[Federal Register: August 6, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 151)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 46559-46567]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 15

RIN 1018-AH89

Importation of Exotic Wild Birds Into the United States; Adding 
Blue-Fronted Amazon Parrots From Argentina's Approved Sustainable-Use 
Management Plan to the Approved List of Non-Captive-Bred Species

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: In this rule, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) 
proposes to approve a sustainable-use management plan developed by the 
CITES Management Authority of Argentina for blue-fronted amazon parrots 
(Amazona aestiva), under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA). 
Approval of Argentina's petition would allow the import into the United 
States of blue-fronted amazon parrots removed from the wild in 
Argentina under an approved sustainable-use management plan. Criteria 
for approval of sustainable-use management plans are contained in 50 
CFR 15.32. This rule proposes to add blue-fronted amazon parrots to the 
approved list of non-captive-bred (wild-caught) species contained in 50 
CFR 15.33(b).

DATES: Comments must be submitted on or before October 6, 2003.

ADDRESSES: Materials related to this proposed rule are available for 
public inspection by appointment from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through 
Friday, at the Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 700, Arlington, Virginia 22203.
    Please send comments and materials relating to this proposed rule 
to Dr. Peter O. Thomas, Chief, Division of Management Authority, at the 
above address, or via E-mail at: cites@fws.gov.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Peter O. Thomas, Chief, Division 
of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and

[[Page 46560]]

Wildlife Service; telephone (703) 358-2093; fax (703) 358-2280.



    This proposed rule would amend the regulations implementing aspects 
of the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA), which was signed into law on 
October 23, 1992. The WBCA limits or prohibits imports of exotic bird 
species to ensure that their wild populations are not harmed by trade. 
It also encourages wild bird conservation programs in countries of 
origin by ensuring that all imports of such species into the United 
States are biologically sustainable and not detrimental to the survival 
of the species. A final rule published in the Federal Register on 
November 16, 1993 (58 FR 60536), implemented the prohibitions 
stipulated in the WBCA and provided permit requirements and procedures 
for some allowed exemptions.
    Import quotas were established for CITES-listed bird species for 
the year immediately following enactment of the WBCA, from October 23, 
1992, to October 22, 1993. Those quotas were announced in the Federal 
Register on December 4, 1992 (57 FR 57510). In that same notice, we 
informed the public that, after that year, the importation of all 
exotic bird species listed in the CITES Appendices would be prohibited 
unless the species was listed in an approved list, or unless the 
species was a member of one of the ten families of birds specifically 
exempted from the WBCA. A notice published on March 30, 1993 (58 FR 
16644), solicited public comments and announced a public meeting, held 
April 15-16, 1993, to receive input for developing regulations to 
implement some of the provisions of the WBCA. We received input, both 
at the meeting and in writing, from a broad cross-section of the 
interested public. During the year in which import quotas for CITES-
listed bird species were in place, we published two notices in the 
Federal Register, one on April 16, 1993 (58 FR 19840), and one on 
August 10, 1993 (58 FR 42573), announcing species for which the quotas 
had been met and no further individual birds could be imported.
    Since the publication of the final rule of November 16, 1993, 
imports of all CITES-listed birds (as defined in the final rule) are 
prohibited, except for (a) species included in an approved list; (b) 
specimens for which an import permit has been issued; (c) species from 
countries that have approved sustainable-use management plans for those 
species; or (d) specimens from approved foreign captive-breeding 
facilities. We published a proposed rule in the Federal Register on 
March 17, 1994 (59 FR 12784), that would implement procedures for the 
establishment of an approved list of captive-bred species listed in the 
CITES Appendices that could be imported without a WBCA permit, provide 
criteria for including non-captive-bred (wild-caught) species in the 
approved list, and provide criteria for approval of foreign captive-
breeding facilities.
    As the result of a lawsuit filed on February 15, 1994, and a 
resultant District Court Order that found a portion of the regulation 
in the November 16, 1993, Federal Register invalid, we announced in the 
Federal Register on May 24, 1994 (59 FR 26810), that all exotic birds 
listed in Appendix III of CITES would also be covered by the automatic 
import moratorium of the WBCA, regardless of their country of origin. A 
proposed rule was published on June 3, 1994 (59 FR 28826), to 
promulgate that regulatory change, and the final rule was published on 
December 2, 1994 (59 FR 62254).
    On December 2, 1994 (59 FR 62255), we published a final rule 
implementing procedures for the establishment of an approved list of 
captive-bred species listed in the CITES Appendices that could be 
imported without a WBCA permit; the approved captive-bred species were 
those for which it had been determined that trade involved only 
captive-bred specimens.
    A final rule published on January 24, 1996 (61 FR 2084), 
implemented procedures for the establishment of an approved list of 
non-captive-bred (wild-caught) species listed in the CITES Appendices 
that could be imported. The list of approved non-captive-bred species 
is contained in 50 CFR 15.33(b). For wild-caught CITES-listed birds to 
be on the approved list, we must determine that CITES is being 
effectively implemented for the species for each country of origin from 
which imports will be allowed, CITES-recommended measures are 
implemented, and there is a scientifically based management plan for 
the species that is adequately implemented and enforced. The 
scientifically based management plan must: (a) Provide for the 
conservation of the species and its habitat; (b) include incentives for 
conservation; (c) ensure that the use of the species is biologically 
sustainable and is well above the level at which the species might 
become threatened; (d) ensure that the species is maintained throughout 
its range at a level consistent with its role in the ecosystem; (e) 
address factors that include illegal trade, domestic trade, subsistence 
use, disease, and habitat loss; and (f) ensure that the methods of 
capture, transport, and maintenance of the species minimize the risk of 
injury or damage to health. For a species with a multinational 
distribution, we must also consider (a) whether populations of the 
species in other countries will be detrimentally affected by exports 
from the country requesting approval; (b) whether factors affecting 
conservation of the species are regulated throughout its range so that 
recruitment and/or breeding stocks will not be detrimentally affected 
by the proposed export; (c) whether the projected take and export will 
detrimentally affect breeding populations; and (d) whether the 
projected take and export will detrimentally affect existing 
enhancement activities, conservation programs, or enforcement efforts 
throughout the species' range. A species and country of export listed 
in 50 CFR 15.33(b) may be approved for three years, after which time 
the Service will have an opportunity to consider renewal of the 
    On August 10, 2000, we published a notice of receipt of application 
for approval in the Federal Register (65 FR 49007), which announced the 
receipt of a petition from the Management Authority of Argentina, 
Direcci[oacute]n de Fauna and Flora Silvestre, for approval of a 
sustainable-use management plan for the blue-fronted amazon parrot 
(Amazona aestiva) in Argentina. We accepted comments on that 
application until October 11, 2000. Although we have used information 
received to date in formulating this proposed rule, we will address 
previously received comments as well as any new comments in our final 

