[Federal Register: December 9, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 236)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 73190-73193]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To Delist the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in Nevada

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of petition finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day 
finding on a petition to delist the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in Nevada. 
We find that the petition and the available literature cited in the 
petition do not present substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that delisting may be warranted. We will not be 
initiating a further status review in response to this petition. We ask 
the public to submit to us any new information that becomes available 
concerning the status of or threats to the gray wolf. This information 
will help us monitor and encourage the conservation of this species.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on December 9, 
2005. You may submit new information concerning this species for our 
consideration at any time.

ADDRESSES: Data, information, or questions concerning this petition or 
this 90-day finding should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Nevada Fish 
and Wildlife Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1340 Financial 
Boulevard, Suite 234, Reno, Nevada 89502-7147. The petition finding and 
supporting information are available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert D. Williams, Nevada Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES) (telephone: 775/861-6300; facsimile: 



    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (Act) (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), requires that we make a finding 
on whether a petition to list, delist, or reclassify a species presents 
substantial scientific or commercial information to indicate that the 
petitioned action may be warranted. We are to base this finding on 
information provided in the petition. To the maximum extent 
practicable, we are to make this finding within 90 days of our receipt 
of the petition and publish our notice of this finding promptly in the 
Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial information within the Code of Federal 
Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day petition finding is ``that 
amount of information that would lead a reasonable person to believe 
that the measure proposed in the petition may be warranted'' (50 CFR 
424.14(b)). If we find that substantial information was presented, we 
are required to promptly commence a review of the status of the 
    In making this finding, we relied on information provided by the 
petitioners and evaluated that information in accordance with 50 CFR 
424.14(b). Our process of coming to a 90-day finding under section 
4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and section 424.14(b) of our regulations is 
limited to a determination of whether the information in the petition 
meets the ``substantial information'' threshold.
    We do not conduct additional research at this point, nor do we 
subject the petition to rigorous critical review. Rather, at the 90-day 
finding stage, we accept the petitioner's sources and characterizations 
of the information, to the extent that they appear to be based on 
accepted scientific principles (such as citing published and peer 
reviewed articles, or studies done in accordance with valid 
methodologies), unless we

[[Page 73191]]

have specific information to the contrary.


    On June 24, 2003, we received a petition, dated June 9, 2003, from 
the Nevada Division of Wildlife (now known as the Nevada Department of 
Wildlife) (NDOW or petitioner) requesting that we delist wolves in 
Nevada. The NDOW petition states that the historic presence of wolves 
in Nevada was limited to transient, solitary individuals, Nevada does 
not contain suitable habitat to support wolf populations, and no viable 
populations of wolves ever existed in Nevada. The petition asserts that 
the 1978 listing of gray wolves as endangered in Nevada was in error 
(43 FR 9607, March 9, 1978), and that the 2003 reclassification of gray 
wolves as threatened in Nevada (68 FR 15804, April 1, 2003) was also in 
error. The petition also asserts that gray wolf recovery, as detailed 
within the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Plan (USFWS 1987) has been 
achieved, and wolves should be delisted.
    We sent a letter to NDOW dated July 29, 2003, acknowledging receipt 
of their petition. We initially planned to address the June 30, 2003, 
delisting petition as part of the process to delist wolves due to 
recovery throughout the Western Distinct Population Segment (Western 
DPS), which included Nevada. See the Advance Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking; Removing the Western Distinct Population Segment of Gray 
Wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (68 FR 15879, 
April 1, 2003). However, the delisting process has been delayed due to 
court action (See Previous Federal Action section, below), and 
therefore, we are now addressing the subject petition. On May 4, 2005, 
we received a 60-day notice of intent to sue from the Attorney General, 
Nevada Department of Justice, regarding our failure to meet the 
statutory timeframes for making petition findings.

Biology and Species Information

    For detailed information on this species see the April 1, 2003, 
Final rule to reclassify and remove the gray wolf from the list of 
endangered and threatened wildlife in portions of the conterminous 
United States (68 FR 15804).

