[Federal Register: February 16, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 30)]

[Rules and Regulations]               

[Page 7507-7517]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]





Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

RIN 1018-AF25


Migratory Bird Hunting; Regulations To Increase Harvest of Mid-

Continent Light Geese.

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: Mid-continent light goose populations (lesser snow and Ross' 

goose combined) has nearly quadrupled within the last 30 years, and 

have become seriously injurious to their habitat and habitat important 

to other migratory birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service 

or ``we'') believes that these populations exceed the long-term 

carrying capacity of their breeding habitats and must be reduced. This 

rule authorizes the use of additional hunting methods (electronic 

callers and unplugged shotguns) during a normal open light-goose 

hunting season when all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, 

excluding falconry, are closed.

DATES: This rule takes effect immediately upon publication on February 

16, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the EA are available by writing to the Chief, 

Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 

Department of Interior, ms 634--ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, 

D.C. 20240. The public may inspect comments during normal business 

hours in room 634--Arlington Square Building, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, 

Arlington, Virginia.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert J. Blohm, Acting Chief, Office 

of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (703) 




    Lesser snow and Ross' geese that primarily migrate through North 

Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, and winter 

in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and eastern, central, and southern 

Texas and other Gulf Coast States are referred to as the Mid-continent 

population of light geese (MCP). Lesser snow and Ross' geese that 

primarily migrate through Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado and winter in 

New Mexico, northwestern Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico are referred to 

as the Western Central Flyway population of light geese (WCFP). Ross' 

geese are often mistaken for lesser snow geese due to their similar 

appearance. Ross' geese occur in both the MCP and the WCFP and mix 

extensively with lesser snow geese on both the breeding and wintering 

grounds. MCP and WCFP lesser snow and Ross' geese are collectively 

referred to as Mid-continent light geese (MCLG) because they breed, 

migrate, and winter in the ``Mid-continent'' or central portions of 

North America primarily in the Central and Mississippi Flyways. They 

are referred to as ``light'' geese due to the light coloration of the 

white-phase plumage morph, as opposed to true ``dark'' geese such as 

the white-fronted or Canada goose. We include both plumage morphs of 

lesser snow geese (white, or ``snow'' and dark ,or ``blue'') under the 

designation light geese.

    MCLG breed in the central and eastern arctic and subarctic regions 

of northern Canada. MCLG populations are experiencing high population 

growth rates and have substantially increased in numbers within the 

last 30 years. Operational surveys conducted annually on wintering 

grounds are used to derive a December index to light goose populations. 

December indices of light goose populations represent a certain 

proportion of the total wintering population, and thus are smaller than 

the true population size. By assuming that the same proportion of the 

population is counted each December, we can monitor trends in the true 

population size.

    The December index of MCP light geese has more than tripled within 

30 years from an estimated 800,000 birds in 1969 to approximately three 

million birds in 1998 and has increased an average of 5% per year for 

the last ten years (Abraham et al. 1996, USFWS 1998b). The December 

index of WCFP light geese has quadrupled in 23 years from 52,000 in 

1974 to 216,000 in 1997 (USFWS 1997b), and has increased an average of 

9% per year for the last ten years (USFWS 1998b). The lesser snow goose 

portion of the 1998 MCP December index mentioned above is estimated to 

be 2.8 million birds. In 1991, the Central and Mississippi Flyway 

Councils jointly agreed to set lower and upper management thresholds 

for the MCP of snow geese at 1.0 million and 1.5 million, respectively, 

based on the December index. Therefore, the current December index of 

MCP lesser snow geese far exceeds the upper management threshold 

established by the Flyway Councils.

    MCLG populations have also exceeded North American Waterfowl 

Management Plan (NAWMP) population objectives, which are also based on 

December indices. The MCP lesser snow goose December index of 2.8 

million birds far exceeds the NAWMP population objective of 1 million 

birds (USDOI et al. 1998d). The lesser snow goose portion of the WCFP 

light goose December index is estimated to be 200,000 birds, which 

exceeds the NAWMP population objective of 110,000 birds (USDOI et al. 

1998d). The estimate of the Ross' goose component of the MCLG 

population December index (WCFP and MCP combined) currently exceeds 

200,000 birds. This far exceeds the NAWMP Ross' goose population 

objective of 100,000 birds (USDOI et al. 1998d). We compare current 

population levels to NAWMP population objectives to demonstrate that 

MCLG populations have increased substantially over what is considered 

to be a healthy population level. We are not suggesting that MCLG be 

reduced for the sole purpose of meeting NAWMP population objective 


    By multiply the current MCLG December index of 3.2 million birds by 

an adjustment factor of 1.6 (Boyd et. al 1982), we derive an estimate 

of 5.12 million breeding birds in spring. This is

[[Page 7508]]

corroborated by population surveys conducted on light goose breeding 

colonies during spring and summer, which suggest that the breeding 

population size of MCLG is in excess of five million birds (D. Caswell 

pers. comm. 1998). Included in these population estimates are 1998 

estimates for breeding and non-breeding adult Ross' and lesser snow 

geese in the Queen Maud Gulf area northwest of Hudson Bay of 1.29 

million and 1.82 million birds, respectively (Alisauskas et al. 1998). 

These geese are in addition to the millions of geese estimated to be 

nesting along west Hudson and James Bays where the geese have 

precipitated severe habitat degradation and on Southampton and Baffin 

Islands where signs of habitat degradation are becoming evident. The 

estimate of 5.12 million birds does not include non-breeding geese or 

geese found in un-surveyed areas. Therefore, the total MCLG population 

currently far exceeds 5.12 million birds. Assuming a 10% growth rate in 

the breeding population over the next three years, the population will 

grow from 5.12 million to approximately 6.8 million in the absence of 

any new management actions. Again, this represents a minimum estimate 

because non-breeding geese and geese in un-surveyed areas are not 


    Although our intention is to significantly reduce MCLG populations 

in order to relieve pressures on the breeding habitats, we feel that 

these efforts will not threaten the long-term status of these 

populations. We are confident that reduction efforts will not result in 

populations falling below either the lower management thresholds 

established by Flyway Councils, or the NAWMP population objectives 

discussed previously. Monitoring and evaluation programs are in place 

to estimate population sizes and will be used to prevent over-harvest 

of these populations. An overview of these monitoring programs is 

presented in a subsequent section of this document.

    The rapid rise of MCLG populations has been influenced heavily by 

human activities (Sparrowe, 1998, Batt 1997). The greatest attributable 

factors are:

    (1) The expansion of agricultural areas in the United States and 

prairie Canada that provide abundant food resources during migration 

and winter;

    (2) The establishment of sanctuaries along the Flyways specifically 

to increase bird populations;

    (3) A decline in harvest rate; and

    (4) An increase in adult survival rates.

    Although all of these factors contributed to the rapid rise in MCLG 

populations, the expansion of agriculture in prairie Canada and the 

United States is considered to be the primary attributable factor 

(Sparrowe 1998, Abraham and Jefferies 1997). Today, MCLG continue to 

exploit soybean, rice, and other crops during the winter primarily in 

the Gulf Coast States and are observed less frequently in the natural 

coastal marshes they historically utilized. Similarly, MCLG migrating 

through the mid-latitude and northern United States and prairie Canada 

during spring migration exploit cereal grain crops consisting of corn, 

wheat, barley, oats and rye (Alisauskas et al. 1988). For example, we 

estimated 1 to 2 million MCLG stage in the Rainwater Basin in Nebraska 

from mid-February to mid-March and primarily feed on corn left over 

from harvesting (USFWS 1998a). These crops provide MCLG with additional 

nutrients during spring migration assuring that MCLG arrive on the 

breeding grounds in prime condition to breed. Increased food subsidies 

during spring migration over the last 30 years has resulted in higher 

reproductive potential and breeding success (Ankney and McInnes 1978, 

Abraham and Jefferies 1997). Consequently, more geese survived the 

winter and migration and were healthier as they returned to their 

breeding grounds in Canada.

