[Federal Register: May 21, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 98)]
[Page 28642-28643]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service


Limiting Mountain Lion Predation on Desert Bighorn Sheep on Kofa 
National Wildlife Refuge, Yuma and La Paz Counties, AZ

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the final environmental assessment 
and a finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
availability of our finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the 
environmental assessment (EA) for limiting mountain lion (Puma 
concolor) predation on desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) 
on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in southwest Arizona. In 
the final EA and FONSI, we describe how we will manage mountain lion 
predation to help achieve bighorn sheep population objectives on the 

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the FONSI and final EA by 
the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM by U.S. 
mail from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 9300 East 28th Street, Yuma, 
AZ 85365; via facsimile at 928-783-8611; or electronically to 
KofaLionComments@fws.gov. You may also download a copy of the documents 
at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/kofa.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mitch Ellis, 928-783-7861 (phone); 
928-783-8611 (fax); or Mitch_Ellis@fws.gov (e-mail). If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 
days a week.



    With this notice, we announce our decision and the availability of 
the FONSI and final EA. We completed a thorough analysis of impacts on 
the human environment, which we include in the final EA that 
accompanies the FONSI. We solicited comments on a draft EA from August 
4, 2009, to October 2, 2009, through a notice of availability in the 
Federal Register (74 FR 38667; August 4, 2009). We received 220 
responses during the comment period, from 7 government agencies, 19 
nongovernmental organizations, and 194 individuals. During preparation 
of the final EA, we considered all of the comments provided. Appendix C 
of the final EA contains a more detailed description of the substantive 
comments received and how we incorporated changes to the draft EA in 
response to comments we received.


    The Refuge contains a major portion of the largest contiguous 
habitat for desert bighorn sheep in southwestern Arizona and 
historically has been home to a population averaging 760 bighorns. The 
Refuge has served as the primary source of bighorn sheep for 
translocations to reestablish and supplement extirpated or declining 
populations throughout southern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and 
Colorado. Population estimates from systematic aerial surveys indicate 
that a 50-percent decline in the Refuge sheep population occurred 
between the years 2000 and 2006.
    In response to this decline, the Refuge and the Arizona Game and 
Fish Department (AGFD) have conducted an analysis of its probable 
causes and are currently implementing a strategic management program 
intended to lead to the recovery of this important wildlife resource. 
Several studies and monitoring projects have been initiated or 
enhanced. Some of the more important aspects of this broad program 
include more frequent bighorn population surveys, monitoring and 
maintaining water availability, assessing body condition and disease in 
the bighorn population, monitoring disturbance attributable to human 
recreation, and monitoring the extent of predation and its impacts on 
the population. Many of the elements in this management program have 
been addressed through prior planning documents and require little 
additional review. Others, such as the proposed lethal control of 
mountain lions, have not been previously addressed and therefore 
require analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
as amended (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as well as public review.

Final Environmental Assessment--Selected Alternative

    The final EA identifies and evaluates three alternatives for 
managing mountain lion predation on desert bighorn sheep on the Refuge. 
After a thorough analysis, we have selected Alternative B for 
implementation. Under this alternative, we will allow the removal of 
specific, individually identified offending mountain lions, through 
translocation or lethal removal, from the Refuge under certain 
circumstances, in order to recover and maintain an optimal population 
of desert bighorn sheep. This program has several components. We will 
trap mountain lions and fit them with tracking devices to monitor their 
activities. When the Refuge bighorn sheep population estimate is below 
600 animals, active mountain lion control will occur. Active mountain 
lion control is the removal (through lethal means or translocation) of 
each individual mountain lion found to kill two or more bighorn sheep 
within a 6-month period. The Service, or its agents, will carry out the 
lethal removal or translocation. However, when the Refuge bighorn sheep 
population estimate is between 600 and 800 animals, active mountain 
lion control may or may not be

[[Page 28643]]

employed based on the totality of the circumstances at the time. In 
order to meet the bighorn sheep population objectives while minimizing 
the necessary impacts to mountain lions, we desire some flexibility. We 
will base decisions regarding whether active mountain lion control is 
necessary on an adaptive management approach and on the following 
factors: The current sheep population estimate; the current sheep 
population trend; bighorn sheep lamb survival and recruitment; the 
estimate of the number of mountain lions currently using the Refuge and 
their predation rate on bighorn sheep; current and forecasted habitat 
conditions; available funding and manpower; and criticality of bighorn 
translocation needs. When the Refuge bighorn sheep population estimate 
is at or above 800 animals, active mountain lion control will not 
occur, although mountain lions on the Refuge will continue to be 
captured and fitted with tracking devices to aid in continuing 

Additional Refuge Information

    Additional information on the history of the Refuge and its 
purpose, goals, objectives, and management strategies can be found in 
the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge & Wilderness and New Water Mountains 
Wilderness Interagency Management Plan and Environmental Assessment: 
EA-AZ-055-95-1 05, October 1997. Pertinent information can also be 
found in the April 2007 report titled Investigative Report and 
Recommendations for the Kofa Bighorn Sheep Herd, prepared jointly by 
the Service and the AGFD. Both documents, along with other detailed 
information, are available at the following web site: http://


    Environmental review of this project has been conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of NEPA, NEPA Regulations (40 CFR 
parts 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, 
Executive Order 12996, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement 
Act of 1997, and Service policies and procedures for compliance with 
those laws and regulations.

    Dated: December 18, 2009
Benjamin N. Tuggle,
Regional Director, Region 2.
[FR Doc. 2010-12247 Filed 5-20-10; 8:45 am]