[Federal Register: October 12, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 198)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 52077-52090]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Parts 20 and 21

RIN 1018-AI07

Migratory Bird Hunting and Permits; Regulations for Managing 
Harvest of Light Goose Populations

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: Various populations of light geese (greater and lesser snow 
geese and Ross' geese) have undergone rapid growth during the past 30 
years, and have become seriously injurious to their habitat, habitat 
important to other migratory birds, and agricultural interests. The 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or ``we'') believes that 
several of these populations have exceeded the long-term carrying 
capacity of their breeding and/or migration habitats and must be 
reduced. This rule would authorize new methods of take for light goose 
hunting. In addition, the rule would revise the regulations for the 
management of overabundant light goose populations and modifies the 
conservation order that will increase take of such populations.

DATES: Comments on this proposed rule must be received by December 11, 

    1. Comments should be mailed to Chief, Division of Migratory Bird 
Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, 
ms 634--ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. Alternatively, 
comments may be submitted electronically to the following address: 
white_goose_eis@fws.gov. In order to be considered, electronic 
submissions must include your name and postal mailing address; we will 
not consider anonymous comments. All comments received, including names 
and addresses, will become part of the public record.
    2. The public may inspect comments during normal business hours in 
Room 634--Arlington Square Building, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, 
    3. You may obtain copies of the draft environmental impact 
statement from the above address, or by downloading it from our Web 
site at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/snowgse/tblcont.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jon Andrew, Chief, Division of 
Migratory Bird Management, (703) 358-1714; or James Kelley (612) 713-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We regulate the taking of migratory birds 
under the four bilateral migratory bird treaties the United States 
entered into with Great Britain (for Canada), Mexico, Japan, and 
Russia. Regulations allowing the take of migratory birds are authorized 
by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-711), and the Fish and 
Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 712). The Acts authorize 
and direct the Secretary of the Interior to allow hunting, taking, 
killing, etc. of migratory birds subject to the provisions of, and in 
order to carry out the purposes of, the four migratory bird treaties.
    The 1916 treaty with Great Britain was amended in 1999 by the 
governments of Canada and the U.S. Article II of the amended U.S.-
Canada migratory bird treaty (Treaty) states that, in order to ensure 
the long-term conservation of migratory birds, migratory bird 
populations shall be managed in accord with conservation principles 
that include (among others): To manage migratory birds internationally; 
to sustain healthy migratory bird populations for harvesting needs; and 
to provide for and protect habitat necessary for the conservation of 
migratory birds. Article III of the Treaty states that the governments 
should meet regularly to review progress in implementing the Treaty. 
The review shall address issues important to the conservation of 
migratory birds, including the status of migratory bird populations, 
the status of important migratory bird habitats, and the effectiveness 
of management and regulatory systems. The governments agree to work 
cooperatively to resolve identified problems in a manner consistent 
with the principles of the

[[Page 52078]]

Treaty and, if the need arises, to conclude special arrangements to 
conserve and protect species of concern. Article IV of the Treaty 
states that each government shall use its authority to take appropriate 
measures to preserve and enhance the environment of migratory birds. In 
particular, the governments shall, within their constitutional 
authority, seek means to prevent damage to such birds and their 
environments and pursue cooperative arrangements to conserve habitats 
essential to migratory bird populations. Article VII of the Treaty 
authorizes permitting the take, kill, etc., of migratory birds that, 
under extraordinary conditions, become seriously injurious to 
agricultural or other interests.

Geographic Distribution of Species

    Greater snow geese (Chen caerulescens atlantica) breed in the 
eastern Arctic of Canada and migrate southward through Quebec, New 
York, and New England to their wintering grounds in the mid-Atlantic 
United States (Reed et al. 1998). Lesser snow geese (Chen c. 
caerulescens) breed throughout much of the Arctic region of North 
America (Mowbray et al. 2000). Additionally, a population that breeds 
on Wrangel Island, Russia, migrates through Alaska, western Canada, and 
several western States. The wintering range of lesser snow geese is 
broad, with birds nesting in the western Arctic tending to winter in 
the Pacific Flyway, and birds nesting in the central and eastern Arctic 
wintering primarily in the Central and Mississippi Flyways. Small 
numbers of lesser snow geese winter in the Atlantic Flyway.
    Approximately 95% of Ross' geese (Chen rossii) breed in the Queen 
Maud Gulf region of the central Arctic (Kerbes 1994). Small numbers of 
Ross' geese also breed on Banks Island in the western Arctic, along 
western and southern Hudson Bay, and Southampton and Baffin Islands in 
the eastern Arctic. Prior to the 1960s, most Ross' geese migrated to 
wintering areas in California. This species has dramatically expanded 
its range eastward in recent decades (Ryder and Alisauskas 1995). A 
large proportion of Ross' geese winters in the Central Valley of 
California. Smaller numbers of Ross' geese winter in the southwest 
portion of the Central Flyway, and in Arkansas and Louisiana.
    Greater snow geese, lesser snow geese, and Ross' geese are referred 
to as ``light'' geese due to the light coloration of the white-phase 
plumage morph, as opposed to true ``dark'' geese such as the white-
fronted or Canada goose. We include both plumage variations of lesser 
snow geese (white, or ``snow'' and dark, or ``blue'') under the 
designation light geese. Dark phase Ross' geese exist but are uncommon.

Population Delineation

    Waterfowl management activities frequently are based on delineation 
of populations that are the target of management. In most instances, 
populations are delineated according to where they winter, whereas 
others are delineated based on location of their breeding grounds. For 
management purposes, populations can comprise one or more species of 
geese. For example, lesser snow geese and Ross' geese in the central 
portion of North America are frequently found in the same breeding, 
migration, and wintering areas. Due to these similarities, the term 
``light goose population'' is used to refer to various populations 
comprising both lesser snow geese and Ross' geese, as described below. 
In descriptions of geographic areas, eastern Arctic refers to the area 
east of approximately longitude 95 deg. W; the central Arctic refers to 
the area between 95 deg. W and approximately 115 deg. W; and the 
western Arctic refers to the area west of 115 deg. W. Administrative 
flyway boundaries also are used to describe population ranges.
    Greater snow geese--A single population of greater snow geese is 
recognized in North America. The population is relatively isolated from 
other light goose populations, except for potential mixing with small 
groups of lesser snow geese in the central portion of the Atlantic 
    Mid-Continent Population (MCP) of light geese--This term is used to 
describe light geese (lesser snow and Ross' geese) that migrate 
primarily through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, 
and Missouri, and winter in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and 
eastern, central, and southern Texas. MCP birds nest in colonies along 
the southern and western shores of Hudson Bay and on Southampton and 
Baffin Islands in the eastern Arctic, and in the Queen Maud Gulf region 
of the central Arctic. Field studies conducted in Texas during winter 
indicate that surveyed MCP light geese comprise approximately 94% 
lesser snow geese and 6% Ross' geese (Texas Parks and Wildlife 
Department, unpublished data). Similar studies conducted in Louisiana 
indicate that MCP flocks in sampled areas comprise approximately 98% 
lesser snow geese and 2% Ross' geese (Helm 2001).
    Western Central Flyway Population (WCFP) of light geese--WCFP light 
geese winter in southern Colorado, northwestern Texas, New Mexico, and 
the northern Highlands of Mexico (Hines et al. 1999). WCFP light geese 
nest primarily in the central and western Canadian Arctic, with nesting 
colonies on Banks Island (mostly lesser snow geese, with some Ross' 
geese) and Queen Maud Gulf (mostly Ross' geese, with some lesser snow 
geese). Observations of birds marked with neck collars indicate that 
17% of lesser snow geese from the central Arctic (Kerbes et al. 1999), 
and 24% of lesser snow geese from the western Arctic (Armstrong et al. 
1999), migrate to WCFP wintering areas. Neck collar data are not 
available for Ross' geese. Overall, the WCFP comprises approximately 
79% lesser snow geese and 21% Ross' geese (Thorpe 1999).
    In our previous Environmental Assessment on light goose management 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1999), we used the term Mid-Continent 
light geese (MCLG) to refer to birds that migrated and wintered in the 
Central and Mississippi Flyways. We defined MCLG as the combination of 
MCP and WCFP, as described above. However, confusion arose over the use 
of the terms MCLG and the Mid-Continent Population of light geese. 
Therefore, we have discontinued the use of the term MCLG. In our 
current EIS on light goose management, we refer to the combination of 
MCP and WCFP birds as Central/Mississippi Flyway (CMF) light geese.
    Western Population of Ross' geese (WPRG)--We have chosen this 
designation for Ross' geese that migrate to the Pacific Flyway; 
primarily to the Central Valley of California. The WPRG nests mainly in 
the Queen Maud Gulf region of the central Arctic, although an 
increasing number of birds nest in the eastern Arctic. Smaller numbers 
of birds nest on Banks Island in the western Arctic. The WPRG comprises 
the largest percentage of wintering Ross' geese in the United States. 
However, the percent of central Arctic Ross' geese that are recovered 
by hunters in the Pacific Flyway has declined from nearly 100% in the 
1950s and 1960s, to 60% during 1990-98.
    Pacific Flyway Population of lesser snow geese (PFSG)--PFSG birds 
winter in the Pacific Flyway and nest primarily on Banks Island, and 
coastal river deltas on the mainland at Anderson River and Kendall 
Island in the western Arctic. Neck collar observations indicate that 
approximately 76% of lesser snow geese that nest in the western Arctic 
migrate to PFSG wintering areas (Hines et al. 1999). Very few lesser 
snow geese banded in the central and eastern Arctic are recovered in 
the Pacific Flyway.