Criteria for Approval of Species for Importation (50 CFR 15.32)

Section 15.32(b)(1) Whether the Country of Export Is Effectively 
Implementing the Convention

    Argentina has been a Party to CITES since 1981 and has established 
two Management Authorities and two Scientific Authorities. Designation 
of competent CITES authorities is crucial for effective implementation 
of the Convention and ensures that the country has the necessary 
regulatory and technical infrastructure for the issuance of CITES 
documents and for making the required findings for the issuance of 
those documents. Argentina received a Category 1 rating in the CITES 
National Legislation Project. As directed in this project, the CITES 
Secretariat made this determination following a thorough review of 
Argentina's CITES implementing

[[Page 46561]]

legislation. Category 1 is the highest rating possible and indicates 
that a Party has enacted ``legislation that is believed generally to 
meet the requirements for implementation of CITES.'' Furthermore, the 
CITES Standing Committee has never recommended that other CITES Parties 
enact sanctions against Argentina for failure to submit annual reports 
or properly implement the Convention. Argentina has also taken 
additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to the conservation of 
blue-fronted amazon parrots. In 1992, in response to concerns regarding 
the large number of blue-fronted amazons in trade, Argentina instituted 
a zero export quota. Prior to re-opening the export of blue-fronted 
amazons, Argentina worked to develop and implement a sustainable-use 
management plan for the species. Based on this information, we conclude 
that Argentina is effectively implementing CITES.

Section 15.32(b)(2) Whether the Country of Export Has Developed a 
Scientifically Based Management Plan for the Species

