[Federal Register: November 17, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 223)]
[Page 69644-69649]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

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Fish and Wildlife Service

Record of Decision Concerning Grizzly Bear Recovery in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issues this Record of Decision 
(ROD) and Statement of Findings upon consideration of the Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Recovery of the Grizzly 
Bear in the Bitterroot Ecosystem.
    The Service has considered alternatives and evaluated their impacts 
for the recovery of the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem of east central Idaho and western Montana as 
presented in the FEIS. We have solicited public and agency comments and 
considered these comments in the NEPA process and in making our 
decision. Based on that evaluation and review, the Service has decided 
to implement the Proposed Action Alternative as described in the FEIS. 
This determination was based on a thorough analysis of environmental, 
social, economic, and other considerations.

ADDRESSES: Additional copies of this ROD may be requested from Dr. 
Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, Bitterroot 
Grizzly Bear FEIS, P.O. Box 5127, Missoula, Montana 59806, or e-mail 
``fw6_bitterroot@fws.gov.'' The document also is available for viewing 
and downloading at ``http://www.r6.fws.gov/endspp/grizzly/.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear 
Recovery Coordinator, at the above address, or telephone (406) 243-



    The intent of this action is to recover the threatened grizzly bear 
in the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Grizzly bears are a part of America's rich 
wildlife heritage and once ranged throughout most of the western United 
States. However, distribution and population levels of this species 
have been diminished by excessive human-caused mortality and loss of 
habitat. Today, only 1,000 to 1,100 grizzly bears remain in a few 
populations in Montana (Northern Continental Divide, Yellowstone, and 
Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystems), Idaho (Yellowstone, Cabinet-Yaak, and Selkirk 
Ecosystems), Wyoming (Yellowstone Ecosystem), and Washington (Selkirk 
and North Cascades Ecosystems). Wildlife species, like grizzly bear, 
are most vulnerable when confined to small portions of their historical 
range and limited to a few, small populations. Expansion of the range 
of the species will increase the number of bears within the lower 48 
United States, increase habitat size and extent, and further 
conservation of the species.
    The Bitterroot Ecosystem is one of the largest contiguous blocks of 
Federal land remaining in the lower 48 United States. The core of the 
ecosystem contains two wilderness areas which comprise the largest 
block of wilderness habitat in the Rocky Mountains south of Canada. Of 
all remaining unoccupied grizzly bear habitat in the lower 48 States, 
this area in the Bitterroot Mountains has the best potential for 
grizzly bear recovery, primarily due to the large wilderness area. As 
such, the Bitterroot Ecosystem offers excellent potential to support a 
healthy population of grizzly bears and to boost long-term survival and 
recovery prospects for this species in the contiguous United States.

The Selected Alternative

    The Selected Alternative is the Proposed Action as described in the 
FEIS. The purpose of this alternative is to restore grizzly bears to 
central Idaho, designate this population as ``nonessential 
experimental,'' and implement provisions within sections 4 and 10(j) of 
the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to conduct special management to 
address local concerns. A Citizen Management Committee (CMC) will be 
tasked with management implementation responsibilities for the 
Bitterroot grizzly bear experimental population. The ``experimental 
population'' designation gives the Service the flexibility to 
promulgate a special rule that applies only to the reintroduced 
population. Protections established by the special rule can thus be 
tailored to specific areas and specific local conditions. Because these 
reintroduced grizzly bears will be classified as an experimental 
population, the Service can institute management practices that address 
local concerns about excessive government regulation on private lands, 
uncontrolled livestock depredation, excessive big game predation, and 
lack of State government and local citizen involvement in the program. 
The Service considers this a ``nonessential'' experimental population 
because several additional populations exist within the 48 conterminous 
United States and, as such, its loss would not be likely to appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival of the species in the wild.
    The Bitterroot Grizzly Bear Experimental Population Area 
(Experimental Population Area), which includes most of central Idaho 
and part of western Montana, will be established by the Service under 
authority of section 10(j) of the ESA. The Experimental Population Area 
encompasses approximately 25,140 square miles. This will include the 
area bounded by U.S. Highway 93 from its junction with the Bitterroot 
River near Missoula, Montana, to Challis, Idaho; Idaho Highway 75 from 
Challis to Stanley, Idaho; Idaho Highway 21 from Stanley to Lowman, 
Idaho; Idaho Highway 17 from Lowman to Banks, Idaho; Idaho Highway 55 
from Banks to New Meadows, Idaho; U.S. Highway 95 from New Meadows to 
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Interstate 90 from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to its 
junction with the Clark Fork River near St. Regis, Montana; the Clark 
Fork River from its junction with Interstate 90 near St. Regis, to its 
confluence with the Bitterroot River near Missoula, Montana; and the 
Bitterroot River from its confluence with the Clark Fork River to its 
junction with U.S. Highway 93, near Missoula, Montana. The best 
scientific evidence available indicates there are no grizzly bears in 
the Experimental Population Area at this time. Ongoing grizzly bear 
monitoring efforts will continue.
    The Service will designate a Bitterroot Grizzly Bear Recovery Area 
(Recovery Area) to consist of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the 
Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The Recovery Area, a 
portion of the Experimental Population Area, encompasses approximately 
5,785 square miles. The Recovery Area is the area of recovery emphasis. 
This means grizzly bear management decisions in the Recovery Area will 
favor bear recovery, allowing this area to serve as core habitat for 
survival, reproduction, and dispersal of the recovering population.
    During the first few months of implementation a CMC will be formed. 
The CMC will be tasked with management implementation responsibilities 
by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, in consultation 
with the governors of Idaho and Montana, for the Bitterroot grizzly 
bear nonessential experimental population. The CMC will be comprised of 
local citizens and agency representatives from Federal and State 
agencies and the Nez Perce Tribe. Two scientific advisors will be 
appointed by