Previous Federal Action

    The eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) was listed as 
endangered in Minnesota and Michigan, and the northern Rocky Mountain 
wolf (C. l. irremotus) was listed as endangered in Montana and Wyoming 
in the first list of species that were protected under the 1973 Act, 
published in May 1974 (USDI 1974). A third gray wolf subspecies, the 
Mexican wolf (C. l. baileyi), was listed as endangered on April 28, 
1976 (41 FR 17740), with its known range given as ``Mexico, USA 
(Arizona, New Mexico, Texas).'' On June 14, 1976 (41 FR 24064), the 
subspecies C. l. monstrabilis was listed as endangered (using the 
nonspecific common name ``Gray wolf''), and its range was described as 
``Texas, New Mexico, Mexico.''
    On March 9, 1978, we published a rule (43 FR 9607) relisting the 
gray wolf at the species level (Canis lupus) as endangered throughout 
the conterminous 48 States and Mexico, except for Minnesota, where the 
gray wolf was reclassified to threatened to eliminate problems with 
listing separate subspecies of the gray wolf and identifying relatively 
narrow geographic areas in which those subspecies are protected. In 
addition, critical habitat was designated in that rulemaking. In 50 CFR 
17.95(a), we described Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, and 
Minnesota wolf management zones 1, 2, and 3 (delineated in 50 CFR 
17.40(d)(1)) as critical habitat. We also promulgated special 
regulations under section 4(d) of the Act for operating a wolf 
management program in Minnesota at that time. The depredation control 
portion of the special regulation was later modified (50 FR 50793, 
December 12, 1985); these special regulations are found in 50 CFR 
    On November 22, 1994, we designated areas in Idaho, Montana, and 
Wyoming as nonessential experimental populations in order to initiate 
gray wolf reintroduction projects in central Idaho and the Greater 
Yellowstone Area (59 FR 60252; 59 FR 60266). On January 12, 1998, a 
nonessential experimental population was established for the Mexican 
gray wolf in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (63 FR 1752). 
These experimental population designations also contain special 
regulations that govern take of wolves within these geographic areas 
(50 CFR 17.84(i), (k), and (n)).
    In order to have the gray wolf's status under the Act match its 
recovery progress, we published a proposed rule (65 FR 43450) on July 
13, 2000, to revise the listing of the gray wolf across most of the 
conterminous United States. The proposal included establishing four 
DPSs, and included recommended wording for three special regulations 
that would apply to those wolves proposed for reclassification to 
threatened status. The proposal also included delisting the gray wolf 
in parts or all of 30 States, including Nevada, because we believed 
that gray wolf restoration was not necessary and not feasible in those 
areas, or because the area was historic red wolf habitat.
    On April 1, 2003, we published a final rule (68 FR 15804) revising 
the listing status of the gray wolf across most of the conterminous 
United States. As a result of comments received during the comment 
period and additional analysis on our part, several changes were made 
to the July 13, 2000, proposed rule. This included dividing the 
previous listing of the species into three DPS's instead of four; 
reclassifying gray wolves in two of the DPS's from endangered to 
threatened; and including gray wolves in portions of the Eastern DPS 
and part of the Western DPS in special regulations under section 4(d) 
of the Act, thus allowing State and Tribal natural resource officials, 
under certain conditions, to ``take'' those wolves that were attacking 
domestic animals. The final rule also removed the gray wolf in parts or 
all of 16 States where historically it did not occur, rather than parts 
or all of 30 States, as proposed. In addition, on July 21, 2004, we 
proposed to delist all gray wolves in the 2003 Eastern Distinct 
Population Segment (69 FR 43664).
    On January 31, 2005, and August 19, 2005, the U.S. District Courts 
in Oregon and Vermont, respectively, concluded that the 2003 final 
reclassification rule violated the Act. The Courts' rulings invalidated 
the April 2003 changes to the Act listing for the gray wolf. Therefore, 
the USFWS currently considers the gray wolf to have the status that 
existed prior to the 2003 reclassification. Gray wolves in Minnesota 
are classified as threatened, as a result of a 1978 reclassification. 
Gray wolves in the remaining 47 conterminous States, including Nevada, 
are endangered, except where they are listed as part of an Experimental 
Population for reintroduction purposes (throughout Wyoming and in 
portions of Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). The 1994, 
1998, and 2005 Experimental Population Regulations (under section 10(j) 
of the Act) remain in effect for the Experimental Populations in the 
west and southwest. The special regulations enacted under section 4(d) 
of the Act that apply to Minnesota wolves remain in effect. The 2003 
special regulations enacted under section 4(d) of the Act are not being 
implemented, because they were enjoined by the U.S. District Court.
    We have received several petitions during the past decade 
requesting consideration to delist the gray wolf in all or part of the 
48 conterminous States. We subsequently published findings that these 
petitions did not present

