results and methodology.

County, Custer County Commissioners: Hearing Testimony: #2167

1. First, under Alternative 1 and the other reintroduction alternatives, grizzly bears would be placed in remote areas in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness (or Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, if the CMC recommends it). It is highly unlikely grizzly bears would expand their range south of the Salmon River for many years. The FEIS has been modified to further prevent conflicts and possible bear-human injury or the death of bears, and to promote and enhance public safety. In addition to the exclusion area in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana which was included in the DEIS, the FEIS includes the following provision. Any grizzly bear that occupies inhabited human settlement areas on private land within the Experimental Area that in the judgement of the management agencies or CMC presents a clear threat to human safety or where there is indication that it may become habituated to humans, could be relocated by management agencies.

Second, NEPA procedures mandate that the EIS process be open to a national audience. Since the ESA is federal law and public lands (Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) are managed for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans, everyone has the opportunity to contribute their ideas and thoughts. The final proposal has been modified in response to substantive local public comment and contains provisions to address concerns of local and regional publics. Alternative 1 (preferred alternative) has been modified to include a panel to reduce political impacts to the work of the Citizen Management Committee. A Scientific Review Panel of 3 would be appointed by the Governors of Idaho and Montana and the Secretary to review decisions and/or actions of the CMC and make recommendations as to whether they are leading to recovery. The CMC would have the opportunity to correct problems based on the Review Panel recommendations before the Secretary is notified. The Secretary must also confer with the two Governors before resuming management responsibility. Also see response to City of Weippe, letter #1850, issue #1, page 5-60.

Other modifications were made to the CMC in response to public comment on the DEIS. The following operating guidelines were added, to insure the public would be involved in the CMC process and decisions. CMC Operating Guidelines: "The CMC will meet a minimum of two times per year and meetings will be open to the public. Additionally, the CMC will provide reasonable public notice of meetings, produce and provide written minutes of meetings to interested persons, and involve the public in its decision-making process. This public participation process will allow members of the public and/or special interest groups to have input to CMC decisions and management actions."

2. Thank you for your comment. Your concern is noted. Under Alternative 1, reintroduction of a nonessential experimental population of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem is not expected to impact land uses in the BE, including timber harvest and minerals extraction activities, as long as they meet the existing standards and guidelines of the USDA Forest Service Forest Plans.

County, Idaho County Commissioners: Hearing Testimony #2352

1. NEPA policy and procedures mandate the EIS process be open to a national audience. Also grizzly bears are listed under the ESA which is federal law, and the public lands involved are managed by the U.S. Forest Service for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. For these reasons, the general public has had input into the proposal to recover grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem throughout the NEPA process, and in the early planning stages before the NEPA process began. See FEIS pages 5-3 to 5-12 for information regarding public involvement in the planning process for the Bitterroot Ecosystem.

The Fish and Wildlife Service preferred alternative would allow local residents in Idaho and Montana to have input into the management of the reintroduced grizzly bears, through the formation of a Citizen Management Committee. This 15-member committee including 7 Idaho and 5 Montana citizens would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary of Interior for the Bitterroot grizzly bear population (See Chapter 2, Alternative 1).

2. Comment noted. Thank you.

County, Lemhi County Commissioners: Hearing Testimony #2648, #2650

1. Thank you for your comment. Additional habitat and population viability analyses have been performed on the Bitterroot analysis area and are included in FEIS Appendix 21. These analyses indicate the Bitterroot Ecosystem has areas of higher and lower quality habitat, and is capable of supporting a viable grizzly bear population.

Habitat quality of the BE has been studied extensively by Scaggs (1979), Butterfield and Almack (1985), Davis and Butterfield (1991), and Merrill et al. (1999). All four of these studies concluded that the BE contains suitable habitat essential to the maintenance of a grizzly bear population.

Additionally, Dr. Mark Boyce completed a habitat-based population assessment of the BE for inclusion in the FEIS. It is included as FEIS Appendix 21(A, B). This assessment analyzes the habitat suitability for grizzly bears in the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Areas and non-wilderness public lands to the north on the Clearwater National Forest. The entire Frank Church Wilderness was analyzed, including areas south of the Salmon River. Study results indicate the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. This number is 10-15% higher than the USFWS recovery goal estimate because further evaluation of the habitats in the southern portion of the analysis area indicate that even though the forb and berry production in these dry habitats is relatively low, the southern half of the analysis area contains substantial stands of whitebark pine as well as populations of elk and deer that can provide food for grizzly bears.

Appendix 21D presents data on presence of a variety of grizzly bear foods in the BE. The study by Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands Institute evaluates distribution and abundance of habitats and vegetation suitable for grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. In summary, Appendix 21 provides the best scientific information available to indicate the habitats in the BE are capable of supporting a viable population of grizzly bears.