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the Secretary to the CMC as non-voting members, to attend all meetings 
and provide scientific expertise to the CMC. The CMC will be 
responsible for recommending changes in land-use standards and 
guidelines as necessary for grizzly bear management. Recommendations 
made by the CMC to land and wildlife management agencies will be 
subject to review and final decisions on implementation will be made by 
the responsible agency. All decisions of the CMC including components 
of its management plans must lead toward recovery of the grizzly bear 
and minimize social and economic impacts to the extent practicable 
within the context of the existing recovery goals for the species. 
Grizzly bear management will allow for resource extraction activities 
to continue.
    Subject to availability of funding, grizzly bears will be 
reintroduced into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness portion of the 
Recovery Area during the second year of implementation. Specific 
reintroduction sites will be identified by the land and wildlife 
management agencies and the CMC. The Service, in coordination with the 
Forest Service, States of Idaho and Montana, Nez Perce Tribe, and the 
CMC will release a minimum of 25 grizzly bears into the Recovery Area 
over a period of 5 years. In order to increase the probability of 
survival of the initial bears, we will consider accelerating the 
release of the bears in the first few years, as appropriate, and in 
coordination with the CMC. The origin of bears for placement will 
include areas more than 10 miles beyond existing recovery zone lines in 
the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems, and British 
Columbia and Alaska (nonsalmon-eating bears), as appropriate. Bears 
will be removed from source populations only if there is no significant 
impact to population health or recovery. This release will be no sooner 
than 1 year after initiation of formation of the CMC and initiation of 
sanitation and information efforts.
    Bears moving outside the Recovery Area will be accommodated through 
management provisions in a final Special Rule and through 
recommendations on land and wildlife management plans and policies 
developed by the CMC, unless potential conflicts are significant and 
cannot be corrected. The term ``accommodate'' means grizzly bears that 
move outside the Recovery Area onto public land in the Experimental 
Population Area will not be disturbed unless they demonstrate a real 
threat to human safety or livestock.
    People can continue to kill grizzly bears in self-defense or in 
defense of others, provided that such taking is reported within 24 
hours to appropriate authorities. Grizzly bears will be managed 
according to existing grizzly bear guidelines, except in the case of 
grizzly bears on private land that are killing livestock and could not 
be captured by management authorities. In such cases, landowners will 
be issued a permit by the Service and the Idaho Fish and Game 
Department, or the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, or 
appropriate Tribal authorities. Following issuance of a permit by the 
Service and the Idaho Fish and Game Department, or the Montana 
Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, or appropriate Tribal 
authorities, the permittee will be allowed to harass, through 
noninjurious means, a grizzly bear attacking livestock (cattle, sheep, 
horses, and mules) or bees. A livestock owner may be issued a permit to 
kill a grizzly bear killing or pursuing livestock on private lands if 
it has not been possible to capture such a bear or deter depredations 
through agency efforts. If significant conflicts occur between grizzly 
bears and livestock within the Experimental Population Area outside of 
the Recovery Area, these can be resolved in favor of the livestock by 
agencies capturing or eliminating the bear, depending on the 
circumstances. There will be no Federal compensation program for 
livestock losses, but compensation from existing private funding 
sources will be encouraged.
    It is anticipated that ongoing animal damage control activities 
will not be affected by grizzly bear recovery. Animal control toxicants 
lethal to bears are not used on public lands within the Recovery Area 
and the Experimental Population Area. Any conflicts or mortalities 
associated with these activities will result in a review by the CMC, 
and any necessary changes will be recommended by the CMC.
    The selected alternative will be implemented as an overlapping 
staged process. The initial stage will be formation of the CMC. The 
second stage will be simultaneous with CMC formation and will include 
efforts to decrease the availability of human-related foods to wildlife 
by increasing the availability of bear-proof garbage storage containers 
in campgrounds and facilities in and around the Recovery Area. The 
sanitation program will include efforts by the Forest Service, 
permittees, and private landowners in and around the Recovery Area. The 
second stage also will include an enhanced information effort to inform 
people who recreate in the area how to minimize their chances of 
encountering bears. Public education efforts will include--
presentations at schools in and around the Recovery Area to teach 
children about grizzly bears and how to recreate safely in grizzly bear 
country; presentations to all civic clubs and interested organizations 
about grizzly bears and how to recreate safely in grizzly bear country; 
and placing of informative signs at all trail heads in and around the 
Recovery Area. The third stage will be placement of bears, which will 
begin after the CMC has been established and the sanitation and 
information programs have begun.
    The selected alternative represents the environmentally preferable 
alternative which balances the biological needs of recovering grizzly 
bears and public concerns about the potential management of non-
experimental grizzly bear populations under the ESA. Establishment of 
the nonessential experimental population as proposed under this 
alternative will require promulgation of a final special rule. This 
alternative offers the most efficient and realistic plan to result in 
the recovery of grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, given 
concerns of local residents over grizzly bear restoration. The 
nonessential experimental population designation under section 10(j) of 
the ESA will allow for flexible and responsive management to minimize 
the potential negative impacts of grizzly bears to private property, 
big game populations, other listed or sensitive species, and other 
natural resource programs on private and public lands. The CMC will be 
tasked with management responsibilities for this grizzly bear 
population to address local concerns.
    In order to implement the Proposed Action Alternative in the FEIS, 
the Service is required to publish a regulation to establish a 
nonessential experimental population of grizzly bears. When such a 
special rule establishing the experimental population is promulgated, 
the Service will administer the regulation in the manner described in 
the FEIS and this ROD. This will require cooperation with and by other 
agencies within the Department of the Interior, including but not 
limited to the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs, and the Department of Agriculture, including but not limited 
to the Forest Service and Wildlife Services. The Service also will 
cooperate with the States of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, the Nez Perce 
and other potentially affected Indian Tribes, and various other

