[Federal Register: September 11, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 176)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 57558-57567]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AI60

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Black-footed 
Ferrets in South-central South Dakota

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of hearing.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in 
cooperation with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Tribe), the U.S. Forest 
Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs propose to reintroduce 
endangered black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) into south-central 
South Dakota on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. The purposes of this 
proposed reintroduction are to implement actions required for recovery 
of the species and to evaluate and improve reintroduction techniques 
and management applications. If this rule is finalized by October 2002, 
we will release surplus captive-raised and/or wild-born black-footed 
ferrets in the fall of 2002, and release additional animals annually 
for several years thereafter until a self-sustaining population is 
established. If this reintroduction program is successful, a wild 
population could be established in 5 years or less. The Rosebud Sioux 
Reservation black-footed ferret population would be established as a 
nonessential experimental population in accordance with section 10(j) 
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We would 
manage this population under provisions of this proposed special rule. 
A draft environmental assessment has been prepared on this proposed 

DATES: Comments from all parties on both the proposed rule and the 
draft environmental assessment must be received by: October 11, 2002. A 
public hearing has been scheduled for September 26, 2002 from 4:00 p.m. 
until 6:00 p.m. in the Commons Area at the Multi-Cultural Center in 
Mission, South Dakota. An informational meeting/open house will be held 
prior to this meeting

[[Page 57559]]

from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at the same location.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments on this proposed rule or the draft 
environmental assessment to Pete Gober, Field Supervisor, or Scott 
Larson, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Ecological Services Office, 420 South Garfield Avenue, Suite 400, 
Pierre, South Dakota 57501, or telephone (605) 224-8693. Comments 
received will be available for public inspection, by appointment, 
during normal business hours at the above address. You may obtain 
copies of the draft environmental assessment from the above address or 
by calling (605) 224-8693.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Lockhart at (307) 721-8805.



    1. Legislative: Congress made significant changes to the Act in 
1982 with addition of section 10(j), which provides for the designation 
of specific reintroduced populations of listed species as 
``experimental populations.'' Previously, we had authority to 
reintroduce populations into unoccupied portions of a listed species' 
historical range when doing so would foster the conservation and 
recovery of the species. However, local citizens often opposed these 
reintroductions because they were concerned about placement of 
restrictions and prohibitions on Federal and private activities. Under 
section 10(j), the Secretary of the Department of the Interior can 
designate reintroduced populations established outside the species' 
current range, but within its historical range, as ``experimental.'' 
Based on the best available information, we must determine whether an 
experimental population is ``essential'' or ``nonessential'' to the 
continued existence of the species. Regulatory restrictions are 
considerably reduced under a Nonessential Experimental Population (NEP) 
    Under the Act, species listed as endangered or threatened are 
afforded protection primarily through the prohibitions of section 9 and 
the requirements of section 7. Section 9 of the Act prohibits the take 
of endangered wildlife. ``Take'' is defined by the Act as harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to 
engage in any such conduct. Service regulations (50 CFR 17.31) 
generally extend the prohibition of take to threatened wildlife. 
Section 7 of the Act outlines the procedures for Federal interagency 
cooperation to conserve federally listed species and protect designated 
critical habitats. It mandates all Federal agencies to determine how to 
use their existing authorities to further the purposes of the Act to 
aid in recovering listed species. It also states that Federal agencies 
will, in consultation with the Service, ensure that any action they 
authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a listed species or result in the destruction or adverse 
modification of designated critical habitat. Section 7 of the Act does 
not affect activities undertaken on private lands unless they are 
authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal agency.
    For purposes of section 9 of the Act, a population designated as 
experimental is treated as threatened regardless of the species' 
designation elsewhere in its range. Through section 4(d) of the Act, 
threatened designation allows us greater discretion in devising 
management programs and special regulations for such a population. 
Section 4(d) of the Act allows us to adopt whatever regulations are 
necessary to provide for the conservation of a threatened species. In 
these situations, the general regulations that extend most section 9 
prohibitions to threatened species do not apply to that species, and 
the special 4(d) rule contains the prohibitions and exemptions 
necessary and appropriate to conserve that species. Regulations issued 
under section 4(d) for NEPs are usually more compatible with routine 
human activities in the reintroduction area.
    For the purposes of section 7 of the Act, we treat NEPs as 
threatened species when the NEP is located within a National Wildlife 
Refuge or National Park, and section 7(a)(1) and the consultation 
requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act apply. Section 7(a)(1) 
requires all Federal agencies to use their authorities to conserve 
listed species. Section 7(a)(2) requires that Federal agencies consult 
with the Service before authorizing, funding, or carrying out any 
activity that would likely jeopardize the continued existence of a 
listed species or adversely modify its critical habitats. When NEPs are 
located outside a National Wildlife Refuge or National Park, we treat 
the population as proposed for listing and only two provisions of 
section 7 would apply--section 7(a)(1) and section 7(a)(4). In these 
instances, NEPs provide additional flexibility because Federal agencies 
are not required to consult with us under section 7(a)(2). Section 
7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer with the Service on actions 
that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a proposed 
species. The results of a conference are advisory in nature and do not 
restrict agencies from carrying out, funding, or authorizing 
    Individuals used to establish an experimental population may come 
from a donor population, provided their removal will not create adverse 
impacts upon the parent population, and provided appropriate permits 
are issued in accordance with our regulations (50 CFR 17.22) prior to 
their removal. In this case, the donor ferret population is a captive-
bred population, which was propagated with the intention of re-
establishing wild populations to achieve recovery goals. In addition, 
wild progeny from other NEP areas (and which also originated from 
captive sources) may be directly translocated to the proposed 
reintroduction site.
    2. Biological: The black-footed ferret is a member of the Mustelid 
or weasel family; has a black facemask, black legs, and a black-tipped 
tail; is nearly 60 centimeters (2 feet) in length; and weighs up to 1.1 
kilograms (2.5 pounds). It is the only ferret species native to North 
America. The historical range of the species, based on specimen 
collections, extends over 12 western States (Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, 
Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, 
Texas, Utah, and Wyoming) and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and 
Saskatchewan. Prehistoric evidence indicates that ferrets once occurred 
from the Yukon Territory in Canada to Mexico and Texas (Anderson et al. 
    Black-footed ferrets depend almost exclusively on prairie dog 
colonies for food, shelter, and denning (Henderson et al. 1969, updated 
1974; Forrest et al. 1985). The range of the ferret coincides with that 
of prairie dogs (Anderson et al. 1986), and ferrets with young have 
been documented only in the vicinity of active prairie dog colonies. 
Historically, black-footed ferrets have been reported in association 
with black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), white-tailed 
prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus), and Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys 
gunnisoni) towns (Anderson et al. 1986).
    Significant reductions in both prairie dog numbers and distribution 
occurred during the last century due to widespread poisoning of prairie 
dogs, the conversion of native prairie to farmland, and outbreaks of 
sylvatic plague, particularly in the southern portions of several 
species of prairie dog ranges in North America. Sylvatic plague arrived 
from Asia in approximately 1900. It is an exotic disease foreign to the 

