[Federal Register: May 6, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 87)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 24323-24331]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 24323]]


Part VI

Department of the Interior


Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 20

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2003-04 Migratory Game Bird Hunting 
Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals; 
Proposed Rule

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Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

RIN 1018-AI93

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2003-04 Migratory Game Bird 
Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter Service or we) 
proposes to establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory 
game birds for the 2003-04 hunting season. We annually prescribe 
outside limits (frameworks) within which States may select hunting 
seasons. This proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, announces 
the Flyway Council meetings, and describes proposed changes to the 
regulatory alternatives for the 2003-04 duck hunting seasons. We also 
request proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish special 
migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations 
and ceded lands. Migratory game bird hunting seasons provide hunting 
opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid Federal, State, and 
tribal governments in the management of migratory game birds; and 
permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory game bird 
population status and habitat conditions.

DATES: You must submit comments on the proposed regulatory alternatives 
for the 2003-04 duck hunting seasons by May 15, 2003. You must submit 
comments for proposed early-season frameworks by July 30, 2003, and for 
proposed late-season frameworks by August 30, 2003. Tribes should 
submit proposals and related comments by June 1, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments on the proposals to the Chief, Division 
of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Department of the Interior, ms MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW., 
Washington, DC 20240. All comments received, including names and 
addresses, will become part of the public record. You may inspect 
comments during normal business hours in room 4107, Arlington Square 
Building, 4501 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Virginia.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron W. Kokel at: Division of Migratory 
Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the 
Interior, ms MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240, 
(703) 358-1714.


Background and Overview

    Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in 
conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for 
the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), the Secretary of the Interior is 
authorized to determine when ``hunting, taking, capture, killing, 
possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or 
export of any . . . bird, or any part, nest or egg'' of migratory game 
birds can take place and to adopt regulations for this purpose. These 
regulations must be written based on ``the zones of temperature and the 
distribution, abundance, economic value, breeding habits, and times and 
lines of migratory flight of such birds'' and must be updated annually. 
This responsibility has been delegated to the Fish and Wildlife Service 
(Service) of the Department of the Interior as the lead Federal agency 
for managing and conserving migratory birds in the United States.
    The Service develops migratory game bird hunting regulations by 
establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag 
limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. Acknowledging 
regional differences in hunting conditions, the Service has 
administratively divided the nation into four Flyways for the primary 
purpose of managing migratory game birds. Each Flyway (Atlantic, 
Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) has a Flyway Council, a formal 
organization generally composed of one member from each State and 
Province in that Flyway. The Flyway Councils, established through the 
International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA), also 
assist in researching and providing migratory game bird management 
information for Federal, State, and Provincial Governments, as well as 
private conservation agencies and the general public.
    The migratory game bird hunting regulations, located at 50 CFR 20, 
are constrained by three primary factors. Legal and administrative 
considerations dictate how long the rulemaking process will last. Most 
importantly though, the biological cycle of migratory game birds 
controls the timing of data-gathering activities and thus the date on 
which these results are available for consideration and deliberation.
    The process includes two separate regulations-development 
schedules, based on early- and late-hunting season regulations. Early-
hunting seasons pertain to all migratory game bird species in Alaska, 
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; migratory game birds other 
than waterfowl (i.e., dove, woodcock, etc.); and special early 
waterfowl seasons, such as teal or resident Canada geese. The early-
hunting season generally begins prior to October 1. Late-hunting 
seasons generally start on or after October 1, and include most 
waterfowl seasons not already established.
    There are basically no differences in the processes for 
establishing either early- or late-hunting seasons. For each cycle, 
Service biologists gather, analyze, and interpret biological survey 
data and provide this information to all those involved in the process 
through a series of published status reports and presentations to 
Flyway Councils and other interested parties. Because the Service is 
required to take abundance of migratory game birds and other factors 
into consideration, the Service undertakes a number of surveys 
throughout the year in conjunction with Service Regional Offices, the 
Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and Provincial wildlife-management 
agencies. To determine the appropriate frameworks for each species we 
consider factors such as population size and trend, geographical 
distribution, annual breeding effort, the condition of breeding, 
wintering habitat, the number of hunters, and the anticipated harvest.
    After frameworks, or outside limits, are established for season 
lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting, 
migratory game bird management becomes a cooperative effort of State 
and Federal governments. After Service establishment of final 
frameworks for hunting seasons, the States may select season dates, bag 
limits, and other regulatory options for the hunting seasons. States 
may always be more conservative in their selections than the Federal 
frameworks but never more liberal.

Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons

    This notice announces our intent to establish open hunting seasons 
and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated groups or 
species of migratory game birds for 2003-04 in the contiguous United 
States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, under 
Sec. Sec.  20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K of 50 
CFR part 20.

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    For the 2003-04 migratory game bird hunting season, we will propose 
regulations for certain designated members of the avian families 
Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and pigeons); 
Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens, and gallinules); 
and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these proposals 
under Proposed 2003-04 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations 
(Preliminary) in this document.
    We published definitions of waterfowl flyways and mourning dove 
management units, as well as a description of the data used in and the 
factors affecting the regulatory process in the March 14, 1990, Federal 
Register (55 FR 9618).

Regulatory Schedule for 2003-04

    This document is the first in a series of proposed, supplemental, 
and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting 
regulations. We will publish additional supplemental proposals for 
public comment in the Federal Register as population, habitat, harvest, 
and other information become available. Because of the late dates when 
certain portions of these data become available, we anticipate 
abbreviated comment periods on some proposals. Special circumstances 
limit the amount of time we can allow for public comment on these 
    Specifically, two considerations compress the time for the 
rulemaking process: the need, on one hand, to establish final rules 
early enough in the summer to allow resource agencies to select and 
publish season dates and bag limits prior to the beginning of hunting 
seasons and, on the other hand, the lack of current status data on most 
migratory game birds until later in the summer. Because the regulatory 
process is strongly influenced by the times when information is 
available for consideration, we divide the regulatory process into two 
segments: early seasons and late seasons (further described and 
discussed under the Background and Overview section).
    Major steps in the 2003-04 regulatory cycle relating to open public 
meetings and Federal Register notifications are illustrated in the 
diagram at the end of this proposed rule. All publication dates of 
Federal Register documents are target dates.
    All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining hunting 
frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered headings. These 
headings are:

1. Ducks
    A. General Harvest Strategy
    B. Regulatory Alternatives
    C. Zones and Split Seasons
    D. Special Seasons/Species Management
    i. September Teal Seasons
    ii. September Teal/Wood Duck Seasons
    iii. Black ducks
    iv. Canvasbacks
    v. Pintails
    vi. Scaup
    vii. Youth Hunt
2. Sea Ducks
3. Mergansers
4. Canada Geese
    A. Special Seasons
    B. Regular Seasons
    C. Special Late Seasons
5. White-fronted Geese
6. Brant
7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese
8. Swans
9. Sandhill Cranes
10. Coots
11. Moorhens and Gallinules
12. Rails
13. Snipe
14. Woodcock
15. Band-tailed Pigeons
16. Mourning Doves
17. White-winged and White-tipped Doves
18. Alaska
19. Hawaii
20. Puerto Rico
21. Virgin Islands
22. Falconry
23. Other

    Later sections of this and subsequent documents will refer only to 
numbered items requiring your attention. Therefore, it is important to 
note that we will omit those items requiring no attention and remaining 
numbered items will be discontinuous and appear incomplete.
    We will publish final regulatory alternatives for the 2003-04 duck 
hunting seasons in early June. We will publish proposed early season 
frameworks in mid-July and late season frameworks in mid-August. We 
will publish final regulatory frameworks for early seasons on or about 
August 20, 2003, and those for late seasons on or about September 15, 

Review of Public Comments

    This proposed rulemaking contains the proposed regulatory 
alternatives for the 2003-04 duck hunting seasons. This proposed 
rulemaking also describes other recommended changes or specific 
preliminary proposals that vary from the 2002-03 final frameworks (see 
August 23, 2003 Federal Register (67 FR 54702) for early seasons and 
September 19, 2003 Federal Register (67 FR 59110) for late seasons) and 
issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the 
States or tribes. We will publish responses to all proposals and 
written comments when we develop final frameworks for the 2003-04 
season. We seek additional information and comments on the 
recommendations in this proposed rule.

