[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 88 (Wednesday, May 7, 2014)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 26175-26188]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-10506]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2012-0033; 70120-1113-0000-C3]
RIN 1018-AW57

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of a 
Nonessential Experimental Population of Wood Bison in Alaska

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), in 
cooperation with the State of Alaska, will reestablish the wood bison, 
a federally threatened species, in historical habitat in central 
Alaska. We will reestablish the wood bison under section 10(j) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA), and will classify any 
populations reestablished in the nonessential experimental population 
(NEP) area as part of the NEP identified in this rule. This final rule 
also establishes provisions under which wood bison in Alaska will be 
managed, and provides a plan for establishing the NEP and allowing for 
legal incidental taking of wood bison within the defined NEP area.

DATES: This final rule is effective on June 6, 2014.

ADDRESSES: This final rule and the final Environmental Assessment (EA) 
are available on http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-
2012-0033 and available from our Web site at http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/endangered/species/wood_bison_reintroduction.htm. Comments 
and materials received, as well as the supporting file for this final 
rule will be available for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional 
Office, Fisheries and Ecological Services, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., 
Anchorage, AK 99503. Additional background and supporting information 
is provided in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) 
Environmental Review of Wood Bison Restoration in Alaska (ADF&G 2007), 
which can be accessed online at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=woodbison.management.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jenifer Kohout, 1011 East Tudor Road, 
Anchorage, AK 99503, (907) 786-3687, or email jenifer_kohout@fws.gov. 
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may call 
the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.


Executive Summary

    Under the ESA, the Service may establish an experimental 
population, allowing for the reintroduction of a species to its former 
range with special rules that allow for some of the management 
requirements of the ESA to be relaxed to facilitate acceptance by local 
landowners and managers. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) 
plans to reintroduce wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) into one or 
more of three areas within their historical range in central Alaska 
(Yukon Flats, Minto Flats, and the lower Innoko/Yukon River area). 
Under this final rule, ADF&G will have primary management 
responsibility for leading and implementing the wood bison restoration 
effort, in cooperation with the Service. ADF&G will serve as the

[[Page 26176]]

lead agency in the reintroduction and subsequent management of wood 
bison in Alaska; however, ADF&G will continue to coordinate with the 
Service on these restoration efforts. Management of populations in the 
NEP area will be guided by provisions in: (1) The associated special 
rule; (2) the EA for this action and ADF&G's environmental review; and 
(3) site-specific management plans developed for each area by ADF&G 
with involvement of landowners and other stakeholders. The rule will 
also allow for future regulated hunting based on sustained yield 
principles, once the herds are deemed sufficiently resilient to support 



    In Canada, wood bison were listed by the Committee on the Status of 
Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as endangered in 1978, and 
downlisted to threatened in 1988. At that time, COSEWIC listings were 
not recognized under a specific Federal endangered species act. The 
Species at Risk Act (SARA) was enacted in 2003. Currently, COSEWIC 
recommends listings to appropriate Federal departments, which then 
accept or reject these listings under SARA. When SARA came into force, 
the listing of wood bison as threatened was recognized under that Act 
(G. Wilson, Canadian Wildlife Service, in litt., 2013). In the United 
States, the wood bison was first listed under the Endangered Species 
Conservation Act of 1969 as endangered (see 35 FR 8491, June 2, 1970). 
The Canadian National Wood Bison Recovery Team petitioned the Service 
to reclassify the wood bison as threatened on November 26, 2007, and on 
February 8, 2011, we published in the Federal Register (1) a 12-month 
finding indicating that the petitioned action was warranted, and (2) a 
proposed rule to reclassify the wood bison as a threatened species (76 
FR 6734). On May 3, 2012, the status of the wood bison was reclassified 
to threatened (76 FR 26191).
    Under the ESA, species listed as endangered or threatened are 
afforded protection largely through the prohibitions of section 9, the 
requirements of section 7, and corresponding implementing regulations. 
Section 9 of the ESA and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR 17.21 
and 17.31, in part, prohibit any person subject to the jurisdiction of 
the United States to take (``take'' includes to harass, harm, pursue, 
hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, or collect, or to attempt any of 
these), import or export, ship in interstate commerce in the course of 
commercial activity, or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign 
commerce, any listed species. The term `harm' is further defined to 
include significant habitat modification or degradation that results in 
death or injury to listed species by significantly impairing behavioral 
patterns such as breeding, feeding, or sheltering. It also is illegal 
to knowingly possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any 
wildlife that has been taken illegally. Certain exceptions apply to 
agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    Section 7 of the ESA and its implementing regulations at 50 CFR 402 
outline the procedures for Federal interagency cooperation to conserve 
federally listed species and protect designated critical habitats. 
Under section 7(a)(1) of the ESA, all Federal agencies are directed to 
use their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the ESA by 
carrying out programs for the conservation of endangered or threatened 
species. Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA 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 ESA does 
not affect activities undertaken on private lands unless they are 
authorized, funded, or carried out by a Federal agency.
    Congress amended the ESA in 1982 with the addition of section 
10(j), which provides for the designation of specific reintroduced 
populations of listed species as ``experimental populations.'' Under 
section 10(j), the Secretary of the Interior can designate reintroduced 
populations established outside the species' current range as 
``experimental.'' Section 10(j) is designed to increase our flexibility 
in managing an experimental population by allowing us to treat the 
population as threatened, regardless of the species' designation 
elsewhere in its range. A threatened designation allows us discretion 
in devising management programs and special regulations for the 
population. Further, when we promulgate a section 10(j) rule for a 
species, the regulations at 50 CFR 17.31 that extend most section 9 
prohibitions to threatened species do not apply, as the generic 
regulations are superseded by the section 10(j) rule, which contains 
the specific prohibitions and exemptions necessary and appropriate to 
conserve that species.
    As experimental populations uniformly carry ``threatened'' status, 
section 4(d) of the ESA applies. Section 4(d) of the ESA allows us to 
adopt whatever regulations are necessary and advisable to provide for 
the conservation of a threatened species. Although the ESA limits the 
type of regulated take available for the conservation of threatened 
species, the Secretary is granted broad flexibility in promulgating 
``special'' regulations under section 4(d) of the ESA to protect 
threatened species, and may allow for direct take, as has been done in 
the past, for example, with Gila trout (71 FR 40657, July 18, 2006).
    Based on the best available information, we must determine whether 
experimental populations are ``essential'' or ``nonessential'' to the 
continued existence of the species. Experimental populations, whether 
essential or nonessential, are treated as threatened species. However, 
for section 7 interagency cooperation purposes only, an NEP located 
outside of a National Wildlife Refuge or National Park is treated as a 
species proposed for listing.
    When members of the NEP are located outside a National Wildlife 
Refuge or National Park Service unit, only two provisions of section 7 
of the ESA 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) of the ESA. 
Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer (rather than 
consult, as required under section 7(a)(2)) with the Service on actions 
that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species 
proposed to be listed. A conference results in conservation 
recommendations that are optional as the agencies carry out, fund, or 
authorize activities. However, because an NEP is by definition not 
essential to the continued existence of the species, it is very 
unlikely that we would ever determine jeopardy for a project impacting 
a species within an NEP. Thus, regulations for NEPs may be developed to 
be more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction 
    Animals used to establish an experimental population may be 
obtained from a source or donor population provided their removal is 
not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species and 
appropriate permits have been issued in accordance with 50 CFR 17.22. 
In 2008, ADF&G imported 53 wood bison into Alaska after necessary 
permits and approvals were obtained. The primary original source of 
Alaska's wood bison is a captive-bred population at Elk Island

[[Page 26177]]

National Park (EINP), Alberta, Canada, which was propagated for the 
purpose of providing disease-free stock for reestablishing populations 
in other parts of the species' original range (Gates et al. 2001, p. 
15). These animals and additional disease-free wood bison (obtained as 
a result of an illegal import in 2003) and their progeny are presently 
maintained at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in 
Portage, Alaska.
    Canada's ``National Recovery Plan for the Wood Bison'' included the 
specific goal of reestablishing at least 4 viable populations of 400 or 
more wood bison in Canada (Gates et al. 2001, pp. 32-33). This plan 
supported fostering the ``restoration of wood bison in other parts of 
their original range and in suitable habitat elsewhere'' but set no 
discrete goals for recovery in other parts of the species' range. The 
Wood Bison Recovery Team placed a high priority on the reintroduction 
of wood bison to Alaska (Gates et al. 2001, pp. 32-33). The 
reestablishment of free-ranging, disease-free wood bison in Alaska 
would contribute to the overall conservation of wood bison in North 
America. However, future loss of a wood bison NEP from Alaska would not 
reduce the likelihood of the species' survival in its current range in 
Canada, which encompasses the only populations Canada evaluates when 
considering the status of the species for listing purposes under SARA. 
Consequently, because their loss would not appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of survival of the species in the wild, the Service finds 
that any wood bison populations established in Alaska would meet the 
definition of ``nonessential'' (see 50 CFR 17.80(b)). Therefore, we 
hereby designate a nonessential experimental population of wood bison 
in Alaska.