    This is not intended to criticize the conservation efforts 

accomplished by the implementation of conservation-oriented 

agricultural practices. Such efforts have benefitted numerous wildlife 

species. We merely point out that MCLG have exploited these artificial 

resources, resulting in an increase in survival.

Foraging Behavior of MCLG

    The feeding behavior of MCLG is characterized by three foraging 

methods. Where spring thawing has occurred and above-ground plant 

growth has not begun, lesser snow geese dig into and break open the 

turf (grubbing) consuming the highly nutritious below-ground biomass, 

or roots, of plants. Grubbing continues into late spring. Lesser snow 

geese also engage in shoot-pulling where the geese pull the shoots of 

large sedges, consume the highly nutritious basal portion, and discard 

the rest, leaving behind large unproductive, and potentially 

unrecoverable areas (Abraham and Jefferies 1997). A third feeding 

strategy utilized by many species is grazing which in some cases, 

stimulates plant growth. Both lesser snow geese and Ross' geese graze. 

Due to their shorter bill size, Ross' geese are able to graze shorter 

stands of grass.

    Grubbing, grazing, and shoot-pulling are natural feeding behaviors 

and at lower population levels have had positive effects on the 

ecosystem. For example, at lower numbers, geese fed on the tundra 

grasses and actually stimulated growth of plant communities resulting 

in a positive feedback loop between the geese and the vegetation. 

However, the rapidly expanding numbers of geese, coupled with the short 

tundra growing season, disrupted the balance and has resulted in severe 

habitat degradation in sensitive ecosystems. The Hudson Bay Lowlands 

salt-marsh ecosystem, for example, consists of a 1,200 mile strip of 

coastline along west Hudson and James Bays, Canada. It contains 

approximately 135,000 acres of coastal salt-marsh habitat. Vast 

hypersaline areas devoid of vegetation degraded by rapidly increasing 

populations of MCLG have been observed and documented extensively 

throughout the Hudson Bay Lowlands (Abraham and Jefferies 1997). 

Rockwell et al. (1997a) observed the decline of more than 30 avian 

populations in the La Perouse Bay area due to severe habitat 

degradation. These declines and other ecological changes represent a 

decline in biological diversity and indicate the beginning of collapse 

of the current Hudson Bay Lowlands salt-marsh ecosystem. Experts fear 

that some badly degraded habitat will not recover (Abraham and 

Jefferies 1997). For example, in a badly degraded area, less than 20% 

of the vegetation within an exclosure (fenced in area where geese 

cannot feed) has recovered after 15 years of protection from MCLG 

(Abraham and Jefferies 1997). Recovery rates of degraded areas are 

further slowed by the short tundra growing season and the high salinity 

levels in the exposed and unprotected soil.

    Long-term research efforts have indicated signs of ``trophic 

cascade'' in La Perouse Bay, Cape Henrietta Maria, and Akimiski Island 

(R. Rockwell pers. comm. 1998). Trophic cascade is essentially the 

collapse of an existing food chain indicating that the ecosystem is 

unable to support its inhabitants. Impacts associated with trophic 

cascade are indicative that MCLG populations have exceeded the carrying 

capacity of much of their breeding habitat. Impacts such as a decline 

in biological diversity and physiological stress, malnutrition, and 

disease in goslings have been documented and observations of such 

impacts are increasing. Additional observations in areas north of 

Hudson Bay on Southampton and Baffin Islands, northwest in the Queen 

Maud Gulf region, and south off the west coast of James Bay on Akimiski 

Island also suggest similar habitat degradation

[[Page 7509]]

patterns from expanding colonies of MCLG. Batt (1997) reported the 

rapid expansion of existing colonies and the establishment of new 

colonies in the central and eastern arctic. In 1973, for example, 

Canadian Wildlife Service data indicated that approximately 400,000 

light geese nested on West Baffin Island. In 1997, approximately 1.8 

million breeding adults were counted. Similar colony expansions have 

been reported for the Queen Maud Gulf region and Southampton Island. 

Rapid colony expansion must be halted and the populations must be 

reduced to prevent further habitat degradation and to protect the 

remaining habitat upon which numerous wildlife species depend.

Breeding Habitat Status

    MCLG breeding colonies occur over a large area encompassing eastern 

and central portions of northern Canada. Habitat degradation by MCLG 

has been most extensively studied in specific areas where colonies have 

expanded exponentially and exhibit severe habitat degradation. For 

example, the Hudson Bay Lowlands salt-marsh ecosystem lies within a 

135,000 acre narrow strip of coastline along west Hudson and James Bays 

and provides important stopover sites for numerous migratory bird 

species. Of the 135,000 acres of habitat in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, 

35% is considered to be destroyed, 30% is damaged, and 35% is 

overgrazed (Batt 1997). Habitats currently categorized as ``damaged'' 

or ``overgrazed'' are being further impacted and will be classified as 

``destroyed'' if goose populations continue to expand. Accelerated 

habitat degradation has been observed by Canadian biologists on 

Southampton and Baffin Islands and appear to be following the same 

pattern as documented in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Current research 

efforts are underway to confirm observations of habitat degradation by 

MCLG in other areas.

Migration and Wintering Habitat Conditions and Degradation

    There is no evidence to support that wintering habitat for MCLG is 

threatened or that it may limit population growth. Presently, there are 

approximately 2.25 million acres of rice fields in Texas, Louisiana, 

and Arkansas, in addition to the millions of acres of cereal grain 

crops in the Midwest. Consequently, food availability and suitable 

wintering habitat are not limiting MCLG during the migration and 

wintering portions of the annual cycle.

Summary of Environmental Consequences of Taking No Action

    At each site they occupy, MCLG will continue to degrade the plant 

communities until food and other resources are exhausted, forcing yet 

more expansion of colonies. The pattern has been, and will continue to 

be, that as existing nesting colonies expand, they exploit successively 

poorer quality habitats, which are less able to accommodate them and 

which become degraded more quickly. Eventually, the coastal salt-marsh 

communities surrounding Hudson Bay and James Bay will become remnant. 

There will be little chance of recovery of such habitat as long as MCLG 

populations remain high. Even if goose populations decline at some 

point due to natural causes, which may not occur to the degree 

necessary, it will take the habitat a prolonged time period to recover. 

The functioning of the whole coastal ecosystem, from consolidation of 

sediments by colonizing plants to provision of suitable habitats for 

invertebrate and vertebrate fauna, will be detrimentally and possibly 

irrevocably altered. Similar conditions will prevail at selected non-

coastal areas where MCLG have occupied most of the suitable nesting 

habitats. As many as 30 other avian species, including American wigeon, 

Northern shoveler, stilt sandpiper, Hudsonian godwit, and others, that 

utilize those habitats have declined locally, presumably due to habitat 

degradation by MCLG. Other species, such as Southern James Bay Canada 

geese, a species of management concern, that breed on nearby Akimiski 

Island and numerous other waterfowl species that migrate and stage with 

MCLG, have been and will continue to be negatively impacted. Arctic 

mammalian herbivores will also be impacted as the vegetative 

communities upon which they depend become depleted. Due to the rapidly 

expanding populations and the associated ecological impacts identified, 

we have concluded that MCLG populations have become seriously injurious 

to themselves and other migratory birds, their habitat and habitat of 

other migratory birds.

