[Federal Register: August 3, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 148)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 42058-42068]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF42

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposal To Remove 
the Aleutian Canada Goose From the List of Endangered and Threatened 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (we) proposes to remove the 
Aleutian Canada goose (Branta canadensis leucopareia), currently listed 
as threatened, from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. 
Current data indicate that the population of Aleutian Canada goose in 
North America has recovered. This recovery has primarily been the 
result of four activities: the removal of introduced Arctic foxes 
(Alopex lagopus) from some of its nesting islands; the release of 
captive-reared and wild, translocated family groups of geese to fox-
free islands to establish new breeding colonies; protection of the 
Aleutian Canada goose throughout its range from mortality due to 
hunting; and protection and management of migration and wintering 
habitat. Removal from the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
would result in elimination of regulatory protection offered by the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) but would not affect 
protection provided to the subspecies by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. 
Section 4(g) of the Act requires us to implement a system in 
cooperation with the States to monitor a recovered species for at least 
5 years following delisting. This proposal includes a draft monitoring 
plan that may be implemented if the Aleutian Canada goose is delisted 
as proposed.

DATES: Comments from all interested parties must be received by 
November 1, 1999. Requests for a public hearing must be received by 
September 17, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Comments and information concerning this proposal should be 
sent to Ann Rappoport, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 605 West 4th 
Avenue, Room G-62, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. Comments and information 
received will be available for inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann Rappoport, at the above address 
(907) 271-2787, or Greg Balogh, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 605 
West 4th Avenue, Room G-62, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, (907) 271-2778.



    The Aleutian Canada goose is a small, island-nesting subspecies of 
Canada goose. Morphologically (in form), it resembles other small 
Canada goose subspecies, but nearly all Aleutian Canada geese surviving 
past their first winter have a distinct white neck ring at the base of 
a black neck. Other distinguishing characteristics include an abrupt 
forehead, separation of the white cheek patches by black feathering 
along the throat, and a narrow border of dark feathering at the base of 
the white neck ring. The Aleutian Canada goose is the only subspecies 
of Canada goose whose range once included both North America and Asia 
(Amaral 1985). It formerly nested in the northern Kuril and Commander 
Islands, in the Aleutian Archipelago and on islands south of the Alaska 
Peninsula east to near Kodiak Island. The species formerly wintered in 
Japan, and in the coastal western United States south to Mexico. 
Delacour (1954) considered coastal British Columbia within the former 
wintering range of this subspecies; however, there are no bona fide 
records of Aleutian Canada geese from this area (P. Springer, pers. 
    The decline of the Aleutian Canada goose was primarily the result 
of the introduction of Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) and, to a lesser 
extent, red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) to its breeding islands for the 
purpose of developing a fur industry. Between 1750 and 1936, Arctic and 
red foxes were introduced to more than 190 islands within the breeding 
range of the Aleutian Canada goose in Alaska (Bailey 1993). Several 
life cycle stages of the goose, including eggs, goslings and 
flightless, molting geese are vulnerable to predation by foxes. The 
decrease of Aleutian Canada geese on Agattu Island between 1906, when 
they were termed the most abundant bird (Clark 1910), and 1937,

[[Page 42059]]

when only a few pairs were observed (Murie 1959), attests to the 
precipitous nature of their decline. At the time of its listing as 
endangered in 1967, its known breeding range was limited to Buldir 
Island, a small, isolated island in the western Aleutian Islands. There 
is a record that Arctic foxes were introduced to Buldir Island in 1924, 
but this is either incorrect or the introduction failed to establish a 
population (Bailey 1993).
    Hunting throughout its range in the Pacific Flyway, especially on 
the migration and wintering range in California, and loss and 
alteration of habitat on its migration and wintering range also 
contributed to the subspecies' decline. Hunting was likely a limiting 
factor when populations were low.
    In response to reduced population levels, we classified the 
Aleutian Canada goose as endangered on March 11, 1967 (32 FR 4001). 
Congress afforded additional protection with passage of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973. We approved a recovery plan for the Aleutian 
Canada goose in 1979 and revised it in 1982 and 1991 (Byrd et al. 
1991). We began recovery activities in 1974. Important features of the 
recovery program in Alaska and the western U.S. included: banding of 
birds on the breeding grounds to identify important wintering and 
migration areas; closure of principal wintering and migration areas to 
hunting of all Canada geese; acquisition, protection and management of 
important wintering and migration habitat; removal of foxes from 
potential nesting islands; propagation and release of captive Aleutian 
Canada geese on fox-free nesting islands in the Aleutians; and 
translocation of molting family groups of wild geese from Buldir Island 
to other fox-free islands in the Aleutians.
    At the time of its listing, we based population estimates of 
Aleutian Canada geese on limited data. Boecker (in Kenyon 1963) 
speculated during a 1963 expedition that only 200-300 birds were on 
Buldir Island. We believed breeding birds to be confined to that one 
island, and the migration routes and wintering range were unknown. A 
spring count at a principal migration stopover near Crescent City, 
California in 1975 revealed only 790 individuals (Springer et al. 
    We subsequently found small breeding groups of Aleutian Canada 
geese on Kiliktagik Island in the Semidi Islands south of the Alaska 
Peninsula in 1979 (Hatch and Hatch 1983), and on Chagulak Island in the 
central Aleutians in 1982 (Bailey and Trapp 1984). Geese from Chagulak 
Island are morphologically (in form) identical to those from the 
western Aleutians. Semidi Islands geese are morphologically similar to 
geese from the Aleutian Islands but tend to have darker breasts, more 
variable neck rings and a less distinct subtending line below the neck 
ring (D. Pitkin, Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.). Genetic 
studies indicate that geese from both Chagulak Island and the Semidi 
Islands are more closely related to Aleutian Canada geese than other 
Canada goose subspecies (Shields and Wilson 1987; Pierson et al. 1998). 
We consider the Chagulak Island and Semidi Islands geese remnant 
populations of the previously more continuously distributed Aleutian 
Canada goose.
    Marking of Aleutian Canada geese on Buldir Island beginning in 
1974, and later on Chagulak Island and Kiliktagik Island, helped reveal 
their wintering range and migration routes. These marking studies 
indicate that there are two, relatively discrete breeding segments of 
Aleutian Canada geese--the Aleutian Islands segment, including birds 
from Chagulak Island and the western Aleutian Islands, and the Semidi 
Islands segment. A recent genetic study found that geese from the 
Semidi Islands are genetically distinct from geese from the Aleutian 
Islands, indicating limited contemporary gene flow and/or major shifts 
in gene frequency through genetic drift (the random change in gene 
frequencies in small populations due to chance) (Pierson et al. 1998).
    Most Aleutian Canada geese that nest in the Aleutian Islands winter 
in California, primarily on agricultural lands where they feed on 
grass, waste beans, and grain, including corn and sprouting winter 
wheat (Woolington et al. 1979, Dahl 1995). They arrive on the wintering 
grounds in mid-October. Some geese stop in the Crescent City area in 
coastal northwest California, but most continue on to the vicinities of 
Colusa in the Sacramento Valley and Modesto in the northern San Joaquin 
Valley. The lands used by Aleutian Canada geese near Colusa, California 
are primarily privately owned farms and Reclamation District (local 
government) land. The 733-acre Butte Sink National Wildlife Refuge in 
the Colusa area is actively managed to attract geese and other 
    By mid-December nearly all Aleutian Canada geese are near Modesto 
where they winter primarily on two privately owned ranches and on the 
adjacent San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. In previous years, 
a large proportion of geese from the Modesto area would periodically 
shift southward to the nearby Grassland Ecological Area near Los Banos 
and Gustine. The lands in the Grassland Ecological Area are owned by 
the Fish and Wildlife Service, State of California and private duck 
hunting clubs. Recently, up to several thousand geese have been using 
night roosts on private duck hunting clubs in this area.
    Small numbers of Aleutian Canada geese from the Aleutian Islands 
stop near El Sobrante on lands owned by a public utility in north San 
Francisco Bay in late fall and early winter before continuing on to 
Modesto. The number of birds observed at El Sobrante has steadily 
declined in recent years from a high of 140 geese in 1985 to a low of 8 
birds in 1997. Twenty-one Aleutian Canada geese were observed there in 
early 1998 (Dunne 1998). Small numbers of wintering Aleutian Canada 
geese have been occasionally observed in northwestern California near 
Crescent City, on the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and on the 
Eel River bottoms (P. Springer, pers. comm.). Six hundred Aleutian 
Canada geese wintered in the Crescent City area in 1998 (Fisher 1998).
    Small numbers of Aleutian Canada geese also occasionally appear in 
other areas, especially during migration. The most frequent of these 
areas include Willapa Bay in south coastal Washington, the Willamette 
Valley in Oregon, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in San Francisco 
Bay, California. See Springer and Lowe (1998) for a more thorough 
discussion of the distribution of Aleutian Canada geese and factors 
affecting their distribution.
    On the northward migration in spring, most Aleutian Canada geese 
stage near Crescent City, where the birds roost nightly on Castle Rock, 
an offshore island protected as a national wildlife refuge. Some geese 
also roost on nearby Prince Island, which is owned by the Tolowa 
Indians, and on Goat Rock, a unit of the Oregon Islands National 
Wildlife Refuge, just north of the California/Oregon border. During the 
day birds graze on privately owned farms in the Smith River bottoms and 
on lands owned and managed by the State of California. In recent years, 
Aleutian Canada geese have been departing the Crescent City area 
increasingly early in spring and spending several weeks feeding in 
privately owned pastures and in pastures managed by the Bureau of Land 
Management in the New River area in south coastal Oregon near the town 
of Langlois. These birds roost at night on offshore islands that are 
part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. In the spring of 
1998, about 10,000 Aleutian Canada geese were

