[Federal Register: July 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 129)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 36939-36942]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AU53

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designating the 
Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf as a Distinct 
Population Segment and Removing This Distinct Population Segment From 
the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; reopening of comment period; notice of public 


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service, we or us) 
announces the reopening of the comment period for the proposed rule to 
establish a distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis 
lupis) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States and 
to remove the gray wolf in the NRM DPS from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act). The State of Wyoming has a new statute and has advised 
the Service that it is appropriate to analyze a new draft wolf 
management plan that the Service believes could allow the wolves in 
northwestern Wyoming outside the National Parks to be removed from the 
protections of the Act. We are reopening the proposal's comment period 
to ensure that the public has full access to, and an opportunity to 
comment on, the proposed rule in light of this new information. We also 
announce the location and time of an additional public hearing to 
receive public comments on the proposal in light of the new 
information. If you have previously submitted comments, please do not 
resubmit them because we have already incorporated them in the public 
record and will fully consider them in our final decision.

DATES: The public comment period is reopened until August 6, 2007. We 
may not consider any comments we receive after the closing date. We 
will hold a public hearing on this proposed rule on July 17, 2007. For 
more information, see ``Public Hearing and Comments'' below.

Public Hearing

    An open house (a brief presentation about the proposed rule and 
revised plan with a question and answer period) will be held from 4:30 
p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and will be followed by a public hearing from 5:30 
p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on July 17, 2007, at the Cody Auditorium Facility, 
1240 Beck Avenue, Cody, WY 82414.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit comments and 
materials concerning this proposal, identified by ``RIN number 1018-
AU53,'' by any of the following methods:
    1. You may submit comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal 
at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting 

    2. You may send comments by electronic mail (email) directly to the 
Service at WesternGrayWolf@fws.gov. Include ``RIN number 1018-AU53'' in 
the subject line of the message.
    3. You may mail or hand-deliver comments to the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 Shepard 
Way, Helena, MT 59601.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of this proposed action, will be 
available for inspection following the close of the comment period, by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at our Helena office at the 
address above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward E. Bangs, Western Gray Wolf 
Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at our Helena 
office (see ADDRESSES) or telephone (406) 449-5225, extension 204. 
Persons who use a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf may call the 
Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week.



    On February 8, 2007, we published a proposal to establish a DPS of 
the gray wolf in the NRM of the United States and to remove the NRM DPS 
from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife (72 FR 6106) if 
Wyoming adopted a state law and management plan that adequately 
conserved wolves. The initial comment period on this proposal was open 
from February 8, 2007 to April 9, 2007. Due to the complexity of this 
proposed action, we extended the comment period to May 9, 2007 to allow 
the public ample opportunity to comment (72 FR 14760; March 29, 2007).
    At the time of this proposal, Wyoming had not provided an adequate 
regulatory framework to ensure conservation of a recovered wolf 
population into the foreseeable future (for more information, see our 
12-month finding on Wyoming's petition to establish and delist the NRM 
gray wolf population (71 FR 43410; August 1, 2006) at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/FR08012006.pdf

Therefore, in the preamble we indicated we would consider excluding the 
significant portion of the range of the NRM DPS occurring in Wyoming, 
outside Yellowstone National Park, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial 
Parkway, and Grand Teton National Park (hereafter collectively referred 
to as National Parks) from the delisting. This alternative in the 
preamble also considered delisting the wolf on National Park Service 
lands and in those portions of Wyoming not determined to be a 
significant portion of the range. The exact boundaries are described in 
the proposed rule (72 FR 6119; February 8, 2007). A map can be found at 
 However, the rule proposed to delist all of the 

NRM DPS if Wyoming adopted a State law and wolf management plan that 
the Service determined to be in compliance with the Act (72 FR 6138; 
February 8, 2007).