    We expect that MCLG populations will continue to grow at least 5% 

annually, resulting in more severe and widespread ecological impacts. 

Although several factors influence population dynamics, the greatest 

single factor in the populations' increase is high and increasing adult 

survival rates (Rockwell et al. 1997b). Therefore, removing adults from 

the populations is the most effective and efficient approach in 

reducing the populations. Experts feel that breaking eggs and other 

non-lethal techniques have been determined to be ineffective in 

significantly reducing the populations within a reasonable time to 

preserve and protect habitat (Batt 1997).

    We have attempted to curb the growth of MCLG populations by 

increasing bag and possession limits and extending the open hunting 

season length for light geese to 107 days, the maximum allowed by the 

Treaty. However, due to the rapid rise in MCLG numbers, low hunter 

success, and low hunter interest, harvest rate (the percentage of the 

population that is harvested), has declined despite evidence that the 

number of geese harvested has increased (USFWS 1997b). The decline in 

harvest rate indicates that the current management strategies are not 

sufficient to stabilize or reduce population growth rates.

New Management Actions

    We realize that current MCLG management policies need to be re-

examined and believe that alternative regulatory strategies designed to 

increase MCLG harvest, implemented concurrently with habitat management 

and other non-lethal control measures, have the potential to be 

effective in reducing MCLG populations to levels that the remaining 

breeding habitat can sustain. Batt (1997) estimated that the MCLG 

population should be reduced by 50% by the year 2005. Based on the 

current MCLG December index of approximately 3.2 million birds, this 

would entail a reduction of the December index to 1.6 million birds. 

Using the adjustment factor of 1.6, this would translate to a minimum 

breeding population size of 2.56 million birds. The estimate of 2.56 

million birds does not include non-breeding geese or geese found in un-

surveyed areas. Therefore, the total MCLG spring population would be 

much higher.

    We prefer to implement alternative regulatory strategies designed 

to increase MCLG harvest afforded by the Migratory Bird Treaty and 

avoid the use of more drastic population control measures. More direct 

population control measures such as trapping and culling programs may 

be necessary if the current regulatory action, in concert with habitat 

management, is not successful. Should the conservation order be deemed 

unsuccessful we will consider more direct population control measures 

to reduce MCLG.

    We restrict the scope of this rule to mid-continent populations of 

light geese (MCLG): Mid-continent and Western Central Flyway lesser 

snow geese (Chen

[[Page 7510]]

caerulescens caerulescens) and Ross' geese (C. rossi) and the United 

States portions of the Central and Mississippi Flyways (Alabama, 

Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, 

Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, 

Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, 

Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) where they migrate, stage, or 

winter. Evidence exists to support the conclusion that MCLG which 

migrate, stage, and winter in these areas subsequently return to breed 

in the arctic and subarctic areas that are experiencing severe habitat 


    We are concurrently implementing an additional but separate 

population reduction strategy. In addition to this rule that amends 50 

CFR Part 20, we are also amending 50 CFR Part 21 to authorize the use 

of a conservation order to increase take of MCLG. The conservation 

order will be in the nature of an order authorizing States to implement 

actions to harvest MCLG, by shooting in a hunting manner, inside or 

outside of the regular open migratory bird hunting season frameworks 

when all waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are 

closed. The second rule is published in this issue of the Federal 


    We do not expect the second rule (amendment to 50 CFR part 20) 

implemented alone to achieve our overall management objective of 

reducing the MCLG December index to approximately 1.6 million birds. 

The success of this strategy will hinge upon State participation, 

hunter participation, and hunter effectiveness. If a State does not 

participate, then its hunters will not be able to participate in that 

State, decreasing the program's potential. We anticipate that some 

northern and mid-latitude States will elect not to implement this rule 

(authorization of electronic calls and un-plugged shotguns) due to the 

infeasibility of closing all other waterfowl and crane seasons during 

the fall. It is more likely that those states will participate in a 

conservation order during the spring, when it is more feasible to close 

all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry. 

Conversely, many waterfowl and crane hunting seasons in southern States 

close prior to 10 March. Therefore, it is much more feasible for 

southern States to implement this rule by establishing a light-goose 

only season when all other waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, 

excluding falconry, are closed.

    We are implementing the second action (conservation order) in order 

to maximize the overall program's potential and to try to achieve our 

management objective within a reasonable time-frame. These actions will 

be complemented by attempts to alter habitat management practices that 

tend to increase MCLG, and hopefully will reduce the need for more 

direct population control programs. The conservation order will allow 

northern States to participate in this effort and enable them to 

harvest MCLG during spring migration, particularly after 10 March. 

Harvest projections for this rule (amendment 50 CFR Part 20) are rolled 

into the harvest projections for the conservation order. Harvest 

projections for this rule are not in addition to the harvest 

projections for the conservation order.

Revision to 50 CFR Part 20

    We are amending 50 CFR 20.21 with the intent to increase harvest of 

mid-continent light geese during the open hunting season (MCLG) by 

authorizing the use of electronic callers and unplugged shotguns during 

a light goose only season when all other waterfowl and crane hunting 

seasons, excluding falconry, are closed. This is in an effort to reduce 

overabundant MCLG populations that have become seriously injurious to 

other migratory bird populations and to habitat essential to migratory 

bird populations. Conditions under this regulation require that 

participating States inform hunters acting under the authority of the 

amendment of the conditions that apply to the utilization of this 


    Under the authority of this rule, States could develop and initiate 

aggressive harvest management strategies by offering hunters additional 

hunting methods to harvest MCLG with the intent to increase harvest of 

MCLG. By operating under an existing program, a regular light-goose 

only season, affected States would not have to create a new program to 

implement the action, which would significantly reduce administrative 

burden to the State and Federal governments. In order to minimize or 

avoid negative impacts to non-target species and to eliminate confusion 

regarding enforcement of the restrictions associated with this action, 

States may only implement this action when all other waterfowl and 

crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed. Although we 

expect this action to facilitate other protection and recovery efforts, 

we do not expect this action (amendment to 50 CFR Part 20) implemented 

alone to achieve our management objective. Therefore, we are 

concurrently implementing an additional but separate population 

reduction strategy (discussed above) to work in concert with this 

action in order to achieve our management objective. We feel the 

overall strategy will result in biologically sound and more cost-

effective and efficient overabundant MCLG population management. This 

could preclude the use of more drastic, direct population control 

measures such as trapping and culling programs. Although the desired 

goal is to reduce overabundant MCLG populations, we believe that this 

rule will not threaten the long-term health and status of MCLG 

populations or threaten the status of other species that could be 

impacted through the implementation of this action. We have evaluation 

and monitoring strategies to assess the overall impacts of this 

proposed action on MCLG harvest and impacts to non-target species that 

may be affected by the implementation of this action.

Summary of Environmental Consequences of Action

MCLG Populations and Associated Habitats

    We project that we will harvest a cumulative total of two million 

MCLG over the next three years without the use of this action, based on 

current MCLG harvest trends. Under certain assumptions, our most 

liberal estimate is that we can expect to cumulatively harvest an 

additional 1.5 million MCLG after three years by implementing this 

proposed action. Therefore, we expect the total cumulative harvest to 

be 3.5 million MCLG after three years of implementation of this 

proposed action. We will revoke the amendment to 50 CFR Part 20 if the 

December index is reduced to the goal of 1.6 million birds.