[[Page 42060]]

observed in the Langlois area (Fisher 1998).
    The small numbers of geese that breed in the Semidi Islands winter 
exclusively in coastal Oregon near Pacific City. These birds forage 
during the day on pastures at two privately owned dairies and roost at 
night on Haystack Rock in the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge 
or on the ocean. Since fall, 1996, small numbers of geese that nest in 
the Aleutian Islands have wintered with the Semidi Islands geese in 
Oregon. In winter 1997/1998, about 20 geese from the Aleutians wintered 
with the Semidi Islands geese (D. Pitkin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, pers. comm.).
    An important component of the Recovery Plan, establishment of 
closed areas for hunting Canada geese, has contributed to the recovery 
of the Aleutian Canada goose. Six closed areas for Aleutian Canada 
geese currently exist, including: islands in Alaska west of Unimak 
Island, beginning in 1973; northwestern California, the Modesto area 
and the Colusa area, beginning in 1975; and the Pacific City area and 
central and south coastal Oregon beginning in 1982. Occasionally, 
hunters kill a few Aleutian Canada geese using habitats outside of the 
closed hunting areas.
    Initial population increases of Aleutian Canada geese were likely 
in response to hunting closures in California and Oregon to protect the 
geese during migration and during winter. However, a substantial 
increase in numbers was dependent on re-establishing geese on former 
nesting islands. Release of captive-reared birds on fox-free islands in 
the Aleutians was largely unsuccessful due to low survival rates. Once 
the number of geese on Buldir Island was large enough, we initiated 
translocation of wild geese from Buldir Island to other fox-free 
islands. This approach was much more successful and the release of 
captive-reared birds was phased out.
    As new breeding colonies became established in the Aleutian 
Islands, the number of Aleutian Canada geese increased rapidly. Annual 
rates of increase between 1975 and 1989 ranged from 6 to 35 percent, 
and by winter 1989/1990, the peak winter count reached 6,300 geese. We 
reclassified the Aleutian Canada goose from endangered to threatened in 
1990 (55 FR 51106, December 12, 1990).

Summary of Previous Listing Actions

    We first designated the Aleutian Canada goose as an endangered 
species in the United States on March 11, 1967 (32 FR 4001) under the 
Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-669, 80 Stat. 
926). The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-135, 
83 Stat. 275), which replaced the 1967 law, authorized the listing of 
foreign species; the Aleutian Canada goose was included on the foreign 
species list (proposed April 14, 1979 (36 FR 6969); final June 2, 1970 
(35 FR 8495)). We proposed the reclassification of the species from 
endangered to threatened status on September 29, 1989 (54 FR 40142) and 
finalized the reclassification on December 12, 1990 (55 FR 51106). On 
April 9, 1998 (63 FR 17350), we published a Notice of Status Review on 
the Aleutian Canada goose and notified the public of our intent to 
propose the removal of the species from the threatened species list.

Summary of Current Status

    Since the subspecies was downlisted to threatened in 1990, the 
overall population of Aleutian Canada geese has sustained a strong 
increase in numbers. Table 1 summarizes peak counts and indirect 
population estimates of Aleutian Canada geese on the wintering grounds 
since the subspecies was downlisted in 1990. Peak counts are counts of 
the geese on the wintering grounds near Modesto, California, during 
early spring as they arrive at and leave their primary roosts at Castle 
Rock and Prince Island in northwestern California. Indirect counts are 
based on a ratio of marked to unmarked birds. (See Other Factors in 
Support of Delisting for a more detailed discussion of survey 
techniques). The most recent and highest population estimate of 
Aleutian Canada geese from the Aleutian Islands is of birds from their 
staging area near Crescent City in spring 1999. This preliminary 
estimate suggests that the Aleutian Canada goose population is now 
about 32,000 individuals (Table 1). Since 1990, the annual rate of 
growth of the population, based on peak counts of birds in California, 
has averaged about 20 percent. The overall annual growth rate of the 
population since recovery activities began in the 1970s has been about 
14 percent (M. Fisher, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.).

   Table 1.--Peak Count and Indirect Estimates of Aleutian Canada Geese in California (Aleutian Island Nesting
                      Geese) and Near Pacific City, Oregon (Semidi Islands Nesting Geese).
                                                                 --------------------------------  Pacific City,
                              Year                                                   Indirect           OR
                                                                    Peak  count        count
1989/1990.......................................................           6,300  ..............             115
1990/1991.......................................................           7,000  ..............             128
1991/1992.......................................................           7,800  ..............             126
1992/1993.......................................................          11,680  ..............             132
1993/1994.......................................................          15,700  ..............             122
1994/1995.......................................................          19,150          21,769             111
1995/1996.......................................................          21,421          24,643             107
1996/1997.......................................................          22,815          23,977             114
1997/1998.......................................................          27,700          28,984             120
1998/1999.......................................................          32,281          28,628           * 120
* Preliminary estimate (D. Pitkin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.).

