[Federal Register: June 21, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 120)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 42217-42229]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF43

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Supplemental 
Proposed Rule To Remove the Douglas County Population of Columbian 
White-Tailed Deer From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife; Notice of a Public Hearing

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; revision and notice of public hearing.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is publishing a 
revised proposal to establish two distinct population segments (DPS) of 
the Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus): The 
Douglas County DPS and the Columbia River DPS. We also propose to 
remove the Douglas County, Oregon, population from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973 (Act), as amended. A previous proposed rule was issued on May 11, 
1999. In this revised proposed rule, we provide new information and 
clarify our reasons for proposing to delist the population.
    Current data indicate that the Douglas County DPS of Columbian 
white-tailed deer has recovered. This DPS has increased from about 
2,500 animals in 1983, to over 5,000 today. The range of the population 
has also increased. This robust population growth, coupled with habitat 
acquired and protected for the population, have brought the Douglas 
County DPS to the point where a change in status is appropriate. This 
recovery has primarily been the result of habitat acquisition and 
management for the deer, hunting restrictions, and the application of 
local ordinances designed to protect the deer population.
    The proposed delisting of the Douglas County DPS will not change 
the endangered status of the Columbia River DPS. It will remain fully 
protected by the Act.

DATES: We will accept comments until the close of business on August 
20, 2002. The public hearing will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on 
July 30, 2002, in Roseburg, Oregon. Prior to the public hearing, the 
Service will be available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to provide information 
and to answer questions. Registration for the hearing will begin at 
5:30 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The public hearing will be held at the Holiday Inn Express, 
375 West Harvard Blvd, Roseburg, Oregon. If you wish to comment, you 
may submit your comments and materials at the hearing or by any one of 
several methods:
    (1) You may submit written comments and information to the State 
Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 2600 S.E. 98th Ave., Suite 100, Portland, Oregon 97266.
    (2) You may hand-deliver written comments to our Oregon Fish and 
Wildlife Office at the address given above.
    (3) You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to: 
FW1ColumbianWTD@r1.fws.gov. See the Public Comments Solicited section 
below for file format and other information on electronic filing.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cat Brown, Wildlife Biologist, at the 
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone 503/
231-6179; facsimile 503/231-6195).



    The Columbian white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus) 
is the westernmost representative of 30 subspecies of white-tailed deer 
in North and Central America (Halls 1978; Baker 1984). It resembles 
other white-tailed deer subspecies, ranging in size from 39 to 45 
kilograms (kg) (85 to 100 pounds (lb)) for females and 52 to 68 kg (115 
to 150 lb) for males (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) 
1995). Generally a red-brown color in summer, and gray in winter, the 
subspecies has distinct white rings around the eyes and a white ring 
just behind the nose (ODFW 1995). Its tail is relatively long, brown on 
top with a white fringe, and white below (Verts and Carraway 1998). The 
subspecies was formerly distributed throughout the bottomlands and 
prairie woodlands of the lower Columbia, Willamette, and Umpqua River 
basins in Oregon and southern Washington (Bailey 1936; Verts and 
Carraway 1998). Early accounts suggested this deer was locally common, 
particularly in riparian areas along major rivers (Gavin 1978). The 
decline in Columbian white-tailed deer numbers was rapid with the 
arrival and settlement of pioneers in the fertile river valleys (Gavin 
1978). Conversion of brushy riparian land to agriculture, urbanization, 
uncontrolled sport and commercial hunting, and perhaps other factors, 
apparently caused the extirpation of this deer over most of its range 
by the early 1900s (Gavin 1978).

[[Page 42218]]

By 1940, a population of 500 to 700 animals along the lower Columbia 
River in Oregon and Washington, and a disjunct population of 200 to 300 
in Douglas County, Oregon, survived (Crews 1939; Gavin 1984; Verts and 
Carraway 1998). These two remnant populations remain geographically 
separated by about 320 kilometers (km) (200 miles (mi)) of unsuitable 
or discontinuous habitat.
    Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County are most often 
associated with riparian habitats, but studies have shown that the deer 
uses a variety of lower elevation habitat types. Radio-tagged deer in a 
recent study selected riparian habitats more frequently than any other 
habitat type, but were also found using all the other habitat types in 
the study area (i.e., grassland, grass shrub, oak savannah, oak-
hardwood woodland, oak-hardwood savannah shrub, oak-hardwood conifer, 
conifer and urban/suburban yards) (Ricca 1999). This study found that 
the areas of concentrated use within a deer's home range were generally 
located within 200 meters (m) (650 feet (ft)) of streams (Ricca 1999), 
which confirms earlier work (Smith 1981) suggesting that habitat type 
is less important than distance to a stream. Open areas (grasslands and 
oak savanna), are used for feeding between dusk and dawn (Ricca 1999). 
The diet of Columbian white-tailed deer consists of forbs (broad-leaved 
herbaceous plants), shrubs, grasses, and a variety of other foods, such 
as lichens, mosses, ferns, seeds, and nuts (Lowell Whitney, Oregon 
State University, pers. comm., 2001).
    Population estimates for the Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas 
County have demonstrated a fairly steady upward trend since management 
for the population began (see Table 1 and Figure 1).

  Table 1.--Annual Trend Counts (Based on Spring Censuses) and Population Estimates (Based on Linear Regression)
   With Confidence Intervals (Lower and Upper Population Estimates) for Columbian White-Tailed Deer in Douglas
                                              County, 1975-2001 \1\
                                                                                          Confidence intervals
                                                             Annual trend              -------------------------
                            Year                             count  (deer/  Population     Lower        Upper
                                                                 mile)       estimate    population   population
                                                                                          estimate     estimate
1975.......................................................          1.7          1230          407         2054
1976.......................................................          1.9          1400          528         2272
1977.......................................................          1.95         1570          650         2489
1978.......................................................          2            1740          771         2707
1979.......................................................          2.3          1910          892         2925
1980.......................................................          2.3          2080         1014         3143
1981.......................................................          2.2          2250         1135         3361
1982.......................................................          2.1          2420         1257         3579
1983.......................................................          2.5          2590         1378         3797
1984.......................................................          2.7          2760         1500         4015
1985.......................................................          2.6          2930         1621         4233
1986.......................................................          2.2          3100         1743         4451
1987.......................................................          4.1          3270         1864         4669
1988.......................................................          5.6          3440         1985         4887
1989.......................................................          5            3609         2107         5105
1990.......................................................          6.6          3779         2228         5322
1991.......................................................          7.7          3949         2350         5540
1992.......................................................          5.6          4119         2471         5758
1993.......................................................          6.6          4289         2593         5975
1994.......................................................          5.3          4459         2714         6194
1995.......................................................          4.3          4629         2835         6412
1996.......................................................          4.3          4799         2957         6630
1997.......................................................          5.5          4969         3078         6848
1998.......................................................          4.6          5139         3200         7066
1999.......................................................          7.7          5309         3321         7284
2000.......................................................          5.4          5479         3443         7502
2001.......................................................          6.9          5649         3564        7720
\1\ From D. Jackson, in litt 2001.