2. Thank you for your comment. An extensive information and education effort associated with sanitation is part of all alternatives involving reintroduction of grizzly bears. Under Alternatives 1, 1A, and 4A these efforts would begin one year in advance of any bear releases in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Efforts would be directed at back country and front country users of bear habitat. Funding is included for upgrading garbage handling facilities to wildlife resistant containers. Appendix 22 identifies sites within the Bitterroot Ecosystem that are in need of sanitation improvements for wildlife. Any Sanitation effort implemented would use this information to prioritize sanitation work.

Further, the following clarifications/ additions were made to the preferred alternative in response to the issue concerning human health and safety. If a grizzly bear enters the Bitterroot Valley exclusion area, state and federal wildlife management agencies would attempt to capture it and notify the public immediately of its presence, and the public would be updated until the bear is caught. Further, any grizzly bear that occupies inhabited human settlement areas on private land within the Experimental Area that in the judgement of the management agencies or CMC presents a clear threat to human safety or where there is indication that it may become habituated to humans, could be relocated by management agencies in cooperation with the landowner if a suitable relocation site is available. This is to prevent conflicts and possible bear-human injury or the death of bears, and to promote and enhance public safety.

3. Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act(ESA) permits greater management flexibility for species that are reintroduced to their historic range. The purpose of the added flexibility is to garner more local support for recovery efforts. Such populations may be designated as "experimental" and managed within a delineated area according to special rules designed to balance needs of both people and listed species. Citizens can be involved in crafting such management rules.

Under Alternative 1 of the FEIS, the USFWS proposes to designate the reintroduced population of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem as "nonessential experimental". Because reintroduced grizzly bears would be classified as a nonessential experimental population, the Service's management practices can reduce local concerns about excessive government regulation on private lands, uncontrolled livestock depredations, excessive big game predation, and the lack of State government and local citizen involvement in the program.

The concept of management flexibility is related both to decisions made and to who is making those decisions. An analogy is travel from one city to another. Several routes, speeds, and dates of departure are possible, but the destination is the same. We believe that when a person is making his or her own decisions, they generally feel more comfortable than when such decisions are made by others.

This is the concept that is the foundation of the Alternative 1 CMC. If local people are making the decisions that will lead to recovery, they will feel more involved and more in control and therefore more comfortable than if those decisions were being made by others. The CMC will be making the decisions that will lead to grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot ecosystem. As an example of management differences, the CMC may choose to implement a hunter education program in response to illegal killing of bears with eventual recommendations to limit hunting in certain areas if the education program is unsuccessful in stopping illegal killing. The USFWS, if it were managing the situation, might choose to suggest immediate limits on hunting. Different possible approaches to the same problem are evidence of management flexibility. The objective of both actions is the same. How they achieve the same result may be different. The creation of a CMC to manage a listed species is possible because of the increased flexibility afforded by the experimental approach of reintroduction under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. Such local management by citizens is not possible under fully listed status.

Under Alternative 1, all decisions of the CMC, including components of its management plans, must lead toward recovery of the grizzly bear and minimize social and economic impacts to the extent practicable. Reintroduction of a nonessential experimental population of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem is not expected to impact land uses in the BE, including timber harvest and minerals extraction activities, as long as they meet the existing standards and guidelines of the USDA Forest Service Forest Plans. Minerals extraction would likely not be altered due to grizzly bear concerns alone. Recommendations would be made to land management agencies by the CMC to reduce potential impacts if the need arises.

Management of a reintroduced grizzly bear population in the BE under the fully threatened status, as proposed in Alternatives 4 and 4A, would result in more restrictive management decisions, and greater economic and social impacts.

4. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. See response to letter #203, Idaho Governor Batt, issue #17, page#5-32 for more information on the economic analysis methodology and results.

5. The FEIS outlines expected costs of managing and monitoring the reintroduced grizzly bears. These costs would be provided to Montana and Idaho by USFWS should they choose to accept management responsibility. If the state of Idaho chooses not to accept management responsibility for grizzly bears, these USFWS funds will be used to manage and monitor the bears without Idaho involvement. Funding would be available to the state of Idaho to carry out their responsibilities if grizzly bears were reintroduced.

6. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of Interior must retain final authority and responsibility for implementation of the Act. Alternative 1 (preferred) indicates the CMC would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary. It has also been modified to include a panel to reduce political impacts to the work of the CMC. Also see response to City of Weippe, letter #1850, issue #1, page 5-60.

7. The difference in the survey results is due to the population that was surveyed. The 1995 survey reported in FEIS Appendix 5 polled local, regional, and national populations. The radio station phone survey polled only a local population.