[[Page 52079]]

    Wrangel Island Population of lesser snow geese--This population 
nests on Wrangel Island off the north coast of Russia, and winters in 
southern British Columbia, the Puget Sound area of Washington, and in 
northern California.

Population Surveys

    The status of light goose populations in North America is monitored 
using a combination of aerial surveys conducted on breeding, migration, 
and wintering areas. The breeding population of greater snow geese is 
estimated each spring when the entire population is staging in the St. 
Lawrence River Valley during northward migration (Reed et al. 1998). 
Due to the difficulty of conducting surveys throughout the vast arctic 
region, lesser snow and Ross' goose breeding colonies are monitored on 
a 5-year rotating basis using low-level aerial photography (Kerbes et 
al. 1999). Therefore, estimates of the number of breeding birds at each 
colony are not available every year. Surveys of breeding colonies 
provide estimates of the number of nesting birds, but not the number of 
non-breeding birds (primarily 1- and 2-year olds). Consequently, the 
total population size in spring is higher than estimates derived from 
photo surveys of breeding colonies. On the average, snow goose 
populations are considered to have 25-35% non-breeders in spring 
(Kerbes et al. 1999). Therefore, on average, the total population size 
may be 30% greater than breeding colony estimates indicate.
    Winter waterfowl surveys are conducted each year throughout the 
entire lower 48 States. These surveys began in some areas as early as 
the 1930s; however, consistent survey coverage began in 1955. 
Biologists did not begin separate inventories of MCP and WCFP light 
geese until the winter of 1969-70. Therefore, during 1955-1969, the 
light goose count in the Central and Mississippi Flyways could not be 
separated into MCP and WCFP components.
    Because not all areas in each State are surveyed, the winter survey 
does not provide a complete population count for light geese. Instead, 
the survey provides an index to the winter population of geese, which 
should not be confused with the size of the breeding population. Past 
photographic inventories of eastern arctic nesting colonies suggested 
that winter indices averaged about half of the actual spring population 
estimate (Kerbes 1975). Boyd et al. (1982) used a correction factor of 
1.6 to apply to winter indices to estimate the approximate breeding 
population size in spring. By maintaining similar survey methods from 
year to year, the winter index is utilized to monitor the relative size 
of the various populations each year. Because winter index data are 
available every year for most light goose populations (versus every 5 
years for arctic breeding colony data), the winter index is utilized to 
annually monitor populations and aid in making many management 

Population Status--Spring Surveys

    Estimation of the spring population of greater snow geese is 
straightforward, because most birds are encountered during the photo 
survey conducted in the St. Lawrence River Valley in Quebec. However, 
determination of the number of breeding lesser snow and Ross' geese for 
various populations is problematic because delineation of most 
populations is based on wintering ground affiliation. For example, MCP 
light geese comprise birds that breed in the eastern and central 
Arctic. WCFP light geese comprise birds that breed in the central and 
western Arctic. Because photo surveys of breeding colonies for a 
particular region are conducted every 5 years, simultaneous estimates 
from 2 different portions of a population's breeding range may be 
lacking. Therefore, we present breeding population estimates for lesser 
snow and Ross' geese for the eastern, central, and western arctic 
regions, rather than providing spring estimates for populations that 
are delineated based on wintering ground affiliation.
    Greater snow geese--The spring population estimate of greater snow 
geese increased from approximately 25,400 birds in 1965, to 813,900 
birds in 2000 (Reed et al. 1998, Reed et al. 2000). The population 
growth rate during 1965-2000 was 8.8 % per year. At the current rate of 
growth, the greater snow goose population will reach 1 million by 2002, 
and over 2 million by 2010.
    Light geese in the eastern Arctic--The number of breeding lesser 
snow geese on surveyed colonies in 1973 was approximately 1,057,400 
birds (Kerbes 1975). During 1973-97, the number of breeding lesser snow 
geese increased at an annual rate of 4.7%, to approximately 3,010,200 
birds (Canadian Wildlife Service, unpublished data). Including an 
additional 30% for non-breeding birds, the total number of lesser snow 
geese in the eastern Arctic was nearly 4 million birds in 1997. 
Assuming a 4.7% annual growth rate since 1997, we project the total 
number of lesser snow geese in the eastern Arctic will be approximately 
4.7 million in spring 2001. Due to expansion of its breeding range, the 
number of Ross' geese in the eastern Arctic has increased from 
approximately 2,000 birds in 1990, to 52,000 birds in 1998 (Canadian 
Wildlife Service, unpublished data). A reliable estimate of the annual 
growth rate of Ross' geese in the eastern Arctic is not available; 
therefore, we cannot project the number of Ross' geese for spring 2001.
    Light geese in the central Arctic--In 1966, the numbers of breeding 
lesser snow and Ross' geese on surveyed colonies in the central Arctic 
were 10,300 and 34,000 birds, respectively (Kerbes 1994). During the 
period 1966-98, the number of breeding lesser snow geese in the central 
Arctic increased at an annual rate of 14.6%, to the latest estimate of 
816,100 birds (Canadian Wildlife Service, unpublished data). During the 
same period, the number of breeding Ross' geese increased at an annual 
rate of 9.0%, to the latest estimate of 567,100 birds (Canadian 
Wildlife Service, unpublished data). Including an additional 30% to 
account for non-breeding birds, the total number of lesser snow and 
Ross' geese in the central Arctic during spring 1998 was approximately 
1,061,000 and 737,000 birds, respectively. Population estimates 
following the 1998 photo surveys are not available at this time. 
However, assuming the same growth rates for each species cited above, 
the total number of lesser snow and Ross' geese in the central Arctic 
in spring 2001 will be approximately 1,572,000 and 955,000 birds, 
    Light geese in the western Arctic--The number of breeding lesser 
snow geese on surveyed colonies in 1976 was estimated to be 169,600 
birds (Kerbes et al. 1999). During the period 1976-95, the number of 
breeding lesser snow geese increased at an annual rate of 5.3% to 
486,000 birds (Kerbes et al. 1999). Including an additional 30% for 
non-breeding birds, the total number of lesser snow geese in the 
western Arctic was approximately 632,000 birds in 1995. The annual rate 
of population growth increased to 6.3% during 1981-95 (Kerbes et al. 
1999); therefore, the number of lesser snow geese in spring 2001 likely 
will approach 912,000 birds. Ross' geese are not commonly found on 
breeding colonies in the western Arctic; however small numbers of birds 
are found on Banks Island.
    Wrangel Island Population of lesser snow geese--The total 
population (breeders and non-breeders) of lesser snow geese on Wrangel 
Island declined from approximately 150,000 birds in 1970 to 56,000 
birds in 1975, due to four consecutive years of poor reproductive 
success (Kerbes et al. 1999). The population increased during the 1980s 
to nearly 100,000 birds, but averaged

[[Page 52080]]

only about 65,000 birds in the mid-1990s. The 2000 population estimate 
was approximately 95,000 birds (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000).

Population Status--Winter Surveys

    We use operational surveys conducted annually on wintering grounds 
to derive winter indices to light goose populations. Winter indices 
represent a certain proportion of the total wintering population, and 
thus are smaller than the true population size. However, by assuming 
that the same proportion of the population is counted each winter, we 
are able to monitor the trend of the overall population. Aerial surveys 
do not distinguish between lesser snow and Ross' geese; therefore, 
winter indices for each species are not generated. Species composition 
information derived from flock sampling on the ground can be used to 
approximate the number of lesser snow and Ross' geese in winter 
    Greater snow geese--The winter index of greater snow geese has 
increased from approximately 46,000 birds in 1955, to approximately 
465,000 birds in 2000 (Serie and Raftovich 2000). The winter survey is 
a useful tool for providing information on the winter distribution of 
snow geese in the Atlantic Flyway. However, the winter survey counts a 
smaller proportion of the population than does the spring survey.
    Mid-Continent Population (MCP) of light geese--The winter index of 
MCP light geese has increased from approximately 777,000 birds in 1970, 
to nearly 2.4 million birds in 2000 (Sharp and Moser 2000). During 
1970-2000, the MCP winter index increased 3.3% per year, although the 
rate of increase has elevated to 4.2% per year in the past 10 years. 
Using the average of species composition data obtained in Texas and 
Louisiana cited earlier, we estimate that the numbers of lesser snow 
and Ross' geese in the 2000 MCP winter index were 2,291,000 and 99,200 
birds, respectively.
    Western Central Flyway Population (WCFP) of light geese--The winter 
index of WCFP light geese has increased from approximately 42,000 birds 
in 1970 to approximately 256,000 birds in 2000 (Sharp and Moser 2000). 
During 1970-2000, the WCFP winter index increased 6.2% per year. Lesser 
snow geese and Ross' geese comprise approximately 79% and 21%, 
respectively, of WCFP light geese (Thorpe 1999). Using these 
proportions, the lesser snow and Ross' goose components of WCFP light 
geese in winter 2000 were approximately 202,200 and 53,600 birds, 
    Western Population of Ross' geese (WPRG)--Consistent, long-term 
surveys have not been in place to provide annual winter indices for 
WPRG. Special surveys conducted during the winters of 1988 and 1989 
produced estimates of over 200,000 Ross' geese in California (Pacific 
Flyway Council 1992). Species composition surveys conducted in the 
Central Valley during the winter of 1992 resulted in an index of 
221,300 birds (Mensik and Silveira 1993). The survey also was completed 
in December, 2000, resulting in an estimate of 256,000 Ross' geese 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, unpublished data).
    Pacific Flyway Population of lesser snow geese (PFSG)--Annual 
winter indices are not available for PFSG. Species composition surveys 
conducted in 1992 indicated that 63% of light geese wintering in 
California were lesser snow geese (Mensik and Silveira 1993). The 
species composition survey conducted in California during December, 
2000, yielded an estimate of 409,000 lesser snow geese (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, unpublished data).
    Wrangel Island Population of lesser snow geese--Winter indices are 
not available for Wrangel Island lesser snow geese.