[[Page 42219]]


    In the 1930s, the Columbian white-tailed deer population in Douglas 
County was estimated at 200 to 300 individuals within a range of about 
79 square kilometers (km2) (31 square miles 
(mi2)) (Crews 1939). By 1983, the population had increased 
to about 2,500 deer (Service 1983). The population has continued to 
grow and is currently estimated at over 5,000 deer (Columbian White 
Tailed Deer Recovery Team (Recovery Team), in litt. 2001; ODFW, in 
litt. 2001; DeWaine Jackson, ODFW, in litt. 2001). Along with this 
increase in numbers, the range also has expanded to the north and west, 
and the subspecies now occupies an area of approximately 800 
km2 (309 mi2) (ODFW 1995). In 2001, ODFW 
estimated that there were about 6.9 deer per mile along their standard 
census routes, with a sex ratio of 22 adult bucks to 100 adult does, 
and about 35 fawns to 100 does. Annual population surveys indicate that 
deer density has doubled in the last 20 years, and the population may 
be at or near carrying capacity in portions of its range within Douglas 
County (Ricca 1999).
    The State of Oregon has had a long history of research and active 
management of the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed 
deer. In 1927, the Oregon State Legislature established a White-tailed 
Deer Refuge in Douglas County. Early studies estimated a population of 
200 to 300 Columbian white-tailed deer on the refuge, and an 
approximately equal number of Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus 
hemionus columbiana) (Crews 1939). The white-tailed deer in Douglas 
County was subsequently considered to be a black-tailed deer or a 
hybrid between the black-tailed deer and the Columbian white-tailed 
deer by the State of Oregon (ODFW 1995); the refuge was dissolved in 
1952, and regulated hunting resumed (Gavin 1984). In 1978, Oregon 
recognized the white-tailed deer population in Douglas County as the 
Columbian white-tailed deer and prohibited hunting of white-tailed deer 
in that County (Service 1983).
    Since 1978, ODFW has conducted spring and fall surveys to estimate 
population size, recruitment, and sex ratios (ODFW, in litt. 2001). 
Standard routes for spotlight surveys have been established along 76.4 
km (47.5 mi) of road within the known range of the population (ODFW, in 
litt. 2001). The fall deer census counts both Columbian white-tailed 
deer and Columbian black-tailed deer throughout Douglas County, from 
November 15 thru December 15 in most years, on warmer, rainy nights 
when the deer are most active. All deer observed are classified by 
species, sex, and age (i.e., fawns, does, or bucks by antler class). 
This allows an estimate of fawn production going into winter (fawns per 
100 adults), and in the case of black-tailed deer, the post hunting 
season buck survival (bucks per 100 does) (Steve Denney, ODFW, in litt. 
    The spring census is similar to the fall count. On warm, wet nights 
in March, ODFW conducts a spotlight count along the standard road 
routes, recording both white-tailed and black-tailed deer. All deer 
observed are recorded and classified as either adults or fawns; this 
provides an estimate of overwinter fawn survival (fawns per 100 does) 
and population trend (expressed as deer per mile) (S. Denney, in litt. 
    The State also implements an active research program, in 
coordination with the Service and Oregon State University, to 
investigate deer habitat use and movement of radio-tagged individuals 
(Ricca 1999; ODFW 1995; ODFW, in litt. 2001). Since 1998, for example, 
ODFW has been transplanting radio-tagged Columbian white-tailed deer 
from areas of high deer densities to Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park in 
northwestern Douglas County. The goals of the project have been to 
boost numbers of deer in the

[[Page 42220]]

park, accelerate range expansion to the north, to refine capture and 
transplanting techniques, and to move deer from areas where damage has 
been a concern (S. Denney, in litt. 2001).
    The Columbian white-tailed deer was listed as endangered by the 
State with the passage of the Oregon Endangered Species Act in 1987 
(ODFW 1995). In 1995, ODFW reviewed the status of the Columbian white-
tailed deer in Oregon (both Douglas County and Columbia River 
populations), and concluded that the subspecies had recovered (ODFW 
1995). At the November 1995 meeting of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife 
Commission (OFWC), the Commissioners voted unanimously to remove the 
Columbian white-tailed deer from the State of Oregon list of threatened 
and endangered species; the subspecies was placed on the State 
Sensitive Species List for continued monitoring (OFWC 1995). Oregon 
continues to prohibit hunting of white-tailed deer in all western 
Oregon big game management units (ODFW 2001).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment

    The Douglas County and Columbia River populations of the Columbian 
white-tailed deer meet the requirements for consideration as distinct 
population segments as described in our Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments, published in 
the Federal Register on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722). For a population 
to be considered as a distinct vertebrate population segment, two 
elements are considered: (1) The discreteness of the population segment 
in relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs; and 
(2) the significance of the population segment to the species to which 
it belongs.
    A population may be considered discrete if it is (1) separated from 
other populations of the same taxon due to physical, physiological, 
ecological, or behavioral factors or (2) limited by international 
governmental boundaries where there are differences in control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms. The Douglas County and Columbia River populations of 
Columbian white-tailed deer are discrete because they are 
geographically isolated from each other. Historically, this subspecies 
ranged from the south end of Puget Sound in Washington south to the 
Umpqua River drainage in Oregon (Bailey 1936). At the present time, the 
subspecies is found in two locations (along the Columbia River in 
Washington and Oregon, and in Douglas County, Oregon), which are 
separated by over 320 km (200 mi) of discontinuous or unsuitable 
habitat. Columbian white-tailed deer are not migratory and appear to 
restrict their movements to relatively small home ranges (ODFW 1995). 
Laboratory research has also demonstrated that there is a relatively 
large genetic difference between the Douglas County and Columbia River 
populations of Columbian white-tailed deer (Gavin and May 1988), which 
indicates a lack of gene flow between the two populations. As a result, 
the wide geographic gap in suitable habitat between the Columbia River 
and Douglas County populations demonstrates that this subspecies has 
two discrete population segments.
    The following issues are considered when determining significance: 
(1) Persistence of the discrete population segment in an unusual or 
unique setting for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the segment 
would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) the 
discrete population segment represents the only surviving natural 
occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an 
introduced population outside its historic range; or (4) the population 
segment differs from other populations of the species in its genetic 
    The Douglas County and Columbia River populations are considered 
significant under our policy based on two factors. First, the loss of 
either of the Douglas County and Columbia River populations would 
result in a significant gap in the range of the subspecies. The loss of 
either population would substantially constrict the current range of 
the subspecies. Second, each population has genetic characteristics 
that are not found in the other population (Gavin and May 1988). 
Because the Douglas County and Columbia River populations of the 
Columbian white-tailed deer are discrete and significant, they warrant 
recognition as Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the Act.

Review of the Columbian White-Tailed Deer Recovery Plan

    In accordance with the Act, we appointed a team of experts to 
develop a recovery plan for the Columbian white-tailed deer. We 
approved the original Columbian White-tailed Deer Recovery Plan 
(Recovery Plan) in 1977, and the Recovery Team revised the Recovery 
Plan in 1983 to include the newly recognized Douglas County population 
(Service 1983).
    Because of the distance between the Columbia River and Douglas 
County populations and differences in habitats and threats, the 
Recovery Plan addresses the recovery of each population separately. The 
Recovery Plan identified the following objectives for the Douglas 
County population: (1) To downlist the population to threatened, the 
Recovery Plan recommended the maintenance of 1,000 Columbian white-
tailed deer in a viable status on lands within the Umpqua Basin of 
Douglas County, while keeping the relative proportions of deer habitat 
within the known range of the subspecies from further deterioration; 
(2) Additionally, to delist the population, it recommended the 
maintenance of a minimum population of 500 animals from the larger 
population be distributed on 2,226 hectares (ha) (5,500 acres (ac)) of 
suitable, secure habitat within the Umpqua Basin of Douglas County on 
lands owned, controlled, protected, or otherwise dedicated to the 
conservation of the species (Service 1983).
    The Recovery Plan defined secure habitat as those areas which are 
protected from adverse human activities (e.g., heavy, unregulated 
grazing by domestic animals, clearing of woody plants) in the 
foreseeable future, and which are relatively safe from natural 
phenomena that would destroy their value to the subspecies (Service 
1983:46). The Recovery Plan did not define secure habitat to include 
only publicly owned lands; rather it provided further guidance on 
secure habitat by stating that local entities, including planning 
commissions, county parks departments, and farm bureaus, could secure 
habitat through zoning ordinances, land use planning, parks and 
greenbelts, agreements, memoranda of understanding, and other 
mechanisms available to local jurisdictions (Service 1983:52). The 
Recovery Plan also recommended that private conservation organizations 
be encouraged to secure habitat for Columbian white-tailed deer through 
easements, leases, acquisitions, donations, or trusts (Service 
    The Recovery Plan identified a series of tasks that the Recovery 
Team recommended to meet the downlisting and delisting objectives for 
the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed deer (Service 
1983:45-54). These tasks fall into five main categories: (1) Track 
population status; (2) ensure viability of the population through 
enforcement of existing laws and regulations; (3) secure and protect 
habitat to allow the population to increase; (4) study the ecology of 
the population and assess the threat of hybridization with Columbian 
black-tailed deer; and (5) encourage public support for Columbian 
white-tailed deer restoration. Nearly all of the tasks listed in the 
Recovery Plan (Service 1983)

