[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 236 (Tuesday, December 8, 2020)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-26747]
December 8, 2020
Department of the Interior
Fish and Wildlife Service
Marine Mammals; Incidental Take During Specified Activities; Proposed
Incidental Harassment Authorization for Polar Bears in the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska; Notice
Federal Register / Vol. 85 , No. 236 / Tuesday, December 8, 2020 /
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
[Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2020-0129; FXES111607MRG01-212-FF07CAMM00]
Marine Mammals; Incidental Take During Specified Activities;
Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization for Polar Bears in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of receipt of application and proposed incidental
harassment authorization; availability of draft environmental
assessment; request for comments.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have received a
request under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 from the
Kaktovik I[ntilde]upiat Corporation (KIC), for authorization to take by
harassment small numbers of polar bears incidental to seismic survey
and associated activities scheduled to occur between January 21, 2021,
and September 30, 2021. KIC has requested this authorization for
incidental take of polar bears that may result from three-dimensional
(3D) seismic surveys in the Marsh Creek East Program Area of the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge. The project will consist of activities such
as over-flights for aerial infrared surveys in January 2021 and
February 2021 to look for maternal polar bear dens; staging and
mobilization of vehicles and equipment; small crew surveys for hazards,
ice integrity, and snow depth assessment; seismic surveys via a sled
camp with rubber-tracked vibrator trucks; camp setup and mobilization;
aerial activities for crew and supply transport; digital elevation
modeling for river-crossing slope analysis; and cleanup activities
during the summer of 2021. We estimate that this project may result in
the nonlethal incidental take of up to three polar bears. This proposed
authorization, if finalized, will be for take of three polar bears by
Level B harassment only. No take by injury or death to polar bears is
likely and therefore such take is not included in this proposed
DATES: Comments on this proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization
and the accompanying draft environmental assessment must be received by
January 7, 2021.
ADDRESSES: Document availability: You may view this proposed
authorization, the application package, supporting information, draft
environmental assessment, and the list of references cited herein at
http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2020-0129, or
these documents may be requested as described under FOR FURTHER
INFORMATION CONTACT. You may submit comments on the proposed
authorization by one of the following methods:
U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No.
FWS-R7-ES-2020-0129, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
Electronic Submission: Federal eRulemaking Portal at:
http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting
comments to Docket No. FWS-R7-ES-2020-0129.
We will post all comments at http://www.regulations.gov. You may
request that we withhold personal identifying information from public
review; however, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. See
Request for Public Comments for more information.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charles Hamilton, Marine Mammal
Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS 341, 1011 East Tudor
Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503, by email at R7mmmRegulatory@fws.gov or
by telephone at 1-800-362-5148. Persons who use a telecommunications
device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at
1-800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Section 101(a)(5)(D) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
(MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361, et seq.) authorizes the Secretary of the
Interior (Secretary) to allow, upon request, the incidental but not
intentional harassment of small numbers of marine mammals of a species
or population stock by U.S. citizens who engage in a specified activity
(other than commercial fishing) within a specified region during a
period of not more than 1 year. Incidental harassment may be authorized
only if statutory and regulatory procedures are followed and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (hereafter, ``the Service'' or ``we'') make
the following findings: (i) Take is of a small number of animals, (ii)
take will have a negligible impact on the species or stock, and (iii)
take will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of
the species or stock for subsistence uses by coastal-dwelling Alaska
The term ``take,'' as defined by the MMPA, means to harass, hunt,
capture, or kill, or to attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any
marine mammal (16 U.S.C. 1362(13)). Harassment, as defined by the MMPA,
means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that (i) has the
potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild
(the MMPA calls this ``Level A harassment''), or (ii) has the potential
to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by
causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited
to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering
(the MMPA calls this ``Level B harassment'').
The terms ``negligible impact,'' ``small numbers,'' and
``unmitigable adverse impact'' are defined in the Code of Federal
Regulations at 50 CFR 18.27, the Service's regulations governing take
of small numbers of marine mammals incidental to specified activities.
``Negligible impact'' is defined as an impact resulting from the
specified activity that cannot be reasonably expected to, and is not
reasonably likely to, adversely affect the species or stock through
effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival. ``Small numbers''
is defined as a portion of a marine mammal species or stock whose
taking would have a negligible impact on that species or stock.
However, we do not rely on that definition here, as it conflates the
terms ``small numbers'' and ``negligible impact,'' which we recognize
as two separate and distinct requirements (see Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc. v. Evans, 232 F. Supp. 2d 1003, 1025 (N.D. Cal. 2003)).
Instead, in our small numbers determination, we evaluate whether the
number of marine mammals likely to be taken is small relative to the
size of the overall population. ``Unmitigable adverse impact'' is
defined as an impact resulting from the specified activity (1) that is
likely to reduce the availability of the species to a level
insufficient for a harvest to meet subsistence needs by (i) causing the
marine mammals to abandon or avoid hunting areas, (ii) directly
displacing subsistence users, or (iii) placing physical barriers
between the marine mammals and the subsistence hunters; and (2) that
cannot be sufficiently mitigated by other measures to increase the
availability of marine mammals to allow subsistence needs to be met.
If the requisite findings are made, we shall issue an Incidental
Harassment Authorization (IHA), which may set forth the following: (i)
Permissible methods of taking; (ii) other means of effecting the least
practicable impact on marine mammals and their habitat, paying
particular attention to rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar
significance, and on the availability of marine mammals for taking for
subsistence uses by coastal-dwelling Alaska Natives; and (iii)
requirements for monitoring and reporting take.
Summary of Request
In August 2020, the Kaktovik I[ntilde]upiat Corporation (hereafter
referred to as ``KIC'' or ``the applicant'') submitted a request to the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (hereafter referred to as ``USFWS'' or
``the Service'') Marine Mammal Management (MMM) office for
authorization to take polar bears (Ursus maritimus, hereafter ``polar
bears''). After discussions with the Service about the scope and
potential impacts to polar bears, as well as the feasibility of various
mitigation measures and modifications of the project design, KIC
submitted an updated request on October 24, 2020, and October 28, 2020.
This proposed incidental harassment authorization is in response to
KIC's October 28, 2020, request.
KIC expects that take by incidental harassment may occur during
their planned three-dimensional (3D) seismic survey, and associated
activities, of portions of the coastal plain area of the 1002 region
(hereafter referred to as the ``Coastal Plain'') in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR; hereafter referred to as ``the Refuge'').
Specific work will occur within the Marsh Creek East Program Area
(hereafter ``Program Area''), to be accessed via a tundra access route
within the Refuge measuring 78.23 km (48.61 mi). The area of this
tundra access route (inclusive of a 100-m [328-ft] buffer on each side)
is 15.64 km \2\ (6.04 mi \2\). All work is expected to occur during a
period of 8 months and 10 days, commencing January 21, 2021, and
concluding by September 30, 2021.
Equipment will be initially staged at Deadhorse, Alaska (located at
70.2002[deg] N, 148.4597[deg] W), and then transported to Kaktovik
(located 113 mi [214 km] to the east at 70.1319[deg] N, 143.6239[deg]
W) via the access route. The timing of mobilization is contingent on
the accumulation of sufficient snow cover along the access route, and
travel cannot commence prior to January 26, 2021; crew will be staged
on gravel pads allowing for tundra access and resupply.
All mobile equipment and vehicles will be equipped with navigation
systems primarily for hazard identification and logistics. Tracked and
wheeled tundra-specific vehicles will be used as the main transport and
for sled-camps during the activities. It is expected that the camps
will move every 5 to 7 days depending on the survey progress and snow
cover. At the end of the planned seismic surveys, all equipment will
travel back to the Deadhorse or Kaktovik pads. As trail locations may
depend on the snow coverage and terrain conditions during mobilization,
the KIC operators (hereafter ``the Operator'') will consider and
coordinate with companies for use of existing or planned trails.
The original KIC request was received on August 17, 2020.
Additional details regarding the project specifics, activities, and
locations were requested from KIC by the Service on August 30, 2020,
and received on September 1, 2020. Additional information on the
proposed seismic acquisition blocks was requested by the Service and
received at a meeting with KIC on September 4, 2020. Geographic
Information System (GIS) Shapefiles for use in ArcGIS Pro were received
by the Service on September 9, 2020. Additional information pertaining
to the planned aircraft activities for the proposed project was
received on September 14, 2020. The Service and representatives from
KIC held numerous meetings (including August 26 and 27, 2020; September
4, 10, and 29, 2020; and October 19, 2020) to discuss project details,
potential impacts to polar bears, and the feasibility of various
mitigation measures and modifications to the project design. Two
updated requests were received by the Service on October 24 and 28,
2020. This proposed IHA is in response to KIC's October 28, 2020,
Description of Specified Activities and Geographic Area
The specified activities (hereafter the ``project'') consists of
transportation (via air and ground-based methods), various surveys
(aerial infrared [AIR] surveys, handheld/vehicle forward-looking
infrared [FLIR or IR] surveys, environmental, 3D seismic), camping,
temporary developments (i.e., airstrips), and potential environmental
activities (i.e., water withdrawal, river/ice crossing, summer cleanup
activities). The area in which these specified activities will occur is
referred to as the Marsh Creek East Program Area (Program Area). The
Program Area is within the area established under section 1002 of the
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) of the
Refuge. The Refuge is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the
United States with an area of 78,051.88 km \2\ (30,136 mi \2\). Of this
total area, KIC owns 372.31 km \2\ (143.75 mi \2\) of surface land
within the Refuge, pursuant of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
(ANCSA) of 1971. The Program Area includes surface land owned by KIC,
sub-surface land owned by the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC),
and land and waters owned by the Department of the Interior (DOI). The
geographic region of the seismic survey activities will extend from the
Kajutakrok Creek in the west to Pokok Bay in the east, and from the
coastline to 40 km (25 mi) inland. The specified geographic region of
the activities is expected to cover a total of 1,441.82 km \2\ (556.69
mi \2\), incorporating the seismic area of 1,426.18 km \2\ (550.65 mi
\2\) and a 1.6-km (1-mi) buffer (figure 1).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.000
Seismic activities will include operations in all of the following
townships: U006N036E, U007N036E, U008N033E, U008N034E, U008N035E,
U008N036E. Seismic operations will further include operations in parts
of the following townships: U005N035E, U005N036E, U005N037E, U006N035E,
U006N037E, U007N031E, U007N032E, U007N033E, U007N034E, U007N035E,
U007N037E, U008N031E, U008N032E, U008N037E, U009N032E, U009N033E,
U009N034E, U009N035E, U009N036E.
KIC will conduct activities starting January 21, 2021, and ending
September 30, 2021, during which data collection will be performed
using a variety of equipment and methods. The operations will primarily
occur during 2021 winter, starting with three aerial infrared surveys
for polar bear maternal dens between January 2021 and early February
2021 (surveys will not begin before January 21, 2021, nor extend past
February 13, 2021). Mobilization of the seismic survey equipment and
crew will begin once the tundra opens to winter travel (but not before
January 26, 2021). Three AIR surveys are to be performed before moving
into the access route or seismic survey area. Seismic operations will
commence as soon as February 1, 2021, if all AIR surveys are performed
before this time, and will conclude by May 25, 2021, or the close of
the winter travel season, whichever is first. To maintain the safety of
field personnel, work days are subject to change based on weather,
equipment delays, polar bear presence, or discovery of a maternal den
at survey sites.
At the end of the snow season or the close of tundra travel (July
or August), whichever is first, KIC will contract one helicopter and
crew to travel over the Program Area to collect any refuse or debris
that may have been inadvertently left during the winter activities.
These cleanup activities are expected to continue for approximately 15
days, including possible weather days. The cleanup area will not exceed
the completed portion of the winter operating zone in the Program Area.
Standard aircraft operational limitations will apply, and weather
delays, flight ceilings, etc., will be at the discretion of the flight
All project-related travel outside of the 1002 region of the Refuge
will occur in areas for which regulations authorizing the incidental
take of polar bears already exist, and are not considered in this draft
IHA (50 CFR part 18, subpart J; 81 FR 52275, August 5, 2016).
Incidental take of polar bears caused by this work is expected to be
authorized by a Letter of Authorization (LOA).
All field personnel will be fully trained in bear safety awareness
and will utilize appropriate deterrence methods (see 50 CFR 18.34 for
further information) should deterrence of polar bears become necessary.
Additional information is provided in the Mitigation and Monitoring,
Proposed Authorization section below and in the Polar Bear Avoidance
and Interaction Plan incorporated by reference in KIC's application
(appendix A in KIC 2020).
The following project descriptions (Mobilization and Site access
through Summer Cleanup Activities) have been inserted directly from
KIC's Application for Incidental Harassment Authorization for the Marsh
Creek East 3D Seismic Program North Slope, Alaska (KIC 2020).
Additional details can be found in the application and are incorporated
Mobilization and Site Access
Equipment will be staged at existing facilities in Deadhorse. Camp
and equipment will be transported via an overland access route from
Deadhorse to the Program Area. The portion of the route within the
Refuge measures 78.23 km (48.61 mi). Using a 100-m (328-ft) buffer on
each side, the area of the tundra access route in the Refuge is 15.64
km \2\ (6.04 mi \2\). Upon entry, data acquisition will begin
immediately in the western portion of the Program Area. Specific areas
and dates of progressing through the Program are described in Section
3.0 (KIC 2020). Mobilization will begin in January 2021 at which time
KIC estimates there will be sufficient snow cover for
mobilization and all permits for tundra travel from the State of Alaska
have been received. All mobile equipment will have a navigation system
installed for logistics and hazard identification. All transit outside
of the 1002 Area will be covered under the existing 2016-2021 Beaufort
Sea Incidental Take Regulations (ITR) and permitted under separate
Tracked and wheeled tundra vehicles will be used to transport the
sled camp along the tundra. The camp will remain close to the survey
activities and will move every 5 to 7 days depending on the survey
progress and snow cover. When the survey is completed, the camp and
equipment will travel along the tundra back to a Deadhorse or Kaktovik
pad location. Snow-packed trails will be made throughout the Program
Area. The location of these trails will depend on snow coverage and
terrain conditions. The Operator will attempt to coordinate with
companies to use any existing or planned trails.
Survey and Ice Check
Prior to the start of seismic data collection, a smaller crew
performs a survey for hazards, including ice integrity of rivers,
lakes, and sea ice. One of the highest risk potentials for arctic
operations is properly verifying the integrity of the ice. This will be
done by ``ice checking units'' consisting of a Tucker vehicle capable
of supporting 24-hour operations, manned by two personnel. Snow
machines may also be used for survey and ice check operations. The
survey units will be equipped with ground-penetrating radar systems
(GPR), which are extremely accurate on freshwater. In addition, each
ice check unit is equipped with battery-operated ice auger, which is
used to verify the calibration of the GPR, measure ice depths on sea
ice, or verify depths where the GPR units cannot reach. Freeboard
testing (ice stabilization) is also conducted when working on floating
ice to ensure the ice has the strength to safely hold the equipment.
Tucker vehicles that are conducting the advance ice check operations
will also have a handheld or vehicle-mounted FLIR device to scan at
tributary crossings for potential dens in defined polar bear denning
habitat. Preliminary trails or snail trails will be established for
wherever the vibrators must travel on the sea ice, lakes, or rivers,
which will minimize the potential for breaking through the ice.
Surveyors will also map each hazard that is discovered and placed into
our navigation system that allows each vehicle to display the Program
Area, hazards, and avoidance areas.
Snow surveys will be conducted to substantiate depths and will be
recorded for equipment movement efforts. Snow survey crews will move
out ahead of the main crew by approximately 7-20 days, accessing the
Program Area. The crew includes camp trailers, fuelers, Steigers,
Tuckers, and support trailers and consists of three to four crews of
two personnel per crew. These crews work independently of each other to
check ice conditions, identify and mark hazards, and scout safe routes
for seismic operations. Depending on the number of locations needed to
be verified, crews can complete and travel up to 16 km (10 mi) per day.
At the end of each day, crews return to camp. Once operations are too
far from camp, the camp is moved to stay close to operations. When the
main camp arrives with the recording crew, the advance camp will merge
with main camp.
The method of seismic acquisition is Source Driven Shooting (SDS).
Seismic operations will be conducted utilizing rubber tracked/buggy
vibrators with a rectangular base plate and wireless, autonomous
recording channels (nodes). Wireless nodes will be laid out by crews on
foot and through the use of rubber-tracked tundra-travel-approved
Using the SDS methodology, multiple vibrators can collect data at
the same time. This methodology means that only a single vibrator is
required to travel down any source line, thereby reducing risk of
compaction or damage to the tundra and the footprint of operations.
Vibrators will only operate on snow-covered tundra or grounded sea ice.
There are two sizes of vibrators used for this survey: Large vibrators
with a weight of 44,000 kilograms (kg; 97,000 pounds [lb]) and small
vibrators (Univibes) with a weight of 12,475 kg (27,500 lb). The
lighter Univibes are utilized to further reduce potential disturbance
in narrow riverbeds and on ungrounded lakes, risk from working in areas
that do not have grounded landfast ice, and noise levels.
Seismic operations continue for 24 hours per work day and are based
on two 12-hour shifts. Communications with the crews while out in the
field will be via very high frequency radio systems and wireless data
The goal of the program is to collect seismic data across the
entire Program Area to inform stakeholders on the potential for oil and
gas over the period of the IHA. The duration is expected to take one
winter season as data is only collected when the snow cover and ice
thickness are sufficient to support operations. The method of
collecting data over this area is by collecting data over a patch of
recording channels and moving the patch progressively throughout the
area. It takes approximately 5-7 days to pick and re-layout the spread
over the entire patch area, the crews move continuously on to the next
patch progressively, including the camps and materials.
