[Federal Register: May 3, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 84)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 23741-23747]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 23741]]


Part III

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 20

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 1999-2000 Migratory Game Bird Hunting 
Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals; 
Proposed Rule

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

RIN 1018-AF24

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 1999-2000 Migratory Game Bird 
Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter we) proposes 
to establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory game 
birds for the 1999-2000 hunting season. We annually prescribe outside 
limits (frameworks) within which States may select hunting seasons. We 
also request proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish 
special migratory bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian 
reservations and ceded lands. Migratory game bird hunting seasons 
provide hunting opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid 
Federal, State, and tribal governments in the management of migratory 
game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory 
bird population status and habitat conditions.

DATES: You must submit comments for proposed early-season frameworks by 
July 27, 1999; and for proposed late-season frameworks by September 7, 
1999. Tribes should submit proposals and related comments by June 2, 

ADDRESSES: Send your comments on the proposals to the Chief, Office of 
Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department 
of the Interior, ms 634-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 
20240. All comments received, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the public record. You may inspect comments during 
normal business hours in room 634, Arlington Square Building, 4401 N. 
Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron W. Kokel at: Office of Migratory 
Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the 
Interior, ms 634-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240 (703) 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: For administrative purposes, this document 
consolidates the notice of intent and request for tribal proposals with 
the preliminary proposals for the annual hunting regulations-
development process. We will publish the remaining proposed and final 
rulemaking documents separately. For inquiries on tribal guidelines and 
proposals, tribes should contact the following personnel.
    Region 1--Brad Bortner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 N.E. 
11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181; (503) 231-6164.
    Region 2--Jeff Haskins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 
1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103; (505) 248-7885.
    Region 3--Steve Wilds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal 
Building, One Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056; (612) 
    Region 4--Frank Bowers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 
Century Boulevard, Room 324, Atlanta, Georgia 30345; (404) 679-4000.
    Region 5--George Haas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate 
Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035-9589; (413) 253-8576.
    Region 6--John Cornely, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 
25486, Denver Federal Building, Denver, Colorado 80225; (303) 236-8145.
    Region 7--Robert Leedy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East 
Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503; (907) 786-3423.

Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons

    This notice announces our intent to establish open hunting seasons 
and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated groups or 
species of migratory game birds for 1999-2000 in the contiguous United 
States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, under 
Secs. 20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K of 50 CFR 
part 20.
    ``Migratory game birds'' are those bird species so designated in 
conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for 
the protection and management of these birds. Hunting of all other 
birds designated as migratory (under Sec. 10.13 of Subpart B of 50 CFR 
Part 10) is not permitted. For the 1999-2000 hunting season, we will 
propose regulations for certain designated members of the avian 
families Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and 
pigeons); Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens, and 
gallinules); and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these 
proposals under Proposed 1998-99 Migratory Game Bird Hunting 
Regulations (Preliminary) in this document. We published definitions of 
waterfowl flyways and mourning dove management units, as well as a 
description of the data used in and the factors affecting the 
regulatory process, in the March 14, 1990, Federal Register (55 FR 

Regulatory Schedule for 1999-2000

    This is the first in a series of proposed and final rulemaking 
documents for migratory game bird hunting regulations. We will make 
proposals relating to the harvest of migratory game birds initiated 
after this publication available for public review in supplemental 
proposed rulemakings. Also, we will publish additional supplemental 
proposals for public comment in the Federal Register as population, 
habitat, harvest, and other information become available.
    Because of the late dates when certain portions of these data 
become available, we anticipate abbreviated comment periods on some 
proposals. Special circumstances limit the amount of time we can allow 
for public comment on these regulations. Specifically, two 
considerations compress the time for the rulemaking process: the need, 
on one hand, to establish final rules early enough in the summer to 
allow resource agencies to select and publish season dates and bag 
limits prior to the beginning of hunting seasons and, on the other 
hand, the lack of current status data on most migratory game birds 
until later in the summer.
    Because the regulatory process is strongly influenced by the times 
when information is available for consideration, we divide the overall 
regulations process into two segments. Early seasons are those seasons 
that generally open prior to October 1, and include seasons in Alaska, 
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Late seasons are those 
seasons opening in the remainder of the United States about October 1 
and later, and include most of the waterfowl seasons.
    Major steps in the 1999-2000 regulatory cycle relating to open 
public meetings and Federal Register notifications are illustrated in 
the accompanying diagram. All publication dates of Federal Register 
documents are target dates.
    All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining hunting 
frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered headings. These 
headings are:

1. Ducks
2. Sea Ducks
3. Mergansers
4. Canada Geese
5. White-fronted Geese
6. Brant
7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese
8. Swans
9. Sandhill Cranes
10. Coots

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11. Moorhens and Gallinules
12. Rails
13. Snipe
14. Woodcock
15. Band-tailed Pigeons
16. Mourning Doves
17. White-winged and White-tipped Doves
18. Alaska
19. Hawaii
20. Puerto Rico
21. Virgin Islands
22. Falconry
23. Other

    Later sections of this and subsequent documents will refer only to 
numbered items requiring your attention. Therefore, it is important to 
note that we will omit those items requiring no attention and remaining 
numbered items will be discontinuous and appear incomplete.

Public Hearings

    In past years, we have annually conducted two public hearings 
pertaining to migratory game bird hunting regulations. The first 
hearing held in late June reviewed the status of migratory shore and 
upland game birds and discussed proposed hunting regulations for these 
species plus regulations for migratory game birds in Alaska, Hawaii, 
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; special September waterfowl 
seasons in designated States; special sea duck seasons in the Atlantic 
Flyway; extended falconry seasons; and proposed regulatory alternatives 
for the duck hunting season. The second hearing held in early August 
reviewed the status and proposed regulations for waterfowl not 
previously discussed at the June public hearing. Because of declining 
attendance and interest the past several years, we are not planning to 
hold the public hearings this year.

Requests for Tribal Proposals


    Beginning with the 1985-86 hunting season, we have employed 
guidelines described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 
23467) to establish special migratory bird hunting regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and 
ceded lands. We developed these guidelines in response to tribal 
requests for our recognition of their reserved hunting rights, and for 
some tribes, recognition of their authority to regulate hunting by both 
tribal and non-tribal members throughout their reservations. The 
guidelines include possibilities for:
    (1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and non-tribal members, 
with hunting by non-tribal members on some reservations to take place 
within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected 
by the surrounding State(s);
    (2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual 
Federal frameworks for season dates and length, and for daily bag and 
possession limits; and
    (3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, 
outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added 
flexibility in daily bag and possession limits.
    In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines 
must be consistent with the annual March 10 to September 1 closed 
season mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and 
Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds 
(Convention). The guidelines are capable of application to those tribes 
that have reserved hunting rights on Federal Indian reservations 
(including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. They also 
apply to the establishment of migratory bird hunting regulations for 
non-tribal members on all lands within the exterior boundaries of 
reservations where tribes have full wildlife management authority over 
such hunting, or where the tribes and affected States otherwise have 
reached agreement over hunting by non-tribal members on non-Indian 
    Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory bird 
hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our 
approval. The question of jurisdiction is more complex on reservations 
that include lands owned by non-Indians, especially when the 
surrounding States have established or intend to establish regulations 
governing hunting by non-Indians on these lands. In such cases, we 
encourage the tribes and States to reach agreement on regulations that 
would apply throughout the reservations. When appropriate, we will 
consult with a tribe and State with the aim of facilitating an accord. 
We also will consult jointly with tribal and State officials in the 
affected States where tribes may wish to establish special hunting 
regulations for tribal members on ceded lands. As explained in previous 
rulemaking documents, it is incumbent upon the tribe and/or the State 
to request consultation as a result of the proposal being published in 
the Federal Register. We will not presume to make a determination, 
without being advised by a tribe or a State, that any issue is/is not 
worthy of formal consultation.
    One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of harvest of 
migratory game birds by tribal members on reservations where it is a 
customary practice. We do not oppose this harvest, provided it does not 
take place during the closed season required by the Convention, and it 
is not so large as to adversely affect the status of the migratory bird 
resource. For several years, we have reached annual agreement with 
tribes for hunting by tribal members on their lands or on lands where 
they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to consult with 
tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting regulations for 
on-reservation hunting by tribal members.
    Tribes should not view the guidelines as inflexible. Nevertheless, 
we believe that they provide appropriate opportunity to accommodate the 
reserved hunting rights and management authority of Indian tribes while 
ensuring that the migratory bird resource receives necessary 
protection. The conservation of this important international resource 
is paramount. Use of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes 
to observe the hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which 
the reservation is located.