[[Page 73192]]

substantial information that delisting gray wolves in all or part of 
the conterminous 48 United States was warranted (54 FR 16380, April 24, 
1989; 55 FR 49656, November 30, 1990; 63 FR 55839, October 19, 1998). 
We also received petitions from Defenders of Wildlife to list gray wolf 
DPSs in the southern Rocky Mountains, northern California--southern 
Oregon, and western Washington, and to grant endangered status to gray 
wolves in those DPSs. Because wolves were already protected as 
endangered in those areas, we took no action on these petitions. In 
addition, we have received petitions from the Minnesota Conservation 
Federation and from Lawrence Krak, a Wisconsin resident, to delist the 
gray wolf in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin; our 12-month findings 
on these petitions concluded that delisting was warranted and were made 
in our 2004 proposed rule (69 FR 43664, July 21, 2004). On October 26, 
2005, we published a finding responding to petitions to delist the gray 
wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains from Friends of Northern 
Yellowstone Elk Herd and the State of Wyoming (70 FR 61770). We have 
responded by initiating a status review for the northern Rocky Mountain 
population of gray wolves to determine if it may qualify as a DPS and 
whether delisting may be warranted.

Review of the Petition

    The NDOW petition requests that wolves in the State of Nevada 
should be delisted on one of three basis: (1) That it was listed in 
error; (2) it is a DPS that is neither threatened nor endangered; and 
(3) wolves in Nevada are part of a recovered Rocky Mountain population 
of gray wolves. The factors for listing, delisting, or reclassifying a 
species are described at 50 CFR 424.11. We may delist a species only if 
the best scientific and commercial data available substantiate that it 
is neither endangered nor threatened. Delisting may be warranted as a 
result of: (1) Extinction, (2) recovery, or (3) a determination that 
the original data used for classification of the species as endangered 
or threatened were in error.
    The petition provides a substantial and comprehensive presentation 
of the historic range and occurrences of wolves in Nevada. The 
information in the petition confirms that wolves, whether in packs or 
solitary transient individuals, historically existed in Nevada. 
Therefore, since wolves historically occurred in Nevada there is no 
basis to conclude that listing in Nevada was in error.
    The petitioner has also indicated that wolves in the State of 
Nevada should be delisted due to recovery. Such action would be 
appropriate if the gray wolves in Nevada: (1) qualify as a DPS that is 
neither endangered nor threatened, or (2) are part of a larger listed 
entity that is neither threatened nor endangered.
    To implement the measures prescribed by the Act and its 
Congressional guidance, we developed a joint policy with the National 
Marine Fisheries Service that addresses the recognition of DPSs of 
vertebrate species for potential listing and delisting actions (61 FR 
4722, February 7, 1996).
    Under our DPS policy, three elements are considered in a decision 
regarding the status of a possible DPS as endangered or threatened 
under the Act. These elements are applied similarly for additions to 
the list of endangered and threatened species, reclassification, and 
removal from the list. The elements are: (1) Discreteness of the 
population segment in relation to the remainder of the taxon; (2) the 
significance of the population segment to the taxon to which it 
belongs; and (3) the population segment's conservation status in 
relation to the Act's standards for listing (i.e., is the population 
segment, when treated as if it were a species, endangered or 
threatened?). A systematic application of the above elements is 
appropriate, with discreteness criteria applied first, followed by 
significance analysis. If we determine that a population segment is 
discrete and significant, we then evaluate it for endangered or 
threatened status based on the Act's standards.
    Discreteness refers to the isolation of a population from other 
members of the species and we evaluate this based on specific criteria. 
A population segment of a vertebrate species may be considered discrete 
if it satisfies either one of the following conditions: (1) It is 
markedly separated from other populations of the same taxon as a 
consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral 
factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation. (2) It is 
delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 
differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    The NDOW petition discusses discreteness in relation to historical 
occurrence in Nevada. The petition indicates that the source areas of 
wolves that historically occurred in Nevada include Idaho, northern 
California, and Oregon. The petition notes that at the California-
Nevada border, the Sierra-Nevada range creates a rain shadow causing 
arid conditions in the Great Basin (Houghton et al. 1975). The petition 
notes that those arid conditions reduce the quality of wolf habitat at 
the Nevada border, and that the arid conditions of the Great Basin 
occurring in the southeast corner of Oregon along the Oregon-Nevada 
border would not have functioned as suitable wolf habitat.
    The petition also discusses the other surrounding States and 
regions along Nevada's eastern and southern border, and states that 
they do not seem to have been good sources for wolf ingress. The 
petition states that Utah historically had wolves (Barnes 1922; Durrant 
1952) in low densities, but the entire western extreme of the State is 
primarily a salt flat within the lakebed of historic Lake Bonneville 
and is largely devoid of ungulate species. The petition also states 
that on Nevada's southern border, southern California and Arizona are 
within the Mojave Desert region, and it is well established that wolves 
were generally absent from arid deserts (Young and Goldman 1944; Hall 
and Kelson 1959; Mech 1970).
    We agree that large expanses of arid habitat, with little cover or 
adequate prey base, could serve as potential barriers to discourage 
wolf dispersal; however, none of the features described in the petition 
are unique to, or terminate discretely at, the Nevada State border. For 
example, the Great Basin comprises a large geographic area in western 
North America, including parts of the States of Oregon, California, 
Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. Historic Lake Bonneville is known to have 
extended across much of the eastern portion of the Great Basin, 
including parts of the States of Nevada, Utah, and Idaho. The Mojave 
Desert includes parts of the States of Nevada, California, and Arizona. 
In all these cases, these geographic areas discussed in the petition 
extend well beyond the State of Nevada to encompass much larger areas. 
These geographic areas are not encompassed within the State of Nevada 
nor do they correspond to the Nevada State boundaries. Since the 
petition did not present substantial information that the wolves in 
Nevada are a discrete population, we do not need to further evaluate 
whether this entity represents a DPS.
    The petition also states that the gray wolf in Nevada is neither 
endangered nor threatened due to the fact that wolves within the 
Western DPS have achieved the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Plan 
(Service 1987) objectives, and should therefore be delisted. We agree 
that the biological recovery

