3.2 Constraints. Annual assessments of habitat conditions, based on analysis and interpretation of annual survey information, must be completed according to established schedules in order to allow sufficient time for Flyway Councils, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Regulations Committee members, and other interested agencies and organizations to consider pertinent information in the development of early-season and late-season hunting regulations.
3.3 Duck Breeding Habitat. Assessments of the status of breeding habitat conditions for ducks in North America include the following considerations:
A. Coordination. Knowledge of habitat conditions is an important component in any attempt to predict changes in the size of duck populations. Breeding habitat conditions for ducks are assessed annually in conjunction with the May Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey and July Production Survey. Participation and program coordination are the same as described in 722 FW 2.4A.
B. Data Collection. In southern Canada and the north-central States, during both May and July waterfowl surveys, ponds are counted from the air along each transect at the same time observers are recording waterfowl and brood information. These surveys provide estimates of the number of wetlands that are available for breeding and brood-rearing each year. In May, air counts of ponds are corrected for visibility bias by ground counts, but not in July due to the absence of any ground crews during the production survey. In northern areas, water levels show less annual variation and habitats are less subject to serious impact by human activities. Consequently, efforts to monitor the abundance and distribution of habitat in these areas have received little emphasis, relative to southern breeding areas. A detailed description of methods for counting ponds during the May and July surveys is contained in "Standard Operating Procedures for Aerial Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat Surveys in North America," U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, 1987, (722 FW).
C. Data Entry, Storage, and Analyses. Survey crews gather pond data and enter this information into computer files and field forms, conduct initial edits, and provide preliminary interpretation of results. Information is forwarded from crew areas in southern Canada and the north-central States to the Office of Migratory Bird Management (MBMO) staff in Laurel, Maryland, where biologists, program analysts, and statisticians compile the data, prepare a series of final edits, and analyze the entire pond data set for annual changes or long-term trends.
D. Results of Survey. Results of May pond counts are summarized for the entire survey area (generally, in early July) in an administrative report, "Trends in Duck Breeding Populations." Results are also available later in a Service publication, "Waterfowl Population Status 199_" (published on July 25 of each year). These reports are distributed widely to interested agencies, organizations, and the public. Results are also presented at a series of meetings and public hearings, July - August, in association with the early and late-season regulations development process.
3.4 Goose, Brant, and Swan Breeding Habitat. Assessments of the availability and condition of breeding habitats for geese, brant, and swan populations in North America include the following considerations:
A. Coordination. Breeding habitat information for goose, brant, and swan populations is obtained during cooperative survey efforts on nesting areas, involving various Federal, State, Provincial, and private agencies and organizations. In the case of satellite imagery data, the responsibility is with one agency, the Service.
B. Data Collection. The extent of snow and ice cover across North America is determined annually using aerial reconnaissance methods and satellite imagery. These activities, conducted during mid-June, provide an index to the nesting chronology and success of geese, brant, and swans nesting in the arctic and sub-arctic regions of the continent. Thus, the extent of snow and ice cover is a useful predictor of recruitment. Aerial reconnaissance along predetermined routes provides a subjective assessment of general nesting conditions each year. Aerial photos at permanent locations and videos of nesting areas record the amount of available nesting habitat for short-term and long-term comparisons. Satellite imagery is obtained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and made available to Service staff for review. Techniques for integrating snow cover and other data into a geographic information system (GIS) are under development by MBMO staff.
C. Data Entry, Storage, and Analysis. Habitat information obtained during the arctic cruise survey is forwarded to MBMO for summarization and interpretation. Imagery data from NOAA are also interpreted by MBMO staff. Information obtained during other surveys is available from respective survey coordinators and participants.
D. Results of Survey. Results are summarized and reported each year in the previously mentioned report, "Waterfowl Population Status, 199_." This report is distributed widely to interested agencies, organizations, and the public.