    Members of the family Bovidae, wood bison are the largest native 
terrestrial mammal in the western hemisphere, with adult bulls weighing 
2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) or more (Reynolds et al. 2003, p. 1015). 
Wood bison are somewhat larger than the other extant bison subspecies 
in the United States, the plains bison (B. b. bison), and are 
distinguished by a more pronounced hump, forward-falling display hair 
on the head, reduced chaps and beard, and different demarcation on the 
cape (van Zyll de Jong et al. 1995, pp. 393-396). Specimen collections 
and historical accounts indicate that the historical range of wood 
bison included much of interior (an area generally described as the 
Yukon and Kuskokwim river drainages east of their common delta area) 
and south-central Alaska, and the Yukon, the western Northwest 
Territories, northern Alberta and British Columbia, and part of 
northern Saskatchewan in Canada (Stephenson et al. 2001, pp. 135-136; 
Reynolds et al. 2003, pp. 1012-1013; Wilson, in litt. 2013). Wood bison 
are predominantly grazers, foraging mainly on grasses and sedges that 
occur in northern meadows (Larter and Gates 1991, p. 2679).
    Wood bison were present in Alaska for most of the last 5,000 to 
10,000 years (Stephenson et al. 2001, pp. 125, 145-146). Detailed 
historical accounts from Athabascan elders in Alaska describe how bison 
were hunted and used and indicate that bison were an important source 
of food for Athabascan people before the bison population declined to 
low levels within the last few hundred years (Stephenson et al. 2001, 
pp. 128-134). The most recent recorded sightings of wood bison in 
Alaska were from the early 1900s of small groups or single animals in 
northeastern Alaska (Stephenson et al. 2001, pp. 129-134). Factors 
leading to the extirpation of wood bison from Alaska most likely 
included unregulated hunting by humans, along with the isolation of 
subpopulations caused by changes in habitat distribution during the 
late Holocene (Stephenson et al. 2001, pp. 146-147).
    Wood bison were largely extirpated from much of their original 
range in Alaska and Canada by about 1900 (Stephenson et al. 2001, p. 
140). At that time, only a few hundred animals existed in northeastern 
Alberta. Intensive conservation efforts in Canada beginning around 1900 
are principally responsible for preventing the species' extinction 
(Gates et al. 2001, pp. 11-21). However, the translocation of surplus 
plains bison into Wood Buffalo National Park in the 1920s (Carbyn et 
al. 1993, pp. 25-27) resulted in some genetic dilution of wood bison, 
as well as the introduction of domestic cattle diseases into this 
population (Gates et al. 2001, p. 35). Cattle diseases (i.e., bovine 
brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis) are still a management concern in 
some herds in the Wood Buffalo National Park area in Canada (Gates et 
al. 2010, pp. 28-32; USDA 2008, p. 10). The susceptibility of wood 
bison and other native ungulates to these diseases underscores the 
importance of rigorous disease-testing protocols prior to releasing 
wood bison in Alaska (ADF&G-ADEC 2008).

Recovery Efforts

    Recovery efforts in Canada have been very successful. In 1978, 
there was 1 free-ranging, disease-free herd with 300 individuals, the 
MacKenzie herd. By 2000, when the last Canadian status review was 
conducted, the number of disease-free herds had grown to 6, with a 
total of approximately 2,800 individuals. Since 2000, an additional 
herd has been reestablished, bringing the total number of herds to 7, 
and the number of disease-free, free-ranging bison has increased to 
approximately 5,000. Each of 4 of the herds has a population of 400 or 
more, meeting one of the primary recovery goals. As of May 2013, there 
were approximately 11,000 wood bison in Canada, including close to 
5,000 in 7 free-ranging, disease-free herds (including one outside the 
original range of the wood bison); 6,000 in 5 free-ranging but diseased 
herds; and 300 in a captive herd conservation population that is 
maintained by Parks Canada Agency to provide stock for conservation 
efforts in the wild (G. Wilson, in litt., 2013; G. Wilson, pers. comm. 
2013).There are also 45 to 60 commercial wood bison operations in 
Canada, including approximately 500 to 700 animals (Canadian Wildlife 
Service, unpublished data 2009). Although commercial wood bison herds 
are not a part of Canada's recovery programs, their existence indicates 
that wood bison will propagate readily, given sufficient space and 
proper nutrition.
    Under SARA, Environment Canada is responsible for the development 
of recovery strategies for threatened species like the wood bison. 
Environment Canada is currently in the process of developing the 
National Wood Bison Recovery Strategy (Wilson, Environment Canada, 
2013, pers. comm.). This document is separate from the 2001 National 
Wood Bison Recovery Plan, which was developed prior to SARA being 
enacted. In addition, the State of Alaska has outlined plans for wood 
bison restoration and will complete detailed, site-specific management 
plans, developed with public input, for each bison release area before 
wood bison are reintroduced.
    Alaska's restoration effort is supported by conservation 
authorities in the United States and Canada, including the 
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)/North 
American Bison Specialist Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society 
(2013, in litt.), the U.S. National Bison Society and Canadian Bison 
Association (2013, in litt.), Alaska Chapter of the Wildlife Society 
(2013, in litt.) and Canada's Wood Bison Recovery Team. These entities 
regard the restoration effort as having significant conservation value 
for bison, other wildlife, and the environment. In addition, the 

[[Page 26178]]

has worked diligently to assist ADF&G with wood bison reintroduction 
efforts, and the success of this project has been a priority for the 
Service. We recognize that the reintroduction presents a good 
opportunity to support effective conservation of wood bison.
    Under this final rule, any wood bison reintroduced to the wild in 
Alaska will be designated as nonessential to recovery and experimental. 
The special rule that accompanies this section 10(j) rule is designed 
to broadly exempt from the section 9 take prohibitions any take of wood 
bison that is incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful 
activities. We provide this exemption because we believe that such 
incidental take associated with otherwise lawful activities is 
necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species, as 
activities that currently occur or are anticipated in the NEP area, 
such as oil and gas development and other resource development 
projects, are generally compatible with wood bison restoration.
    This designation is justified because no adverse effects to extant 
wild or captive wood bison populations will result from release of 
animals from the captive herd. We also expect that the reintroduction 
effort will result in the successful reestablishment of self-sustaining 
populations, which will contribute to the recovery of the species.

Role of Regulated Hunting in Recovery

    Regulated hunting has been used in Canada since 1987 to manage wood 
bison herds and is consistent with the recovery goals in the Canadian 
wood bison recovery plan. Herds with regulated harvest have increased 
in size (76 FR 6734, February 8, 2011). The Mackenzie herd, for 
example, was established in 1963 and first supported harvest in 1987, 
when the herd had reached approximately 1,500 bison. This herd 
continued to grow, to a maximum estimated size of 2400 around 1989, and 
supported an annual harvest of approximately 40 animals for several 
years after that point. In recent years, other mortality factors such 
as the periodic loss of animals to drowning and anthrax, coupled with 
reduced forage caused by flooding of inland lakes, reduced herd numbers 
to fewer than 1,000 animals. In response, Canadian managers suspended 
the regulated harvest in 2012 to enhance growth of the population 
(http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/_live/pages/wpPages/Mackenzie_Bison.aspx,viewed July 26, 2013, and T. Armstrong, NWT Bison Ecologist, 
pers. comm. 2013).
    Regulated hunting has been used in Canada to (1) maintain herd size 
within the carrying capacity of the landscape; (2) reduce the potential 
for the spread of disease; (3) address public safety concerns near 
roads; and (4) increase community support for reestablished wood bison 
herds. Where hunting is allowed, it can lead to increased revenue for 
monitoring and management of the herds.
    Sustainable levels of hunting of wood bison in Alaska will serve 
some of these same purposes, including securing the support of project 
sponsors (e.g., ADF&G, local communities, landowners, and 
nongovernmental organizations involved in the project). Because 
reintroduction of wood bison to Alaska depends heavily on this support, 
including provisions for hunting as a future management option is an 
essential component of this final rule. Moreover, provisions for future 
regulated hunting will assure landowners and development interests that 
the reintroduction of wood bison will not interfere with natural 
resource development or other human activities. Without such 
assurances, the reintroduction of wood bison to Alaska is unlikely to 
be acceptable to the public, development interests, or the Alaska State 
Legislature. In addition, hunting is the most feasible option for 
population management in the future in these remote areas. As mentioned 
above, wood bison in some herds in northern Canada are legally 
harvested under Territorial or Provincial hunting regulations, and 
regulated harvest is considered one of the primary management tools in 
conservation of the species. Thus, we believe that the opportunity for 
Alaska to contribute to the overall recovery and conservation of wood 
bison will be lost if provisions for hunting are not included in this 