    The impact is expected to be regional within the Central and 

western Mississippi Flyway States that choose to participate. MCLG 

winter in the southern States of the Flyways substantially longer than 

northern or mid-latitude States. Therefore, the opportunity to harvest 

more MCLG is greatest in the south. Additional hunting methods 

authorized by a State under the authority of this rule will facilitate 

a hunter's ability to harvest more MCLG and will facilitate other 

efforts to increase adult mortality and therefore decrease numbers of 


    Although we can expect the additional hunting methods to be 

effective, there is no precedent to guide us in determining to what 

degree they will be effective. It is equally difficult to ascertain to 

what degree the public will utilize the new methods, which will 

influence its effectiveness. However, with certain assumptions, we may

[[Page 7511]]

project an increase in harvest using existing harvest data.

    Before projecting the effect of this action on harvest we must 

establish several assumptions. We are assuming that all affected States 

will act under the authority of the rule and allow the additional 

methods authorized in this action, that current MCLG hunter numbers 

will not decrease, and that the new hunting methods authorized in this 

will increase hunter effectiveness and overall harvest. We do not 

assume that all MCLG hunters will use the new hunting methods and of 

those that do, we do not assume that all will increase their 

effectiveness. We are assuming that 25% of the current MCLG hunters 

will use the new hunting methods and increase his/her effectiveness in 

harvesting MCLG.

    We determined, based on a linear regression analysis of historical 

harvest data, that regular-season harvest has increased approximately 

31,600 MCLG per year for the last ten years. A simple linear regression 

of the harvest data represents our most conservative estimate because 

the analysis does not take into account other factors that influence 

harvest such as the recent regulation changes for light geese. A more 

complex analysis demonstrates that harvest has actually increased at a 

faster rate since the bag and possession limits for light geese have 

been increased (USFWS 1998c). Today, more MCLG are harvested with fewer 

hunters, but hunter participation in light goose hunting is increasing. 

Therefore, we conservatively project that regular-season harvest will 

increase 31,600 per year for the next several years.

    During 1997-98, hunters harvested 604,900 MCLG in the affected 

States (AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, KY, KS, LA, MI, MS, MO, MT, NE, NM, ND, OH, 

OK, SD, TN, TX, WI and WY). Combined with our projection that regular-

season harvest will increase by 31,600 per year without any changes to 

hunting regulations, we can expect to harvest 636,500 MCLG in the 1998-

1999 regular light goose season in those affected States. Under the 

assumptions stated above, we can expect to harvest an additional 

339,000 MCLG in the first year of implementation of this action during 

a light-goose only season. Therefore, we expect a total harvest of 

975,500 MCLG in the first year of implementation of this proposed 

action. Because we expect regular-season harvest to increase annually, 

the total projected harvest will also increase annually. We expect to 

harvest a total of 1.2 million MCLG in the second year of 

implementation, and 1.3 million in the third year of implementation. 

These estimates include regular-season harvest of MCLG.

    Batt (1997) estimated that the MCLG population should be reduced by 

50% by 2005. That would suggest a reduction in the MCLG December index 

from approximately 3.2 million birds to approximately 1.6 million 

birds. Central and Mississippi Flyway Council management thresholds for 

MCP lesser snow geese (not including WCFP lesser snow or Ross' geese) 

rests between 1.0 and 1.5 million birds, based on the December index. 

Therefore, our MCLG population reduction goal closely parallels those 

established by Flyway Councils and the scientific community. As 

mentioned previously, a December index of 1.6 million would translate 

to a minimum estimate of 2.56 million breeding MCLG in spring. We will 

carefully analyze and assess the MCLG reduction on an annual basis, 

using the December index and other surveys, to ensure that the 

populations are not over-harvested.

    We expect an increase in harvest to facilitate other efforts, such 

as habitat management on the wintering grounds and increased harvest of 

MCLG by Canadian aboriginals. Decreased MCLG numbers will also relieve 

pressures on the breeding grounds. There is no evidence to suggest that 

the use of additional hunting methods during a light-goose only season 

will result in an over-harvest of MCLG. Once the December index is 

reduced to approximately 1.6 million birds, we will revoke this action 

and the methods we authorized. It is improbable that the use of the 

additional methods will threaten the long-term status of MCLG 

populations, because we will monitor the MCLG populations and act 

accordingly if it is threatened by modifying or revoking the action.

Other Species

    We expect an increase in harvest, and subsequently a decrease in 

MCLG numbers, to relieve pressures on other migratory bird populations 

that utilize MCLG breeding and wintering grounds and other areas along 

the migration routes. It is expected to reduce the possibility that 

other species will be forced to seek habitat elsewhere or abandon 

unsuitable degraded habitat altogether, which could potentially result 

in decreased reproductive success of affected populations. We expect a 

decrease in MCLG populations to contribute to increased reproductive 

success of adversely impacted populations. Further, we expect that by 

decreasing the numbers of MCLG on wintering and migration stopover 

areas, the risk of transmitting avian cholera to other species will be 

reduced which will reduce the threat of a widespread avian cholera 

outbreak. We do not expect the action to result in an increase in take 

of non-target species. The action will only be allowed when all other 

waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed.


    Any migratory bird hunting action taken has economic consequences. 

Continued inaction is likely to result in ecosystem failure of the 

Hudson Bay Lowlands salt-marsh ecosystem and potentially other 

ecosystems as MCLG populations expand and exploit new habitats. Without 

more effective population control measures to curb the populations, the 

populations of MCLG are expected to continue increasing and become more 

and more unstable as suitable breeding habitat diminishes. As 

population densities increase, the incidence of avian cholera among 

MCLG and other species is likely to increase throughout the Flyways, 

particularly at migration stopover sites. Losses of other species such 

as pintails, white-fronted geese, sandhill cranes, and whooping cranes, 

from avian cholera may be great. This may result in reduced hunting, 

birdwatching, and other opportunities. It may also result in the season 

closures of adversely impacted migratory game birds such as white-

fronted geese, sandhill cranes, and pintails. Goose damage to winter 

wheat and other agricultural crops will continue and worsen. Habitat 

damage in the Arctic will eventually trigger density-dependent 

regulation of the population which likely will result in increased 

gosling mortality and may cause the population to decline 

precipitously. However, it is not clear when such population regulation 

will occur and what habitat, if any, will remain to support the 

survivors. Such a decline may result in a population too low to permit 

any hunting, effectively closing MCLG hunting seasons. The length of 

the closures will largely depend on the recovery rate of the breeding 

habitat, which likely will take decades. Although the overall impact of 

closures of light-goose seasons in the Central and Mississippi Flyways 

that could result from continued degradation of the breeding habitat is 

small on a national scale, it would be concentrated where large flocks 

of geese stage and winter. Because people that provide services to 

hunters tend to be those with low incomes, the impact of a closure 

would fall disproportionately on low income groups near goose 

concentrations. We expect this action to reduce the risk of light-goose 

season closures in the

[[Page 7512]]

Central and Mississippi Flyways and avoid a $70 million loss in output 

and reduce the possibility of increased agricultural loss. We expect 

special MCLG population control efforts to create additional take 

opportunities which is expected to add $18 million in output to local 


Public Comment Received

    The November 9, 1998, proposed rule published in the Federal 

Register (63 FR 60271) invited public comments from interested parties. 