[[Page 57560]]

history of prairie dogs, who have little or no immunity to it. Black-
footed ferrets are also highly susceptible to sylvatic plague. This 
severe reduction in the availability of their principal prey species, 
in combination with other factors such as secondary poisoning from 
prairie dog toxicants, resulted in the near extinction of the black-
footed ferret in the wild by the early 1970s.
    In 1974, a remnant wild population of ferrets in South Dakota, 
originally discovered in 1964, abruptly disappeared. As a result, we 
believed the species to be extinct. However in 1981, a small population 
was discovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming. In 1985-1986, the Meeteetse 
population declined to only 18 animals due to an outbreak of sylvatic 
plague and canine distemper. Following this critical decline, the 
remaining individuals were taken into captivity in 1986-1987 to serve 
as founders for a captive propagation program. Since that time, 
captive-breeding efforts have been highly successful and have 
facilitated ferret reintroductions over a broad area of formally 
occupied range. Today, the captive population of juveniles and adults 
annually fluctuates between 300 and 600 animals depending on time of 
year, yearly reproductive success, and annual mortalities. The captive 
ferret population is currently divided among six captive-breeding 
facilities throughout the United States and Canada, with a small number 
on display for educational purposes at several facilities. Also, 65 to 
90 ferrets are located at several field-based captive-breeding sites in 
Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico.
    3. Recovery Goals/Objectives: The recovery plan for the black-
footed ferret (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1988) contains the 
following recovery objectives for downlisting, that is, 
reclassification from endangered to threatened:
    (a) Increasing the captive population of ferrets to 200 breeding 
adults by 1991 (which has been achieved);
    (b) Establishing a prebreeding population of 1,500 free-ranging 
breeding adults in 10 or more different populations, with no fewer than 
30 breeding adults in each population by the year 2010 (on-going); and,
    (c) Encouraging the widest possible distribution of reintroduced 
animals throughout their historical range (on-going).
    Although several reintroduction efforts have occurred throughout 
the ferret's range, populations may have become self-sufficient at only 
one site in South Dakota.
    We can reclassify the black-footed ferret from endangered to 
threatened status when the recovery objectives listed above have been 
achieved, assuming that the mortality rate of established populations 
remains at or below a rate at which new populations become established 
or increase. We have been successful in rearing black-footed ferrets in 
captivity, and in 1997 we reached captive-breeding program objectives.
    In 1988, we divided the single captive population into three 
subpopulations to avoid the possibility of a catastrophic event 
eliminating the entire captive population (e.g., contagious disease). 
Additional breeding centers were added later, and currently there are 
six separate subpopulations in captivity. Current recovery efforts 
emphasize the reintroduction of animals back into the wild from the 
captive source stock. Surplus individuals produced in captivity are now 
available for use on reintroduction areas.
    4. Reintroduction Sites: The Service, in cooperation with western 
State and Federal agencies, Tribal representatives, and conservation 
groups, evaluates potential black-footed ferret reintroduction sites 
and has previously initiated ferret reintroduction projects at several 
sites within the historical range of the species. The first 
reintroduction project occurred in Wyoming in 1991 and subsequent 
efforts have taken place in South Dakota and Montana in 1994, Arizona 
in 1996, a second effort in Montana in 1997, in Colorado/Utah in 1999, 
a second site in South Dakota in 2000, and Mexico in 2001. The Service 
and the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team (comprised of 
27 State and Federal agencies, Indian Tribes, or conservation 
organizations) have identified the Rosebud Sioux Reservation 
(Reservation) as a high-priority black-footed ferret reintroduction 
site due to its extensive black-tailed prairie dog habitat and the 
absence of sylvatic plague (Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation 
Team 2000).
    In the early 1990s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (1995) estimated 
the acreage of prairie dog colonies on Rosebud Tribal Trust lands at 
18,218 hectares (ha) (45,000 acres (ac)). In the mid-1990s, the Tribe 
evaluated a black-footed ferret reintroduction effort and completed 
some of the activities (habitat evaluations) necessary to begin such 
reintroduction efforts. In 2001, the Tribe began additional activities 
to work toward a ferret reintroduction and has worked with the Service 
to gather information necessary to establish an NEP designation for any 
ferret reintroductions that may occur.
    a. Rosebud Sioux Reservation Experimental Population Reintroduction 
Area: The proposed area to be designated as the Rosebud Sioux 
Reservation Black-footed Ferret Experimental Population Area 
(Experimental Population Area) overlays all of Gregory, Mellette, Todd, 
and Tripp Counties in South Dakota. Any black-footed ferret found 
within these four counties would be considered part of an NEP. Within 
the Experimental Population Area, the proposed primary reintroduction 
area will be in large black-tailed prairie dog complexes located in 
Todd County near the town of Parmelee. The Town of Rosebud is 
approximately 10 air miles away and is the location of the Rosebud 
Sioux Tribal offices. Rosebud is approximately 160 kilometers (100 
miles) south of Pierre, the capital of South Dakota.
    The Experimental Population Area supports at least two large 
complexes of black-tailed prairie dog colonies located within the four-
county area. These counties encompass approximately 1,391,862 ha 
(3,437,900 ac). Approximately 26 percent or 356,411 ha (880,336 ac) of 
the Experimental Population Area is Tribal and Allotted Trust lands of 
the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The majority of this Tribal and Allotted Trust 
land is native rangeland used for grazing.
    Large acreages within the Experimental Population Area are owned by 
private landowners (approximately 70 percent), although much less in 
the primary reintroduction area, but no ferrets will be released on 
private lands. Designating reintroduced ferrets as an NEP should 
minimize potential issues that may arise with a reintroduction in the 
vicinity of private lands. The Tribe and other cooperators agree that 
if ferrets disperse onto private lands, they will capture and 
translocate the ferrets back to Tribal lands if requested by the 
landowner or if necessary for the protection of the ferrets. Any 
activity needing access to private lands will be conducted only with 
the permission of the landowner.
    Black-footed ferret dispersal to and occupation of areas outside of 
the Experimental Population Area is unlikely to occur towards the east, 
north, and south due to the large size of the Experimental Population 
Area, the absence of suitable nearby habitat (large contiguous prairie 
dog colonies), cropland barriers (e.g., expansive cultivation over the 
eastern portion of the Experimental Population Area), and physical 
barriers (e.g., the Missouri River to the east). Any expansion