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individuals within the United States and Canadian governments.
    Implementation of this decision is contingent upon the Service 
receiving adequate appropriations, so that the current level of funding 
for Service activities in other grizzly bear recovery areas will not be 

Other Alternatives Considered

    Other than the proposed action, the major alternatives considered 
and evaluated were:
    Alternative 1A. Restoration of Grizzly Bears as a Nonessential 
Experimental Population with Service Management Alternative. Grizzly 
bears would be reintroduced to central Idaho and designated as a 
nonessential experimental population. The Service would manage this 
grizzly bear population under provisions of section 10(j) of the ESA to 
address local concerns. The nonessential experimental designation would 
allow flexibility in the Service management of the population such that 
negative impacts to private property, big game populations, other 
listed species, and other natural resource programs on private and 
public lands could be minimized. However, this alternative does not 
address one of the most substantive issues from public comment on the 
proposal--the issue of necessity for local control and input into 
resource management decisions affecting local citizens. Given the 
contentious nature of this proposal, and the local opposition to 
Federal management actions, the Service believes the probability of 
successfully recovering grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem will 
be maximized by actively involving local citizens in management of the 
restored population.
    Alternative 2. The No Action Alternative--Natural Recovery. This 
alternative describes the implications of current management 
activities, assuming these will continue over the next 50+ years. A 
description of this course of no action provides a reference point to 
compare and evaluate environmental consequences associated with other 
alternative plans. The overall environmental effects of taking no 
action would likely result in no recovery of grizzly bears in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem, although it may result in grizzly bear 
repopulation in 100-160 years. Given existing information, it is very 
unlikely that grizzly bears would disperse from currently occupied 
areas and successfully repopulate the Bitterroot Ecosystem naturally. 
If grizzly bears did disperse to the Bitterroot Ecosystem they would be 
protected as threatened under the ESA. This would result in less 
management flexibility for the Service to resolve local concerns about 
land use restrictions on public land, predation on big game herds and 
potential loss of hunting opportunity, and livestock depredation.
    Alternative 3. The No Grizzly Bear Alternative. This alternative 
would prevent grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem by 
changing current laws and allowing unrestricted take of grizzly bears 
by the public. This alternative would prohibit restoration of the 
currently missing native grizzly bear from the largest block of 
wilderness habitat in the Rocky Mountains south of Canada. Under this 
alternative, the potential contribution of an additional population of 
grizzly bears to the recovery effort in the conterminous United States 
would never be realized. Also, none of the economic and social benefits 
or costs associated with the presence of a restored grizzly bear 
population would occur. This alternative would require new legislation 
by Congress to change the ESA, and legislation by the States of Idaho 
and Montana to change State laws that protect grizzly bears in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem.
    Alternative 4. Restoration of Grizzly Bears as a Threatened 
Population with Full Protection of the ESA and Habitat Restoration 
Alternative. This alternative would achieve recovery through 
reintroduction of a threatened population of grizzly bears and 
extensive habitat protection and enhancement to promote natural 
recovery. Primary grizzly bear management responsibility would reside 
with the Service and include active participation by the States and the 
Nez Perce Tribe. A 10-member Scientific Committee would be established 
to perform additional research, implement reintroduction of bears, and 
monitor results of the program. Certain actions in this alternative, 
such as the road management plan to obliterate a large number of roads 
to achieve a road density of 0.25 mile/square mile and the elimination 
of timber harvest in all roadless areas, are not necessary actions to 
achieve grizzly bear recovery, and thus decrease the efficiency with 
which this alternative could achieve recovery in the Bitterroot 
Ecosystem. Also, reintroduction of a threatened population would allow 
less management flexibility to address local concerns about livestock 
depredation, restrictions to natural resource programs on public and 
private lands, and impacts to other wildlife species. Based on numerous 
public comments on this proposal, the Service believes the probability 
of successfully recovering grizzly bears in the Bitterroot Ecosystem 
will be maximized by actively involving local citizens in management of 
the restored population
    Alternative 4A. Restoration of Grizzly Bears as a Threatened 
Population with Full Protection of the ESA and Service Management 
Alternative. This alternative would achieve recovery through 
reintroduction of a threatened population of grizzly bears with the 
Service managing recovery of the population. Other Federal and State 
agencies and the Nez Perce Tribe would assist the Service with 
management activities. A 10-member Scientific Advisory Committee would 
be appointed to make recommendations regarding research needs and 
strategies for reintroduction and monitoring of grizzly bears. 
Reintroduction of a threatened population would allow less management 
flexibility to address local concerns about livestock depredation, 
restrictions to natural resource programs on public and private lands, 
and impacts to other wildlife species.

Minimization of Impacts

    Possible project impacts and public concerns, and methods to be 
used to mitigate those impacts and concerns were addressed as follows:
    (1) Lack of local public involvement in the management of the 
reintroduced species was addressed by development of the CMC concept;
    (2) Lack of sufficient scientific input was addressed by adding two 
scientific advisors to the CMC to be nominated by the Universities of 
Idaho and Montana, and requiring the CMC to use the best available 
science in decision-making;
    (3) Public safety on private lands in the Bitterroot Valley, 
Montana, was addressed by making these private lands an exclusion zone 
where any grizzly bear would be immediately captured and relocated into 
the wilderness or destroyed if necessary;
    (4) Possibility of political interference from the Secretary of the 
Department of the Interior on the CMC was addressed by establishing a 
scientific review panel that would be formed if the Service 
representative determined (after consultation with the CMC) that the 
CMC was not making decisions that would lead to recovery;
    (5) Concern about removal of bears from existing threatened 
populations was addressed by clarifying that bears will not be removed 
from within the United States grizzly bear recovery zones or within 10 
miles of bear recovery zones so as to not remove any