[[Page 73193]]

objectives as described in the Recovery Plan for gray wolves in the 
northern Rocky Mountains have been achieved. The area covered by the 
Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Plan would have been incorporated 
within the Western DPS, which also included Nevada. However, as noted 
under previous Federal Actions, the Western DPS was vacated by recent 
court rulings, and a delistable entity is no longer in place for the 
northern Rocky Mountain wolf population.


    Our evaluation of the petition indicates that in general, the 
petition provides a substantial assessment of the historic distribution 
and occurrence of wolves in Nevada. The information in the petition 
confirms that wolves, whether in packs or solitary transient 
individuals, historically existed in Nevada. Thus, the petition does 
not provide substantial information that wolves were listed in error in 
    The petition states that the inclusion of Nevada within the now 
vacated Western DPS was erroneous, and requests the delisting of Nevada 
alone without providing information on how the borders of the State of 
Nevada would function as ecological or physical factors to delimit 
wolves in Nevada as an entity that would be discrete from the rest of 
the taxon. The petition does not identify a discrete entity that 
qualifies as a DPS and therefore can not be evaluated for delisting. 
Also, as discussed in the DPS policy, recognition of political 
boundaries such as State lines is inappropriate for establishing the 
discreteness of a DPS (61 FR 4723-4724).
    The petition also states that wolves in Nevada are neither 
endangered nor threatened because the northern Rocky Mountain 
populations have achieved their recovery objectives. We agree that the 
wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountain area have achieved 
their biological recovery objectives. However, as noted under 
``Previous Federal Actions,'' the Western DPS was vacated by recent 
court rulings, and a delistable entity is no longer in place for the 
northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. The NDOW petition did not 
provide substantial information to delineate that the Nevada wolves are 
part of any delistable entity.
    We have reviewed the petition to delist the gray wolf in Nevada and 
the literature cited in the petition that was available to us. After 
this review, we find that there is no substantial scientific 
information in the petition to demonstrate that the gray wolf did not 
historically occur in the State of Nevada and was listed in error, that 
wolves in the State of Nevada are a delistable entity, or that the 
Nevada gray wolf is part of a larger population that could at present 
be delisted. Although a non-substantial finding does not initiate a 
formal a status review for these species, we encourage additional 
information gathering and research to increase our understanding of the 
status of these species.
    If you wish to provide information regarding the gray wolf, you may 
submit your information or materials to the State Supervisor, Nevada 
Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

References Cited

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


    The primary author of this notice is staff of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: November 22, 2005.
Matt Hogan,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-23840 Filed 12-8-05; 8:45 am]