8. Certainly salmon population recovery could mean an additional food source for grizzly bears in the Bitterroot. However most interior grizzly bear populations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and British Columbia exist in areas without access to salmon. These populations are able to sustain themselves largely on vegetable food sources. Appendix 21 contains 4 reports that indicate the Bitterroot Ecosystem provides adequate habitat to support a viable population of grizzly bears. Additionally, proactive information and education and sanitation programs would be implemented to reduce potential impacts to river recreation.

9. Thank you for your comment.

Tribal, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes: Letter #752

1. We recognize and agree with your concerns about the possible effectiveness of the Citizen Management Committee (CMC). However, similar committees such as the state Fish and Game Commissioners function quite well and we believe this committee will operate similarly. The CMC would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary of the Interior, and its mission would be to facilitate recovery of the grizzly bear in the BE by assisting in implementing the Bitterroot Chapter of the Recovery Plan. All decisions and actions of the CMC must lead to recovery of the Bitterroot population. See Chapter 2, Alternative 1 for more information.

2. We feel that reintroducing grizzly bears designated as a nonessential experimental population to central Idaho and implementing provisions within Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to conduct special management will more adequately address local concerns. The bears would still be protected under the ESA. We do not agree that the designation of the population as nonessential and the lesser consultation requirements under Section 7 could possibly doom the success of the reintroduction effort.

Bears in the Bitterroot nonessential experimental population would be fully protected against illegal killing under federal law of the ESA. Grizzly bears could only be killed in the Bitterroot in self defense or defense of others (as in all fully listed populations), or in the special circumstance on private land where state or federal management officials were unable to capture a depredating bear. In that case, a permit could be issued to that landowner to kill that bear. Otherwise killing of bears in the experimental Bitterroot population is illegal and would be prosecuted under federal law.

The use of listed members of a species to create an experimental population of that species in a currently unoccupied area is what was intended by Congress in the amendments adding the 10(j) experimental population opportunity. See 50 CFR 17.80 pages 175-176, and FEIS Appendix 12 for further information. Thus, experimental populations of California condors, blackfooted ferrets, and Mexican wolves have all used animals from listed populations as founders.

3. The roadless area issue raised in Alternative 4 - Restoration of a Threatened Population with Full Protection of the ESA and Habitat Restoration is beyond the scope of this document (FEIS). Roadless areas listed in this alternative are managed by the USDA Forest Service and fall outside the scope of authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

4. We believe that science has an important role in the reintroduction of grizzly bears to the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Scientific input is important to the CMC in their decision process but by no means should take the lead in making decisions. In response to public comment on the DEIS, Alternative 1 has been modified. Two scientific advisors would be appointed by the Secretary to the CMC as non-voting members, to attend all meetings and provide scientific expertise in support of CMC management recommendations.

Tribal, Nez Perce Tribe: Letter #836

1. Thank you for your comment.

2. Thank you for your comment. The FEIS has been edited to respond to your concern (see Chapter 2- Alternative 1).

3. Thank you for your comment. Based on similar comments from a number of respondents, the EIS Team contracted an additional habitat and population viability analysis for the entire experimental area. The results of this analysis are included in Appendix 21. The four reports in Appendix 21 indicate the recovery area contains areas of higher and lower quality bear habitat, and is capable of supporting a viable population. The analysis included areas both inside and outside the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness areas. The suitability of the area south of the Salmon River is also addressed separately in these appendices. The reader is referred to these appendices for a full review of this information. While the recovery area is the area of initial placement of bears and of recovery emphasis, grizzly bear occupancy of adjacent public lands outside the wilderness is expected and the CMC is directed to make recommendations to accommodate grizzly bear presence on these lands. Thus, recovery and occupancy is not solely confined to the recovery area.

The terms "recovery emphasis" and "accommodate" are defined in the FEIS. The term "recovery emphasis" means grizzly bear management decisions in the recovery area will favor bear recovery so that this area can serve as core habitat for survival, reproduction, and dispersal of the recovering population; and reintroduction of bears will occur within the recovery area and all reintroduction will occur within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness portion of the recovery area. The word "accommodate" means grizzly bears that move outside the recovery area onto public land in the Experimental Area will not be disturbed unless they demonstrate a real and imminent threat to human safety or livestock. Bears will not be disturbed or moved unless conflicts are both significant and cannot be corrected as determined by the CMC, including conflicts associated with livestock, in which case the CMC will develop strategies to discourage grizzly bear occupancy in portions of the Experimental Area.