The method for collecting data is to establish a spread of source
lines and receiver lines over a set area (or patch). The camp is
typically set in the center of the patch. The crews establish source
lines and receiver lines within an acquisition spread. This spread is
approximately 248 km \2\ (95 mi \2\), or 8 km wide by 31 km long (5 mi
wide by 19 mi long), with a camp for the crew at the center of the
spread. As the vibrators move, the nodes behind the vibrations are
retrieved, the data are downloaded, and the nodes are replaced ahead of
the source lines. This method allows for efficient data collection over
the winter season.
Vibrators typically operate within a distinct area proximal to each
other. Geophone receiver lines are spaced approximately at 201 m (660
ft) and run perpendicular to source lines that are spaced approximately
402 m (1,320 ft) apart. Up to five receiver lines could be placed on
the ground at one time. Wireless nodes will be laid out by crews on
foot and through the use of rubber-tracked tundra-travel-approved
vehicles. Each station will be placed individually and will be surveyed
by global positioning system (GPS) upon deployment. All GPS data are
entered into a database.
During the acquisition phase of the project, occupancy of camp will
be at its highest consisting of approximately 160 to 180 people.
Approximately 7 Tuckers will be working on layout and pickup, and
approximately 12 large vibrators and 4 small vibrators (Univibes) with
1 person each could be working on source lines. The lighter Univibes
will be utilized to further reduce potential disturbance in narrow
riverbeds and on ungrounded lakes, risk from working in areas that do
not have grounded landfast ice, and noise levels.
The camp can accommodate up to 180 personnel. Equipment included at
camp stations include long haul fuel tractors, remote fuelers, water
maker, incinerator, resupply and survival sleigh, tractors, loaders,
and Tuckers. Camp locations are selected based on environmental
conditions. Typically, once the camp
reaches the Program Area, a site will be picked based on topography and
snow conditions. When good conditions allow, the camp may stay at
current location up to 7 days. Typically, the camp will move 1.6-3.2 km
(1-2 mi) every 5-7 days, which could be four to six camp moves per
month. The camp will generally remain in the center of the spread,
moving as the spread moves. A maximum footprint for a large camp is
approximately 91x122 m (300x400 ft).
The mobilization of the camp or camps will be from the existing
gravel roads, starting off a gravel pad located outside of the Program
Area. A predetermined route will be used to move equipment to the
project location. The camp will travel in a single-file configuration
pulled by a rubber-tracked Steiger or CAT. Each string of camp has 5
trailers, and typically a camp consists of 8 strings, but can consist
of up to 10 strings. Camp trails during the project will be scouted out
in advance by a project manager or survey personnel to avoid hazards
and to measure and ascertain proper snow depth. To mitigate any tundra
damage, the sleigh camp could be moved up to 3.2 km (2 mi) every 5-7
days, depending on the weather, snow covering, and the advancement of
the project. Sanitary conditions in the kitchen and diner and washrooms
will be maintained in full compliance with governmental regulations.
Gray water will be filtered to meet the discharge requirements of the
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) Alaska Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (APDES) permit prior to discharge. The
Operators holds a current APDES discharge permit for this purpose.
Temporary Snow Airstrips
The program will need airstrips to transport crews on crew change
days and to allow personnel, food, and potentially fuel (in emergency
situations) to be delivered to the remote camp. The Program Area has
few lakes; therefore, tundra airstrip is most likely to be used.
Airstrips will be located close to camp locations. Airstrips will be
within a couple of miles of camp to ensure efficiency. The footprint of
prepacked airstrips could be up to approximately 22.8 m (75 ft) wide
and 701 to 1,066 m (2,300 to 3,500 ft) long for the aircraft to land.
The length of the airstrip will depend on which plane is to be used.
Aircraft will use either wheels or skis to land. Estimated air traffic
will be approximately two trips per week, or as operations require.
Having temporary airstrips will save several hours of tundra
travel. The Operator will create a flat area on predetermined grounded
ice or tundra with sufficient snow cover to serve as a landing strip to
receive the aircraft for crew changes. Planes may be wheeled or on
skis, whichever will be the safest fit for the current environment. An
advance scouting trip will identify grounded lakes, if any, and/or
tundra locations that can be used for this purpose. The landing strip
will only be on areas that have adequate space for safely landing
aircraft. On lakes, a rubber-tracked Steiger with a blade will clear
the snow down for the aircraft to land. Black bags filled with snow
will be placed along the side of the berm to delineate the edge of the
landing strip along with lighting. Airstrips on snow-covered tundra
will be constructed similarly. On tundra areas, a flat area with
sufficient snow cover will be identified by advanced scouting. If
determined adequate, the Operator will utilize groomers to pack a
landing strip and will delineate the landing strip similar to those on
After the crews and camps have moved to a different location, the
airstrips will not be maintained unless they are needed again. After
use of the strip is no longer necessary, the crews will inspect the
location and record the area that was used by GPS location to be
included in the final reporting.
There may be areas where floating ice is encountered that may not
safely support the weight of some equipment. In these cases, the
Operator will permit this activity with the State of Alaska Department
of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to apply water to increase the thickness of
the ice to establish temporary river crossings. There also may be areas
on rivers, streams, and lakes that need to be protected with snow for
traversing from tundra to ice for crossing. As identified in section 10
of their application, KIC has committed to several mitigation measures
specifically for drainages through reduction of the number of source
lines crossing major drainages by using a slope analysis tool (KIC
2020). The slopes along these lines can be measured during the
preplanning and advance crew phases of the operations. Equipment will
only cross these areas at the lowest possible relief points, as
vibrators are not able to shake on slopes greater than 10[deg]. KIC is
requiring its Operator to place a 25-m (82.5-ft) buffer on each side of
slopes greater than 10[deg]. For areas that are defined denning
critical habitat (16[deg] slope and height of 1.6 m [5.2 ft]), a 100-m
(328-ft) buffer will be used. The area will be mapped using digital
elevation modeling (DEM) data for slopes. Ramp areas or transits across
these areas will be cleared by the advance ice check crews with
handheld or truck-mounted FLIR prior to movement.
The Operator will make snow ramps in these areas and establish that
the ice is grounded or the ice is of sufficient ice depth to cross.
Scouting by the Operator will determine locations of river crossings
based on the best available information from advanced scouting,
environmental and terrain conditions, local knowledge, surveys, and
Potable water will be produced at camp with a skid-mounted snow
melter. The primary source of water is melting snow; if, however,
conditions are inadequate, snow-melting activities can be supplemented
by withdrawing water from lakes through the ADEC-approved water system.
KIC has worked with the Operator to identify lakes and withdrawal that
will require permits if used. If lakes are used, ADF&G-approved water
withdrawal pumps will be used. If there is not an adequate source of
snow and water withdrawal from lakes is not possible, water may need to
be transported to each camp from an approved source.
Fuel Supply and Storage
Long-haul sleigh tanks will be used for fueling. All fuel will be
ultralow sulfur for vehicles and equipment. Fuel will be delivered
using overland Rolligon or rubber-tracked carriers. In the event the
supply is disrupted by weather or other unforeseen events, fuel may
also be delivered by aircraft to a public airstrip; temporary airstrips
may be required for these occasions if needed in emergency situations.
Offloading fuel from aircraft will be done in accordance with the
Operator's approved fueling procedure. Fueling storages and fueling
activity will be located at least 30.5 m (100 ft) from any water body.
All equipment fuel locations will be tracked and recorded. KIC fueling
procedures include spill management practices such as drip pan
placement under any vehicle parked and placement of vinyl liners with
foam dikes under all valves or connections to diesel fuel tanks. All
fuel tanks are double-wall tank construction. Fuel dye is added to all
fuel as part of spill detection.
All spills, no matter what the size, are recorded and cleaned up.
The Operator holds a Spill Prevention Countermeasure Control (SPCC)
plan for fueling and fuel storage operations associated with seismic
SPCC plan is site-specific and will be amended for each new project.
All reportable spills will be communicated through the proper agencies
and reporting requirements.
Food waste generated by the field operations will be stored in
vehicles until the end of the shift. The garbage will then be
consolidated at camp in wildlife-resistant containers for further
disposal. All food waste generated in camp will also be collected and
stored in the same consolidation area. A skid-mounted incinerator will
be used for daily garbage waste. This equipment falls within the
regulatory requirements of 40 CFR part 60. The cyclonator will use an
average of 3.8 to 7.6 liters (1 to 2 gallons) of fuel per hour while in
use. The use of electricity is for the motor to the unit that maintains
the air-to-fuel mixture. Data will be collected to provide the required
records on a calendar basis of description and weight of camp waste
Any waste generated by seismic operations will be properly stored
and disposed of in accordance with applicable permit stipulations and
Operator controls. Food waste is continually incinerated to avoid
attracting wildlife. Gray water generated from the mobile camp will be
discharged according to general permit AKG332000 and 18 AAC 83.210 and
APDES discharge limits. Toilets are ``PACTO'' type to eliminate ``black
water.'' Ash from the incinerator will be back-hauled to the North
Slope Borough (NSB) disposal facility in Deadhorse. The sleigh camp
will move approximately every 5-7 days depending on weather conditions.
An inspection by the Health, Safety, and Environment Advisor will be
done after camp has left to ensure that the area is clean of all
Summer Cleanup Activities
After all snow is gone, KIC will contract one helicopter to perform
flyovers of the Program Area looking for any debris that may have been
left behind in July or August of 2021. The cleanup crew will also
inspect all camp locations and any area that had an unplanned release
or tundra disturbance. Each source and receiver line will be inspected.
This phase of the project will require one helicopter, based in
Kaktovik, for approximately 15 days, including possible weather days.
The area of the cleanup will be determined by the completed portion
from that winter's acquisition and will not go beyond the Program Area.
An aircraft use plan will be developed to minimize impacts on
subsistence hunting and activities through consultation with local
stakeholders and ensuring regulatory compliance. The coastal portion of
summer activities (within 2 km of the coast) is targeted to be
completed by July 19, and all cleanup activities will be completed by
On-the-Ground Safety and Preparations
Safety of the personnel will remain a top priority of all work
within the Refuge. The optimal strategy to reduce dangerous
interactions with a polar bear is through a detailed bear plan, as well
as sufficient training and a high level of awareness for all field
personnel when at work sites. Specific guidelines and suggestions on
interacting with polar bears can be viewed at https://www.fws.gov/alaska/pages/marine-mammals/polar-bear/interaction-guidelines.
All activities will be performed under the guidance of a detailed
bear interaction and avoidance plan developed by KIC and approved by
the Service prior to beginning field activities (see appendix A of KIC
2020). The Service will provide KIC with the most up-to-date Polar Bear
Observation Form in which to record sightings of bears within 24 hours
to email@example.com. Details on monitoring guidelines and
reporting requirements can be read in Proposed Authorization,
Monitoring, and Reporting Requirements. Attractants and waste will be
minimized to reduce likelihood of bear presence. All field personnel
will be up-to-date in their bear awareness and safety training. The
Service can require the presence of a bear guard or subsistence advisor
if deemed necessary and appropriate, which will then add one to two
staff to the survey crew sizes. Further details on safety and
mitigation techniques can be read in Mitigation and Monitoring and
Avoidance and Minimization.
Description of Marine Mammals in the Specified Area
The polar bear is the only marine mammal under the Service's
jurisdiction that occupies the Refuge region. Polar bears are
distributed throughout the circumpolar Arctic in 19 subpopulations,
also known as stocks. Two polar bear stocks occur in Alaska, the
Southern Beaufort Sea (SBS) and Chukchi/Bering Sea (CBS) stocks.
Together, the two stocks range throughout the Beaufort, Chukchi, and
Bering Seas, including nearshore habitats. The stocks overlap
seasonally in the eastern Chukchi and western Beaufort Seas. Management
of the SBS stock is shared between the United States and Canada, and
management of the CBS stock is shared between the United States and the
Russian Federation. Detailed descriptions of the SBS and CBS polar bear
stocks can be found in the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) Draft Revised
Stock Assessment Reports (SARs) (announced at 82 FR 28526, June 22,
2017), and available at https://www.fws.gov/alaska/pages/marine-mammals/polar-bear. Once finalized, these revised SARs will replace the
current SARs last revised in 2010 and available at https://www.fws.gov/alaska/pages/marine-mammals/polar-bear.
On May 15, 2008, the Service listed polar bears as threatened under
the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531, et seq.) due
to loss of sea-ice habitat caused by climate change (73 FR 28212). The
Service later published a final special rule under section 4(d) of the
ESA for the polar bear (78 FR 11766, February 20, 2013) that provides
measures necessary and advisable for the conservation of polar bears.
Specifically, the 4(d) rule: (a) Adopts conservation regulatory
requirements of the MMPA and the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora for the polar bear
as appropriate regulatory provisions, in most instances; (b) provides
that incidental, nonlethal take of polar bears resulting from
activities outside the polar bear's current range is not prohibited
under the ESA; (c) clarifies that the special rule does not alter the
section 7 consultation requirements of the ESA; and (d) applies the
standard ESA protections for threatened species when an activity is not
covered by an MMPA or CITES authorization or exemption.
The Service designated critical habitat for polar bear populations
in the United States effective January 6, 2011 (75 FR 76086, December
7, 2010). Critical habitat identifies geographic areas that contain
features that are essential for the conservation of a threatened or
endangered species and that may require special management or
protection. Polar bear critical habitat units include barrier island
habitat, sea-ice habitat (both described in geographic terms), and
terrestrial denning habitat (a functional determination). Barrier
island habitat includes coastal barrier islands and spits along
Alaska's coast; it is used for denning, refuge from human disturbance,
resting, feeding, and travel along the coast. Sea-ice habitat is
located over the continental shelf, and it includes water 300 m (984
ft) or less in depth. Terrestrial denning habitat
includes lands within 32 km (20 mi) of the northern coast of Alaska
between the Canadian border and the Kavik River and within 8 km (5 mi)
of the coast between the Kavik River and Barrow. The total area
designated as critical habitat covers 484,734 km \2\ (187,157 mi \2\),
and is entirely within the lands and waters of the United States. The
specified geographic area of this proposed IHA is estimated to contain
approximately 1,608.11 km \2\ (620.89 mi \2\) of critical habitat
inclusive of barrier islands, sea ice habitat, and denning habitat.
Polar bear critical habitat is described in detail in the final rule
(75 FR 76086, December 7, 2010). It should be noted that designation of
polar bear denning critical habitat is not intended to identify actual
denning sites but rather to identify the essential features that
support denning habitat. KIC is planning to perform work during winter
months, the primary period when polar bears are denning or on the sea
ice hunting seals.
Polar bears may occur anywhere within the specified geographic area
of this proposed IHA. SBS polar bears historically spent the entire
year on the sea ice hunting for seals, with the exception of a
relatively small proportion of denning adult females that would come
ashore during autumn and overwinter to den. However, over the last two
decades, the SBS has experienced a marked decline in summer sea-ice
extent, along with a pronounced lengthening of the open-water season
(period of time between sea ice break-up and freeze-up) (Stroeve et al.
2014; Stern and Laidre 2016). The dramatic changes in the extent and
phenology of sea-ice habitat have coincided with evidence suggesting
that use of terrestrial habitat has increased during summer and prior
to denning, including in the Refuge.
The most recent population estimate for SBS polar bears was
approximately 900 individuals in 2010 (Bromaghin et al. 2015, Atwood et
al. 2020). This number represents an approximately 30 percent decline
in SBS polar bear abundance between 1986 and 2010 (Amstrup et al. 1986,
Regehr et al. 2006, Bromaghin et al. 2015); however, the population
appears to have remained stable from 2010 to 2015 (Atwood et al. 2020).
In addition, analyses of more than 20 years of data on the size and
body condition of SBS polar bears demonstrated declines for most sex
and age classes and a significant negative relationship between annual
sea ice availability and body condition (Rode et al. 2010). These lines
of evidence suggest that the SBS subpopulation is declining due to sea
ice loss. Schliebe et al. (2008) determined that an average of 4.0
percent of the SBS subpopulation of polar bears were on land in autumn
during 2000 to 2005, and that the percentage increased when sea ice was
farther from the coast. More recently, Atwood et al. (2016) determined
that the percentage of radio-collared adult females coming ashore in
summer and fall increased from 5.8 to 20 percent between 2000 and 2014.
Over the same period, the mean duration of the open-water season
increased by 36 days and the mean length of stay on land by polar bears
increased by 31 days (Atwood et al. 2016). While on shore, the
distribution of polar bears is largely influenced by the opportunity to
feed on the remains of subsistence-harvested bowhead whales. Most polar
bears are aggregated at three sites along the coast, Utqia[gdot]vik
(formerly Barrow), Cross Island, and Kaktovik, a community located on
Barter Island just off the Coastal Plain (Rogers et al. 2015; McKinney
et al. 2017; Wilson et al. 2017).
In addition to increased use of land during the open-water season,
SBS polar bears have also increasingly used land for maternal denning.
Olson et al. (2017) examined the choice of denning substrate (land
compared to sea ice) by adult females between 1985 and 2013 and
determined that the frequency of land-based denning increased over
time, constituting 34.4 percent of all dens from 1985 to 1995, 54.6
percent from 1996 to 2006, and 55.2 percent from 2007 to 2013.
Additionally, the frequency of land denning was directly related to the
distance that sea ice retreated from the coast. From 1985 to 1995 and
2007 to 2013, the average distance from the coast to 50 percent sea ice
concentration in September (when sea ice extent reaches its annual
minimum) increased 351 55 km (218.10 34.17
mi), while the distance to 15 percent sea ice concentration increased
by 275 54 km (170.88 33.55 mi). Rode et al.