    The peak count of Semidi Island birds on their wintering grounds 
near Pacific City, Oregon, during both 1998 and 1999 was 115-120 (D. 
Pitkin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.). Despite 
protection on both the breeding and wintering grounds, the Semidi 
Islands geese have sustained no growth since 1993 (Table 1). The 
reasons for this are not clear although counts from the wintering range 
in Oregon indicate poor recruitment in recent years.
    Predictably, marked increases of geese on the wintering grounds are 
mirrored by similar increases on most breeding islands, although 
nesting geese are far more difficult to enumerate than those on 
wintering and migration habitat. At

[[Page 42061]]

the time of their listing, we believed Aleutian Canada geese to be 
nesting only on Buldir Island, but based on later discoveries, they 
also probably nested on Chagulak Island and in the Semidi Islands. Our 
earliest estimate of the number of geese on Buldir Island was 200-300 
birds in 1963 (see Kenyon 1963). By 1995, the last year we surveyed the 
breeding islands, we estimated the number of breeding geese on Buldir 
Island was 7,000. Assuming 40% of the population are breeders (Byrd 
1995), then by 1995 the number of birds on Buldir Island was about 
17,500. We released geese on Agattu Island periodically from 1974 to 
1984 (Byrd et al. 1991). By 1990, 100 birds were nesting there and in 
1995, we estimated 700 birds were nesting there (1,750 total geese; 
Byrd 1995). We found similar increases at Alaid-Nizki. We first 
released geese on Alaid-Nizki in 1981 and, by 1987, they were nesting 
there. We estimated the number of breeding geese on Alaid-Nizki in 1995 
at 248 (or 620 total geese). Byrd (1995) states that the number of 
geese breeding at Agattu could approach 2,000 in the future and double 
at Alaid-Nizki. It is unknown how numerous geese on Buldir Island will 
become. Elsewhere in the Aleutian Islands, we estimate that about 10 
birds nested in the Rat Islands in 1995 and about 40 birds nested at 
Chagulak Island in 1995 (Byrd 1995).
    We have also documented recent breeding of Aleutian Canada geese at 
Amchitka, Amukta, and Little Kiska islands. Although the current status 
of Aleutian Canada geese on these islands is unknown, we believe 
reestablishment of breeding populations via translocations to Amchitka 
and Little Kiska Islands and natural recolonization of Amukta Island to 
have a low probability of success. We believe the presence of bald 
eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a major predator of geese, on 
islands east of Buldir Island to be a factor that has limited the 
success of translocations to Amchitka, Little Kiska and Kiska Islands.
    We believe the small group of geese nesting on Chagulak Island to 
be stable in number, but the terrain is steep and nesting habitat is 
limited. We have removed foxes from most of the islands near Chagulak, 
and to bolster the population of geese in this portion of the 
Aleutians, translocated geese from Buldir Island to Yunaska Island in 
1994 and 1995. We also translocated geese from Buldir Island to Skagul 
Island in the Rat Island group in 1994 and 1995. We have not conducted 
subsequent surveys on these islands to determine if the translocations 
have resulted in establishment of breeding populations on these 
islands. However, in winter 1997/1998, we observed 15 marked, female 
geese translocated to Yunaska Island and 13 marked, female geese 
translocated to Skagul Island in California. These sightings indicate 
that there are translocated female geese now of reproductive age that 
still survive and that potentially may already be breeding on these 
    In the Semidi Islands, investigators studying Aleutian Canada geese 
found 14 nests on Kiliktagik Island and 3 nests on Anowik Island in 
1995, which is 11 nests (39 percent) fewer than were found on the same 
islands in 1992 (Beyersdorf and Pfaff 1995). Hatching success and 
overall nesting success of geese in the Semidi Islands in 1995 were 
lower than their counterparts in the western Aleutian Islands. In 
addition, recruitment rates for Semidi Islands geese were low compared 
with rates we observed among Aleutian Island birds based on censuses of 
hatching-year birds on the wintering grounds each fall in coastal 
Oregon (D. Pitkin and R. Lowe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. 
comm.). The reason for lower productivity of Aleutian Canada geese in 
the Semidi Islands is unknown.

Review of Aleutian Canada Goose Recovery Plan

    In accordance with the Act, we appointed a team of experts to write 
a plan for recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose. The original recovery 
plan was approved on August 7, 1979, and later revised on September 8, 
1982, and September 30, 1991 (Byrd et al. 1991). The most recent 
version of the recovery plan was written after the Aleutian Canada 
goose was downlisted to threatened in 1990, and established objectives 
for measuring recovery and indicating when delisting was appropriate. 
Recovery plans and objectives are intended to guide and measure 
recovery, but are supposed to be flexible enough to adjust to new 
    The Aleutian Canada Goose Recovery Plan (Byrd et al. 1991) 
identified the following recovery objectives: (1) The overall 
population of Aleutian Canada geese includes at least 7,500 geese, and 
the long-term trend appears upwards; (2) at least 50 pairs of geese are 
nesting in each of three geographic parts of the historic range--
western Aleutians (other than Buldir Island), central Aleutians, and 
Semidi Islands, for three or more consecutive years; and (3) a total of 
25,000-35,000 acres (ac) of specific land parcels identified by the 
recovery team as feeding and roosting habitat needed for migration and 
wintering are secured and are being managed for Aleutian Canada geese. 
The recovery plan states that failure to achieve a specific acreage 
target of migration and wintering habitat would not preclude delisting 
of the Aleutian Canada goose if otherwise warranted. A discussion of 
the status of the Aleutian Canada goose relative to the recovery 
objectives follows.
    (1) The most recent estimate of the overall population of Aleutian 
Canada geese is approximately 32,000 birds, which is over four-fold 
greater than the population objective for delisting. The population 
trend of Aleutian Canada geese continues upward, and has averaged about 
20 percent annual growth since the subspecies was downlisted in 1990. 
We believe that the subspecies is no longer threatened or endangered 
and its population may continue to grow in size in the future.
    (2) The objective of 50 or more pairs of Aleutian Canada geese 
nesting in each of 3 geographic parts of the historic range--western 
Aleutians (other than Buldir Island), central Aleutians, and Semidi 
Islands, has not been met. The population of Aleutian Canada geese 
nesting in the western Aleutians far exceeds the delisting objective, 
with self-sustaining breeding populations established on three 
islands--Buldir, Agattu, and Alaid/Nizki. Primarily on the strength of 
recovery in the western Aleutian Islands, the Recovery Team recommended 
delisting the subspecies (Byrd 1995).
    We have not surveyed geese nesting in the central Aleutians since 
1993, but existing data suggest the size of the breeding group at 
Chagulak Island has been stable at about 20-25 pairs since the time of 
their discovery in 1982. Chagulak Island is very steep and has limited 
nesting habitat. A substantial increase in the number of birds in the 
central Aleutian Islands likely will require colonization of new 
islands. Although we discovered nesting by Aleutian Canada geese on 
nearby Amukta Island, we do not know if they are currently nesting 
there or if breeding occurs on Yunaska Island as a result of the 
translocation of geese there in 1994 and 1995. We have also removed 
foxes from several other nearby islands, including Carlisle, Herbert, 
Kagamil, Uliaga and Seguam, and these islands could be colonized by 
Aleutian Canada geese in the future. We believe that increasing numbers 
of Aleutian Canada geese in the central Aleutians is desirable. 
However, we do not view the lack of evidence that there are at least 50 
pairs of geese breeding in the central Aleutians as a barrier to 
delisting because they appear to be from the same breeding segment as 
the western