The closing date for receipt of all comments was January 8, 1999, which 

was subsequently extended to January 15, 1999 (64 FR 821). During the 

comment period, we received 573 comments consisting of 448 from private 

citizens, 21 from State wildlife agencies, 2 from Flyway Councils, 27 

from private organizations, 10 from Native organizations, 43 from 

individuals that signed a petition, and 22 from private organizations 

that signed a petition. Comments generally were dichotomized by two 

points of view.

    Comments in support of such action were received from 248 private 

citizens, 21 State wildlife agencies, 2 Flyway Councils, 12 private 

organizations, 1 Native group, and 35 from individuals that signed a 

petition. Three private individuals and 1 State wildlife agency that 

supported the use of electronic calls did not support the use of 

unplugged shotguns, whereas 1 private individual did not support 

electronic calls but did support the use of unplugged shotguns. All 

commenters agreed that there was a problem and that the resolution 

should entail reduction by lethal means and supported the use of 

additional methods to increase take of MCLG. Several State wildlife 

agencies and both Flyway Councils suggested that the requirement to 

have all other migratory bird hunting seasons closed in order to 

implement changes in regulations to address light goose population 

control is overly restrictive. They suggested that the requirement 

should be that only other waterfowl seasons be closed in order to 

implement changes in light goose regulations. A State wildlife agency 

and 1 private citizen voiced opposition to the closure of falconry 

seasons during implementation of new light goose regulation changes.

    A State wildlife agency requested clarification on whether the 

requirement to close all other migratory bird seasons pertained to 

zones within a State, or the entire State. Several State wildlife 

agencies and 2 Flyway Councils questioned why other Mississippi Flyway 

states (i.e. MI, OH, WI, IN, KY, and TN) were not included in the list 

of those eligible to implement alternative regulatory strategies aimed 

at MCLG. Several State wildlife agencies urged that the Service not 

wait a full five years before the proposed population reduction 

strategies are evaluated and other management options are considered. A 

state wildlife agency commented that the requirement to close Bosque 

del Apache NWR during the period of implementation of alternative light 

goose regulations was inappropriate and that existing hunt management 

plans will avert potential impacts to whooping cranes.

    Several private organizations and a Native organization expressed 

support of the findings of the international panel of scientists and 

waterfowl managers that documented (Batt 1997) habitat degradations 

caused by overabundant light goose and recommended actions to reduce 

populations. However, the organizations urged monitoring and evaluation 

of management actions and that such actions should be used only until 

populations are sufficiently reduced.

    Comments in opposition to such action were received from 200 

private citizens, 15 private organizations, 9 Native organizations, 8 

individuals that signed a petition, and 22 private organizations that 

signed a petition. Many commenters stated that grazing by geese may be 

changing the vegetation communities on their breeding grounds but they 

``cannot devastate an ecosystem of which they are a part.'' 

Furthermore, they felt that if there are too many geese for their 

habitats to support, the geese will either nest in other areas or fail 

to successfully raise young.

    Several private organizations commented that the draft 

Environmental Assessment and the proposed rule fail to provide detailed 

estimates of the extent of grazing damage caused by MCLG. They further 

stated that we have not adequately addressed the relationship between 

isostatic uplift (raising of land due to the removal of pressure once 

exerted by glaciers) and vegetative succession, or the agricultural 

practices that have contributed to expansion of MCLG populations. In 

addition they criticized the lack of reliable current breeding 

population estimates of MCLG and our inability to demonstrate that 

current populations are higher than those ever experienced in the past. 

Furthermore, they questioned how killing millions of snow geese in the 

mid-western U.S. could remedy alleged damage to habitats at specific 

sites in the Canadian arctic. Finally, they protested that Native 

groups in Canada that would be directly impacted by the proposals were 

not consulted in the development of management actions. Comments 

provided by several Native organizations indicated that they were not 

consulted and they oppose the management action.

    A private organization recommended nest destruction, egging, and 

hazing of geese from areas that have sustained habitat changes as 

alternatives to the proposed actions. Furthermore, they stated that the 

use of lethal control, if it is justified at all, must be conducted at 

specific sites where damage is occurring to be effective. Finally, they 

advocated that the Service implement ecosystem management to address 

the MCLG issue. Their view of ecosystem management assumes that the 

component species of an ecosystem determine their own distribution and 

abundance, consistent with the age and condition of their habits, thus 

requiring a more ``hands-off rather than a direct, interventionist, 

approach by managers.''

    Many private individuals and several private organizations 

commented that an Environmental Assessment was insufficient to comply 

with NEPA requirements, and that a full Environmental Impact Statement 

should be prepared before action is taken to address this problem.

    Service response: We have conducted an Environmental Assessment of 

alternative regulatory strategies to reduce MCLG populations. Based on 

review and evaluation of the information contained in the assessment, 

we have determined that the proposed action to amend 50 CFR Part 20 to 

authorize additional regulatory strategies for the reduction of MCLG 

populations is not a major Federal action that would significantly 

affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 

section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. 

Accordingly, we made a Finding of No Significant Impact on this action. 

Therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not 

required. The EA and Finding of No Significant Impact are available to 

the public at the location indicated under the ADDRESSES caption.

    We are unaware of any evidence indicating that the severe habitat 

damage occurring in MCLG breeding areas is the result of oil drilling 

activities. The feeding behavior of MCLG causes the removal of 

vegetation from sites and sets in motion a series of events that causes 

soil salinity to increase. With regard to the ability of MCLG to 

devastate an ecosystem of which they are a part, we point to studies 

summarized by Abraham and

[[Page 7513]]

Jefferies (1997) indicating that goose feeding activities reduce the 

thickness of the vegetation mat that insulates the underlying marine 

sediments from the air. Evaporation rates from the surface sediments 

increase and inorganic salts from the marine clay produce high salt 

concentrations that reduce growth of preferred forage plants. This 

together with continued intensive grazing by geese maintains open areas 

and high salt concentration and results in a positive feedback 

producing increased destruction of salt-marsh areas and decertification 

of the landscape. This is illustrated by fenced exclosure plots on 

impacted areas that prevent geese from grazing in plots. Both the 

exclosures and the areas in their immediate vicinity are experiencing 

isostatic uplift (raising of land as a result of glacial retreat) and 

yet the rate of plant species turnover in the two areas is markedly 

different, driven by excessive goose foraging. Several commenters 

stated that recolonization of mud flats by plants will occur naturally. 

However, they do not elaborate on the amount of time this process will 

require. Exclosure experiments indicate that it may take at least 15 

years for vegetation stands to begin to develop, which would require 

total absence of goose foraging. This length of time is beyond the life 

expectancy of a single age cohort of lesser snow geese. Hence, the 

effects on the habitat outlive the geese.

    With regard to the assertion that if there are too many geese for 

their habitats to support, the geese will nest in other areas or fail 

to raise young, we generally concur. We note that geese have the 

ability to escape the effects of high population densities by their 

ability to disperse from breeding colonies. However, there are signs 

that habitat in the areas geese are dispersing to are also being 

degraded, forcing the birds to disperse even further. Thus, birds 

invade previously undisturbed habitats and consume plant biomass to the 

point where it is no longer advantageous to remain in those areas, and 

then they disperse. The ability to disperse to and subsequently degrade 

new habitats is of much concern to managers and is the reason we feel 

that MCLG populations need to be controlled.