4. The Yellowstone population is increasing and has been for the last 6-8 years. In the last 3 years in the Yellowstone ecosystem, 204 cubs have been known to be born while 18 bears have been known to die due to human causes. This difference between births and deaths is why this population is increasing. No bears will be removed from any ecosystem in the U.S. if the mortality limits for that ecosystem have been reached or are even close to being reached. In addition, the USFWS will agree to make the decision to remove bears from any ecosystem in Montana or Wyoming only in consultation with the Fish and Game Department of that state. The USFWS has no intention to allow the removal of grizzly bears from any ecosystem in the U.S. to impede recovery of that source population. The USFWS will work in concert with the Fish and Game Departments of those states to judge these possible impacts to assure that this is the case. Any bears removed from Canadian populations would be removed under the management constraints on Canadian grizzly bear management which limit human-caused mortalities. We fully support those constraints.

5. The number of bears chosen for reintroduction in the preferred alternative was a balance between the availability of bears, the ability to capture and relocate a given number of bears each year, and the time to reach recovered population status. While we agree that it would be desirable to place more bears each year both from the standpoint of a higher probability for success and a shorter time to recovery, we do not think it is possible to capture and relocate more than approximately 5-6 bears per year and the availability or more bears than that in any single year is also limited. Thus, we believe that the numbers selected in the preferred alternative will achieve recovery while establishing a target number of bears that can be relocated over the 5-year placement period.

6. In response to agency and public comment on the Draft EIS proposal, several changes were made to the Final EIS Alternative 1. Modifications to the structure and function of the CMC include:

Two scientific advisors would be appointed by the Secretary to the CMC as non-voting members, to attend all meetings and provide scientific expertise in support of CMC management recommendations.

Mission and Operating Guidelines Statements for the CMC were added. The Mission Statement for the CMC is; "The mission of the CMC is to facilitate recovery of the grizzly bear in the Bitterroot Ecosystem by assisting in implementing the Bitterroot Chapter of the Recovery Plan. Regarding the land and wildlife management agencies, the role of the CMC is to make recommendations to them that the CMC believes will lead to recovery of the grizzly bear. Decisions on, and implementation of these recommendations is the responsibility of the land and wildlife management agencies." The preliminary Operating Guidelines for the CMC are; "The CMC will meet a minimum of two times per year and meetings will be open to the public. Additionally, the CMC will provide reasonable public notice of meetings, produce and provide written minutes of meetings to interested persons, and involve the public in its decision-making process. This public participation process will allow members of the public and/or special interest groups to have input to CMC decisions and management actions."

Clarification that the CMC would implement the Bitterroot Chapter of the Recovery Plan as consistent with the Final Rule. Also the CMC could make recommendations to land and wildlife management agencies regarding changes to plans and policies, but the final decision on implementation of those recommendations would be made by those agencies, and the requirements of NEPA may apply.

Changes were made to the procedure whereby the Secretary could resume lead management implementation responsibility from the CMC if the determination is made that their decisions are not leading to recovery. If the USFWS representative on the CMC has concerns that CMC actions are not leading to recovery and are not in compliance with the Special Rule, he/she would provide the CMC corrective actions and a 6-month time-frame to accomplish those actions, and would consider CMC input before making a determination that CMC actions are not leading to recovery. If that determination is made, the USFWS representative would convene a Scientific Review Panel to review CMC actions and decisions and make recommendations to the CMC as to whether CMC actions, decisions, or processes are in compliance with the Special Rule and are leading to recovery. Members of the panel will be professional scientists who have had no involvement with the CMC and would not be employed by federal agencies responsible for grizzly bear recovery efforts. This panel of 3 would be appointed by the Secretary, Governor of Idaho, and Governor of Montana. If the CMC rejects the recommendations, and the USFWS representative determines CMC actions are not leading to recovery, he/she would notify the Secretary of Interior.

The Secretary would use these recommendations to determine whether to resume lead management responsibility. Further, if the Secretary decides to resume lead management responsibility, he/she would first consult with the Governors of Idaho and Montana to attempt to resolve discrepancies between his/her alternatives and the actions of the CMC. See Chapter 2, Alternative 1 for information.

7. A clarification in was added to Alternative 1 regarding how a refined recovery goal for the Bitterroot experimental population would be calculated. The proposed rule indicates if the CMC refines the recovery goal for the Bitterroot grizzly bear population after grizzly bears are reintroduced and occupy suitable habitats in the Experimental Area, the recovery goal would be consistent with the habitat available within the Recovery Area. A clarification was made that additional adjacent areas of public land could be considered when setting the recovery goal if it is shown to be necessary by the best scientific and commercial data available.

8. The following monitoring requirements were added to Alternative 1. The status of Bitterroot grizzly bear recovery will be reevaluated by the CMC and Secretary of Interior at 5-year intervals. The following parameters would be monitored during the reintroduction and recovery phases, and should be considered in any evaluation of success or failure: bear mortality (minimal bear/human conflicts); movements (bears remain within the Recovery Area and adjacent public lands); survival (a majority of reintroduced bears survive); reproduction (evidence of reproduction by reintroduced bears).

