[Federal Register: August 7, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 151)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 44065-44069]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AV40

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Notice of Scoping 
Meetings and Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and 
Socio-Economic Assessment for the Proposed Amendment of the Rule 
Establishing a Nonessential Experimental Population of the Arizona and 
New Mexico Population of the Gray Wolf (``Mexican Gray Wolf'')

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; notice of intent; and 
notice of public scoping meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service, us, or we), 
will prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and socio-
economic assessment, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) of 1969, as amended, in conjunction with a proposed rule to 
amend the 1998 final rule that authorized the establishment of a 
nonessential experimental population of the ``Mexican gray wolf'' in 
Arizona and New Mexico, under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We will hold 12 public informational 
sessions and scoping meetings.
    Through this notice and the public scoping meetings, we are seeking 
comments or suggestions from the public, concerned governmental 
agencies, Tribes, the scientific community, industry, or any other 
interested parties concerning the scope of the EIS, pertinent issues we 
should address, and alternatives that should be analyzed.

DATES: Comments should be submitted directly to the Service's New 
Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section) on or 
before December 31, 2007 or at any of the 12 scoping meetings to be 
held in November and December 2007. See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for 
the locations and dates of these scoping meetings.

ADDRESSES: Information, comments, or questions related to preparation 
of the draft EIS through the NEPA process should be submitted to Brian 
Millsap, State Administrator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New 
Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, 2105 Osuna NE, Albuquerque, NM 
87113. Alternatively, information presented at the 12 public scoping 
meetings can be viewed on a ``virtual public meeting'' Web site at 
http://www.mexicanwolfeis.org and comments can be submitted from the 

same Web site. Written comments may also be sent by facsimile to (505) 
346-2542 or by e-mail to R2FWE_AL@fws.gov. For directions on how to 
submit electronic comments, see the ``Public Comments Solicited'' 
section below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions regarding the scoping 
process or development of a proposed rule amending the 1998 NEP final 
rule should be directed to John Morgart at (505) 346-2525. Persons who 
use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week.


Listed Entity

    The Mexican gray wolf was listed as an endangered subspecies in 
1976 (April 28, 1976; 41 FR 17736) under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (Act). In 1978, the Service 
listed the gray wolf species in North America south of Canada as 
endangered, except in Minnesota where it was listed as threatened, in 
1978 (March 9, 1978; 43 FR 9607). The 1978 listing of the gray wolf 
species as a whole, subsumed the subspecies listing, however, the 
preamble to the rule continued to recognize the Mexican gray wolf as 
valid biological subspecies for purposes of research and conservation 
(43 FR 9607). After the 1978 listing of the gray wolf, the 50 CFR 
17.11(h) List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (List) did not 
explicitly refer to an entity called the ``Mexican gray wolf.'' Due to 
its previous status as a subspecies, the Service has continued to refer 
to the gray wolves in the southwestern United States as the ``Mexican 
gray wolf.'' A 1998 final rule (January 12, 1998; 63 FR 1752) 
established a nonessential experimental population (NEP) of the Mexican 
gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.
    In 2007, we published a final rule (February 8, 2007; 72 FR 6052) 
designating the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment (DPS) 
of the gray wolf and removing that DPS from the List. On the same date, 
we also published a proposed rule (72 FR 6105) to designate the 
Northern Rocky Mountain DPS of the gray wolf and remove that DPS from 
the List as well. The nonessential experimental

[[Page 44066]]

population of the gray wolf in the southwest is listed as endangered. 
In the table at 50 CFR 17.11(h), the official listed entity for the NEP 
is the gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico. However, because the 1998 
NEP final rule referred to the NEP as the ``Mexican gray wolf'' we will 
continue to use the term throughout the remainder of this document for 
ease of reference.