[[Page 57561]]

westerly from the reintroduction site will be handled by recapturing 
ferrets and bringing them into the Experimental Population Area or 
through future cooperative efforts with the Pine Ridge Indian 
Reservation. The Tribe estimates a minimum of approximately 6,072 ha 
(15,000 ac) of black-tailed prairie dog colonies are potentially 
available to black-footed ferrets in a localized area in northwestern 
Todd County and could support over 150 ferret families (characterized 
as an adult female, three kits, and one-half an adult male; i.e., one 
adult male for every two adult females). Large, contiguous prairie dog 
colonies and the absence of physical barriers between prairie dog 
colonies in this portion of the Reservation (the primary ferret release 
area) should facilitate ferret distribution throughout this complex.
    b. Primary Reintroduction Areas: The proposed primary 
reintroduction area within the Experimental Population Area would occur 
on prairie dog colonies near Parmelee, in northwestern Todd County. The 
last remaining population of ferrets in South Dakota was known to exist 
in this area and adjacent Mellette County until the early 1970s 
(Henderson et al. 1969, updated 1974). This population was studied and 
monitored extensively until it disappeared from the wild by 1974. 
During monitoring efforts of this ferret population in the 1960s, 
researchers located eight road-killed ferrets during their years of 
work (Hillman and Linder 1973). No road-killed ferrets have been turned 
in or noted from that area since the population was believed extirpated 
in the early 1970s. There have been many ferret surveys conducted in 
this area in the 1980s and 1990s with no ferrets being located. The 
Tribe conducted additional ferret surveys in 2002 and did not locate 
any ferrets.
    Black-footed ferrets will be released only if biological conditions 
are suitable, and meet the management framework developed by the Tribe, 
in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Service, and 
landowners/land managers. The Service will re-evaluate ferret 
reintroduction efforts in the Experimental Population Area should any 
of the following conditions occur:
    (i) Failure to maintain sufficient habitat on specific 
reintroduction areas to support at least 30 breeding adults after 5 
    (ii) Failure to maintain prairie dog habitat in the primary 
reintroduction area at or near the level available in 2002.
    (iii) A wild ferret population is found within the Experimental 
Population Area following the initial reintroduction and prior to the 
first breeding season. The only black-footed ferrets currently 
occurring in the wild result from reintroductions in Arizona, Colorado/
Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Mexico. Consequently, the 
discovery of a black-footed ferret at the proposed Experimental 
Population Area prior to the reintroduction would confirm the presence 
of a new population and would prevent designation of an experimental 
population for the area.
    (iv) Discovery of an active case of canine distemper or any other 
disease contagious to black-footed ferrets in any animal on or near the 
reintroduction area within 6 months prior to the scheduled release that 
the cooperators believe may compromise the reintroduction.
    (v) Fewer than 20 captive black-footed ferrets are available for 
the first release.
    (vi) Funding is not available to implement the reintroduction phase 
of the project on the Reservation.
    (vii) Land ownership changes significantly or cooperators withdraw 
from the project.
    All the above conditions will be based on information routinely 
collected by us or the Tribe.
    5. Reintroduction Procedures: In conformance with standard black-
footed ferret reintroduction protocol, no fewer than 20 captive-raised 
or wild-translocated black-footed ferrets will be released in the 
Experimental Population Area in the first year of the program, and 20 
or more animals will be released annually for the next 2 to 4 years. 
Under this proposal, we anticipate releasing 50 or more ferrets in the 
first year and believe a self-sustaining wild population could be 
established on the Reservation within 5 years. Released ferrets will be 
excess to the needs of the captive-breeding program and their use will 
not affect the genetic diversity of the captive ferret population 
(ferrets used for reintroduction efforts can be replaced through 
captive breeding). In the future, it may be necessary to interchange 
ferrets from established, reintroduced populations to enhance the 
genetic diversity of the population on the Experimental Population 
    Recent studies (Biggins et al. 1998, Vargas et al. 1998) have 
documented the importance of outdoor ``preconditioning'' experience on 
captive-reared ferrets prior to release in the wild. Ferrets exposed to 
natural prairie dog burrows in outdoor pens and natural prey prior to 
release survive in the wild at significantly higher rates than do cage-
reared, non-preconditioned ferrets. At a minimum, all captive-reared 
ferrets released within the Experimental Population Area will receive 
adequate preconditioning treatments at existing pen facilities in South 
Dakota or other western States. In addition, we may translocate wild-
born ferrets (from other NEPs with self-sustaining populations of 
ferrets) to the Experimental Population Area.
    The Tribe will develop specific reintroduction plans and submit 
them in a proposal to the Service as part of an established, annual 
black-footed ferret allocation process. Ferret reintroduction 
cooperators submit proposals by mid-March of each year, and the Service 
makes preliminary allocation decisions (numbers of ferrets provided to 
specific projects) by May. Proposals submitted to the Service include 
updated information on habitat, disease, project/ferret status, 
proposed reintroduction and monitoring methods, and predator 
management. In this manner, the Service and reintroduction cooperators 
evaluate the success of prior year efforts and apply current knowledge 
to various aspects of reintroduction efforts, thereby providing greater 
assurance of long-range reintroduction success.
    We will transport ferrets to identified reintroduction areas within 
the Experimental Population Area and release them directly from 
transport cages into prairie dog burrows. Depending on the availability 
of suitable vaccine, we will vaccinate released animals against certain 
diseases (particularly canine distemper) and take appropriate measures 
to reduce predation from coyotes, badgers, and raptors, where 
warranted. All ferrets we release will be marked with passive 
integrated transponder tags (PIT tags), and we may promote radio-
telemetry studies to document ferret behavior and movements. Other 
monitoring will include spotlight surveys, snowtracking surveys, and 
visual surveillance.
    Since captive-born ferrets are more susceptible to predation, 
starvation, and environmental conditions than wild animals, up to 90 
percent of the released ferrets could die during the first year of 
release. Mortality is usually highest during the first month following 
release. In the first year of the program, a realistic goal is to have 
at least 25 percent of the animals survive the first winter. The goal 
of the Reservation reintroduction project is to establish a free-
ranging population of at least 30 adults within the Experimental 
Population Area within 5 years of release. At the release site, 
population demographics and potential sources of