9. The preferred alternative does not preclude linkage areas. In fact, the linkage zone analysis between all ecosystems is a separate task under the grizzly bear recovery plan that will be completed with or without Bitterroot grizzly restoration. The linkage zone analysis will identify the areas where it is possible for bears to move between ecosystems and will outline strategies to maintain such opportunities. By any measure, the restoration of a grizzly bear population in an area of more than 5700 square miles of wilderness and additional thousands of square miles of adjacent public lands increases habitat size and extent for grizzly bears. The majority of grizzly bear habitat in the lower 48 states is not in wilderness areas but on other public lands. Extensive limits currently exist on public lands on activities such as road building and timber harvest due to issues on anadromous fish and elk management. These constraints serve to enhance the value of these lands to grizzly bears as well. Experimental status does not preclude linkage with other ecosystems at some future point in time, it requires that there be no population of the animal in question present and that the area be geographically separated. The Bitterroot qualifies for experimental status for grizzly bears on both counts. If the Bitterroot is eventually linked to other existing populations, which is desirable and so stated in the grizzly bear recovery plan, such linkage may be in fact initiated by the grizzly bears of the Bitterroot population expanding their range toward the closest population (Cabinet-Yaak), not the other way around. If that happened, then experimental status would be reevaluated. However, given the fact that none of the more than 550 grizzly bears that have been radio-collared and tracked over the past 23 years have ever moved between any existing ecosystems, the likelihood of such linkage is not a near-term possibility. Thus, placement of bears in the Bitterroot now will allow this population to begin to grow into a healthy population now rather than waiting for the possible future dispersal of bears from distant geographically separated ecosystems.

State, Idaho Department of Agriculture, Animal Industries: Letter #100

1. and 2. Thank you for your comment. It is possible that reintroduced grizzly bears could consume cattle inoculated with these new vaccines, though we believe that probability to be low given the expected depredation rates of 4-8 cattle per year when a recovered population of 280 animals is achieved. It is also possible that existing, native populations of grizzly bears in eastern Idaho near Yellowstone and northern Idaho in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains could consume these vaccinated cattle. Black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, bald eagles, golden eagles, and numerous other predators or scavengers may also come in contact with these substances though we are not aware of any problems with these animals that could be attributed to these vaccines. We assume these vaccines are judged safe when used in animals destined for human consumption. If the Department of Agriculture has any information regarding health problems arising from the use of such vaccines, the hunting public of the State of Idaho and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be informed.

Federal, USDA Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest: Letter #687

1. We agree that if the local public doesn't support reintroduction, the project has a high probability of failure. Unless the Citizen Management Committee (CMC) determines otherwise, private lands outside the National Forest boundary in the Bitterroot Valley (private lands lying within the experimental population area and outside the Bitterroot Forest boundary south of Highway 12 to Lost Trail Pass) would be an area where and human/grizzly conflict would be considered significant. Grizzly bear occupancy would be discouraged in these areas and grizzly bears would be captured, destroyed or returned to the recovery area. Through the lengthy public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) we believe that we have captured most of the concerns of the Bitterroot Valley residents.

2. Your statement that "the majority of the public does not want them (grizzly bears), local and state elected officials are opposed to the effort," is a generalization and not accurate. A public survey conducted in 1995 (Duda and Young 1995) indicated that 64% of local, 74% of regional and 77% of national respondents were supportive of reintroducing grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Responses to the DEIS indicated strong local support for grizzly bear reintroduction.

3. Due to the length of the response necessary to address your concern, we refer you to FEIS Chapter 2, Alternative 3, "Background."

4. We strongly support Governor Racicot's recommendations in his September 30, 1997 letter.

Federal, USDA Forest Service, Regions 1 and 4: Letter #763

1. We also agree that the success of this endeavor hinges upon broad public acceptance. The public outreach effort which we have embarked upon is critical to the success of this proposal and we will continue to keep public outreach our number one priority.

2. The preferred alternative in the DEIS did not garner strong public support. The EIS team has reviewed all of the written and oral comments and has revised FEIS Alternative 1 so that it is more responsive to public issues and concerns.

3. The FEIS addresses the adequacy of the habitat within the recovery area including the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness.

Appendix 21 includes four reports from recent studies. These studies assess the habitat capability of the BE to support a viable populations of grizzly bears; the contribution a population of bears in the BE would make to grizzly bear conservation in the lower 48 States; and the distribution and abundance of bear foods in the BE. See FEIS Appendix 21.

4. The Bitterroot recovery should not impede or detract from grizzly recovery in the Yellowstone or Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems. Funding for grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem will be solely independent from funding for grizzly bear recovery in the other ecosystems. Implementation of recovery activities would only occur if additional funds become available above and beyond recovery efforts in existing ecosystems (Appendix 24).