[[Page 42062]]

Aleutian geese. We surmise this based on their similar physical 
characteristics, some preliminary data on mitochondrial DNA (Shields 
and Wilson 1987), and their use of the same wintering area.
    The Semidi Islands breeding segment more than doubled in size 
following closure of the wintering area to hunting in 1982. Since 1990, 
it has fluctuated moderately in size on its wintering area, averaging 
about 120 geese. However, the lack of an increase in these birds since 
1993, given protection of the birds on the breeding and wintering 
grounds, and the availability of unexploited breeding and wintering 
habitat, cannot be fully explained with existing information. Local 
farmers in Oregon maintain that these geese have used the same local 
farms for at least 65 years and have never been numerous (R. Lowe, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.). Despite lack of a persistent 
and positive population response of Semidi Islands geese, we believe 
this should not be a barrier to delisting the Aleutian Canada goose 
subspecies because of the health and vigor of the subspecies as a 
whole. Furthermore, we can continue to protect this breeding segment 
from various forms of take under provisions of the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (see Summary of Factors Affecting the Species below). We 
will continue to closely monitor the status of the Semidi Islands 
breeding segment of Aleutian Canada geese on its wintering grounds.
    Although the criteria of 50 or more pairs nesting in each of 3 
geographic parts of their historic range has not been fully met, the 
Recovery Team in 1995 considered the following factors overriding: the 
population is approximately three times higher (now almost four times 
higher) than the minimum suggested for delisting; the population is 
continuing to increase at a high rate; there are now self-sustaining 
breeding populations in the western Aleutians on Buldir, Agattu, and 
Alaid/Nizki islands; and we have removed foxes from islands in the 
central Aleutians and translocations of birds there has bolstered goose 
    (3) We have not fully met the recovery objective of conserving and 
managing 25,000-35,000 ac of migration and wintering habitat; however, 
the recovery team allowed that not attaining this acreage target would 
not preclude delisting if this action was otherwise warranted. The 
original target of greater than 25,000 ac was derived by summing the 
acreage of most parcels of land that have been used by Aleutian Canada 
geese on their wintering grounds and on principal migration stopovers 
outside of Alaska since their recovery began. The acreage target 
reflects inclusion of parcels that are no longer used by Aleutian 
Canada geese. We believe that sufficient progress is being made toward 
this objective to warrant delisting the Aleutian Canada goose. The 
population has responded very favorably to management actions taken on 
its behalf by the Service, States, and private landowners in migration 
and wintering areas. More than 8,000 ac of currently-used winter and 
migration habitat are secure (Table 2), and we have an active 
acquisition program for both fee title and perpetual conservation 
easements in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. This total secure 
acreage does not include 33,108 ac of national wildlife refuge land and 
67,000 ac of private land protected under perpetual conservation 
easements within the Grassland Ecological Area located approximately 40 
miles south of the main use area for Aleutian Canada geese. We have 
documented recent use by Aleutian Canada geese in this area. (D. 
Woolington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.).

 Table 2.--Secure Lands in Migration or Wintering Areas Under Federal, State or Private Ownership and Currently
                                     Being Managed for Aleutian Canada Geese
           Location                      Owner/Manager              Acreage                Goose use
       Northwestern CA

Castle Rock..................  FWS..............................           13  Roosting.
Prince Island................  Tribal...........................            6  Roosting.
Lake Earl Wildlife Area......  State of CA......................          470  Feeding.
Lake Earl Project............  State of CA......................          230  Feeding.

         Colusa Area

833 Reclamation District.....  Local Gov't......................        2,000  Feeding/roosting.
Butte Sink NWR...............  FWS..............................          733  Feeding/roosting.

       El Sobrante Area
East Bay Municipal Utility     Local Gov't......................  ...........  Feeding/roosting.

         Modesto Area

San Joaquin River NWR........  FWS..............................    \1\ 1,607  Feeding/roosting.
Faith Ranch..................  Gallo Family.....................        1,964  Feeding/roosting.
Oregon Islands NWR...........  FWS..............................           45  Roosting.
Nestucca Bay NWR.............  FWS..............................          120  Feeding.
BLM grazing land.............  BLM..............................          537  Feeding.
Floras Lake Park.............  Curry County.....................          300  Roosting.
    Total....................  .................................        8,025  .................................
\1\ 6,108 acres are currently in the refuge but only 1,607 acres are suitable for Aleutian Canada geese.

    As the population of Aleutian Canada geese continues to grow, we 
plan to secure additional parcels of migration and wintering habitat. 
Acquisition of additional goose habitat remains a top priority for the 
San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge for geese that nest in the 
Aleutian Islands, and for the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge

[[Page 42063]]

in coastal Oregon for geese that nest in the Semidi Islands.
    The concentration of relatively large numbers of Aleutian Canada 
geese on small areas of wintering and migration habitat, most of which 
is in private ownership, has created conflicts between landowners and 
geese. Typically the conflicts occur over sprouting grain or pasture 
grass that is used by both geese and livestock. Northwestern 
California, particularly in the Smith River bottoms, remains an 
increasingly controversial area for Aleutian Canada geese because only 
about 700 ac of State land are now actively managed as foraging habitat 
for geese in this area. Many geese forage on intensively managed, 
privately owned pastures in this area during their brief fall stopover 
and more extensive spring stopover.
    In response to the competition between geese and livestock on 
private lands, the Service in the Modesto area and the State of 
California in northwestern California are more actively managing their 
lands to attract geese away from private parcels. In addition, the 
Service and State provide technical assistance to willing landowners to 
help them manage their lands for geese.
    We acknowledge the important role that private landowners have 
played in the recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose. Aleutian Canada 
geese have used and continue to heavily use private lands for feeding, 
loafing and roosting. Some landowners actively manage their lands for 
geese with technical assistance from State and Service wildlife 
biologists. Other landowners have shown considerable patience as goose 
numbers have increased and geese have impacted their crops and competed 
with their livestock for grass. The depredation problem may intensify 
as Aleutian Canada goose numbers continue to increase.