    Although the population biology information provided in the 
application is not exhaustive, we conclude that there is sufficient 
baseline data provided in the petition to determine that Argentina has 
developed a scientifically based management plan and has established 
levels of harvest that will not be detrimental to the survival of the 
species in the wild.
    Conservation of species and habitat and incentives for 
conservation: The management plan provides for the conservation of the 
species and its habitat. The purpose of the sustainable-use management 
program, Project El[eacute], is to increase wild populations of blue-
fronted amazons by working with private landowners to protect critical 
habitat (Chaco and transitional forests) and allow a strictly 
controlled limited harvest for export. The project currently covers 
150,000 km2 in the Provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Jujuy, and 
Salta. These Provinces contain the majority of the remaining Chaco and 
transitional forest habitat and are where the greatest concentration of 
blue-fronted amazons in Argentina occurs (Moschione and Banchs, 1993). 
The habitat occurs primarily on privately or communally owned land. The 
main threat to the species in Argentina is habitat loss. According to 
Flombaum, et. al. (1997), the most limiting factor for survival of the 
birds is the lack of nest sites caused by accelerated deforestation. 
The birds nest only in primary-growth forests, with most nests in white 
quebracho trees (Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco)--a species that is in 
demand for tannins used for curing leather. Other species, such as 
quebracho colorado (Schinopsis quebraco-colorado), ceiba (Ceiba 
insignis), algarrobo blanco (Prosopsis alba), and palo santo (Bulnesia 
sarmientoi), which are used by the birds as nesting sites and for food, 
are commercially valuable for use as fenceposts, telephone poles, and 
furniture. In addition, large tracts of forest are cleared for 
cultivation of sugar cane, soybean, cotton, tobacco, and other crops. 
Because much of the remaining habitat used by the blue-fronted amazon 
is on private property, participation of property owners in the 
management program provides a deterrent to destroying parrot habitat 
for agricultural or development purposes.
    We believe that the proposed level of harvest will maintain the 
species throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the 
ecosystem (See Sustainability, effect on wild population number). The 
collection quotas are conservative and based on science (Bucher et al., 
1995; Flombaum et al., 1997).
    Included with Argentina's application is Decision 425/97, the 
Letter of Agreement To Conserve the Blue-fronted Parrot (Amazona 
aestiva) in Argentina, issued by the Department of Natural Resources 
and Sustainable Development. The Decision requires the establishment, 
using income generated from the program, of government-owned reserves 
where harvesting of blue-fronted amazons is prohibited. It also 
authorizes designating wooded areas within large private properties 
where parrot harvesting is permitted. The program coordinators work 
closely with provincial officials to determine where the reserves 
should be established in order to maximize critical habitat protection. 
Since the program's inception, three reserves have been established: 
Salta Province (dry transitional forest, established November, 2001, 
15,000 ha), Chaco Province (dry chaco forest, established May, 2002 
with 17,500 ha), and Jujuy Province (transitional forest, established 
December, 2002 with 10,000 ha). The reserve in Salta Province now also 
serves as the nucleus of a larger biosphere reserve. In Reserva Natural 
Loro Hablador, Chaco Province, funds from the project paid for the 
construction of a small building which is used as a guardhouse and a 
dormitory, and to store supplies for researchers and staff. The 
reserves are managed with funds and staff from the project.
    The sustainable-use management plan prohibits the felling of nest 
trees to collect nestlings, thereby protecting nest sites. Exportation 
is only authorized for birds from nests that are marked and numbered 
and meet the project criteria. The financial benefits to the landowners 
from the controlled harvest provide the landowners an incentive to 
protect the nesting habitat on their property. In citrus groves where 
juvenile birds are collected, the killing of birds as agricultural 
pests, normally permitted by provincial law, is prohibited. The 
applicant notes that participating landowners become sensitized and 
educated regarding conservation of the species and its habitat through 
the authorization process, inspections, and advice on how to minimize 
environmental impact in the harvest process. Based on this information, 
we conclude that Argentina's scientifically based management plan for 
blue-fronted amazons provides for the conservation of the species and 
its habitat.
    Implementation and enforcement: The applicant has provided 
substantial implementation and enforcement information. Decision 425/97 
gives oversight of the project to the Wildlife Office. It provides 
mechanisms for the administration and enforcement of the program, 
establishment of reserves, control of illegal trade, and handling and 
disposition of confiscated birds at the national and provincial levels. 
Annual decrees also address collection zones, quotas, and export 
    Most of the oversight for the project is done by project staff 
members. Project staff live in the communities or on the properties of 
collectors during the harvest seasons. They place leg bands on each 
captured nestling and record biological data, inspect nests, mark each 
tree from which nestlings are removed, and inspect animal care 
conditions. All inspection and biological information is maintained in 
a large database. Staff members also accompany all collectors of 
juvenile birds to ensure compliance with project policies. The project 
coordinators identify collection properties and establish collection 
quotas for each broker so that brokers do not purchase more birds than 
allotted. In addition, project staff members accompany brokers when 
birds are purchased from the collectors. Staff members also inspect the 
parrot housing facilities of collectors and brokers. Frequent 
inspections by staff members and the perceived importance of the 
project in communities where the income generated by the collection is 
shared among community members reduce the incentive to cheat. During a 
site visit in January 2003, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
International Affairs, biologists observed the project

[[Page 46562]]