    With regard to documentation of the acreage of damage caused by 

MCLG, we note that quantification of habitat degradation by geese in 

the entire arctic and sub-arctic region is made difficult by logistical 

constraints. However, we point to the numerous habitat studies that 

document habitat damage, which are summarized in the report by Batt 

(1997). This information has been collected during the past 25+ years 

by numerous scientists of varying disciplines. Most claims of little or 

no damage to habitats have been based solely on a report by Thomas and 

MacKay (1998), which was the result of a field trip to a limited number 

of sites on the west coast of Hudson Bay that lasted less than 72 

hours. We do not believe this cursory examination of habitats in this 

region is a valid method of documenting habitat degradation due to MCLG 


    Concerning the relationship between isostatic uplift and plant 

succession, we acknowledge the impact that this geologic process has on 

plant communities. However, the time frame in which the process occurs 

is much slower than the time frame in which geese can impact habitats. 

Therefore, we do not believe that isostatic uplift will create new 

habitat quickly enough to counteract damage created by geese.

    With regard to the relationship between agricultural practices and 

MCLG populations, we have previously stated that habitat management 

approaches to population control should be pursued in conjunction with 

alternative regulatory strategies (63 FR 60281). Inclusion of habitat 

management strategies is beyond the scope of our rulemaking authority. 

This may create the false impression to some observers that we are 

considering only lethal means to control MCLG populations. In fact, we 

are working with our partners to develop various action plans that will 

include land use recommendations for the Northern Prairie, Midwest, and 

Gulf Coast regions of the U.S. to address habitat management approaches 

to controlling overabundant MCLG populations (Bisbee 1998). We believe 

that a comprehensive, long-term strategy that involves both lethal 

methods and habitat management is a sound approach to addressing the 

MCLG issue.

    Concerning the question of how killing MCLG in the U.S. will remedy 

damage to habitats in specific breeding colonies in the Canadian 

arctic, we point out that MCLG migrate and winter in large 

concentrations almost exclusively in the Central and Mississippi 

Flyways. Therefore, these strategies aimed at taking MCLG in this 

portion of the U.S. will reduce the number of birds returning to 

breeding areas that are experiencing habitat degradation. It will also 

reduce the number of birds that are able to disperse to and degrade 

other breeding habitats. We believe this is a cost-effective and 

efficient alternative to selective culling of birds at breeding 

colonies, which would entail massive disposal efforts and waste of 

birds at enormous cost. Similarly, we believe that these strategies 

will be more cost-effective and efficient control methods than 

proposals to destroy nest, harvest eggs, and haze geese from breeding 


    With regard to our ability to estimate the current size of the 

breeding population of MCLG, we point out that the lack of definitive 

continental breeding population estimates is due to the enormous 

logistical barriers to designing a comprehensive survey of the entire 

arctic and sub-arctic region. Consequently, we have relied on surveys 

conducted on wintering areas in December to provide an index to the 

breeding population. It is clear that many people are confused about 

the relationship between the December index and the breeding population 

size. The December survey results in a count of MCLG on portions of its 

wintering range and does not represent a total population count, nor is 

it intended to be such. However, we believe that the December index 

tracks the true population size and allows managers to determine when 

the MCLG population is increasing, decreasing, or is stable. In fact, 

we have used the December index in the development of annual snow goose 

hunting regulations since its inception in 1969. Therefore, we have 

chosen to use the December index to determine the status of the MCLG 

population. In the proposed rule (63 FR 60278) we made an incorrect 

contextual reference to the Central and Mississippi Flyway Council 

(1982) management guideline of 800,000 to 1.2 million birds because 

this guideline was based on snow goose population estimates for the 

breeding grounds and not on wintering ground indices. We will continue 

to base our objectives on winter indices. In order to achieve a 50% 

reduction in the MCLG population, this would entail achieving a 

reduction in the December index from approximately 3.2 million to 1.6 

million birds. In 1991, the Mississippi and Central Flyway Councils 

passed resolutions to adopt management goals for MCLG of 1 to 1.5 

million birds, based on the December index. Therefore, our objective is 

in close agreement with management goals previously stated by the 

Flyway Councils. Beginning in January 1999, the Central and Mississippi 

Flyway Councils designated a January survey of wintering MCLG to be the 

official index to the population, which we will use to monitor the 

population. This change should have negligible effect on the winter 

index and subsequent management objectives.

    With regard to debate about the magnitude of harvest that is 

necessary to

[[Page 7514]]

bring about the desired population reduction, we point out that the 

debate is centered around the annual harvest that is required to 

achieve the reduction by the year 2005. Rockwell et al. (1997) 

recommend a 2-3 fold increase in annual harvest to achieve the desired 

population reduction. The authors stated that, ``different assumptions 

will lead to somewhat different values under this type of strategy. * * 

*'' (Rockwell et al. 1997:99). Subsequently, Cooke et al. (unpublished 

report) estimated that annual harvest would need to be increased by a 

factor of anywhere from 3.5 to 6.7 to reduce the MCLG population. We 

note the near overlap in the ranges of recommended increases in annual 

harvest in the 2 reports. At the present, we believe that pursuing a 3 

fold increase in annual harvest represents a responsible approach to 

MCLG population reduction. Implementation of new regulatory strategies 

will allow managers to measure the actual effects of such strategies on 

the MCLG population. If this harvest level is subsequently deemed 

inadequate to achieve the population-reduction goal, this strategy will 

be re-evaluated.

    With regard to the relationship between current MCLG population 

levels and those experienced in the past, we point out the problems 

with comparisons of anecdotal accounts of MCLG population levels with 

population indices derived from modern aerial surveys. We suggest that 

debates about anecdotal accounts of former MCLG abundance will not be 

fruitful. What is known, is that current MCLG population indices 

derived from standardized, long-term aerial surveys are higher than 

ever previously recorded. Therefore, we believe that alternative 

regulatory strategies to address overabundant MCLG and their impacts on 

habitat are appropriate and urgently needed.

    Concerning consultation with Native groups that may be affected by 

alternative regulatory strategies implemented in the U.S., we point out 

that the U.S. has met the legal obligation to consult with the 

government of Canada. In turn, various territorial, provincial, and 

federal governments in Canada have consulted with aboriginal groups 

through various forums, and through the distribution of reports and 

proposals for Canadian hunting seasons. These consultations are and 

will continue to be ongoing. Because the locations of many of the 

largest light goose breeding colonies are north of 60 degrees north 

latitude, much of the direct consultation to date has been with people 

in those areas. We have also been informed that a number of Inuit 

groups such as the Arviat Hunters and Trappers Organization, and the 

Aiviq Hunters and Trappers Association in Cape Dorset have already 

participated in pilot programs to increase their harvest of light 

geese. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has had the light goose 

overabundance issue as a standing item for some time. Other northern 

wildlife management boards, including the Inuvialuit which participated 

in a stakeholder's committee, have been informed of the light goose 

issue. In light of this information, we feel claims that Native groups 

have not been consulted are unfounded.

    We disagree with the view that an ecosystem approach to managing 

overabundant MCLG requires a ``hands off'' rather than a direct 

interventionist approach by managers. In fact, we believe that 

implementation of alternative regulatory strategies to address this 

problem is the epitome of ecosystem management. The Service's goal of 

its ecosystem approach is the effective conservation of natural 

biological diversity through perpetuation of dynamic, healthy 

ecosystems (USFWS 1995). Others have defined ecosystem management as 

``the integration of ecologic, economic, and social principles to 

manage biological and physical systems in a manner that safeguards the 

ecological sustainability, natural diversity, and productivity of the 

landscape'' (Wood 1994). We believe that if MCLG populations are not 

immediately controlled by direct methods, that biological diversity on 

breeding areas will decline, productivity of the landscape will be 

severely reduced, and the health of the ecosystem will be compromised 

to the extent that it will take many decades to recover, if ever.