(2018) determined that reproductive success was greater for females
occupying land-based dens compared to ice-based dens, which may be an
additional factor contributing to the increase in land-based denning.
Land-based dens are mostly distributed along the central and eastern
coast of Alaska's Beaufort Sea, including the Coastal Plain (Durner et
al. 2010). Durner and Atwood (2018) estimate there is approximately
79.6 km\2\ (30.7 mi\2\) of maternal denning habitat available to polar
bears in the Coastal Plain.
The proportion of SBS polar bears found in the Coastal Plain at any
given time is not known. Though polar bears can be found throughout the
Coastal Plain year-round, their density and distribution across the
area differs across seasons. Polar bear density is greatest in summer
and fall (i.e., the open-water period, typically mid-July through mid-
November), along the shore and barrier islands. During late fall and
winter (generally late mid-November to March), non-denning polar bears
(i.e., adult and subadult males, adult females with and without
dependent young, and subadult females) may travel throughout the
Coastal Plain, though likely in lower numbers than would be expected
along the coast during the open-water period. In late fall (generally
late October through November), pregnant females will begin to excavate
and enter dens distributed throughout the Coastal Plain in areas where
snow accumulates, such as along coastal bluffs or riverbanks. Denning
female polar bears give birth to cubs, on average, December 15th, and
remain in their dens until they emerge in spring (generally March and
April). Polar bears in all life stages may travel throughout the
Coastal Plain in spring and early summer (generally March to June).
Mitigation and Monitoring
KIC has proposed to reduce the effects of its action by
implementing mitigation and monitoring measures described in chapter 10
of its application, in its Polar Bear Avoidance and Interaction Plan
(appendix A of the application), and in its Plan of Cooperation (POC;
appendix B of the application). These measures have been incorporated
into Proposed Authorization, (B) Avoidance and Minimization, and (E)
Reporting Requirements, which KIC will be required to implement as part
of its project if an IHA is issued.
The MMPA requires incidental take authorizations to prescribe,
where applicable, permissible methods of taking and other means of
effecting the least practicable impact on the affected stock. In our
analysis, we considered the availability and feasibility (economic and
technological) of equipment, methods, and manners of conducting the
proposed seismic acquisition and other specified activities in order to
effect the least practicable adverse impact upon the SBS stock of polar
bears, their habitat, and their availability for subsistence uses. In
doing do, we paid particular attention to polar bear denning habitat in
the action area given the significance of this habitat and life stage
to polar bears.
The Service's efforts to identify means to achieve the least
practicable adverse impact began immediately upon receipt of KIC's
initial request for an IHA.
Specifically, the Service began working with KIC to revise its request
by subdividing acquisition blocks and establishing dates no earlier
than which work would begin in each block. The purpose of this was to,
where feasible, delay acquisition in blocks with greater overlap with
polar bear denning habitat. As demonstrated in Wilson and Durner,
spatial and temporal project planning has the greatest impact on
reducing potential impacts to denning polar bears.
In addition to avoiding work in polar bear denning areas until
later in the season when more mothers and cubs will have naturally
emerged from their dens, the Service also worked with KIC to revise its
request by placing a 1-mile buffer around known dens and prohibiting
activities with the potential to disturb denning bears within that
buffer. The Service also worked with KIC to incorporate into its
request the use of additional AIR surveys to detect polar bear dens.
Dens of a depth greater than 100 cm are not able to be detected. Durner
et al. (2003) reported the mean den roof thicknesses for 22 polar bear
dens in northern Alaska was 72 87 cm, and ranged from as
little as 10 cm to more than 400 cm. Snow depth over many dens,
therefore, is likely near, or above, the limits of FLIR detection
capabilities, regardless of weather (Smith et al. 2020). A single AIR
survey (as was proposed in KIC's original request) is able to detect 45
percent of the dens that are less than 100 cm deep. In order to
increase the likelihood of detecting dens, and then being able to
protect them with a 1-mile buffer, KIC's latest request proposes to
conduct three AIR surveys of the action area before work proceeds.
Three AIR surveys increases the likelihood of detecting dens at less
than 100 cm deep to 98 percent. Detecting and then placing a 1-mile
buffer around known polar bear dens is an accepted means of effecting
the least practicable impact on denning polar bears and therefore the
SBS polar bear stock.
Additionally, after coordination with the Service, KIC modified its
project design to incorporate reduced line density and reduced
crossings in areas of high elevation change near streams and rivers.
These high relief areas contain conditions suitable for polar bear
denning, so reducing activity in these areas is an appropriate method
to help achieve the least practicable adverse impact. In addition,
prior to conducting work in high relief stream or river crossings, KIC
will use handheld FLIR to investigate if a polar bear den is present
and if so will protect it with a 1-mile buffer.
The Service also worked with KIC to develop and incorporate into
its request a plan for management of food, waste, and other potential
attractants. Development and implementation of such a plan is a means
of reducing impacts on SBS polar bears as it reduces the likelihood
that bears will be attracted to camps and other project-related
infrastructure. This has immediate benefits in reducing the potential
for interactions between project personnel and polar bears that could
result in injury to humans or bears. In addition, it helps reduce the
potential for polar bears to associate humans and human activities with
positive food rewards that could result in them seeking out human
establishments later in life.
The above measures reduce the potential for overlap between KIC's
seismic acquisition and polar bears and therefore reduces the potential
for exposing polar bears to potential disturbance. The required
attractant management and human polar bear interaction plans reduce the
probability and severity of negative consequences to polar bears
exposed to KIC's operations. These methods, implemented in the past,
have proven to be both practical and effective. The Service has
determined that these mitigation measures constitute the means of
effecting the least practicable impact to SBS polar bears.
We also evaluated potential alternative mitigation measures but
determined they do not warrant inclusion in this proposed IHA. The
Service considered the use of dogs as an alternative mitigation measure
to identify polar bear dens; however, it was determined that, given the
large area to be surveyed and the limited availability of trained dogs,
this mitigation measure was not practicable for the proposed project.
The Service also considered a requirement that the work be conducted
outside of polar bear denning season, but this approach would be in
direct conflict with ground temperature and snow cover requirements for
tundra access. Additionally, we considered applying minimum flight
altitudes without exception; however, this requirement is not
practicable given cloud and fog conditions encountered in the project
Mitigation techniques to achieve the least practicable impact are
detailed below in Proposed Authorization, (B) Avoidance and
Minimization, paragraphs (a) General avoidance measures, (b) Mitigation
measures for onshore activities, and (c) Mitigation measures for
aircraft. Additionally, all measures outlined in the application (KIC
2020), including the appendices with the Monitoring and Mitigation Plan
and Plan of Cooperation, are incorporated by reference herein.
Types of Incidental Take
Human activity may result in biologically significant impacts to
polar bears. In the most serious interactions, human actions can result
in mortality of polar bears, especially in situations where human life
is at risk. On the North Slope, unintentional mortality has occurred
during efforts to deter polar bears from a work area for safety and
from direct chemical exposure (81 FR 52276, August 5, 2016). Incidental
lethal take could also result from a vehicle collision or collapse of a
den if it were run over by a vehicle. Harassment of a female during the
denning season may cause the female to either abandon her den
prematurely with cubs or abandon her cubs in the den before the cubs
can survive on their own. Either scenario may result in lethal take of
Level A Harassment
Human activity may also result in the injury of polar bears. Level
A harassment, for nonmilitary readiness activities, is defined as any
act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that has the potential to injure
a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild. Take by Level A
harassment can be caused by numerous actions, including the incorrect
use of a deterrent projectile, a vehicle collision, or a den collapse
that impairs the animal or reduces its likelihood of survival or
reproduction. Other examples include, but are not limited to,
separation of mothers from dependent cub(s) (Amstrup 2003), activities
that result in mothers leaving the den early (Amstrup and Gardner 1994,
Rode et al. 2018), or prolonged or repeated interruptions in nursing or
resting (cubs), both of which can negatively affect cub survival.
Level B Harassment
Level B Harassment for nonmilitary readiness activities means any
act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that has the potential to disturb
a marine mammal in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral
patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing,
breeding, feeding, or sheltering. Reactions that disrupt biologically
significant behaviors for the affected animal meet the criteria for
take by Level B harassment under the MMPA. Reactions that indicate take
Level B harassment of polar bears in response to human activity
include, but are not limited to, the following examples:
Fleeing (running or swimming away from a human or a human
Displaying a stress-related behavior such as jaw or lip-
popping, front leg stomping, vocalizations, circling, intense staring,
Abandoning or avoiding preferred movement corridors such
as ice floes, leads, polynyas, a segment of coast line, or barrier
Using a longer or more difficult route of travel instead
of the intended path;
Interrupting breeding, sheltering, feeding, or hunting;
Moving away at a fast pace (adult) and cubs struggle to
Ceasing to nurse or rest (cubs);
Ceasing to rest repeatedly or for a prolonged period
Loss of hunting opportunity due to disturbance of prey; or
Any interruption in normal denning behavior that does not
cause injury, den abandonment, or early departure of the family group
from the den site.
This list is not meant to encompass all possible behaviors; other
behavioral responses may equate to take by Level B harassment.
Relatively minor reactions such as increased vigilance or a short-term
change in direction of travel are not likely to disrupt biologically
important behavioral patterns, and the Service does not view such minor
reactions as resulting in a take by Level B harassment. It is also
important to note that depending on the duration and severity of the
above-described behaviors, such responses could constitute take by
Level A harassment (e.g., repeatedly disrupting a polar bear versus a
Estimating Incidental Take
The general approach for quantifying take in this proposed IHA was
as follows: (1) Determine the number of animals in the project area;
(2) assess the likelihood, nature, and degree of exposure of these
animals to project-relative activities; (3) evaluate these animals'
probable responses; and (4) calculate how many of these responses
constitute take. Our evaluation of take included quantifying the number
of responses that met the criteria for lethal take, Level A harassment
(potential injury), or Level B harassment (potential disruption of a
biologically significant behavioral pattern), factoring in the degree
to which effective mitigation measures will reduce the amount or
consequences of take. To better account for differences in how various
aspects of the project could impact polar bears, we performed separate
take estimates for Surface-Level Impacts, Aircraft Activities, and
Impacts to Denning Bears. These analyses are described in more detail
in the subsections below. Once these various types of take were
quantified, the next steps were to: (5) Determine whether the total
take will be of a small number relative to the size of the stock; and
(6) determine whether the total take will have a negligible impact on
the stock, both of which are determinations required under the MMPA.
Analysis of Surface-Level Impact
Individual polar bears can be affected by activities of the oil and
gas industry (``Industry'') in numerous ways during the open-water and
ice-covered seasons. During the early portion of the open-water season
(June and mid-July), most polar bears occur in offshore areas
associated with multiyear pack ice. However, in the latter portion of
the open-water season (mid-July to mid-November), polar bears are
attracted to whale carcasses deposited at bone piles following
subsistence whaling activities in Alaska Native communities. During
this time, polar bears can be found in large numbers and high densities
on barrier islands, along the coastline, and in the nearshore waters of
the Beaufort Sea, particularly on and around Barter Island.
Alternatively, as sea ice recedes over the deeper waters of the Arctic
Ocean, some bears may abandon the sea ice for shore. During late fall,
winter, spring, and early summer (generally mid-November to mid-July),
non-denning polar bears may travel throughout the Coastal Plain, though
in lower numbers than would be expected along the coast during the
open-water period. Non-denning polar bear responses will vary by the
type, duration, intensity, and location of the source of disturbance.
Disturbance from surface-level activities associated with the
proposed project would originate primarily from camp activities and
mobile sources such as vehicle and aircraft traffic, 3D winter seismic
surveys, and summer cleanup work. The noises, sights, and smells
produced by the project could elicit variable responses from polar
bears. Noise disturbance can originate from either stationary or mobile
sources. Stationary sources include construction, maintenance, repair
and remediation activities, operations at production facilities, gas
flaring, and drilling operations from either onshore or offshore
facilities. Mobile sources include aircraft traffic, open-water winter
vibroseis programs, geotechnical surveys, ice road construction,
vehicle traffic, and tracked vehicles and snowmobiles.
Noise may act as a deterrent to polar bears entering work areas,
conversely camp odors could attract them (see 50 CFR 18.34 for further
guidance). Attracting polar bears to these locations could result in
human-bear encounters, unintentional harassment, intentional hazing, or
possible lethal take in defense of human life. When disturbed by noise,
animals may respond behaviorally (e.g., escape response) or
physiologically (e.g., increased heart rate, hormonal response) (Harms
et al. 1997; Tempel and Gutierrez 2003). Noise produced by Industry
activities during the open-water and ice-covered seasons could disturb
polar bears. The available studies of polar bear behavior indicate that
polar bears can be sensitive to noise disturbance based on previous
interactions, sex, age, and maternal status (Anderson and Aars 2008;
Dyck and Baydack 2004). Additionally, habituation may impact individual
bear behavior. A more detailed description of the impact of noise on
polar bear hearing can be found below in Analysis of Aircraft Impact.
The most comprehensive dataset of human-polar bear encounters along
the coast of Alaska consists of records of Industry encounters during
activities on the North Slope. This database is referred to as the
``LOA database'' because it aggregates data reported by the oil and gas
industry to the Service pursuant to the terms and conditions of LOAs,
issued under current and previous incidental take regulations (50 CFR
part 18, subpart J). While KIC's project area does not spatially
overlap with the activities that inform the LOA database, the LOA
database does include data from the same types of activities as
specified in KIC's request and serves as a reasonable proxy for how
polar bears may interact with KIC's project. We have used the LOA
database in conjunction with bear density projections for the entire
coastline to generate quantitative encounter rates in the project area.
We used records from 2014-2018 to conduct the analyses described below.
These records were entered into a larger LOA database, which included
the date and time of the encounter, a general description, number of
bears encountered, latitude and longitude, weather variables, and a
take determination made by the Service. If latitude and longitude were
not supplied in the initial report, we georeferenced the encounter
using the location description and a map of North
Slope infrastructure. We also calculated distance to shore for each
encounter record using a shapefile of the coastline and the dist2Line
function found in the R geosphere package.
Spatially Partitioning the North Slope Into ``Coastal'' and ``Inland''
Polar bear encounters along the Alaskan coast exhibit a high degree
of spatial autocorrelation, with the vast majority of encounters
occurring along the shore or immediately offshore (Atwood et al. 2015,
Wilson et al. 2017). Thus, encounter rates for inland operations should
be significantly lower than those for offshore or coastal operations.
To partition the North Slope into ``coastal'' and ``inland'' zones, we
calculated the distance to shore for all encounter records in the
period 2014-2018 in the Service's LOA database. Linked sightings of the
same bear(s) were removed from the analysis, and individual records
were created for each bear encountered. However, because we were only
able to identify and remove repeated sightings that were designated as
linked within the database, it is likely that some repeated encounters
of the same bear remained in our analysis. Of the 1,713 bears
encountered from 2014 through 2018, 1,140 (66.5 percent) of the bears
were offshore. While these bears were encountered offshore, the
encounters were reported by onshore or island operations (i.e., docks,
drilling and production islands, or causeways). We examined the
distribution of bears that were onshore and up to 10 km (6.2 mi) inland
to determine the distance at which encounters sharply decreased (figure
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.001
The histogram illustrates a steep decline in human-polar bear
encounters at 2 km (1.2 mi) from shore. Using this data, we divided the
North Slope into the ``coastal zone,'' which includes offshore
operations and up to 2 km (1.2 mi) inland, and the ``inland zone,''
which includes operations more than 2 km (1.2 mi) inland.
Dividing the Year Into Seasons
The Service's LOA database was also used to divide the year into
seasons of high bear activity and low bear activity. Below is a
histogram of all bear encounters from 2014 through 2018 by day of the
year (Julian date). Two clear seasons of polar bear encounters can be
seen: An ``open water season'' that begins in mid-July and ends in mid-
November, and an ``ice season'' that begins in mid-November and ends in
mid-July. The 200th and 315th days of the year were used to delineate
these seasons when calculating encounter rates (figure 3).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.002
North Slope Encounter Rates
Encounter rates in bears/season/km\2\ were calculated using a
subset of the Industry encounter records maintained in the Service's
LOA database. The following formula was used to calculate encounter
rate (Equation 1):
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.003
The subset consisted of encounters in areas that were constantly
occupied year-round to prevent artificially inflating the denominator
of the equation and negatively biasing the encounter rate. To identify
constantly occupied North Slope locations, we gathered data from a
number of sources. We used past LOA applications to find descriptions
of projects that occurred anywhere within 2015-2018 and the final LOA
reports to determine the projects that proceeded as planned and those
that were never completed. Finally, we relied upon the institutional
knowledge of our staff, who have worked with operators and inspected
facilities on the North Slope. To determine the area around industrial
facilities in which a polar bear can be seen and reported, we queried
the LOA database for records that included the distance to an
encountered polar bear. It is important to note that these values may
represent the closest distance a bear came to the observer, or the
distance at initial contact. The histogram of these values shows a drop
in the distance at which a polar bear is encountered at roughly 1,600 m
(1 mi) (figure 4).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.004
Using this information, we buffered the 24-hour occupancy locations
listed above by 1,600 m (1 mi) and calculated an overall search area
for both the coastal and inland zones. The coastal and inland occupancy
buffer shapefiles were then used to select encounter records that were
associated with 24-hour occupancy locations, resulting in the number of
bears encountered per zone. These numbers were then separated into
open-water and ice seasons (table 1).