Other Factors in Support of Delisting

    The Aleutian Canada Goose Recovery Team lists three additional 
factors in support of removing the Aleutian Canada goose from the list 
of threatened and endangered species (Byrd 1995). First, a program 
designed to reestablish Aleutian Canada geese in the Asian portion of 
their range is underway through the cooperation of Japanese and Russian 
wildlife agencies and the Service. Lee (1998) provides a chronological 
history of this effort, highlights of which are summarized below.
    In 1992, we transported 19 captive Aleutian Canada geese to 
Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, Russia to establish a captive population of 
geese as a nucleus for reintroduction of Aleutian Canada geese in 
Russia. In 1993, a Japanese/Russian team identified Ekarma Island in 
the northwest Kuril Islands as a suitable fox-free island for future 
releases of Aleutian Canada geese. A total of 86 captive-reared geese 
was released in 1995, 1996 and 1997. In winter 1997/1998, Japanese 
scientists observed at least 15 Aleutian Canada geese on the wintering 
grounds in Japan, including 4 marked birds from the 1997 release of 33 
geese. Seven of the birds appeared to be a family group, and Gerasimov 
(1998) speculated that the unmarked Aleutian Canada geese may have been 
progeny of birds from the earlier releases on Ekarma Island. We are 
very encouraged by the early successes of the goose restoration efforts 
in Russia and Japan, and will continue to support and participate in 
this international phase of the overall restoration program.
    Second, the State of California and some cooperating local 
landowners are implementing a plan to reduce depredations by geese on 
privately owned pastures in the Smith River bottoms in northwestern 
California. This plan focuses on providing high quality forage for 
geese on about 200 ac of managed pastures owned by the State of 
California and hazing birds off of private pastures. A multi-agency 
``Lake Earl Working Group'' was formed to address the depredation 
problem in northwestern California, and local farmers are working with 
the State of California to help manage State lands for geese through 
fertilization of pastures and grazing by livestock. Results are 
encouraging thus far. In 1995 almost no use by geese occurred on State 
lands. The amount of time geese spent on State land increased to 12 
percent in 1996, 20 percent in 1997 and 44 percent in 1998. Further 
increases in the amount of time geese spend on State land on the order 
of an additional 20 percent are expected (M. Fisher, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, pers. comm.).
    We do not wish to overstate the success of management of State 
lands in northwestern California as a mechanism to reduce conflicts 
between Aleutian Canada geese and private landowners. Intensive 
management of State lands in northwestern California has been a great 
success to date; however, there is a finite amount of forage available 
there and these lands must also be managed for other wildlife species 
and habitat values. Furthermore, most State lands consist of poor soils 
which are not as amenable to intensive management for geese as nearby 
privately owned parcels.
    Lastly, we have developed a new procedure to monitor the population 
of Aleutian Canada geese wintering in California, enabling us to detect 
and respond to reverses in the growth of the population. We currently 
use two procedures to measure population size. The first involves 
coordinated peak counts of Aleutian Canada geese on the wintering 
grounds near Modesto, and during early spring as they arrive at and 
leave their primary roosts at Castle Rock and Prince Island in 
northwestern California. This technique has proved extremely reliable 
in the past; however, because numbers of Aleutian Canada geese are now 
large, obtaining complete counts is difficult. In addition, Aleutian 
Canada geese now often winter in mixed flocks with the similar-looking 
Cackling Canada goose (Branta canadensis minima). As a result, we 
recently developed an indirect survey technique that is based on a 
ratio of marked to unmarked birds. Comparisons of surveys using the 
indirect method with ``complete'' counts of geese suggest a high degree 
of concordance between the methods. We anticipate that the indirect 
count method will become more reliable and widely used if the Aleutian 
Canada goose population continues to grow.
    In summary, the Recovery Plan for the Aleutian Canada goose 
identified three criteria to use for evaluating when recovery had 
occurred and when delisting was appropriate. To date, only one recovery 
objective, attainment of a total population of the subspecies of at 
least 7,500, has been completely achieved, but we believe that the 
population is of sufficient size that threats to maintaining recovery 
have been sufficiently reduced or eliminated to warrant delisting. 
Contrary to our expectations, the Aleutian Canada geese in the central 
Aleutians have not recovered despite protection of these birds both on 
the breeding and wintering grounds. Similarly, the segment of birds 
breeding in the Semidi Islands has not increased in number although it 
is not known how large this group of birds was historically. We have 
not conducted surveys recently in the central Aleutians to determine 
the current goose population on Chagulak Island and to evaluate the 
success of recent transplants and determine the number of pioneering 
birds to fox-free islands in the area. Nevertheless, the explosive 
growth of the western Aleutian breeding segment assures the future 
viability of the Aleutian Canada goose subspecies. We remain concerned 
about the lack of growth of the Semidi Islands breeding segment. 
However, in recent history this small group of birds has been 
relatively stable and obvious threats have been removed. We believe

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we can effectively protect this breeding segment from various forms of 
take under provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (see Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species below). In regard to conservation and 
management of migration and wintering habitat, we support additional 
acquisition and management of habitat, both to secure wintering and 
migration habitat and as a tool to reduce future competition between 
geese and farmers.

Summary of Comments and Recommendations

    On April 9, 1998, we published a Notice of Status Review of the 
Aleutian Canada goose requesting information and comments on the status 
of the Aleutian Canada goose and notifying the public of our intent to 
prepare a proposal to remove the subspecies from the list of threatened 
and endangered species if appropriate (63 FR 17350, April 9, 1998). We 
received five comments on the notice, including one from a branch of 
the U.S. Armed Services, one from a public utility, and three from 
individuals and organizations. Three of the responses supported 
delisting the Aleutian Canada goose; none opposed delisting. Only one 
issue of concern was raised in the comments. This issue and our 
response is presented below.
    Comment: Subpopulations like the Semidi Islands group may need 
continued protection under the Act.
    Our response: We remain concerned about the stable but small number 
of Semidi Islands geese despite protection of these birds on their 
winter and summer ranges, and will continue to monitor their status. We 
believe that protective measures available under the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act, i.e., continued hunting closures and regulation of various 
forms of take, would provide strong protection for Semidi Islands 
geese. The Service and the Pacific Flyway Council will ensure that 
Semidi Islands geese are considered during annual regulatory framework 
changes that govern the sport harvest of waterfowl, and that 
appropriate hunting closures to protect Semidi Islands geese on the 
wintering grounds are maintained. These regulatory changes have proven 
to be very effective in protecting other populations of geese in the 
Pacific Flyway. Additionally, the Pacific Flyway Technical Committee 
established an Aleutian Canada Goose subcommittee in 1997 that includes 
State and Federal agency representatives. This subcommittee has begun 
drafting a management plan for Aleutian Canada geese to ensure that 
appropriate management activities are continued following delisting.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    In accordance with the Act and implementing regulations at 50 CFR 
part 424, a species shall be listed if the Secretary of the Interior 
determines that one or more of five factors listed in section 4(a)(1) 
of the Act threatens the continued existence of the species. A species 
may be delisted according to Sec. 424.11(d) if the best available 
scientific and commercial data indicate that the species is neither 
endangered or threatened for one of the following reasons:
    1. Extinction;
    2. Recovery; or
    3. Original data for classification of the species were in error.
    After a thorough review of all available information, we have 
determined that Aleutian Canada geese are no longer endangered or 
threatened with extinction. A substantial recovery has taken place 
since the mid-1970s, and none of the five factors addressed in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act currently jeopardizes the continued existence of 
this subspecies of goose. These factors and their relevance to Aleutian 
Canada geese are discussed below.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of its Habitat or Range