[[Page 42221]]

have been accomplished. We provide a summary of recovery tasks and 
their implementation status below.
    (1) Track population status. Tasks in this first category have been 
fully implemented. ODFW, with funding from the Service, has surveyed 
the population almost yearly since 1978. Data collected include spring 
and fall trend counts, estimates of overall population size, 
recruitment, and sex ratios. Surveys indicate that the population has 
grown from about 2,500 animals in 1982 to about 5,000 in 2001 (Service 
1983; ODFW, in litt. 2001). The Recovery Plan included a model to 
estimate the minimum population size necessary to avoid extinction; 
using this model, the Recovery Team concluded that a population of 500 
deer in Douglas County could be considered safe from the potentially 
deleterious effects of inbreeding (Service 1983). The most recent 
estimate of the overall population of Columbian white-tailed deer in 
Douglas County is significantly larger than the objectives established 
in the recovery plan (ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    (2) Ensure viability of the population through enforcement of 
existing laws and regulations. Tasks concerning enforcement of existing 
laws to protect the Columbian white-tailed deer have been fully 
implemented. It is currently illegal to take Columbian white-tailed 
deer under State law (ODFW 2001) and as proscribed in section 9 of the 
Act. Service biologists have coordinated with our agency's Law 
Enforcement Special Agents and our National Fish and Wildlife Forensics 
Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, to refer illegal take cases to the 
Oregon State Police, which has successfully prosecuted a number of 
Columbian white-tailed deer poaching cases (Sgt. Joe Myhre, Oregon 
State Police, pers. comm., 2001). See additional discussion under 
Factor D, below, for more detail. We have also engaged in section 7 
consultations with Federal agencies for those actions which were 
determined to have the potential to affect Columbian white-tailed deer.
    (3) Secure and protect habitat to allow the population to increase. 
Since 1978, over 2,830 ha (7,000 ac) have come into public ownership 
and are being managed for values compatible with Columbian white-tailed 
deer use (see full description of these parcels in Factor A, below). 
This acreage includes the North Bank Habitat Management Area (NBHMA), 
managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Mildred Kanipe 
Memorial Park. Smaller parcels owned by Douglas County and The Nature 
Conservancy (TNC) also provide secure refugia for deer. In addition, 
Douglas County has used its authorities to conserve the Columbian 
white-tailed deer. The Douglas County Comprehensive Plan (DCPD) (DCPD 
2000a), county zoning ordinances (DCPD 2000b), and the Douglas County 
Deer Habitat Protection Program (DCPD 1995), also have been essential 
in protecting open space and rural agricultural landscapes used by the 
    The Recovery Plan recommended that the Service and ODFW develop a 
long-term management plan for the Douglas County population of 
Columbian white-tailed deer (Service 1983:50). Although a single, 
population-wide plan has not been prepared, this task has been, or is 
being, accomplished, in part, through site-specific management plans 
for the NBHMA (BLM 2001), Douglas County's Habitat Protection Program 
for the Columbian white-tailed deer (DCPD 1995), and Mildred Kanipe 
Memorial Park (plan currently under development) (Jeff Powers, 
Director, Douglas County Parks Department, pers. comm., 2001).
    (4) Study the ecology of the population and assess the threat of 
hybridization with Columbian black-tailed deer. Several tasks in the 
Recovery Plan recommended research on the ecology of the population. A 
substantial amount of research has been conducted by ODFW and Oregon 
State University (Smith 1981; ODFW 1995; Ricca 1999; L. Whitney, pers. 
comm., 2001). BLM used information from these studies to develop the 
NBHMA management plan, the largest property managed for the deer. 
Laboratory studies and field observations have been used to gauge the 
extent of hybridization between Columbian white-tailed deer and 
Columbian black-tailed deer in Douglas County (Gavin and May 1988; 
Kistner and Denney 1991; ODFW 1995); none of these studies has 
indicated that hybridization is a threat to the population.
    (5) Encourage public support for Columbian white-tailed deer 
restoration. The final set of tasks in the Recovery Plan deals with 
educating the public about the Columbian white-tailed deer restoration 
program. This task continues to be implemented by biologists from the 
Service and ODFW. ODFW has produced informational materials on the deer 
population in Douglas County for the public and landowners. The Service 
and ODFW also provide information and recommendations to private 
landowners who have Columbian white-tailed deer on their property.
    Recovery Plans are intended to guide and measure recovery. The Act 
provides for delisting whenever the best available information 
indicates that a species, subspecies, or distinct population segment is 
no longer endangered or threatened. The Columbian white-tailed deer 
population is robust and expanding, and substantial habitat has been 
protected by Federal acquisition and Douglas County's zoning and open 
space regulations. We acknowledge that it is difficult to demonstrate 
that the specific delisting objective of 500 deer on 5,500 ac of secure 
habitat as stated in the Recovery Plan has been met (Service 1983). 
Surveys consistently show that most deer depend on a combination of 
public and private lands. Five hundred deer may live entirely on secure 
and suitable lands managed for deer, but demonstrating that is not 
feasible. However, as discussed below in the listing factor analysis, 
we believe that the improved status of the Columbian white-tailed deer 
in Douglas County justifies its removal from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife. We have reached this conclusion with the 
concurrence of the Recovery Team (Recovery Team, in litt. 2001).

Previous Federal Action

    On March 11, 1967, the Columbian white-tailed deer was listed in 
the Federal Register as an endangered species under the Endangered 
Species Preservation Act of 1966 (32 FR 4001). At that time, the 
subspecies was believed to occur only along the Columbia River, whereas 
the population in Douglas County was believed to be hybridized with the 
Columbian black-tailed deer (ODFW 1995). On March 8, 1969, we again 
published in the Federal Register (34 FR 5034) a list of fish and 
wildlife species threatened with extinction under the Endangered 
Species Conservation Act of 1969. This list again included the 
Columbian white-tailed deer. On August 25, 1970, we published a 
proposed list of endangered species, which included the Columbian 
white-tailed deer, in the Federal Register (35 FR 13519) as part of new 
regulations implementing the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 
1969. This rule became final on October 13, 1970 (35 FR 16047). Species 
listed as endangered on the above-mentioned lists were automatically 
included in the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife when the 
Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973. In 1978, the State of 
Oregon determined that white-tailed deer in the Roseburg area belonged 
to the Columbian subspecies (ODFW 1995). This determination resulted in 
that population being considered as endangered, together with the 
Columbia River population.

[[Page 42222]]

    On May 11, 1999, we published a proposed rule to remove the Douglas 
County population of Columbian white-tailed deer from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (64 FR 25263). We accepted public 
comments until July 12, 1999. We reopened the public comment period on 
November 3, 1999, to allow peer review of the proposed rule (64 FR 
59729), and the comment period closed on November 18, 1999. We opened 
the public comment period again from December 29, 1999, to January 13, 
2000, in order to provide three peer reviewers an opportunity to review 
previous public comments, and to accept any new public comments on the 
proposed rule (64 FR 72992).