Consolidation of Notices

    For administrative purposes, this document consolidates the notice 
of intent to establish open migratory game bird hunting seasons and the 
request for tribal proposals with the preliminary proposals for the 
annual hunting regulations-development process. We will publish the 
remaining proposed and final rulemaking documents separately. For 
inquiries on tribal guidelines and proposals, tribes should contact the 
following personnel:

Region 1 (California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and the 
Pacific Islands)--Brad Bortner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 
N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181; (503) 231-6164.
Region 2 (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas)--Jeff Haskins, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 
87103; (505) 248-7885.
Region 3 (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio 
and Wisconsin)--Steve Wilds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal 
Building, One Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, Minnesota 55111-4056; (612) 
Region 4 (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, 
Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands, South Carolina 
and Tennessee)--Frank Bowers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 
Century Boulevard, Room 324, Atlanta, Georgia 30345; (404) 679-4000.
Region 5 (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New 
Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, 
Virginia and West Virginia)--George Haas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035-9589; 
(413) 253-8576.
Region 6 (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South 
Dakota, Utah and Wyoming)--John Cornely, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Building, Denver, Colorado 
80225; (303) 236-8145.
Region 7 (Alaska)--Robert Leedy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 
East Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503; (907) 786-3423.

Requests for Tribal Proposals


    Beginning with the 1985-86 hunting season, we have employed 

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described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 23467) to 
establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal 
Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded 
lands. We developed these guidelines in response to tribal requests for 
our recognition of their reserved hunting rights, and for some tribes, 
recognition of their authority to regulate hunting by both tribal and 
nontribal members throughout their reservations. The guidelines include 
possibilities for:
    (1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and nontribal members, 
with hunting by nontribal members on some reservations to take place 
within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected 
by the surrounding State(s);
    (2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual 
Federal frameworks for season dates and length, and for daily bag and 
possession limits; and
    (3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, 
outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added 
flexibility in daily bag and possession limits.
    In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines 
must be consistent with the annual March 10 to September 1 closed 
season mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and 
Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds 
(Convention). The guidelines are applicable to those tribes that have 
reserved hunting rights on Federal Indian reservations (including off-
reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. They also may be applied to 
the establishment of migratory game bird hunting regulations for 
nontribal members on all lands within the exterior boundaries of 
reservations where tribes have full wildlife management authority over 
such hunting, or where the tribes and affected States otherwise have 
reached agreement over hunting by nontribal members on non-Indian 
    Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory game bird 
hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our 
approval. The question of jurisdiction is more complex on reservations 
that include lands owned by non-Indians, especially when the 
surrounding States have established or intend to establish regulations 
governing migratory bird hunting by non-Indians on these lands. In such 
cases, we encourage the tribes and States to reach agreement on 
regulations that would apply throughout the reservations. When 
appropriate, we will consult with a tribe and State with the aim of 
facilitating an accord. We also will consult jointly with tribal and 
State officials in the affected States where tribes may wish to 
establish special hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded 
lands. As explained in previous rulemaking documents, it is incumbent 
upon the tribe and/or the State to request consultation as a result of 
the proposal being published in the Federal Register. We will not 
presume to make a determination, without being advised by either a 
tribe or a State, that any issue is or is not worthy of formal 
    One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of tribal 
members' harvest of migratory game birds on reservations where such 
harvest is a customary practice. We do not oppose this harvest, 
provided it does not take place during the closed season required by 
the Convention, and it is not so large as to adversely affect the 
status of the migratory game bird resource. Since the inception of 
these guidelines, we have reached annual agreement with tribes for 
migratory game bird hunting by tribal members on their lands or on 
lands where they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to 
consult with tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting 
regulations for on-reservation hunting by tribal members.
    Tribes should not view the guidelines as inflexible. We believe 
that they provide appropriate opportunity to accommodate the reserved 
hunting rights and management authority of Indian tribes while also 
ensuring that the migratory game bird resource receives necessary 
protection. The conservation of this important international resource 
is paramount. Use of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes 
to observe the hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which 
the reservation is located.