coordinators take every available opportunity to provide outreach 
materials and information to national law enforcement personnel at 
highway checkpoints in the region. Officers were reminded to contact 
the provincial wildlife authority if they observed any individual with 
numerous parrots who did not have authorized certificates of origin and 
leg bands on the birds (contact information was provided). Unlike in 
the 1980s, birds can no longer be exported directly from the provinces; 
all legal exports of blue-fronted amazons from this project are through 
Buenos Aires.
    The provinces participating in the program are responsible for 
meeting the criteria set forth in the national decrees, and only birds 
from authorized and inspected properties will be permitted to be 
exported. We received international trade data from the United Nations 
Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) 
showing that the number of blue-fronted amazons exported from Argentina 
during 1998 and 1999 closely matched the number of birds that were 
harvested for the program and certified for export, as reported in the 
application. Based on the above information, we conclude that the 
program appears to be adequately implemented and enforced.
    Sustainability, effect on wild population number: The blue-fronted 
amazon is one of the most common amazon species in South America. 
Although the species is listed in CITES Appendix II, it is not listed 
in Birds To Watch 2: The World List of Threatened Birds (Collar et al., 
1994), Parrots: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004 
(Snyder et al., 2000), or the 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals 
(http://www.redlist.org). In their comments to the Division of 
Management Authority (October 2000), TRAFFIC--North America and 
TRAFFIC--South America argued that the wild blue-fronted amazon parrot 
population could sustain the proposed harvest.
    The applicant proposes collection of nestlings during the breeding 
season (December and January) and juvenile birds, which are designated 
as pests by landowners, on citrus farms in May, June, and July. While 
the species' range extends over 430,000 km2 in Argentina, 
not all of the range is available habitat. The greatest population 
densities are within an area of 200,000 km2, and the area 
subject to management that contains optimal roosting, foraging, and 
nesting areas is 170,000 km2 in the Provinces of Chaco, 
Formosa, Jujuy, and Salta (Moschione and Banchs, 1993). Sampling in 
three localities between 1996 and 2002 resulted in an estimation of 
7.70 nests per km2 (1,309,000 active nests per breeding 
season within the management area). The mean number of hatchlings per 
nest at the sites sampled ranged from 3.87 to 4.27 hatchlings (Banchs 
et al., 2000).
    The nestling collection quotas are based on the total number of 
participating properties, the amount of forest in each, and the degree 
of past compliance by each collector. For new properties, satellite 
photographs are used to determine the area of forest and estimate nest 
density. If the property is fully forested, there is a high probability 
that there will be at least one nest per 7 hectares. However, to be 
conservative, the project assumes one nest per 20 hectares. Therefore, 
on a 100-hectare property, nestlings may be collected from only 5 
nests, regardless of the actual number of nests on the property. In 
each nest from which birds are collected, a minimum of one nestling 
must be left in the nest. Because the typical nest contains 4 eggs, of 
which 3 hatch, and 2 nestlings survive to fledge, on the 100-hectare 
property, two nestlings could be taken from each of the five nests. 
Thus, the quota for the property would be 10 nestlings. Using fledgling 
rate only, the harvest per nest is less than that recommended by Bucher 
et al. (1995) as sustainable. Using fledging rate only, Bucher et al. 
(1995) recommended a harvest of 1.5 nestlings per nest based on a study 
of the population biology of the blue-fronted amazon at the Los 
Colorados Field Station, Salta Province. According to the model by 
Bucher et al., on a 100-hectare property, 21.4 nestlings could be 
harvested sustainably given one nest per seven hectares.
    The greater the number of properties that participate in the 
program, the higher the quota. Large properties are given much smaller 
quotas ( based on an estimate of 1 nest/50 ha) because it is unlikely 
that the collector will explore the entire property. The total national 
quota is equal to the sum of the quotas from the different properties. 
The quota per property in succeeding years may be adjusted in response 
to the results of sampling (actual nest counts and number of hatchlings 
per nest). If a collector does not abide by the rules of the project, 
his quota may be lowered or, in rare instances, he may be expelled from 
the program. Only birds removed from individually numbered nest 
cavities in standing trees may be collected. Capture involves cutting a 
hole into the cavity to reach the nestling and resealing the hole 
following take. The project staff and landowners have observed pairs 
re-using nests that have been opened in previous years, indicating that 
opening nests has minimal effect on the quality of a nest cavity.
    The blue-fronted amazon in Argentina is viewed as a pest species by 
citrus growers (Bucher 1992). The species is legally classified as a 
pest species in provinces where the project permits the harvest of 
juveniles, and large numbers of blue-fronted amazon parrots were 
regularly shot by citrus-grove managers prior to the establishment of 
the sustainable-use program. During their visit, the Service biologists 
were informed that there has not been an observed decline in the number 
of juvenile birds at nearby roosting areas in spite of shooting that 
may occur on properties not participating in the program. The maximum 
take of juveniles is set at one-third of the number of nestlings 
collected in the immediately preceding breeding season. Although the 
number of participating properties may increase each year, the take of 
juveniles per unit area does not change. Juveniles can only be taken 
when the owners declare in writing to the local administrative 
authority that the birds are damaging their crops, and project staff 
must verify that the damage is due to blue-fronted amazons. Banchs and 
Moschione believe that there are over 700,000 juveniles in the 
transitional forest area (Pers. comm. with DSA and DMA biologists, Jan. 
2003). Because few nestlings are found in the Salta and Jujuy 
Provinces, the creation of reserves there to protect the transitional 
forests, as required by Decision 425/97, was made possible only through 
the harvest of juveniles. Thus, the limited harvest of juveniles may 
actually increase the population by protecting important roosting 
areas. As with nestlings, a project staff member bands each bird 
captured and collects biological data. The staff member also explores 
the property to determine if the participant is also shooting parrots. 
If so, the quota is reduced in the current or following year, or the 
collector is suspended from the program.
    It is doubtful that the individuals that are left in the nests 
following the nestling collection become the source of juveniles 
collected in the citrus groves are the same. According to Banchs and 
Moschione, this is because the distance between the nesting areas and 
the citrus groves is over 150 km. It is unlikely that the flocks 
observed in the citrus groves are those that nest on the properties 
participating in the program (E-mail to M. Kreger, February 7, 2003).
    The total quota for nestlings and juveniles has not been met in any 

[[Page 46563]]