Population Goals

    Population goals for various light goose populations are outlined 
in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP; U.S. Department 
of the Interior et al. 1998). In addition, Flyway Councils have set 
population goals for light geese they manage within their geographic 
boundaries. We compare current population levels to NAWMP population 
goals to demonstrate that most light goose populations have increased 
substantially over what is considered to be a healthy population level. 
We are not suggesting that light goose populations be reduced for the 
sole purpose of meeting NAWMP population goals.
    Greater snow geese--The Atlantic Flyway Council population 
objective, as well as the NAWMP spring population goal for greater snow 
geese, is 500,000 birds. Therefore, the greater snow goose population 
currently is 63% higher than the Atlantic Flyway Council and NAWMP 
goals. The Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group of the Arctic Goose Joint 
Venture has recommended a management goal of stabilizing the greater 
snow goose population at between 800,000 to 1 million birds (Giroux et 
al. 1998a). However, the Working Group recommended a reduction of the 
population below this level if natural habitats continue to 
deteriorate, or if measures taken to reduce crop depredation do not 
achieve desired results (Giroux et al. 1998a).
    Lesser snow geese--The NAWMP winter index goal for MCP lesser snow 
geese is 1 million birds. The Central and Mississippi Flyway Councils 
have set an upper management threshold (winter index) of 1.5 million 
for MCP lesser snow geese, but have not set a threshold for WCFP lesser 
snow geese. The 2000 winter index of MCP lesser snow geese is 129% 
higher than the NAWMP goal, and 53% higher than the management 
threshold adopted by the Flyway Councils. The 2000 winter index of WCFP 
lesser snow geese is 84% higher than the NAWMP winter index goal of 
110,000 birds.
    In 1997, the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group of the AGJV 
recommended a management goal of reducing the number of light geese in 
the mid-continent region (primarily MCP and WCFP birds) by 50% (Arctic 
Goose Habitat Working Group 1997). This suggests a reduction of the 
combined winter index of MCP and WCFP light geese from the winter 1996/
1997 value of 3.1 million to approximately 1.6 million birds.
    The NAWMP does not contain a winter index goal for lesser snow 
geese in the Pacific Flyway (PFSG), but does contain a goal of 200,000 
birds for breeding lesser snow geese in the western Arctic. 
Approximately 76% of lesser snow geese that nest in the western Arctic 
migrate to PFSG wintering areas (Hines et al. 1999). The 1995 photo 
survey estimate of 486,000 breeding lesser snow geese in the western 
Arctic (Kerbes et al. 1999) is 143% higher than the NAWMP goal. Hines 
et al. (1999) suggested a proactive approach to management of western 
Arctic lesser snow geese by stabilizing the population at its current 
level before it escapes control via normal harvest.
    Ross' geese--The NAWMP does not contain separate population goals 
for MCP and WCFP Ross' geese. However, the NAWMP and Pacific Flyway 
Council (Pacific Flyway Council 1992) utilize a total continental goal 
of 100,000 breeding Ross' geese. The estimate of 619,100 breeding Ross' 
geese in the central and eastern Arctic in 1998 is 519% higher than the 
NAWMP and Pacific Flyway goal.
    The Pacific Flyway Council also has adopted a continental winter 
index goal of 150,000 Ross' geese (Pacific Flyway Council 1992). The 
combined winter index total of 408,750 Ross' geese in the MCP, WCFP, 
and WPRG geographic ranges is 172% higher than the Pacific Flyway 
Council goal.

[[Page 52081]]

Potential Causes of Population Growth

    The rapid rise of light goose populations has been influenced 
heavily by human activities (Abraham and Jefferies 1997, Filion et al. 
1998, Reed et al. 1998, Sparrowe 1998). The greatest attributable 
factors likely include:
    (1) A decline in harvest rate (percent of population removed by 
    (2) an increase in adult survival rates;
    (3) the expansion of agricultural areas in the United States and 
prairie Canada that provide abundant food resources during migration 
and winter; and
    (4) the establishment of sanctuaries along the Flyways.
    We have attempted to curb the growth of light goose populations by 
increasing bag and possession limits and extending the open hunting 
season length for light geese to 107 days, the maximum allowed by the 
Treaty. Despite liberalizations in regular-season regulations, the 
harvest rate (the percentage of the population that is harvested) for 
light goose populations traditionally has been low. Low hunting 
mortality has contributed to population growth, which further reduces 
the harvest rate. The decline in harvest rate indicates that past 
harvest management strategies have not been sufficient to stabilize or 
reduce population growth rates.
    Expansion of agriculture in light goose migration and wintering 
areas has contributed to population growth by providing a food subsidy 
(Ankney and MacInnes 1978; Abraham and Jefferies 1997, Giroux et al. 
1998b). Light geese exploit corn, soybean, rice, wheat, barley, oats 
and rye during migration and winter. Food subsidies contribute to 
higher survival rates of geese and provide birds with additional 
nutrients during spring migration that allow them to arrive on the 
breeding grounds in prime condition to breed and have higher breeding 

Foraging Behavior of Geese

    Light geese have a profound effect on habitat through their feeding 
actions, and have developed several modes of feeding on plant material 
for meeting their energy needs (Goodman and Fisher 1962, Bolen and 
Rylander 1978). Where spring thawing has occurred, and above-ground 
plant growth has not begun, snow geese dig into and break open the turf 
(grubbing), consuming the highly nutritious below-ground portions 
(e.g., roots, rhizomes) of plants. Grubbing continues into late spring. 
Snow geese also engage in shoot-pulling where birds pull the shoots of 
large sedges, consume the highly nutritious basal portion, and discard 
the remainder of the plant. A third feeding strategy utilized by all 
light goose species is grazing of above-ground plant material by 
clipping action of the bill. The amount of time in which Ross' geese 
utilize grubbing and shoot-pulling is not well documented. However, 
Ross' geese are known to grub for below-ground roots of sedges and 
grasses in early spring (Ryder and Alisauskas 1995). Due to their 
smaller bill size, Ross' geese are able to graze shorter stands of 
vegetation, which could prevent or slow vegetation recovery in damaged 
areas (Didiuk et al. 2001). In addition, Ross' geese cause considerable 
damage to vegetation by pulling up plants during nest-building 
activities (Didiuk et al. 2001).

