[Federal Register: September 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 175)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 51770-51771]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AV39

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Revision 
of Special Regulation for the Central Idaho and Yellowstone Area 
Nonessential Experimental Populations of Gray Wolves in the Northern 
Rocky Mountains

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft environmental assessment; 
reopening of comment period on proposed revision.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) have prepared 
a draft environmental assessment (EA) of our proposal to revise the 
2005 special rule for the central Idaho and Yellowstone area 
nonessential experimental populations of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in 
the northern Rocky Mountains.
    The Service is reopening the comment period for the proposed 
revisions to the 2005 special rule to allow all interested parties to 
comment simultaneously on the proposed revisions and the draft EA. If 
you have previously submitted comments on the proposed revisions, you 
do not need to resubmit them because those comments have been 
incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in our 
final decision.

DATES: We will accept public comments on the draft EA and the proposal 
to revise the special regulation through October 11, 2007. Comments 
received after the closing date will not be considered in our final 


Draft EA

    You may obtain a copy of the draft EA by writing us at: U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 
Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601 or by visiting our Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/.
 If you wish to 

comment on the draft EA, you may submit comments and materials, 
identified by ``RIN 1018-AV39,'' by any of the following methods:
    1. 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.
    2. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) directly to 
the Service at EA-WolfRuleChange@fws.gov. Include ``RIN 1018-AV39'' in 
the subject line of the message.

Proposal To Revise 10(j) Special Rule

    You may also obtain a copy of the proposal to revise the 2005 
special regulation by writing us at: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 
59601 or by visiting our Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/ or http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/


proposal to revise the special regulation, you may submit comments and 
materials, identified by ``RIN 1018-AV39,'' by any of the following 
    1. You may mail or hand deliver written comments to the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 585 
Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601.
    2. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) directly to 
the Service at WolfRuleChange@fws.gov. Include ``RIN 1018-AV39'' in the 
subject line of the message.
    3. You may submit your comments through the Federal e-Rulemaking 
Portal--http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for 

submitting comments.

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.


Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from the proposal to 
revise the 2005 special rule (see 72 FR 36942, July 6, 2007) for the 
central Idaho and Yellowstone area populations of gray wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains will be as accurate and as effective as 
possible. Therefore, we are requesting data, comments, new information, 
or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested 
party concerning the draft EA and proposed rule. We particularly seek 
comments concerning (1) our draft EA as it analyzes effects of the 
proposed rule; (2) our proposed modifications to the 2005 experimental 
population rule to allow private citizens in States with approved post-
delisting wolf management plans to take wolves in the act of attacking 
their stock animals or dogs; and (3) our proposal to establish a 
reasonable process for States and Tribes with approved post-delisting 
wolf management plans to allow removal of wolves that are 
scientifically demonstrated to be impacting ungulate populations to the 
degree that they are not meeting respective State and Tribal management 
    We specifically ask for comments regarding whether our draft EA 
accurately analyzes impacts and alternatives. We are also specifically 
requesting comments addressing whether the proposed rule modifications 
would: (1) Reasonably address conflicts between wolves and domestic 
animals or wild ungulate populations; (2) provide sufficient safeguards 
to prevent misuse of the modified rule; (3) provide an appropriate and 
transparent public process that ensures decisions are science-based; 
and (4) provide adequate guarantees that wolf recovery will not be 
    The draft EA has been prepared under the requirements of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA). The 
purpose of the EA is to analyze potential effects to physical and 
biological resources and social and economic conditions that may result 
from revisions to the special regulation for the management of gray 
wolves introduced as nonessential experimental populations in the 
northern Rocky Mountains. Furthermore, the EA serves to assist in 
deciding whether the proposed action has a significant impact on the 
human environment. If we determine that the proposed action results in 
a significant impact, we will prepare an

[[Page 51771]]

environmental impact statement (EIS). Additionally, the EA describes 
the alternatives to the proposed revisions, affected environment, and 
environmental consequences of each of the alternatives.