[[Page 57562]]

mortality will be monitored on an annual basis (for up to 5 years). We 
do not intend to change the nonessential designation for this 
experimental population unless we deem this reintroduction a failure or 
the black-footed ferret is recovered in the wild.
    6. Status of Reintroduced Population: We determine this 
reintroduction to be nonessential to the continued existence of the 
species for the following reasons:
    (a) The captive population (founder population of the species) is 
protected against the threat of extinction from a single catastrophic 
event by housing ferrets in six separate subpopulations. As a result, 
any loss of an experimental population in the wild will not threaten 
the survival of the species as a whole.
    (b) The primary repository of genetic diversity for the species is 
240 adult ferrets maintained in the captive-breeding population. 
Animals selected for reintroduction purposes are surplus to the captive 
population. Hence, any use of animals for reintroduction efforts will 
not affect the overall genetic diversity of the species.
    (c) Captive breeding can replace any ferrets lost during this 
reintroduction attempt. Juvenile ferrets produced in excess of the 
numbers needed to maintain the captive-breeding population are 
available for reintroduction.
    This proposed reintroduction would be the ninth release of ferrets 
back into the wild. The other experimental populations occur in 
Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, north-central Montana (with two 
separate reintroduction efforts), Arizona, Colorado/Utah (a single 
reintroduction area that overlays both States), and northcentral South 
Dakota. A nonessential population of ferrets has been established in 
Mexico. Reintroductions are necessary to further the recovery of this 
species. The NEP designation alleviates landowner concerns about 
possible land use restrictions. This nonessential designation provides 
a flexible management framework for protecting and recovering black-
footed ferrets while ensuring that the daily activities of landowners 
are unaffected.
    7. Location of Reintroduced Population: Section 10(j) of the Act 
requires that an experimental population be geographically separate 
from other wild populations of the same species. Since the mid-1980s, 
black-footed ferret surveys have been conducted in the Experimental 
Population Area or close by, and no wild ferrets have been located. 
Over 121,457 ha (300,000 ac) of prairie dog colonies were surveyed for 
black-footed ferrets in the mid-1980s during a prairie dog control 
effort on the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation 
(Superintendent Memorandum 1989). No ferrets were located. In addition 
to these surveys, the Tribe and others have spent many hours surveying 
prairie dog colonies at the primary reintroduction site. No ferrets or 
signs of ferrets (e.g., skulls, feces, trenches) were located. 
Therefore, we conclude that wild ferrets are no longer present in the 
Experimental Population Area, and that this reintroduction will not 
overlap with any wild population.
    All released ferrets and their offspring should remain in the 
Experimental Population Area due to the presence of prime habitat 
(lands occupied by prairie dog colonies) and surrounding geographic 
barriers. In an attempt to identify its origin, we will capture any 
ferret that leaves the Experimental Population Area and will either 
return it to the release site, translocate it to another site, or place 
it in captivity. If a ferret leaves the primary reintroduction area, 
but remains within the Experimental Population Area, and occupies 
private property, the landowner can request its removal. Ferrets will 
remain on private lands only when the landowner does not object to 
their presence there.
    We will mark all released ferrets and will attempt to determine the 
source of any unmarked animals found. We will undertake efforts to 
confirm whether any ferret found outside the Experimental Population 
Area originated from captive stock. If the animal is unrelated to 
members of this or other experimental populations (i.e., it is from 
non-captive stock), we will place it in captivity as part of the 
breeding population to improve the overall genetic diversity of the 
captive population. Existing contingency plans allow for the capture 
and retention of up to nine ferrets shown not to be from any captive 
stock. In the highly unlikely event that a ferret from captive stock is 
found outside the Experimental Population Area and if landowner 
permission is granted, we will move the ferret back to habitats that 
would support the primary population(s) of ferrets.
    8. Management: This reintroduction will be undertaken in 
cooperation with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 
and the Forest Service in accordance with the ``Cooperative Management 
Plan for Black-footed Ferrets, Rosebud Sioux Reservation''. Copies of 
the Cooperative Management Plan may be obtained from the Rosebud Sioux 
Tribe, Game, Fish and Parks Department, P.O. Box 430, Rosebud, South 
Dakota 57570. In the future, we will evaluate whether other black-
footed ferret reintroductions are feasible within the Experimental 
Population Area. Cooperating Tribes, agencies, and private landowners 
would be involved in the selection of any additional sites. Management 
considerations of the proposed reintroduction project include:
    (a) Monitoring: Several monitoring efforts will occur during the 
first 5 years of the program. We will annually monitor prairie dog 
distribution and numbers, and the occurrence of sylvatic plague. 
Testing resident carnivores (e.g., coyotes) for canine distemper will 
begin prior to the first ferret release and continue each year. We will 
monitor released ferrets and their offspring annually using spotlight 
surveys, snowtracking, other visual survey techniques, and possibly 
radio-telemetry of some individuals. The surveys will incorporate 
methods to monitor breeding success and long-term survival rates.
    Through public outreach programs, we will inform the public and 
other appropriate State and Federal agencies about the presence of 
ferrets in the Experimental Population Area and the handling of any 
sick or injured ferrets. To meet our responsibilities to treat the 
Tribe on a Government-to-Government basis, we will request that the 
Tribe inform Tribal members of the presence of ferrets on Reservation 
lands, and the proper handling of any sick or injured ferrets that are 
found. The Tribe will serve as the primary point of contact to report 
any injured or dead ferrets. Reports of injured or dead ferrets also 
must be provided to the Service Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES 
section). It is important that we determine the cause of death for any 
ferret carcass found. Therefore, we request that discovered ferret 
carcasses not be disturbed, but reported as soon as possible to 
appropriate Tribal and Service offices.
    (b) Disease: The presence of canine distemper in any mammal on or 
near the reintroduction site will cause us to reevaluate the 
reintroduction program. Prior to releasing ferrets, we will establish 
the presence or absence of canine distemper in the release area by 
collecting at least 20 coyotes (and possibly other carnivores). Sampled 
predators will be tested for canine distemper and other diseases.
    We will attempt to limit the spread of distemper by discouraging 
people from bringing unvaccinated pets into core ferret release areas. 
Any dead mammal or any unusual behavior observed in animals found 
within the area should be reported to us. Efforts are under way to

