[Federal Register: June 22, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 121)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 33619-33622]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 33619]]


Part IV

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17

Reintroduction of Grizzly Bears in the Bitterroot Area of Idaho and 
Montana; Removal of Regulations; Reevaluation of the Record of 
Decision; Proposed Rule and Notice

[[Page 33620]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI03

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of a 
Nonessential Experimental Population of Grizzly Bears in the Bitterroot 
Area of Idaho and Montana; Removal of Regulations

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are 
reevaluating our decision with respect to grizzly bear recovery in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE), published November 17, 2000 (65 FR 69644). 
The Record of Decision (ROD) for a Final Environmental Impact Statement 
(FEIS) published in March 2000, selected the Preferred Alternative. 
This alternative established a nonessential experimental population of 
grizzly bears in the BE in east-central Idaho and a portion of western 
Montana pursuant to section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended. A final rule to implement the preferred alternative 
was published in the Federal Register on November 17, 2000. In light of 
our current recovery needs for grizzly bears in other areas and our 
available resources, as well as the objections of the States that would 
be affected by the reintroduction of grizzly bears in the BE, we are 
reevaluating our prior decision. We are now proposing to select the No 
Action Alternative as our Preferred Alternative (see Notice of Intent 
elsewhere in this edition of the Federal Register) and are currently 
requesting public comments on this action. After receipt and review of 
all comments, the Service will make a final decision with regard to 
this proposal. If we select the No Action Alternative, we will remove 
the pertinent regulations.

DATES: A 60-day comment period has been announced on the 
reconsideration of the Final EIS (see Notice of Intent to reevaluate 
the Record of Decision for the Final Environmental Impact Statement for 
Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem published in this 
issue of the Federal Register). Written public comments are solicited 
independently on this action or along with comments on the Notice of 
Intent. Written comments must be received by August 21, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be addressed to Assistant Regional 
Director, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Box 
25486 DFC, Denver, Colorado 80225. Comments also may be mailed 
electronically to FW6_grizzly@fws.gov. The Final EIS (FEIS), Record of 
Decision (ROD), and Final Rule are available for viewing and 
downloading at http://www.r6.fws.gov/endspp/grizzly/. Comments and 
materials received are available on request for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Susan Baker, Assistant Regional 
Director, Ecological Services (see ADDRESSES above), at telephone 303-



    A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), published in March 
2000 (see 65 FR 12570, March 9, 2000), evaluated a proposal to 
establish an experimental population and reintroduce grizzly bears into 
the Bitterroot Ecosystem (BE) in east-central Idaho and western 
Montana. Six alternatives were discussed. The Preferred Alternative, 
selected in the Record of Decision (ROD), was to establish a 
nonessential experimental population of grizzlies in the BE under 
section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act (50 CFR Section 17.84) (see 
65 FR 69644, November 17, 2000). A final rule to implement the 
Preferred Alternative was published in the Federal Register on November 
17, 2000 (65 FR 69624), and is codified at 50 CFR 17.84(l). See FEIS 
and final rule for a more detailed discussion.
    In the ROD we said that implementation of the Preferred Alternative 
was contingent upon adequate funding, so that the current level of 
Service activities in other grizzly bear recovery areas would not be 
compromised. We also stated that bears would be reintroduced in 2002 at 
the earliest, again contingent upon available funding. While the ESA 
requires us to identify recovery actions for listed species, we have 
the discretion and flexibility to identify the highest priority 
recovery activities and to determine if experimental populations should 
be established.
    There are approximately 1,000 to 1,100 grizzly bears in the western 
United States, scattered over Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming. 
We estimate there are between 400-600 bears in the Yellowstone 
ecosystem; 400-500 bears in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem; 
40-50 bears in the Selkirk ecosystem; 30-40 bears in the Cabinet-Yak 
ecosystem; and fewer than 15 bears in the Northern Cascade ecosystem. 
Although grizzly bears inhabited the BE at one time, they were killed 
to eliminate threats to humans and domestic livestock, for their fur, 
and for sport. The last verified death of a grizzly in the Bitterroot 
was in 1932; the last tracks were observed in 1946.
    We are currently conducting a variety of activities relating to the 
recovery of the grizzly bear. We produce habitat-based recovery 
criteria; conduct and analyze population surveys; develop and test 
better population estimation methodologies; trap bears to mark for 
population studies and monitoring; work with States to address problem 
bears that endanger livestock or humans; assess food and other habitat 
resources; provide secure habitat for females to raise their young; 
educate the public and local governments about living with bears and 
how to avoid conflicts with them; and work with companies and 
government agencies on how to manage and develop resources in bear 
country. Each of these activities is crucial in ensuring the recovery 
of the grizzly in existing ecosystems. We will spend $494,000 in FY 
2001 to carry out grizzly recovery efforts.
    Our highest priority for recovery of the grizzly bear is to 
continue to carry out these recovery activities in ecosystems where the 
grizzly bear populations currently exist. Rather than diverting 
resources towards a reintroduction of grizzlies, it is more important 
at this time to ensure the continued viability of our ongoing recovery 
efforts in the existing ecosystems.
    Apart from higher priority uses of limited recovery funds, 
reintroduction of grizzlies is strongly opposed by some citizens 
potentially adversely affected by this action. We propose to reexamine 
the concerns raised about the safety of human inhabitants in or near 
the Bitterroot ecosystem to ensure that the potential safety risks to 
humans are adequately considered. We must be cognizant of the 
possibility that humans may be killed or injured as grizzly bears are 
    Accordingly, we believe that it is neither prudent nor consistent 
with our recovery priorities to expend our limited recovery funds and 
staff effort on establishment of a nonessential, experimental grizzly 
bear population in the BE at this time. Moreover, we believe that 
further consideration of the legitimate safety concerns of the current 
residents of BE against reintroduction is warranted.