Habitat Impacts

    We have described the impact of light geese on natural and 
agricultural systems for various breeding, migration, and wintering 
areas in our draft EIS on light goose management. Due to the volume of 
technical information, we refer the reader to the draft EIS for 
specific details. Procedures for obtaining a copy of the draft EIS are 
described in the ADDRESSES section of this document. A synopsis of 
ecosystem impacts follows.
    Greater snow geese--Studies conducted on Bylot Island, where 15% of 
the greater snow goose population nests, indicate that goose grazing 
levels are high, but there are as yet no indications of damage to the 
vegetation in terms of absence of re-growth following grazing (Giroux 
et al. 1998b). However, monitoring of fenced and un-fenced study plots 
has shown that composition of the plant community is modified by geese, 
and that annual plant productivity is reduced in heavily-grazed areas. 
Long-term, intense grazing by geese leads to a low-level production 
equilibrium between geese and plants. When grazing is experimentally 
stopped, via exclosure fences, plant biomass increases rapidly within a 
few years (Giroux et al. 1998b). Measurements of food availability on 
Bylot Island suggest that the short-term ability of habitat to support 
geese has not been exceeded. However, given the rate of increase of 
greater snow goose numbers, it is highly probable that the intensity of 
grazing will increase and that the capacity of plants to recover will 
be exceeded (Masse et al. 2001).
    The St. Lawrence River Valley is an important spring and fall 
staging area for greater snow geese. Vegetation studies in bulrush 
marshes indicate that plant stem density in some marshes declined by 
40% during 1971-96 (Giroux and Bedard 1987). Repeated measures of 
below-ground plant biomass suggested that geese had maintained the 
marsh system in a low-level steady state during the 1980s. However, 
decreased number of use-days by geese, declining productivity of 
bulrush habitats at some sites, changes in plant species composition, 
and erosion of marshes indicate that the carrying capacity of bulrush 
marshes may have been reached and that marshes can no longer 
accommodate the increasing number of snow geese (Giroux et al. 1998b). 
Until the 1960s, migrating greater snow geese staged in their 
traditional bulrush marshes of the upper St. Lawrence River estuary. 
However, birds gradually began field-feeding behavior during spring in 
the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the population level approached 
100,000 (Filion et al. 1998). Crop damage in Quebec has prompted 
implementation of a compensation fund to cover 80% of farmers' losses. 
Bedard and LaPointe (1991) predicted that rapid goose population growth 
would soon lead to unacceptable crop damage. In some areas, 
compensation has not been sufficient for farmers who experience losses 
and the Quebec Farmers Union has asked for a control of the snow goose 
population (Filion et al. 1998). With recent shifts of geese toward the 
upper St. Lawrence estuary and their later departure from these 
regions, damage to forage production could increase and additional 
crops, such as winter cereals, could be affected (Filion et al. 1998).
    Prior to the 1960s, the impact of greater snow geese on coastal 
marshes of the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast appeared to be relatively small. 
Goose impacts on marshes became more apparent as the population grew 
during the 1970s and 1980s. From New Jersey to North Carolina, areas of 
denuded marsh, or ``eat-outs,'' were created by foraging geese (Giroux 
et al. 1998b). Marshes that have experienced eat-outs may be able to 
recover relatively quickly if sufficient below-ground biomass remains 
to resume vegetative growth (Smith and Odum 1981). However, areas that 
are grazed by geese year after year may be maintained as mudflats 
(Young 1985). Snow goose grazing has impacted natural marshes at 
several sites throughout the mid-Atlantic coast, although impacts to 
coastal marshes appear to have been reduced in areas where birds have 
adapted to feeding in agricultural habitats. The nutritional subsidy 
that agricultural foods provide to birds has likely contributed to the 
increase in the goose population. Increased damage to coastal marshes 
during the last 5-10 years has occurred

[[Page 52082]]

in areas where agricultural foods are less available or where large 
increases in goose numbers have rapidly occurred (Giroux et al. 1998b).
    The use of agricultural lands by greater snow geese in the mid-
Atlantic region is a relatively recent development. Agricultural 
depredations by geese in the mid-Atlantic were first reported during 
the winter of 1971-72. A 1998 poll of agency personnel in 6 mid-
Atlantic States indicated, on average, an annual total of fewer than 35 
crop damage complaints (Giroux et al. 1998b). However, goose damage was 
reported to be on the increase in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, 
and stable in New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and New York 
(Giroux et al. 1998b). Crop damage assessment surveys were conducted in 
Delaware during 1998 and 1999 (Delaware Div. of Fish and Wildlife 
2000). In 1998, a total of $500,000 in crop damage affecting 12,000 
acres was documented; primarily in wheat, barley, and rye crops. In 
1999, the number of acres affected had declined to 3,800 acres, with 
damage amounts of $180,300 resulting. Although similar numbers of snow 
geese were present in both years, modification of hunting season 
opening dates for snow geese is believed to be responsible for the 
decline in crop damage. It is likely that crop damage reports 
underestimate actual losses. U.S. farmers are not traditionally 
compensated for wildlife damage and thus have little incentive to 
report damage to agencies. As snow goose populations continue to grow, 
it is expected that agricultural depredations will increase.
    Lesser snow and Ross' geese--Under certain levels of goose grazing 
intensity, some salt-marsh plants in the Arctic show enhanced shoot 
growth following defoliation (Abraham and Jefferies 1997). However, 
other plant species show only limited shoot growth or no growth 
following defoliation (Zellmer et al. 1993). At high levels of grazing 
intensity, plant communities are unable to rebound from constant 
feeding pressures. Once lesser snow geese graze an area to the point 
where they can no longer obtain sufficient food, they will leave to 
exploit other areas. Normally, this would allow plant communities to 
rebound from grazing. However, Ross' geese can further impact areas 
after snow geese leave because they can graze on shorter stands of 
plants. The potential for plant recovery is further reduced by the 
short growing season in arctic and sub-arctic habitats.
    Accelerated habitat degradation results from a negative feedback 
loop between light geese and the plant communities they utilize. 
Removal of above-ground plant cover reduces the thickness of the 
vegetative mat that insulates underlying sediments from the air. This 
causes an increase in the rate of evaporation from surface sediments 
and greater concentration of salts from marine clays. Grubbing by geese 
further exposes the soil substrate. Most of the impacts by light geese 
on breeding habitats have been documented in the eastern and central 
arctic region. For example, the Hudson Bay Lowlands salt-marsh 
ecosystem consists of a 1,200-mile strip of coastline along west Hudson 
and James Bays, Canada. Vast areas of desertification, characterized by 
high soil salinity and little or no vegetation, have been documented 
extensively throughout the Hudson Bay Lowlands (Abraham and Jefferies 
1997). Of the 135,000 acres of salt-marsh habitat in the Hudson Bay 
Lowlands, 35% is considered to be destroyed, 30% is damaged, and 35% is 
overgrazed (Abraham and Jefferies 1997). The rate of vegetation decline 
at La Perouse Bay during 1984-93 was approximately 159 acres/year 
(calculated from data in Jano et al. 1998). Habitats currently 
categorized as ``damaged'' or ``overgrazed'' are being further impacted 
and will be classified as ``destroyed'' if goose populations continue 
to expand. Experts fear that many destroyed habitats will not recover 
(Abraham and Jefferies 1997). For example, in a badly degraded area, 
less than 20% of the vegetation within an exclosure (fenced in area 
where geese cannot feed) has recovered after 15 years of protection 
from light geese (Abraham and Jefferies 1997). Recovery rates of 
degraded areas are further slowed by the short tundra growing season 
and the high salinity levels in the exposed and unprotected soil.
    The Hudson Bay Lowlands have undergone isostatic uplift following 
retreat of the last glacial episode. Upon being released from the 
weight of glaciers, the coastline has undergone a slow rate of 
elevation increase (Hik et al. 1992). The gradual uplift causes 
modification to the soil environment and leads to a shift in 
communities of plants that tolerate drier conditions. It has been 
suggested that isostatic uplift, not the feeding actions of geese, is 
responsible for habitat damage at breeding colony sites. This theory is 
disproved by studies that utilize fencing to exclude geese from feeding 
in study plots. Vegetation in adjacent study plots that are exposed to 
goose grazing is removed, whereas vegetation in fenced plots is 
unaffected. If isostatic uplift was responsible for vegetation damage, 
vegetation in fenced areas also should have been affected.
    Satellite imagery has been used to demonstrate habitat damage at 
other sites in the Arctic. For example, lesser snow and Ross' goose 
population growth at Karrak Lake (approximately 750 miles north of La 
Perouse Bay) in the Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary has 
negatively affected habitat (Alisauskas 1998, Didiuk et al. 2001). By 
1989, 52% of plant communities within the areas occupied by nesting 
light geese at Karrak Lake were converted to exposed peat, and a 
further 7% had eroded to bare mineral soils (Alisauskas 1998). Loss of 
vegetation at colony sites may eventually lead to desertification 
(Alisauskas 1998). Abraham and Jefferies (1997) described indications 
of habitat impacts by geese at other sites, such as: Akimiski Island; 
west coast of James Bay; Cape Henrietta Maria; Hudson Bay coast of 
Ontario; Hudson Bay coast of Manitoba; Knife and Seal Rivers; Manitoba; 
Tha-Anne River to the Maguse River (west coast of Hudson Bay); 
Southampton Island; and Southwestern Baffin Island. As of yet, 
extensive damage to vegetation has not been reported on breeding areas 
in the western arctic; however, field studies have not been in place to 
document whether or not any significant impacts have occurred (Kerbes 
et al. 1999). Recent photographs from Banks Island indicate possible 
vegetation changes as a result of goose grazing (Abraham and Jefferies 
1997). As population size and bird density increases, geese may begin 
to impact western arctic breeding habitats in a manner similar to birds 
in the eastern and central Arctic.
    In contrast to the greater snow goose situation, less attention has 
been paid to the impacts of lesser snow and Ross' geese on migration 
and wintering habitats. As of yet, increasing light goose populations 
in the mid-continent region have not caused a widespread crop 
depredation problem. A search of the crop damage reporting system of 
the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicated losses of $28,000 in 
Louisiana during January 1994 through November 2000 (U.S. Dept. Agr., 
unpublished data). Losses totaling $39,000 were reported in Texas from 
October 1993 to September 2000. Although many farmers may incur crop 
damage, they often do not report such losses because there is no 
compensation program in place. Although light geese create eat-outs in 
natural marsh systems on the Gulf Coast, there are no indications that 
such occurrences are serious enough to warrant management action.