Alaska Reintroduction Goals and Objectives

    The reintroduction of wood bison to Alaska is patterned after 
successful reintroductions in Canada. The goal of the Alaska wood bison 
restoration project is to reestablish 1 to 3 free-ranging populations 
followed by a long-term monitoring and evaluation process to determine 
feasibility of establishing additional populations in the future. In 
addition to contributing to the conservation and recovery of wood bison 
in North America, objectives of the Alaska reintroduction effort 
include (1) restoring a key indigenous grazing animal to northern 
ecosystems; (2) restoring biological and habitat diversity and natural 
processes; (3) increasing the total number of wood bison in free-
ranging, disease-free herds, thereby enhancing the overall survival of 
the species in the wild; (4) providing a regulatory framework that 
allows for sustainable development, including opportunities for local 
tourism and hunting and guiding businesses; and (5) reestablishing the 
historical cultural connection between bison and Alaska residents 
(ADF&G 2007, pp. 2-3).
    Although many private landowners within the NEP area have indicated 
support for the presence of wood bison on their lands in the future, 
some major private landowners have expressed concerns about the 
potential legal and regulatory burdens related to the ESA if wood bison 
are reintroduced, including effects on resource development activities. 
Provisions in the special rule will ensure that the reintroduction of 
wood bison will not impede existing or potential future resource 
development activities. Wood bison will be released only after a 
suitable management framework has been developed by the State in 
cooperation with landowners, land managers, the Service, conservation 
organizations, and Tribal and local governments.
    Experience with bison reintroductions elsewhere indicates that 
reintroduced wood bison populations in Alaska are likely to prosper in 
the areas where the State of Alaska proposes to restore the species 
(ADF&G 2007, pp. 11-12). However, temporary fluctuations in numbers may 
occur, which will not constitute a reason to reevaluate or change the 
NEP status. We do not foresee any likely situation justifying 
alteration of the NEP designation until the wood bison is no longer 
listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, in which case the NEP 
designation will be discontinued.

Source of Stock

    In June 2008, under permits obtained from the Service, the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the State 
of Alaska, ADF&G translocated 53 wood bison from the disease-free EINP 
herd to a temporary holding facility at the AWCC, where they joined a 
small existing herd that was confiscated in 2003 after being imported 
illegally. As of June 2013, the AWCC herd contained about 135 wood 
bison, and about 35 calves were born in 2012. Because of space 
constraints and uncertainty regarding the timing of the completion of 
the section 10(j) rule and availability of release sites, breeding was 
restricted in 2012, and 12 calves were born in 2013. A larger number of 
calves can be produced when necessary. (B. Stephenson, ADF&G, pers. 
comm. 2013). All of these animals have been subjected to a rigorous 
disease-testing protocol while preparations are made

[[Page 26179]]

for release of free-ranging wood bison in Alaska (ADF&G-ADEC 2008).

Reintroduction Sites

    ADF&G has identified three areas that are expected to provide the 
best locations for initial release of wood bison in the NEP area. These 
sites were selected based on intensive evaluations of potential habitat 
conducted in seven areas in central Alaska between 1993 and 2006 
(Berger et al. 1995, pp. 1-9; ADF&G 1994, pp. 10-14; Gardner et al. 
2007, pp. 1-24). Following the recommendations of Canada's Wood Bison 
Recovery Team, suitable release sites should: (1) Support a minimum 
population of 400 bison, (2) be separate from areas inhabited by plains 
bison, and (3) not have conflicting land uses such as agriculture 
(Gardner et al. 2007, p. 2). Based on availability of high-quality 
forage, three areas in Alaska--the Yukon Flats, Minto Flats, and lower 
Innoko/Yukon River--were determined suitable to support viable 
populations of wood bison (ADF&G 2007, p. 27). The Yukon Flats offers 
the best habitat and can support in excess of 2,000 bison (Berger et 
al. 1995, p. 8). Minto Flats offers abundant forage, but the area is 
relatively small, and access to wet habitats may be limited during 
summer. The lower Innoko/Yukon River area offers suitable habitat that 
could support 400 or more wood bison (Gardner et al. 2007, p. 8). 
Characteristics of each selected reintroduction site are described in 
more detail in the EA associated with this action (see ADDRESSES for 
information on obtaining a copy of the EA).
    Locations of the three potential wood bison reintroduction sites 
and boundaries of the NEP are shown in Figure 1 in the rule portion of 
this document. The boundaries of the NEP represent our interpretation 
of the best available information on what constituted a major part of 
the wood bison's historical occurrence in Alaska. This historical range 
includes substantial areas with little or no suitable bison habitat, 
interspersed with localized areas that will provide high-quality 
habitat. By establishing this large area for NEP designation, we do not 
imply that most or all of the area within the NEP boundary is suitable 
habitat for wood bison. The boundaries of the designated NEP area are 
based on the maximum estimated range of wood bison that will be 
released in and become reestablished in the NEP area. In addition to 
being readily discernible on the landscape, the areas near the NEP 
boundaries will generally discourage bison movements, since they 
include mostly high-elevation habitats or extensive forests that will 
provide little forage for bison. We do not expect herds reestablished 
in the reintroduction areas, which are near the center of the large NEP 
area (Figure 1) and provide excellent habitat, to move beyond these 

Reintroduction Procedures

    In conformance with recommendations of bison geneticists and 
conservation biologists, a minimum of about 40 captive-raised wood 
bison will be released at a single site within the NEP area in the 
first year of the program, and a similar number may be released at each 
of two additional sites in subsequent years. Additional bison may be 
released in each area if stock and funding are available. Released wood 
bison will be excess to the needs of captive-breeding herds at EINP and 
AWCC, and their release will not adversely affect the genetic diversity 
of the captive wood bison populations. Some bison will be radio-
collared. Population monitoring will include telemetry studies and 
aerial population surveys to determine and monitor population size, 
productivity, and movements.
    A temporary holding facility consisting of a small corral and camp, 
and a supply of hay will be provided at each release site. Ideally, 
wood bison will be transported to the site in late winter or early 
spring and held for an appropriate period (depending on weather and 
other factors) prior to release to allow them to acclimate in their new 
location and to ensure that the release date coincides with the 
emergence of spring forage. A more detailed review of reintroduction 
procedures is included in section 2.6 of the EA (see ADDRESSES for 
information on obtaining a copy of the EA).
    ADF&G, the Service, and reintroduction cooperators will evaluate 
the success of each reintroduction effort and apply knowledge gained to 
subsequent efforts, thereby increasing the efficiency and long-term 
success of wood bison restoration efforts in Alaska. ADF&G will work 
with various cooperators to monitor population growth and movements, 
and to conduct basic long-term environmental monitoring.

Legal Status of Reintroduced Populations

    Based on the current legal and biological status of the species and 
the need for management flexibility, and in accordance with section 
10(j) of the ESA, the Service will designate all wood bison released 
within the boundaries of the NEP area in Alaska as members of the NEP. 
Such designation allows us to establish a special rule under section 
4(d) for management of wood bison in Alaska, superseding the general 
section 9 prohibitions that would otherwise limit our management 
options. The legal and biological status of the species and the need 
for management flexibility resulted in our decision to establish the 
NEP designation for wood bison reintroduced into Alaska.
    The section 4(d) special rule associated with this NEP designation 
furthers the conservation of wood bison by allowing their 
reintroduction to a large area within their historical range. The 
special rule provides assurances to landowners and development 
interests that the reintroduction of wood bison will not interfere with 
natural resource developments or with human activities. Without such 
assurances, the reintroduction of wood bison to Alaska would not be 
acceptable to the public, development interests, or the State. Except 
as provided for under sections 10(a)(1)(A) and 10(e) of the ESA or as 
described in the section 4(d) special rule associated with this NEP 
rule, take of any member of Alaska's wood bison NEP will be prohibited 
under the ESA.

Geographic Extent of the Final Rule

    The geographic extent for the Alaska wood bison NEP includes the 
Yukon, Tanana, and Kuskokwim River drainages in central Alaska (refer 
to Figure 1 in the rule portion of this document). Section 10(j) of the 
ESA requires that an experimental population be geographically separate 
from other wild populations of the same species. Because wild wood 
bison no longer exist in Alaska, the reintroduced herds will not 
overlap with any existing wild wood bison population. Wood bison herds 
established in Alaska will be separated from the nearest wild 
population in Canada (the Aishihik herd in Yukon) by at least 450 miles 
(725 kilometers) of mostly hilly or mountainous terrain, which will 
deter long-distance movements between herds. Wood bison and their 
offspring will likely remain in areas near release sites and well 
within the boundaries of the NEP area due to the presence of prime 
habitat (extensive meadow systems that will provide an abundance of 
preferred forage for bison) and surrounding geographic barriers (Gates 
and Larter 1990, pp. 235-236; Larter and Gates 1990, p. 604). The 
geographic area included in the NEP designation represents what ADF&G 
believes to be the maximum geographic extent to which bison populations 
might expand if they are reestablished in interior Alaska, as explained 
above under

[[Page 26180]]

``Reintroduction Sites.'' This issue also is discussed in the 
``Comments'' section of this final rule and in section 2.6 of the EA.