The YE and NCDE are potential sources for bears. Mortality data are updated annually and any removal of bears from either ecosystem will be predicated on achievement of the mortality limits. The female contribution will be designed to minimize impacts on the source population and no female grizzly bears will be removed from within the NCDE or YE recovery zone boundary or from within 10 miles outside the boundary. Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

State, Montana Department of Transportation: Letter #1053

1. Wording has been added to the FEIS regarding the issue of linkage zones and the relationship of grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot to the linkage zone issue.

Providing safe highway crossing/passage for grizzly bears (and other rare wildlife) is vital for long-term recovery and conservation. Restoration of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot ecosystem will increase concern about the possible linkage between existing areas with bears and the Bitterroot. The USFWS intends to complete a linkage zone analysis that will detail the possible linkage areas between the existing ecosystems and between the Bitterroot and existing ecosystems. An important component of this analysis will be safe highway crossings for grizzly bears.

The linkage zone analysis is a GIS-computer modeling effort that looks at the levels of human impact and activity in the intervening areas between ecosystems and identifies the best linkage areas based on this human activity. This linkage zone analysis is a separate Recovery Plan Task and will be completed regardless of which alternative is selected for the Bitterroot. Maintenance of linkage zones is maintenance of the opportunity for grizzly bears and other wildlife species to move between the existing large blocks of public lands in order to maintain demographic and genetic health. A key factor in the maintenance of such linkage zones is managing the high-speed highways within the linkage zones and between the ecosystems. It must be determined how accommodations can and will be made to allow large animals such as bears the opportunity to cross these highways.

In the long-term, the opportunity for bears to move between these ecosystems will improve the health of these populations. In the near term, recovery of a grizzly bear population in the Bitterroot will require placement of bears rather than waiting for eventual dispersal into this area, due to the limited number of movements of bears outside of existing range to date.

State, Idaho Dept. of Parks and Recreation: Letter # 1224

1. Changes were made in the FEIS to the procedure whereby the Secretary could resume lead management implementation responsibility from the CMC if the determination is made that their decisions are not leading to recovery. See response to Nez Perce Tribe letter #836, issue #6, page 5-71.

2. Toxicants, placed underground, are often used to control rodents in seedling plantations. This activity was reviewed via ESA Section 7 consultation in the early 1980's on the Targhee National Forest. The activity was found not to adversely affect the grizzly bear provided care was taken not to leave treated bait on the ground surface.

3. The CMC would make recommendations related to grizzly bear management to land management agencies. Such "recommendations" would not be agency "decisions". Any changes to agency land management plans would go through the normal legal agency process before decisions are adopted. For example, if the recommendations made by the CMC were directed at the USDA-Forest Service, the Forest Service would review the recommendations, and if warranted, would undertake National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes before making any official decisions.

4. The DEIS cost estimate of $393,632 per year for the first 5 years refers to the administration and implementation costs to implement Alternative 1 (see Appendix 7). The DEIS estimate of $395,892 - $401,635 consists of the administration and implementation cost plus the estimated value of livestock losses from grizzly bear depredation which range from $2,260 - $8003 (see Table 4-7). These cost estimates have been updated in the FEIS, see Appendix 7 and Table 4-7.

5. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of Interior must retain final authority and responsibility for implementation of the Act. The USFWS would have direct management authority for all aspects of grizzly bear recovery under Alternative 2. Alternative 1 proposes that the Citizen Management Committee would be authorized management implementation responsibility by the Secretary of Interior. This committee would have one member representing the USFWS. The CMC decisions, management plans and their implementation must lead to grizzly bear recovery. If there is concern over CMC actions leading to recovery, a Scientific Review Panel could be invoked to review CMC actions and decisions and make recommendations as to whether CMC actions, decisions, or processes are in compliance with the Special Rule and are leading to recovery. If the Secretary decides to resume management implementation responsibility, he/she must consult with the Governors of Idaho and Montana before taking action. The inclusion of the Scientific Review Panel process and Governor review process in the FEIS further insulates the CMC from the influence of the Secretary, and responds to public comments of concern about the autonomy of the CMC.

6. Expected population area would be those lands lying east of US 95 and Idaho Hwy 55.

7. Comment noted. Non-motorized use could occur on closed roads.

8. Comment noted. Updates were made to the FEIS.

9. The CMC would develop recommendations on existing management plans and policies of land and game management agencies, as necessary, for the management of grizzly bears in the Experimental Area. The CMC could make recommendations to these management agencies regarding changes to plans/policies, but the final decision on implementation of those recommendations would be made by those agencies. If the CMC recommendations require significant changes to existing plans and policy, and the agencies tentatively agree to accept those recommendations, then the requirements of NEPA could apply.

10 and 11. Comment noted.