Details Needed in Tribal Proposals

    Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting 
regulations for the 1999-2000 hunting season should submit a proposal 
that includes:
    (1) The requested hunting season dates and other details regarding 
    (2) Harvest anticipated under the requested regulations;
    (3) Methods that will be employed to measure or monitor harvest 
(mail-questionnaire survey, bag checks, etc.);
    (4) Steps that will be taken to limit level of harvest, where it 
could be shown that failure to limit such harvest would seriously 
impact the migratory bird resource; and
    (5) Tribal capabilities to establish and enforce migratory bird 
hunting regulations.
    A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the waterfowl 
season should specify this in their proposal, rather than request a 
date that might not be within the final Federal frameworks. Similarly, 
unless a tribe wishes to set more restrictive regulations than Federal 
regulations will permit, the proposal should request the same daily bag 
and possession limits and season length for ducks and geese that 
Federal regulations are likely to permit the States in the Flyway in 
which the reservation is located.

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Tribal Proposal Procedures

    We will publish tribal proposals details for public review in later 
Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for our and 
public review, Indian tribes that desire special migratory bird hunting 
regulations for the 1999-2000 hunting season should submit their 
proposals as soon as possible, but no later than June 2, 1999. Tribes 
should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and proposals to the 
appropriate Service Regional Office listed under the caption 
Supplementary Information. Tribes that request special hunting 
regulations for tribal members on ceded lands should send a courtesy 
copy of the proposal to officials in the affected State(s).

Public Comments Solicited

    The Department of the Interior's policy is, whenever practicable, 
to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking 
process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written 
comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed 
regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will take into consideration all comments received. 
Such comments, and any additional information received, may lead to 
final regulations that differ from these proposals. We invite 
interested persons to participate in this rulemaking by submitting 
written comments to the address indicated under the caption ADDRESSES.
    You may inspect comments received on the proposed annual 
regulations during normal business hours at the Service's office in 
room 634, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia. For each 
series of proposed rulemakings, we will establish specific comment 
periods. We will consider, but possibly may not respond in detail to, 
each comment. As in the past, we will summarize all comments received 
during the comment period and respond to them after the closing date.

Flyway Council Meetings

    Departmental representatives will attend the following winter 
meetings of the various Flyway Councils:

March 25 and 29, 1999

National Waterfowl Council, 1:00 p.m.

March 26, 1999

Atlantic Flyway Council, 8:00 a.m.
Central Flyway Council, 8:00 a.m.
Mississippi Flyway Council, 8:00 a.m.
Pacific Flyway Council, 10:30 a.m.

    The Council meetings will be held at the Hyatt Regency at San 
Francisco Airport, 1333 Bay Shore Highway, Burlingame, California.

NEPA Consideration

    NEPA considerations are covered by the programmatic document, 
``Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual 
Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (FSES 88-
14),'' filed with the Environmental Protection Agency on June 9, 1988. 
We published Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on June 16, 
1988 (53 FR 22582). We published our Record of Decision on August 18, 
1988 (53 FR 31341). In addition, an August 1985 environmental 
assessment entitled ``Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations 
on Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands'' is available from the 
address indicated under the caption ADDRESSES.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Prior to issuance of the 1999-2000 migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will consider provisions of the Endangered Species Act 
of 1973, as amended, (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; hereinafter the Act) to 
ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of any species designated as endangered or threatened or modify or 
destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with conservation 
programs for those species. Consultations under Section 7 of this Act 
may cause us to change proposals in this and future supplemental 
proposed rulemaking documents.