    (a) Authority and planning. Under this final rule, ADF&G will serve 
as the lead agency in the reintroduction and subsequent management of 
wood bison in Alaska; however, ADF&G will continue to coordinate with 
the Service on these restoration efforts. Under this final rule, the 
Service delegates management authority to ADF&G, contingent upon 
periodic reporting in conformity with Federal regulations. Management 
of populations in the NEP area will be guided by provisions in: (1) The 
associated special rule; (2) the EA for this action and ADF&G's 
Environmental Review; and (3) management plans developed for each area 
by ADF&G with involvement of landowners and other stakeholders.
    ADF&G will use public planning processes to develop implementation 
and management plans for wood bison restoration. Planning groups will 
include representatives from local communities, regional population 
centers, landowners, Alaska Native interests, wildlife conservation 
interests, industry, and State and Federal agencies, as appropriate for 
each area. Draft management plans will be circulated for public review, 
and final plans will be presented to the Alaska Board of Game and 
Federal Subsistence Board for review and approval. More detailed 
information on wood bison reintroduction and management is provided in 
the EA associated with this action.
    (b) Population monitoring. Reintroduced wood bison populations will 
be monitored annually and during important seasonal periods. Biological 
data necessary for long-term bison management will be obtained from 
annual spring population surveys, fall or winter composition counts, 
and monitoring of herd movements. Bison populations are relatively easy 
to monitor because of their visibility, gregarious nature, and fidelity 
to seasonal ranges (ADF&G 2007, p. 12).
    Through public outreach programs, ADF&G will inform the public and 
other State and Federal agencies about the presence of wood bison in 
the NEP area. Reports of injured or dead wood bison will be required to 
be provided to ADF&G (see the EA for contact information) for a 
determination of the cause of injury or death.
    (c) Disease monitoring and prevention. Because of the extensive 
disease-testing programs at EINP (U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008, 
pp. 5-13) and at AWCC (ADF&G-ADEC 2008), the risk of reintroduced wood 
bison being infected with serious diseases is negligible. ADF&G will 
continue to obtain samples for disease testing as opportunities arise 
in connection with future wood bison radio-collaring efforts or 
harvests. In the unlikely event that a disease posing a significant 
threat to wood bison, other wildlife, or humans were to occur, the 
situation would be addressed through appropriate management actions, 
including vaccination or other veterinary treatment, culling, or 
removal of an entire herd, as described in the EA.
    (d) Genetics. Wood bison selected for reintroduction are excess to 
the needs of the captive populations in Canada. The ultimate goal is to 
reestablish wild wood bison populations in Alaska with founding animals 
that are as genetically diverse as possible. Management objectives for 
each area will be developed during public management planning efforts, 
with a goal of ensuring that the genetic integrity of wood bison is 
maintained without further loss as a consequence of human intervention, 
consistent with the Canadian Wood Bison Recovery Plan.
    (e) Mortality. Based on experience in reestablishing bison in other 
northern habitats, wood bison mortality after release is expected to be 
minimal (Gates and Larter 1990, p. 235). Based on the results of 
previous releases of disease-free wood bison, it is unlikely that 
predator management will be needed to allow populations to be 
successfully reestablished. A review of predator-prey interactions 
(ADF&G 2007, p. 43) is available online at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/species/speciesinfo/woodbison/pdfs/er_no_appendices.pdf. 
Predator-prey issues are discussed further in section 4.2.10 of the EA.
    Section 10 of the ESA authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to 
permit ``incidental take,'' which is take that is incidental to, and 
not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity, 
such as recreation, livestock grazing, oil and gas or mineral 
exploration and development, timber harvesting, transportation, and 
other activities that are in accordance with Federal, Tribal, State, 
and local laws and regulations. Under this final rule, a person could 
lawfully take a wood bison within the NEP area provided that the take 
is: (1) Unintentional, and (2) not due to negligent conduct. Such 
incidental take would not constitute ``knowing take,'' and neither the 
Service nor the State would pursue legal action for incidental take. 
The special rule associated with this NEP designation (50 CFR 
17.84(x)(5); below) specifies the types of incidental take that will be 
covered. If we have evidence of knowing (i.e., intentional) take of a 
wood bison that is not authorized, we will refer matters to the 
appropriate authorities for prosecution.
    Highway vehicles and trains can pose a risk to bison (Rowe 2007, p. 
8). In Alaska, the only area where vehicle collisions might occur is in 
the vicinity of the Minto Flats, where the Parks Highway and the Alaska 
Railroad border the southeastern edge and the Elliot Highway approaches 
the northern edge of the area. There are currently no roads in the 
Yukon Flats or lower Innoko/Yukon River area. However, roads could be 
constructed within these areas in the future to support resource 
developments or for other purposes.
    Unless stated otherwise in regulations, the State of Alaska 
prohibits hunting of any species, including wood bison, and unless 
regulations are superseded by Federal regulations, State hunting 
regulations apply. Prohibition of hunting will be enforced by the 
appropriate law enforcement entity with jurisdiction for the area. 
Public education and enforcement activities are expected to reduce 
potential sources of human-caused mortality. Based on results of 
similar efforts in Canada, we expect a low rate of natural or 
incidental mortality (Gates et al. 2001, pp. 30-40). If significant 
illegal mortality does occur in any given year, the State will develop 
and implement measures to reduce the level of mortality to the extent 
    (f) Special handling. Under this final rule, ADF&G biologists, 
Service employees, and authorized agents acting on behalf of ADF&G or 
the Service may handle wood bison: (1) For scientific purposes; (2) to 
relocate bison to avoid conflict with human activities; (3) for 
conservation purposes; (4) to relocate wood bison that have moved 
outside the NEP area back to the NEP area; (5) to aid sick, injured, or 
orphaned wood bison; or (6) to salvage dead wood bison. The Service 
will work with ADF&G to determine appropriate procedures for handling 
all sick, injured, orphaned, and dead wood bison.
    (g) Potential for conflict with oil and gas development, mineral 
development, recreation, and other human activities. Several existing 
or potential natural resource development projects that could be 
important to Alaska's economy are located within or near the three 
potential wood bison restoration sites. Exploration and potential oil 
and gas development is ongoing in the Minto Flats and Yukon Flats 
areas, and a gold mine could potentially be established in

[[Page 26181]]

an area about 30 to 40 miles (48 to 64 kilometers) east of the expanse 
of potential wood bison habitat near the lower Innoko/Yukon River area 
(Liles 2010, p. 1; U.S. Department of the Interior 2005, pp. 1-18; 
Barrick/Novagold 2008). However, wood bison are relatively tolerant of 
human activity and resource development activities (ADF&G 2007, p. 47; 
Fortin and Andruskiw 2003, p. 811). They are mobile and adaptable 
animals that can use a variety of meadow and forested habitats, 
depending on the season, and can avoid local disturbances. Their large 
size and social nature also make them relatively easy to monitor (e.g., 
by aerial surveys) and manage.
    Because wood bison will be introduced as an NEP, we expect that 
their establishment will not preclude or conflict with the development 
of oil, gas, and mineral resources or other human activities. Minor 
conflicts between cattle or other livestock grazing or agriculture and 
wood bison management might eventually occur in the southeast corner of 
the Minto Flats, where a few small agricultural operations exist. Such 
conflicts will be manageable with the flexibility inherent in the final 
rule and special rule included in this document. Agricultural 
activities on private lands within the NEP area will continue without 
additional restrictions during implementation of wood bison restoration 
activities. We do not expect adverse impacts to wood bison in the NEP 
area from hunting of other species; furbearer trapping; recreational 
activities, such as boating, snow machining, off-road vehicle use, or 
camping; or other resource-gathering activities, such as fishing, 
firewood cutting, berry picking, or logging.
    (h) Protection of wood bison. ADF&G will employ accepted animal 
husbandry practices to promote the welfare of wood bison during captive 
holding and release (Weinhardt 2005, pp. 2-21). Releasing wood bison in 
areas with little human activity and development will minimize the 
potential for accidental, human-related bison mortality, such as 
collisions with highway vehicles.
    (i) Public awareness and cooperation. ADF&G will work with the 
Service and other organizations to continue to inform the general 
public about the effort to restore wood bison to parts of their 
original range. Through the efforts of ADF&G and others, public and 
agency awareness of the program on State, national, and international 
levels is already widespread (ADF&G 2007, pp. 18-25 and Appendix D). 
Designation of the NEP in Alaska provides assurance of management 
flexibility to landowners, agencies, and other interests in the 
affected areas. As described above, through the application of 
management provisions set forth in the special rule, we do not expect 
wood bison reintroductions to impede future human activities or other 
resource developments in the NEP area.