    With regard to the comment that requiring closure of all other 

migratory bird seasons is overly restrictive, we agree. Our intent is 

to minimize the impacts of regulatory strategies on non-target species, 

and we believe that limiting the required closure to all waterfowl and 

crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, will not increase the 

potential impacts on non-target species. These closures can be 

undertaken on a zone basis within a state. Such strategies could be 

implemented prior to March 11 in a given year, as long as the above 

requirement is met. With regards to the eligibility of the States of 

MI, OH, WI, IN, KY, and TN to implement alternative regulatory 

strategies, we agree that these States harvest light geese during 

normal hunting seasons, and thus would have the potential to harvest 

MCLG using alternative regulatory strategies. For example, 20,000 to 

60,000 snow geese annually winter in western Kentucky. Therefore, we 

are including all Mississippi Flyway and Central Flyway States as being 

eligible for implementation of such strategies.

    Concerning the requirement to close several crane wintering and 

migration areas to implementation of MCLG regulatory strategies, we 

feel that this requirement is necessary to ensure protection of 

whooping cranes. We believe a conservative approach to implementing new 

MCLG strategies is warranted, at least initially. Once we gain 

experience in dealing with these new strategies, and if a determination 

is made that such closures are unnecessary, they can be discontinued at 

that time.

    With regard to monitoring programs that are needed to evaluate MCLG 

control measures and the status of their population, we note that the 

Arctic Goose Joint Venture has developed a draft science needs document 

that outlines various population and habitat monitoring programs. 

Included in this document are banded sample sizes that are needed to 

detect average annual changes in survival rates of MCLG. The document 

outlines banding goals for various breeding colonies. Breeding 

population surveys that will be utilized include photo inventories and 

helicopter surveys of selected breeding colonies. Annual indices to 

MCLG population size will continue to be derived from winter surveys 

conducted in the U.S. Harvest estimates for normal light goose hunting 

seasons will continue to be derived through existing federal harvest 

surveys. Estimates of harvest during the conservation order will be 

obtained from individual State wildlife agencies. We will accomplish 

habitat monitoring through satellite imagery and continuation of on the 

ground sampling associated with current research projects.

    We agree not to wait until five years have elapsed before an 

evaluation of the MCLG conservation order is completed and other 

alternatives are considered. Annual monitoring will indicate if the 

conservation order is effective in reducing the MCLG population. We 

will consider additional population-reduction strategies if the 

conservation order is deemed ineffective. We note that non-lethal 

management strategies to control MCLG populations recently have been 

completed or are under development (e.g. Bisbee 1998). We look forward 

to working with all stakeholders in the development of long-term 

strategies to deal effectively with overabundant MCLG.

[[Page 7515]]

References Cited

Abraham, K.F., R.L. Jefferies, R.F. Rockwell, and C.D. MacInnes. 

1996. Why are there so many white geese in North America? 7th 

International Waterfowl Symposium, Memphis, TN.

Abraham, K.F., and R.L. Jefferies. 1997. High goose populations: 

causes, impacts and implications. Pages 7-72 in B.D.J. Batt, ed. 

Arctic Ecosystems in Peril: Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat 

Working Group. Arctic Goose Joint Venture Special Publication. U. S. 

Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife 

Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 120 pp.

Alisauskas, R., C.D. Ankney, and E.E. Klaas. 1988. Winter diets and 

nutrition of mid-continental lesser snow geese. J. Wildl. Manage. 


Alisauskas, R., S.M. Slattery, D.K. Kellett, D.S. Stern, and K.D. 

Warner. 1998. Spatial and temporal dynamics of Ross's and snow goose 

colonies in Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary, 1966-1998. Canadian 

Wildlife Service, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 21pp.

Ankney, C.D. and C.D. MacInnes. 1978. Nutrient reserves and 

reproductive performance of female lesser snow geese. Auk 95:459-


Batt, B.D.J., editor. 1997. Arctic ecosystems in peril: report of 

the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group. Arctic Goose Joint Venture 

Special Publication. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, 

D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario.

Bisbee, R. 1998. Gulf states action plan for mid-continent snow 

geese: A specific action plan focused on public land management for 

the years 1998, 1999, and 2000. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 

Washington, D.C.

Boyd, H., G.E.J. Smith and F.G. Cooch. 1982. The lesser snow goose 

of the eastern Canadian Arctic: their status during 1964-1979 and 

their management from 1982-1990. Canadian Wildlife Service 

Occasional Paper No. 46. 21 pp.

Rockwell, R.F., E. Cooch, and S. Brault. 1997a. Dynamics of the Mid-

continent population of lesser snow geese: projected impacts of 

reductions in survival and fertility on population growth rates. 

Pages 73-100 in B. D. J. Batt, ed. Arctic Ecosystems in Peril: 

Report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group. Arctic Goose Joint 

Venture Special Publication. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 

Washington, D.C. and Canadian Wildlife Service, Ottawa, Ontario. 120 


Rockwell, R.F., D. Pollack, K.F. Abraham, P.M. Kotanen, and R.L. 

Jefferies. 1997b. Are there declines in bird species using La 

Perouse Bay? The Hudson Bay Project status report for Ducks 

Unlimited, Inc.

Rockwell, R.F. 1998. Personal Communication. American Museum of 

Natural History. New York, NY.

Ryder, J.P. 1969. Nesting colonies of Ross' goose. Auk:86-282-292.

Sparrowe, R. 1998. Report of the Stakeholder's Committee on Arctic 

Nesting Geese. Rollin Sparrowe, Chair. Wildlife Management 

Institute, Washington, D.C.

Thomas, V.G., and B.K. MacKay. 1998. A critical evaluation of the 

proposed reduction in the mid-continent lesser snow goose population 

to conserve sub-arctic salt marshes of Hudson Bay. The Humane 

Society of the United States (Washington, D.C.), and the Animal 

Protection Institute (Sacramento, CA). 32 pp.

U.S. Department of the Interior, Environment Canada, and Secretaria 

De Desarrollo Social. 1998. 1998 update to the North American 

Waterfowl Management Plan--fulfilling the legacy: expanding the 

vision. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.

USFWS. 1995. An ecosystem approach to fish and wildlife 

conservation. Concept Document. Washington, D.C. 21 pp.

USFWS. 1997a. Waterfowl population status, 1997. Office of Migratory 

Bird Management, Arlington, VA. 32 pp.

USFWS. 1997b. Harvest and population survey data book, Central 

Flyway, compiled by D.E. Sharp. Office of Migratory Bird Management, 

Denver, CO. 123 pp.

USFWS. 1998a. Mid-continent Lesser Snow Goose Workshops: Central and 

Mississippi Flyways, Fall 1997. Office of Migratory Bird Management 

and Division of Refuges, Arlington, VA.

USFWS. 1998b. Waterfowl populations status, 1998. Department of the 

Interior, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington, VA. 31 pp.

USFWS. 1998c. Waterfowl Population Status, 1998. Department of the 

Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Arlington, VA.

Wood, C.A. 1994. Ecosystem management: Achieving the new land ethic. 

Renewable Resources Journ. Spring issue: 6-21.

Yancey, R., M. Smith, H. Miller, and L. Jahn. 1958. Waterfowl 

distribution and migration report (Mississippi Flyway States). 

Proceedings 11th Annual Southeastern Association of Game and Fish 

Commissioners: 105-115.