    On November 22, 1994, the Service designated unoccupied portions of 
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as two nonessential experimental population 
areas for the gray wolf (59 FR 60252) under section 10(j) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). These special rules also provided management flexibility to 
address potential negative impacts and concerns regarding wolf 
reintroduction. In 1995 and 1996, the Service reintroduced gray wolves 
into the two experimental population areas.
    This reintroduction and accompanying management programs greatly 
expanded the numbers and distribution of wolves in the northern Rocky 
Mountains. By the end of 2000, the northern Rocky Mountain population 
met its numerical and distributional recovery goals and continued to 
exceed it through 2006.
    On January 6, 2005, the Service published a revised nonessential 
experimental population special rule increasing management flexibility 
for these populations (70 FR 1286; 50 CFR 17.84(i) and (n)). The 2005 
special rule included a mechanism for States and Tribes to resolve 
conflicts when wolves were the primary cause of ``unacceptable 
impacts'' to wild ungulate populations. Our definition of 
``Unacceptable impact'' set a threshold that has not provided the 
intended flexibility to allow States and Tribes to resolve conflicts 
between wolves and ungulate populations.
    In order to set a more reasonable standard, the Service is 
proposing to redefine the term ``Unacceptable impact'' to achieve the 
intended management flexibility (72 FR 36942). Under the proposed 
definition, lethal control of wolves would be allowed if wolves are 
among the major causes of unacceptable impacts to ungulate populations, 
rather than wolf predation being the primary cause as in the 2005 
special rule.
    A State or Tribe must have a Service-approved post-delisting wolf 
management plan in place before proposing to lethally control wolves 
that are among the major causes of unacceptable impacts to ungulate 
populations. The State or Tribe then must prepare a science-based 
document that describes: (1) What data indicate that the ungulate herd 
is below management objectives, (2) what data indicate the impact of 
wolf predation on the ungulate population, (3) why wolf removal is a 
warranted solution to help restore the ungulate herd to State or Tribal 
management objectives, (4) the level and duration of wolf removal being 
proposed, and (5) how the State or Tribe will measure ungulate 
population response to wolf removal . The document also must identify 
possible remedies or conservation measures in addition to wolf removal. 
The State or Tribe must provide the opportunity for peer review and 
public comment on its proposal before submitting it to the Service. The 
Service then would determine whether such actions are scientifically 
based and would not reduce the wolf population below 20 breeding pair 
and 200 wolves in the state before authorizing lethal wolf removal.
    The Service also proposes to allow legally present private citizens 
to take wolves that are in the act of attacking their ``stock animals'' 
(including horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas used to carry people or 
possessions) or dogs on private and public land (72 FR 36942, July 6, 

National Environmental Policy Act

    The draft EA describes the purpose of, and need for, the proposed 
modifications to the 2005 10(j) special regulation, the Proposed Action 
and alternatives, and an evaluation of the direct, indirect, and 
cumulative effects of the alternatives under the requirements of NEPA. 
The scope of the draft EA includes issues and resources within areas of 
the two nonessential experimental populations of the gray wolf in the 
northern Rocky Mountains.
    The Service will use the EA to decide whether or not the 2005 10(j) 
special regulation will be modified as proposed, if the Proposed Action 
requires refinement, or if further analyses are needed through 
preparation of an EIS. If the Proposed Action as described, or with 
minimal changes, is selected and no further environmental analyses are 
needed, we will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact for the EA. 
The Service's analyses in the draft EA indicate that no significant 
impacts are likely to occur to wolf populations, ungulate populations, 
associated ecosystems, or socio-economic factors as a result of the 
proposed action.
    The alternatives that the Service has considered include the 
following: (1) Alternative A (No Action Alternative); (2) Alternative B 
(Proposed Action and Preferred Alternative), which modifies the 2005 
special regulation, establishing a more flexible definition of 
``Unacceptable impact'' on ungulate populations resulting from wolf 
activity. Further modification is proposed to allow private citizens to 
take wolves that are in the act of attacking their stock animals or 
dogs; and (3) Alternative C, which modifies the definition of 
``Unacceptable impact'' as in Alternative B, but not to include the 
modification regarding wolves in conflict with stock animals and dogs.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.; 83 Stat. 852; 42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.

    Dated: August 31, 2007.
Jim Mosher,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
 [FR Doc. E7-17823 Filed 9-10-07; 8:45 am]