Summary of Comments on the First Proposal

    In the May 11, 1999, proposed rule and associated notifications, 
and subsequent comment period reopenings, we requested all interested 
parties to submit factual reports or information that might contribute 
to the development of a final rule. We contacted appropriate Federal 
and State agencies, county governments, scientific organizations, and 
other interested parties and asked them to comment. We published 
newspaper notices in the News-Review, Roseburg, Oregon, on May 30, 
1999, and November 9, 1999, and in The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, on 
May 30, 1999, and November 7, 1999, which invited general public 
comment. We received 89 comments, including those of 1 Federal agency, 
the State of Oregon, 3 academic or agency scientists, the Recovery 
Team, and 70 individuals or groups; 73 supported, 14 opposed, and 4 
were neutral on the proposed action.
    Comments included substantial new information regarding the 
management status of parcels considered secure for deer, and some 
commenters questioned our interpretation of population estimates for 
deer on those parcels. In this supplemental proposed rule, we 
acknowledge the merit of these comments, and have completely revised 
the proposed rule to incorporate this information, as well as other new 
information available since the publication of the proposed rule in 
1999. We will seek peer review of this proposal during the public 
comment period.
    Comments received during the comment periods are addressed in the 
following summary. Comments of a similar nature or point are grouped 
into a number of general issues.
    Issue 1: One commenter raised questions about the quality of the 
information used in preparing the original proposed rule. This 
commenter provided information regarding the management status of 
parcels considered secure for deer, and also criticized the 
interpretation of population estimates for deer on those parcels.
    Our Response: We have revised the proposed rule to better explain 
the basis for delisting. The revised proposed rule incorporates the 
information provided by the commenter, as well as new information 
available since the publication of the proposed rule in 1999. We have 
carefully re-examined all available information on current threats to 
the population, the relevant management documents for parcels providing 
habitat for the deer, and deer population estimates in revising the 
proposed rule. Because of this new information, we are issuing this 
supplemental proposed rule to delist the Douglas County population of 
Columbian white-tailed deer, and are providing another opportunity for 
the public to comment on this new proposal. We will also seek peer 
review of this proposal during the public comment period.
    Issue 2: One commenter asserted that the delisting criteria 
specified in the Recovery Plan had not been met, and that we must 
withdraw our proposal to delist until all of the goals identified in 
the Recovery Plan had been fully attained.
    Our Response: Recovery plans are intended to guide and measure 
recovery, but the Act also provides for delisting a species whenever it 
is no longer endangered or threatened based on an analysis of five 
factors set forth in the Act (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1533(a)(i), see also 50 
CFR Sec. 424.11(d)). The deer population is larger and more robust than 
the Recovery Team envisioned in 1983, and over 2,830 ha (7,000 ac) of 
habitat used by the deer has been acquired by Federal and local 
government agencies.
    We acknowledge that we do not know if the Columbian white-tailed 
deer has met the delisting criterion specified in the Recovery Plan 
(Service 1983) (e.g., 500 deer distributed on 5,500 acres of secure 
habitat). However, the deer population is large, a substantial amount 
of habitat in Douglas County is being managed for values compatible 
with Columbian white-tailed deer needs, and threats to its continued 
existence have been ameliorated. Our review of the five factors (see 
discussion in the Summary of Factors Affecting the Species below) shows 
that the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed deer has 
recovered and no longer requires the protection of the Act. We have 
reached this conclusion with the concurrence of the Recovery Team 
(Recovery Team, in litt. 2001).
    Issue 3: One commenter referred to a task in the Columbian White-
tailed Deer Recovery Plan which recommended completion of a long-term 
management plan for the Douglas County population of the deer. The 
commenter claimed that delisting should not be considered until this 
task is completed.
    Our Response: Although a single, population-wide plan has not been 
prepared, this task has been accomplished, in part, through management 
plans for the North Bank Habitat Management Area (NBHMA)(BLM 2001) and 
Douglas County's Habitat Protection Program (DCPD 1995) for the 
Columbian white-tailed deer. In addition, a management plan is 
currently under development for Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park (J. 
Powers, pers. comm., 2001). These large parcels, in concert with other 
lands in public ownership and those governed by Douglas County through 
zoning and open space regulations, ensure the population's continued 
protection. See the full discussion of this issue under Factor A, 
    Issue 4: We received 10 comment letters with recommendations 
regarding the 5-year post-delisting monitoring plan. Peer reviewers of 
the original proposed rule to delist the population unanimously 
stressed the importance of a monitoring program based on rigorous 
sampling procedures, in order to detect real trends in the population.
    Our Response: Section 4(g) of the Act requires the Service to 
implement a system, in cooperation with the State, to effectively 
monitor the status of delisted recovered species for a minimum of 5 
years. If we do delist the population, we will ask the Recovery Team 
and stakeholders to work with Service biologists to design and 
implement a statistically sound monitoring plan for the Douglas County 
population of the deer immediately after the final rule is published. 
We anticipate that the monitoring program will include spring and fall 
census counts, analysis of sex ratios, and recruitment estimates to 
determine population status. See the Monitoring section of this 
proposed rule for more information.
    Issue 5: We received three comment letters on the 1999 proposed 
rule that recommended the Service monitor trends in habitat quality. 
The commenters suggested that formulation of a habitat management plan 
could improve existing riparian habitat, adjacent upland oak savannah, 
and native grasslands within the range of the deer in Douglas County. 

[[Page 42223]]

information could then be used to evaluate areas for potential 
transplantation and population expansion.
    Our Response: We acknowledge the critical importance of maintaining 
and improving existing habitats used by the deer. We believe the 
currently approved management plans provide excellent protection for a 
substantial amount of occupied and potential habitats. The monitoring 
plan (see the Monitoring section) will include an annual review of 
habitat quality and trends, and will result in recommendations to the 
Service and ODFW, if action is required. We will continue to work with 
ODFW to identify additional parcels which may be protected and managed 
through available mechanisms, such as conservation easements with 
willing landowners.
    Issue 6: Several commenters recommended that additional research 
should be pursued after the Douglas County population of Columbian 
white-tailed deer is delisted. Recommended research included: (1) A 
study of the genetic relationship among the Columbian white-tailed deer 
populations in Douglas County and along the lower Columbia River, and 
the northwest white-tailed deer in Idaho; (2) a study of mortality 
caused by parasites, diseases, and predators; (3) a study to determine 
if Columbian black-tailed deer are competitively excluding Columbian 
white-tailed deer from portions of the North Bank Habitat Management 
Area; and (4) a study of Columbian white-tailed deer movements at 
night, to determine if nocturnal spatial distribution is similar to 
that observed in daytime and twilight hours.
    Our Response: We will work with the Recovery Team to identify 
needed research and potential funding sources that may assist in the 
management of the population after delisting.
    Issue 7: Several commenters recommended that we initiate a trap and 
transplant program to reduce densities of Columbian white-tailed deer 
in portions of their range in Douglas County, and to create new 
populations in historic range.
    Our Response: State guidelines direct ODFW to manage wildlife 
populations to assure population health. An important component of the 
State's continuing management of the subspecies will likely include a 
translocation program of Columbian white-tailed deer to currently 
unoccupied habitat within historic range. Present urban infrastructure 
creates obstructions to deer movement and severs natural connectivity 
between habitat areas. Interstate 5 and State and county highways 
create hazards that impede deer movement because of traffic-induced 
mortality and harassment. In addition, fences, commercial and 
residential developments, and other urban features interfere with deer 
movement and the availability of suitable habitat (Service 2001).
    Over the past 3 years, ODFW has moved 18 Columbian white-tailed 
deer to Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park from areas with high densities. 
One of the objectives of this operation was to remove deer from areas 
with perceived damage problems (S. Denney, in litt. 2001). We will work 
with the Recovery Team and biologists at ODFW to determine if continued 
translocation is an appropriate management tool to reduce deer 
densities, and to evaluate its potential to create a new population in 
currently unoccupied historic habitat in the Umpqua or Willamette 
    Issue 8: We received 65 comment letters on the proposed rule from 
people concerned that delisting the deer would result in excessive 
hunting, leading to the need to re-list the population. One other 
commenter recommended that the Service monitor ODFW's proposed harvest 
level for the population, and allow public input on the issue.
    Our Response: If the Douglas County population of Columbian white-
tailed deer is delisted, the OFWC, with input from ODFW, would be 
responsible for determining whether a sport hunting season is 
justified. A recreational hunt could be considered as a tool to reduce 
population densities and improve herd health in selected areas (ODFW, 
in litt. 2001). We will monitor the population for at least 5 years 
after delisting, and will work closely with ODFW to determine 
appropriate management options for the population. If sport hunting is 
determined to be an appropriate management tool, we would recommend 
conservative harvest levels to maintain a healthy population.
    Initially, ODFW intends to focus its efforts on expanding the range 
of the Columbian white-tailed deer with a trap and relocation program 
(ODFW, in litt. 2001). A recreational hunt could be considered as 
another tool to reduce population densities and improve herd health in 
selected areas (ODFW, in litt. 2001). The population currently numbers 
over 5,000 deer, which is considered to be large enough to withstand 
some level of regulated harvest (ODFW, in litt. 2001). ODFW seeks 
public input before setting big game harvest levels each year.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations promulgated to implement the 
listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR Part 424) set forth the 
procedures for listing, reclassifying, or removing species from listed 
status. A species may be determined to be an endangered or threatened 
species due to one or more of the five factors described in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act; these same five factors must be considered when a 
species is delisted. A species may be delisted according to section 
424.11(d) if the best available scientific and commercial data indicate 
that the species is neither endangered nor threatened for one of the 
following reasons: (1) Extinction; (2) Recovery; or (3) Original data 
for classification of the species were in error.
    After a thorough review of all available information, we have 
determined that the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed 
deer is no longer endangered or threatened with extinction. A 
substantial recovery has taken place since its listing in 1978, and 
none of the five factors addressed in section 4(a)(1) of the Act 
currently threatens the continued existence of the subspecies in 
Douglas County. These factors, and their relevance to the Douglas 
County population of Columbian white-tailed deer, are discussed below.
    A. The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of habitat or range. The Recovery Team recognized 
conversion of habitat to rural residential homesites and intensive 
livestock grazing as the prime threats to Columbian white-tailed deer 
habitat in Douglas County (Service 1983). A large area of habitat used 
by the deer has been protected, which has contributed to the 
population's recovery. Since 1978, over 2,830 ha (7,000 ac) have come 
into public ownership within the range of the Douglas County population 
of Columbian white-tailed deer. This acreage includes the BLM's NBHMA 
and Douglas County's Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park. In addition, several 
smaller parcels owned by the county and private landowners provide 
important refuge or hiding cover for deer.
    The largest publicly owned parcel that provides habitat for deer is 
the NBHMA. The NBHMA, formerly the Dunning Ranch, was previously 
managed as a working cattle ranch. It was acquired by the BLM in 1994 
through a land exchange (BLM 1998) specifically to secure habitat for 
the deer