12. Roads closed under Alternative 4 would likely not be available for OHV use. CMC, after evaluation, could make recommendations on types of use for trails.

13. The FEIS expects there would be no trail closures related to grizzly bears. However, OHV use on some currently permitted trails may be restricted on an "as needed" basis.

Federal, USDI Bureau of Land Management, Montana: Letter #1548

1. and 2. It is the intent of the preferred alternative to reintroduce a minimum of 25 grizzly bears over a period of 5 years. The source of the reintroduced bears would be from the North Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), the Yellowstone Ecosystem (YE), and British Columbia. Bears taken from the NCDE and the YE would be lost from these populations and this loss would be a man-caused equivalent to a mortality. Some of these removals could be compensatory to other mortalities. Losses of bears from populations through human-caused actions are regulated and limited to assure the health of these populations. Mortality limits are in effect for both the NCDE and the YE.

Given the current high levels of female grizzly mortality in the NCDE, no females would be removed from this ecosystem for the Bitterroot reintroduction. No bears will be removed from any ecosystem in the U.S. if the mortality limits for that ecosystem have been reached or are even close to being reached. In addition, the USFWS will agree to make the decision to remove bears from any ecosystem in Montana or Wyoming only in consultation with the Fish and Game Department of that state. The USFWS has no intentions to allow the removal of any bears from any ecosystems in the U.S. to impede recovery of those source populations and will work in concert with the Fish and Game Departments of those states to judge these possible impacts to assure that this is the case.

Contribution of bears from either ecosystem will be based on the current mortality levels for that ecosystem. Mortality data are updated annually and any removal of bears from either ecosystem will be predicated on achievement of the mortality limits. Since these data are updated each year, it is necessary to recalculate mortality levels for both the NCDE and YE prior to making a decision on the origin of any relocated bears. The specific number of grizzly bears that can be obtained from the NCDE or YE is unknown at this time. The female contribution will be designed to minimize impacts on the source population and no female grizzly bears will be removed from within the NCDE or YE recovery zone boundary or from within 10 miles outside the boundary. The male contribution can be a higher number because population increase is affected little by removal of subadult males. Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

State, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation: Letter #1699

1. There are approximately 1,200 acres of State of Montana administered lands within the recovery zone described in Alternative 4. Road management plans described by this alternative apply only to federal lands.

A clarification was also made in the FEIS that the road closures proposed in Alternative 4 are outside the scope of the FEIS, and are not implementable through a Record of Decision signed by the USFWS. Decision documents involving management of resources on National Forest and State lands are the legal responsibility of the USDA Forest Service, and the states of Idaho and Montana, through Forest and State planning processes.

State, Idaho Fish and Game Commission and Idaho Department of Fish and Game: Letter #2564

1. The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1993) identified the need to evaluate the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE) to determine it's suitability as a grizzly bear recovery area. Four studies have been undertaken to evaluate portions of the BE for grizzly bears (Scaggs 1979, Butterfield and Almack 1985, Davis and Butterfield 1991, Merrill et al. 1999). All four of these studies have concluded that the BE contains suitable habitat essential to maintain a grizzly bear population.

The USFWS contracted an independent scientist to conduct a habitat-based population viability analysis for the FEIS. Dr. Mark Boyce was contracted by the USFWS to do a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) of the proposed BE Grizzly Bear Recovery Area. Results of Dr. Boyce's PVA results are presented in FEIS Appendix 21(A, B).

This assessment analyzes the habitat suitability for grizzly bears in the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Areas and non-wilderness public lands to the north on the Clearwater National Forest. The entire Frank Church Wilderness was analyzed, including areas south of the Salmon River. Study results indicate the habitat in the BE is capable of supporting a population of 308-321 grizzly bears. This number is 10-15% higher than the USFWS recovery goal estimate because further evaluation of the habitats in the southern portion of the analysis area indicate that even though the forb and berry production in these dry habitats is relatively low, the southern half of the analysis area contains substantial stands of whitebark pine as well as populations of elk and deer that can provide food for grizzly bears. Further, the remoteness of the area and the paucity of roads will help to ensure that a viable population of grizzly bears can persist in the Bitterroot Ecosystem of Idaho and Montana.

Appendix 21D presents data on presence of a variety of grizzly bear foods in the BE. The study by Craighead Wildlife-Wildlands Institute evaluates distribution and abundance of habitats and vegetation suitable for grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. In summary, Appendix 21 provides the best scientific information available to indicate the habitats in the BE are capable of supporting a viable population of grizzly bears.

2. The USFWS completed a formal consultation with National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the proposal. The NMFS Biological Opinion as it relates to listed runs of salmon and steelhead is included as Appendix 9B in the FEIS.

3. Alternative 1 does not preclude operation of a "real" citizen management committee. Input from Idaho members on the committee would be fully considered in Idaho grizzly bear management decisions.