[[Page 33621]]

Proposed Action

    We are proposing to select the No Action Alternative analyzed in 
the Bitterroot FEIS as our Preferred Alternative. The No Action 
Alternative described in the FEIS is entitled Natural Recovery. This 
alternative assumes that current management activities will continue 
over the next 50 + years. The overall environmental effects of taking 
no action likely would result in continued recovery in the other 
ecosystems (because bears will not be removed and resources will not be 
diverted), but no recovery of grizzly bears in the BE in the near 
future. Although grizzly bears may start to move into the BE within 50 
years from the Yellowstone Ecosystem, complete recovery of the grizzly 
bear population in the BE would require at least 100-160 years. If 
grizzly bears naturally dispersed to the BE they would be protected as 
a threatened species under the ESA. (See FEIS for a thorough evaluation 
of this alternative.)
    Should the No Action alternative be selected as the new Preferred 
Alternative, there will be no action taken by the Service to 
reintroduce grizzly bears into the Bitterroot area and the Service will 
concentrate its efforts to recover grizzly bears in existing areas. 
Therefore, if we select the No Action Alternative, there will be no 
need for the rule on establishment of an experimental population, and 
the rule will be removed from 50 CFR 17.84.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend for any rule that is finally adopted to be as effective 
as possible. Therefore, we invite the public, concerned government 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, and other interested 
parties to submit comments or recommendations concerning any aspect of 
this proposed rule (see ADDRESSES section).
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by 
law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must 
state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations or businesses available for public 
inspection in their entirety.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    The area affected by this rule consists of a limited area of mostly 
designated wilderness and surrounding lands in east central Idaho and 
western Montana, recognized as the Bitterroot ecosystem. The Bitterroot 
ecosystem, as characterized by data from 10 counties in central Idaho 
and 4 counties in western Montana, has an area of approximately 44,419 
square miles (17,976 ha) and is about 76% Federal land. As of 1996, the 
area had a human population of about 241,000 people; a $4.6 billion/
year local economy; 440,570 head of livestock (cattle and sheep); 
approximately 274,360 deer and elk; a yearly harvest of 28,023 deer and 
elk; and, received approximately $13.2 million/year from recreational 
visits to national forests.
    This proposed rule is a significant rule and is subject to review 
by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    We certify that this rule will not have a significant economic 
effect on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). Small entities most likely to 
be affected by this rule are producers of domestic livestock. Although 
highly unlikely in the near future, grizzly bears may re-colonize this 
area from other ecosystems. It is estimated that at least 50 years will 
pass before grizzly bears might reach this area. If breeding 
populations became established, it would conservatively require an 
additional 50-110 years for a recovery of grizzly bears in the BE.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (5 U.S.C. 804(2))

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule does not have 
an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more on local or 
State governments or private entities. This rule will not cause a major 
increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, 
Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions. 
This rule does not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.)

    This rule does not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or 
tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 million per 
year. The rule does not have a significant or unique effect on State, 
local or tribal governments or the private sector. Primary grizzly bear 
management responsibility would reside with the Service. A statement 
containing the information required by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act 
(2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is not required.


    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this rule does not have 
significant takings implications, and a takings implication assessment 
is not required. This designation will not ``take'' private property 
and will not alter the value of private property.

Federalism (E.O. 13132)

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment. This rule will not have substantial direct 
effects on the States, in the relationship between the Federal 
Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and 
responsibilities among the various levels of government.

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, we have determined that 
this regulation does not unduly burden the judicial system and meets 
the applicable standards provided in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of 
Executive Order 12988. We have made every effort to ensure that this 
final determination contains no drafting errors, provides clear 
standards, simplifies procedures, reduces burden, and is clearly 
written such that litigation risk is minimized.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule contains no information collection. An agency may not 
conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a 
collection of information unless it displays a current valid OMB 
control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    A Final EIS on the reintroduction of the grizzly bear in the 
Bitterroot ecosystem has been prepared and is available to the public 
(see ADDRESSES). The Final EIS should be referred to for analysis of 
the No-Action alternative.

[[Page 33622]]

Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175 and 512 DM 2, we 
have evaluated possible effects on Federally recognized Indian tribes 
and have determined that there are no effects.

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued an Executive Order (E.O. 
13211) on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, 
distribution, and use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to 
prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. 
As this proposed rule is not expected to significantly affect energy 
supplies, distribution, or use, this action is not a significant energy 
action and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Clarity of This Regulation

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your 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? (6) What else could we do to make the rule 
easier to understand?
    Send your comments concerning how we could make this rule easier to 
understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, Department of the 
Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, D.C. 20240 (e-
mail: Exsec@ios.doi.gov). 


    The principal author of this proposed rule is Susan Baker (see 
Addresses section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Removal

    Accordingly, under the authority of 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, the 
Service hereby proposes to amend 50 CFR Part 17 as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

Sec. 17.84  [AMENDED]

    2. Remove Sec. 17.84 (l)

    June 8, 2001.
Joseph E. Doddridge,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 01-15908 Filed 6-21-01; 8:45 am]