Summary of Peer-Review and Public Comments and Recommendations

    In the proposed rule, published on January 18, 2013 (78 FR 4108), 
we requested that all interested parties submit written comments on the 
proposal by March 19, 2013. We also contacted appropriate Federal and 
State agencies, scientific experts and organizations, and other 
interested parties and invited them to comment on the proposal. We did 
not receive any requests for a public hearing.
    We reviewed all comments received from the public and peer 
reviewers for substantive issues and new information regarding the 
establishment of an experimental population of wood bison in interior 
Alaska. Comments were grouped into general categories specifically 
relating to the proposed reintroduction, and are addressed in the 
following summary and incorporated into the final rule as appropriate.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our peer review policy published on July 1, 1994 
(59 FR 34270), we solicited expert opinions from four knowledgeable 
individuals with scientific expertise that included familiarity with 
the wood bison and its habitat, biological needs, recovery efforts, and 
threats. We received responses from three of the peer reviewers. In 
general, the peer reviewers stated that the proposed rule provided a 
concise and accurate summation of the available scientific information 
on the biology, current status, and recovery efforts for wood bison, 
and that the proposed establishment of an NEP in Alaska to facilitate 
wood bison reintroduction is well supported by the best available 
scientific information. One peer reviewer raised an issue about the NEP 
boundaries, as discussed below. We incorporated specific updated 
information, comments, and suggestions from peer reviewers as 
    Comment: One peer reviewer expressed concern that wood bison may 
move farther than anticipated, and suggested expanding the boundaries 
of the NEP into the land area bordering the southeastern part of Norton 
    Our response: The two cases cited by the reviewer that involved 
relatively extensive bison movements following reintroduction are not 
representative of most recent bison reintroduction efforts. First, the 
Aishihik wood bison herd in Yukon exists in habitat characterized by 
limited and widely scattered low-biomass grasses and sedges, in 
contrast to the large expanses of high-biomass forage at the proposed 
release sites in Alaska. In similar high-biomass habitats in Canada, 
wood bison have shown a strong tendency to remain in home ranges that 
are much smaller than that used by the Aishihik herd, which must travel 
widely to find sufficient forage and has gradually developed a large 
home range as the population grows. Second, in contrast to the 
techniques planned for wood bison releases here, the release of plains 
bison decades ago in the Nabesna area was a ``hard release,'' with no 
holding period to allow bison to adjust after being transported to a 
new area. This likely contributed to their traveling some distance from 
the release site soon after release. Wood bison reintroductions in the 
NEP area will employ a brief holding period with supplemental feeding 
to allow bison to acclimatize to their new location, unlike the release 
of plains bison in the Nabesna area. This concern is addressed further 
in section 2.6 in the EA.
    Comment: One peer reviewer suggested we include a discussion of the 
potential for hybridization with plains bison.
    Our response: ADF&G and the Service are aware of the importance of 
preventing hybridization between wood bison and plains bison. This 
issue has been carefully considered in developing the restoration 
effort, and additional information has been included in section 4.1 of 
the EA, ``Description of Proposed Reintroduction Sites.'' We believe 
the potential for hybridization with plains bison is low. One of the 
criteria for site selection was that the release sites are located far 
enough from areas occupied by plains bison to eliminate the possibility 
of hybridization (ADF&G 2007).
    Comment: One reviewer considered it wise to include the role of 
regulated hunting to build acceptance of bison on the land and support 
for bison.
    Our response: The final rule and EA acknowledge that providing 
regulated hunting opportunities is one of the important goals of the 
wood bison reintroduction effort. The importance of hunting in building 
and maintaining public support has been recognized during project 
development, and outreach efforts have helped build substantial public 
support for the restoration effort.

[[Page 26182]]

Public Comments

    During the comment period for the proposed rule, we received 61 
comment letters directly addressing the proposed establishment of an 
NEP and associated special rule for wood bison. All substantive 
information provided during the comment period has either been 
incorporated directly into this final determination or addressed below. 
Several of the comments included opinions or information not directly 
related to the proposed rule, such as views relating to the management 
of plains bison herds in Alaska or movement and procurement of private 
wood bison herds. We do not address those comments as they do not have 
bearing on the NEP for wood bison.
    Comment: Several commenters discussed the fact that wood bison are 
native to the landscape and that the species could play an important 
part in reestablishing the native flora and fauna of the ecosystem.
    Our Response: We agree. Wood bison were historically distributed in 
interior and south-central Alaska and, if reintroduced, will help to 
restore the native diversity of the regional ecosystem.
    Comment: Two commenters described wood bison as nonnative species 
in Alaska and considered the real motivation for the reintroduction to 
be an augmentation of hunting opportunities.
    Our response: The scientific community--including paleontologists, 
anthropologists and archaeologists in Alaska and Canada, the Service, 
and ADF&G--has concluded that wood bison are clearly a native species 
in Alaska. The historical data are summarized in section 2.1 of the EA.
    Comment: One commenter expressed concern that wood bison may 
compete with other ungulates, such as moose.
    Our response: Evidence from Canada and elsewhere indicates that 
there is little competition between wood bison and other species, as 
detailed in sections 4.2.8, 4.2.9 and 4.2.10 of the EA. In parts of 
Canada, wood bison coexist with high densities of moose with no 
apparent competition. Similarly, in Alaska, plains bison coexist with 
moose, with no evident problems.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the existence of cattle diseases 
in bison in Wood Buffalo and Yellowstone National Parks means that 
modern disease detection and eradication efforts might not be 
successful in reestablishing healthy wood bison herds.
    Our response: The procedures used in recent times at Elk Island 
National Park and elsewhere have provided disease-free stock for 
several wood bison reintroductions in Canada, as well as several 
disease-free plains bison herds in Canada and the United States over 
the last several decades. A detailed review of disease prevention 
measures is included in section 4.2.12 of the EA.
    Comment: One commenter was concerned that the presence of wood 
bison could affect grazing leases and permitted water rights.
    Our response: Neither of these types of leases or permits currently 
exists or is anticipated to be issued in the areas being considered for 
bison reintroduction. In addition, one of the primary purposes of the 
NEP and associated special rule is to ensure that the reintroduction of 
wood bison will not impede existing or future resource development 
    Comment: Several commenters acknowledged that wood bison will be a 
substantial source of red meat and an important food for subsistence 
hunters, families, and communities in the reintroduction area. One 
commenter expressed concern that giving primacy to the State may impact 
Federal subsistence hunting of this species if it was allowed to be 
    Our response: The Service and ADF&G recognize the contribution that 
harvestable wood bison populations could make to the well-being of 
local communities and Alaska in general. That ADF&G has led the way in 
developing the wood bison restoration effort, and will have primary 
population management authority, does not affect the authority of the 
Federal Subsistence Board in regulating harvest on Federal lands or the 
Alaska Board of Game in establishing harvest regulations. As the 
numbers of reintroduced wood bison increase, opportunities for 
subsistence and general hunting will be evaluated in the future. As 
with other resource allocation issues, regulatory agencies will work 
with the public to determine how wood bison harvests should be 
    Comment: One commenter stated that sustained yield hunting is not a 
scientifically acceptable manner to manage a threatened species.
    Our response: Section 10(j) of the ESA allows for the designation 
of experimental populations to increase flexibility in managing listed 
populations, including allowing management practices and special 
regulations necessary to address potential negative impacts or concerns 
from reintroductions. Designating a population as experimental under 
section 10(j) and promulgating special rules under section 4(d) thus 
supersede the generic section 9 prohibitions against ``take'' of a 
threatened species.
    Section 4(d) gives the Secretary the authority and broad discretion 
to authorize regulated take of a threatened population if it is 
necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species. The 
Service previously has authorized regulated, direct take of threatened 
species and NEPs. For example, when the Gila trout was downlisted to 
threatened (71 FR 40657, July 18, 2006), a special rule enabled the 
states of Arizona and New Mexico to promulgate regulations to allow 
recreational fishing for Gila trout in some streams within the recovery 
area. Similarly, the special rule for the Utah prairie dog (77 FR 
46158, August 2, 2012) permits direct take in specified areas that the 
Service determined are not essential to the recovery of the prairie 
dog. Unlike the regulated hunting based on sustained yield principles 
expected for wood bison, no sustained yield harvest per se was proposed 
for the trout or prairie dog populations in these examples. 
Nonetheless, any allowable take of those species would need to be 
sustainable to avoid impeding recovery. Thus, the underlying principle 
and goals for allowing take of a threatened species are similar for all 
three species.
    The Service's goals for allowing regulated, direct take through 
issuance of special rules for these threatened species are similar to 
the goals expressed in this rule and the accompanying EA regarding the 
wood bison NEP. For Gila trout, goals for allowing recreational fishing 
include increasing the geographic extent of recovery efforts and 
bolstering public support for those efforts by increasing angling 
opportunities in streams previously occupied by only nonnative trout 
(71 FR 40671). For the Utah prairie dog, goals include relieving 
population pressures in overcrowded portions of the range; alleviating 
some impacts to agricultural operations, human safety, and important 
cultural areas; and reducing impacts on private lands adjacent to 
prairie dog conservation lands (77 FR 46166).
    Several of the goals articulated for the wood bison NEP are 
similar: expanding opportunities to restore species to historically 
occupied range or other suitable range; controlling depredating animals 
and animals that travel beyond NEP boundaries; and fostering public 
support for restoration efforts. As expressed in the EA (p. 2), the 
overall goal of the wood bison restoration effort is to promote wood 
bison conservation by ``restoring wood bison populations to portions of 
their former habitat in