[[Page 57563]]

develop an effective canine distemper vaccine for black-footed ferrets. 
Routine sampling for sylvatic plague in prairie dog towns will take 
place before and during the reintroduction effort, and annually 
    (c) Genetics: Ferrets selected for reintroduction are excess to the 
needs of the captive population. Experimental populations of ferrets 
are usually less genetically diverse than overall captive populations. 
Selecting and reestablishing breeding ferrets that compensate for any 
genetic biases in earlier releases can correct this disparity. The 
ultimate goal is to establish wild ferret populations with the maximum 
genetic diversity that is possible from the founder ferrets. The 
eventual interchange of ferrets between established populations found 
elsewhere in the western United States will ensure that genetic 
diversity is maintained to the extent possible.
    (d) Prairie Dog Management: We will work with the Tribe, affected 
landowners, and other Federal and State agencies to resolve any 
management conflicts in order to--(1) Maintain sufficient prairie dog 
acreage and density to support no less than 30 adult black-footed 
ferrets; and (2) maintain suitable prairie dog habitat on core release 
areas at or above 2002 survey levels.
    (e) Mortality: We will only reintroduce ferrets that are surplus to 
the captive-breeding program. Predator control, prairie dog management, 
vaccination, ferret preconditioning, and improved release methods 
should reduce mortality. Public education will help reduce potential 
sources of human-caused mortality.
    The Act defines ``incidental take'' as take that is incidental to, 
and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful 
activity such as recreation, livestock grazing, and other activities 
that are in accordance with Federal, Tribal, State, and local laws and 
regulations. A person may take a ferret within the Experimental 
Population Area provided that the take is unintentional and was not due 
to negligent conduct. Such conduct will not constitute ``knowing 
take,'' and we will not pursue legal action. However, when we have 
evidence of knowing (i.e., intentional) take of a ferret, we will refer 
matters to the appropriate authorities for prosecution. Any take of a 
black-footed ferret, whether incidental or not, must be reported to the 
local Service Field Supervisor (see ADDRESSES section). We expect 
levels of incidental take to be low since the reintroduction is 
compatible with existing land use practices for the area.
    Based on studies of wild black-footed ferrets at Meeteetse, 
Wyoming, and other places, black-footed ferrets can be killed by motor 
vehicles and dogs. We expect a rate of mortality similar to what was 
documented at Meeteetse and, therefore, we estimate a human-related 
annual mortality rate of about 12 percent or less of all reintroduced 
ferrets and their offspring. If this level is exceeded in any given 
year, we will develop and implement measures to reduce the level of 
    (f) Special Handling: Service employees and authorized agents 
acting on their behalf may handle black-footed ferrets for scientific 
purposes; to relocate ferrets to avoid conflict with human activities; 
for recovery purposes; to relocate ferrets to other reintroduction 
sites; to aid sick, injured, and orphaned ferrets; and salvage dead 
ferrets. We will return to captivity any ferret we determine to be 
unfit to remain in the wild. We also will determine the disposition of 
all sick, injured, orphaned, and dead ferrets.
    (g) Coordination with Landowners and Land Managers: The Service and 
cooperators identified issues and concerns associated with the proposed 
ferret reintroduction before preparing this proposed rule. The proposed 
reintroduction also has been discussed with potentially affected State 
agencies and landowners within the proposed release area. Affected 
State agencies, landowners, and land managers have indicated support 
for the reintroduction, if ferrets released in the proposed 
Experimental Population Area are established as an NEP and if land use 
activities in the proposed Experimental Population Area are not 
constrained without the consent of affected landowners.
    (h) Potential for Conflict With Grazing and Recreational 
Activities: We do not expect conflicts between livestock grazing and 
ferret management. Grazing and prairie dog management on private lands 
within the proposed Experimental Population Area will continue without 
additional restriction during implementation of the ferret recovery 
activities. With proper management, we do not expect adverse impacts to 
ferrets from hunting, prairie dog shooting, prairie dog control, and 
trapping of furbearers or predators in the proposed Experimental 
Population Area. If proposed prairie dog shooting or control locally 
may affect the ferret's prey base within the proposed primary release 
area, State, Tribal, and Federal biologists will determine whether 
ferrets could be impacted and, if necessary, take steps to avoid such 
impacts. If private activities impede the establishment of ferrets, we 
will work closely with the Tribe and landowners to suggest alternative 
procedures to minimize conflicts.
    (i) Protection of Black-footed Ferrets: We will release ferrets in 
a manner that provides short-term protection from natural (predators, 
disease, lack of prey base) and human-related sources of mortality. 
Improved release methods, vaccination, predator control, and management 
of prairie dog populations should help reduce natural mortality. 
Releasing ferrets in areas with little human activity and development 
will minimize human-related sources of mortality. We will work with the 
Tribe and landowners to help avoid certain activities that could impair 
ferret recovery.
    (j) Public Awareness and Cooperation: We will inform the general 
public of the importance of this reintroduction project in the overall 
recovery of the black-footed ferret. The designation of the NEP for the 
Reservation and adjacent areas would provide greater flexibility in the 
management of the reintroduced ferrets. The NEP designation is 
necessary to secure needed cooperation of the Tribe, landowners, 
agencies, and other interests in the affected area. Based on the above 
information, and using the best scientific and commercial data 
available (in accordance with 50 CFR 17.81), the Service finds that 
releasing black-footed ferrets into the Experimental Population Area 
will further the conservation of the species.