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bears from these core areas for any listed population;
    (6) Concern that the CMC would make land management decisions on 
public lands was addressed by clarifying that the CMC will not make 
land management decisions on public lands, but may make only 
recommendations about changes in public land management or public 
hunting seasons, and any changes regarding these issues would have to 
be made with public involvement by the land management or State fish 
and game agencies after complying with NEPA or other appropriate laws;
    (7) Adequacy of the habitat in the Bitterroot Ecosystem was 
addressed by adding an appendix report from the Craighead Wildlife-
Wildlands Institute documenting the abundance and distribution of 
grizzly bear food groups in the Bitterroot Ecosystem, and by a habitat-
based population assessment by Dr. Mark Boyce of the University of 
Alberta detailing how many grizzly bears can be expected to live in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem;
    (8) Lack of a corridor between the Bitterroot Ecosystem and areas 
where grizzlies presently exist was addressed by noting that the 
linkage zone evaluation task in the recovery plan will be completed in 
2000, and will identify where possible linkage zones exist and what can 
be done to maintain the opportunities for such linkage in the future; 
    (9) Impacts to listed steelhead and salmon species will be 
minimized through Service adherence to the conservation recommendations 
of the National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion for this 
project dated May 1998.
    Significant New Issues Raised from Comments Received on the FEIS
    The Service appreciates all comments on the FEIS, and the high 
level of public interest and participation throughout the NEPA process 
for this proposal. The Service received a number of comments during the 
30-day time period following publication of the notice of availability 
of the FEIS. Approximately 14,800 total comments were received from 
individuals, organizations, and government agencies, which included 800 
letters and 14,000 form letters/postcards. The Service reviewed all 
public comments prior to developing this ROD. The majority of comments 
received were directed at registering opposition or support to the 
reintroduction of grizzly bears into the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Many 
comments were essentially votes which contained a statement of opinion, 
and were not substantive input to environmental issues or alternatives 
to correct or improve the content of the FEIS and ROD.
    The majority of substantive issues raised in the FEIS comments were 
identical or similar to issues raised during three previous public 
comment periods for this proposal. These issues have been addressed by 
the Service throughout the NEPA process in the following documents, 
incorporated here by reference--``Final Environmental Impact Statement 
on Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem'' (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2000); ``Summary of Public Comments on the Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement for Grizzly Bear Recovery in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1998); ``Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement on Grizzly Bear Recovery in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1997); ``Summary 
of Public Comments on the Scoping of Issues and Alternatives for 
Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem'' (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1995); ``Summary of Public Comments on the Notice of 
Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Reintroduction of Grizzly Bears to the Bitterroot Ecosystem'' (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1995).
    A few new issues were raised during the 30-day time period 
following the notice of availability of the FEIS. Response to these new 
issues are listed below.
    Issue 1--Several commentors suggested that we accelerate 
reintroduction with more than 5 bears per year and use more than 25 
total bears if more bears are available. Other comments suggested using 
bears from Alaska.
    Response--The Service recognizes that accelerating reintroduction 
would foster recovery of the grizzly by increasing their probability of 
survival in the first few years, and we will consider increasing the 
number of bears released in the first few years, as appropriate. We 
will coordinate any such decision with the CMC. The Service also will 
consider the possibility of reintroducing interior Rocky Mountain (non-
salmon eating) bears from Alaska as appropriate, and will coordinate 
any such decision with the CMC.
    Issue 2--Some commentors asked why we did not consider essential 
experimental status in the range of alternatives in the FEIS.
    Response--The term ``essential'' experimental population means an 
experimental population whose loss would be likely to appreciably 
reduce the likelihood of the survival of the species in the wild. The 
Service has always considered a reintroduced Bitterroot population to 
be ``nonessential'' experimental because several additional populations 
exist within the 48 conterminous United States and, as such, its loss 
would not be likely to appreciably reduce the likelihood of the 
survival of the species in the wild.
    Issue 3--Some commentors continue to question the suitability of 
the habitat data including those data presented in Appendix 21D, the 
report on the abundance and distribution of grizzly bear food plant 
groups in the Salmon-Selway Ecosystem. Other comments questioned why 
the Recovery Area does not include certain areas in the Bitterroot 
Ecosystem that contain quality food sources.
    Response--The Service believes that the data on bear foods 
presented in the FEIS are the best data available and demonstrate the 
sufficiency of the habitat to support a grizzly bear population. Under 
the Proposed Action Alternative grizzly bears are expected to occupy 
the areas outside the recovery emphasis area and will be accommodated 
so they can continue to live in these areas. Accommodate means allowing 
grizzly bears that move outside the Recovery Area onto public land in 
the Experimental Population Area to remain undisturbed unless they 
demonstrate a real and imminent threat to human safety or livestock. 
However, as recovery proceeds, the Service and the CMC will cooperate 
to continue to increase the available knowledge and consider new 
information on the distribution and abundance of bear foods in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem; and will use such knowledge to make management 
decisions to promote recovery. The Service is committed to using the 
best data available.
    Issue 4--Some commentors stated that the implementation of the 
Proposed Action Alternative would be in conflict with existing Forest 
management plans and would require the Forest Service to issue a ROD in 
order to implement the Proposed Action Alternative.
    Response--The Service has consulted with the Forest Service on this 
concern, and the Forest Service does not see any conflicts with 
existing forest management plans nor does the Forest Service see the 
need to issue an EIS and a ROD to concur with the Proposed Action 
Alternative of the Service.
    Issue 5--Some commentors suggested that the Scientific Review Panel 
needs specific timeframes for response and that the governors should 
not have the