    Threats to habitat of Aleutian Canada geese still exist, primarily 
in the form of development and modification of wintering and migration 
habitat, and the continued presence of foxes on former nesting islands 
in Alaska. However, both on the breeding and wintering/migration 
grounds, improvements to habitat have been and continue to be made 
through predator removal, fee title acquisition and establishment of 
conservation easements to protect migration and wintering habitat, and 
management of migration and wintering habitat.
    Restoration of habitat on the breeding grounds in the Aleutian 
Islands and islands south of the Alaska Peninsula continues as the fox 
removal program proceeds. Since 1949, we have restored 33 islands, 
totaling more than 596,000 ac, by removing Arctic and red foxes. In 
1998, 2 additional islands were cleared of foxes, and 11 islands are 
scheduled for restoration between 1999 and 2004. We plan to remove 
foxes from 223,000-ac Attu Island in 1999. Attu Island is close to 
Agattu Island and to the Alaid-Nizki Island group, all of which have 
rapidly growing reestablished populations of Aleutian Canada geese, and 
Attu would provide a substantial amount of nesting habitat if it was 
colonized. Once cleared of foxes, transplants of family groups of 
Aleutian Canada geese to Attu Island would be logistically feasible. 
All of the extant nesting islands of Aleutian Canada geese in Alaska, 
as well as most of the islands within its historic nesting range, are 
protected as part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
    Even if additional fox-free nesting islands are not colonized by 
Aleutian Canada geese in the foreseeable future, we believe that the 
availability of nesting habitat in the Aleutian Islands is not likely 
to limit future population growth or change in a manner that would lead 
to a decline in goose abundance. We believe there is considerable 
unoccupied nesting habitat available for geese on existing nesting 
islands. Despite the availability of nesting habitat, natural expansion 
to unoccupied islands east of Buldir is not expected to occur rapidly 
because of the presence of bald eagles, a predator of Aleutian Canada 
geese, and the strong tendency for Canada geese to return to natal 
areas to breed.
    On the wintering grounds, improvements to habitat are ongoing 
through fee title acquisition of land, establishment of conservation 
easements, and management of those lands for feeding, loafing and 
roosting by Aleutian Canada geese. The intent is to provide attractive, 
high quality habitat for geese on managed lands to reduce crop 
depredation on neighboring private farms and ranches. Over 8,000 ac of 
winter and migration habitat are secure (Table 2) and are being used by 
Aleutian Canada geese. In addition, 33,108 ac of national wildlife 
refuge land and 67,000 ac of private land protected under perpetual 
conservation easements within the Grassland Ecological Area are located 
approximately 40 miles south of the main use area for Aleutian Canada 
geese and have recently been used by Aleutian Canada geese.
    In addition to migration and wintering habitat already in 
conservation status, we are working to increase our land holdings of 
habitat currently used by Aleutian Canada geese in the Modesto, 
California area. Land acquisition or conservation activities within and 
near the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge that are underway 
    (1) Acquisition of 3,100 ac south of Highway 132 and along the San 
Joaquin River, part of which will be suitable winter range for Aleutian 
Canada geese;
    (2) Negotiation of a conservation easement with the owner of a 

[[Page 42065]]

ranch currently used by Aleutian Canada geese for feeding, loafing and 
roosting. The landowner is currently working with the Service to manage 
this land for geese. This ranch is currently included within the 
authorized boundary of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge; 
    (3) Negotiation for fee title acquisition of 378 acres and a long-
term conservation easement on 705 acres on another nearby ranch 
currently used by Aleutian Canada geese for feeding, loafing and 
roosting. Agricultural practices used on these parcels favor Aleutian 
Canada geese although conflicts between the geese and the landowner are 
intensifying as goose numbers increase. This ranch is also included 
within the authorized boundary of the San Joaquin River National 
Wildlife Refuge.
    Activities to acquire or conserve other lands within the wintering 
and migration range of the Aleutian Canada geese include:
    (1) Negotiation for purchase of the two dairies on which Aleutian 
Canada geese from the Semidi Islands winter. These dairies are within 
the authorized boundary of the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. 
The Service has made offers on both pieces of property, but thus far 
purchase agreements have not been reached; and
    (2) Evaluation by the State of California of acquisition proposals 
for additions to the Lake Earl Wildlife Area in northwestern California 
as suitable goose foraging habitat.
    We believe that sufficient breeding, migration, and wintering 
habitat will remain secure over the long-term to allow for the 
continued viability of this subspecies.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Historically, Aleuts residing in the Aleutian Islands harvested 
Aleutian Canada geese for food. In addition, market hunters on the 
wintering grounds, and more recently, sport hunters, harvested Aleutian 
Canada geese in the Pacific Flyway. After introduced foxes had reduced 
the breeding range of the Aleutian Canada goose and prior to the 
identification of the goose's wintering range, sport hunting likely 
limited population growth. Therefore, establishment of areas closed to 
hunting was an effective conservation measure and likely was 
responsible for early increases in goose numbers.
    Delisting of the Aleutian Canada goose will not result in 
overutilization of the subspecies because take will still be governed 
by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and corresponding regulations codified 
in 50 CFR Part 20. After the Aleutian Canada goose is delisted, we must 
decide if and when they can be taken for recreational hunting and for 
other purposes. A regulatory framework already exists for managing 
migratory waterfowl in the United States (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1988). (See discussion of existing regulatory mechanisms under 
factor D.)
    Other than sport hunting, no appreciable demand for Aleutian Canada 
geese for commercial or recreational purposes is anticipated. There may 
be a small demand for birds for scientific purposes. As with hunting, 
we will regulate take through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

C. Disease or Predation

    Because many waterfowl species in the Pacific Flyway are now highly 
concentrated on the greatly reduced wetland acres of their wintering 
grounds, they are vulnerable to disease. Disease and other health 
factors accounted for 28 percent of the mortality of Aleutian Canada 
geese on wintering and migration areas between 1975 and 1991 (n = 583 
birds; Springer and Lowe 1998). Avian cholera, a highly infectious 
disease caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida, has been 
identified as the cause of mortality of most of the Aleutian Canada 
geese found dead on the wintering grounds near Modesto. From 1983 to 
1998, the number of Aleutian Canada geese that are known to have died 
annually from avian cholera has ranged from none to 155. However, an 
exceptional cold period during December 1998 in California set the 
stage for an extensive and intense avian cholera outbreak during 
January 1999. Approximately 809 Aleutian Canada geese died of avian 
cholera during that month. Additional birds probably died that are not 
included in the mortality count, as coyotes (Canis latrans) may have 
removed some of the carcases. Although this outbreak was the worst 
known for Aleutian Canada geese, it claimed only about 2.5 percent of 
the total population. Rapid response to the outbreak and effective 
management of afflicted wetlands minimized the toll on the subspecies.
    Based on these data, we conclude that disease is a chronic, low-
level problem on the wintering grounds which may occasionally flare up 
into a severe outbreak. However, effective land management should 
prevent future outbreaks from having serious consequences at the 
population level. The Aleutian Canada Goose Recovery Team has prepared 
and revised a disease and contamination hazard contingency plan that 
provides information and direction to reduce the incidence and severity 
of both disease and contamination hazards (Byrd et al. 1996). We 
implement this plan through an active program of collecting and 
disposing of dead and diseased waterfowl to reduce exposure of healthy 
    Currently, we employ seasonal biologists to monitor Aleutian Canada 
geese in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and in the Crescent 
City area. Much of this effort is focused on the San Joaquin River 
National Wildlife Refuge and neighboring areas and includes monitoring 
for disease outbreaks. When a disease outbreak occurs, these employees 
and other refuge staff begin an intensive effort of carcass retrieval 
and disposal to break the cycle of cholera infection. Refuge staff also 
have the ability to manage disease by managing water levels at roost 
sites and wetland basins to avoid concentrating bacteria in those 
    Besides disease, other sources of mortality of Aleutian Canada 
geese include shooting (49 percent), drowning (see below), collisions 
and predation (12 percent) and trapping accidents (2 percent) (Springer 
and Lowe 1998). Collectively, they account for only a small amount of 
annual mortality. Shooting of Aleutian Canada geese occurred prior to 
establishment of hunting closures, but declined after closures were 
established. Occasionally, Aleutian Canada geese are shot outside the 
closed areas (Springer and Lowe 1998).
    On the breeding grounds, predators still prevent breeding on many 
islands. As mentioned above, we continue to implement an aggressive 
program to eradicate introduced foxes from islands within the Alaska 
Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. However, on islands east of Buldir, 
predation by bald eagles, in concert with the high degree of site 
fidelity exhibited by geese, may limit colonization of new nesting 
islands. Non-native rats, ground squirrels, and voles have also been 
introduced on a variety of islands within the nesting range of the 
Aleutian Canada goose and will be difficult, if not impossible, to 
eradicate. These species may prey on Aleutian Canada goose eggs, 
hatchlings or goslings if they have the opportunity, although a study 
completed in the Semidi Islands suggests that ground squirrels were not 
a predator of goose eggs (Beyersdorf and Pfaff 1995). Predation of 
goslings in the Semidi Islands by ground squirrels and

