[Federal Register: June 5, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 107)]
[Page 31156]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 31156]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

RIN 1018-AT94

Protection of Eagles; Definition of ``Disturb''

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Final environmental assessment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the 
availability of a Final Environmental Assessment (FEA) evaluating the 
possible effects of defining ``disturb'' under the Bald and Golden 
Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act), and a Finding of No Significant 
Impact for the preferred alternative. We prepared the environmental 
assessment as part of the National Environmental Policy Act process. 
Based on public comments received on the draft environmental assessment 
(DEA) and proposed rule defining disturb, we modified the preferred 
alternative in the FEA, and have adopted the modified version of the 
preferred alternative as the final definition of ``disturb'' under the 
Eagle Act. The final rule codifying the definition of ``disturb'' is 
published elsewhere in today's Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of this FEA by visiting our Web site 
at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ or by contacting the person 


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eliza Savage, Division of Migratory 
Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at 703-358-2329, or 
via e-mail at Eliza_Savage@fws.gov.



    On February 16, 2006, we published in the Federal Register a 
proposed rule (71 FR 8265) to define ``disturb'' under the Eagle Act 
(16 U.S.C. 668-668d). The proposed rule would add a definition for 
``disturb'' to regulations at 50 CFR 22.3 in anticipation of possible 
removal (delisting) of the bald eagle in the 48 contiguous States from 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered 
Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). If the bald eagle is delisted, 
the Eagle Act will become the primary law protecting bald eagles. The 
rule sought to define the term ``disturb'' in a manner consistent with 
the language and intent of the Eagle Act and thereby provide a 
predictable standard to guide bald eagle management following 
delisting. We opened a public comment period on the proposed rule until 
May 17, 2006. On May 16, 2006, we published a notice extending the 
comment period until June 19, 2006 (71 FR 28294).
    On December 12, 2006, we announced the availability of a DEA of our 
proposed definition of ``disturb'' through a notice in the Federal 
Register (71 FR 74483). In the DEA, we considered a definition slightly 
modified from the definition proposed in February 2006 as our preferred 
alternative. The definition was reworded for purposes of clarity, and 
included a definition of ``injury,'' a term used in the definition of 
``disturb.'' During this round of public comment, we received 1,977 
comments, approximately 1,875 of which were very similar. We considered 
all comments, and the definition of ``disturb'' we are codifying in our 
rulemaking (the preferred alternative of the FEA) is a modification of 
the definition we identified as our preferred alternative in the DEA. 
The final rule codifying the definition of ``disturb'' is published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register.
    In the FEA, under Alternative 1, we would not define ``disturb.'' 
Disturbance would remain a prohibited act under the Bald and Golden 
Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668d), without further regulatory 
interpretation. Under Alternative 2, the definition of ``disturb'' 
would be based on immediate effects to individual birds. We would 
define ``disturb'' as having a direct effect, as evinced by immediate 
behavioral response on the part of a bald eagle or a golden eagle, 
without consideration for secondary, biologically significant events. 
Alternative 4 would define ``disturb'' such that the disturbing action 
must be intentionally directed at eagles and cause injury or death. The 
preferred alternative (Alternative 3) defines ``disturb'' to encompass 
effects to individual birds that are likely to result in an adverse 
biological impact:

    ``Disturb means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a 
degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best 
scientific information available, (1) injury to an eagle, (2) a 
decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with 
normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) nest 
abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, 
feeding, or sheltering behavior.''

    Dated: May 16, 2007.
Todd Willens,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 07-2696 Filed 6-4-07; 8:45 am]