[[Page 42224]]

since it lies within the population's core habitat. The NBHMA is 
located east of Roseburg in the North Umpqua River Basin and is 
characterized by four distinct habitat types: grasslands and oak 
savannah (29 percent), hardwood/conifer forest (52 percent), oak 
woodlands (17 percent), and other habitat such as rock outcrops, 
riparian areas, and wetlands (2 percent) (BLM 1998). As many as 348 
Columbian white-tailed deer have been estimated to occur on the NBHMA 
(S. Denney, ODFW, pers. comm., 2001). There was no active management at 
the NBHMA in the period between its acquisition in 1994 and the 
completion of a management plan in 2001; this lack of management has 
resulted in a decline in habitat quality (BLM 2000). Thatch (rank 
vegetation) has built up in grassland areas, and invasion of 
undesirable shrub species, cedar encroachment in meadow areas, and 
conifer seedling establishment in oak woodlands have contributed to the 
decline in habitat quality by inhibiting forb production for deer 
forage, and by reducing the availability of preferred cover (BLM 1998). 
Even with this decline in habitat quality, the site continues to 
provide habitat for over 300 deer in the core of the population's 
range. The delay in initiation of management activities was due to the 
need to develop and approve a management plan for the parcel. A final 
management plan was approved in June 2001 (BLM 2001).
    Implementation of the NBHMA final management plan will improve 
habitat quality for the deer (Service 2001). In October 2001, BLM began 
implementing the management plan by conducting a controlled burn to 
remove thatch on 162 ha (400 ac); subsequent monitoring shows that the 
burn was successful and new forage plants have sprung up in the burn 
zone (Ralph Klein, BLM, pers. comm., 2001). We will track the 
implementation of the NBHMA management plan through annual monitoring 
reports from the BLM (Service 2001).
    Under the final management plan, management objectives for the site 
include: (1) Increased availability, palatability, and nutritional 
quality of deer forage and browse; (2) maintenance of mature oak, 
shrub, and herbaceous vegetation components; (3) control of noxious 
weeds; and (4) development of water sources (BLM 2000). Livestock 
grazing, prescribed burning, thinning, and timber management are some 
of the management tools that will be used to achieve these objectives 
(BLM 2000); these activities will be scheduled to avoid sensitive 
periods (such as fawning and nursing) for the deer (Service 2001).
    Livestock grazing and prescribed burning will be used to increase 
the abundance of desirable forage plants, and thinning in oak woodlands 
and removal of encroaching conifers will provide more preferred open 
canopy hiding cover for the deer (BLM 2001; Service 2001). Heavy 
unregulated livestock grazing can be considered a threat to the 
Columbian white-tailed deer (Service 1983:46), and the BLM recognizes 
that livestock grazing as a tool to improve deer habitat will have to 
be managed carefully on the NBHMA (BLM 2001). Poorly managed grazing 
can lead to the introduction or spread of non-native plant species, 
soil erosion and compaction, and reduction of desirable deer forage 
plants. However, the BLM will use livestock grazing as a tool to reduce 
thatch and annual grasses in favor of native, perennial vegetation that 
the deer prefer, and in areas that are inaccessible to equipment used 
for mowing or seed drilling (BLM 2001). In the final management plan 
for the NBHMA, the BLM has stated that it will manage cattle 
composition to be compatible with the deer (e.g., as adult/yearling 
units as opposed to cow/calf units) (BLM 2001); also, the timing and 
stocking rates would be based on vegetation manipulation to benefit the 
deer, rather than maximize benefits to the cattle (BLM 2001).
    The final management plan also calls for development of water 
guzzlers, development of springs, pond construction, stream 
rehabilitation, and wetland enhancement to increase the use of habitats 
that are lightly used by the deer at present due to limited water 
availability (BLM 2001). This, in conjunction with forage and habitat 
improvement, should increase the carrying capacity of the NBHMA for 
Columbian white-tailed deer, and would likely result in a better 
distribution of animals across the management area (Service 2001).
    The management plan also provides for a range of recreational 
opportunities within the NBHMA (non-motorized trail use, hunting, and a 
boat ramp) (BLM 2001). In our Biological Opinion on the management 
plan, we concluded that these activities are compatible with management 
for Columbian white-tailed deer and other special status species 
because the potential increase in public use that may result is not 
anticipated to negatively impact the deer, and the large amount of 
escape cover and forage areas available will provide an ample amount of 
refuge area where disturbance may be avoided (Service 2001).
    Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park, managed by Douglas County Parks 
Department, is the second largest parcel of publicly owned land (445 
ha) (1,100 ac) within the range of the Douglas County population of 
Columbian white-tailed deer; it lies about 16 km (10 mi) north of the 
NBHMA. Ms. Kanipe left the ranch to Douglas County in her will and 
directed the County to manage it as a wildlife refuge and working ranch 
(Kanipe 1983). Park activities, including recreation (equestrian and 
hiking trails), timber harvest, farming, and grazing are guided by the 
provisions in Ms. Kanipe's will and the Douglas County Farm Lease 
program (Kanipe 1983; Douglas County Parks Department 2001). Ms. 
Kanipe's will states that the ranch is to be used for park purposes and 
includes a number of conditions relating to its management as a park: 
(1) No hunting or trapping is allowed; (2) all animals, birds, and fish 
are protected as in a refuge, provided that the county, for park 
purposes, may plant and permit fishing in the ranch ponds; (3) trapping 
and hunting of predatory animals is allowed in the event that they 
become a nuisance and harmful to domestic and wild animals both within 
the park and on adjoining lands; (4) the county may establish a limited 
picnic ground and associated parking facilities, but no motorized 
vehicles are permitted within the park except as may be required for 
park construction and maintenance; (5) pasture lands are to be cared 
for and continued in grass and, equestrian trails shall be permitted; 
and (6) no timber shall be cut or harvested except as may be necessary, 
and cutting then, only upon a sustained yield basis with all revenue 
from timber cutting used by the county in capital improvements upon 
this park (Kanipe 1983). The current farm lease at the park allows the 
lessee to graze sheep and cattle at the ranch. The terms of the lease 
include provisions to maintain pasture quality, minimize soil erosion, 
eradicate noxious non-native plants, and protect native wildlife and 
watercourses (Douglas County Parks Department 2001). The annual farm 
lease provisions are reviewed and approved by ODFW biologists (M. 
Black, ODFW, pers. comm., 2001).
    Douglas County is preparing a Coordinated Resource Management Plan 
(CRMP) for Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park; a Steering Committee has been 
established, which includes representatives from ODFW, local 
environmental and recreation groups, the Douglas County Parks Advisory 
Board, and individuals with forestry and range expertise (J. Powers, 