Public Comments Solicited

    We seek comment from Federal, State, local, or Tribal government 
agencies; the scientific or business community; ranchers; landowners; 
or any other interested party. To promulgate a proposed rule and 
prepare a draft EIS, including an assessment of socio-economic impacts, 
we will take into consideration all comments and any additional 
information received. All comments, including names and addresses, will 
become part of the supporting record.
    If you wish to provide comments and/or information, you may submit 
your comments and materials by any one of several methods (see 
ADDRESSES). Comments submitted electronically should be in the body of 
the e-mail message itself or attached as a text file (ASCII), and 
should not use special characters or encryption. Please also include 
``Attn: Mexican Gray Wolf NEPA Scoping,'' your full name, and your 
return address in your e-mail message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your e-mail message, 
please contact us directly by calling our New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).
    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so. We will always make submissions from organizations or 
businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as 
representatives of or officials of organizations or businesses, 
available for public inspection in their entirety. Comments and 
materials received will be available for public inspection, by 
appointment, during normal business hours at New Mexico Ecological 
Services Field Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico (see ADDRESSES).
    We intend for the draft EIS to consider reasonable alternatives for 
amendment of the 1998 NEP final rule (January 12, 1998; 63 FR 1752) for 
the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico. We also wish to ensure 
that any proposed rulemaking to amend the existing NEP effectively 
evaluates all potential issues and impacts. Therefore, we are seeking 
comments and suggestions on the following issues for consideration in 
preparation of the draft EIS and the proposed amendment concerning the 
1998 NEP final rule for the Mexican gray wolf. This list is not 
intended to be all inclusive, and comments on any other pertinent 
issues related to the Mexican gray wolf NEP are welcome and solicited.

Issues Related to the Scope of the NEP

    (a) Current management stipulations that require wolves that 
establish home ranges outside the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWRA) 
to be removed and re-released into the BRWRA or taken into captivity. 
This stipulation stemmed from the intention in the 1998 NEP final rule 
that wolves would not be reestablished throughout the entire Mexican 
Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA), but only within the BRWRA, 
which is a subarea of the MWEPA. However, analysis indicates that 
removals for boundary violations due to wolves dispersing or 
establishing territories outside the BRWRA are not conducive to 
achieving the reintroduction project objective of ``re-establishing a 
viable, self-sustaining population of at least 100 Mexican [gray] 
wolves'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, p. 23). In other words, 
change in this aspect of the 1998 NEP final rule would provide the 
Service with the authority to allow wolves to establish territories 
outside the boundaries of the BRWRA.
    (b) Current management stipulations allow for initial Mexican gray 
wolf releases from captivity only into the primary recovery zone of the 
BRWRA. Management experience has demonstrated that this stipulation in 
the 1998 NEP final rule sets impractical limits on available release 
sites and wolves that can be released into the secondary recovery zone, 
limits the Mexican Gray Wolf Reintroduction Project's (Project) ability 
to address genetic issues, and results in a misperception that the 
secondary recovery zone is composed largely of ``problem'' animals that 
have been translocated to the secondary zone after management removal 
due to livestock depredation events. In other words, a change in this 
aspect of the 1998 NEP final rule would possibly provide the Service 
the authority to release Mexican gray wolves from the captive breeding 
population into New Mexico.
    (c) The definition of the White Sands Missile Range, which is 
within the MWEPA, as the White Sands Wolf Recovery Area. However, the 
White Sands Wolf Recovery Area is not of sufficient size nor does it 
have sufficient prey density to function as an independent recovery 
    (d) Limited provisions for private individuals to ``harass'' wolves 
engaged in nuisance behavior or livestock depredation, or which are 
attacking domestic pets on private, public, or Tribal lands. Current 
provisions in the 1998 NEP final rule allow for ``opportunistic, 
noninjurious harassment'' of wolves by private individuals; that is, 
individuals are not allowed to harass wolves in such a manner as to 
even potentially result in bodily injury or death of a Mexican gray 
wolf. Management experience in the BRWRA, as well as the Northern Rocky 
Mountain DPS gray wolf recovery program, suggests that a variety of 
harassment methods could provide an effective deterrent to problem 
Mexican gray wolf behavior, as well as increasing public acceptance of 
Mexican gray wolf recovery. All possible alternatives and remedies need 
to be explored.
    (e) Current provisions in the 1998 NEP final rule that do not allow 
for ``take'' of wolves in the act of attacking domestic dogs on private 
or Tribal Trust lands. However, domestic dog injuries and mortalities 
have occurred within the BRWRA due to interactions between wolves and 
dogs, primarily near people's homes. Lack of take authority in 
instances where take may have been warranted has resulted in 
substantial negative impacts on some local residents and visitors to 
the BRWRA.
    (f) Among other issues, the need to clarify definitions of: 
``breeding pair,'' ``depredation incident,'' and ``thresholds for 
permanent removal.'' In addition, there is a need to identify other 
possible impediments to establishing wolves, such as the livestock 
carcass management and disposal issue identified in the 3-year review 
of the project (Paquet et al. 2001, p. 69). The authors of this report 
recommended that the Service ``require livestock operators on public 
land to take some responsibility for carcass management/disposal to 
reduce the likelihood that wolves become habituated to feeding on 
livestock.'' In other words, if a new final rule is promulgated that 
incorporates this recommendation from the 3-year review, it may result 
in redefining ``nuisance wolves'' and ``problem wolves'' so as to 
exclude animals that