Executive Order (E.O.) 12866

    This rule is economically significant and was reviewed by the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under E.O. 12866.
    E.O. 12866 requires each agency to write regulations that are easy 
to understand. We invite comments on how to make this rule easier to 
understand, including answers to questions such as the following: (1) 
Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated? (2) Does the rule 
contain technical language or jargon that interferes with its clarity? 
(3) Does the format of the rule (grouping and order of sections, use of 
headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its clarity? (4) Would the 
rule be easier to understand if it were divided into more (but shorter) 
sections? (5) Is the description of the rule in the ``Supplementary 
Information'' section of the preamble helpful in understanding the 
rule? What else could the Service do to make the rule easier to 

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    These regulations have a significant economic impact on substantial 
numbers of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 
U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the economic impacts of the annual 
hunting regulations on small business entities in detail and a Small 
Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis) was issued by the Service in 
1998. The Analysis documented the significant beneficial economic 
effect on a substantial number of small entities. The primary source of 
information about hunter expenditures for migratory game bird hunting 
is the National Hunting and Fishing Survey, which is conducted at 5-
year intervals. The Analysis utilized the 1996 National Hunting and 
Fishing Survey and the U.S. Department of Commerce's County Business 
Patterns from which it was estimated that migratory bird hunters would 
spend between $429 and $1,084 million at small businesses in 1998. 
Copies of the Analysis are available upon request from the Office of 
Migratory Bird Management.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small Business 
Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. For the reasons outlined above, 
this rule has an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. 
However, because this rule establishes hunting seasons, we do not plan 
to defer the effective date under the exemption contained in 5 U.S.C. 
808 (1) .

Paperwork Reduction Act

    We examined these regulations under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 
1995. The various recordkeeping and reporting requirements imposed 
under regulations established in 50 CFR part 20, Subpart K, are 
utilized in the formulation of migratory game bird hunting regulations. 
Specifically, OMB has approved the information collection requirements 
of the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program and assigned 
clearance number 1018-0015 (expires 09/30/2001). This information is 
used to provide a sampling frame for voluntary national surveys to 
improve our harvest estimates for all migratory game birds in order to 
better manage these populations. OMB has also approved the information 
collection requirements of the Sandhill Crane Harvest Questionnaire and 
assigned clearance number 1018-0023 (expires 09/30/2000). The 
information from this survey is used to estimate the magnitude, the 
geographical and

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temporal distribution of harvest, and the portion its constitutes of 
the total population.
    A Federal agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not 
required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    We have determined and certify, in compliance with the requirements 
of the Unfunded Mandates Act, 2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq., that this 
rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given 
year on local or State government or private entities.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    The Department, in promulgating this proposed rule, has determined 
that these regulations meet the applicable standards found in Sections 
3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.

Takings Implication Assessment

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this proposed rule, 
authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, does not have significant 
takings implications and does not affect any constitutionally protected 
property rights. This rule will not result in the physical occupancy of 
property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory taking 
of any property. In fact, these rules allow hunters to exercise 
otherwise unavailable privileges; and, therefore, reduce restrictions 
on the use of private and public property.

Federalism Effects

    Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the 
Federal government has been given responsibility over these species by 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We annually prescribe frameworks from 
which the States make selections and employ guidelines to establish 
special regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. 
This process preserves the ability of the States and Tribes to 
determine which seasons meet their individual needs. Any State or Tribe 
may be more restrictive than the Federal frameworks at any time. The 
frameworks are developed in a cooperative process with the States and 
the Flyway Councils. This allows States to participate in the 
development of frameworks from which they will make selections, thereby 
having an influence on their own regulations. These rules do not have a 
substantial direct effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or 
responsibilities of Federal or State governments, or intrude on State 
policy or administration. Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 
12612, these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and 
do not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the 
preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

    Exports, Hunting, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Transportation, Wildlife.

    The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 1999-2000 
hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-711, 16 U.S.C. 712, 
and 16 U.S.C. 742 a-j.