[[Page 42225]]

comm., 2001). The management plan will cover a wide range of issues, 
including recreation, wildlife, grazing, timber management, and 
riparian conservation, and will address such issues as the appropriate 
level of livestock grazing for the long-term (J. Powers, pers. comm., 
2001). In the past several years, Douglas County has explored options 
for harvesting timber in the park, but these plans have been set aside 
until appropriate options are developed as part of the Coordinated 
Resource Management Planning process (J. Powers, pers. comm., 2001).
    Since 1998, ODFW has conducted three translocations of marked 
Columbian white-tailed deer to the park. Of the 18 deer transplanted to 
the park, 7 are known to have died. Of those that died, one was an 
accidental death, two were killed by vehicles, one is suspected to have 
died of natural causes, two were likely the result of predation, and 
one was most likely an illegal kill (M. Black, ODFW, pers. comm., 2001; 
S. Denney, pers. comm., 2001). The survivors have remained in or near 
the park, and at least two radio-collared does have been observed with 
fawns (S. Denney, in litt. 2001). In 2001, 25 deer were counted in the 
park (S. Denney, pers. comm., 2001).
    One parcel on private property provides protection for Columbian 
white-tailed deer habitat in perpetuity. In 1992, TNC purchased the 
Oerding Preserve at Popcorn Swale, a 14-ha (35-ac) site which is 
managed primarily for the endangered rough popcornflower (Plagiobothrys 
hirtus) (Service 2000b). The management objective at the preserve is to 
restore the native wet prairie (TNC 2001), but the preserve also 
provides some suitable foraging habitat for deer. Surveys have detected 
about 20 Columbian white-tailed deer on the parcel (S. Denney, pers. 
comm., 2001).
    Douglas County has implemented land use plans and zoning ordinances 
that apply to private lands to protect habitat and assist in deer 
recovery (DCPD 2000a). These protective measures include retention of 
existing land uses that maintain essential habitat components. Minimum 
lot sizes for farm use and timberlands, and building setbacks along 
riparian zones, have been established to ensure maintenance of habitat 
and travel corridors (ODFW 1995; DCPD 2000a).
    Douglas County's Columbian White-tailed Deer Habitat Protection 
Program was established in 1980 (DCPD 2000a). The County, in 
conjunction with ODFW and the Service, identified the range of habitat 
with the greatest density of Columbian white-tailed deer, and 29,743 ha 
(73,495 ac) were designated as Essential Habitat Areas (DCPD 1995). 
Potential conflicting uses within the Essential Habitat Areas were 
identified as: (1) residential development in native riparian habitat; 
(2) additional livestock development in lowland river valleys; and (3) 
brush clearing aimed at creating and improving pastures for livestock 
that removes cover for deer (DCPD 2000a:6-19). To address these 
concerns, 96.5 percent (28,553 ha) (70,555 ac) of the resource lands 
(agricultural or farm/forest) within the Essential Habitat Area are 
subject to a minimum parcel size of 32 ha (80 ac); any land division 
requests of less than 30 ha (75 ac) must be reviewed by ODFW (DCPD 
2000a). Land zoned as non-resource lands within the Essential Habitat 
Area (3.5 percent) is limited to single family dwellings, and rural 
residential development is limited to 0.8 ha (2 ac) and 2 ha (5 ac) 
lots (DCPD 1995, 2000a). Another component of Douglas County's program 
to preserve habitat for the subspecies is a 30-m (100-ft) structural 
development setback from streams to preserve riparian corridors within 
the Essential Habitat Area (DCPD 2000a).
    Douglas County's application of zoning to protect Columbian white-
tailed deer has been an essential factor in the population's recovery. 
The county has succeeded in limiting development and maintaining low 
human densities in the core of the deer population's range. The 
maintenance of open space on private lands significantly enhances the 
value of small publicly owned parcels used by the deer, such as 
Whistler's Bend County Park. Whistler's Bend County Park is directly 
south of the NBHMA, across the North Umpqua River. The park is 71 ha 
(175 ac) in size, and has a population of about 100 Columbian white-
tailed deer (S. Denney, pers. comm., 2001). The park is managed for 
human recreation needs (DCPD 2000a), but also provides hiding cover for 
deer which make forays onto adjacent private lands to forage in the 
pastures and suburban yards surrounding the park (S. Denney, pers. 
comm., 2001). Small parcels such as this park function as important 
refugia for deer that meet many of their foraging requirements on 
adjacent private lands (Recovery Team, in litt. 2001).
    Since management actions began, the population of Columbian white-
tailed deer in Douglas County has increased and its range has expanded. 
In the 1930s, the Columbian white-tailed deer population in Douglas 
County was estimated at fewer than 300 individuals within a range of 
about 79 km\2\ (31 mi\2\) (Crews 1939). By 1983, the population had 
increased to about 2,500 deer (Service 1983). The population has 
continued to grow and is currently estimated at over 5,000 deer 
(Recovery Team, in litt. 2001; ODFW, in litt. 2001; DeWaine Jackson, 
ODFW, in litt. 2001). Along with this increase in numbers, the range 
also has expanded to the north and west, and the subspecies now 
occupies an area of approximately 800 km\2\ (309 mi\2\) (ODFW 1995).
    B. Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes. The white-tailed deer is a popular big game 
animal. Past overutilization was considered a threat to the Douglas 
County population of Columbian white-tailed deer, and was one of the 
several factors leading to its listing as endangered.
    Currently, the State of Oregon does not permit any hunting of 
white-tailed deer in western Oregon (ODFW 2001), and measures have been 
taken to reduce accidental shooting of white-tailed deer. For example, 
at present, black-tailed deer hunting is allowed on the NBHMA, but is 
limited by special permit only, usually 25 permits or less, and is 
limited to one or two weekends of the general deer season. Pre-hunt 
training on deer identification is mandatory to prevent the accidental 
shooting of white-tailed deer. This has resulted in hunting having no 
significant impacts to the Columbian white-tailed deer population in 
this area (Service 2001).
    Recreational hunting and the possession of loaded firearms is not 
permitted in Douglas County parks, with the exception of limited 
waterfowl hunting in some reservoir parks. Therefore, deer hunting is 
prohibited at Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park and at Whistler's Bend 
County Park (J. Powers, pers. comm., 2001). Ms. Kanipe's will also 
states that no hunting or trapping is to be allowed in the park (Kanipe 
1983). TNC also prohibits hunting on the Oerding Preserve in order to 
maintain a refugia for Columbian white-tailed deer (TNC 2001).
    If the Douglas County population is delisted, the OFWC, with input 
from ODFW, would be responsible for determining whether a sport hunting 
season is justified. State guidelines direct ODFW to manage wildlife 
populations to assure population health for present and future 
generations of Oregonians to enjoy (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Initially, 
ODFW intends to focus its efforts on expanding the range of the 
Columbian white-tailed deer with a trap and relocation program (ODFW, 
in litt. 2001). A recreational hunt could be considered as another tool 
to reduce population densities and improve herd health in selected 
areas (ODFW, in litt. 2001). The population currently