Table 1--Summary of Encounters Within 1,600 m (1 mi) of the 24-Hour
Occupancy Locations and Subsequent Encounter Rates for Coastal (a) and
Inland (b) Zones
Ice season Open-Water season
Year encounters encounters
(A) Coastal Zone (Area = 133 km\2\)
2014............................ 2................. 193.
2015............................ 8................. 49.
2016............................ 4................. 227.
2017............................ 7................. 313.
2018............................ 13................ 205.
Average......................... 6.8............... 197.4.
Seasonal Encounter Rate......... 0.05 bears/km\2\.. 1.48 bears/km\2\.
(B) Inland Zone (Area = 267 km\2\)
2014............................ 3................. 3.
2015............................ 0................. 0.
2016............................ 0................. 2.
2017............................ 3................. 0.
2018............................ 0................. 2.
Average......................... 1.2............... 1.4.
Seasonal Encounter Rate......... 0.004 bears/km\2\. 0.005 bears/km\2\.
Correction for Increased Bear Density in the Project Area
Distribution patterns of polar bears along the coast of the SBS
were estimated by Wilson et al. (2017) using a Bayesian hierarchical
model based on 14 years of aerial surveys in late summer and early
fall. The model estimated 140 polar bears per week along the coastline
(a measurement that included barrier islands), with the highest density
occurring on Barter Island, which is within the project area. In order
to correct the encounter rates for the higher density of polar bears in
this area, we calculated the proportional relationship between bear
density in the North Slope area and the project area. Wilson et al.
(2017) divided the coastline into 10 equally sized grids. The North
Slope area for which the above encounter rates are calculated falls
within grids 4-7, and the Marsh Creek-East 3D seismic survey project
area falls within grids 8 and 9. Wilson et al. (2017) found 40 percent
of the bears along the coastline were estimated to occur in grids 4-7,
and 40 percent were estimated to occur in grids 8 and 9. When
accounting for the length of coastline in these segments, we found the
number of bears in grids 8 and 9 to be 2.33 times higher than the
number of bears in grids 4-7. We therefore multiplied the North Slope
coastal and inland encounter rates described above by 2.33 during the
open-water and ice seasons.
Level B take rate, or the probability that an encountered bear will
experience either incidental or intentional Level B take, was
calculated using the 2014-2018 dataset from the LOA database. A binary
logistic regression of take regressed upon distance to shore was not
significant (p = 0.65), supporting the use of a single take rate for
both the coastal and inland zones. However, a binary logistic
regression of take regressed upon day of the year was significant. This
significance held when encounters were binned into either ice or open-
water seasons (p<0.0015). We calculated the take rate for each season
separately and found the combined rate of incidental and intentional
Level B take to be 0.28 (i.e., 28 percent of encounters end in take)
during the ice season, and 0.16 during the open-water season.
As noted above, we have calculated a bear density depending on the
distance from shore and season, and a take rate depending on season. In
order to estimate take from the project activities, we must calculate
the area affected by project activities to such a degree that take is
likely. This is sometimes referred to as a zone or area of influence.
Behavioral response rates of polar bears to disturbances are highly
variable, but disturbances within 805 m (0.5 mi) are generally more
likely to cause take by Level B harassment than those at greater
distances. Observational data to support the relationship between
distance to bears and disturbance is limited. During the Service's
coastal aerial surveys, most polar bears that responded in a way that
indicated possible take by Level B harassment (polar bears that were
running when detected or began to run or swim in response to the
aircraft) did so at 760 m (0.47 mi) or less (as measured from the
ninetieth percentile horizontal detection distance from the flight
line). Similarly, Andersen and Aars (2008) found that polar bears began
to walk or run away from approaching snowmobiles at a mean distance of
843 m (0.52 mi). The authors also found females with cubs responded by
walking or running away at a distance of 1.5 km (0.95 mi). Conversely,
Dyck and Baydack (2004) found females showed decreased vigilance in the
presence of vehicles on the tundra. Furthermore, in their summary of
polar bear behavioral response to icebreaking vessels in the Chukchi
Sea, Smultea et al. (2016) found no difference between reactions of
males, females with cubs, or females without cubs. Thus, while further
research into the reaction of polar bears to anthropogenic disturbance
may indicate a greater zone of potential impact is appropriate, the
current literature suggests 805 m (0.5 mi) will likely encompass the
majority of polar bear takes.
We used the spatio-temporally specific encounter rates and
temporally specific take rates derived above, in conjunction with the
spatially and temporally specific project proposal from KIC, to
calculate estimated take. The activities proposed by KIC can be grouped
into three categories: An access route, seismic activity, and summer
cleanup activities. The distribution of personnel and equipment across
the project area is different for each of these categories, thus they
differ slightly. Table 2 provides the definition for each variable used
in the take formulas.
Table 2--Definitions of Variables Used in Take Estimates
d............................ days of impact.
d............................ days in each season (open-water season =
116, ice season = 249).
S............................ proportion of the season an area of
interest is impacted.
B............................ bears encountered in an area of interest
for the entire season.
a............................ coastal exposure area.
a............................ inland exposure area.
r............................ occupancy rate.
e............................ coastal open-water season bear-encounter
rate in bears/season.
e............................ coastal ice season bear-encounter rate in
e............................ inland open-water season bear-encounter
rate in bears/season.
e............................ inland ice season bear-encounter rate in
t............................ ice season take rate.
t............................ open-water season take rate.
B............................ number of estimated Level B takes.
B............................ total bears taken for activity type.
The variables defined above were used in a series of formulas to
ultimately estimate the total take from surface-level interactions.
Encounter rates were originally calculated as bears encountered per
square kilometer per season (see North Slope Encounter Rates above).
Therefore, we calculated the proportion of the season (Sp) that an area
of interest (i.e., a buffered access route, seismic sub-block, or
cleanup area) would be impacted with the following formula (Equation
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.005
The area of impact to non-denning bears from linear (access route)
activities was calculated by buffering the access route by 805 m (0.5
mi) on each side, creating a 1,610-m (1.0-mi) corridor of impact. We
calculated the area of access road impact in both the coastal and
inland zones for each camp movement, as the access road grows in length
with each advance of the camp. To determine the area of impact for the
on-the-ground portion of summer cleanup activities, the maximum size of
a camp (91x122 m; 300x400 ft) was buffered by 1,610 m (1 mi) to account
for personnel venturing outside the immediate camp area to pick up
debris, resulting in a 2.9-km\2\ impact area. KIC will use only one
cleanup crew, thus only 2.9 km\2\ will be impacted at any given time.
The areas of impact were then clipped (a function that retains only
overlapping areas) by coastal and inland zone shapefiles in ArcGIS Pro
to determine the coastal areas of impact (ac) and inland
areas of impact (ai) for each activity category. Impact
areas were multiplied by the appropriate encounter rate to obtain the
number of bears expected to be encountered in the area of interest per
season (Bes). The equation below (Equation 3) provides an example of
the calculation of bears encountered in the ice season for an area of
interest in the coastal zone.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.006
The rate of occupancy (ro) of each operation category
was determined using the description of activities provided by the
applicant. KIC has stated they may use the access road up to once a
day. We have estimated this use will lead to up to 50 percent occupancy
of the access road impact area at any given time. Advance crews
activity was assigned an occupancy rate of ro=0.33, as they
will be present in only one third of the survey block at any given
time. Both the main seismic and summer cleanup activities were assigned
ro=1, as these areas will be impacted constantly. To
generate the number of estimated Level B takes for each area of
interest, we multiplied the number of bears in the area of interest per
season by the proportion of the season the area is occupied, the rate
of occupancy, and the take rate (Equation 4).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.007
The total number of Level B takes for surface-level interactions
was calculated by adding the takes for each activity type (table 3). A
total of one Level B take of polar bears are anticipated from surface-
Table 3--Values for the Variables Defined Above for Each Activity Category
Variable Access road Seismic activity Summer cleanup
di................................... See table 9 for days See table 9 for days 3 days in coastal zone,
per sub-block. per sub-block. 12 days in inland
ds................................... Open water = 116, Ice = Open water = 116, Ice = Open water = 116, Ice =
249. 249. 249.
Sp................................... 0.008-0.012 unique to 0.008-0.012 unique to 0.012 in coastal zone,
date and sub-block. sub-block. 0.10 in inland zone.
Bes.................................. 0.364-23.053 bears 0.32-4.39 bears unique 0.344 bears in coastal
unique to date and sub- to sub-block. zone, 0.033 bears in
block. inland zone.
ac................................... 101-194 km\2\ unique to 7-37 km\2\ unique to 2.9 km\2\.
ai................................... 35-103 km\2\ unique to 16-95 km\2\ unique to 2.9 km\2\.
ro................................... 0.5.................... 0.33 for advance crew.. 1.
1 for main crew........
eco.................................. 3.45 bears/km\2\/season 3.45 bears/km\2\/season 3.45 bears/km\2\/
eci.................................. 0.118 bears/km\2\/ 0.118 bears/km\2\/ 0.118 bears/km\2\/
season. season. season.
eio.................................. 0.0116 bears/km\2\/ 0.0116 bears/km\2\/ 0.0116 bears/km\2\/
season. season. season.
eii.................................. 0.0104 bears/km\2\/ 0.0104 bears/km\2\/ 0.0104 bears/km\2\/
season. season. season.
ti................................... 0.28................... 0.28................... 0.28.
to................................... 0.16................... 0.16................... 0.16.
Bt................................... 0.0004-0.038 bears 0.0002-0.008 bears 0.0005-0.001 bears
unique to sub-block. unique to sub-block. unique to sub-block.
BT................................... 0.70 Level B takes..... 0.25 Level B takes..... 0.0017 Level B takes.
Total Level B takes due to
surface interactions is 1 bear.
Analysis of Aircraft Impact to Surface Bears
Potential Impacts From KIC Aircraft Activities
Behavioral responses can be seen from acute exposure to high sound
levels or from long periods of exposure to lower sound levels.
Prolonged exposure over time can lead to a chronic stress response (see
Level B Harassment) that may inhibit necessary life activities for
polar bears (see Level A Harassment). Both the sound levels and
durations of exposure from KIC's aircraft will depend primarily on a
polar bear's vertical distance from the aircraft. Airborne sound
attenuation rates are affected by characteristics of the atmosphere and
topography, but can be conservatively generalized for line sources
(such as flight lines) over acoustically ``hard'' surfaces like water
(rather than ``soft'' surfaces like snow) by a loss of 3 dB per
doubling of distance from the source. At this attenuation rate, a sound
registering 90 dB directly below a flyover at 91 to 152 m (300 to 500
ft) above sea level (ASL) will attenuate to 80 dB in 1 to 1.5 km (0.6
to 0.9 mi). The same noise level will attenuate to 68 dB within 15 to
24 km (9 to 15 mi).
Sound frequencies produced by KIC's aircraft will likely fall
within the hearing range of polar bears (see Nachtigall et al. 2007)
and will be audible to animals during flyovers. During FAA testing, the
test aircraft produced sound at all frequencies measured (50 Hz to 10
kHz) (Healy 1974; Newman 1979). At frequencies centered at 5 kHz, jets
flying at 300 m (984 ft) produced \1/3\ octave band noise levels of 84
to 124 dB, propeller-driven aircraft produced 75 to 90 dB, and
helicopters produced 60 to 70 dB (Richardson et al. 1995).
Observations of polar bears during fall coastal surveys, which flew
at much lower altitudes than is required of Industry aircraft (see
Estimating Take Rates of Aircraft Activities), indicate that the
reactions of non-denning polar bears is typically varied but limited to
short-term changes in behavior ranging from no reaction to running
away. Larson et al. 2020 has recently determined ``a 20.0 percent
probability (95 percent CI = 05.1 - 34.9) of eliciting increased
vigilance, a 57.4 percent probability (95 percent CI = 38.9 - 75.9) of
initiating rapid movement, and a 22.6 percent probability (95 percent
CI = 06.8 - 38.4) of causing den abandonment'' in polar bears when
exposed to aircraft activity. This finding indicates the potential that
aircraft activities can cause the take of both surface and denning
bears via a biologically significant response. Aircraft activities can
impact bears over all seasons; however, during the summer and fall
seasons, aircraft have the potential to disturb both individuals and
congregations of polar bears. Polar bears are onshore during this time
of year and spend the majority of their time resting and limiting their
movements on land. Exposure to aircraft traffic at this time of year is
expected to result in changes in behavior, such as going from resting
to walking or running, and therefore has the potential to be more
energetically costly compared to other times of year. Mitigation
measures, such as minimum flight elevations over polar bears, habitat
areas of concern, and flight restrictions around known polar bear
habitat will be required to achieve least practicable adverse impact of
the likelihood that polar bears are disturbed by aircraft.
KIC has requested authorization for Level B incidental harassment
of polar bears. Polar bears in the project area will likely be exposed
to the visual and auditory stimulation associated with KIC's flight
plans. If polar bears are disturbed, it may be more likely due to the
airborne noise associated with KIC's take-offs and landings, or
possibly the noise in tandem with the sight of the aircraft during
flight. These impacts are likely to be minimal and not long-lasting to
surface bears. KIC's flights will generate noise that is louder and
recurs more frequently than noise from regular air traffic due to the
survey's particular aircraft and flight pattern, taking off and landing
multiple times per day. Flyovers may cause disruptions in the polar
bear's normal behavioral patterns, thereby resulting in incidental take
by Level B harassment. Sudden changes in direction, elevation, and
movement may also increase the level of noise produced from the
helicopter, especially at lower altitudes. This increased level of
noise could result in a Level B take and adverse behavioral
modifications from polar bears in the area. Mitigation measures, such
as minimum flight elevations over polar bears and restrictions on
sudden changes to helicopter movements and direction, will be required
to reduce the likelihood that polar bears are disturbed by aircraft.
Once mitigated, such disturbances are expected to have no more than
short-term, temporary, and minor impacts on individuals.
Estimating Take Rates of Aircraft Activities
To predict how polar bears will respond to aircraft overflights
North Slope oil and gas work, we first developed a behavioral response
curve to determine various exposure areas at which polar bears may
react to aircraft noise. We then developed an aircraft noise profile
using noise mapping software and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
test values for aircraft noise in A-weighted decibels (dBA). With the
noise profile and exposure distances, we then developed a Level B take
rate response curve to determine the estimated take rate within each
exposure area based on the noise levels of the aircraft.
The behavioral response curve plots the decibel level and distance
at which polar bears exposed to aircraft noise show behavioral
responses that indicate take by Level B harassment. To develop the
behavioral response curve, we examined existing data on the behavioral
responses of polar bears during aircraft surveys conducted by the
Service along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) between August and
October during most years from 2000 to 2014 (Wilson et al. 2017, Atwood
et al. 2015, and Schliebe et al. 2008). Behavioral responses due to
sight and sound of the aircraft have both been incorporated into this
analysis as there was no ability to differentiate between the two
response sources during aircraft survey observations. Aircraft types
used for surveys during the study included a fixed-wing Aero-Commander
from 2000 to 2004, an R-44 helicopter from 2012 to 2014, and an A-Star
helicopter for a portion of the 2013 surveys. During surveys, all
aircraft flew at an altitude of approximately 90 m (295 ft), and at a
speed of 150 to 205 km per hour (km/h) or 93 to 127 mi per hour (mi/h).
Reactions indicating possible take by Level B harassment were recorded
when a polar bear was observed running from the aircraft or began to
run or swim in response to the aircraft. Of 951 polar bears observed
during coastal aerial surveys, 162 showed these reactions, indicating
that the percentage of Level B take during these low-altitude coastal
survey flights was 17 percent.
Detailed data on the behavioral responses of polar bears to the
aircraft were available for only the flights conducted between 2000 and
2004 (n = 581). The Aero Commander 690, also known as the Turbo
Commander, was used during this period. The horizontal detection
distance from the flight line was recorded for 108 polar bears that
reacted by running or swimming away from aircraft, indicating a Level B
harassment. Using these data, we parameterized a logistic function to
predict distances at which bears responded (R\2\ = 0.99; Equation 5).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.008
Accordingly, the approximate sum of the declining response rates
from the center of the flight line to 400 m (0.25 mi) was 0.87 and to
800 m (0.5 mi) was 0.92. This calculation indicates that the majority
(92 percent) of polar bears with responses to aircraft indicating take
by Level B harassment responded within 800 m, whereas 8 percent of
Level B take occurred beyond that (1 - 0.92 = 0.08) (figure 5). The
response distances (400 m [0.25 mi], 800 m [0.5 mi], and 2,000 m [1.2
mi]) were then combined with the sound produced by the aircraft, based
on altitude, to determine the level of noise at which polar bears are
likely to exhibit a behavioral response.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.009
The intensity of response within each exposure area will be
affected by the altitude and aircraft type. To predict how polar bears
might respond to different levels of noise within each exposure area,
we evaluated the sound levels at the source that were generated during
the coastal surveys using the Aero Commander. Sound waves propagate as
a sphere and follow the ``inverse square law'' of attenuation. A
general rule is that the level reduces by 6 dB per doubling of
distance. The source sound levels of the Aero Commander were back-
calculated from the FAA test values based on this generalized modelling
approach. Specifically, we used noise mapping software by MAS
Environmental, Ltd. (2020), to generate a geometric spreading loss
model with attenuation by atmospheric absorption according to
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9613-2 methodology
Parameters for estimating the source sound pressure levels include
the received sound levels, frequency distribution of aircraft sound,
and atmospheric conditions. The received sound pressure level for the
Aero Commander 690 flying at an altitude of 305 m (1,000 ft) and
maximum continuous power (approximately 525 km/hr or 326 m/hr [Twin
Commander Aircraft]) was 76.4 dBA measured at ground level (FAA 2012).