year. This is because the properties are extensive and may not be 
completely explored. The applicant notes that it is difficult to locate 
nests, the vegetation is often dense and impenetrable, and most 
indigenous communities prefer to take only the birds they need to pay 
for short-term (subsistence) economic needs. No birds may be collected 
before or after the collection period. From a total authorized quota of 
16,348 birds (nestlings + juveniles) for the period 1998-2002, only 
8,940 were actually collected and exported.
    Although complete information on the population biology of this 
species is not available, funds generated by the sustainable-use 
program are being used to address information gaps. All of the data 
collected each season by program staff members are entered into a 
database maintained by I. Berkunsky, a Ph.D. student and author of the 
management plan for the reserve in Chaco Province. These data are 
providing information on the number of nestlings per nest, nestling 
health and mortality, nest locations, whether or not nests are being 
re-used, harvest trends at each property or habitat, who is harvesting, 
and levels of compliance.
    Now that reserves are in place, basic biological studies can be 
accomplished. Because there is no extraction of parrots in the 
reserves, these areas serve as a control for comparison with properties 
involved in the harvest. Berkunsky is also studying the reproductive 
biology of the birds, including clutch size, fledging rate, frequency 
of repeated nest use, predation of fledglings, natural recruitment, 
etc. Another study, which will involve radio-tracking of individuals, 
will examine population dynamics, flock movements, and habitat use. 
Such a study will determine whether birds in the harvest areas flock to 
the transitional forests or citrus groves. The project should also 
allow estimation of the percentage of the total population involved in 
foraging in citrus groves. Additional studies are proposed to focus on 
taxonomy, landscape ecology, the impact of foraging on citrus groves, 
and the impact of the project on local economies.
    The information generated by these studies will also assist us to 
determine whether to renew the program after the initial approval 
period. If approved, we will require that the applicant provide an 
annual report at the end of each collection season during the period 
covered by the approval. The applicant will be asked to include in the 
report the number and size of the properties participating in the 
program, population censuses in the collection areas, and an assessment 
of the short- and long-term impacts of collection on the population, 
including recruitment, natural nestling mortality within the nest, and 
the effects of artificially opening and resealing nest cavities.
Illegal Trade, Domestic Trade, Subsistence Use, Disease, Habitat Loss
    The management plan for the species addresses illegal trade, 
domestic trade, subsistence use, disease, and habitat loss. The program 
is operated at a national level with collaboration at the provincial 
level. In a supplemental letter dated September 2000, the applicant 
stated that domestic demand for blue-fronted amazons has declined due 
to economic factors and stricter controls over the harvest and 
transport of the species. In addition, more field personnel have been 
assigned to monitor legal harvest and control illegal trade. 
Argentina's application states that domestic trade is under the same 
guidelines as the proposed program and involves fewer than 150 birds 
per year.
    The project is the only legal means to export blue-fronted amazons 
or commercialize parrots domestically. Some of the project birds are 
sold as pets in large cities such as Buenos Aires at prices competitive 
with export prices. There is a ``folkloric'' market in small pueblos 
and aldeas within the range of the species, where birds captured by 
individuals not participating in the program are sold as pets to local 
people. Such trade of single birds is permitted within a province. 
Larger numbers of birds in transport that are not certified as 
originating from the program are confiscated. Because the birds are 
imprinted on humans and their exact origin is unknown, they are non-
releasable. The project pays for their rehabilitation and distributes 
them to local people as pets along with information about their care 
and about conservation of the species. Although about 500 non-program 
parrots were confiscated in 2002, Banchs and Moschione believe that 
illegal exports have declined by 600 birds each year since the 
inception of the program based on the numbers of birds confiscated by 
provincial authorities (Pers. comm. with DSA and DMA biologists, Jan. 
    The program staff strictly controls the harvest and bands all 
specimens in the field immediately after capture. Staff members ensure 
that nesting trees are labeled with plastic tags, check that no tree 
has been cut down to retrieve nestlings, and inspect some, to all, of 
the nests from which the nestlings have been removed, to verify that at 
least one nestling remains in the nest. The nestlings left in the nest 
are marked by project staff members under each wing with methylene blue 
to ensure they will not be harvested later and put into trade. Because 
the bands, capture locations, and other identifying information for 
each bird must be registered at a national level, and only birds 
harvested in accordance with the sustainable-use management plan are 
exported as part of this program, we believe that reasonable measures 
are being implemented to prevent illegal trafficking in blue-fronted 
amazon parrots from Argentina. More inspections are made on the 
properties of first-time participants and on those identified as 
needing closer oversight to ensure compliance with the program.
    The possibility of disease is a concern within holding areas and in 
the countries into which the birds are imported. Decision 425/97 
requires that a veterinarian be present at the assembly areas, 
separation within the assembly facility of birds captured from 
different locations, and appropriate quarantine prior to export. The 
birds are not assembled in the same housing area as other species, the 
housing areas must be well-ventilated, the floors of the cages must be 
cleaned daily, and sick birds must be isolated for diagnosis and 
treatment. Quarantine in Argentina must comply with rules established 
by SENASA (National Animal Health Service). Exotic birds imported into 
the United States are subject to quarantine in U.S. Department of 
Agriculture approved facilities before they can be released to U.S. 
importers. If the program were approved, blue-fronted amazons from 
Argentina would be subject to those quarantine requirements. Spain 
currently imports a large number of blue-fronted amazons from 
Argentina's sustainable-use program, and the Management Authority of 
that country reports that they have not linked any avian disease 
outbreaks to blue-fronted amazons from Argentina (E-mail to A. St. 
John, May 12, 2003). We are confident that approving this program would 
not increase the risk of introduction of avian diseases to the United 
    Loss of parrot habitat results mainly from logging of nesting 
habitat or habitat conversion for farming and agriculture. This program 
is intended to reduce habitat loss by providing incentives for 
protecting nesting areas on private property and requiring the 
establishment of national reserves.
Methods of Capture, Maintenance, and Transport
    Nestlings are harvested in December and January. At least one 
nestling must be left in every nest harvested. The blue-

[[Page 46564]]