[[Page 52083]]

Impacts on Other Species

    Habitat damage will not only affect light geese themselves, but 
will also affect habitat that other species rely upon. Rockwell et al. 
(1997b) observed the decline of local populations of more than 30 avian 
species in the La Perouse Bay area due to severe habitat degradation. 
Documentation of specific declines in bird nesting activity has been 
accomplished by repeated visits to study plots. For example, local 
nesting populations of semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked 
phalaropes at La Perouse Bay, Manitoba, were periodically sampled on 
study areas during 1983-99 (Gratto-Trevor 1994; Rockwell 1999). In 
1983, more than 120 semi-palmated sandpiper and 46 red-necked phalarope 
nests were documented (Gratto-Trevor 1994). When the study area was 
sampled in 1999, only 4 sandpiper and 1 phalarope nests were found 
(Rockwell 1999). Results from these studies indicate declines in local 
populations of species in areas damaged by light geese. These results 
are not presented here to indicate continental declines in populations 
of any species. However, if light goose populations continue to grow at 
current rates, and geese continue to exploit and destroy habitats in 
new areas, it is possible that regional and continental declines in 
populations of other avian species may occur.
    Avian cholera is a highly contagious and deadly disease, caused by 
the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, and is one of the most important 
diseases of North American waterfowl (Friend 1999). Although much 
remains to be learned about the mechanism of transmission, there is 
increasing evidence that lesser snow and Ross' geese act as reservoirs 
for the bacterium that causes cholera (Friend 1999, Samuel et al. 1997, 
Samuel et al. 1999a). The movement of cholera from major focal points 
of the disease follows the well-defined pathways of waterfowl 
migration, and is associated with movements of lesser snow and Ross' 
geese (Brand 1984; Samuel et al. 1999a). Over 100 species of waterbirds 
and raptors are susceptible to avian cholera (Botzler 1991). The threat 
of avian cholera to endangered and threatened bird species is 
continually increasing because of increasing numbers of cholera 
outbreaks and the expanding geographic distribution of the disease 
(Friend 1999). Potentially-affected species include whooping cranes and 
bald eagles. Various populations of sandhill cranes migrate, stage, and 
winter with light geese and potentially could be affected by cholera 
    The potential for massive outbreaks of avian cholera in light geese 
and other waterfowl is illustrated by several documented die-offs. On 
Banks Island, avian cholera caused the death of at least 30,000 and 
20,000 lesser snow geese in 1995 and 1996, respectively (Samuel et al. 
1999a). Over 72,000 waterbirds died of cholera in the Rainwater Basin 
of Nebraska during 1980 (Brand 1984). We believe that the increasing 
number and expanding geographic distribution of cholera outbreaks 
represents a serious threat to waterfowl and other bird populations 
that are susceptible to the disease. This threat is heightened due to 
the rapid increase of light goose populations that are known carriers 
of the disease. Transmission of avian cholera is enhanced by the 
gregarious nature of most waterfowl species and by high densities of 
birds that result from habitat limitations, especially in winter and 
spring (Friend 1999). The likelihood of cholera outbreaks may be 
reduced when waterfowl occur in lower densities (Samuel et al. 1999b). 
Therefore, we believe that a reduction of light goose populations will 
reduce the risk of avian cholera outbreaks and associated impacts to 
other species in the future.

Environmental Consequences of Taking No Action

    We fully analyzed the No Action alternative with regard to light 
goose management in our draft EIS, to which we refer the reader (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2001). In summary, most light goose 
populations will continue to increase at rates anywhere from 5-15% per 
year, depending on the population. We expect breeding colonies to 
expand as habitat becomes destroyed in core areas. Birds will begin to 
exploit new areas and repeat the pattern of habitat destruction and 
colony expansion. In the case of greater snow geese, we expect the 
population to exceed the ability of migration habitats to support them. 
Concurrently, we expect goose damage to agricultural crops to increase.
    Even if natural causes result in declines of goose populations, it 
will take habitats a prolonged time period to recover, especially in 
the Arctic. A variety of other bird species will be negatively impacted 
as the habitats they depend on become destroyed by light geese. As 
population densities increase, the incidence of avian cholera among 
light geese and other species is likely to increase. Significant losses 
of other species, such as pintails, white-fronted geese, sandhill 
cranes, and whooping cranes, from avian cholera may occur. This may 
result in reduced hunting, birdwatching, and other recreational 
    Habitat damage in the Arctic will eventually trigger density-
dependent regulation of the population which likely will result in 
increased gosling mortality and may cause the population to decline 
precipitously. Impacts such as physiological stress, malnutrition, and 
disease in goslings have been documented and observations of such 
impacts are increasing. However, it is not clear when natural 
population regulation will occur and what habitat, if any, will remain 
to support the survivors. Such a decline may result in a population too 
low to permit any hunting, effectively closing light goose hunting 
seasons. The length of the closures will largely depend on the recovery 
rate of the breeding habitat, which likely will take decades.
    In the near term, existing light goose hunting seasons would 
continue under the No Action Alternative. We have attempted to curb the 
growth of light goose populations by increasing bag and possession 
limits and extending the open hunting season length for light geese to 
107 days, the maximum allowed by the Migratory Bird Treaty. However, 
due to the rapid rise in light goose numbers, the harvest rate (the 
percentage of the population that is harvested), has declined even 
though the actual number of geese harvested has increased (Martin and 
Padding 2000). The decline in harvest rate indicates that traditional 
harvest management strategies, which would continue under the No Action 
Alternative, are not sufficient to reduce population growth rates.

Environmental Consequences of Proposed Action

    We fully analyzed our proposed action in the draft EIS on light 
goose management, to which we refer the reader for specific details 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001). In summary, implementation of 
regulations to increase harvest of light geese will reduce various 
light goose populations to levels we believe are more compatible with 
the ability of habitats to support them. Furthermore, habitats upon 
which other species depend will be preserved.
    The greater snow goose population will be reduced from the spring 
2000 level of 813,900 birds to the management goal of 500,000 birds. 
The number of light geese in the Central and Mississippi Flyways 
(primarily MCP and WCFP light geese) will be reduced by 50%. This 
suggests a reduction of the combined winter index of MCP and WCFP light 
geese from 3.1 million in

[[Page 52084]]

1997 (the year the management objective was established) to slightly 
less than 1.6 million. Because the winter index does not represent the 
entire population, the true population size will be much higher than 
1.6 million following a reduction program. Using an adjustment factor 
of 1.6 (Boyd et al. 1982), we estimate that a winter index of 1.6 
million corresponds to nearly 2.6 million breeding birds in spring. 
Adding 30% for non-breeding birds brings the total population to a 
minimum of 3.3 million birds following a population reduction program. 
We believe a population level of 3.3 million birds is more than 
adequate to ensure the long-term health of MCP and WCFP light goose 
    We do not anticipate population reduction actions for either 
Pacific Flyway lesser snow geese, or the Western Population of Ross' 
geese over the next several years. However, Hines et al. (1999) have 
suggested a proactive approach to management of lesser snow geese that 
breed in the western Arctic by stabilizing the population at its 
current level before it escapes control via normal harvest. Future 
actions may be taken to control either of these populations if it 
becomes evident that (1) additional harvest pressure is needed to 
control light geese that breed in the central Arctic, and/or (2) light 
goose damage to habitats in the western Arctic necessitates control of 
light geese that breed there. We would propose to authorize the Pacific 
Flyway to implement special light goose regulations under the above 
circumstances because a large proportion of central arctic light geese, 
especially Ross' geese, and the majority of western arctic light geese 
winter in the Pacific Flyway. If necessary, a proposal to include the 
Pacific Flyway would be published in the Federal Register for public 
comment. Any population control actions for light geese in the Pacific 
Flyway should be designed to minimize negative impacts to Wrangel 
Island lesser snow geese, which historically have not fared as well as 
other light goose populations.
    Although our intention is to significantly reduce some light goose 
populations in order to relieve pressures on breeding and/or migration 
habitats, we feel that these efforts will not threaten the long-term 
status of these populations. We will carefully analyze and assess the 
status of light goose populations on an annual basis, using the winter 
index, periodic photo surveys in the Arctic, banding data, and other 
surveys, to ensure that the populations are not over-harvested.
    Experts feel that breaking or removing eggs from nests, and other 
non-lethal techniques, would be ineffective at significantly reducing 
the populations within a reasonable timeframe to preserve and protect 
habitat (Batt 1997). We prefer to implement alternative regulatory 
strategies designed to increase light goose harvest afforded by the 
Migratory Bird Treaty and avoid the use of more drastic population 
control measures.
    We believe that a reduction of certain light goose populations will 
relieve negative habitat pressures on other migratory bird populations 
that occur on light goose breeding and wintering grounds and other 
areas along migration routes. By arresting habitat damage by light 
geese, other species will not be forced to seek habitats elsewhere, 
thus avoiding potential decreases in their reproductive success. 
Further, we expect that by decreasing the numbers of light geese on 
wintering and migration stopover areas, the risk of transmission of 
avian cholera to other species will be reduced.