4. The Interior Appropriations Bill passed by Congress is on an annual basis. The USFWS can not guarantee sufficient funding to conduct all necessary monitoring and management actions beyond a one-year time period, as permitted by Congress.

5. Contribution of bears from either ecosystem will be based on the current mortality levels for that ecosystem. Mortality data are updated annually and any removal of bears from either ecosystem will be predicated on achievement of the mortality limits. Since these data are updated each year, it is necessary to recalculate mortality levels for both the NCDE and YE prior to making a decision on the origin of any relocated bears. The specific number of grizzly bears that can be obtained from the NCDE or YE is unknown at this time. The female contribution will be designed to minimize impacts on the source population and no female grizzly bears will be removed from within the NCDE or YE recovery zone boundary or from within 10 miles outside the boundary. The male contribution can be a higher number because population increase is affected little by removal of subadult males. Since no bears will be removed from the YE or NCDE if the mortality limits will be exceeded, and no female bears will be removed from within the recovery zone or within 10 miles of the recovery zone boundary of either ecosystem, then the effects on recovery of any removals of bears from the NCDE or YE will be nonexistent.

Also grizzly bears from other ecosystems considered as nuisance bears under the IGBC Nuisance Bear Guidelines would not be reintroduced into the Bitterroot.

6. The discussion of the estimation of existence values has been expanded and reorganized in the Final EIS to address the concerns of the relationship between the estimated existence values and money spent in the local communities, and the questions of the validity and usefulness of the value estimates. Additionally, the survey instrument used in the analysis of existence values is attached as an appendix to the final document (Appendix 17A). In addition to these changes in the Final EIS the following comments are offered to address concerns raised about the existence value estimates.

Impacts associated with grizzly reintroduction in the BE can be measured using different accounting frameworks. The one which perhaps most people are familiar with relates to expenditures; how much more or less money is spent in an area as a result of a management change. Expenditure changes are rightfully of concern to local areas impacted by management actions. Changes in local expenditures impact local workers, businesses, and governments. From a national perspective, however, expenditure gains in one area tend to be offset by expenditure losses in another. Expenditure impacts (particularly from tourism) are largely distributional impacts, benefitting one area at the expense of another.

A second accounting framework, a benefit-cost framework, measures not expenditures, but societal benefits and costs. Benefits and costs can be closely, or loosely tied to actual market transactions. In the case of grizzly recovery, livestock losses are closely tied to market transactions while existence values are less obviously tied to the market.

It is important not to confuse these two accounting frameworks. The estimated annual existence value associated with grizzly reintroduction as reported in the FEIS would NOT be characterized by increased expenditures in the recovery area. Rather, these estimates represent aggregate increases in value to people in the U.S. accruing as a result of grizzly reintroduction. A portion (but only a very small portion) of this non-market value would accrue to residents of the local area surrounding the recovery area.

A second major concern raised in your comments questions the validity and usefulness of the existence value estimates. While the use of contingent valuation methods to estimate passive use values associated with proposed management changes is not a perfect tool, it is the only accepted tool currently available to economists to measure these types of non-use values. The general approach of using contingent valuation to measure passive-use values has been subject to a court test in a challenge to the 1986 DOI CERCLA regulations(Ohio v. DOI, 880 F.2d 432,474 (D.C. Circuit 1989)). Additionally, in 1992 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) appointed a distinguished panel (including several Nobel laureates in economics) to evaluate the approach in the context of implementing the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. In both instances the method has been judged to be a useful tool for valuation in the context of litigation. For example, the NOAA panel concluded that: "CV studies can produce estimates reliable enough to be the starting point of a judicial process of damage assessment, including lost passive-use values" (Arrow et. al. 1993). It is clear from the above statement that passive-use value estimation using contingent valuation does not produce an irrefutably accurate estimate of value, nor is it claimed to. Rather, the method employed in the DEIS provides a rough approximation of the existence value associated with grizzly reintroduction.

7. There is only a remote likelihood that recovery of grizzly bears will occur in the BE through natural recolonization because grizzly bears do not rapidly disperse and colonize distant, disjunct areas (USFWS 1993, 1996). The closest population of grizzly bears to the BE is 80 miles north of the BE. This population is in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. Population levels in the Cabinet Mountain portion of the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem were estimated to be 15 or fewer grizzly bears (Kasworm and Manley 1988).

Further, given the fact that none of the more than 550 grizzly bears that have been radio-collared and tracked over the past 23 years have ever moved between any existing ecosystems, the likelihood of natural immigration and recovery is not a near-term possibility. Thus, placement of bears in the Bitterroot will allow this population to begin to grow into a healthy population now rather than waiting for the possible future dispersal of bears from distant geographically separated ecosystems.