[[Page 42226]]

numbers over 5,000 deer, which is considered to be large enough to 
withstand some level of regulated harvest (ODFW, in litt. 2001).
    Poaching, or illegal hunting, of Columbian white-tailed deer has 
been documented in this population (Ricca 1999; ODFW, in litt. 2001). 
During a recent 3-year study, 3 deer, out of 64 marked, were believed 
to have been taken by poachers (Ricca 1999). The Oregon State Police 
actively prosecutes poachers in Douglas County; cooperation among the 
State Police, ODFW, local Service biologists and our National Fish and 
Wildlife Forensics Laboratory has resulted in many successful cases. In 
each of the past 3 years, the Oregon State Police has successfully 
prosecuted three to five poaching cases. Nine of these illegal kills 
were proven to be intentional poaching, whereas four were cases of mis-
identification (i.e., confusion with legally hunted black-tailed deer) 
(Sgt. J. Myhre, pers. comm., 2001). This low level of illegal hunting 
is not considered a threat to the survival of the population (ODFW 
    Other than sport hunting, we do not anticipate an appreciable 
demand for Columbian white-tailed deer for commercial or recreational 
purposes. There may be a small demand for deer for research. Scientific 
studies, permitted under section 10(a)(1)(A) of the Act, have resulted 
in the take of as many as 40 deer during 1 year from the Douglas County 
population (Kistner and Denney 1991). These permitted takings have not 
had measurable impacts on population trends in this population. If the 
population is delisted, ODFW will administer scientific taking permits 
based on the merits of the proposed research and with consideration of 
the effects to the population (ODFW, in litt. 2001). We believe that 
ample protections are in place under State law and regulations, and 
thus overutilization is unlikely to be a threat to the population in 
the future. Our proposed monitoring plan (see the Monitoring section) 
will track the status of the population for 5 years following 
delisting, which would alert us to any new threat of overutilization.
    C. Disease or predation. No known epizootic (epidemic in animals) 
diseases have affected the Douglas County population of Columbian 
white-tailed deer, although several studies have documented the 
incidence of bacterial and parasitic infections. For example, in a 
recent study, disease was determined to have contributed to the deaths 
of adult deer in poor nutritional condition. Of 29 adult deer that died 
during a 3-year study, 28 percent died of a combination of disease and 
emaciation (Ricca 1999). Necropsies revealed pneumonia, lungworms, and 
high levels of ecto-parasite infestation; none of these diseases would 
have been likely to kill an otherwise healthy adult deer, but in 
combination with a poor nutritional state (as evidenced by emaciation), 
these diseases were likely a factor in the cause of death (Ricca 1999). 
Diseases noted in fawn necropsies also included pneumonia and 
occasional instances of bacterial or viral infections (Ricca 1999). An 
earlier study by ODFW found moderate to high levels of internal and 
external parasites on adult deer and fawns, with low levels of viral 
diseases communicable to livestock (Kistner and Denney 1991).
    High internal parasite loads have been considered an indication of 
high deer densities (ODFW, in litt. 2001), and recent research has 
found evidence that some Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County 
are suffering poor health due to high density (Ricca 1999). Delisting 
the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed deer would 
allow more management flexibility, such as hazing to disperse the deer 
to reduce or prevent large deer concentrations, or a regulated harvest, 
which could reduce the density of deer, resulting in increased herd 
    Deer hair-loss syndrome has been a concern in the Columbia River 
population of Columbian white-tailed deer, but has not been prevalent 
in the Douglas County herd. This disease is believed to be caused by 
the parasite Parelaphostrongylus, which invades the lungs of infected 
deer resulting in a low-grade pneumonia (Washington Department of Fish 
and Wildlife (WDFW) 1999). The pneumonia infection suppresses the 
deer's immune system, which may make infected deer more susceptible to 
external parasites. The disease is not necessarily fatal, but hair loss 
can result in death due to hypothermia in winter (WDFW 1999). Spotlight 
surveys by ODFW noted 2 deer (out of 329 counted) with obvious hair 
loss problems (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Two marked deer on the NBHMA are 
known to have died with hair loss; an infected fawn was noted, but is 
not known to have died from the disease (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Deer 
hair-loss syndrome is not currently considered to be a threat to the 
population, but the proposed post-delisting monitoring of the Douglas 
County population will include tracking the incidence of this disease.
    In August 2001, a probable case of adenovirus, a viral disease, was 
identified through laboratory analysis in a Columbian white-tailed deer 
fawn in Douglas County. It is likely that the fawn contracted the 
disease while being held in a rehabilitation facility. This would be 
the first known incidence of this disease in white-tailed deer (Dr. 
Beth Valentine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Oregon State 
University, in litt. 2001; Dr. Terry Hensley, D.V.M., U.S.D.A. 
Veterinary Services, pers. comm., 2001). Adenovirus infection is 
potentially fatal to young deer, which may succumb to respiratory 
failure, hemorrhagic syndromes, or acute diarrhea and dehydration 
caused by the disease (Dr. T. Hensley, pers. comm., 2001). The disease 
has been previously detected in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in 
northern California. An outbreak in the 1990s caused widespread 
mortality, but appears to have had no long-term effect on the 
population (Tapscott 1998). Therefore, it has been determined that 
disease is not a significant threat to the species. However, since its 
existence had been confirmed in the Douglas County Columbian white-
tailed deer population, we will coordinate with State and Federal 
wildlife biologists and agencies to track the incidence of the disease 
to assist in effective management of the species.
    Predation is known to be a leading cause of death in white-tailed 
deer populations (Halls 1978). Ricca (1999) studied survival of 
Columbian white-tailed deer fawns, and found that predation was the 
most frequent known cause of death for fawns in his study. Bobcats 
(Lynx rufus) were the dominant predator, and researchers found some 
evidence of predation by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and domestic dogs 
(Ricca 1999). Coyotes (Canis latrans) are frequent predators of white-
tailed deer elsewhere (Halls 1978), but Ricca's (1999) study found no 
evidence of fawns killed by coyotes. The apparent absence of coyote 
predation may be due in part to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services 
predator control program. Douglas County contracts with APHIS Wildlife 
Services to conduct predator control. The program focuses mainly on 
coyotes, but also responds to fox, bobcat, and cougar (Puma concolor) 
complaints (Stan Thomas, District Supervisor, APHIS Wildlife Services, 
pers. comm., 2001). The purpose of the program is to protect sheep and 
cattle ranching operations in the area, but it may also provide 
incidental benefits to the population of Columbian white-tailed deer by 
reducing the number of potential predators on fawns. In

[[Page 42227]]