Special Light Goose Regulations

    This proposed rule would make permanent regulations that are very 
similar to those in effect by reason of the Arctic Tundra Habitat 
Emergency Conservation Act. The differences are that we now would 
include the Atlantic Flyway States as being eligible to implement 
special light goose regulations to manage the population of greater 
snow geese. Pacific Flyway States may be eligible in the future if 
habitat damage becomes evident in the western Arctic, or if additional 
harvest pressure is needed on central Arctic light geese. We also have 
provided further guidance to States as to what type of information 
should be collected and reported with regard to harvest resulting from 
implementation of the conservation order. Such information will further 
refine our ability to evaluate the impacts of such regulations on light 
goose populations. Finally, we have revised terminology with regard to 
baiting that incorporate changes we made to baiting regulations on June 
3, 1999 (64 FR 29799).
    These proposed regulations address two areas. The first would 
authorize the use of new hunting methods (e.g., electronic calls and 
unplugged shotguns) to harvest light geese during normal hunting season 
frameworks. New methods of take would be allowed only during periods 
when all waterfowl (except light goose) and crane hunting seasons, 
excluding falconry, are closed. Authorization of new methods of take 
during light-goose-only seasons would be allowed only during normal 
hunting season framework dates (September 1 to March 10), except as 
provided in Part 21 described below. Individual States would determine 
the exact dates when such changes would be authorized. Persons 
utilizing new methods of take during light goose hunting seasons would 
be required to possess a Federal migratory bird hunting stamp, be 
registered under the Harvest Information Program, and be in compliance 
with any additional State license and stamp requirements pertaining to 
hunting waterfowl.
    The second would revise subpart E of 50 CFR part 21 for the 
management of overabundant light goose populations. Under this subpart, 
we propose to establish a conservation order specifically for the 
control and management of light geese. Under the authority of this 
rule, States could initiate aggressive harvest management strategies 
with the intent to increase light goose harvest without having to 
obtain an individual permit, which will significantly reduce the 
administrative burden on State and Federal governments. This rule would 
enable States, as a management tool, to use hunters to harvest light 
geese, by shooting in a hunting manner, inside or outside of the 
regular migratory bird hunting season framework dates of September 1 
and March 10. Although a conservation order could be implemented at any 
time, we believe the greatest value of this rule would be the provision 
of a mechanism to increase harvest of light geese beyond March 10, the 
latest possible closing date for traditional migratory bird hunting 
seasons. This provision would be especially effective in increasing 
harvest in mid-latitude and northern States during spring migration. 
The conservation order is not a hunting season, and implementation of 
such regulations should not be construed as opening, re-opening, or 
extending any open hunting season contrary to any regulations 
promulgated under Section 3 of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    Conditions under the conservation order would require that 
participating States inform participants acting under the authority of 
the conservation order of the conditions that apply to the amendment. 
In order to minimize or avoid take of non-target species, States may 
implement this action only when all waterfowl (including light goose) 
and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed. In addition 
to authorizing new methods of take (i.e., electronic calls and 
unplugged shotguns), the conservation order would not impose daily bag 
limits for light

[[Page 52085]]

geese and would allow shooting hours for light geese to end one-half 
hour after sunset. Because it is not a hunting season, conservation 
order participants would not be required by Federal law to possess a 
valid migratory bird hunting stamp or be registered in the Harvest 
Information Program, unless otherwise required by an individual State. 
States may impose additional requirements on participants.
    Initially, we restrict the scope of this proposed rule to the light 
geese in the U.S. portions of the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central 
Flyways. However, we would propose to include the Pacific Flyway in the 
future if it becomes evident that (1) additional harvest pressure is 
needed to control light geese that breed in the central Arctic, and/or 
(2) light goose damage to habitats in the western Arctic necessitates 
control of light geese that breed there. The Pacific Flyway would be 
allowed to implement special light goose regulations under the above 
circumstances because a large proportion of central Arctic light geese, 
especially Ross' geese, and the majority of western Arctic light geese, 
winter in the Pacific Flyway.
    We acquired experience with the proposed regulatory changes in the 
Central and Mississippi Flyways during 1999-2001 after we implemented 
such regulations on February 16, 1999 (64 FR 7507; 64 FR 7517). We 
withdrew the new light goose regulations on June 17, 1999 (64 FR 32778) 
to end existing litigation and initiate development of the 
environmental impact statement. However, Congress passed the Arctic 
Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act (Pub. L. 106-108) in 
November, 1999, which reinstated the regulations. We published a notice 
of this reinstatement on December 20, 1999 (64 FR 71236). Our most 
recent estimate indicates that implementation of new light goose 
regulations increased harvest of light geese in the Central and 
Mississippi Flyways by 69% during 1999/00 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2001). The 1999/2000 total U.S. harvest of over 1.3 million 
light geese in the Central and Mississippi Flyways is nearly equal to 
the annual harvest of 1.4 million that is required to reduce the number 
of birds by 50% (Rockwell and Ankney 2000). We estimate that the 
greater snow goose population can be reduced to 500,000 birds by 2004 
if implementation of new light goose regulations in the Atlantic Flyway 
increases harvest by 69% (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001).
    We will annually monitor the status of light goose populations in 
North America. The amendments to 50 CFR Parts 20 and 21 will be 
suspended in the Atlantic Flyway if the greater snow goose population 
is reduced to the goal of 500,000 birds. The amendments will be 
suspended in the Central and Mississippi Flyways if the winter index is 
reduced to the management goal of approximately 1.6 million birds 
(primarily MCP and WCFP light geese). However, in the event that any 
light goose population resumes population growth above management 
goals, it may become necessary to re-implement additional methods of 
take (Part 20) and/or the conservation order (Part 21) in an attempt to 
return the population to the desired level. Furthermore, if electronic 
calls and unplugged shotguns are shown to be no longer effective in 
increasing harvest of light geese, we will propose to supplement them 
by authorizing additional methods of take. Any proposed changes to 
light goose regulations will be published in the Federal Register for 
public comment.

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Alisauskas, R. 1998. Nutritional ecology and population biology of 
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Ankney, C.D. and C.D. MacInnes. 1978. Nutrient reserves and 
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Giroux, J-F., G. Gauthier, G. Costanzo, and A. Reed. 1998b. Impact 
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Gratto-Trevor, C. 1994. Monitoring shorebird populations in the 
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Hik, D.S., R.L. Jefferies, and A.R.E. Sinclair. 1992. Foraging by 
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from the Western Canadian Arctic and Wrangel Island, Russia, 1953-
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Kerbes, R.H. 1975. The nesting population of lesser snow geese in 
the eastern Canadian arctic: A photographic inventory of June 1973. 
Can. Wildl. Serv. Rep. Ser. No. 35.
Kerbes, R.H. 1994. Colonies and numbers of Ross' geese and lesser 
snow geese in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Can. 
Wildl. Serv. Occ. Pap. No. 81. 45pp.
Kerbes, R.H., V.V. Baranyuk, and J.E. Hines. 1999. Estimated size of 
the Western Canadian Arctic and Wrangel Island lesser snow goose 
populations on their breeding and wintering grounds. Pages 25-38 in 
R.H. Kerbes, K.M. Meeres, and J.E. Hines (eds.), Distribution, 
survival, and numbers of lesser snow geese of the Western Canadian 
Arctic and Wrangel Island, Russia. Can. Wildl. Serv. Occ. Pap. No. 
98, Ottawa, Ontario.
Martin, E.M., and P.I. Padding. 2000. Preliminary estimates of 
waterfowl harvest and hunter activity in the United States during 
the 1999 hunting season. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of 
Migratory Bird Management. Laurel, MD. 34pp.
Masse, H., L. Rochefort, and G. Gauthier. 2001. Carrying capacity of 
wetland habitats used by breeding greater snow geese. J. Wildl. 
Manage. 65:271-281.
Mensik, G., and J. Silveira. 1993. Status of Ross' and lesser snow 
geese wintering in California, December 1992. U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service unpublished report.
Mowbray, T.B., F. Cooke, and B. Ganter. 2000. Snow goose (Chen 
caerulescens). In: The birds of North America, No. 514 (A. Poole and 
F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and 
The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Pacific Flyway Council. 1992. Pacific Flyway Management Plan for 
Ross' geese. Subcommittee on White Geese. Portland, OR. 24pp.
Reed, A., J-F Giroux, and G. Gauthier. 1998. Population size, 
productivity, harvest and distribution. Pages 5-31 in B.D.J. Batt, 
ed. The greater snow goose: Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat 
Working Group. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife 
Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 88pp.
Reed, A., G. Gauthier, and J-F Giroux. 2000. Population and 
productivity surveys of greater snow geese in 2000. Report to the 
USFWS and the Atlantic Flyway Technical Section, February 2000. 6pp.
Rockwell, R.F.E. 1999. The impact of snow geese on nesting birds at 
La Perouse Bay. Interim report of the second year's activities--10/
15/99, Hudson Bay Project. 4pp.
Rockwell, R.F.E., and C.D. Ankney. 2000. Snow geese: Can we pay down 
the mortgage? Pages 32-24 in: H. Boyd (ed.) Population modeling and 
management of snow geese. Can. Wildl. Serv. Occas. Pap. No. 102.
Ryder, J.P., and R.T. Alisauskas. 1995. Ross' goose (Chen rossii). 
In: The birds of North America, No. 162 (A. Poole and F. Gill, 
eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and The 
American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Samuel, M.D., D.R. Goldberg, D.J. Shadduck, J.I. Price, and E.G. 
Cooch. 1997. Pasteurella multocida serotype 1 isolated from a lesser 
snow goose: Evidence of a carrier state. J. Wildl. Diseases 33:332-
Samuel, M.D., J.Y. Takekaws, G. Samelius, and D.R. Goldberg. 1999a. 
Avian cholera mortality in lesser snow geese nesting on Banks 
Island, Northwest Territories. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 27:780-787.
Samuel, M.D., J.Y. Takekaws, V.V. Baranyuk, and D.L. Orthmeyer. 
1999b. Effects of avian cholera on survival of lesser snow geese 
Anser caerulescens: an experimental approach. Bird Study 
Serie, J., and B. Raftovich. 2000. Atlantic Flyway waterfowl harvest 
and population survey data, July 2000. U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. Laurel, MD. 90pp.
Sharp, D.E., and T.J. Moser. 2000. Central Flyway Harvest and 
Population Survey Data Book, 2000. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Office of Migratory Bird Management. Denver, CO. 124pp.
Smith, T.J. III and W.D. Odum. 1981. The effects of grazing by snow 
geese on coastal salt marshes. Ecology 62:98-106.
Sparrowe, R. 1998. Report of the Stakeholder's Committee on Arctic 
Nesting Geese. Rollin Sparrowe, Chair. Wildlife Management 
Institute, Washington, DC.
Thorpe, P. 1999. Western Central Flyway Light Goose Productivity 
Report--1999. Pages 14-29 in J. Bidwell, ed. Productivity surveys of 
geese, swans, and brant wintering in North America 1999. U.S. Dept. 
Interior, Fish and Wildl. Serv. Arlington, Virginia. 79pp.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Environment Canada, and Secretaria 
De Desarrollo Social. 1998. 1998 Update to the North American 
Waterfowl Management Plan--fulfilling the legacy: expanding the 
vision. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington D.C.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. Final Environmental 
Assessment: alternative regulatory strategies to reduce overabundant 
populations of mid-continent light geese. U.S. Dept. of Interior, 
Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C. . 98pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2000. Waterfowl Populations Status, 
2000. Department of Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Arlington, VA. 48 pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2001. Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement: light goose management. U.S. Dept. of Interior, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C.
Young, K.E. 1985. The effect of greater snow geese, Anser 
caerulescens atlantica, (Aves: Anatidae: Anserini) grazing on a 
Delaware tidal marsh. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Delaware. 63pp.
Zellmer, I.D., M.J. Claus, D.S. Hik, and R.L. Jefferies. 1993. 
Growth responses of arctic graminoids following grazing by captive 
lesser snow geese. Oecologia 93:487-492.