Details Needed in Tribal Proposals

    Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting 
regulations for the 2003-04 migratory game bird hunting season should 
submit a proposal that includes:
    (1) The requested migratory game bird hunting season dates and 
other details regarding the proposed regulations;
    (2) Harvest anticipated under the proposed regulations;
    (3) Methods that will be employed to measure or monitor harvest 
(mail-questionnaire survey, bag checks, etc.);
    (4) Steps that will be taken to limit level of harvest, where it 
could be shown that failure to limit such harvest would seriously 
impact the migratory game bird resource; and
    (5) Tribal capabilities to establish and enforce migratory game 
bird hunting regulations.
    A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the migratory 
game bird season for nontribal members should specify this request in 
its proposal, rather than request a date that might not be within the 
final Federal frameworks. Similarly, unless a tribe wishes to set more 
restrictive regulations than Federal regulations will permit for 
nontribal members, the proposal should request the same daily bag and 
possession limits and season length for migratory game birds that 
Federal regulations are likely to permit the States in the Flyway in 
which the reservation is located.

Tribal Proposal Procedures

    We will publish details of tribal proposals for public review in 
later Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for our 
and public review, Indian tribes that desire special migratory game 
bird hunting regulations for the 2003-04 hunting season should submit 
their proposals as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2003.
    Tribes should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and 
proposals to the appropriate Service Regional Office listed above under 
the caption Consolidation of Notices. Tribes that request special 
migratory game bird hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded 
lands should send a courtesy copy of the proposal to officials in the 
affected State(s).

Public Comments Solicited

    The Department of the Interior's policy is, whenever practicable, 
to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking 
process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written 
comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed 
regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will take into consideration all comments received. 
Such comments, and any additional information received, may lead to 
final regulations that differ from these proposals. We invite 
interested persons to participate in this rulemaking by submitting 
written comments to the address indicated under the caption ADDRESSES.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from

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the rulemaking record, which we will honor to the extent allowable by 
law. There may also be circumstances in which we would withhold from 
the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If 
you wish 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.
    You may inspect comments received on the proposed annual 
regulations during normal business hours at the Service's Division of 
Migratory Bird Management office in room 4107, 4501 North Fairfax 
Drive, Arlington, Virginia. For each series of proposed rulemakings, we 
will establish specific comment periods. We will consider, but possibly 
may not respond in detail to, each comment. As in the past, we will 
summarize all comments received during the comment period and respond 
to them after the closing date in any final rules.

NEPA Consideration

    NEPA considerations are covered by the programmatic document, 
``Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual 
Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (FSES 88-
14),'' filed with the Environmental Protection Agency on June 9, 1988. 
We published Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on June 16, 
1988 (53 FR 22582). We published our Record of Decision on August 18, 
1988 (53 FR 31341). In addition, an August 1985 environmental 
assessment entitled ``Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations 
on Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands'' is available from the 
address indicated under the caption ADDRESSES.
    In a proposed rule published in the April 30, 2001, Federal 
Register (66 FR 21298), we expressed our intent to begin the process of 
developing a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the 
migratory bird hunting program.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Prior to issuance of the 2003-04 migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will comply with provisions of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended, (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; hereinafter the Act) to 
ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of any species designated as endangered or threatened or modify or 
destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with conservation 
programs for those species. Consultations under Section 7 of this Act 
may cause us to change proposals in this and future supplemental 
proposed rulemaking documents.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule is economically significant and was reviewed by the 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866. The 
migratory bird hunting regulations are economically significant and are 
annually reviewed by OMB under Executive Order 12866. As such, a cost/
benefit analysis was prepared in 1998 and is further discussed below 
under the heading Regulatory Flexibility Act. Copies of the cost/
benefit analysis are available upon request from the address indicated 
under the caption ADDRESSES.
    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite comments on how to make this 
rule easier to understand, including answers to questions such as the 
    (1) Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated?
    (2) Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that 
interferes with its clarity?
    (3) Does the format of the rule (grouping and order of sections, 
use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its clarity?
    (4) Would the rule be easier to understand if it were divided into 
more (but shorter) sections?
    (5) Is the description of the rule in the ``Supplementary 
Information'' section of the preamble helpful in understanding the 
    (6) What else could we do to make the rule easier to understand?