summary, disease and predation are not considered threats to the 
    D. Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms. The lack of 
adequate Federal, State, or local regulatory mechanisms for protecting 
habitat and controlling take was largely responsible for the decline of 
the deer. Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County have recovered 
because Federal, State, and local governments have exercised their 
authorities to protect the subspecies and its habitat.
    For example, the State of Oregon currently prohibits hunting of all 
white-tailed deer in western Oregon (described in Factor B, above). 
Delisting would provide the State with the flexibility to allow some 
regulated harvest to reduce population density if necessary to improve 
herd health.
    Douglas County also provides important regulatory protection for 
Columbian white-tailed deer habitat on private lands through its 
Comprehensive Plan and Deer Habitat Protection Program (DCPD 1995:45, 
2000a). The Comprehensive Plan addresses Oregon's Statewide Planning 
Goals. Goal 5 requires local governments to conserve open space and 
protect natural and scenic resources for future generations; Douglas 
County's Columbian White-Tailed Deer Habitat Protection Program, which 
is described in more detail under Factor A, was established in 1980 
under Goal 5 (DCPD 2000a). State-wide planning Goals 3 and 4 provide 
guidelines to maintain the rural landscape in Douglas County by 
protecting agriculture, timber, and transitional (farm/forest) lands. 
These goals were also incorporated into Douglas County's Columbian 
White-tailed Deer Habitat Protection Program, and also provide a 
measure of protection for deer habitat (DCPD 2000a). Douglas County's 
zoning and planning ordinances and county park designations are 
recognized in the Recovery Plan as valid methods to secure habitat, and 
will provide continuing regulatory protection of Columbian white-tailed 
deer habitat unless changed through a public process.
    E. Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
existence. There are a number of other threats to the survival of 
individual Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County. These include 
road kill, hybridization with black-tailed deer, emaciation, conflicts 
with private landowners, and fire.
    Road kill is one of the major sources of mortality for white-tailed 
deer in the United States (Halls 1978). Ricca (1999) concluded that 
road kill was the second most frequent cause of death in his study; he 
determined that five deer (17 percent of his marked adult deer) over a 
period of 3 years were killed by vehicle collisions. Apparently, the 
incidence of road kill is fairly constant. Almost 20 years earlier, 
Smith (1981) found car collisions to be the second most frequent cause 
of death for deer in Douglas County. Although road kill is a major 
source of mortality for this population, it has not been a limiting 
factor for population growth (D. Jackson, ODFW, pers. comm., 2001).
    Hybridization between Columbian white-tailed deer and black-tailed 
deer has long been suspected to occur, and probable hybrids have been 
observed in Douglas County for many years (ODFW 1995). Biologists from 
ODFW have noted evidence of hybridization (i.e., deer with physical 
characteristics of both white-tailed and black-tailed deer), but 
concluded that the rate of cross-breeding is not a threat to the 
continued existence of the Douglas County population of Columbian 
white-tailed deer (Kistner and Denney 1991). Gavin (1988) conducted 
laboratory analyses of muscle samples from Columbian white-tailed deer 
and Columbian black-tailed deer in Douglas County and found no evidence 
of hybridization between the two subspecies.
    Emaciation, which may be the result of poor forage quality, was 
determined to be the leading cause of death in a recent study. During 3 
years of research on marked deer, Ricca found that 28 percent of the 
deer that died during the study were emaciated and diseased (see 
disease discussion in Factor B, above) (1999). This finding is also 
consistent with an earlier study (Smith 1981). High deer density may 
result in poor habitat quality through overuse of habitat resources 
(Ricca 1999). Management actions to reduce deer density or increase 
habitat quality could reduce the incidence of emaciation. Active 
habitat management (prescribed burning) to improve forage quality has 
begun at the NBHMA (R. Klein, pers comm., 2001).
    With growth of the deer population, deer-human conflicts have 
increased. From 1996 to 2000, ODFW recorded 249 complaints from private 
property owners with deer depredation problems (ODFW, in litt. 2001). 
Resident, suburban deer can cause serious damage to croplands, gardens, 
and ornamental plantings. Conflict ensues because under the Act it is 
illegal to ``take'' listed deer, which includes such actions as hazing 
or harassing to disperse the deer, even where serious continued damage 
is occurring. Delisting the Douglas County population of Columbian 
white-tailed deer will allow more flexibility in development and 
implementation of a management plan in order to control and enhance 
deer populations, while fostering better relationships with landowners 
and more effective long-term conservation.
    Fire has historically played a large part in shaping habitat for 
Columbian white-tailed deer in Douglas County. Although fire may have 
negative short-term impacts on habitat, deer distribution, and numbers, 
the long-term effects can be beneficial by removing decadent brush, 
promoting the growth of nutritious vegetation, and maintaining the oak/
grassland habitat that the deer prefers (Halls 1978; BLM 2000). 
Columbian white-tailed deer evolved with the occurrence of fire in the 
ecosystem, and prescribed burning is one of the key management 
prescriptions for restoring and maintaining habitat quality for the 
deer at the NBHMA (BLM 2000; Service 2001). The occurrence of a large-
scale, devastating wild fire is unlikely. The growing human population 
of Douglas County demands active fire suppression on public and private 
lands which will likely convey some protection for the deer.
    For the reasons discussed above, we feel that none of these threats 
pose a serious threat to the persistence of the Douglas County 
population of Columbian white-tailed deer.
    We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
information available concerning the past, present, and future threats 
faced by this population in determining to propose this rule. Based on 
this evaluation, we propose to remove the Douglas County population of 
Columbian white-tailed deer from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife. The population is robust, and abundant habitat used by the 
deer has been protected in Douglas County to justify delisting the 

Effects of the Rule

    Finalization of this proposed rule will affect the protection 
afforded to the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed 
deer under the Act. Taking, interstate commerce, import, and export of 
deer from this population will no longer be prohibited under the Act. 
In addition, if the Douglas County population of the Columbian white-
tailed deer is removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife, Federal agencies would no longer be required to consult with 
us under section 7 of the Act to ensure that any action authorized, 
funded, or carried out by them is not

[[Page 42228]]

likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the deer.
    Harvest and permitted scientific take will be regulated by the 
State of Oregon, and will be considered in the context of potential 
effects to population stability (ODFW, in litt. 2001). Biological data 
such as sex ratios, age, reproductive status, and health status (i.e., 
parasitism and bacterial infections) from individual deer taken through 
legal harvest or the issuance of special permits would be available to 
inform future management. Delisting the Douglas County population could 
have positive effects in terms of management flexibility to State and 
local governments. Deer densities in selected areas could be reduced by 
management actions. Individual deer could be controlled by hazing, and 
targeted individuals could be moved where repeated severe damage to 
agricultural crops, gardens, or ornamental plantings was documented. 
Thus, delisting would allow managers greater flexibility to take 
actions to reduce overcrowding in selected areas, which could result in 
a healthier deer population.
    The proposed delisting of the Douglas County DPS of Columbian 
white-tailed deer will not change the endangered status of the Columbia 
River DPS of this subspecies. It will remain fully protected by the 


    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this 
requirement is to develop a program that detects the failure of any 
delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures 
provided by the Act. If, at any time during the 5-year monitoring 
period, data indicate that protective status under the Act should be 
reinstated, we can initiate listing procedures, including, if 
appropriate, emergency listing.
    The Service with the State and the Recovery Team will develop and 
implement a statistically sound, 5-year monitoring program designed to 
assess the sustainability of the population through tracking of 
population parameters that may include the population size, trend, 
recruitment, and distribution. We will publish in the Federal Register 
a notice of availability of the draft monitoring plan, in order to 
provide the public the opportunity to comment on the content of the 
plan. We will issue a final monitoring plan and annually assess the 
results of the post-delisting monitoring of the Douglas County 
Columbian white-tailed deer population.
    At the end of the 5-year monitoring period, we will decide if 
relisting, continued monitoring, or an end to monitoring activities is 
appropriate. If warranted (e.g., data shows a significant decline or 
increased threats), we will consider continuing monitoring beyond the 
5-year period and may modify the monitoring program based on an 
evaluation of the results of the initial 5-year monitoring program.

Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal to 
remove the Douglas County population of Columbian white-tailed deer 
from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife will be as accurate 
and effective as possible. Therefore, we solicit any comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning any aspect of this proposal. Comments should be sent to the 
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Section 4(b)(5)(E) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires 
that a public hearing be held if it is requested within 45 days of the 
publication of a proposed rule. Given the high likelihood of requests, 
and the need to proceed as expeditiously as possible, the Service will 
hold a public hearing on the date and location described in the DATES 
and ADDRESSES sections above.
    Comments are particularly sought concerning:
    (1) Biological, commercial trade, or other relevant data concerning 
any threat (or lack thereof) to the Douglas County population of the 
Columbian white-tailed deer and its habitat that would result from 
implementing the measures outlined in this proposed rule;
    (2) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, and 
population size of this population;
    (3) Current or planned activities in the range of the population 
and their likely impacts on the population and its habitat; and
    (4) Appropriate parameters to monitor and to assess the population 
    If you submit comments by e-mail, please submit them as an ASCII 
file and avoid the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include ``Attn: [RIN-AF43]'' and your name and 
return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your e-mail message, 
contact us directly by calling our Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office at 
telephone number 503/231-6179.
    Our practice is to make comments available for public review during 
regular business hours, including names and home addresses of 
respondents. Individual respondents may request that we withhold their 
home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the 
extent allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold from 
the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If 
you wish for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your comment. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

Clarity of the Rule

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

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.), require that interested members of the public and 
affected agencies have an opportunity to comment on agency information 
collection and record keeping activities (see 5 CFR 1320.8(d)). The OMB 
regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a collection of information as 
the obtaining of information by or for an agency by means of identical 
questions posed to, or identical reporting, record keeping, or 
disclosure requirements imposed on ten or more persons. Furthermore, 5 
CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``ten or more persons'' refers to the 
persons to whom a collection of information is addressed by the agency 
within any 12-month period. This rule does not include any collections 
of information that require

[[Page 42229]]

approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an Environmental Assessment or an 
Environmental Impact Statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this designation in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued an Executive Order on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. As this proposed rule 
is not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, 
or use, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement 
of Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Cat Brown, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth 


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. We propose to amend section 17.11(h) by revising the entry for 
Columbian white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus leucopareia under 
``Mammals'' to read as follows:

Sec. 17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *
Deer, Columbian white-tailed.....  Odocoileus            U.S.A. (WA, OR)....  Columbia River       E                    1,----           NA           NA
                                    virginianus                                (Pacific,
                                    leucurus.                                  Wahkiakum,
                                                                               Cowlitz, Clark and
                                                                               Skamania Counties,
                                                                               WA, and Columbia,
                                                                               Clatsop and
                                                                               Counties, OR).
                   *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *                  *

    Dated: May 31, 2002.
Steve Williams,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 02-15189 Filed 6-20-02; 8:45 am]