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Glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) may be a factor limiting 
production of this breeding segment although it has not been quantified 
(Beyersdorf and Pfaff 1995).

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    If delisted, Aleutian Canada geese will remain protected under the 
Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which regulates taking of all migratory 
birds. Once delisted, we will evaluate, with cooperation from the 
States through the Pacific Flyway Council, and with public comment, 
whether protections should be relaxed to allow some take through sport 
hunting and other means, and to manage current and future depredation 
problems on the wintering grounds and along migration routes. An 
effective regulatory framework is in place to manage waterfowl (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1988). This annual rulemaking process 
provides for participation by the States through the Flyway Councils 
and opportunity for public input. The Pacific Flyway Council, which is 
composed of wildlife agency directors from each of the western States 
and Canadian provinces in the Pacific Flyway, including Alaska, will 
participate in the formulation of any regulations regarding future 
hunting of Aleutian Canada geese. An Aleutian Canada goose subcommittee 
of the Pacific Flyway Study Committee (waterfowl experts from the 
Flyway States) has undertaken the drafting of a management plan for the 
Aleutian Canada Goose that will ensure that overutilization does not 
occur (T. Rothe, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, pers. comm.). 
Continued closure of Canada goose hunting in the wintering area of the 
Semidi Islands geese will be a part of any regulatory framework that 
emerges for Aleutian Canada geese.
    Two recent case histories provide good examples of the 
effectiveness of waterfowl management under the provisions of the 
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. By the mid-1980s, populations of the 
Cackling Canada goose and Pacific white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons 
frontalis) had plummeted to 24,000 birds and 97,000 birds, 
respectively. As a result of reductions in sport hunting bag limits, 
establishment of areas closed to hunting on the wintering grounds, and 
voluntary reductions in take by Alaska Natives on the breeding grounds, 
the population of Cackling Canada goose has increased to more than 
200,000 birds and the Pacific white-fronted geese to more than 300,000 
birds (R. Oates, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm.). We 
believe the provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will allow 
sufficient protection of the Aleutian Canada goose, including the small 
group of birds that breeds in the Semidi Islands and winters near 
Pacific City, Oregon.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence

    Three incidences of drowning of Aleutian Canada geese in ocean surf 
have occurred in recent years (Springer et al. 1989, Pitkin and Lowe 
1994): 43 geese near Crescent City, California in 1984; 23 geese near 
Pacific City, Oregon in 1987; and 10 geese near Pacific City, Oregon in 
1993. All drowning incidents were related to storms. Because the number 
of birds in the Semidi Islands breeding segment is small, we are 
concerned about these drowning incidents, but little can be done to 
prevent their reoccurrence.
    At their lowest population level, Aleutian Canada geese may have 
numbered in the low hundreds (see Kenyon 1963) and were distributed on 
three widely separated remnant nesting islands. Populations that go 
through small population bottlenecks may exhibit reduced genetic 
variability and suffer from inbreeding depression. Such populations may 
not be able to successfully adapt to changes in the environment or to 
stochastic (random) events. The lack of growth of the Semidi Islands 
breeding segment of Aleutian Canada geese despite protection on the 
breeding and wintering grounds led to speculation that this breeding 
segment was inbred and lacked genetic variability. A recent genetic 
study showed several potential indicators of a recent genetic 
bottleneck, including the fact that the Semidi Islands geese have fewer 
alleles per loci, as well as a lower haplotype and nucleotide diversity 
when compared to Buldir Island birds, indicating lower overall genetic 
diversity. However, statistical tests were inconclusive (Pierson et al. 
    In summary, we have carefully reviewed all available scientific and 
commercial data and conclude the threats that caused the population of 
Aleutian Canada geese to decline no longer pose a risk to the continued 
survival of the subspecies. A sustained recovery has occurred during 
the last three decades as a result of removal of foxes from nesting 
islands in Alaska, closure of wintering and migration areas to hunting, 
and conservation and management of wintering and migration areas. This 
recovery indicates that the subspecies as a whole is no longer 
endangered or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future 
throughout a significant portion of its range. Therefore, the species 
no longer meets the Act's definitions of endangered or threatened. 
Under these circumstances, removal from the list of threatened and 
endangered wildlife is appropriate.

Effects of This Rule

    Take, as defined in the Act, of the Aleutian Canada goose is 
currently prohibited. If this proposal is made final, direct protection 
by the Act will no longer be provided to the subspecies. In addition, 
Federal agencies will no longer be required to consult with us to 
insure that the actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species. However, 
the Aleutian Canada goose would still be afforded protection under the 
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act regulates the 
taking of migratory birds for educational, scientific, and recreational 
purposes. It also states that the Secretary of the Interior is 
authorized and directed to determine, if, and by what means, the take 
of migratory birds should be allowed, and to adopt suitable regulations 
permitting and governing the take. In adopting regulations, the 
Secretary is to consider such factors as distribution and abundance to 
ensure that take is compatible with the protection of the species.
    Delisting of the Aleutian Canada goose under the Endangered Species 
Act will not affect ongoing negotiations to secure habitat in the 
migration and wintering grounds (see discussion under factor A). We 
will continue to acquire or conserve additional lands for Aleutian 
Canada geese and other migratory waterfowl through fee title 
acquisition of land or establishment of conservation easements.

Future Conservation Measures

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires that we monitor species for at 
least 5 years after delisting. If evidence acquired during this 
monitoring period shows that endangered or threatened status should be 
reinstated to prevent a significant risk to the subspecies, we may use 
the emergency listing authority provided by the Act. At the end of the 
5-year monitoring period, we will decide if relisting, continued 
monitoring, or an end to monitoring activities is appropriate. We 
propose the following plan for monitoring Aleutian Canada geese in the 
event they are delisted.