    Dated: March 19, 1999.
Donald J. Barry,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Proposed 1999-2000 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations 

    Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat 
conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway 
Councils, we may defer specific framework proposals (including opening 
and closing dates, seasons lengths, and bag limits). Unless otherwise 
specified, we are proposing no change from the final 1998-99 frameworks 
of August 28 and September 29, 1998, (63 FR 46124 and 51998). Specific 
preliminary proposals that vary from the 1998-99 frameworks and issues 
requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or 
tribes are contained below:

1. Ducks

A. Harvest Strategy Considerations

    We propose to continue the use of Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) 
to guide the establishment of duck hunting regulations. The AHM 
approach recognizes we cannot predict the consequences of hunting 
regulations with certainty, and provides a framework for making 
objective decisions despite this uncertainty. Also inherent in the 
adaptive approach is an awareness that we can maximize the success of 
our long-term management programs, in terms of sustainable hunting 
opportunities, only if we reduce the uncertainty about regulatory 
effects. Thus, AHM relies on a tightly integrated cycle of monitoring, 
assessment, and decision-making to better understand the relationships 
among hunting regulations, harvests, and waterfowl abundance.
    Because of the structured approach and formal nature of the AHM 
process, Federal and State managers must continue to consider those 
factors that influence the outcome of regulatory strategies and, thus, 
the potential harvest impacts on waterfowl populations. We have 
identified three areas critical to the success of AHM which require 
additional consideration:
    (1) Setting objectives--Waterfowl harvest managers must rely on 
clear, definitive statements about management objectives. This requires 
formal agreement among stakeholders about how to place a value on 
harvest benefits and how to share those benefits. AHM cannot operate as 
intended with vague, unclear management objectives;
    (2) System control--Our ability to control harvest levels is 
dependent on understanding the relationship between hunting 
regulations, hunter behavior, and harvest. However, we do not have 
complete control over all these factors. Ultimately, hunting 
regulations only partially control hunter activity and success, and 
variable environmental conditions often have a pronounced effect on 
harvest levels. Thus, our ability to only partially control harvest 
imposes limits on both short-term hunting opportunity and the learning 
needed to increase long-term management performance;
    (3) Management scale--As waterfowl managers, we continue to try to 
account for increasingly more spatial, temporal, and organizational 
variability in waterfowl biology. However, serious questions remain 
about the cost-effectiveness of this approach because costs can 
sometimes outweigh benefits. Moreover, the appropriate scale, or 
resolution, of harvest management is often limited by the availability 
of resources for monitoring and assessment, rather than by 
determinations of the highest net benefit.
    These institutional issues pose our greatest challenge to the long-
term success of AHM. Managing these issues will require innovative ways 
to maintain productive dialogue, and resolve differences within a 
process that all stakeholders can support. We intend to work diligently 
with our management partners to organize these discussions, so that we 
can collectively explore and appreciate the technical and sociological 
implications of these issues.

B. Framework Dates

    During 1995 and 1996, the first two years of implementation of AHM, 
three regulatory alternatives characterized as ``liberal'', 
``moderate'', and ``restrictive'' were defined based on regulations 
used during 1979-84, 1985-87, and 1988-93, respectively. In 1997, we 
attempted to further accommodate State and Flyway

[[Page 23746]]