NEPA Considerations

    In compliance with the requirements of section 102(2)(C) of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(C)), and the 
Council on Environmental Quality's regulation for implementing NEPA (40 
CFR 1500-1508), we prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement 
(DEIS) in August 2001. The DEIS is available to the public at the 
location indicated under the ADDRESSES caption.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as amended (16 
U.S.C. 1531-1543; 87 Stat. 884) provides that ``Each Federal agency 
shall, in consultation with and with the assistance of the Secretary, 
insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out * * * is not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species 
or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of [critical] habitat * * *.'' We have initiated Section 7 
consultation under the ESA for this proposed rule. The result of our 
consultation under Section 7 of the ESA will be available to the public 
at the location indicated under the ADDRESSES caption.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq) 
requires the preparation of flexibility analyses for rules that will 
have a significant effect on a substantial number of small entities, 
which includes small businesses, organizations, or governmental 
jurisdictions. The economic impacts of this proposed rulemaking will 
fall primarily on small businesses because of the structure of the 
waterfowl hunting-related industries. The rule benefits small 
businesses by avoiding failure of an ecosystem that produces migratory 
bird resources important to American citizens. Hunting seasons for all 

[[Page 52087]]

species produce a total annual economic impact of $608 million (U.S. 
Department of the Interior 1997). Light geese represent approximately 
24% of all geese taken in the U.S. The distribution of light goose 
harvest among Flyways is as follows: Atlantic Flyway 5%; Mississippi 
Flyway 36%, Central Flyway 53%; Pacific Flyway 6%. Allocating the 
economic impact of light goose hunting in each Flyway by these 
proportions, the economic impact of light goose hunting is $7.5 million 
in the Atlantic Flyway, $52.5 million in the Mississippi Flyway, $76.7 
million in the Central Flyway, and $9.3 million in the Pacific Flyway. 
The proposed rule is expected to preserve this economic impact and 
generate additional output by providing opportunity to increase take of 
light geese beyond March 10 in the three easternmost Flyways. Data are 
not available to estimate the number of small entities affected, but it 
is unlikely to be a substantial number on a national scale. In 1999, we 
estimated that implementation of new light goose regulations would 
avert a population crash, thus avoiding the closure of normal light 
goose hunting seasons due to low populations in the Central and 
Mississippi Flyways, and avoiding a $70 million loss in economic output 
associated with such seasons. Implementation of light goose regulations 
would also help reduce agricultural losses caused by geese. Our 
proposed action is to implement special regulations to increase harvest 
of light geese. If the proposed alternative is implemented, populations 
would be reduced to levels that habitats can support and agricultural 
damages will be reduced. We have determined that a Regulatory 
Flexibility Act analysis is not required.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget and 
deemed non-significant under E.O. 12866. This rule will not have an 
annual economic effect of $100 million or adversely affect any economic 
sector, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, or other 
units of government. Therefore, a cost-benefit economic analysis is not 
required. The rule will affect regional economic benefits in two ways. 
First, it may prevent a die-off of light geese and other ill-effects of 
overpopulation. People derive pleasure from both hunting and watching 
light geese. The improvement in public welfare is difficult to measure 
but, given the number of people involved and time committed, it is less 
than $100 million. By preventing a crash in light goose populations, 
the rule benefits hunters and birdwatchers by ensuring the populations 
remain at usable levels and ensures the future of a $146 million 
industry associated with light goose hunting in the U.S. Second, the 
rule would generate about $21 million in added local output associated 
with increased number of days to take light geese during conservation 
orders in the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central Flyways. Information 
on the economic benefit to non-consumptive uses of light geese is not 
available. Finally, control of light goose populations will reduce the 
probability of avian disease spreading to other species, curb further 
damage to natural habitats, and reduce agricultural losses to goose 
depredations. This rule will not create inconsistencies with other 
agencies' actions or otherwise interfere with an action taken or 
planned by another agency. Federal agencies most interested in this 
rulemaking are primarily other Department of the Interior bureaus 
(e.g., Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey). 
The action proposed is consistent with the policies and guidelines of 
other Interior bureaus. This rule will not materially affect 
entitlements, grants, user fees, loan programs, or the rights and 
obligations of their recipients. This rule will not raise novel legal 
or policy issues because we have previously managed the harvest of 
light geese under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Executive Order 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? 
(6) What else could the Service do to make the rule easier to 

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. It will not have an 
annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; nor will it cause 
a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual 
industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic 
regions. It will 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.

Paperwork Reduction Act and Information Collection

    We examined these regulations under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 
1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507(d). Under the Act, information collections must be 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Agencies 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. We expect a maximum of 39 State wildlife agencies will 
participate under the authority of the conservation order each year it 
is available, requiring an average of 24 hours to collect the 
information from participants. Therefore, the burden assumed by the 
State participants would be 936 hours or less. Any suggestions on how 
to reduce this burden should be sent to the Information Collection 
Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ms 222-ARLSQ, 1849 C 
Street, NW., Washington, DC 20204. We will use the record-keeping and 
reporting requirements imposed under regulations established in 50 CFR 
part 21, subpart E to administer this program, particularly in the 
assessment of impacts that alternative regulatory strategies may have 
on light geese and other migratory bird populations. We will require 
the information collected to authorize State and Tribal governments 
responsible for migratory bird management to take light geese within 
our guidelines. Specifically, OMB has approved the information 
collection requirements of this action and assigned clearance number 
1018-0103 (expires 01/31/2002).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    We have determined and certify pursuant to the Unfunded Mandates 
Reform 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

    We, in promulgating this rule, have determined that these 
regulations meet the applicable standards provided in Sections 3(a) and 
3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988. Specifically, this rule has

[[Page 52088]]

been reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity, has been written to 
minimize litigation, provides a clear legal standard for affected 
conduct, and specifies in clear language the effect on existing Federal 
law or regulation. It is not anticipated that this rule will require 
any additional involvement of the justice system beyond enforcement of 
provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that have already 
been implemented through previous rulemakings.

Takings Implication Assessment

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

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. 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 13132, 
these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not 
have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment.

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), E.O. 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have 
determined that this rule has no effects on Federally-recognized Indian 
tribes. Specifically, Tribes were sent copies of our May 13, 1999, 
Notice of Intent (64 FR 26268) that outlined the proposed action in the 
Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Light Goose Management. In 
addition, Tribes were sent our August 30, 1999, Notice of Meetings (64 
FR 47332), which provided the public additional opportunity to comment 
on the DEIS process.