Public Comments Solicited

    The opportunity to release ferrets on Rosebud Tribal Trust lands in 
the fall of 2002 is dependent upon sufficient numbers of captive-bred 
or wild-born ferrets being available, the timing of the releases when 
those ferrets are available, and the completion of the nonessential 
experimental population rulemaking process. It is imperative that 
ferret kits born in captivity are preconditioned and released at proper 
developmental ages to enhance their survival in the wild. In order to 
maximize the window of opportunity and ensure success for the 
Reservation ferret reintroduction effort, it will be important to have 
the site ready to accept ferrets by October 1, 2002. It has become 
urgent to expedite this nonessential experimental population rulemaking 
process in order to ensure that an adequate number of ferrets can be 
released at proper ages and with adequate preconditioning experience. 
Consequently, we are proposing a 30-day public comment period for the 
proposed rule instead of the standard 60 days.

[[Page 57564]]

    The Service wishes to ensure that this proposed rulemaking to 
designate the Reservation black-footed ferret population as an NEP and 
the draft environmental assessment on the proposed action effectively 
evaluate all potential issues associated with this action. Therefore, 
we request comments or recommendations concerning any aspect of this 
proposed rule and the draft environmental assessment from the public, 
as well as Tribal, local, State, and Federal government agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party. Comments 
should be as specific as possible. To promulgate a final rule to 
implement this proposed action and to determine whether to prepare a 
finding of no significant impact or an environmental impact statement, 
we will take into consideration all comments and any additional 
information received. Such information may lead to a final rule that 
differs from this proposal.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold 
from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by 
law. If you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must 
state this request prominently at the beginning of your comment. 
However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make all 
submissions from organizations or businesses, available for public 
inspection in their entirety.

Public Hearing

    A public hearing has been scheduled for September 26, 2002, from 4 
p.m. until 6 p.m. in the Commons Area at the Multi-Cultural Center in 
Mission, South Dakota. An informational meeting/open house will be held 
prior to this meeting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the same location. All 
interested parties are encouraged to attend and learn more about the 
proposed Rosebud black-footed ferret reintroduction effort.

Peer Review

    In conformance with our policy on peer review, published on July 1, 
1994 (59 FR 34270), we will provide copies of this proposed rule to 
three specialists in order to solicit comments on the scientific data 
and assumptions relating to the supportive biological and ecological 
information for this NEP rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure 
that the NEP designation decision is based on the best scientific 
information available.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (E.O. 12866)