fronted amazon is a cavity nester. In order to locate nests, collectors 
look for holes in tree trunks that have insects swarming around the 
opening, adult birds entering and leaving the cavity, or audible 
vocalizations from within the cavity. In the 1980s, collectors cut down 
nesting trees to collect the nestlings. However, Argentina's 
sustainable-use management program prohibits this practice, and project 
staff train collectors to use lassos and harness systems to safely 
climb nest trees to collect the birds. Once at the opening of the 
cavity, collectors use a weighted string to determine the depth of the 
nest. When the depth is determined, the collector uses an axe or 
machete to cut a hole in the side of the tree in order to remove the 
nestlings. The nestlings are placed in a bag and the collector reseals 
the new opening with mud and sticks. A plastic identification label, 
indicating the unique number of the nest, is nailed to each harvested 
nesting tree. There is no evidence, since full implementation of the 
project in December 1997, that opening and resealing a hole near the 
nest has caused mortality of the remaining nestlings or failure of 
adult pairs to use the site in subsequent years. Project staff are 
continuing to collect these data.
    After harvest, the nestlings are placed in a holding area until 
they are purchased by a broker. The holding areas must be dry to avoid 
fungus-induced respiratory and skin infections. We observed several 
different holding areas. The most common was a shallow hole dug into 
the ground with wooden planks over the top to keep predators out and 
maintain darkness typical of the nest.
    The birds are hand-fed at least three times per day. The feed used 
is a commercial corn-based mash produced specifically for parrots by a 
pet food company in Buenos Aires. Project personnel provide the feed 
and feeding instructions to the collectors. The mash is mixed with 
water and fed by hand or spoon. On the site visit, we saw no evidence 
of force-feeding. Collectors and their families often supplement the 
commercial feed with local fruit and seeds that the birds would have 
been likely to receive from their parents.
    Brokers prefer to purchase nestlings when the birds can feed 
independently. In addition, frequent handling of the birds is thought 
to tame them. We did not see nestlings in the holding area resist 
handling. We saw no evidence of illness or injuries in the nestlings in 
the holding areas, and collectors report very few mortalities. The 
nestlings remain with the collector 2-4 weeks, depending on the age of 
the birds at the time of collection.
    Project staff members (biologists or field technicians) visit each 
collector before the arrival of the broker. They affix leg bands (open 
metal bands that once closed can only be removed by breaking) with the 
code AR or ARG and a unique identification number. Only staff members 
may affix leg bands, reducing the likelihood of injury during banding 
and ensuring that only legally acquired birds are banded. The birds are 
weighed, wing length is measured, and the general health of each bird 
is recorded. Injured birds are treated, and most injuries have been 
superficial around legs or toes. If the project staff were to observe 
evidence of a high mortality, injuries, or more birds collected than 
the quota allows, the collector might have his quota reduced the 
following year or be suspended from the program.
    Juveniles are harvested from May through July in the citrus groves. 
Project staff members live on the properties and accompany collectors 
in every stage of the trapping process. Snares made of reeds are set at 
dawn before the birds arrive to forage in the citrus groves. The snares 
are set in the branches of the citrus trees to ensure that only birds 
that are actually foraging are caught. If a parrot is captured, its 
loud vocalizations alert the collector to the capture. In rare 
instances, other species are captured (e.g., passerines); however, 
mortality is reported to be minimal. Every trap is inspected and 
disarmed within four hours of being set. The parrots usually retreat to 
the transitional forest by midday to escape the heat. No blue-fronted 
amazon has required euthanasia as a result of injuries sustained from 
the trapping process for juvenile birds since the project's inception.
    We visited the holding facilities of three brokers. Each facility 
was indoors and contained stainless steel cages either suspended from 
the ceiling, on legs above the floor, or mounted on the wall above the 
floor. The cages are constructed of wire and contain water and feed 
pans. Each facility had windows providing sunlight, ventilation, 
drainage, and a source of clean running water. Depending on the size of 
the bird, up to 25 birds can be housed in each cage. The same 
commercial diet provided to collectors is provided to brokers. Brokers 
typically maintain the birds for less than 2 weeks. According to the 
application, cages at the assembly area may house up to 30 birds per 
cubic meter. We believe that, particularly for nestlings, such space is 
more than adequate. Other housing conditions, such as ventilation, 
lighting, running water, and sanitation, also appear to be adequate. 
Each assembly center is required to have a veterinarian available, who 
is responsible for animal health and official reporting.
    Transport from the point of capture to the quarantine facility in 
Buenos Aires, road transport in excess of 500 kilometers, and air 
transport, require the use of crates built to IATA (International Air 
Transport Association) standards. Air circulation, crate handling, and 
other conditions for transport within the province of origin are 
addressed in the application, but do not have to meet IATA standards. 
It is important to note that Standards for Humane and Healthful 
Transport of Wild Mammals and Birds to the United States (50 CFR 
14.105) prohibits the import of unweaned birds. Subsequently, we would 
not allow the import of birds into the United States that still require 
hand-feeding. However, during our visit to collection sites and broker 
facilities, brokers noted that they only purchase birds from collectors 
when the birds no longer require hand-feeding.
    In a letter dated September 2000, the applicant reported that 
mortality during capture and transport is less than one percent. The 
nestling mortality, primarily during housing, in 1998 was 3.2 percent, 
22.5 percent in 1999, and 4.2 percent in 2000. The high mortality in 
1999 was due to Pacheco's disease at a quarantine facility that killed 
95 percent of the birds at that facility. After that incident, 
Resolution 1955/99 was passed, that suspends from the program any 
exporters who experience mortalities greater than 25 percent in one 
season. Other causes of mortality that have been experienced in the 
program were not reported to us, although the application indicates 
that such information is reported to the Wildlife Office. No numbers 
were provided on animals that were sick or injured during the capture, 
housing, and transport process. As a condition of program approval, we 
would require that the annual reports include figures on disease, 
injury, and mortality during capture, housing, and transport. We would 
also require that the applicant provide training to program 
participants to ensure that appropriate parrot husbandry (including 
diet and basic animal health care) is provided to all individuals who 
will be responsible for the birds.