The Aero Commander's noise levels have also been measured during a
gliding flight path at 152.4 m (500 ft) altitude and airspeeds up to
324 km/hr (201 mi/hr), during which the aircraft produced a maximum of
75.4 dB (Healy 1974).
Frequency distribution of broadband aircraft sound was generalized
from figure 2 in Bajdek et al. (2016). Environmental parameters were
based on average Prudhoe Bay weather conditions (Thorsen 2020) of -
11[deg]C, 82 percent humidity, and a ``ground factor'' of 0 for hard
ground, ice, and water. Based on these parameters, the source levels of
the Aero Commander were estimated to be 132.5 dB during the test
flights conducted by the FAA.
The noise levels that would have been received by polar bears on
the ground surface during the USFWS/USGS coastal surveys were then
estimated using the same geometric spreading loss model for attenuation
at a flight altitude of 90 m (295 ft). The model outputs indicated that
polar bears under the center of the flight line were likely to have
been exposed to approximately 80.4 dBA, while those at 400 m (0.25 mi)
from the centerline were likely exposed to approximately 65.3 dBA
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.010
Model outputs incorporated A-weighting. A-weighting reduces the
decibel levels perceived outside of the best hearing range of human
beings and was applied herein as a conservative reduction of decibel
levels for polar bears due to the high degree of overlap in the
frequency ranges of hearing (figure 7).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.011
Aircraft flight for the oil and gas Industry on the North Slope
seldom occur at cruising altitudes less than 152.4 m (500 ft). But, the
estimated rate of Level B take at less than 152.4 m (500 ft) was
assumed to be appropriate for takeoffs and landings. The sound source
levels of the Aero commander and corresponding behavioral response
rates at various distances from the center line of flight path were
used to inform the spatiotemporally explicit Level B take rate response
curve (figure 8). We were then able to apply this take rate response
curve to noise profiles calculated for other types of aircraft. For
winter and summer activities, we used the De Havilland DH6-300 Twin
Otter and noise tests conducted for this aircraft by the FAA (2012).
Although the Bell 206 is planned to be used during summer operations,
there was a lack of information to inform the sound propagation model.
We do know, however, that the estimated dBA at 400 ft above ground
level for the Bell 206 is less than what is estimated for the Twin
Otter (82.4 dBA [NPS 2007] and 89.7 dBA respectively). Therefore, there
is likely a slight overestimation of take in regards to summer
activities. Decibel levels from flights at various altitudes were
estimated using the geometric spreading model, and the resulting take
rate was predicted from the response curve (table 4).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.012
The sound level at which all polar bears would respond was set to
132.5 dBA based on thresholds identified for possible hearing damage
due to sound exposure for proxy marine mammal species identified by
Kastak et al. (2007), Southall (2019), and Finneran (2015).
Table 4--Rate of Level B Take by Exposure Type (Altitude and Distance From Center of Flight Line) and Activities for Which These Rates Apply.
Level B response
Up to (m) Max estimated SPL Up to (m) rate for the
Aircraft altitude in the zone (dBA) distance from distance category Applicable to
Twin Otter..................................... 90 95.2 0-399 68.6 Takeoffs/landings (<300 ft)
Twin Otter..................................... 90 79.1 400-799 14.1 Takeoffs/landings (<300 ft)
Twin Otter..................................... 90 71.5 800-2,000 3.8 Takeoffs/landings (<300 ft)
Twin Otter..................................... 152.4 89.7 0-399 48.7 Flights 500-1,000 ft
Twin Otter..................................... 152.4 78.6 400-799 13.1 Flights 500-1,000 ft
Twin Otter..................................... 152.4 71.3 800-2,000 3.7 Flights 500-1,000 ft
Twin Otter..................................... 457 82.3 0-399 22.2 Flights 1,000-1,500 ft
Twin Otter..................................... 457 76.8 400-799 9.8 Flights 1,000-1,500 ft
Twin Otter..................................... 457 70.7 800-2,000 3.3 Flights 1,000-1,500 ft
General Approach to Estimating Take for Aircraft Activities
Aircraft information was determined using details provided in the
application, including flight paths, flight take-offs and landings,
altitudes, and aircraft type. We marked the approximate flight path
start and stop points using ArcGIS Pro (version 2.4.3), and the paths
For winter activities, we started the flight paths at the Deadhorse
airport and ended them at the centroid of each sub-block using a
frequency of 3 flights per week totaling approximately 62 flights
during the winter season. A portion of this flight path lies within the
authorization area for the 2016-2021 Beaufort Sea ITR and was excluded
from this analysis. For summer cleanup activities, we started flight
paths at Barter Island Airport and extended one flight path
approximately 160 km (~99 mi) into the coastal zone, extended one
flight path approximately 160 km (~99 mi) into the inland zone, and
added an additional flight path in the inland zone to serve as the
basis for inland tundra landing analysis. Because Barter Island Airport
is within the coastal zone, we did not have to draw a separate tundra
landing path to analyze coastal landings. These flight paths were
analyzed based on the coastal portion of summer cleanup activities
occurring prior to July 19th and lasting for 3 days before moving
inland for the remaining 12 days occurring after July 19th. A total of
32 tundra landings per day were also included in the analysis.
Flight segments flown at lower altitudes were estimated to have
greater impact on encountered polar bears due to higher received sound
levels. For example, received sound levels are higher from aircraft
flying at 91 m (300 ft) than at 305 m (1,000 ft). To account for this,
once the flight paths were generated, flights were broken up into
segments for landing, take-off, and traveling. For winter activities,
the take-off area and a portion of the travel segment of the flight
path resides within the area covered by the 2016-2021 Beaufort Sea ITR
and is excluded from KIC's IHA request and this analysis. ``Landing''
and ``take-off'' areas were marked along the flight paths at each end
point to designate low-altitude areas. The ``traveling area'' is
considered the point in which an aircraft is likely to be at its
maximum altitude (altitudes of 152.4 m (500 ft) up to 457 m (1,500 ft)
depending on the aircraft activity). The distance considered the
``landing'' area is based on approximately 4.83 km (3 mi) per 305 m
(1,000 ft) of altitude descent speed. For all flight paths at or
exceeding an altitude of 152.4 m (500 ft), the ``take-off'' area was
marked as 2.41 km (1.5 mi) based on flight logs found through
FlightAware, which noted that ascent to maximum flight altitude took
approximately half the time of the average descent. We then applied
exposure areas along the flight paths (see section Estimating Take
Rates of Aircraft Activities). These areas consisted of 0-399 m (0.25
mi), 400-799 m (0.50 mi), and 800-2,000 m (1.2 mi) distances from the
center of the flight path.
After these exposure areas were determined, we differentiated the
coastal and inland zones. The coastal zone was the area offshore and
within 2 km (1.2 mi) of the coastline (see section Spatially
Partitioning the North Slope into ``coastal'' and ``inland'' zones),
and the inland zone is anything greater than 2 km (1.2 mi) from the
coastline. We calculated the areas in square kilometers for each
exposure area within the coastal zone and the inland zone for all take-
offs, landings, and traveling areas (with the exception of winter
aircraft activities authorized through an LOA and excluded from KIC's
request). For flights that involve an inland and a coastal airstrip, we
considered landings to occur at airstrips within the coastal zone, such
as Barter Island. Seasonal encounter rates developed for both the
coastal and inland zones (see section Search Effort Buffer) were
applied to the appropriate segments of each flight path.
Surface encounter rates are calculated based on the number of bears
per season (see section Search Effort Buffer). To apply these rates to
aircraft activities, we needed to calculate a proportion of the season
in which aircraft were flown. However, the assumption involved in using
a seasonal proportion is that the area is impacted for an entire day
(i.e., for 24 hours). Therefore, in order to prevent estimating impacts
along the flight path over periods of time where aircraft are not
present, we calculated a proportion of the day the area will be
impacted by aircraft activities for each season (table 5).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.013
The number of times each flight path was flown (i.e., flight
frequency) was determined from the application. We used the description
combined with the approximate number of weeks and months within the
open-water season and the ice season to determine the total number of
flights per season for each year ([florin]). We then used flight
frequency and number of days per season (ds) to calculate the seasonal
proportion of flights (Sp; Equation 6).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.014
After we determined the seasonal proportion of flights, we
estimated the amount of time an aircraft would be impacting the
landing/take-off areas within a day (tLT). Assuming an aircraft is not
landing at the same time another is taking off from the same airstrip,
we estimated the amount of time an aircraft would be present within the
landing or take-off zone would be tLT = 10 minutes. We then calculated
how many minutes within a day an aircraft would be impacting an area
and divided by the number of minutes within a 24-hour period (1,440
minutes). This determined the proportion of the day in which a landing/
take-off area is impacted by an aircraft for each season
(Dp(LT); Equation 7).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.015
To estimate the amount of time an aircraft would be impacting the
travel areas (, we calculated the minimum amount of time it would take
for an aircraft to travel the maximum exposure area at any given time,
4 km (2.49 mi). We made this estimate using average aircraft speeds at
altitudes less than 305 m (1,000 ft) to account for slower flights at
lower altitudes, such as summer cleanup activities, and determined it
would take approximately 2 minutes. We then determined how many 4-km
(2.49-mi) segments are present along each traveling path (x). We
determined the total number of minutes an aircraft would be impacting
any 4-km (2.49-mi) segment along the travel area in a day and divided
by the number of minutes in a 24-hour period. This calculation
determined the proportion of the day in which an aircraft would impact
an area while traveling during each season
(Dp(TR); Equation 8).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.016
We then used an aircraft noise profile and the parametric
behavioral response curve (see section Estimating Take Rates of
Aircraft Activities) to determine the appropriate take rate in each
exposure area (up to 400 m [0.25 mi], 800 m [0.5 mi], and 2,000 m [1.2
mi] from the center of the flight line; see Estimating Take Rates of
Aircraft Activities). The take rate areas were then calculated
separately for the landing and take-off areas along each flight path as
well as the traveling area for flights with altitudes at or exceeding
152.4 m (500 ft).
To estimate number of polar bears taken due to aircraft activities,
we first calculated the number of bears encountered (Bes) for the
landing/take off and traveling sections using both coastal
(eci or co) and inland (eii or io) encounter
rates within the coastal (ac) and inland (ai) exposure areas (Equation
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.017
Using the calculated number of coastal and inland bears encountered
for each season, we applied the daily seasonal proportion for both
landings/take-offs and traveling areas to determine the daily number of
bears impacted due to aircraft activities (Bi). We then applied the
appropriate aircraft take rates (ta) associated with each
exposure area at the altitude intervals of <91.4 m (<300 ft; take-offs
and landings), 152.4 m (500 ft) to 305 m (1,000 ft), and 305 m (1,000
ft) to 457 m (1,500 ft) (see section Estimating Take Rates of Aircraft
Activities) resulting in a number of bears taken during each season
(Bt; Equation 10). Take associated with AIR surveys were analyzed
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.018
Analysis Approach for Estimating Take During Aerial Infrared Surveys
Typically during every ice season Industry conducts polar bear
surveys using AIR. These surveys are not conducted along specific
flight paths and generally overlap previously flown areas within the
same trip. The altitudes for these surveys can also vary. Given the
above, the take estimates for surface bears during AIR surveys were
analyzed using a different methodology.
Rather than estimate potential flight paths, we used the provided
survey blocks to serve as a basis for our flight areas. We then
estimated the area of each block that was within the coastal and inland
zones. We accounted for three survey trips consisting of approximately
7 days each, and calculated the daily proportion of the ice season in
which AIR surveys were impacting the direct area (see General Approach
to Estimating Take for Aircraft Activities). Using the seasonal bear
encounter rates for the appropriate zones multiplied by the proportion
of the day the areas were impacted for the season AIR surveys were
flown, we determined the number of bears encountered. Because the
altitude is variable (ranging from 152.4 m [500 ft]--305 m [1,000 ft]
or greater), we calculated a constant take rate based on the Twin
Otter's noise profile. We averaged take rates associated with three
categorical exposure areas measured as the perpendicular distance to
the center of the flight line at ground level. The exposure areas were
0-399 m (0-0.25 mi), 400-799 m (0.25-0.5 mi), and 800-2,000 m (0.5-1.2
mi) for altitudes of 152.4 m (500 ft)--305 m (1,000 ft). We then
applied this take rate to the number of bears encountered per zone to
determine number of bears taken for the project's duration.
Estimated Take From Aircraft Activities
Using the approach described in General Approach to Estimating Take
for Aircraft Activities and Analysis Approach for Estimating Take
during Aerial Infrared Surveys, we were able to estimate the total
number of bears taken by the aircraft activities during the KIC project
Marsh Creek East 3D seismic project (table 6).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.019
Analysis of Impact to Denning Bears
To assess the likelihood and degree of exposure and predict
probable responses of denning polar bears to activities proposed in the
application, we characterized, evaluated, and prioritized a series of
definitions and rules in a predictive model. We used information from
published sources as well as information submitted to the Service by
the Industry on denning chronology, behavior, and cub survival (i.e.,
case studies). We considered all available scientific and observational
data on polar bear denning behavior and effects of disturbance to that
In the models discussed below, we define the following terms: (1)
Exposure means any human activity within 1,610 m (1 mi) of a polar bear
or active den. In the case of aircraft, an overflight within 1,500 feet
(0.3 mi) above ground level; (2) Discrete exposure means an exposure
that occurs only once; (3) Repeated exposure means an exposure that
occurs more than once; and (4) Response probability means the
probability that an exposure resulted in a response by denning polar
bears. Additionally, we applied the following rules to our review of
the case studies:
(1) Any exposure that did not result in a Level A or lethal take
could result in a Level B harassment take. Consequently, multiple
exposures could result in multiple Level B harassment takes.
(2) If dates of exposure were not explicit in a case study and the
type of exposure could be daily (e.g., the den was located within 1,610
m (1 mi) of an ice road versus exposed to an aerial den survey), we
assumed exposures occurred daily.
(3) In the event of an exposure that resulted in a disturbance to
denning bears, take was assigned for each bear
(i.e., female and each cub) associated with that den.
(4) In the absence of additional information, we assumed dens did
not contain cubs prior to December 1, but did contain cubs on or after
(5) If an exposure occurred and the female subsequently abandoned
her den after cubs were born (i.e., after December 1), we assigned a
lethal take for each cub.
(6) If an exposure occurred during the early denning period and
bears emerged from the den before cubs reached 60 days of age, we
assigned a lethal take for each cub. In the absence of information
about cub age, den emergences that occurred between December 1 and
February 15 were considered to be early emergences and resulted in a
lethal take of each cub.
(7) If an exposure occurred during the late denning period and
bears emerged from the den after cubs reached 60 days of age but before
their intended (i.e., undisturbed) emergence date, we assigned a
serious injury (i.e., an injury likely to result in mortality) Level A
harassment take for each cub. In the absence of information about cub
age and intended emergence date (which was known only for simulated
dens), den emergences that occurred between (and including) February 16
and March 14 were considered to be early emergences and resulted in a
serious injury Level A harassment take of each cub. If a den emergence
occurred after March 14 but was clearly linked to an exposure, we
considered the emergence to be early and resulted in a serious injury
Level A harassment take of each cub.
(8) For dens where emergence was not classified as early, if an
exposure occurred during the post-emergence period and bears departed
the den site prior to their intended (i.e., undisturbed) departure
date, we assigned a non-serious Level A harassment take for each cub.
In the absence of information about the intended departure date (which
was known only for simulated dens), den site departures that occurred
<9 days after the emergence date were considered to be early departures
and resulted in a non-serious Level A harassment take of each cub.
Lethal take of cubs could occur if a female abandoned them at the den
site even after they spent >=9 days at the den post-emergence.
We used details from 85 disturbance events from 56 polar bear dens
to generate probabilities for model outcomes (table 7). Below, we
provide definitions for terms used in this analysis category, a general
overview of each denning stage, and the rules established for the
Table 7--Probability That a Discrete or Repeated Exposure Elicited a Response by Denning Polar Bears That Would
Result in Level B, Level A, or Lethal Take. Level B Take was Applicable to Both Adults and Cubs, if Present;
Level A and Lethal Take Were Applicable to Cubs Only and Were not Possible During the Den Establishment Period,
Which Ended With the Birth of Cubs. Probabilities Were Calculated From the Analysis of 56 Case Studies of Polar
Bear Responses to Human Activity.
Exposure type Period Level B Level A Lethal
Discrete.............................. Den Establishment....... 0.667 NA NA
Early Denning........... NA NA 0.000
Late Denning............ 0.091 0.909 0.000
Post-emergence.......... 0.000 0.600 0.400
Repeated.............................. Den Establishment....... 0.000 NA NA
Early Denning........... 0.000 NA 0.222
Late Denning............ 0.650 0.200 0.050
Post-emergence.......... 0.250 0.625 0.125
We further define the following exposure categories for
clarification based on polar bear response: (1) No response indicates a
physiological and/or behavioral reaction by a polar bear to an exposure
that is so minor that it may be discounted as having no effect; (2) A
likely physiological response would be indicated by an alteration in
the normal physiological function of a polar bear (e.g., elevated heart
rate or stress hormone levels) that is typically unobservable, but is
likely to occur in response to an exposure; and (3) An observed
behavioral response is when changes in behavior are observed in
response to an exposure. Changes can be minor or significant. For
example, a resting bear raising its head and sniffing the air in
response to a vehicle driving along a road is a minor behavioral
response to exposure to vehicle activity. If a female nursing cubs-of-
the-year stops nursing and runs away from a flying aircraft, that
activity would constitute a significant behavioral response to the
Defining the terms used to describe the timing for the den
emergence period as well as the den entry period was a relevant
consideration within the models: (1) The entrance date was considered
the date that a female bear first enters a maternal den after
excavation is complete; (2) The emergence is the time where a maternal
den is first opened and a bear is exposed directly to external
conditions; and (3) The departure date is typically the date when the
bears leave the den site to return to the sea ice. If a bear leaves the
den site after a disturbance but later returns, we considered the
initial movement to be the departure date. Although a bear may exit the
den completely at emergence, we considered even partial-body exits
(e.g., only a bear's head protruding above the surface of the snow) to
represent emergence in order to maintain consistency with dates derived
from temperature sensors on collared bears (e.g., Rode et al. 2018).