    In accordance with the criteria in Executive Order 12866, the 
proposed rule to designate NEP status for the black-footed ferret 
reintroduction into south-central South Dakota is not a significant 
regulatory action subject to Office of Management and Budget review. 
This rule will not have an annual economic effect of $100 million or 
more and will not have an adverse effect upon any economic sector, 
productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of government. 
Therefore, a cost-benefit and economic analysis is not required.
    Lands within the NEP area affected by this rule include Gregory, 
Mellette, Todd, and Tripp Counties in South Dakota. The primary 
reintroduction area where ferrets will be released is Rosebud Tribal 
Trust lands in Todd County, and most of the prairie dog colonies within 
the primary release area are on these lands. Prairie dog colonies off 
the Rosebud Tribal Trust lands but within the primary reintroduction 
area and those colonies within the Experimental Population Area but 
outside the primary reintroduction area are not needed for the 
Reservation reintroduction effort to be successful. Land uses on 
private, Tribal, and State school lands will not be hindered by the 
proposal, and only voluntary participation by private landowners will 
    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 another Department of the Interior bureau (i.e., Bureau of 
Indian Affairs) and the Department of Agriculture (Forest Service). The 
action proposed by this rulemaking is consistent with the policies and 
guidelines of the other Interior bureaus. Because of the substantial 
regulatory relief provided by the NEP designation, we believe the 
reintroduction of the black-footed ferret in the areas described will 
not conflict with existing human activities or hinder public 
utilization of the area.
    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. The Service has 
previously designated experimental populations of black-footed ferrets 
at seven other locations (in Colorado/Utah, Montana, South Dakota, 
Arizona, and Wyoming) and for other species at numerous locations 
throughout the nation.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Department of the Interior certifies that this document will 
not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small 
entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). 
The area affected by this rule consists of the Rosebud Indian 
Reservation and private, Federal, and State lands that fall within the 
south-central tier of counties in South Dakota (Mellette, Todd, Tripp, 
and Gregory counties). Reintroduction of ferrets allowed by this rule 
will not have any significant effect on recreational activities in the 
Experimental Population Area. We do not expect any closures of roads, 
trails, or other recreational areas. Suspension of prairie dog shooting 
for ferret management purposes will be localized and prescribed by the 
Tribe. We do not expect ferret reintroduction activities to affect 
grazing operations, resource development actions, or the status of any 
other plant or animal species within the release area. Because only 
voluntary participation in ferret reintroduction by private landowners 
is proposed, this rulemaking is not expected to have any significant 
impact on private activities in the affected area. The designation of 
an NEP in this rule will significantly reduce the regulatory 
requirements regarding the reintroduction of these ferrets, will not 
create inconsistencies with other agency actions, and will not conflict 
with existing or proposed human activity, or Tribal and public use of 
the land.

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. This rule will not have 
an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more for reasons 
outlined above. It will not cause a major increase in costs or prices 
for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local 
government agencies, or geographic regions. The rule does not have 
significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, 
productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States-based 
enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

[[Page 57565]]

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The NEP designation will not place any additional requirements on 
any city, county, or other local municipalities. The proposed specific 
site designated for release of the experimental population of ferrets 
is predominantly Rosebud Sioux Tribal Trust land administered by the 
Rosebud Sioux Tribe, who support this project. The State of South 
Dakota has expressed support for accomplishing the reintroduction 
through a nonessential experimental designation. Accordingly, this rule 
will not ``significantly or uniquely'' affect small governments. A 
Small Government Agency Plan is not required. Since this rulemaking 
does not require any action be taken by local or State government or 
private entities, we have determined and certify pursuant to the 
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq., that this 
rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given 
year on local or State governments or private entities (i.e., it is not 
a ``significant regulatory action'' under this law).

Takings (E.O. 12630)

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, the rule does not have 
significant takings implications. Designating reintroduced populations 
of federally listed species as NEPs significantly reduces the Act's 
regulatory requirements with respect to the reintroduced listed species 
within the NEP. Under NEP designations, the Act requires a Federal 
agency to confer with the Service if the agency determines its action 
within the NEP is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the 
reintroduced species. However, we do not foresee any activity that may 
jeopardize the species' continued existence. Furthermore, the results 
of a conference are advisory and do not restrict agencies from carrying 
out, funding, or authorizing activities. Additionally, regulatory 
relief can be provided regarding take of reintroduced species within 
NEP areas, and a special rule has been developed stipulating that 
unintentional take (including killing or injuring) of the reintroduced 
black-footed ferrets would not be a violation of the Act, when such 
take is incidental to an otherwise legal activity (e.g., livestock 
management, mineral development) that is in accordance with Federal, 
Tribal, State, and local laws and regulations.
    Most of the lands within the primary reintroduction area are 
administered by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Multiple-use management of 
these lands by industry and recreation interests will not change as a 
result of the experimental designation. Private landowners within the 
Experimental Population Area will still be allowed to conduct lawful 
control of prairie dogs, and may elect to have black-footed ferrets 
removed from their land should ferrets move to private lands. Because 
of the substantial regulatory relief provided by NEP designations, we 
do not believe the reintroduction of ferrets will conflict with 
existing human activities or hinder public use of the area. The South 
Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks has previously endorsed the 
ferret reintroductions under NEP designations and are supportive of 
this effort. The NEP designation will not require the South Dakota 
Department of Game, Fish and Parks to specifically manage for 
reintroduced ferrets. A takings implication assessment is not required.

Federalism (E.O. 13132)

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
significant Federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment. As stated above, most of the lands within the 
primary reintroduction area are Tribal Trust lands, and multiple-use 
management of these lands will not change to accommodate black-footed 
ferrets. The designation will not impose any new restrictions on the 
State of South Dakota. The Service has coordinated extensively with the 
Tribe and State of South Dakota, and they endorse the NEP designation 
as the only feasible way to pursue ferret recovery in the area. A 
Federalism Assessment is not required.

Civil Justice Reform (E.O. 12988)

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Department of the 
Interior has determined that this rule does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the applicable standards provided in sections 
3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the order.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This regulation contains information collection requirements under 
the Paperwork Reduction Act (and approval by the Office of Management 
and Budget) under 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. The collected information 
covers general take or removal, depredation-related take, and specimen 
collection. Authorization for this information collection has been 
approved by OMB and has been assigned OMB control number 1018-0095 
(Expires 10/21/2004). An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a 
person is not required to respond to, a collection of information 
unless it displays a current valid OMB control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The Service has prepared a draft environmental assessment as 
defined under authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969. It is available from Service offices identified in the ADDRESSES 

Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribes (E.O. 13175)

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and 512 DM 2, we 
have closely coordinated this rule with the affected tribe, the Rosebud 
Sioux Tribe. Throughout development of this rule, we have maintained 
regular contact with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and have received their 
full support for this reintroduction and NEP designation. We intend to 
fully consider all of their comments on the proposed NEP designation 
and ferret reintroduction submitted during the public comment period.