[[Page 44067]]

scavenge on the carcasses of livestock that died of non-wolf causes.
    (g) The issues addressed in this scoping process include issues 
addressed in a petition for Rulemaking dated March 29, 2004 provided to 
the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity. This Notice, and 
the subsequent public notice and comment period, will provide the 
public an opportunity to comment on the issues provided in the Center 
for Biological Diversity's Petition for Rulemaking.

Issues Related to Evaluation of the Environmental Impacts

    We are seeking comments on the identification of direct, indirect, 
beneficial, and adverse effects that might be caused by amendment of 
the 1998 NEP final rule that established the current NEP of Mexican 
gray wolf. You may wish to consider the following issues when providing 
    (a) Impacts on floodplains, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers, or 
ecologically sensitive areas;
    (b) Impacts on park lands and cultural or historic resources;
    (c) Impacts on human health and safety;
    (d) Impacts on air, soil, and water;
    (e) Impacts on prime agricultural lands;
    (f) Impacts to other species of wildlife, including other 
endangered or threatened species;
    (g) Disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority and 
low-income populations;
    (h) Any other potential or socioeconomic effects; and
    (i) Any potential conflicts with other Federal, State, local, or 
Tribal environmental laws or requirements.
    We will give separate notice of the availability of the draft EIS 
when completed, so that interested and affected people may comment on 
the draft and have input into the final decision.

Public Scoping Meetings

    We will hold informal public informational sessions, present 
currently identified issues, and conduct scoping meetings at the 
following dates and times:

1. November 26, 2007: Flagstaff, AZ
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
2. November 27, 2007: Hon-dah, AZ
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
3. November 28, 2007: Alpine, AZ
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
4. November 29, 2007: Grants, NM
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
5. November 30, 2007: Albuquerque, NM
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
6. December 1, 2007: Socorro, NM
    Informational session: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
7. December 3, 2007: Alamogordo, NM
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
8. December 4, 2007: Las Cruces, NM
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
9. December 5, 2007: Glenwood, NM
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
10. December 6, 2007: Safford, AZ
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
11. December 7, 2007: Tucson, AZ
    Informational session: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Presentation of known 
issues: 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
12. December 8, 2007: Phoenix, AZ
    Informational session: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Presentation of known 
issues: 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Scoping meeting: 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

    The Service will provide additional notification of the public 
information sessions, issue presentations, and scoping meetings and 
specific address information through newspaper advertisements and other 
appropriate media.