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    These regulations have a significant economic impact on substantial 
numbers of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 
U.S.C. 601 et seq.).
    In 1998, we analyzed the economic impacts of the annual hunting 
regulations on small business entities in detail, and issued a Small 
Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis). The 1998 Analysis documented 
the significant beneficial economic effect on a substantial number of 
small entities and estimated that migratory bird hunters would spend 
between $429 million and $1.084 billion at small businesses in 1998. 
The primary source of information about hunter expenditures for 
migratory game bird hunting is the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, 
and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which is conducted at 5-year 
intervals. The 1998 Analysis utilized the 1996 National Hunting and 
Fishing Survey and the U.S. Department of Commerce's County Business 
    In 2002, the results from the 2001 National Hunting and Fishing 
Survey were released. This year, we will update the 1998 Analysis with 
information from the 2001 National Hunting and Fishing Survey. Copies 
of the 1998 Analysis are available upon request from the Division of 
Migratory Bird Management.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small Business 
Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. For the reasons outlined above, 
this rule has an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. 
However, because this rule establishes hunting seasons, we do not plan 
to defer the effective date under the exemption contained in 5 U.S.C. 
808 (1).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    We examined these regulations under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 
1995. The various recordkeeping and reporting requirements imposed 
under regulations established in 50 CFR part 20, Subpart K, are 
utilized in the formulation of migratory game bird hunting regulations. 
Specifically, OMB has approved the information collection requirements 
of the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program and assigned 
clearance number 1018-0015 (expires 10/31/2004). This information is 
used to provide a sampling frame for voluntary national surveys to 
improve our harvest estimates for all migratory game birds in order to 
better manage these populations. OMB has also approved the information 
collection requirements of the Sandhill Crane Harvest Questionnaire and 
assigned clearance number 1018-0023 (expires 07/31/2003). The 
information from this survey is used to estimate the magnitude and the 
geographical and temporal distribution of the harvest, and the portion 
it constitutes of the total population.
    A Federal agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not 
required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

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Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    We have determined and certify, in compliance with the requirements 
of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq., that this 
rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given 
year on local or State government or private entities. Therefore, this 
rule is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under the Unfunded 
Mandates Reform Act.

Civil Justice Reform-Executive Order 12988

    The Department, in promulgating this proposed rule, has determined 
that this proposed rule will not unduly burden the judicial system and 
meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 

Takings Implication Assessment

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this proposed rule, 
authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, does not have significant 
takings implications and does not affect any constitutionally protected 
property rights. This rule will not result in the physical occupancy of 
property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory taking 
of any property. In fact, these rules allow hunters to exercise 
otherwise unavailable privileges and, therefore, reduce restrictions on 
the use of private and public property.

Energy Effects--Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 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. While this proposed 
rule is a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866, it 
is not expected to adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or 
use. Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action and no 
Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Federalism Effects

    Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the 
Federal Government has been given responsibility over these species by 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We annually prescribe frameworks from 
which the States make selections regarding the hunting of migratory 
birds, and we employ guidelines to establish special regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. This process preserves the 
ability of the States and tribes to determine which seasons meet their 
individual needs. Any State or Indian tribe may be more restrictive 
than the Federal frameworks at any time. The frameworks are developed 
in a cooperative process with the States and the Flyway Councils. This 
process allows States to participate in the development of frameworks 
from which they will make selections, thereby having an influence on 
their own regulations. These rules do not have a substantial direct 
effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or responsibilities of 
Federal or State governments, or intrude on State policy or 
administration. Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 13132, 
these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not 
have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

    Exports, Hunting, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Transportation, Wildlife.

    The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2003-04 
hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-711, 16 U.S.C. 712, 
and 16 U.S.C. 742a-j.

    Dated: March 25, 2003.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Proposed 2003-04 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary)

    Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat 
conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway 
Councils, we may defer specific regulatory proposals. With the 
exception of modifying the framework opening and closing dates within 
the regulatory alternatives, we are proposing no change from the final 
2002-03 frameworks of August 23 and September 19, 2002 (67 FR 54702 and 
59110). Other issues requiring early discussion, action, or the 
attention of the States or tribes are contained below:

1. Ducks

    Categories used to discuss issues related to duck harvest 
management are: (A) General Harvest Strategy, (B) Regulatory 
Alternatives, (C) Zones and Split Seasons, and (D) Special Seasons/
Species Management. Only those containing substantial recommendations 
are discussed below.
A. General Harvest Strategy
    We propose to continue use of adaptive harvest management (AHM) to 
help determine appropriate duck-hunting regulations for the 2003-04 
season. AHM is a tool that permits sound resource decisions in the face 
of uncertain regulatory impacts, as well as providing a mechanism for 
reducing that uncertainty over time. The current AHM protocol is used 
to evaluate five alternative regulatory levels based on the population 
status of mallards (special hunting restrictions are enacted for 
species of special concern, such as canvasbacks, scaup, and pintails). 
The prescribed regulatory alternative for the Mississippi, Central, and 
Pacific Flyways is based on the status of mallards and breeding-habitat 
conditions in central North America (Federal survey strata 1-18, 20-50 
and 75-77, and State surveys in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). 
The prescribed regulatory alternative for the Atlantic Flyway is based 
on the population status of mallards breeding in eastern North America 
(Federal survey strata 51-54 and 56, and State surveys in New England 
and the mid-Atlantic region) and, thus, may differ from that in the 
remainder of the country. We will propose a specific regulatory 
alternative for each of the Flyways during the 2003-04 season after 
survey information becomes available in late summer. More information 
on AHM is located at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/mgmt/ahm/ahm-intro.htm
B. Regulatory Alternatives
    The basic structure of the current regulatory alternatives for AHM 
was adopted in 1997. The alternatives remained largely unchanged until 
last year, when we (based on recommendations from the Flyway Councils) 
extended framework dates in the ``moderate'' and ``liberal'' regulatory 
alternatives by changing the opening date from the Saturday nearest 
October 1 to the Saturday nearest September 24, and changing the 
closing date from the Sunday nearest January 20 to the last Sunday in 
January. These extended dates were made available with no associated 
penalty in season length or bag limits. At that time we stated our 
desire to keep these changes in place for 3 years to allow for a 
reasonable opportunity to monitor the impacts of framework-date 
extensions on harvest distribution and rates of harvest prior to 
considering any subsequent use (67 FR 12501 and 67 FR 47224). 
Therefore, we are proposing to maintain the same regulatory 
alternatives that were in effect last year (see accompanying table for 
specifics of the proposed regulatory alternatives). Alternatives are 
specified for each Flyway and are designated as ``VERY RES'' for the 
very restrictive, ``RES'' for the restrictive, ``MOD'' for the

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moderate, and ``LIB'' for the liberal alternative. We will announce 
final regulatory alternatives in early June. Public comments will be 
accepted until May 1, 2003, and should be sent to the address under the 
caption ADDRESSES.
D. Special Seasons/Species Management
iv. Canvasbacks
    Since 1994, we have followed a canvasback harvest strategy such 
that, if canvasback population status and expected production are 
sufficient to permit a harvest of one canvasback per day nationwide for 
the entire length of the regular duck season, while attaining a spring 
population objective of 500,000 birds in the subsequent year, the 
season on canvasbacks should be opened. If not, the strategy prescribes 
that the season on canvasbacks be closed nationwide. Last spring, the 
estimate of canvasback abundance was 487,000 birds, and the number of 
May ponds in Prairie Canada (1.4 million) was the lowest recorded since 
surveys began in 1961 (58 percent below the long-term average). The 
size of the spring population, together with expected natural mortality 
and below-average production due to the dry conditions, was 
insufficient to offset expected mortality associated with a canvasback 
season lasting the entire season length of the ``liberal'' regulatory 
alternative and still attain a population objective of 500,000 
canvasbacks in the spring of 2003. Therefore, we closed the season on 
canvasbacks for the 2002-03 hunting season.
    In 2002, the Flyway Councils proposed modifications to the harvest 
strategy (67 FR 59110). We choose not to implement proposed 
modifications because a thorough technical assessment and subsequent 
review by all stakeholders has not been conducted. Service technical 
staff will complete an assessment of the performance of the canvasback 
population model, as well as a comparison of the expected long-term 
performance of the current strategy and that proposed by the Flyway 
Councils in 2002. The results of this review will be available to the 
Flyway Council technical committees for discussion at their winter 
    In 2003, we will again consider the size of the spring canvasback 
population and model-based predictions of production and harvest in the 
development of canvasback regulations proposals. We continue to support 
the harvest strategy adopted in 1994 and believe that it should be used 
to guide seasons in the upcoming year. However, we will continue to 
cooperatively work with the Flyway Councils to complete technical 
assessment of any proposed changes in the canvasback harvest strategy.
v. Pintails
    We will continue to utilize an interim strategy to guide the 
harvest of pintails. Last year we updated the equations that predict 
harvest by Flyway, and we will continue to use these in the strategy 
this year. As we did last year, we will consider population status and 
expected recruitment using this strategy to predict the subsequent 
years, Fall Flight. Should circumstances warrant, we will again 
consider a season length of less than that employed for the general 
duck season, if warranted by these calculations, to maintain a breeding 
population of pintails above the closure threshold level established in 
the strategy.