[[Page 26183]]

Alaska so that they are again an integral part of Alaska's wildlife, 
providing Alaskans and others the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from 
this ecologically important northern mammal.'' One of the specific 
objectives is to reestablish a cultural connection between wood bison 
and people in Alaska. This connection historically included hunting 
wood bison for food. Many of Alaska's citizens continue to depend on 
wild game for food. Once a self-sustaining population is reestablished, 
wood bison in the NEP will contribute to this food source. Meeting 
these objectives requires reestablishing a wood bison population that 
can be harvested in the future on a sustainable basis for both humans 
and bison.
    Maintaining and strengthening public support for restoration 
efforts is important. Promulgating this special rule to designate the 
wood bison NEP establishes a flexible regulatory framework that 
supports the goals and objectives of the restoration effort and 
addresses the concerns of private landowners and other stakeholders in 
the NEP area. Without this provision, the overarching goal of 
reestablishing a native species in a large portion of its historical 
range will not be achieved. In addition, given the remoteness of the 
NEP area, regulated hunting is the most feasible means to maintain wood 
bison herd size within the carrying capacity of the landscape once the 
populations are fully reestablished.
    Comment: Two commenters expressed concerns that the reintroduction 
of wood bison will negatively affect potential oil and gas development 
on the Yukon Flats or Minto Flats, and one asked that the special rule 
limit reintroductions to the lower Innoko/Yukon River area. Two 
commenters expressed concerns about effects on potential future 
agricultural development. One commenter supported the finalization of 
the rule, but also cited concerns about potential conflicts with 
agricultural developments being considered in the area south of Minto 
Flats and in the Yukon Flats area, and recommended that the initial 
release of wood bison occur at the lower Innoko/Yukon River site.
    Our response: The State of Alaska has indicated that the lower 
Innoko/Yukon River area will be the first release site, and that it 
will continue to evaluate the possibility of other reintroductions (D. 
Vincent-Lang, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, pers. comm. 2013). 
The establishment of an NEP will support conservation goals while 
providing flexibility for sustainable resource development projects and 
reducing conflicts with future oil and gas development, as well as 
agriculture. Agricultural issues are discussed in section 4.4.3 of the 
EA. Protection for these and other land uses provided by the final rule 
as well as the mitigation measures outlined in the EA will allow wood 
bison restoration to proceed without interfering with potential 
agricultural developments, oil and gas activities, or other natural 
resource development projects.
    Comment: One commenter raised concern about conflicts between 
plains bison and agriculture in the Delta Junction area as an 
indication that the same conflicts could occur in the Minto Flats area.
    Our response: In the Delta area, farming expanded into areas north 
of the Alaska Highway that were already frequented by bison, and many 
crops were not fenced, resulting in a pattern of fall and winter use by 
the Delta bison herd. If reintroduced wood bison were to establish a 
pattern of movement from the high-quality bison habitat in the Minto 
State Game Refuge, north of the Tanana River, to potential future 
agricultural development south of the river, 10 or more miles (16 km) 
away, the mitigation measures envisioned by ADF&G in the EA for the 
area west of Nenana will include removing bison that conflict with 
agricultural operations or taking other actions to discourage bison 
from continuing to use agricultural lands. Such a pattern of use is 
unlikely, because current evidence indicates that future agricultural 
development will occur in areas separate from the bison habitat on the 
Minto Flats. Because the prospects for conflict are limited and could 
be mitigated, we do not believe that potential conflicts with 
agriculture are an obstacle to wood bison restoration.
    Comment: The reintroduced NEP will still be a section 7 burden if 
the animals move onto a Refuge.
    Our response: If wood bison move onto a National Wildlife Refuge, 
they will be considered a threatened species for purposes of section 7 
consultation. That means that if the Service or any other Federal 
agency planned to fund, authorize, or carry out a project on or near a 
Refuge, the activity will have to be evaluated to determine whether it 
``may affect'' wood bison. If adverse effects were anticipated, we 
would work to incorporate measures that would minimize those effects. 
We do not expect this process to become a burden, as applied to wood 
bison. No project in Alaska has ever been stopped because of the 
presence of an endangered or threatened species.
    Comment: Several commenters stated that the section 10(j) rule can 
provide adequate safeguards for other land uses and provide the 
regulatory framework for wood bison restoration to move forward. One 
commenter asked for clarification about what circumstances would lead 
to a change in status as an experimental population.
    Our response: The Service agrees that the NEP designation is 
designed to avoid any potential conflict between natural resource 
development and wood bison restoration, and we appreciate the support 
for the provisions of this rule. We do not envision any circumstances 
under which the status of the NEP would change, unless the wood bison 
were removed from the threatened species list. No NEP designation has 
ever been changed to an ``essential'' experimental population.
    To help ensure the continued effectiveness and success of this 
program following reintroduction, we have added language to clarify 
that if any particular provision of this rule is found by a court to be 
legally insufficient or defective, it is the agency's intention that 
all remaining management and other provisions will remain in effect.
    Comment: One commenter requested clarification on where within the 
broad NEP area the wood bison will actually be located or migrate in 
the years following reintroduction.
    Our response: One reason for creating a relatively large NEP area, 
rather than one or more small NEP areas, is to make it highly unlikely 
that any wood bison will wander outside the boundaries of the area, in 
which case those animals would have threatened status given the 
species' current status under the ESA. A large NEP area provides 
greater protection for landowners in the region. Wood bison generally 
do not migrate long distances. Experience indicates that, in good 
habitat, they will establish relatively stable home ranges near a 
release site, which will slowly expand depending on how much 
populations are allowed to grow. Wood bison populations are not 
migratory, as many caribou populations are. The three areas where wood 
bison herds could actually be reestablished are illustrated in the EA 
and in Figure 1 in paragraph (x)(2)(i) of the rule portion of this 
    Comment: One commenter stated that the Service should refrain from 
issuing any final rule until after the appropriate management plans 
have been drafted and circulated for review, and that we should 
consider any comments on the management plans when finalizing the 
reintroduction rule.
    Our response: We do not agree that a final rule should be delayed 
until management plans are completed. A key

[[Page 26184]]

purpose of this rulemaking process is to establish a clear and stable 
regulatory environment that provides protection for other land uses and 
management flexibility that will allow management planning and 
implementation to proceed. As the lead management entity, the State of 
Alaska can determine when a specific planning and implementation effort 
should proceed.
    Comment: One commenter stated that the bison reintroduction efforts 
must be designed to achieve an effective population size of greater 
than 500 animals and preferably up to 1000 animals, citing Hedrick, 
2009, and the 2010 IUCN bison status report and Guidelines (Gates et 
al. 2010.).
    Our response: The Service and ADF&G are aware of the importance of 
population size in maintaining genetic diversity, and the issue is 
discussed in section 2.7 of the EA and will be a consideration during 
development of site-specific management plans.
    Comment: One commenter suggested that it will take decades for wood 
bison to reach a level that can support hunting.
    Our response: Experience in managing other bison herds and 
population modeling indicate that founding populations of at least 40 
bison could grow to approximately 400 animals in 10-15 years. 
Population growth and future harvest opportunities are addressed in 
section 2.6 of the EA.
    Comment: Two commenters suggested that the Service should prepare a 
Recovery Plan for wood bison before any reintroductions take place.
    Our response: The Service does not intend to prepare a recovery 
plan for this species. The Canadian wood bison recovery plan and 
recovery strategy provide the over-arching approach to recovery of this 
species range-wide, and site-specific management plans to be prepared 
by ADF&G will specify how each reintroduction will be conducted. There 
would be no benefit in preparing an additional recovery plan under the 
ESA. In addition, wood bison currently exist in the wild only in 
Canada, and the Service does not prepare recovery plans for species 
that occur only in foreign countries.