[[Page 36940]]

New Information

    In February 2007, the Wyoming governor signed legislation (Wyoming 
House Bill 213) that proposes to revise Wyoming State statutes 
pertaining to wolf management. If this were to become effective, it 
would appear to allow for adequate wolf management by the Wyoming Game 
and Fish Department (WGFD). Furthermore, in May 2007, the Governor of 
Wyoming stated it was appropriate to analyze a revised wolf management 
plan that would maintain a recovered wolf population for the 
foreseeable future (Freudenthal 2007). This draft wolf management plan 
requires final State approval from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission 
(Commission) and may require further legislative action so that certain 
recent changes in State law could become effective.
    The legislation contains a list of actions that are to occur for 
the law to become effective. These actions are summarized below and may 
be viewed in the House bill at http://gf.state.wy.us/downloads/pdf/HB0213%202007%20Wolf%20Engrossed.pdf

    (1) On or before February 29, 2008, the Service shall have 
published the final rule to delist the gray wolf in the entire State of 
Wyoming; and
    (2) The Service has either published a final rule modifying the 
existing 2005 special regulation under section 10(j) of the Act or has 
executed an agreement with the State of Wyoming that provides adequate 
protection for Wyoming's wild ungulates; and
    (3) All claims in the lawsuit brought by the State of Wyoming 
contesting the Service's actions finding Wyoming's statute and plan 
inadequate have been resolved or settled; and
    (4) The governor of Wyoming shall certify to the Secretary of State 
of Wyoming that the actions described in the statute have occurred.
    The revised wolf management plan provides that the designation of 
wolves as a trophy game animal shall include any gray wolf within the 
boundaries that are now consistent with those the Service has deemed 
necessary for maintaining a recovered wolf population. For specific 
boundaries, see the House bill at the above website and the revised 
management plan.
    When effective, this law and wolf management plan would commit the 
State to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs in the northwestern 
portion of the State including the National Parks, with 7 of these 
breeding pairs occupying areas outside the National Parks. The State of 
Wyoming would ensure that Wyoming's wolf population, including wolves 
in National Parks, never drops below 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves 
(WGFD 2007, p. 1). Furthermore, the plan now incorporates the Service's 
definition of a breeding pair as an adult male and female raising two 
or more pups-of-the-year until December 31 (WGFD 2007, pp. 1-3; 72 FR 
6129, February 8, 2007).
    Under this law and plan, if the NRM DPS is delisted, Wyoming would 
designate the gray wolf as a trophy game animal in the area that 
conforms to our determination of the significant portion of the range 
in Wyoming (72 FR 6119; February 8, 2007). Outside this area in 
Wyoming, wolves would be classified as predatory animals (WGFD 2007, 
pp. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10). These designations would remain constant 
regardless of changes in the number of breeding pairs in the State.
    Since the State does not have the legal authority to manage wolves 
within the National Parks, its management emphasis would be applied to 
maintaining seven breeding pairs that primarily inhabit areas outside 
the National Parks (WGFD 2007, p. 10). Because the State also does not 
have any authority to manage wildlife occurring on the Wind River 
Reservation, the Tribes are not obligated under the State's wolf 
management plan to manage for a specific number of wolves. Any breeding 
pairs that might become established on the reservation would not reduce 
Wyoming's commitment to maintain at least seven breeding pairs outside 
the National Parks in northwestern Wyoming. WGFD will continue to 
coordinate with appropriate authorities on the Reservation for the 
purpose of developing mutually agreeable wolf management objectives 
(WGFD 2007, p. 10).
    The wolf trophy game area would be designated as the Northwest 
Wyoming Wolf Data Analysis Unit (DAU) and would consist of three wolf 
management units (WMU). WGFD uses such an approach to manage all other 
species of big game and trophy game animals. The DAU is used to manage 
a population of animals, while WMUs are used to manage specific harvest 
objectives within the DAU. Wolves that occupy the DAU would be actively 
managed, and public take would be regulated under appropriate State 
statutes and Commission regulations at the WMU level to ensure that at 
least seven breeding pairs occupy this DAU (WGFD 2007, p. 10). The size 
of the DAU would allow for some flexibility where the minimum of seven 
breeding pairs would be maintained. In the event pack densities need to 
be reduced in one area to minimize wildlife or livestock conflicts, 
WGFD would manage for replacement breeding pairs in an area within the 
DAU that is more suitable for wolves (WGFD 2007, p. 11).
    Hunting and trapping regulations would be implemented through the 
same rulemaking processes used for other trophy game animals in Wyoming 
and would include public input. WGFD may use a variety of harvest 
regimes, including harvest quotas, to maintain at least seven breeding 
pairs of wolves outside the National Parks. Seasons would be closed 
when the mortality quota is reached, or if the Commission deems it 
necessary to limit take in additional areas that are designated for 
trophy game animal protection. The wolf management plan states that, as 
with mountain lions (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus), 
license sales would not be restricted unless limited quota harvest 
regimes are necessary. We anticipate that a limited harvest quota would 
likely be necessary for WGFD to maintain at least seven breeding pairs 
outside the National Parks in northwestern Wyoming. Wolf mortality 
quotas would be based on desired pack densities for each WMU and total 
numbers of packs at the DAU level (WGFD 2007, p. 15).
    It is currently unlawful in Wyoming to take trophy game animals by 
trapping. However, if delisted, gray wolves classified as trophy game 
animals could be legally trapped as set forth by Wyoming Statute 23-2-
303(d). In the event of delisting, WGFD would first need to adopt 
regulations setting forth the specifications for traps and snares used 
for the taking of gray wolves (WGFD 2007, p. 16).
    In recognition of the importance of sufficient dispersal and 
exchange of wolves in maintaining genetic variability, WGFD would not 
remove lone wolves dispersing through areas outside of the trophy game 
area unless conflicts with human activities arise. However, wolves in 
these areas may be subject to liberal public take regulations. Public 
education efforts would emphasize that lone wolf sightings do not 
necessarily mean a pack is forming in the area (WGFD 2007, p. 17).
    The wolf management plan emphasizes that interagency efforts to 
maintain linkage zones and movement corridors in the northern Rockies 
for grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis), forest carnivores, and big 
game will also benefit wolves. WGFD commits, to the extent practicable, 
to ensure that genetic and connectivity issues do not threaten 
Wyoming's wolf population. Conservation measures could include, but 
would not be limited to, working with other States to promote natural