Energy Supply, Distribution or Use (E.O. 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 proposed rule is 
not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, and 
use. Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Clarity of This Regulation (E.O. 12866)

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make 
this rule easier to understand, including answers to questions such as 
the following--(1) Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated? (2) 
Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that interferes with 
its clarity? (3) Does the format of the rule (grouping or 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 proposed rule? What else could we do to make the rule 
easier to understand? Send a copy of any comments that concern how we 
could make this rule easier to understand to

[[Page 57566]]

Office of Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Interior, Room 7229, 
1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. You also may e-mail the 
comments to Execsec@ios.doi.gov.

References Cited

Anderson E., S.C. Forrest, T.W. Clark, and L. Richardson. 1986. 
Paleobiology, biogeography, and systematics of the black-footed ferret, 
Mustela nigripes (Audubon and Bachman), 1851. Great Basin Naturalist 
Memoirs 8:11-62.
Biggins, D.E., J.L. Godbey, L.R. Hanebury, B. Luce, P.E. Marinari, M.R. 
Matchett, A. Vargas. 1998. The effects of rearing methods on survival 
of reintroduced black-footed ferrets. Journal of Wildlife Management 
Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team. 2000. Evaluation of 
potential black-footed ferret reintroduction sites in North America. 17 
Bureau of Indian Affairs. 1995. Final Environmental Impact Statement 
for livestock grazing and prairie dog management for the Rosebud and 
Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservations. Aberdeen Area Office.
Forrest, S.C., T.W. Clark, L. Richardson, and T.M. Campbell III. 1985. 
Black-footed ferret habitat: some management and reintroduction 
considerations. Wyoming Bureau of Land Management, Wildlife Technical 
Bulletin, No. 2. 49 pages.
Henderson, F.R., P.F. Springer, and R. Adrian. 1969. Updated 1974. The 
black-footed ferret in South Dakota. South Dakota Department of Game, 
Fish and Parks, Technical Bulletin 4:1-36.
Hillman, C.N., and R.L. Linder. 1973. The black-footed ferret. Pages 
10-20 in Proceedings of the Black-footed Ferret and Prairie Dog 
Workshop, Sept. 4-6, 1973. South Dakota State University, Brookings. 
208 pp.
Superintendent Memorandum. 1989. Certification to conduct black-footed 
ferret surveys. Pine Ridge Agency.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1988. Black-footed ferret recovery 
plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver, Colorado. 154 pages.
Vargas, A., M. Lockhart, P. Marinari, and P. Gober. 1998. Preparing 
captive-raised black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) for survival 
after release. Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust 34:76-83.


    The primary authors of this rule are Mike Lockhart and Scott Larson 
(see ADDRESSES section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulations Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


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

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

    2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the existing entry for 
``Ferret, black-footed'' under ``MAMMALS'' to read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                               Species                                     Vertebrate
----------------------------------------------------------------------  population where                                          Critical     Special
                                                                         endangered or       Status           When listed         habitat       rules
          Common name             Scientific name     Historic range       threatened

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Ferrett, black-footed..........  Mustela nigripes.  Western U.S.A.,    Entire, except     E             1, 3, 433, 545, 546,             NA           NA
                                                     Western Canada.    where listed as                  582, 646, 703.
                                                                        an experimental
 Do............................  ......do.........  ......do.........  U.S.A. [specific   XN            433, 545, 546, 582,              NA     17.84(g)
                                                                        portions of AZ,                  646, 703.
                                                                        CO, MT, SD, Ut,
                                                                        and WY, see

                                                                      * * * * * * *

    3. Amend Sec.  17.84 by revising paragraph (g)(1) and adding 
paragraphs (g)(6)(vii) and (g)(9)(vii) and adding a map to follow the 
existing maps at the end of this paragraph (g) to read as follows:

Sec.  17.84  Special rules--vertebrates.

* * * * *
    (g) Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes).
    (1) The black-footed ferret populations identified in paragraphs 
(g)(9)(i) through (vii) of this section are nonessential experimental 
populations. We will manage each of these populations in accordance 
with their respective management plans.
* * * * *
    (6) * * *
    (vii) Report such taking in the Rosebud Sioux Reservation 
Experimental Population Area to the Field Supervisor, Ecological 
Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pierre, South Dakota 
(telephone 605-224-8693).
* * * * *
    (9) * * *
    (vii) The Rosebud Sioux Reservation Experimental Population Area is 
shown on the map of south-central South Dakota at the end of paragraph 
(g) of this section. The boundaries of the nonessential experimental 
population area include all of Gregory, Mellette, Todd, and Tripp 
Counties in South Dakota. Any black-footed ferret found within these 
four counties will be considered part of the nonessential experimental 
population after the first breeding season following the first year

[[Page 57567]]

of black-footed ferret release. A black-footed ferret occurring outside 
of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation Experimental Population Area would 
initially be considered as endangered but may be captured for genetic 
testing. If necessary, disposition of the captured animal may occur in 
the following ways:
    (A) If an animal is genetically determined to have originated from 
the experimental population, it may be returned to the reintroduction 
area or to a captive-breeding facility.
    (B) If an animal is determined to be genetically unrelated to the 
experimental population, we will place it in captivity under an 
existing contingency plan. Up to nine black-footed ferrets may be taken 
for use in the captive-breeding program.
* * * * *

    Dated: August 22, 2002.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 02-23068 Filed 9-10-02; 8:45 am]