4. Canada Geese

B. Regular Seasons
    We are concerned about the recent status and trend of the Short 
Grass Prairie (SGP) Canada goose population. Midwinter survey 
population estimates of SGP Canada geese have declined sharply since 
1995-96. Although recent winter indices are still somewhat above the 
population goal of 150,000 that was established in 1982, these recent 
indices likely contain a higher proportion of geese of larger races 
than in 1982. Indices of adult survival of SGP Canada geese have been 
declining during 1992-2000, and indices of small Canada geese harvested 
in the Central Flyway appear to reflect the sharp decreases indicated 
by the midwinter surveys since the mid-1990s.
    We encourage the Central Flyway States and Canadian Provinces to 
exercise caution in the harvest of small races of Canada geese until 
the status of SGP Canada geese can be more reliably monitored, and to 
review existing monitoring methods and management plan criteria.

5. White-Fronted Geese

    Fall indices of Mid-continent Population (or midcontinent) white-
fronted geese have declined from 1,058,000 in 1998 to about 640,000 
geese in 2002. Although the 3-year average is currently above the 
established goal of 600,000, estimates of survival rates for this 
population have also declined in recent years. We encourage the States 
and Provinces in the Central and Mississippi Flyways to cooperatively 
review spatial and temporal harvest characteristics for this population 
and consider appropriate harvest strategies.

8. Swans

    In 1995, we instituted a legal swan season in the Pacific Flyway 
that permitted the take of a limited number of trumpeter swans. Prior 
to that time, and beginning in 1962, a tundra swan season had been in 
effect in the Pacific Flyway. During the tundra swan seasons, it was 
known that some number of trumpeter swans were taken by swan hunters 
who mistook them for tundra swans. We authorized this limited take of 
trumpeter swans in an attempt to reconcile potentially conflicting 
strategies for managing two swan species in the Pacific Flyway. The 
potentially conflicting strategies are: (1) To enhance the winter range 
distribution of the less abundant Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) of 
trumpeter swans by severely restricting or eliminating swan hunting in 
portions of the Pacific Flyway currently open to hunting these species, 
and (2) to optimize hunting of the more numerous and widely distributed 
Western Population (WP) of tundra swans in the Pacific Flyway. The 
regulations establishing this limited take have been based on three 
Environmental Assessments (Bartonek et al. 1995; Trost et al. 2000; and 
Trost et al. 2001) and three Findings of No Significant Impact 
regarding these Environmental Assessments (EA) issued by the Service.
    The scope of the most recent EA (Trost et al. 2001) was the 2001-03 
hunting seasons only. Upon completion of these seasons, we have stated 
our plans to review the results with respect to both tundra swan and 
trumpeter swan harvests. As we stated in 2001, we view the seasons in 
Montana and Nevada as operational seasons that are subject to the 
normal annual review of status and harvest of the affected populations. 
Adjustments to these seasons are made, if needed, as part of the normal 
annual regulatory process for hunting migratory birds. The season in 
Utah was experimental and now that the experimental period has been 
completed, a forthcoming review, assessment, and determination as to 
the appropriate course of action for either continuation or suspension 
of this experimental season will be necessary. As such, the first step 
in this process is the preparation of a new EA. We expect the new EA to 
be completed and available to the public for comment in April. Copies 
will be available upon request from the Division of Migratory Bird 
Management at the address indicated under the caption ADDRESSES or from 
the Division's Web site at http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/.

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[FR Doc. 03-11155 Filed 5-5-03; 8:45 am]