    Historically, Mexican gray wolves were distributed across much of 
the southwestern United States, and northern and central Mexico. This 
range included eastern and central Arizona, southern New Mexico, and 
west Texas (Brown 1988, pp. 10-11; Parsons 1996, pp. 102-104). In 
addition, results from recent genetics examining historic Mexican gray 
wolf specimens collected in 1916 and earlier (Leonard et al. 2005, pp. 
10, 15) suggest that Mexican gray wolves genetically intergraded with 
more northern subspecies well into Colorado and Utah. However, the 
Mexican gray wolf was extirpated from the southwestern United States by 
the early 1970s as a consequence of an aggressive eradication program 
(Brown 1988, pp. 31-32). More information about the life history and 
decline of the Mexican gray wolf in the southwestern United States can 
be found in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1982, pp. 5-8, 11-12), the Final EIS, entitled ``Reintroduction 
of the Mexican Wolf within its Historic Range in the Southwestern 
United States'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996, pp. 1-2 to 1-7), 
the NEP final rule (January 12, 1998; 63 FR 1752), and the Mexican Wolf 
Blue Range Reintroduction Project 5-Year Review (Mexican Wolf Blue 
Range Adaptive Management Oversight Committee and Interagency Field 
Team 2005, pp. TC-1 to TC-24; March 16, 2006, 71 FR 13624).

Recovery Efforts

    The Mexican Wolf Recovery Team was formed in 1979, and the United 
States and Mexico signed the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan in September 
1982 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, signature page). The prime 
objective of the 1982 Recovery Plan is: ``To conserve and ensure the 
survival of Canis lupus baileyi by maintaining a captive breeding 
program and re-establishing a viable, self-sustaining population of at 
least 100 Mexican [gray] wolves in the middle to high elevations of a 
5,000-square-mile area within the Mexican [gray] wolf's historic 
range'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, p. 23). As of July 2006, 
there were just under 300 Mexican gray wolves held in captivity in 44 
facilities in the United States and Mexico under the direction of a 
Species Survival Plan (Siminski and Spevak 2006, p. 5). We completed 
the Final EIS on the ``Reintroduction of the Mexican Wolf Within its 
Historic Range in the Southwestern United States'' in November 1996 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996). We published the final rule to 
establish an NEP of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona and New Mexico in 
1998 (January 12, 1998; 63 FR 1752). Mexican gray wolves were first 
introduced to the BRWRA in March 1998, when 11 captive-born and reared 
animals were ``initial-released'' into the primary recovery zone of the 
BRWRA (initial-release means that wolves that have been born and reared 
in captivity are released for the first time into the wild). Additional 
individuals and

[[Page 44068]]

family groups have been initial-released or translocated into various 
parts of the BRWRA each year through 2007. Minimum estimates of the 
number of wolves and breeding pairs in the BRWRA at the end of 2006 
were 59 and 7, respectively. This falls significantly short of the 
projection in the 1996 Final EIS of 102 wolves and 18 breeding pairs 
for the same timeframe.
    In December 2005, the Mexican Wolf Blue Range Adaptive Management 
Oversight Committee (AMOC) and Interagency Field Team completed a 5-
Year Review of the Mexican Wolf Blue Range Reintroduction Project (this 
project-focused review is different and separate from a species' 5-year 
review required under section 4(c)(2)(A) of the Act). The project 5-
year review was a requirement of the 1998 NEP final rule, which states 
under 50 CFR 17.84(k)(13): ``The Service will evaluate Mexican [gray] 
wolf reintroduction progress and prepare periodic progress reports, 
detailed annual reports, and full evaluations after 3 and 5 years that 
recommend continuation, modification, or termination of the 
reintroduction effort'' (63 FR 1771). Included in the 5-year review was 
a list of 37 recommendations that included ``continuing the 
Reintroduction Project with modifications'' (Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Adaptive Management Oversight Committee and Interagency Field Team 
2005, p. ARC-3). Upon receipt, the Service took the 5-year review and 
submitted it for an additional 7 weeks of public comment (March 16, 
2006, 71 FR 13624; May 15, 2006, 71 FR 28049). On July 24, 2006, the 
acting Southwest Regional Director issued his determination in a letter 
to the Chair of the AMOC that ``the Mexican [gray] wolf Reintroduction 
Program will continue with modifications as generally outlined within 
the recommendations component of the 5-Year Review. Furthermore, the 
Service will work with the cooperating agencies and the AMOC to begin 
the process of developing a new 10(j) proposed rule and associated NEPA 
analysis'' (Tuggle 2006, p. 4). The 37 recommendations from the 5-year 
review can be viewed on the Service's Mexican gray wolf Web page at: 