Energy Effects--Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 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. This rule is not a 
significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866 and is not 
expected to adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Parts 20 and 21

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

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, we hereby propose to amend 
parts 20 and 21, of subchapter B, chapter I, title 50 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 20 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 703-712; and 16 U.S.C 742a-j.

    2. Revise paragraphs (b) and (g) of Sec. 20.21 to read as follows:

Sec. 20.21  What hunting methods are illegal?

* * * * *
    (b) With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than 
three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable 
of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does 
not exceed three shells. This restriction does not apply during a 
light-goose-only season (greater and lesser snow geese and Ross' geese) 
when all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, 
are closed while hunting light geese in Atlantic, Central, and 
Mississippi Flyway portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, 
Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, 
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, 
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New 
Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, 
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, 
Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
* * * * *
    (g) By the use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird 
calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of 
bird calls or sounds. This restriction does not apply during a light-
goose-only season (greater and lesser snow geese and Ross' geese) when 
all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are 
closed while hunting light geese in Atlantic, Central, and Mississippi 
Flyway portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, 
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, 
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, 
Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North 
Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, 
South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West 
Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
* * * * *
    3. Revise Sec. 20.22 to read as follows:

Sec. 20.22  Closed seasons.

    No person shall take migratory game birds during the closed season 
except as provided in part 21.
    4. Revise Sec. 20.23 to read as follows:

Sec. 20.23  Shooting hours.

    No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours 
open to shooting as prescribed in subpart K of this part and subpart E 
of part 21.


    5. The authority citation for part 21 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Pub. L. 95-616, 92 Stat. 3112 (16 U.S.C. 712(2)).

    6. Subpart E, consisting of Sec. 21.60, is revised to read as 

Subpart E--Control of Overabundant Migratory Bird Populations

Sec. 21.60  Conservation order for light geese.

    (a) What is a conservation order? A conservation order is a special 
management action that is needed to control certain wildlife 
populations when traditional management programs are unsuccessful in 
preventing overabundance of the population. We are implementing a 
conservation order under the authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 
to reduce and stabilize various light goose populations. The 
conservation order allows additional methods of taking light geese, 
allows shooting hours for light geese to extend to one-half hour after 
sunset, and removes daily bag limits for light geese inside or outside 
the migratory bird

[[Page 52089]]

hunting season frameworks as described below.
    (b) Which waterfowl species are covered by the order? The 
conservation order addresses management of greater snow (Chen 
caerulescens atlantica), lesser snow (Chen c. caerulescens) and Ross' 
(Chen rossii) geese that breed, migrate, and winter in North America. 
Populations in the Atlantic, Central and Mississippi Flyways are the 
primary focus of concern.
    (c) In what areas can the conservation order be implemented? (1) 
The following States, or portions of States, that are contained within 
the boundaries of the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central Flyways: 
Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, 
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, 
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, 
Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North 
Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, 
South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, 
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
    (2) Tribal lands within the geographic boundaries in paragraph (b) 
(1) above.
    (d) What is required in order for State/Tribal governments to 
participate in the conservation order? Any State or Tribal government 
responsible for the management of wildlife and migratory birds may, 
without permit, kill or cause to be killed under its general 
supervision, light geese under the following conditions:
    (1) Activities conducted under the conservation order may not 
affect endangered or threatened species as designated under the 
Endangered Species Act.
    (2) Control activities must be conducted clearly as such and are 
intended to relieve pressures on migratory birds and habitat essential 
to migratory bird populations only and are not to be construed as 
opening, re-opening, or extending any open hunting season contrary to 
any regulations promulgated under Section 3 of the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act.
    (3) Control activities may be conducted only when all waterfowl 
(including light goose) and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, 
are closed.
    (4) Control measures employed through this section may be 
implemented only between the hours of one-half hour before sunrise to 
one-half hour after sunset.
    (5) Nothing in the conservation order may limit or initiate 
management actions on Federal land without concurrence of the Federal 
agency with jurisdiction.
    (6) States and Tribes must designate participants who must operate 
under the conditions of the conservation order.
    (7) States and Tribes must inform participants of the requirements/
conditions of the conservation order that apply.
    (8) States and Tribes must keep annual records of activities 
carried out under the authority of the conservation order. 
Specifically, information must be collected on:
    (i) The number of individuals participating in the conservation 
    (ii) The number of days individuals participated in the 
conservation order;
    (iii) The number of individuals who pursued light geese with the 
aid of a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells;
    (iv) The number of individuals who pursued light geese with the aid 
of an electronic call;
    (v) The number of individuals who pursued light geese during the 
period one-half hour after sunset;
    (vi) The total number of light geese shot and retrieved during the 
conservation order;
    (vii) The number of light geese taken with the aid of an electronic 
    (viii) The number of light geese taken with the fourth, fifth, or 
sixth shotgun shell;
    (ix) The number of light geese taken during the period one-half 
hour after sunset; and
    (x) The number of light geese shot but not retrieved. Information 
from Tribes may be incorporated in State reports. The States and Tribes 
must submit an annual report summarizing activities conducted under the 
conservation order on or before September 15 of each year, to the 
Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., 
Suite 634, Arlington, Virginia 22203.
    (e) What is required for individuals to participate in the 
conservation order? Individual participants in State or Tribal programs 
covered by the conservation order must comply with the following 
    (1) Participants must comply with all applicable State or Tribal 
laws or regulations including possession of whatever permit(s) or other 
authorization(s) may be required by the State or Tribal government 
    (2) Participants who take light geese under the conservation order 
may not sell or offer for sale those birds or their plumage, but may 
possess, transport, and otherwise properly use them.
    (3) Participants must permit at all reasonable times including 
during actual operations, any Federal or State game or deputy game 
agent, warden, protector, or other game law enforcement officer free 
and unrestricted access over the premises on which such operations have 
been or are being conducted and must promptly furnish whatever 
information an officer requires concerning the operation.
    (4) Participants may take light geese by any method except those 
prohibited as follows:
    (i) With a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun 
larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fish hook, 
poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.
    (ii) From or by means, aid, or use of a sinkbox or any other type 
of low-floating device, having a depression affording the person a 
means of concealment beneath the surface of the water.
    (iii) From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-
driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind, except that 
paraplegics and persons missing one or both legs may take from any 
stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance.
    (iv) From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a 
motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely 
shut off and the sails furled, and its progress has ceased. A craft 
under power may be used only to retrieve dead or crippled birds; 
however, the craft may not be used under power to shoot any crippled 
    (v) By the use or aid of live birds as decoys. No person may take 
light geese on an area where tame or captive live geese are present 
unless such birds are, and have been for a period of 10 consecutive 
days before the taking, confined within an enclosure that substantially 
reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals the birds 
from the sight of light geese.
    (vi) By means or aid of any motor-driven land, water, or air 
conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the 
concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of light geese.
    (vii) By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a 
person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been 
baited as described in Sec. 20.11(j-k). Light geese may not be taken on 
or over lands or areas that are baited areas, and where grain or other 
feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of 
manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where 
grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation as 
described in

[[Page 52090]]

Sec. 20.11(h and l). However, nothing in this paragraph prohibits the 
taking of light geese on or over the following lands or areas that are 
not otherwise baited areas:
    (A) Standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics); 
standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested 
croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered 
solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, 
post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice as 
described in Sec. 20.11(g, i, l, and m);
    (B) From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with 
natural vegetation;
    (C) From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with 
vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does 
not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of 
grain or other feed; or
    (D) Standing or flooded standing agricultural crops where grain is 
inadvertently scattered solely as a result of a hunter entering or 
exiting a hunting area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds.
    (viii) Participants may not possess shot (either in shotshells or 
as loose shot for muzzleloading) other than steel shot, bismuth-tin, 
tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-nickel-iron, 
or other shots that are authorized in Sec. 20.21(j).
    (f) Under what conditions would the conservation order be 
suspended? We will annually assess the overall impact and effectiveness 
of the conservation order on each light goose population to ensure 
compatibility with long-term conservation of this resource. If at any 
time evidence is presented that clearly demonstrates that an individual 
light goose population no longer presents a serious threat of injury to 
the area or areas involved, we will initiate action to suspend the 
conservation order for the specific light goose population in question. 
However, resumption of growth by the light goose population in question 
may warrant reinstatement of such regulations to control the 
population. Depending on the status of individual light goose 
populations, it is possible that a conservation order may be in effect 
for one or more light goose populations, but not others.
    (g) Will information concerning the conservation order be 
collected? The information collection requirements of the conservation 
order have been approved by OMB and assigned clearance number 1018-
0103. Agencies 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. The recordkeeping and reporting 
requirements imposed under Sec. 21.60 will be utilized to administer 
this program, particularly in the assessment of impacts that 
alternative regulatory strategies may have on light geese and other 
migratory bird populations. The information collected will be required 
to authorize State and Tribal governments responsible for migratory 
bird management to take light geese within the guidelines provided by 
the Service.

    Dated: October 5, 2001.
Joseph E. Doddridge,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 01-25612 Filed 10-11-01; 8:45 am]