For dens located near regularly occurring human activity, we considered
the first day a bear was observed near a den to be the emergence date.
Several denning stages were also considered in the models, which
might impact the outcome: (1) The den establishment period was
considered the period of time between the start of maternal den
excavation and the birth of the cubs. Unless evidence indicates
otherwise, all dens that are excavated by adult females in the fall or
winter are presumed to be maternal dens. In the absence of other
information, this period is defined as denning activity prior to
December 1. (2) The early denning period was considered the period of
time from the birth of the cubs until the point where they reach 60
days of age and are capable of surviving outside the den. In the
absence of other information, this period is defined as any denning
activity occurring between
December 1 and February 13. (3) The late denning stage was determined
to be the period of time between when cubs reach 60 days of age and den
emergence. In the absence of other information, this period of time was
defined as any denning activity occurring between February 14 and den
emergence. (4) The post-emergence period was determined to be the
period of time between den emergence and den site departure.
The negative outcomes of disturbance were categorized as follows:
(1) Cub abandonment: Occurs when a female leaves all or part of her
litter, either in the den or on the surface, at any stage of the
denning process. We classified events where a female left her cubs but
later returned (or was returned by humans) as cub abandonment. (2)
Early departure: Departure of the denning female with her cubs from the
den site post-emergence that occurs as the result of an exposure. (3)
Early emergence: Den emergence that occurs as the result of an
``Den Establishment'' occurs in autumn between den excavation and
birth of cub(s). Mating takes place in the spring (March-May) (Ramsay
and Stirling 1986; L[oslash]n[oslash] 1970). Implantation is delayed
until September to November (L[oslash]n[oslash] 1972; Deroche et al.,
1992), and timing of implantation likely depends on female body
condition, as is the case for other Ursids (Robbins et al. 2012).
Gestation is probably around 60 days, as suggested by Tsubota et al.
(1987) for brown bears, and cubs are born in early to mid-winter
(Ramsay and Stirling 1988). Pregnant female polar bears begin scouting
for, excavating, and occupying a den near the time of implantation. For
polar bears of the SBS, the den establishment phase extends between
October and December. Durner et al. (2001) and Amstrup (2003)
documented den excavation activities throughout this time. Data from
USGS (2018) and Rode et al. (2018) found no significant difference in
den entrance dates between SBS and CBS populations, and estimated a
mean den entrance date of November 15 1.9 days (n = 215).
In the case studies, the beginning of the den establishment period
was variable and based on the behavior of the bear being observed
(i.e., constructing a den). November 30th was selected as the end of
the den establishment period, and December 1 as the beginning of the
``Early Denning'' phase unless the observed behavior of the bear
indicated it was still in the den establishment phase. These dates
correlate well with available information on timing of denning and
parturition. Curry et al. (2015) found the mean and median birth dates
for captive polar bears in the Northern Hemisphere were both November
29. Messier et al. (1994) estimated, based on activity level of females
in maternity dens, that by December 15 most births already had occurred
among polar bears of the Canadian Arctic archipelago.
Much of what is known of the effects of disturbance during early
denning comes from studies of polar bears captured in the autumn.
Capture is a severe form of disturbance and is not typical of
disturbance that is likely to occur during oil and gas activities, but
bear responses to capture events provide some information that can help
inform our understanding of how polar bears respond to disturbance.
Ramsay and Stirling (1986) reported that 10 of 13 pregnant female polar
bears that were captured and collared at dens in October or November
abandoned their existing dens. The polar bears instead moved a median
distance of 24.5 km, excavated, and occupied new dens within a day or
two after their release. The remaining 3 polar bears reentered their
initial dens or different dens <2 km from their initial den soon after
being released. Amstrup (1993, 2003) documented in Alaska a similar
response and reported 5 polar bears that abandoned den sites following
human disturbances during autumn and subsequently denned elsewhere.
The observed high rate of den abandonment during autumn capture
efforts suggests that polar bears have a low tolerance threshold for
intense disturbance during den initiation and are willing to expend
energy to avoid further disturbance. During the den establishment
period, the female is scouting for, excavating, and occupying a den
while pregnant. A disturbance during den establishment may cost the
female polar bear energy and fat reserves. While denning, female Ursids
do not eat or drink, instead relying solely on body fat (Nelson et al.
1983; Spady et al. 2007). Female body condition during denning affects
the size of cubs at emergence from the den, and larger cubs have better
survival rates (Derocher and Stirling 1996; Robbins et al. 2012).
Therefore, disturbances that cause additional energy expenditures in
fall could have latent effects on cubs in spring.
During any disturbance event, a polar bear must expend energy that
would otherwise be invested in denning. Abandoning a den site requires
energy to travel and excavate a new den, and polar bears, subject to
capture and release, were willing to expend this energy in addition to
the energy required for recovery from capture. Among Ursids, recovery
from capture and immobilization requires from 3 days to 6 weeks (Cattet
et al. 2008; Thiemann et al. 2013; Rode et al. 2014).
The available research does not conclusively demonstrate whether
capture or den abandonment during den initiation is consequential for
survival and reproduction. Ramsay and Stirling (1986) reported that
captures of females did not significantly affect numbers and mean
weights of cubs, but the overall mean litter size and weights of cubs
of previously handled mothers consistently tended to be slightly lower
than those of mothers not previously handled. Amstrup (1993) could see
no significant effect of handling on cub weight, litter size, or
survival. Seal et al. (1970) reported no loss of pregnancy among
captive Ursids following repeated chemical immobilization and handling.
However, Lunn et al. (2004) concluded that handling and observations of
pregnant female polar bears in the autumn resulted in significantly
lighter female, but not male, cubs in spring. Swenson et al. (1997)
found that female grizzly bears (U. arctos horribilis) that abandoned a
den site lost cubs significantly more often than those that did not.
Polar bears may be willing to abandon a den site during den
initiation because the pregnant female has less investment in a den
site at this time than at later stages, and she may be able to re-den
with fewer consequences than at later times during denning (Amstrup
1993). Amstrup (1993) and Lunn et al. (2004) supported the hypotheses
that, after giving birth, females are likely to be more invested in the
denning process and less likely to abandon a den site.
Den establishment is influenced by environmental variables, which
suggests that polar bears may be able to tolerate low-level disruptions
to the den establishment process. Environmental variables affecting
Ursid den establishment include the number and timing of snowfall
events (Zedrosser et al. 2006; Evans et al. 2016; Pigeon et al. 2016),
accumulation of snowpack (Amstrup and Gardner 1994; Durner et al. 2003,
2006), temperature (Rode et al. 2018), and timing of sea ice freeze-up
(Webster et al. 2014). Environmental variability across the polar
bear's range results in a high degree of variability in den initiation
dates among subpopulations (see summary data in Escajeda et al. 2018).
For example, Ferguson et al. (2000) observed females entering their
dens on eastern Baffin Island in the 1990s considerably earlier than
reported by Harington (1968) for polar bears in the 1960s. This
that polar bears are able to accommodate a wide variety of influences
during den initiation if a minimum total denning duration can be
Although additional energy expenditures from disturbance would be
compounded by natural food restriction during denning, we have
determined that, before giving birth, females will be able to
accommodate the effects of a low-level disturbance without experiencing
injury or a reduction in likelihood of her or her cub's survival. This
conclusion is based on evidence that den initiation is influenced by a
variety of factors, and polar bears appear to tolerate many of these
influences without experiencing lethal or Level A effects on denning
success. Energy reserves are biologically significant for denning polar
bears. Therefore, a polar bear will experience Level B take if it
responds to anthropogenic exposures by devoting energetic resources or
sufficient time to behaviors that disrupt the progression of normal
We defined early denning as the period of time from the birth of
cubs until they are capable of surviving outside of the den. In the
absence of other information, this period is defined as any denning
activity that occurs between December 1 and February 13 when cubs are
on average presumed to be 60 days old (Messier et al. 1994).
Although cubs grow quickly and may weigh 10-12 kg upon emergence
from the den in the spring, sufficient time (>=2 months) is needed
prior to den emergence for adequate development (Harington 1968,
L[oslash]n[oslash] 1970, Amstrup 1993, Amstrup and Gardner 1994, Smith
et al. 2007, Rode et al. 2018). Polar bear cubs are among the most
undeveloped mammals at birth (Ramsay and Dunbrack 1986). Altricial,
newborn polar bears have little fur, are blind, and weigh ~0.6 kg (Blix
and Lentfer 1979). At birth, cubs have limited fat reserves and thin
natal fur, which provides little thermoregulatory value (Blix and
Lentfer 1979, Kenny and Bickel 2005). However, roughly 2 weeks after
birth their ability to thermoregulate begins to improve as they grow
longer guard hairs and an undercoat (Kenny and Bickel 2005). As
development continues, cubs first open their eyes at an average age of
35 days (Kenny and Bickel 2005). At 60-70 days of age, cubs achieve
sufficient musculoskeletal development to walk (Kenny and Bickel 2005);
however, movements may still be clumsy at this time (Harington 1968).
Based on the abovementioned developmental milestones, we define the
minimum amount of time required in the den prior to emergence to be 60
days; longer denning periods have been found to increase cub survival
probabilities (Rode et al. 2018).
Currently no studies have directly examined birth dates of polar
bear cubs in the wild; however, several studies have estimated
parturition based on indirect metrics. Messier et al. (1994) found that
the activity levels of radio-collared females dropped significantly in
mid-December, leading the authors to conclude that a majority of births
occurred before or around December 15.
Additionally, Van de Velde et al. (2003) evaluated information from
historic records of bears legally harvested in dens. Their findings
suggest that cubs were born between early December and early January.
Based on the cumulative evidence presented in these studies, we assume
that the average birth date of polar bear cubs is December 15; however,
births could occur as early as December 1 or as late as January 15.
Therefore, we defined the early denning period as the time when it was
first possible to have cubs in the den (December 1) until 60 days after
the average birth date (February 13). Due to the variability of birth
dates, we selected December 15 as the most appropriate metric for this
analysis given most cubs are born around mid-December (Messier et al.
Given that cubs are largely undeveloped during early denning (i.e.,
unable to thermoregulate, see, or walk), den abandonment and early den
departure due to disturbance are both assumed to result in lethal take
We defined late denning as the time period from when cubs reach 60
days of age until the date of natural emergence from the den (i.e.,
emergence without disturbance). In a study of marked polar bears in the
CBS and SBS subpopulations, Rode et al. (2018) report all females that
denned through the end of March had >=1 cub when re-sighted <=100 days
after den emergence. Conversely, roughly half of the females that
emerged from dens before the end of February did not produce cubs or
had cubs that did not survive to emergence, suggesting that later den
emergence may result in a greater likelihood of cub survival (Rode et
al. 2018). Date of emergence was also identified as the most important
variable determining cub survival (Rode et al. 2018). For land denning
bears in the SBS, the median emergence date was March 15 (Rode et al.
2018, USGS 2018).
Any disturbance to denning bears is costly as the amount of time
females spend in dens has been found to influence reproductive success
(i.e., cub production and survival) (Elowe and Dodge 1989, Amstrup and
Gardner 1994, Rode et al. 2018). If a female leaves a den (with or
without the cubs) prematurely, decreased cub survival is likely
(Linnell et al. 2000) for reasons including, for example,
susceptibility to cold temperatures (Blix and Lentfer 1979, Hansson and
Thomassen 1983, Van de Velde et al. 2003) or predation (Derocher and
Wiig 1999) and mobility limitations (Frame et al. 2007, Habib and Kumar
2007, Tablado and Jenni 2017). While den abandonment is the most
extreme response to disturbance, lower level responses including
increased heart rate (Craighead et al. 1976, Laske et al. 2011) or
increased body temperature (Reynolds et al. 1986) can result in
significant energy expenditure (Karpovich et al. 2009, Geiser 2013,
Evans et al. 2016).
We divided the period of time polar bears spend in dens into two
phases: Early denning and late denning. The late denning phase differs
from the early denning phase in that the cubs are more developed, e.g.,
they are larger in size, able to see and walk, and have grown some fur
for insulation. While any disturbance to cubs while within a den is
considered detrimental, we distinguished between these two phases
because the cubs of females disturbed in the late denning phase may
survive, whereas cub survival is highly unlikely if a den is disturbed
in the early phase and the female abandons the den. In the absence of
other information, late denning is defined as any denning activity
occurring between February 14 and median den emergence (March 15).
While exact birth date of wild polar bears cubs is unknown, most births
are estimated to occur between early December and late January (Blix
and Lentfer 1979, Messier at al. 1994, Van de Velde et al. 2003). For
our purposes, we assumed the average cub birth date is December 15
(Messier et al. 1994).
During the late denning period there were five possible outcomes to
disturbance: Cub abandonment, early emergence, behavioral response,
likely physiological response, or insufficient information.
This denning stage is defined as the period of time after the
female polar bear first emerges from her den up to her final departure
from the den site. Polar bears are known to remain at or near den sites
for up to 30 days after emergence before heading out to the sea
ice (Harington 1968, Jonkel et al. 1972, Kolenosky and Prevett 1980,
Hansson and Thomassen 1983, Ovsyanikov 1998, Robinson 2014). Behaviors
observed when outside the den include: Walking short distances away
from the den, foraging on vegetation, digging, rolling, grooming,
nursing, playing, sitting, standing, and repeatedly reentering the den
(Harington 1968, Jonkel et al. 1972, Hansson and Thomassen 1983,
Ovsyanikov 1998, Smith et al. 2007, 2013). While mothers outside the
den spend most of their time inactive, cubs tend to be more active
(Robinson 2014). These behaviors likely reflect the need for an
adjustment period that allows for improving cub mass and strength and
their acclimation to the harsh environmental conditions that will be
encountered once they depart for the sea ice (Harington 1968, Lentfer
and Hensel 1980, Hansson and Thomassen 1983, Messier et al. 1994).
Departure from the den site before this adjustment period may hinder a
cub's ability to travel (Ovsyanikov 1998), thereby increasing the
chances for cub abandonment (Haroldson et al. 2002) or susceptibility
to predation (Derocher and Wiig 1999, Amstrup et al. 2006).
While considerable variation exists in the duration of time that
bears spend at dens post-emergence, it remains unclear whether a
minimum or maximum number of days is required to prevent negative
consequences to cub survival. For 25 dens observed in the Beaufort Sea
region from 2002 through 2010, a mean post-emergence duration of 8.3
days was noted (see table 1 in Smith et al. 2007, table 1 in Smith et
al. 2010, table 1.1 in Robinson 2014). Therefore, in the absence of
information on the intended departure date (which was known only for
simulated dens), we considered a ``normal'' duration at the den site
between first emergence and departure to be >=8 days and classified
departures that occurred post emergence ``early'' if they occurred <9
days after emergence. If the adult female left the den site (with or
without cubs) after a disturbance but later returned, we considered the
initial movement to be the departure date.
During review of the case studies, early departures during post
emergence were classified as a non-serious level A harassment for each
cub, and a Level B take (potential to disturb) for the adult female. We
classified these instances as non-serious Level A harassment because
cubs were at an age where they could effectively thermoregulate and
keep up with their mother as they headed towards the sea ice. We
acknowledge, however, that there must be some survival consequence for
cubs to stay at the den site for a period of time given that the adult
female's long fasting period should lead her to want to reach sea ice
to begin hunting as soon as possible. Thus, an early departure from the
den site could have potential survival consequences for cubs. However,
if following exposure the female left without her cubs, we classified
this as ``cub abandonment,'' which is assigned a lethal take for each
cub and Level B take for the adult female.
Post-emergent departure information was not used to assess
disturbances when an incident(s) resulted in an early emergence during
the late (or early) denning period; rather, the final outcomes from
these incidents were classified as ``early emergence,'' in keeping with
the decision criteria to use the most severe outcome when an incident
has more than one outcome classification (e.g., early emergence and
Methods for Modeling the Effects of Den Disturbance
We simulated dens across the Coastal Plain of the Refuge on areas
identified as denning habitat (Durner et al. 2006). To simulate dens on
the landscape, we relied on the estimated number of dens in the Coastal
Plain provided by Atwood et al. (2020). The mean estimated number of
dens in the Coastal Plain was 14 dens (95 percent CI: 5-30; Atwood et
al. 2020). For each iteration of the model (described below), we drew a
random sample from a gamma distribution for the number of dens in the
Refuge based on the above parameter estimates, which allowed
uncertainty in the number of dens in each area to be perpetuated
through the modeling process. Specifically, we used the method of
moments (Hobbs and Hooten 2015) to develop the shape and rate
parameters and modeled the number of dens in the Coastal Plain as Gamma
Because not all areas in the Coastal Plain are equally used for
denning, and some areas do not contain the requisite topographic
attributes required for sufficient snow accumulation for den
excavation, we did not simply randomly place dens on the landscape.