[[Page 36941]]

dispersal into and within various portions of the Greater Yellowstone 
Area, and, if necessary, by relocation or translocation (WGFD 2007, p. 
    Under the new wolf management plan, WGFD would monitor the number 
of breeding pairs residing in Wyoming, regardless of legal 
classification, and document their distribution, reproduction, and 
mortality. WGFD would be responsible for monitoring these parameters in 
all occupied habitat outside of National Parks, the National Elk 
Refuge, and the Wind River Reservation. The National Park Service 
intends to continue to monitor wolves inside the National Parks, and 
the Service intends to monitor wolves on the National Elk Refuge. WGFD 
would coordinate and share monitoring data with these agencies, 
Montana, Idaho, and Tribes. WGFD would monitor wolves outside the DAU 
less intensively (WGFD 2007, p. 12).
    In conclusion, it appears the regulatory framework provided by the 
State statute and proposed revised wolf management plan, would if 
adopted, provide assurance that Wyoming's share of the tri-State NRM 
wolf population would be maintained above recovery levels into the 
foreseeable future and that a significant portion of the range in 
Wyoming would continue to be occupied by wolf packs. This type of 
management framework is consistent in its general principles with those 
already adopted and accepted as being adequate regulatory frameworks 
for delisting wolves in the States of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, 
Montana, and Idaho. The plan would provide adequate assurances that a 
viable wolf population would be maintained in the NRM DPS. However, if 
the statute does not go into effect or if the plan is not adopted by 
the Commission, our final rulemaking could employ the alternative 
described in the preamble to the February 18, 2007, proposed rule to 
keep wolves in the significant portion of their range (outside the 
National Parks) in Wyoming as a nonessential experimental population 
with continued protections under the Act.
    The February 8, 2007, proposed rule may be viewed at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/NRM_wolf_DPS_%2002082007.pdf.
 The revised draft Wyoming wolf management plan may be 

viewed at http://gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/wildlife_management/wolf/index.asp