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ability to appoint two of the three members.
    Response--The Service believes that specific timeframes would be 
unwarranted given the varied nature of considerations in which this 
panel would be involved, and notes that the process protocol for the 
Scientific Review Panel will be laid out clearly in the Special Rule. 
We also believe that it is important for the appointment of members of 
the Panel to be a shared responsibility in order to have shared 
ownership of the results of the panel review. The process of the 
Scientific Review Panel will be an open public process and the Service 
believes that appointment of inappropriate members of the panel would 
be contrary to the Special Rule. Also, the Secretary has the 
responsibility to consider the recommendations of the Scientific Review 
Panel but is not bound by their recommendations as to the future of the 
    Issue 6--Some commentors were concerned that there is no guarantee 
that any voting members of the CMC would be scientists and felt that 
the science advisors should be voting members.
    Response--Representation on the CMC is expected to include 
scientists from State and Federal agencies and the CMC is directed to 
use the best available scientific information in making decisions as 
per their charter. The Service also believes that having the scientific 
advisors attending as non-voting members will actually make their input 
and comments less subject to pressure and influence than scientists 
from the respective States who are voting members. The CMC process and 
meetings will be open to the public. If the input of the scientific 
advisors is not sought by the CMC or if their input is ignored in CMC 
decisions, then this will be public knowledge and the CMC will have to 
explain their actions. If the advice of the scientific advisors is 
ignored to the point that the decisions of the CMC are not leading to 
recovery, the Secretary's representative will inform the CMC of this 
and of the possible empaneling of the Scientific Review Panel. This 
Scientific Review Panel could recommend that the input of the 
scientific advisors should be heeded and remind the CMC that they are 
bound to use the best available science. Thus, the Service believes 
there are sufficient checks and balances in the process to assure that 
the input of the scientific advisors will be used by the CMC.
    Issue 7--One commentor stated that the CMC will only review the 
plans and policies of agencies, and not projects that may jeopardize 
the continued existence of an experimental species, and believes this 
does not meet the standard of the ESA.
    Response--Meeting section 7 responsibilities is not a 
responsibility of the CMC. If a Federal agency determines that its 
action might jeopardize the continued existence of the species, the 
agency shall conference with the Service, as per the mandates of 
section 7(a)(4) and section 10(j)(2)(C) of the ESA.
    Issue 8--Some commentors asked where the wording is in section 10 
of the ESA that allows delegation of decision-making authority to the 
    Response--The authority for creation of the CMC is contained in 
section 4(f)(2) of the ESA where it states, ``The Secretary, in 
implementing recovery plans, may procure the services of appropriate 
public and private agencies and institutions, and other qualified 
persons.'' Under this authority, the CMC is tasked with specific 
responsibilities for recovery by implementing the recovery program in 
the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Further, section 4(f)(2) of the ESA states 
that appointments of such groups to develop and implement recovery 