Instead, we followed a similar approach to that used by Wilson and
Durner (2020). For each iteration of the model, we randomly distributed
dens across areas within the focal area identified as denning habitat
(Durner et al. 2006), with the probability of a den occurring at a
given location being proportional to the density of dens predicted by a
kernel density map (figure 9). The kernel density map was developed by
using known den locations in northern Alaska identified either by GPS-
collared bears or through systematic surveys for denning bears (Durner
et al. 2020). To approximate the distribution of dens we used a scaled
adaptive kernel density estimator applied to n observed den locations,
which took the form
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.020
where the adaptive bandwidth h(s) = ([beta]0 +
[egr]M)I(s[egr]M))[beta]2z(s) for the location of the ith
den and each location in the study area. An east-west gradient scaled
the density and bandwidth to account for lower sampling effort in
western areas, and the indicator functions allowed the bandwidth to
vary abruptly between the mainland M and barrier islands. The kernel k
was the Gaussian kernel, and the parameters [thetas],
[beta]0,[beta]1, [beta]2, were chosen
so that the density estimate approximated the observed density of dens
and our understanding of likely den locations in areas with low
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.021
BILLING CODE 4333-15-C
For each simulated den, we assigned dates of key denning events:
Den entrance, birth of cubs, when cubs reached 60 days of age, den
emergence, and departure from the den site after emergence. These
events represent the chronology of each den under undisturbed
conditions. We selected the entrance date for each den from a normal
distribution parameterized by entrance dates of radio-collared bears in
the SBS subpopulation that denned on land included in Rode et al.
(2018) and published in USGS (2018; n = 52, mean = November 11, SD = 18
days); we truncated this distribution to ensure that all simulated
dates occurred within the range of observed values (i.e., September 12
to December 22) +/- 1 week. We selected a date of birth for each litter
from a normal distribution of mean of 348 (i.e., corresponding to the
ordinal date for December 15) and standard deviation of 10. The mean
corresponds to the date around when most cubs are thought to be born
(Messier et al. 1994), and a standard deviation of 10 was used because
it allowed the tails of the normal distribution to occur at
approximately the earliest (December 1) and latest (January 15) dates
expected for cubs to be born (Messier et al. 1994, Van de Velde et al.
To ensure that birth dates remained within the range of December 1
to January 15, we restricted draws from the normal distribution to
occur within this range. We selected the emergence date as a random
draw from an asymmetric Laplace distribution with parameters [mu] =
81.0, [sigma] = 4.79, and p = 0.79 estimated from the empirical
emergence dates in Rode et al. (2018) and published in USGS (2018, n =
52) of radio-collared bears in the SBS subpopulation that denned on
land using the mleALD function from package `ald' (Galarza and Lachos
2018) in program R (R Core Development Team 2019, 2020). We constrained
simulated emergence dates to occur within the range of observed
emergence dates (Jan 9 to Apr 9) +/- 1 week and not to occur prior to
cubs reaching an age of 60 days. Finally, we assigned the number of
days each family group spent at the den site post-emergence based on
values reported in three behavioral studies, Smith et al. (2007, 2013)
and Robinson (2014), which monitored dens near the target area
immediately after emergence (n = 25 dens).
Specifically, we used the mean (8.3) and SD (5.6) of the dens
monitored in these studies to parameterize a gamma distribution using
the method of moments (Hobbs and Hooten 2015) with a shape parameter
equal to 8.3\2\/5.6\2\ and a rate parameter equal to 8.3/5.6\2\; we
selected a post-emergence, pre-departure time for each den from this
distribution. Additionally, we assigned each den a litter size by
drawing the number of cubs from a multinomial distribution with
probabilities derived from litter sizes (n = 25 litters) reported in
Smith et al. (2007, 2010, 2013) and Robinson (2014). Because there is
some probability that a female naturally emerges with 0 cubs, we also
wanted to ensure this scenario was captured. It is difficult to
parameterize the probability of litter size equal to 0 because it is
rarely observed. We therefore assumed that dens in the USGS (2018)
dataset had denning durations less than the shortest den duration where
a female was later observed with cubs (i.e., 79 days). There were only
3 bears in the USGS (2018) data that met this criteria, leading to an
assumed probability of a litter size of 0 at emergence being 0.07. We
therefore assigned the probability of 0, 1, 2, or 3 cubs as 0.07, 0.15,
0.71, and 0.07, respectively.
The model developed by Wilson and Durner (2020) provides a template
for estimating the level of potential impact to denning polar bears
from proposed activities while also considering the natural denning
ecology of polar bears in the region. The approach developed by Wilson
and Durner (2020) also allows for the incorporation of uncertainty in
both the metric associated with denning bears and in the timing and
spatial patterns of proposed activities when precise information on
those activities is unavailable. Below we describe how the model was
applied based on information provided in the request.
The application from KIC indicates that winter seismic surveys will
occur over an area of approximately 1,430 km\2\ in the central portion
of the Coastal
Plain (figure 9). The seismic acquisition area is broken into 21 sub-
blocks that are assigned specific dates before which the model assumes
no activity will occur (figure 9) and which will require 2-3 days from
which to acquire seismic data. KIC requested obtaining incidental take
authorization for starting at the northwestern sub-block and then
moving through the rest of the sub-blocks in a clockwise manner.
Access to the seismic acquisition blocks will occur along a land-
based route beginning near the northwestern corner of the Refuge and
reaching the northwestern corner of the northwestern-most sub-block
(figure 9). The route can deviate up to 250 m south and 500 m north of
the proposed route. This does not imply that the entire area can be
used to access the survey area, but rather the linear access route can
occur anywhere within that region.
The application states that crews will first enter the Refuge along
the access route on January 26, 2021, and have continuous activity
along the access route until the end of the acquisition period (May 15,
2021). Crews are proposed to arrive at the seismic blocks on February
1, 2021, and begin activities associated with seismic acquisition.
Crews would then move sequentially through the sub-blocks according to
the number of days required to fully survey the sub-block as indicated
in the application. The results of this analysis rely on the access
route not being used prior to January 26 and having crews enter the
acquisition area no earlier than February 1.
Aerial Infrared Surveys
The application indicates that three complete aerial infrared (AIR)
surveys of denning habitat along the access route and seismic blocks
will occur prior to activity commencing in those areas. For the
analysis, we assumed that independent aerial infrared surveys occurred
on January 21, 23, and 25, 2021. However, surveys could occur as late
as February 13, 2021, without affecting take estimates, as long as they
occurred prior to activity commencing in an area.
We applied the same approach as Wilson and Durner (2020) to
simulate if a den was detected during an AIR survey, including the
assumption that dens with snow depths >100 cm would be unavailable for
detection by AIR (Amstrup et al. 2004, Robinson 2014). For those dens
that were detected during a simulated AIR survey, we assumed effective
mitigation measures would be put in place to avoid further disturbance
to the den until after bears emerged from and departed the den (i.e., a
1,610-m buffer around dens where activity is prohibited). We also
assumed that dens would not be run over given the condition in the
application restricting driving over embankments, when possible, and
using vehicle-based infrared sensors to survey areas where vehicles
will intersect denning habitat.
For each iteration of the model, we first determined which
(undetected) dens were exposed to activity associated with the access
route and seismic operations inside the Refuge. We assumed that any den
within 1.61 km (1 mi) of infrastructure or human activities was exposed
(MacGillivray et al. 2003, Larson et al. 2020), excluding those
detected during AIR surveys. We then identified the stage in the
denning cycle when the exposure occurred based on the date range of the
activities to which the den was exposed: Early denning (i.e., birth of
cubs until they are 60 days old), late denning (i.e., date cubs are 60
days old until den emergence), and post-emergence (i.e., the date of
den emergence until permanent departure from the den site). We then
determined whether the exposure elicited a response by the denning bear
based on probabilities derived from the reviewed case studies (table
7). Level B take was applicable to both adults and cubs, if present,
whereas Level A and lethal take were only applicable to cubs.
For dens exposed to activities associated with seismic surveys, we
applied a multinomial distribution with the probabilities of different
levels of take for that period associated with continuous activity
(table 7). If the probabilities summed to <1, the remainder was
assigned to a no-response class. After a Level A or lethal take was
simulated to occur, a den was not allowed to be disturbed again during
the subsequent denning periods because the outcome of that denning
event was already determined.
The level of take associated with a disturbance varied according to
the severity and timing of the exposure (table 7). Exposures that
resulted in abandonment of cubs (during late denning or post-emergence)
or emergence from dens prior to cubs reaching 60 days of age were
considered lethal takes of cubs. If a disturbance resulted in den
emergence prior to the date assigned to the den in the absence of
disturbance, the level of take was considered serious Level A. If a
post-emergence exposure resulted in bears leaving the den site prior to
the non-exposure departure date, the outcome was classified as a non-
serious Level A take for each cub. Adult females also received Level B
takes for any disturbance that resulted in Level B takes for cubs. Cubs
could similarly be applied a Level B take during the late denning and
post-emergence time periods if only a behavioral response was simulated
to have occurred.
We developed the code to run this model in program R (R Core
Development Team 2020) and ran 10,000 iterations of the model (i.e.,
Monte Carlo simulation) to derive the estimated number of dens
disturbed and associated levels of take for starting at the
northwestern block and moving clockwise (figure 9).
We estimated an average of 2.74 (95 percent CI: 0-7, median=2)
land-based dens in the area of proposed activity. For seismic surveys,
starting in the northwestern block (figure 9), we estimated a mean of
1.26 (95 percent CI: 0-8, median=0) Level B takes would occur. We
estimated a mean of 0.45 (95 percent CI: 0-3, median=0) serious Level A
or Lethal takes during the proposed project, with a probability of >=1
Serious Level A or Lethal take occurring during the project being 0.21.
Sum of Take From All Sources
The applicant will conduct seismic work over the entire project
area within one winter season. A summary of total numbers of estimated
take via Level B harassment during the duration of the project by
season and take category is provided in table 8. The potential for
lethal or Level A take was explored and estimated to be 0.45 lethal or
Level A takes of polar bears.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN08DE20.022
In order to conduct this analysis and estimate the potential amount
of Level B take, several critical assumptions were made.
Level B take by harassment is equated herein with behavioral
responses that indicate harassment or disturbance. There are likely to
be a proportion of animals that respond in ways that indicate some
level of disturbance but do not experience significant biological
consequences. A correction factor was not applied, although we
considered using the rate of Level B take reported by Service
biologists during polar bear surveys conducted between 2008 and 2015
(below 0.01 percent; USFWS and USGS, unpublished data). In 2016, the
Service applied such a correction factor when analyzing behavioral
responses in polar bears; however, we have not included this correction
factor in our current analysis. Consequently, the reported rate of take
prior to 2016 may not represent the current definition; therefore, it
was not deemed appropriate for use in determining the ratio of
behavioral response to Level B take. The analysis' lack of a correction
factor may result in overestimation of take.
Our estimates do not account for variable responses by age and sex;
however, sensitivity of denning bears was incorporated into the
analysis. The available information suggests that polar bears are
generally resilient to low levels of disturbance. Females with
dependent young and juvenile polar bears are physiologically the most
sensitive (Andersen and Aars 2008) and most likely to experience take
from disturbance. There is not enough information on composition of the
SBS polar bear population in the KIC survey area to incorporate
individual variability based on age and sex or to predict its influence
on take estimates. Our estimates are derived from a variety of sample
populations with various age and sex structures, and we assume the
exposed population will have a similar composition and therefore the
response rates are applicable.
The estimates of behavioral response presented here do not account
for the individual movements of animals away from the KIC survey area
or habituation of animals to the survey noise. Our assessment assumes
animals remain stationary; i.e., density does not change. There is not
enough information about the movement of polar bears in response to
specific disturbances to refine this assumption. This situation could
result in overestimation of take; however, we cannot account for take
resulting from a polar bear moving into less preferred habitat due to
Potential Impacts on the Polar Bear Stock
The KIC project is predicted to result in up to 3 Level B takes of
polar bears in 8 months and 10 days (table 8). The most recent
population size estimate for the SBS stock was approximately 907 polar
bears in 2010 (Bromaghin et al. 2015, Atwood et al. 2020). The greatest
proportion of the stock that may experience Level B harassment in a
given year during KIC's activities is 0.33 percent ((3/907)x100 =
Denning polar bears encountered during KIC's winter activities may
be in a sensitive physiological state or may be less tolerant of
disturbance, resulting in a heightened stress response. Nutrient-
deprived females or dependent young that are disturbed during or
shortly after denning may take longer to recover and could remain
sensitive to additional environmental stressors for some time after the
encounter. Up to eight denning females may be present in the project
area during the course of KIC's proposed work (see Analysis of Impact
to Denning Bears, Model Results). The number of adult females in the
SBS stock is estimated at 316 based on Bromaghin et al. (2015) and
Atwood et al. (2020). The proportion denning in the project area might
therefore constitute up to 2.5 percent of the breeding stock.
Noise levels are not expected to reach levels capable of causing
harm. Animals in the area are neither expected to incur hearing
impairment (i.e., Temporary Threshold Shift or Permanent Threshold
Shift), nor level A harassment. Aircraft noise may cause behavioral
disturbances (i.e., Level B harassment). Polar bears exposed to sound
produced by the project are likely to respond with temporary behavioral
modification or displacement. With the adoption of the measures
proposed in KIC's mitigation and monitoring plan and required by this
proposed IHA, we conclude that the only anticipated effects from noise
generated by the proposed project would be the short-term temporary
behavioral alteration of polar bears.
Animals that encounter the proposed activities may exert more
energy than they would otherwise due to temporary cessation of feeding,
increased vigilance, and retreat from the project area, but we expect
that most would tolerate this exertion without measurable effects on
health or reproduction. In sum, we do not anticipate injuries or
mortalities to result from KIC's operation, and none will be
authorized. The takes that are anticipated would be from short-term
Level B harassment in the form of startling reactions or temporary
Potential Impacts on Subsistence Uses
The proposed activities will occur near marine subsistence harvest
areas used by Alaska Natives from the village of Kaktovik. From 2008 to
2017, 16 polar bears were reported harvested for subsistence use in and
around Kaktovik, the majority of which were taken within 16 km (10 mi)
of Kaktovik. Harvest occurs year-round, but peaks in September, with
about 60 percent of the total taken during this month. October and
November are also high harvest months.
The proposed project has the potential to disrupt subsistence
activities if activities occur after the beginning of August near
Kaktovik; however, KIC has proposed to conduct helicopter-based cleanup
activities prior to the main subsistence hunting season. If activities
were to be delayed, the applicant's activities may disrupt hunter
access, displace polar bears, and polar bears may be more vigilant
during periods of disturbance, which could affect hunting success
rates. Additionally, KIC's aircraft may temporarily displace polar
bears, resulting in changes to availability of polar bears for
subsistence use during the project period. Through implementation of
the Plan of Cooperation (POC), and spatial temporal planning, impacts
to subsistence hunting are not anticipated.
While KIC's activities may have a temporary effect on polar bear
distribution, it will not alter the ability of Alaska Native residents
of Kaktovik to harvest polar bears in the long term. KIC will
coordinate with Alaska Native villages and Tribal organizations to
identify and avoid the potential short-term conflicts. KIC has
developed a POC specifying the particular steps that will be taken to
minimize any effects the project might have on subsistence harvest. The
POC is available online at https://www.regulations.gov and may be
requested as described under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. The POC
also describes KIC's intentions for stakeholder engagement and for
communicating information to oversight agencies. These measures are
likely to reduce potential conflicts and to facilitate continued
communication between KIC and subsistence users of polar bears,
ensuring availability of the species at a level sufficient for harvest
to meet subsistence needs.
The proposed project will be completed by August 2021 and therefore
avoids significant overlap with peak polar bear subsistence harvest
months. KIC's activities will not preclude access to hunting areas or
interfere in any way with individuals wishing to hunt.
For small numbers analyses, the statute and legislative history do
not expressly require a specific type of numerical analysis, leaving
the determination of ``small'' to the agency's discretion. In this
case, we propose a finding that the KIC project may result in
approximately 3 takes by harassment of polar bears from the SBS stock.
This figure represents about 0.33 percent of the stock (USFWS 2010,
Bromaghin et al. 2015, Atwood et al. 2020) ((3/907)x100[ap]0.33). Based
on these numbers, we propose a finding that the KIC project will take
only a small number of animals.
We propose a finding that any incidental take by harassment
resulting from the proposed project cannot be reasonably expected to,
and is not reasonably likely to adversely affect the SBS stock of polar
bears through effects on annual rates of recruitment or survival. The
proposed project would therefore have no more than a negligible impact
on the stock. In making this finding, we considered the best available
scientific information, including: the biological and behavioral
characteristics of the species, the most recent information on species
distribution and abundance within the area of the specified activities,
the potential sources of disturbance caused by the project, and the
potential responses of animals to this disturbance. In addition, we
reviewed material supplied by the applicant, other operators in Alaska,
our files and datasets, published reference materials, and consulted
Polar bears are likely to respond to proposed activities with
temporary behavioral modification or displacement. These reactions are
unlikely to have consequences for the health, reproduction, or survival
of affected animals. Sound production is not expected to reach levels
capable of causing harm, and Level A harassment is not expected to
occur. Most animals will respond to disturbance by moving away from the
source, which may cause temporary interruptions of foraging, resting,
or other natural behaviors. Affected animals are expected to resume
normal behaviors soon after exposure, with no lasting consequences.