Experimental Populations

    Congress made significant changes to the Act in 1982 with the 
addition of section 10(j), which provides for designation of specific 
reintroduced populations of listed species as ``experimental 
populations.'' Under section 10(j), the Secretary of the Department of 
the Interior can designate reintroduced populations established outside 
the species' current range, but within its historic range, as 
``experimental.'' On the basis of the best scientific and commercial 
data available, we must determine whether an experimental population is 
``essential'' or ``nonessential'' to the continued existence of the 
species. This determination was made for the Mexican gray wolf in the 
1998 NEP final rule (January 12, 1998, 63 FR 1752).
    The Service is considering a potential amendment of the 1998 NEP 
final rule because we believe management constraints contained in that 
rule are too restrictive to meet management objectives expressed in the 
1982 Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, p. 23), the 
Record of Decision to the 1996 Final EIS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1997, pp. 11, 17), and the 2005 Mexican Wolf Blue Range 
Reintroduction Project 5-Year Review (Mexican Wolf Blue Range Adaptive 
Management Oversight Committee and Interagency Field Team 2005, p. TC-
2). Some of the issues that need to be evaluated include:
    (a) Internal and external boundaries of the BRWRA, which limit 
management opportunities in terms of initial releases and 
    (b) The requirement to capture any wolves that stray outside the 
BRWRA and establish home ranges and return them to the BRWRA or to 
    (c) The limited size and prey density of the White Sands Missile 
Range, which is an alternative Recovery Area in the MWEPA; and
    (d) Limited provisions for private individuals to ``harass'' wolves 
engaged in nuisance behavior or livestock depredation, and for ``take'' 
of wolves in the act of attacking domestic dogs on private or Tribal 
Trust lands.
    Under the Act, species listed as endangered or threatened are 
afforded protection primarily through the prohibitions of section 9 and 
the requirements of section 7. Section 9 of the Act prohibits the take 
of endangered wildlife. ``Take'' is defined in section 3 of the Act as 
``to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct.'' Service 
regulations (50 CFR 17.31) generally extend the prohibition of take to 
threatened wildlife. Section 7 of the Act outlines the procedures for 
Federal interagency cooperation to conserve federally listed species 
and protect designated critical habitats. It mandates all Federal 
agencies to determine how to use their existing authorities to further 
the purposes of the Act to aid in recovering listed species. It also 
states that Federal agencies will, in consultation with the Service, 
ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely 
to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or result in 
the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat. 
Section 7 of the Act does not affect activities undertaken on private 
lands unless they are authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal 
agency. In addition, section 6 addresses authorities, relative to 
endangered species, delegated to States that are signatories to section 
6 cooperative agreements.
    For purposes of section 9 of the Act, a population designated as 
experimental is treated as threatened regardless of the species' 
designation elsewhere in its range. Threatened designation allows 
greater discretion in devising management programs and special 
regulations for such a population. Section 4(d) of the Act allows us to 
adopt regulations that are necessary to provide for the conservation of 
a threatened species. In these situations, the general regulations that 
extend most section 9 prohibitions to threatened species do not apply 
to that species, and the section 10(j) rule contains the prohibitions 
and exemptions necessary and appropriate to conserve that species. 
Regulations issued under section 10(j) for NEPs are usually more 
compatible with routine human activities in the reestablishment area.
    For the purposes of section 7 of the Act, we treat an NEP as a 
threatened species when the NEP is located within a National Wildlife 
Refuge or National Park, and section 7(a)(1) and the consultation 
requirements of section 7(a)(2) of the Act apply. Section 7(a)(1) 
requires all Federal agencies to use their authorities to conserve 
listed species. Section 7(a)(2) requires that Federal agencies, in 
consultation with the Service, ensure that any actions they authorize, 
fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of a listed species or adversely modify its critical habitat. When NEPs 
are located outside a National Wildlife Refuge or National Park, we 
treat the population as proposed for listing and only two provisions of 
section 7 would apply: Section 7(a)(1) and section 7(a)(4). In these 
instances, NEPs provide additional flexibility because Federal agencies 
are not required to consult with us under section 7(a)(2). Section 
7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer (rather than consult) with 
the Service on actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of a species proposed to be listed. The results of a 
conference are optional as