    Based on the best scientific and commercial data available (in 
accordance with 50 CFR 17.81), the Service finds that reintroducing 
wood bison to Alaska and the associated protective measures and 
management practices under this final rulemaking will further the 
conservation of the species. The nonessential experimental population 
status is appropriate for wood bison taken from captive populations and 
released in Alaska because the loss of a wood bison NEP from Alaska 
will not reduce the likelihood of the species' survival in its current 
range in Canada and will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of 
survival of the species in the wild. The Service additionally finds 
that the less stringent section 7(a)(4) conference requirements 
associated with the nonessential designation do not pose a threat to 
the recovery and continued existence of wood bison. An NEP designation 
provides important assurances to stakeholders and the State of Alaska 
regarding regulatory compliance requirements relating to a listed 
species. This conservation effort would not occur without such 
    Hunting has been demonstrated to serve as an important management 
tool for the long-term conservation of wood bison on the landscape, in 
part because it is the primary means by which herd size can be 
maintained within the carrying capacity of remote reintroduction sites. 
In addition, biologically sustainable harvest can help build support 
for wood bison conservation among constituents. Given that reintroduced 
wood bison will be designated as a nonessential, experimental 
population, hunting will be an allowed take based on sustained yield 
principles as established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 
This finding applies only to the specific circumstances relating to 
establishing an NEP for wood bison in Alaska.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget will 
review all significant rules. The Office of Information and Regulatory 
Affairs has determined that this rule is not significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while 
calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996 (5 U.S.C. 801 et seq.), whenever a Federal agency 
publishes a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it 
must prepare, and make available for public comment, a regulatory 
flexibility analysis that describes the effect of the rule on small 
entities (i.e., small businesses, small organizations, and small 
government jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis 
is required if the head of an agency certifies that the rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The SBREFA amended the Regulatory Flexibility Act to require 
Federal agencies to provide a statement of the factual basis for 
certifying that a rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. We certify that this rule will 
not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small 
entities. The following discussion explains our rationale.
    The area affected by this rule consists of State, Federal, and 
private lands in interior Alaska. Reintroduction of wood bison 
associated with this final rule would not have any significant effect 
on recreational activities in the NEP area. We do not expect any 
closures of roads, trails, or other recreational areas. We do not 
expect wood bison reintroduction activities to affect the status of any 
other species, or other resource development actions within the release 
area (Fortin and Andruskiw 2003, p. 804). In addition, this final 
rulemaking is not expected to have any significant impact on private 
activities in the affected area. The designation of an NEP for wood 
bison in Alaska will significantly reduce the regulatory requirements 
associated with the reintroduction of wood bison; will not create 
inconsistencies with other agency actions; and will not conflict with 
existing or future human activities, including other resource 
development, or Tribal, other private, and public use of the land. This 
final rule will not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based 

[[Page 26185]]

    Lands within the NEP area that may be affected include the Yukon, 
Tanana, and Kuskokwim River drainages within Alaska. Many private 
landowners have indicated support for the presence of wood bison on 
their lands in the future. However, some major private landowners have 
expressed concerns about the potential legal and regulatory burdens 
related to the ESA and wood bison, including effects on other resource 
development activities, such as (a) the possibility of natural gas 
extraction in an area near the southern end of the Minto Flats State 
Game Refuge; (b) the potential for petroleum-related developments on 
the Yukon Flats; and (c) mineral development adjacent to the lower 
Innoko/Yukon River area. The 4(d) special rule includes provisions to 
ensure that the reintroduction of wood bison will not impede these or 
any other existing or potential future resource development activities.
    The existence of a wood bison NEP in Alaska will not interfere with 
actions taken or planned by other agencies. Federal agencies most 
interested in this rulemaking include the Service, the Bureau of Land 
Management, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs. The U.S. Forest Service has provided land to help support 
bison in captivity prior to release. This final rulemaking is 
consistent with the policies and guidelines of the other Department of 
the Interior bureaus. Because of the substantial regulatory relief 
provided by the NEP designation, we believe the reintroduction of wood 
bison in the areas described will not conflict with existing or future 
human activities on public lands administered by these agencies.
    This final rule will not materially affect entitlements, grants, 
user fees, loan programs, or the rights and obligations of their 
recipients. This rule will not raise novel legal or policy issues. The 
Service has previously designated experimental populations of other 
species at numerous locations throughout the nation.
    On the basis of this information, as stated earlier, we certify 
that this rule will not have a significant economic effect on a 
substantial number of small entities.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), the NEP designation will not place any additional 
requirements on any city, village, borough, or other local 
municipalities. The specific sites where the NEP of wood bison will 
occur include predominantly State, Federal, and private lands in 
central Alaska. Many landowners and agencies have expressed support for 
this project. The State has expressed support for accomplishing the 
reintroduction through an NEP designation. Accordingly, the NEP will 
not ``significantly or uniquely'' affect small governments. A Small 
Government Agency Plan is not required.
    The NEP designation for wood bison in Alaska will not impose any 
additional management or protection requirements on the State or other 
entities. ADF&G has determined that restoring wood bison to Alaska is a 
high priority, and has voluntarily undertaken all efforts associated 
with this restoration project. Since this rulemaking does not require 
that any action be taken by local or State government or private 
entities, we have determined and certify pursuant to the Unfunded 
Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq., that this rulemaking will 
not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given year on local or 
State governments or private entities (i.e., it is not a ``significant 
regulatory action'' under this Act).

Takings (E.O. 12630)

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, we have determined that 
the establishment of a wood bison NEP will not have significant takings 
implications. Designating reintroduced populations of federally listed 
species as NEPs significantly reduces the ESA's regulatory requirements 
with respect to that species within the NEP area. Under NEP 
designations, the ESA requires a Federal agency to confer with the 
Service if the agency determines its action within the NEP area is 
likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the reintroduced 
species. However, even if a proposed Federal agency action would 
completely eliminate a reintroduced species from an NEP, the ESA would 
not compel the agency to deny a permit or cease any activity as long as 
the Service does not foresee that the activity may jeopardize the 
species' continued existence throughout its range. Furthermore, the 
results of a conference are advisory and do not restrict agencies from 
carrying out, funding, or authorizing activities. Additionally, the 
section 4(d) special rule stipulates that unintentional take (including 
killing or injuring) of the reintroduced wood bison will not be a 
violation of the ESA, when such take is incidental to an otherwise 
legal activity (e.g., oil and gas development or mineral extraction).
    Multiple-use management of lands within the NEP area by government, 
industry, or recreational interests will not change as a result of the 
NEP designation. Because of the substantial regulatory relief provided 
by NEP designations, we do not believe the reintroduction of wood bison 
will conflict with existing human activities or hinder public use of 
the NEP area. Private landowners and others who live in or visit the 
NEP area will be able to continue to conduct their usual resource-
gathering activities. The State of Alaska, through ADF&G, is a strong 
supporter of wood bison reintroduction under the NEP designation and 
has led the development and implementation of the restoration effort. A 
takings implication assessment is therefore not required because this 
rule: (1) Will not effectively compel a property owner to suffer a 
physical invasion of property, and (2) will not deny economically 
beneficial or productive use of the land or aquatic resources. This 
rule will substantially advance a legitimate government interest 
(conservation of a listed species) and will not present a barrier to 
any reasonable and expected beneficial use of private property.

Federalism (E.O. 13132)

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, we have considered 
whether this rule has significant Federalism effects and have 
determined that a Federalism assessment is not required. This rule will 
not have substantial direct effects 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. 
In keeping with Department of the Interior policy, we requested 
information from and coordinated development of this final rule with 
the affected resource agencies in the State of Alaska. No intrusion on 
State policy or administration is expected, roles or responsibilities 
of Federal or State governments will not change, and fiscal capacity 
will not be substantially directly affected. The special rule will 
maintain the existing relationship between the State and the Federal 
Government and is being undertaken in coordination with the State of 
Alaska. The State endorses the NEP designation as the most feasible way 
to pursue wood bison restoration in Alaska, and we have cooperated with 
ADF&G in preparing this final rule. Therefore, this final rule does not 
have significant Federalism effects or implications that would warrant 
the preparation of a Federalism Assessment pursuant to the provisions 
of Executive Order 13132.

[[Page 26186]]

Civil Justice Reform (E.O. 12988)

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that this rule will not unduly burden the 
judicial system and will meet the requirements of sections (3)(a) and 
(3)(b)(2) of the Order.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This final rule does not contain new information collection 
requirements, and a submission under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) 
is not required. The Office of Management and Budget has approved the 
reporting requirements associated with experimental populations and has 
assigned OMB Control Number 1018-0095, expiring on May 31, 2014. We may 
not conduct or sponsor and you are not required to respond to a 
collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 
control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    In compliance with all provisions of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), we have analyzed the 
impact of this final rule. Based on this analysis and additional 
information resulting from peer review and public comment on the 
action, we have determined that there are no significant impacts or 
effects caused by this rule. We prepared a draft EA on the proposed 
action and made it available for public inspection: (1) In person at 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Regional Office (see ADDRESSES), 
and (2) online at http://www.regulations.gov. Even though not strictly 
required, in the interest of full disclosure and to recognize the 
potential controversy associated with this action, we prepared a final 
EA and a Finding of No Significant Impact to document our conclusions.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes (E.O. 13175)

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and the Department 
of the Interior Manual Chapter 512 DM 2, the Service, through ADF&G, 
has coordinated closely with the Tribal governments near potential 
release sites throughout development of this project and rulemaking 
process. The Service extended an invitation for consultation to all 
Tribes within the NEP area, participated in several consultation 
sessions, and has fully considered information received through the 
Government-to-Government consultation process, as well as all comments 
submitted during the public comment period by Tribal members or Tribal 
entities on the NEP designation and wood bison reintroduction.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use (E.O. 13211)

    Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. Because this rule is 
not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, and 
use, it is not a significant energy action. Therefore, no Statement of 
Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rule is available 
at http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Fish and 
Wildlife Service's Regional Office, Fisheries and Ecological Services 


    The primary authors of this rule are Sonja Jahrsdoerfer, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK, and Bob Stephenson, Alaska 
Department of Fish and Game (retired), Fairbanks, AK.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 
of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; 4201-4245; unless 
otherwise noted.