    In addition to having new information regarding State management of 
wolves in Wyoming, the Wind River Reservation recently submitted a wolf 
management plan to us for approval. Wolf management on Tribal lands 
within the NRM DPS will be beneficial, but is not necessary to either 
achieving or maintaining a recovered wolf population in the NRM (72 FR 
6135; February 8, 2007).
    The Wind River Reservation occurs just outside the significant 
portion of the range in northwestern Wyoming and currently does not 
solely support any breeding pairs, although two adjacent packs range 
inside the reservation boundary (Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish and 
Game Department 2007, pp. 4-5). As such, the Shoshone and Arapahoe 
Tribal Fish and Game Department has prepared a wolf management plan for 
the reservation for our review.
    We have approved the Tribal plan because it is consistent with 
maintaining a recovered population of wolves in Wyoming after delisting 
and the guidelines of the 2005 10(j) rule (King 2007). Our approval of 
the plan provides the Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish and Game 
Department with the ability to manage listed wolves according to 
provisions for controlling problem wolves in our 2005 special 
regulation under section 10(j) of the Act (70 FR 1286, January 6, 
2005). If the wolf is delisted, the Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish 
and Game Department would designate it as a game animal and would 
establish hunting and trapping seasons (Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal 
Fish and Game Department 2007, p. 9). The Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal 
Fish and Game Department would not manage for a specific number of 
breeding pairs (Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribal Fish and Game Department 
2007, p. 9), because the Wind River Reservation is not considered 
essential to maintaining a recovered wolf population in Wyoming. Any 
wolves that establish themselves on the reservation would be in 
addition to those managed by the State of Wyoming for maintaining a 
recovered population.
    The Wind River Reservation plan may be viewed at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/Wind_River_Res_Wolf_Plan_20070413.pdf

Public Hearing and Comments

    We intend that any final action resulting from the proposal will be 
as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit 
comments or suggestions from the public, concerned governmental 
agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning the proposed rule. Specifically, we seek information, 
data, and comments concerning the proposed delisting of all of the NRM 
DPS throughout Wyoming considering the adequacy of Wyoming's regulatory 
framework as represented by its revised State law, if adopted, and 
State and Tribal wolf management plans.
    If you previously submitted comments on the delisting proposal, 
please do not resubmit them, as we have already incorporated them into 
the public record and will fully consider them in our final decision. 
However, we welcome any new comments pertaining to the proposed 
delisting throughout Wyoming in light of the new regulatory framework.
    You may submit comments as indicated under ADDRESSES. If you wish 
to submit comments by e-mail, please submit them in ASCII file format 
and avoid the use of special characters and any form of encryption.
    Due to the high level of interest in this rulemaking process, we 
may post comments on our Web site. Before including your address, phone 
number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in 
your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment--including 
your personal identifying information--may be made publicly available 
at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.
    Comments and other information received, as well as supporting 
information used to write the proposed rule, will be available for 
public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the 
Helena, Montana Field Office (see ADDRESSES). In making a final 
decision on the proposal, we will take into consideration the comments 
and any additional information we receive. Such communications may lead 
to a final regulation that differs from the proposal.
    Anyone wishing to make an oral statement at the public hearing for 
the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their statement 
to us at the hearing. In the event there is a large attendance, the 
time allotted for oral statements may be limited. Speakers can sign up 
only at the open houses and hearings. Oral and written statements 
receive equal consideration. There are no limits on the length of 
written comments submitted to us. If you have any questions concerning 
the public hearing or need reasonable accommodations to attend and 
participate in the public hearing, please contact Sharon Rose at (303) 
236-4580 as soon as possible, but no later than 1

[[Page 36942]]

week to before the hearing date, to allow sufficient time to process 
requests. Information regarding the proposal is available in 
alternative formats upon request.


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 28, 2007.
Kevin Adams,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 07-3273 Filed 7-2-07; 8:45 am]