[[Page 46565]]

Section 15.32(b)(3) Whether the Country of Export Has Developed a 
Scientifically Based Management Plan for the Species That Considers 
Factors Relating to the Multi-National Distribution of the Species

    The Division of Scientific Authority sent letters to the Scientific 
Authorities of the range countries for this species (Argentina, 
Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay) and asked them to address this 
criterion. Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay responded in support of 
Argentina's sustainable-use management plan. We did not receive a 
response from Brazil. However, the predominant subspecies in Brazil, 
Amazona aestiva aestiva, is not found in Argentina (Collar 1997). The 
Bolivian Scientific Authority said that Bolivia's blue-fronted amazon 
populations are non-migratory and would not be affected by the 
sustainable-use program in Argentina (Marianela Subieta Fr[iacute]as, 
Executive Director of the National Museum of Natural History in La Paz, 
Bolivia, email to DSA, September 2000). Bolivia expressed its support 
for Argentina's program, but noted concern over the possibility of 
illegally harvested Bolivian birds entering Argentina and being 
exported through this program. Studies of this species in Paraguay 
indicate that breeding populations are non-migratory and are distinct 
from populations in Argentina. Thus, the program in Argentina would not 
affect the populations in Paraguay (Braulio Rom[aacute]n Sol[iacute]s, 
Director, CITES Office, Paraguay, letter to DSA, August 2000). 
According to Mr. Sol[iacute]s, Paraguay developed a similar program in 
1999 based on the Argentine program and has regulations to ensure 
sustainable management of the species. Although Paraguay reported that 
its population of blue-fronted amazons is robust and that the species 
is locally common, the European Commission has asked Member States not 
to allow imports of blue-fronted amazons from Paraguay until further 
notice. This decision was made in response to information received that 
called into question the scientific basis of Paraguay's export quotas 
for this species. (E-mail to A. St. John, May 8, 2003). Argentina, 
Bolivia, and Paraguay have held roundtable discussions to develop a 
regional study plan in order to determine optimal population management 
for this species. They have also discussed the need for local 
educational outreach.
    The application and additional information received from Argentina 
outline the safeguards in place to prevent illegally harvested birds 
from entering this program. As discussed above, most of the oversight 
for the project is done by project staff members. Only program staff 
affix legbands (open metal bands that once closed can only be removed 
by breaking) with the code AR or ARG and a unique identification 
number, and only birds with official bands are permitted for export. 
See earlier sections for discussion of additional safeguards. This 
program is the only legal source of birds for export from Argentina, 
and all exports are through Buenos Aires.
    Complete population biology information is lacking for the specific 
effects of this program on breeding and recruitment of this species in 
other range countries, but we are unaware of any possible detrimental 
effects of this program on conservation programs or enforcement efforts 
throughout the range of this species. The program coordinators have 
been in contact with biologists from the other range countries who have 
expressed interest in developing similar programs (Pers. comm. with DSA 
and DMA biologists, Jan. 2003). The export of blue-fronted amazon 
parrots from each range country is regulated by CITES, and imports into 
the United States would also be subject to the provisions of the WBCA.
    We believe that the proposed level of harvest will maintain the 
species throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the 
ecosystem and that it is unlikely that the proposed harvest will 
significantly reduce the wild population during the 3 years for which 
the program would be approved. Critical research on the species' 
population biology as a result of this program in comparison to non-
harvested areas will provide insight into the long- and short-term 
effects of the program on the species' survival. Any problems that 
arise during the 3 years could be addressed prior to renewing the 
program. Furthermore, because the program protects nests, creates 
nesting habitat, and reduces habitat loss, a population increase is 


    We reviewed the proposal by the Management Authority of Argentina 
for the approval of a sustainable-use management plan for blue-fronted 
amazon parrots (Amazona aestiva), based on the criteria in 50 CFR 
15.32. We propose to add blue-fronted amazon parrots from Argentina to 
the list of non-captive-bred species under the Wild Bird Conservation 
Act of 1992, with the following condition:
    1. The Management Authority of Argentina must provide an annual 
report at the end of each collection season during the period covered 
by this approval. The report must include the following information: 
the number and size of the properties participating in the program, 
results of population censuses in the collection areas, and short- and 
long-term impacts of collection on the population, including 
recruitment, nestling mortality, and the effects of artificially 
opening and resealing nest cavities. The report must also include the 
number of birds that became sick or injured during capture, housing, 
and transport. Causes of mortality, illness, and injury should be 
reported, if known. Such data will be considered at the time of a 
request for program renewal.


Banchs, R., F. Moschione, M. Codesido, P. Gado, and P. Grilli. 2000. 
Reproductive parameters of Amazona aestiva (Psittacidae) in the 
Argentine Chaco. Abstracts of the VIII Brazilian Congress of 
Bucher, T. H. 1992. Neotropical parrots as pests. In: New World 
Parrots in Crisis: Solutions from Conservation Biology. Sr. 
Beissinger and N.F.R. Snyder, eds. Smithsonian Institution Press: 
Washington, DC, pp. 201-219.
Bucher, E., J. Chani, C. Saravia Toledo, A. Echevarr[iacute]a, and 
N. Marigliano. 1995. Status and Management of the Blue-fronted 
Amazon Parrot in Argentina. Unpublished Research Report for TRAFFIC 
USA. Centro de Zoolog[iacute]a Aplicada, University of 
C[oacute]rdoba: Argentina, 12 pp.
Collar, N.J., M.J. Crosby, and A.J. Stattersfield. 1994. Birds To 
Watch 2: The World List of Threatened Birds. BirdLife International/
Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, DC., p. 198.
Collar, N.J. 1997. Blue-fronted Amazon (Amazona aestiva). In: 
Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. 
J. del Hoyo, A. Elliot, J. Sargatal, eds. Lynx Ediciones: Barcelona, 
p. 473.
European Commission. April 11, 2003. Note for the Attention of the 
CITES Scientific Authorities of the Member States. ENV.E.3 Brussels, 
Flombaum, P., L.D. Boffi Lissin, and R. Banchs. 1997. 
An[aacute]lisis del bosque chaque[ntilde]o en funci[oacute]n del 
Loro Hablador (Amazona aestiva). Res[uacute]menes XVIII 
Reuni[oacute]n Arg., Ecol. Fac. Agron. UBA Bs. As.
IUCN-The World Conservation Union. 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of 
Threatened Animals. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
Juniper, T., and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the 
World. Yale University Press: New Haven, Connecticut. Pp. 540-541.
Moschione, F. and R. Banchs. 1993. Distribution of the Loro Hablador 
(Amazona aestiva) in Northern Argentina. Book of Abstracts I, 
Ornithology Meeting for the Plata watershed. Ornithology Association 
of Plata: Iguaz[uacute], Paraguay.
Snyder, N., P. McGowan, J. Gilardi, and A. Grajal. 2000. Parrots: 
Status Survey and