plans ``. . . shall not be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee 
Act.'' Additionally, Federal agencies have authority under case law to 
task another entity to accomplish certain functions, as long as there 
are appropriate and adequate legal safeguards.
    Issue 9--One commentor asked how corporate landowners will relate 
to the CMC and how will the CMC be involved in the review of corporate 
management plans for these lands.
    Response--The Governors of each State are able to appoint corporate 
landowners or employees of such corporations to the CMC. The Service 
believes that inclusion of corporate landowners in CMC processes is 
important and valuable, and will encourage the CMC to involve corporate 
landowners in CMC outreach efforts, invite corporate landowners to CMC 
meetings, and to include corporate landowners in CMC processes. Private 
land owners would not lose any of their management authority and the 
CMC would only make management recommendations to them.
    Issue 10--Some commentors indicated the Service needs to implement 
a proactive outreach and information and education program combined 
with a sanitation program to better inform the public about grizzly 
bear management and to increase the safety of humans and bears in the 
    Response--The Service has included this as stage two in the 
implementation of the selected alternative.
    Issue 11--Some commentors think the success or failure of the 
program should be measured over a longer timeframe than a minimum of 10 
years as stated in the FEIS.
    Response--The Service agrees that for such a long-lived species a 
10-year timeframe to measure the success or failure of reintroduction 
is not sufficient. We have extended the timeframe to a minimum of 20 
years, such that it reads, ``* * * the success or failure of the 
program cannot be measured in less than 20 years.''
    Issue 12--Some commentors think there is inadequate information and 
research to indicate there are currently no grizzly bears in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem.
    Response--The best scientific evidence available indicates there 
are no grizzly bears in the Experimental Population Area at this time. 
Published reports by Melquist (Melquist 1985. A preliminary survey to 
determine the status of grizzly bears in the Clearwater National Forest 
of Idaho) and by Groves (Groves 1987. A compilation of grizzly bear 
reports from central and northern Idaho), as well as the March 28, 
1998, letter from Wayne Melquist to Christopher Servheen presented in 
Appendix 23 of the FEIS show no documentation of grizzly bears in the 
Bitterroot Ecosystem. Ongoing grizzly bear monitoring efforts would 
continue, and the Service will continue to follow up on promising 
reports and to cooperate with all efforts to locate grizzly bears in 
the Bitterroot Ecosystem.
    Issue 13--Some commentors were concerned that the Secretary can 
ignore a notice of the Scientific Review Panel that the CMC is not 
making decisions that will lead to recovery and decide to continue the 
CMC rather than disband it.
    Response--The ultimate authority to make decisions to implement the 
ESA is that of the Secretary. Nothing in the Special Rule or the FEIS 
can subjugate the authority of the Secretary to the Scientific Review 
Panel. The Scientific Review Panel process and any subsequent decisions 
of the Secretary will be open to the public and public review.
    Issue 14--One comment questions if there is a contradiction between 
the statement that grizzly bear management decisions will favor bear 
recovery in the Recovery Area, and the statement that if significant 
conflicts occur between grizzly bears and livestock in the Experimental 
Population Area that the