Proposed Monitoring Plan

    This monitoring plan is designed to detect changes in the status of 
the Aleutian Canada goose primarily by: (1)

[[Page 42067]]

Monitoring population size on wintering and migration areas; (2) 
monitoring productivity of the Semidi Islands population segment on the 
wintering grounds; and (3) monitoring the status of breeding birds on 
nesting islands in Alaska.
    (1) Monitoring population size on wintering and migration areas: We 
propose to monitor the population of Aleutian Canada geese by using 
either or both the indirect population estimation procedure based on a 
marked to unmarked ratio of birds on their wintering grounds in the 
Modesto area, or direct counts of geese as they leave their roosts 
while staging in northwestern California in spring. Aleutian Canada 
geese nesting in the Semidi Islands will be most effectively monitored 
by conducting counts of foraging birds on their wintering grounds near 
Pacific City, Oregon.
    (2) Monitoring productivity of the Semidi Islands breeding segment 
on its wintering range: Lack of productivity on Kiliktagik and Anowik 
Islands appears to be the principal factor in the lack of growth in the 
Semidi Islands breeding segment. The reasons for this lack of 
productivity are not understood. Because it is possible to distinguish 
hatching year birds from older birds on their winter range, we propose 
to monitor production of the Semidi Islands geese by making direct 
counts of birds on their winter range in Oregon.
    (3) Monitoring the status of breeding birds on nesting islands in 
Alaska: The status of Aleutian Canada geese on their nesting islands 
was last summarized in 1995 (Beyersdorf and Pfaff 1995, Byrd 1995). We 
propose to determine the status of nesting Aleutian Canada geese on all 
the known nesting islands (Agattu, Alaid/Nizki, Buldir, Chagulak, 
Amukta, Kilikitagik, Anowik), and islands on which transplants of geese 
have occurred but for which the current breeding status is unknown 
(Little Kiska, Amchitka, Skagul, Yunaska), at least once during the 5-
year monitoring period.
    We will consider relisting if during, or after, the 5-year 
monitoring period, it appears that a reversal of the recent recovery 
has taken place. We have not established any firm thresholds that if 
reached will trigger relisting, but relisting will be considered if:
    (1) The overall population of Aleutian Canada geese declines by 25 
percent below the current level, and there is a negative population 
trend for 2 or more years based on either direct or indirect population 
estimates of birds in migration and wintering areas; and if
    (2) Through disease or other stochastic (random) events, Aleutian 
Canada geese decline appreciably and may be extirpated from one or more 
of their principal nesting islands (Agattu, Alaid/Nizki, or Buldir 
    We may determine that monitoring is no longer warranted if studies 
indicate that the overall population of Aleutian Canada geese is stable 
at current levels or increasing and that no known factors threaten the 
subspecies. If the Service has identified one or more factors that are 
believed to have the potential to cause a decline, monitoring will be 
continued beyond the 5-year period. Consistent with all other flyway 
management plans, a Pacific Flyway management plan for Aleutian Canada 
geese will include a population objective and monitoring activities to 
assess the effects of management activities.
    We remain committed to monitoring the status of the Semidi Islands 
geese as long as necessary to ensure the population's health. 
Consequently, we will continue to monitor this breeding segment beyond 
the 5-year period on an annual basis on the wintering grounds and 
occasionally on the breeding grounds.
    In addition to monitoring the status of the Aleutian goose in the 
United States, we also intend to actively support and participate in 
the ongoing efforts to restore Aleutian Canada geese in Russia and 

Public Comments Requested

    We request comments on three aspects of this proposed rulemaking: 
(1) the proposed removal of the Aleutian Canada goose from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; (2) the clarity of this proposal, 
pursuant to Executive Order 12866, which requires agencies to write 
clear regulations; and (3) the collection of information from the 
public during the 5-year monitoring period.

Proposed Delisting

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal be as 
accurate as possible. Therefore, we request information and comments 
concerning the status of the Aleutian Canada goose and this proposal. 
We request information and comments from all affected Federal, State 
and local government agencies, the scientific community, industry, 
private interests, and all other interested parties. In particular, 
comments are sought concerning:
    (1) Biological or other relevant data concerning the range, 
distribution, numbers and threats to Aleutian Canada geese; and
    (2) Suggestions on the 5-year monitoring plan outlined above.
    In developing the final rule for the Aleutian Canada goose, we will 
take into consideration any information and comments received. 
Therefore, the final rule may differ from this proposal.
    The Endangered Species Act allows for public hearings on this 
proposal, if requested. We must receive requests within 45 days of the 
date of publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. Such 
requests must be made in writing, and should be addressed to Ann 
Rappoport (see address above).

Executive Order 12866

    Executive Order 12866 requires agencies to write regulations that 
are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make this 
proposal easier to understand including answers to questions such as 
the following:
    (1) Is the discussion in the ``Supplementary Information'' section 
of the preamble helpful in understanding the proposal?
    (2) Does the proposal contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity?
    (3) Does the format of the proposal (grouping and order of 
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its 
clarity? What else could we do to make the proposal easier to 
    Send a copy of any comments that concern how we could make this 
rule easier to understand to the office identified in the ADDRESSES 
section at the beginning of this document.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, require that 
Federal agencies obtain approval from OMB before collecting information 
from the public. The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a 
collection of information as the obtaining of information by or for an 
agency by means of identical questions posed to, or identical 
reporting, record keeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on ten or 
more persons. Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or 
more persons'' refers to the persons to whom a collection of 
information is addressed by the agency within any 12-month period. For 
purposes of this definition, employees of the Federal government are 
not included.
    This rule does not include any collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The 
information needed to monitor the status of the Aleutian

[[Page 42068]]

Canada goose following delisting will be collected primarily by our 
personnel. We do not anticipate a need to request data or other 
information from ten or more persons during any 12-month period to 
satisfy monitoring information needs. If it becomes necessary to 
collect information from 10 or more non-Federal individuals, groups, or 
organizations per year, we will first obtain information collection 
approval from OMB.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that we do not need to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, in connection with regulations 
adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Listing Priority Guidance

    The processing of this proposed rule conforms with our Listing 
Priority Guidance for Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999, published on May 8, 
1998. This guidance clarifies the order in which we will process 
rulemakings, giving the highest priority (Tier 1) to processing 
emergency rules to add species to the Lists of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife and Plants; second priority (Tier 2) to processing 
final determinations on proposals to add species to the lists, 
processing new proposals to add species to the Lists, processing 
administrative findings on petitions (to add species to the lists, 
delist species, or reclassify listed species), and processing a limited 
number of proposed or final rules to delist or reclassify species; and 
third priority (Tier 3) to processing proposed or final rules 
designating critical habitat. Processing of this delisting proposal is 
a Tier 2 action.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from Ann Rappoport (see address above).
    Author. The primary author of this proposal is Anthony DeGange (see 
address above).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulations Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the 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.

Sec. 17.11  [AMENDED]

    2. Section 17.11(h) is amended by removing the entry for the 
``Goose, Aleutian Canada, Branta canadensis leucopareia'' under 

    Dated: July 8, 1999.
John G. Rogers, Jr.,
Acting Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-19900 Filed 7-30-99; 8:45 am]