concerns by modifying the regulatory alternatives to include: (1) the 
addition of a very restrictive alternative; (2) additional days and a 
higher duck bag limit in the moderate and liberal alternatives; and (3) 
an increase in the bag limit of hen mallards in the moderate and 
liberal alternatives.
    The subsequent set of four regulatory alternatives was acceptable 
to the majority of States. However, the issue of framework-date 
extensions continued to be discussed and because of its contentiousness 
has drawn increasing political interest. Finally in 1998, Congressional 
action interceded and allowed certain States in the Mississippi Flyway 
(Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee) to 
select a framework closing date of January 31, provided it was 
accompanied by a commensurate reduction in season length.
    The issue of duck hunting framework-date extensions and possible 
modifications to regulatory alternatives remains unresolved for the 
1999-2000 hunting season. Although we have not received specific 
proposals for changes in the regulatory alternatives, we believe that 
any forthcoming proposals for modification of framework dates should be 
consistent with existing biological constraints, while not disrupting 
the intended functioning of AHM. We believe that framework dates should 
remain a viable tool in regulating harvests and an important component 
of any set of regulatory alternatives. Further, we believe that 
application of framework dates should continue to be incorporated at 
the Flyway level. Additional application of date changes or options 
with harvest offsets at scales below the Flyway level, such as the 
State or zone level, would result in unprecedented technical challenges 
in terms of predicting cumulative impacts and evaluating the effects of 
various regulatory tools and severely strain our capability to reliably 
predict and control harvests at levels commensurate with the biological 
capacity of waterfowl populations.
    The ability to predict, at least probabilistically, the harvests 
achieved under the regulatory alternatives is an essential feature of 
the AHM process. Therefore, we believe that a limited set of Flyway-
based regulatory alternatives that are stable over time is necessary to 
maintain or improve our understanding of the relationships between 
regulations and harvest, and between harvest and population response. 
The ability of AHM to operate as intended is premised on a set of well-
defined regulatory alternatives, which are small in number and which 
lead to recognizable differences in harvest (or harvest rate). To this 
end, we are interested in cooperatively working with States, Flyway 
Councils, and the public to explore changes in Flyway-wide regulatory 
alternatives to resolve the frameworks issue. This approach will assure 
the integrity of the AHM process, while maintaining a Flyway-based 
regulatory system.

G. Special Seasons/Species Management

i. Scaup
    We remain concerned about the declining trend in the size of the 
scaup breeding population and believe that substantial reductions in 
hunting opportunity are needed, particularly in light of recent harvest 
increases. As we announced last September, we intend to cooperate with 
the Flyway Councils in an effort to develop a strategy for guiding 
scaup harvest management beginning this year. A preliminary draft 
strategy was sent to each Flyway in February for comment. This strategy 
will build upon information in a recently completed scaup status report 
(copies available from MBMO).
ii. Canvasbacks
    We continue to support the canvasback harvest strategy adopted in 
1994. Last year, we reviewed data collected since implementation of the 
strategy to assess the strategy's performance. Subsequently, we 
prepared a report for the Flyways detailing our review and distributed 
the report to the Flyway Technical Sections for comment during their 
March meetings. Overall, we believe the strategy has performed 
adequately, and have not found sufficient reason to alter it. We will 
continue to monitor its performance as annual information from 
population and habitat surveys are available.
2. Sea Ducks
    We continue to be concerned about recent population trends in sea 
ducks throughout North America. Last year, we provided a report titled 
``Status of Sea Ducks in Eastern North America and a Review of the 
Special Sea Duck Season in the Atlantic Flyway'' to the Flyways. This 
report summarized our current state of knowledge regarding several sea 
duck species and highlighted our management concerns. In light of these 
concerns, we requested the Atlantic and Pacific Flyways to review the 
special regulations for sea duck seasons currently in place in each 
Flyway. In the Atlantic Flyway, we continue to ask the Council to 
consider changes to sea duck seasons and to develop management goals 
for sea ducks. In the Pacific Flyway, we encourage the Flyway, and 
particularly the State of Alaska to give consideration to changes in 
existing sea duck regulations in light of current population status and 
trends. In addition, we continue to support and encourage participation 
by the Atlantic and Pacific Flyways in the development and 
implementation of the sea duck joint venture to address management and 
information needs for this unique group of waterfowl in North America.
4. Canada Geese
    We support the Atlantic Flyway Council's position that hunting 
seasons on Atlantic Population (AP) Canada Geese remain closed until 
the breeding population index exceeds 60,000 pairs and there is 
evidence of a sustained population recovery. Following the season 
closure in 1995 and favorable production in 1997 and 1998, we expect 
this population to begin expansion and begin to show an increase in the 
breeding pair survey index. In this context, we encourage the Council 
to give serious consideration to specific criteria for resuming the 
hunting season. Additionally, if these criteria are triggered in 1999, 
we believe that appropriate regulatory strategies and harvest controls 
will be necessary to effectively manage the harvest in order to prevent 
harvest levels that would deter the AP from making a full recovery to 
objective levels.


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[FR Doc. 99-10961 Filed 4-30-99; 8:45 am]