[[Page 69649]]

conflict could be resolved in favor of livestock.
    Response--The ROD has been clarified to state that if significant 
conflicts occur between grizzly bears and livestock in the Experimental 
Population Area, outside the Recovery Area, the conflict could be 
resolved in favor of livestock.
    Issue 15--One comment questions if the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirks 
would have grizzly ``populations'' using the definition of a population 
in the FEIS in Appendix 25.
    Response--Both the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk Ecosystems have had 
multiple sightings of females with cubs and with enough offspring to 
meet the definition of a population used in the FEIS.

Findings and Decision

    Having reviewed and considered the FEIS for the recovery of the 
grizzly bear in the Bitterroot Ecosystem and the public comments 
thereon, the Service finds as follows:
    (1) The requirements of NEPA and its implementing regulations have 
been satisfied; and
    (2) Statutory authority for the Service to implement this project 
exists; and
    (3) The Proposed Action Alternative represents the best balance 
between the Service's goals and the objectives and the public's 
concerns identified throughout the public participation process; and
    (4) Consistent with the recovery goals, and with social, economic, 
and other essential considerations from among the reasonable 
alternatives, the Proposed Action Alternative minimizes or avoids 
adverse environmental effects to the maximum extent practicable, 
including effects disclosed in the FEIS; and
    (5) Consistent with the social, economic, and other essential 
considerations to the maximum extent practicable, adverse environmental 
effects identified in the FEIS will be minimized or avoided.
    Having made the above findings, the Service has decided to proceed, 
as funding permits, with implementation of the Proposed Action 
Alternative. The decision to implement this alternative is subject to 
the following conditions that will further minimize or avoid the 
environmental impacts and public concerns identified during the 
environmental review process:
    (1) The process of grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot 
Ecosystem will be implemented in a staged process with initial 
formation of the CMC, and ongoing sanitation enhancement and public 
information efforts;
    (2) if the Service receives adequate funding, grizzly bears could 
be reintroduced in 2002, following formation of the CMC and successful 
initiation of the sanitation and informational efforts, which will be 
ongoing as the bears are placed in the area;
    (3) bears for reintroduction will be taken from areas more than 10 
miles beyond existing recovery zone lines in the Yellowstone and 
Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems, and from British Columbia and 
Alaska (nonsalmon-eating bears), as appropriate;
    (4) to maximize human safety and bear survival, bears placed in the 
Bitterroot will have no history of conflict with people or livestock;
    (5) all reintroduced bears will be radio-monitored upon placement; 
    (6) at least 25 bears will be placed into the area in coordination 
with the CMC and this number may increase pending scientific 
considerations of the need to have a larger initial population so as to 
increase the probability of eventual recovery.
    This statement of Findings/ROD will serve as the written facts and 
conclusions relied upon in reaching this decision.