Effective Date

    Under the APA (5 U.S.C. 553(d)) we waive the 30-day period before 

the rule becomes effective and find that ``good cause'' exists, within 

the terms of 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) of the APA, and this rule will, 

therefore, take effect immediately upon publication. This rule relieves 

a restriction and, in addition, it is not in the public interest to 

delay the effective date of this rule. During the comment period, we 

received 573 comments consisting of 448 from private citizens, 21 from 

State wildlife agencies, 2 from Flyway Councils, 27 from private 

organizations, 10 from Native organizations, 43 from individuals that 

signed a petition, and 22 from private organizations that signed a 

petition. It is in the best interest of migratory birds and their 

habitats to implement a conservation order to reduce the number of 

MCLG. It is in the best interest of the hunting public to provide 

alternative regulatory options to address the problem of overabundant 

MCLG that may affect other migratory bird populations and hunting 


NEPA Considerations

    In compliance with the requirements of section 102(2)(C) of the 

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(C)), and the 

Council on Environmental Quality's regulation for implementing NEPA (40 

CFR 1500-1508), we prepared an Environmental Assessment in January 

1999. This EA is available to the public at the location indicated 

under the ADDRESSES caption. Based on review and evaluation of the 

information in the EA, we have determined that amending 50 CFR Part 20 

to authorize additional regulatory strategies for the reduction of MCLG 

populations would not be a major Federal action that would 

significantly affect the quality of the human environment. This 

Environmental Assessment considers short-term options for addressing 

the ever-increasing MCLG population. In 2000, we will initiate the 

preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement to consider the 

effects on the human environment of a range of long-term resolutions 

for the MCLG population. Completion of the EIS by summer 2002 will 

afford the Service the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the 

current preferred alternative. It will also allow for a more detailed 

evaluation of options to correspond with the results of the assessment 

and ongoing MCLG issues.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as amended (16 

U.S.C. 1531-1543; 87 Stat. 884) provides that `` Each Federal agency 

shall, in consultation with the Secretary, insure that any action 

authorized, funded, or carried out . . . is not likely to jeopardize 

the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or 

result in the destruction or adverse modification of (critical) habitat 

. . .'' We have completed a Section 7 consultation under the ESA for 

this rule and determined that establishment of a conservation order for 

the reduction of MCLG populations is not likely to affect any 

threatened, endangered, proposed or candidate species. The result of 

the Service's consultation under Section 7 of the ESA is available to 

the public at

[[Page 7516]]

the location indicated under the ADDRESSES caption.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The economic impacts of this rulemaking will fall 

disproportionately on small businesses because of the structure of the 

waterfowl hunting related industries. The proposed regulation benefits 

small businesses by avoiding ecosystem failure to an ecosystem that 

produces migratory bird resources important to American citizens. The 

Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) requires the 

preparation of flexibility analyses for rules that will have a 

significant effect on a substantial number of small entities. Data are 

not available to estimate the number of small entities affected, but it 

is unlikely to be a substantial number on a national scale. We expect 

the proposed action to reduce the risk of light-goose season closures 

in the Central and Mississippi Flyways, subsequently avoiding a $70 

million loss in output and reducing the possibility of increased 

agricultural loss. We expect special MCLG population control efforts to 

create additional take opportunities which is expected to add $18 

million in output to local economies. We have determined that a 

Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis is not required.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule was not subject to review by the Office of Management and 

Budget under E.O. 12866. E.O. 12866 requires each agency to write 

regulations that are easy to understand. The Service invites comments 

on how to make this rule easier to understand, including answers to 

questions such as the following: (1) Are the requirements in the rule 

clearly stated? (2) Does the rule contain technical language or jargon 

that interferes with its clarity? (3) Does the format of the rule 

(grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) 

aid or reduce its clarity? (4) Would the rule be easier to understand 

if it were divided into more (but shorter) sections? (5) Is the 

description of the rule in the ``Supplementary Information'' section of 

the preamble helpful in understanding the rule? What else could the 

Service do to make the rule easier to understand?

Congressional Review

    This is not a major rule under the Small Business Regulatory 

Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801-808), this rule has been 

submitted to Congress. Because this rule deals with the Service's 

migratory bird hunting program, this rule qualifies for an exemption 

under 5 U.S.C. 808(1); therefore, the Department determines that this 

rule shall take effect immediately.

Paperwork Reduction Act and Information Collection

    This regulation does not require any information collection for 

which OMB approval is required under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The 

information collection is covered by an existing Office of Management 

and Budget approval number. The information collections contained in 

Sec. 20.20 have been approved by OMB under 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. and 

assigned clearance number 1018-0015 for the administration of the 

Migratory Bird Harvest Information Survey (50 CFR 20.20). An agency may 

not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a 

collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 

control number.

Unfunded Mandates

    We have determined and certify, in compliance with the requirements 

of the Unfunded Mandates Act (2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq.), that this 

rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given 

year on local or State government or private entities. This rule will 

not ``significantly or uniquely'' affect small governments. No 

governments below the State level will be affected by this rule. A 

Small Government Agency Plan is not required. This rule will not 

produce a Federal mandate of $100 million or greater in any year, i.e., 

it is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under Unfunded Mandates.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    The Department, in promulgating this rule, has determined that 

these regulations meet the applicable standards provided in Sections 

3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988. This rule has been reviewed 

by the Office of the Solicitor. Specifically, this rule has been 

reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity, has been written to 

minimize litigation, provides a clear legal standard for affected 

conduct, and specifies in clear language the effect on existing Federal 

law or regulation. We do not anticipate that this rule will require any 

additional involvement of the justice system beyond enforcement of 

provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that have already 

been implemented through previous rulemakings.

Takings Implication Assessment

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this rule, authorized by 

the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, does not have significant takings 

implications and does not affect any constitutionally protected 

property rights. The rule will not result in the physical occupancy of 

property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory taking 

of any property. In fact, the rule allows hunters to exercise 

privileges that would be otherwise unavailable; and, therefore, reduce 

restrictions on the use of private and public property.

Federalism Effects

    Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the 

Federal government has been given responsibility over these species by 

the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These rules do not have a substantial 

direct effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or responsibilities 

of Federal or State governments, or intrude on State policy or 

administration. Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 12612, 

these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not 

have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 

Federalism Assessment.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 

``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 

Governments'' (59 FR 22951) and 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible 

effects on Federally recognized Indian Tribes and have determined that 

there are no effects.


    The primary author of this final rule is James R. Kelley, Jr., 

Office of Migratory Bird Management.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

    Exports, Hunting, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping 

requirements, Transportation, Wildlife.

    For the reasons given in the preamble, we hereby amend part 20, of 

the subchapter B, chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal 

Regulations, as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 20 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C 703-712; and 16 U.S.C. 742a-j.

[[Page 7517]]

    2. Revise paragraphs (b) and (g) of Sec. 20.21 Hunting methods to 

read as follows:

Sec. 20.21  Hunting methods.

* * * * *

    (b) With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than 

three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable 

of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does 

not exceed three shells. This restriction does not apply during a 

light-goose (lesser snow and Ross' geese) only season when all other 

waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed 

while hunting light geese in Central and Mississippi Flyway portions of 

Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, 

Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, 

Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, 

Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

* * * * *

    (g) By the use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird 

calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of 

bird calls or sounds. This restriction does not apply during a light-

goose (lesser snow and Ross' geese) only season when all other 

waterfowl and crane hunting seasons, excluding falconry, are closed 

while hunting light geese in Central and Mississippi Flyway portions of 

Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, 

Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, 

Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, 

Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    Dated: February 10, 1999.

Donald Barry,

Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

[FR Doc. 99-3650 Filed 2-12-99; 8:45 am]