[[Page 46566]]

Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland. Pp. 

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    In accordance with the criteria in Executive Order 12866, this 
proposed rule is not a significant regulatory action, because:

    a. The annual economic effect of the proposed rule would be less 
than $100 million and it would not adversely affect any economic 
sector, productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of 
government. A cost-benefit and economic analysis is not required.
    b. This proposed rule would not create inconsistencies with 
other agencies' actions.
    c. This proposed rule would not materially alter the budgetary 
impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, loan programs, or the 
rights and obligations of recipients thereof.
    d. This proposed rule would not raise novel legal or policy 

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Department of the Interior certifies that the proposed rule 
would not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of 
small entities as defined under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 
U.S.C. 601 et seq.). Most of the potential applicants who might take 
advantage of the procedures implemented through this rule are 
individuals or small entities. However, we do not expect that the 
amount of trade generated as a result of this rule to be large enough 
to have a significant economic effect on any industries, large or 

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This proposed rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the 
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, because it:
    a. Would not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million 
or more.
    b. Would not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions.
    c. Would not have significant negative effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The proposed rule would not significantly or uniquely affect small 
governments under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501, et 
seq.). The proposed rule would not produce a Federal requirement of 
$100 million or greater in any year, so it is not a ``significant 
regulatory action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.


    Under Executive Order 12630, this proposed rule would not have 
significant takings implications. The proposed rule would set forth 
regulations under an existing law (the WBCA) and a takings implication 
evaluation is not required.


    Since the proposed rule applies to the importation of live wild 
birds into the United States, it does not contain any Federalism 
impacts as described in Executive Order 13132. This proposed rule would 
not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship 
between the Federal government and the States, or on the distribution 
of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government, 
and a Federalism evaluation is not required.

Civil Justice Reform

    Under Executive Order 12988, the Office of the Solicitor has 
determined that this proposed rule would not overly burden the judicial 
system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the 

Energy Supply, Distribution or Use

    Because this proposed rule would allow the import into the United 
States of blue-fronted amazon parrots removed from the wild in 
Argentina under an approved sustainable-use management plan, it is not 
a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 12866 and is not 
expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or use.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995

    This proposed rule does not contain any new information collection 
requirements that require approval from the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB). Existing requirements in 50 CFR 15 are currently approved 
by OMB under OMB control number 1018-0093, which expires on March 31, 

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have prepared a draft environmental assessment under regulations 
implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). 
Council on Environmental Quality regulations in 40 CFR 1501.3(b) state 
that an agency ``may prepare an environmental assessment on any action 
at any time in order to assist agency planning and decision making.'' 
Future regulations implementing the WBCA may be subject to NEPA 
documentation requirements on a case-by-case basis. The draft 
environmental assessment for this proposed action is on file at the 
Division of Management Authority in Arlington, Virginia, and a copy may 
be obtained for review and comment by contacting Dr. Peter O. Thomas, 
Chief, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service; telephone (703) 358-2093; fax (703) 358-2280.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    Under the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, ``Government-
to-Government Relations With Native American Tribal Governments'' (59 
FR 22951) and 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible effects on Federally 
recognized Indian tribes and have determined that there are no effects.


    This document was prepared by Ms. Anne St. John, Division of 
Managment Authority, and Dr. Michael Kreger, Division of Scientific 
Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC 20240.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 15

    Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Wildlife.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, for the reasons given in the preamble, we propose to 
amend part 15, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 15 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: Pub. L. 102-440, 16 U.S.C. 4901-4916.

    2. Amend Sec.  15.33 by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows:

Sec.  15.33  Species included in the approved list.

* * * * *
    (b) Non-captive-bred species. The list in this paragraph includes 
species of non-captive-bred exotic birds and countries for which 
importation into the United States is not prohibited by Sec.  15.11. 
The species are grouped taxonomically by order, and may only be 
imported from the approved country, except as provided under a permit 
issued pursuant to subpart C of this part. The list of non-captive-bred 
species follows:

[[Page 46567]]

             Species                      Common name                  Country                Date approved
Order Psittaciformes:............  Blue-fronted Amazon        Argentina...............  [date of publication of
Amazona aestiva..................   Parrot.                                              final rule].

    Dated: July 22, 2003.
Paul Hoffman,
Assistant Secretary--Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 03-19945 Filed 8-5-03; 8:45 am]