2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by republishing the current entry for ``Bison, 
wood'' under ``Mammals'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife, and adding a new entry for ``Bison, wood'' to follow, so that 
both entries will read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                         Species                                                  Vertebrate population
----------------------------------------------------------    Historical range     where endangered or       Status         When     Critical   Special
            Common name                Scientific name                                  threatened                         listed    habitat     rules
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Bison, wood.......................  Bison bison            Canada, Alaska.......  Entire...............  T                  3, 803         NA         NA
Bison, wood.......................  Bison bison            Canada, Alaska.......  U.S.A. (Alaska)......  XN                    835         NA   17.84(x)
                                                                      * * * * * * *

3. Amend Sec.  17.84 by adding a new paragraph (x) to read as follows:

Sec.  17.84  Special rules--vertebrates.

* * * * *
    (x) Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae).
    (1) Wood bison within the area identified in paragraph (x)(2)(i) of 
this section are members of a nonessential experimental population 
(NEP) and will be managed primarily by the State of Alaska (State), 
through its Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), in cooperation with 
the Service, in accordance with this rule and the respective management 
    (2) Where are wood bison in Alaska designated as an NEP?
    (i) The boundaries of the NEP area encompass the Yukon, Tanana, and 
Kuskokwim River drainages in Alaska (Figure 1). The NEP area includes 
much of the wood bison's historical range in Alaska, and the release 
sites are within

[[Page 26187]]

the species' historical range. The NEP area is defined as follows: the 
Yukon River drainage from the United States-Canada border downstream to 
its mouth; the Tanana River drainage from the United States-Canada 
border downstream to its confluence with the Yukon River; and the 
Kuskokwim River drainage from its headwaters downstream to its mouth at 
the Bering Sea.

    (ii) Any wood bison found within the Alaska wood bison NEP area 
will be considered part of the NEP. The bison will be managed by the 
State to prevent establishment of any population outside the NEP area.
    (3) Under what circumstances might an Alaska wood bison NEP be 
    (i) We do not anticipate eliminating all individuals within an 
Alaska wood bison NEP unless:
    (A) The State deems the reintroduction efforts a failure or most 
members of reintroduced populations have disappeared for any reason;
    (B) Monitoring of wood bison in Alaska indicates appreciable harm 
to other native wildlife, such as the introduction of disease or other 
unanticipated environmental consequences associated with their 
presence; or
    (C) Legal or statutory changes reduce or eliminate the State's 
ability to complete the restoration effort as designed and intended in 
its management plans, with the management flexibility and protection of 
other land uses (including other resource development) provided in this 
NEP designation.
    (ii) If any of the circumstances listed in paragraph (x)(3)(i) of 
this section occur, some or all wood bison may be removed from the wild 
in Alaska by any method deemed practicable by the State, including 
lethal removal. If the reintroduction of wood bison under this 
nonessential experimental designation is discontinued for any reason 
and no action is taken by the Service and the State to change the 
designation, all remaining wood bison in Alaska will retain their NEP 
    (4) Which agency is the management lead for wood bison in Alaska? 
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will have primary responsibility 
for leading and implementing the wood bison restoration effort, in 
cooperation with the Service, and will keep the Service apprised of the 
status of the effort on an ongoing basis. The Service

[[Page 26188]]

will retain responsibility for ensuring compliance with all provisions 
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 
et seq.), including compliance with section 7 for actions occurring on 
National Wildlife Refuge and National Park Service lands.
    (5) What take of wood bison is allowed in the NEP area? In the 
following instances, wood bison may be taken in accordance with 
applicable State fish and wildlife conservation laws and regulations:
    (i) Hunting will be an allowed take based on sustained yield 
principles as established by ADF&G.
    (ii) A wood bison may be taken within the NEP area, provided that 
such take is not willful, knowing, or due to negligence, or is 
incidental to and not the purpose of the carrying out of an otherwise 
lawful activity, including but not limited to recreation (e.g., 
trapping, hiking, camping, or shooting activities); forestry; 
agriculture; oil and gas exploration and development and associated 
activities; construction and maintenance of roads or railroads, 
buildings, facilities, energy projects, pipelines, and transmission 
lines of any kind; mining; mineral exploration; travel by any means, 
including vehicles, watercraft, snow machines, or aircraft; tourism; 
and other activities that are in accordance with Federal, State, and 
local laws and regulations and specific authorizations. Such conduct is 
not considered intentional or ``knowing take'' for purposes of this 
regulation, and neither the Service nor the State will take legal 
action for such conduct. Any cases of ``knowing take'' will be referred 
to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.
    (iii) Any person with a valid permit issued by the Service under 50 
CFR 17.32 or by ADF&G may take wood bison for educational purposes, 
scientific purposes, the enhancement of propagation or survival of the 
species, zoological exhibition, and other conservation purposes 
consistent with the ESA. Additionally, any employee or agent of the 
Service or ADF&G designated for such purposes, acting in the course of 
official duties, may take a wood bison if such action is necessary:
    (A) For scientific purposes;
    (B) To relocate a wood bison to avoid conflict with human 
    (C) To relocate a wood bison if necessary to protect the wood 
    (D) To relocate wood bison within the NEP area to improve wood 
bison survival and recovery prospects or for genetic purposes;
    (E) To relocate wood bison from one population in the NEP area into 
another, or into captivity;
    (F) To relocate wood bison that have moved outside the NEP area 
back into the NEP area or remove them;
    (G) To aid or euthanize a sick, injured, or orphaned wood bison;
    (H) To dispose of a dead wood bison, or salvage a dead wood bison 
for scientific purposes; or
    (I) To aid in law enforcement investigations involving wood bison.
    (iv) Any person may take a wood bison in defense of the 
individual's life or the life of another person. The Service, the 
State, or our designated agent(s) may also promptly remove any wood 
bison that the Service, the State, or our designated agent(s) determine 
to be a threat to human life or safety. Any such taking must be 
reported within 24 hours to the location identified in paragraph 
(x)(5)(vi) of this section.
    (v) In connection with otherwise lawful activities, including but 
not limited to the use and development of land, provided at paragraph 
(x)(5)(ii) of this section, the Federal Government, the State, 
municipalities of the State, other local governments, Native American 
Tribal Governments, and all landowners and their employees or 
authorized agents, tenants, or designees may harass wood bison in the 
areas defined in paragraph (x)(2)(i) of this section, provided that all 
such harassment is by methods that are not lethal or physically 
injurious to wood bison and is reported within 24 hours to the location 
identified in paragraph (x)(5)(vi) of this section.
    (vi) Any taking pursuant to paragraph (x)(5)(ii) of this section 
must be reported within 14 days by contacting the Alaska Department of 
Fish and Game, 1300 College Road, Fairbanks, AK 99701; (907) 459-7206. 
ADF&G will determine the most appropriate course of action regarding 
any live or dead specimens.
    (6) What take of wood bison is not allowed in the NEP area?
    (i) Except as expressly allowed in paragraph (x)(5) of this 
section, all the provisions of 50 CFR 17.31(a) and (b) apply to the 
wood bison identified in paragraph (x)(1) of this section.
    (ii) Any manner of take not described under paragraph (x)(5) of 
this section is prohibited in the NEP area.
    (iii) A person may not possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, 
ship, import, or export by any means whatsoever any of the identified 
wood bison, or parts thereof, that are taken or possessed in a manner 
not expressly allowed in paragraph (x)(5) of this section or in 
violation of the applicable State or local fish and wildlife laws or 
regulations or the ESA.
    (iv) A person may not attempt to commit, solicit another to commit, 
or cause to be committed any take of wood bison, except that take 
expressly allowed in paragraph (x)(5) of this section.
    (7) How will the effectiveness of the wood bison reintroduction be 
monitored? ADF&G will monitor the population status of reintroduced 
bison herds at least annually and will document productivity, survival, 
and population size. The Service or other Federal agencies may also be 
involved in population monitoring, particularly where National Wildlife 
Refuge System or Bureau of Land Management lands are involved. Tribal 
governments or other organizations may also participate in population 
monitoring and other management activities. Depending on available 
resources, monitoring may occur more frequently, especially during the 
first few years of reestablishment efforts. This monitoring will be 
conducted primarily through aerial surveys and will be accomplished by 
State or Service employees, through cooperative efforts with local 
governments, or by contracting with other appropriate species experts.
    (8) What other provisions apply to this special rule?
    If any particular provision of this rule or the application of any 
particular provision to any entity or circumstance is held invalid, the 
remainder of this finding and rule and the application of such 
provisions to other entities or circumstances shall not be affected by 
such holding.

    Dated: April 24, 2014.
Rachel Jacobson,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2014-10506 Filed 5-6-14; 8:45 am]