[[Page 44069]]

the agencies carry out, fund, or authorize activities.
    In order to amend an NEP, we must issue a proposed rule and 
consider public comments on it prior to publishing a final rule. In 
addition, we must comply with NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). Also, our 
regulations require that, to the maximum extent practicable, a 
regulation issued under section 10(j) of the Act represents an 
agreement between the Service, the affected State and Federal agencies, 
and persons holding any interest in land that may be affected by the 
establishment of the experimental population (see 50 CFR 17.81(d)).
    We have not yet identified possible alternatives for accomplishing 
our goals of amending the 1998 NEP final rule to better enable progress 
toward reintroduction and recovery goals, and we do not know what the 
preferred alternative (the proposed action) or other alternatives might 
entail. Once identified, the alternatives will be carried forward into 
detailed analyses pursuant to NEPA.
    We will take the following steps prior to making a decision 
regarding any proposed amendment to the 1998 Mexican gray wolf NEP 
final rule:
    (1) Compile and analyze all new biological information on the 
    (2) Review and update the administrative record covering previous 
Federal actions for the species;
    (3) Review the overall approach to conservation and recovery of the 
gray wolf in the United States in general, and the Mexican gray wolf in 
the southwestern United States in particular;
    (4) Review available information that pertains to the management 
and habitat requirements of this species, including material received 
during the public comment period for this advance notice of proposed 
rulemaking, during the scoping meetings, and from previous rulemakings;
    (5) Review actions identified in the Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1982, pp. 28-40);
    (6) Coordinate with State, county, local, and Federal partners;
    (7) Coordinate with Tribal partners;
    (8) Coordinate with Mexican authorities;
    (9) Conduct a socioeconomic analysis of the consequences of 
amending the existing 1998 NEP final rule;
    (10) Write a draft EIS and present alternatives to the public for 
review and comment;
    (11) Incorporate public input and use current knowledge of Mexican 
gray wolf habitat use, needs, and availability to precisely map any 
potential changes to the existing MWEPA and BRWRA;
    (12) Publish in the Federal Register a proposed rule to revise the 
1998 NEP final rule and solicit comments from the public;
    (13) Finalize the draft EIS and issue a Record of Decision; and
    (14) If we determine that it is prudent to proceed with an 
amendment to the 1998 NEP Final Rule, publish a new final rule, 
potentially identifying an amended NEP area as one component for 
continuing the reintroduction project for the conservation and eventual 
recovery of the Mexican gray wolf in the southwestern United States.
    We are the lead Federal agency for compliance with NEPA for this 
action. Thus far, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico 
Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service--Wildlife Services, and USDA 
Forest Service have agreed to be cooperating agencies in the NEPA 
process. The draft EIS will incorporate public concerns in the analysis 
of impacts associated with the proposed action and associated project 
alternatives. The draft EIS will be sent out for a minimum 90-day 
public review period, during which time additional public meetings may 
be held and comments will be solicited on the adequacy of the document. 
The final EIS will address the comments we receive during public review 
and will be furnished to all who commented on the draft EIS and made 
available to anyone who requests a copy. This notice is provided 
pursuant to regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1506.6).


    A complete list of all references cited in this notice is 
available, upon request, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New 
Mexico Ecological Services Field Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

    Dated: July 19, 2007.
Todd Willens,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
 [FR Doc. E7-14626 Filed 8-6-07; 8:45 am]