    Dated: November 13, 2000.
Ralph O. Morgenweck,
Regional Director, Denver, Colorado.

Appendix--Errata Sheet for the Final Environmental Impact Statement on 
Grizzly Bear Recovery in the Bitterroot Ecosystem

    The following list includes clarifications or corrections to the 
FEIS. Many of the items listed were brought forward by the public in 
their comments on the FEIS. The Service appreciates the input, and 
this opportunity to correct and improve the FEIS. None of the 
corrections listed below significantly affect the analyses or 
conclusions of effect in the FEIS.
    1. Table S-2 (page xl), Table 2-1 (page 2-79), Chapter 2 (page 
2-57, last paragraph)--The FEIS incorrectly states that for the 
Service to implement Alternative 4, the principal laws that govern 
land management (agencies) on Federal lands would have to be 
changed. This is corrected to state that for the Service to 
implement Alternative 4, the National Forest Land Management Plans 
that govern land management by agencies on Federal lands would have 
to be amended or revised.
    2. Pages 2-27 (fourth paragraph, last sentence) and 2-41 (third 
paragraph)--The FEIS states, ``bears found outside the experimental 
population area boundaries are a fully threatened species, not 
experimental bears.'' This is restated, ``In the conterminous United 
States, a grizzly bear that is outside the experimental population 
area will be considered as threatened.''
    3. Page 2-6, number 3(b); page 2-8, fourth paragraph; page 2-12, 
second paragraph--The FEIS states, ``Two scientific advisors would 
be appointed by the Secretary to the CMC as non-voting members, to 
attend all meetings and provide scientific expertise in support of 
CMC management recommendations.'' This is clarified to state, ``Two 
scientific advisors would be appointed by the Secretary to the CMC 
as non-voting members, to attend all meetings and provide scientific 
expertise to the CMC.''
    4. Page 6-128, second paragraph, last sentence--The FEIS states, 
``The CMC would be responsible for developing land-use restrictions 
as necessary for grizzly bear management.'' This is corrected to be 
consistent with other statements in the FEIS that indicate, ``The 
CMC would be responsible for recommending changes in land-use 
standards and guidelines in the Bitterroot Ecosystem as necessary 
for grizzly bear management. Decisions on, and implementation of 
these recommendations is the responsibility of the land and wildlife 
management agencies.''
    5. Page 4-18, third paragraph, first sentence--The FEIS states, 
``This alternative allows for a citizens management committee to 
decide if trails, roads, and other areas would be closed to improve 
recovery efforts for grizzly bears.'' This is corrected to state, 
``This alternative allows for a citizen management committee to make 
recommendations to land management agencies for road, trail and area 
closures necessary to improve recovery efforts for grizzly bears.''
    6. Page 2-14, second paragraph--The FEIS states, ``Idaho 
Department of Fish and Game and/or the Nez Perce Tribe, Montana 
Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, and the USDA Forest 
Service, in coordination with the Service, would exercise day-to-day 
management responsibility within the experimental population area 
while implementing the Bitterroot Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Plan Chapter, the Special Rule, and the policies and plans of the 
CMC.'' This is clarified to state, ``Idaho Department of Fish and 
Game and/or the Nez Perce Tribe, Montana Department of Fish, 
Wildlife, and Parks, and the USDA Forest Service, in coordination 
with the Service, would exercise day-to-day management 
responsibility within the experimental population area while 
implementing the Bitterroot Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan 
Chapter, the Special Rule, and considering the recommendations of 
the CMC.''
    7. Page 6-111, Table 6-13--The Management Area Type of 
``Unroaded/essentially undeveloped'' is corrected to ``Essentially 
    8. The Welcome Creek Wilderness in western Montana was omitted 
from the list of designated wilderness areas in the Primary Analysis 
Area. The addition of this designated wilderness area to the Primary 
Analysis Area increases the total Wilderness acreage by 28,000 

[FR Doc. 00-29531 Filed 11-16-00; 8:45 am]