Some animals may exhibit more severe responses typical of Level B
harassment, such as fleeing or ceasing feeding. These responses could
have significant biological impacts for a few affected individuals, but
most animals will also tolerate this type of disturbance without
lasting effects. Thus, although the KIC project may result in
approximately 3 takes by Level B harassment of polar bears from the SBS
stock, we do not expect this type of harassment to affect annual rates
of recruitment or survival or result in adverse effects on the species
Our proposed finding of negligible impact applies to incidental
take associated with the proposed activities as mitigated by the
avoidance and minimization measures identified in KIC's mitigation and
monitoring plan and in this authorization. These mitigation measures
are designed to minimize interactions with and impacts to polar bears.
These measures, and the monitoring and reporting procedures, are
required for the validity of our finding and are a necessary component
of the IHA. For these reasons, we propose a finding that the 2021 KIC
project will have no more than a negligible impact on polar bears.
Impact on Subsistence
We propose a finding that the anticipated harassment caused by
KIC's activities would not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the
availability of polar bears for taking for subsistence uses. In making
this finding, we considered the timing and location of the proposed
activities and the timing and location of polar bear subsistence
harvest activities in the area of the proposed project. We also
considered the applicant's consultation with subsistence communities,
proposed measures for avoiding impacts to subsistence harvest, and
development of a POC, should any adverse impacts be identified. Further
information on impacts to subsistence can be found in Potential Impacts
on Subsistence Uses.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
We have prepared a draft environmental assessment in accordance
with the NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). We have preliminarily concluded
that authorizing the nonlethal, incidental, unintentional take of up to
three polar bears from the SBS stock by Level B harassment in Alaska
during activities conducted by KIC and its subcontractors in 2021 would
not significantly affect the quality of the human environment, and that
the preparation of an environmental impact statement for this
incidental take authorization is not required by section 102(2) of NEPA
or its implementing regulations. We are accepting comments on the draft
environmental assessment as specified above in DATES and ADDRESSES.
Endangered Species Act
Under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)), all Federal agencies are
required to ensure the actions they authorize are not likely to
jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered
species or result in destruction or adverse modification of critical
habitat. Prior to issuance of this
IHA, the Service will complete intra-Service consultation under section
7 of the ESA on our proposed issuance of an IHA. These evaluations and
findings will be made available on the Service's website at https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/report/biological-opinion and added to Docket No. FWS-
R7-ES-2020-0129 at regulations.gov when completed.
It is our responsibility to communicate and work directly on a
Government-to-Government basis with federally recognized Alaska Native
Tribes and organizations in developing programs for healthy ecosystems.
We seek their full and meaningful participation in evaluating and
addressing conservation concerns for protected species. It is our goal
to remain sensitive to Alaska Native culture, and to make information
available to Alaska Natives. Our efforts are guided by the following
policies and directives: (1) The Native American Policy of the Service
(January 20, 2016); (2) the Alaska Native Relations Policy (currently
in draft form); (3) Executive Order 13175 (January 9, 2000); (4)
Department of the Interior Secretarial Orders 3206 (June 5, 1997), 3225
(January 19, 2001), 3317 (December 1, 2011), and 3342 (October 21,
2016); (5) the Alaska Government-to-Government Policy (a departmental
memorandum issued January 18, 2001); and (6) the Department of the
Interior's policies on consultation with Alaska Native Tribes and
We have evaluated possible effects of the proposed activities on
federally recognized Alaska Native Tribes and organizations. Through
the IHA process identified in the MMPA, the applicant has presented a
communication process, including a POC, with the Native organizations
and communities most likely to be affected by their work. KIC has
engaged these groups in informational meetings.
We invite continued discussion, either about the project and its
impacts, or about our coordination and information exchange throughout
the IHA/POC process. The Service will contact Tribal organizations in
Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, and Arctic Village, as well as relevant ANSCA
corporations, to inform them of the availability of this proposed
authorization and offer them the opportunity to consult.
We propose to authorize the nonlethal take by Level B harassment of
three animals from the Beaufort Sea stock of polar bears. Authorized
take will be limited to disruption of behavioral patterns that may be
caused by aircraft overflights, seismic surveys, and support activities
conducted by KIC in the 1002 area of the Refuge, from January to
September 30, 2021. We anticipate no take by injury or death to polar
bears resulting from these activities.
A. General Conditions for Issuance of the Proposed IHA
(1) Activities must be conducted in the manner described in the
request for an IHA and in accordance with all applicable conditions and
mitigations measures. The taking of polar bears whenever the required
conditions, mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures are not
fully implemented as required by the IHA will be prohibited. Failure to
follow measures specified may result in the modification, suspension,
or revocation of the IHA.
(2) If project activities cause unauthorized take (i.e., take of
more than three polar bears or take of one or more polar bear through
methods not described in the IHA), KIC must take the following actions:
(i) Cease its activities immediately (or reduce activities to the
minimum level necessary to maintain safety); (ii) report the details of
the incident to the Service within 48 hours; and (iii) suspend further
activities until the Service has reviewed the circumstances and
determined whether additional mitigation measures are necessary to
avoid further unauthorized taking.
(3) All operations managers, vehicle operators, and aircraft pilots
must receive a copy of the IHA and maintain access to it for reference
at all times during project work. These personnel must understand, be
fully aware of, and be capable of implementing the conditions of the
IHA at all times during project work.
(4) The IHA will apply to activities associated with the proposed
project as described in this document and in KIC's amended application.
Changes to the proposed project without prior authorization may
invalidate the IHA.
(5) KIC's IHA application will be approved and fully incorporated
into the IHA, unless exceptions are specifically noted herein or in the
final IHA. The application includes:
KIC's original request for an IHA, dated August 17, 2020
The letters requesting additional information, dated
August 30, 2020, September 4, 2020, and October 26, 2020;
KIC's responses to requests for additional information
from the Service, dated September 1, 9, and 14, 2020, and October 27,
The letters requesting an amendment to the original
application, dated August 30, 2020, and October 23, 2020;
Updated applications from KIC, dated October 24 and 28,
The Polar Bear Avoidance and Interaction Plan (Appendix A
in KIC 2020);
The Plan of Cooperation (Appendix B in KIC 2020).
(6) Operators will allow Service personnel or the Service's
designated representative to visit project work sites to monitor
impacts to polar bears and subsistence uses of polar bears at any time
throughout project activities so long as it is safe to do so.
``Operators'' are all personnel operating under KIC's authority,
including all contractors and subcontractors.
B. Avoidance and Minimization
KIC must implement the following policies and procedures to avoid
interactions with and minimize to the greatest extent practicable any
adverse impacts on polar bears, their habitat, and the availability of
these marine mammals for subsistence uses.
(a) General avoidance measures.
(1) Avoidance and minimization policies and procedures shall
include temporal or spatial activity restrictions in response to the
presence of polar bears engaged in a biologically significant activity
(e.g., resting, feeding, denning, or nursing, among others). Dates of
access to survey sub-blocks are detailed in table 9, below.
Table 9--Dates of Earliest Entry and Locations of Sub-Blocks \1\. Geographic Coordinates (X, Y, Datum WGS 1984 Alaska Polar Stereographic) and Earliest
Possible Access Dates Are Shown for Sub-Blocks Within Each Block of KIC's Seismic Survey in the Coastal Plain
Number of days Northwest corner Northeast corner Southwest corner Southeast corner
Sub-block No. Date of earliest access in block (X, Y) m (X, Y) m (X, Y) m (X, Y) m
Mobilization..................... 26 January 2020............ 6 See Figure 1 for designated access route to survey area
1.1.............................. 1 February 2021............ 2 2223374-225114 2228717-221397 2224397-235331 2229482-235046
1.2.............................. 3 February 2021............ 3 2228717-221397 2233761-219327 2229482-235046 2234629-234756
1.3.............................. 6 February 2021............ 3 2233761-219327 2238136-216352 2234629-234756 2239158-234501
1.4.............................. 9 February 2021............ 3 2239158-234501 2242370-214588 2239158-234501 2243481-234257
1.5.............................. 12 February 2021........... 3 2242370-214588 2246042-213443 2243481-234257 2247187-234047
1.6.............................. 15 February 2021........... 3 2246042-213443 2249447-211741 2247187-234047 2250687-233849
1.7.............................. 18 February 2021........... 3 2249447-211741 2253010-212947 2250687-233849 2254187-233650
1.8.............................. 21 February 2021........... 3 2253010-212947 2256907-212795 2254187-233650 2258099-233427
1.9.............................. 24 February 2021........... 3 2256907-212795 2259678-210417 2258099-233427 2261603-244174
1.10............................. 27 February 2021........... 3 2259678-210417 2262159-210463 2261603-244174 2264074-244033
1.11............................. 1 March 2021............... 3 2262159-210463 2264925-211912 2264074-244033 2266751-243881
1.12............................. 4 March 2021............... 3 2264925-211912 2267701-213530 2266751-243881 2269428-243728
1.13............................. 7 March 2021............... 3 2267701-213530 2270898-215289 2269428-243728 2272517-243551
1.14............................. 10 March 2021.............. 3 2270898-215289 2274285-216733 2272517-243551 2275811-243362
1.15............................. 13 March 2021.............. 2 2274285-216733 2275966-217272 2275811-243362 2277459-243267
2.1.............................. 15 March 2021.............. 3 2275966-217272 2279558-218691 2277459-243267 2280960-243066
2.2.............................. 18 March 2021.............. 2 2279558-218691 2281556-219294 2280960-243066 2282918-242953
3.1.............................. 20 March 2021.............. 3 2276598-235467 2282467-235129 2277556-252164 2283429-251826
3.2.............................. 23 March 2021.............. 3 2270627-235809 2276598-235467 2271583-252506 2277556-252164
3.3.............................. 26 March 2021.............. 3 2264657-236150 2270627-235809 2265610-252848 2271583-252506
3.4.............................. 29 March 2021.............. 3 2259611-236438 2264657-236150 2260561-253136 2265610-252848
1 The sub-blocks are formed by straight-line connections following this order: southwest, southeast, northeast, and northwest, except where borders of
sub-blocks follow the coastline. In these instances, the sub-block boundaries roughly follow the coastline, including barrier islands where present.
(2) KIC must cooperate with the Service and other designated
Federal, State, and local agencies to monitor and mitigate the impacts
of their activities on polar bears.
(3) Trained and qualified personnel must be designated to monitor
for the presence of polar bears, initiate mitigation measures, and
monitor, record, and report the effects of the proposed activities on
polar bears. KIC must provide polar bear awareness training to all
personnel with the Service playing a major role in delivering this
(4) An approved polar bear safety, awareness, and interaction plan
must be on file with the Service MMM and available onsite. The
interaction plan must include:
(i) A description of the activity (i.e., a summary of the plan of
(ii) A food, waste, and other attractants management plan;
(iii) Personnel training policies, procedures, and materials;
(iv) Site-specific polar bear interaction risk evaluation and
(v) Polar bear avoidance and encounter procedures; and
(vi) Polar bear observation and reporting procedures.
(5) KIC must contact affected subsistence communities and hunter
organizations to discuss potential conflicts caused by the activities
and provide the Service documentation of communications as described in
(D) Measures to Reduce Impacts to Subsistence Users.
(b) Mitigation measures for onshore activities. KIC must undertake
the following activities to limit disturbance around known polar bear
(1) Attempt to locate polar bear dens. Prior to carrying out
activities in known or suspected polar bear denning habitat during the
denning season (November to April), KIC must make efforts to locate
occupied polar bear dens within and near areas of operation, utilizing
appropriate tools, such as AIR cameras and vehicle-mounted FLIR, among
others. All observed or suspected polar bear dens must be reported to
the Service prior to the initiation of activities. ``Suitable denning
habitat'' is defined as terrain with features of slope greater than or
equal to 16 degrees, and of height greater than or equal to 1.3 m (4.3
(i) Prior to the start of project activities, and no earlier than
January 1 (or date of issuance of the IHA, whichever is later), and no
later than February 13, three AIR polar bear den detection surveys will
be conducted. Each survey must cover the entire project area. Exact
dates will be determined by weather such that the surveys are conducted
during the best practicable atmospheric and surface snow conditions.
(A) Surveys will be conducted during darkness or civil twilight and
not during daylight hours. Flight crews will record and report
environmental parameters including air temperature, dew point, wind
speed and direction, cloud ceiling, and percent humidity, and a flight
log will be provided to the Service within 48 hours of the flight.
(B) An experienced scientist will be on board the survey aircraft
to analyze the AIR data in real-time. The data (infrared video) will be
available for viewing by the Service immediately upon return of the
survey aircraft to the base of operations in Deadhorse, Alaska. Data
will be transmitted electronically to the Service in Anchorage for
(C) If a suspected den site is located, KIC will immediately
consult with the Service to analyze the data and determine if
additional surveys or mitigation measures are required. All located
dens will be subject to the 1.6-km (1.0-mi) exclusion zone as described
in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
(ii) Vehicle-mounted and hand-held infrared radar units will be
used to locate polar bear dens when personnel or vehicles are advancing
along the transit corridor or entering new terrain within the seismic
survey area. If a suspected den site is located, KIC will immediately
consult with the Service to analyze the data and determine if
additional surveys or mitigation measures are required. All located
will be subject to the 1.6 km (1.0 mi) setback buffer as described in
paragraph (b)(4) of this section.
(2) Construction or use of transit routes cannot deviate more than
250 m south or 500 m north of the centerline of the routes shown in
figure 1 in Methods for Modeling the Effects of Den Disturbance.
Deviations beyond these limits invalidate the assumptions of the
analyses, and resulting take estimates, and would invalidate this
authorization. All identified mitigation measures will be applied. If
the infrared surveys cannot be completed as described, work in that
area will not proceed.
(3) Where suitable denning habitat, as defined in paragraph (5) of
this section, is identified, KIC will plot survey lines such that a
100-m (330-ft) exclusion buffer exists on either side of the survey
midline. Ramp areas or transits across rivers occurring in suitable
denning habitat will be cleared with hand-held or truck-mounted FLIR
prior to movement. Crossings will also take place at the lowest
possible relief points. Coordinates for crossings will be installed in
all navigation systems to ensure that drivers use plotted crossings.
(4) Avoid the exclusion zone around known polar bear dens.
Operators must avoid a 1.6-km (1.0-mi) operational exclusion zone
around all known polar bear dens during the denning season (November to
April, or until the female and cubs leave the area). Should previously
unknown occupied dens be discovered within 1.6 km (1.0 mi) of
activities, work must immediately cease and the Service contacted for
guidance. All personnel and vehicles are to be moved beyond 1.6 km (1.0
mi) from the den. The Service will evaluate these instances on a case-
by-case basis to determine the appropriate action. Potential actions
may range from cessation or modification of work to conducting
additional monitoring; KIC must comply with any additional measures
(5) Use the den habitat map developed by the USGS. A map of
potential coastal polar bear denning habitat can be found at: https://alaska.usgs.gov/products/data.php?dataid=201. This measure ensures that
the location of potential polar bear dens is considered when conducting
activities in the Coastal Plain. A 100-m (330-ft) buffer will be placed
on each side of defined denning critical habitat (16[deg] slope and
height of 1.6 m [5.2 ft]). The critical habitat will be entered into
the navigation system that allows each vehicle to display the Program
Area, hazards, and avoidance areas.
(c) Mitigation measures for aircraft.
(1) Operators of support aircraft should, at all times, conduct
their activities at the maximum distance possible from polar bears.
(2) Aircraft must not operate at an altitude lower than 457 m
(1,500 ft) within 805 m (0.5 mi) of polar bears observed on ice, land,
or in water. Helicopters may not hover, circle, or land within this
distance. When weather conditions do not allow a 457-m (1,500-ft)
flying altitude, such as during severe storms or when cloud cover is
low, aircraft may be operated below this altitude for the minimum
duration necessary to maintain safety.
(3) Aircraft operators must not fly directly over or within 805 m
(0.5 mile) of areas of known polar bear concentrations on Barter
Island, Bernard Spit, and Jago Spit between September 1 and October 31
except along standard approach and departure routes to or from the
Kaktovik airport during arrivals and departures.
(4) Aircraft routes must be planned to minimize any potential
conflict with active or anticipated polar bear hunting activity as
determined through community consultations.
(5) KIC must not land in the Barter Island, Bernard Spit, Jago
Spit, and Arey Island complex (other than at the Kaktovik airport) from
September 7 to 30.
(6) Aircraft will not land within 805 m (0.5 mi) of a polar
(7) If a polar bear is observed while the aircraft is grounded,
personnel will board the aircraft and leave the area. The pilot will
also avoid flying over the polar bear.
(8) Aircrafts should avoid performing any evasive and sudden
maneuvers, especially when traveling at lower altitudes. The Service
recommends that if a bear is spotted within the landing zone or work
area, aircraft operators travel away from the site, and slowly increase
altitude to 1,500 ft or a level that is safest and viable given current
(9) Aircraft may not be operated in such a way as to separate
members of a group of polar bears from other members of the group.
(1) Implement the Service-approved polar bear avoidance and
interaction plan to monitor the project's effects on polar bears and
subsistence uses and to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation
(2) Provide trained, qualified, and Service-approved onsite
observers to carry out monitoring and mitigation activities identified
in the polar bear avoidance and interaction plan, with the Service
playing a major role in delivering this training to all personnel.
(3) Cooperate with the Service and other designated Federal, State,
and local agencies to monitor the impacts of project activities on
polar bears. Where information is insufficient to evaluate the
potential effects of activities on polar bears and the subsistence use
of this species, KIC may be required to participate in joint monitoring
efforts to address these information needs and ensure the least
practicable impact to this resource.
(4) Allow Service personnel or the Service's designated
representative to visit project work sites to monitor impacts to polar
bears and subsistence use at any time throughout project activities so
long as it is safe to do so.
D. Measures for Subsistence Use of Polar Bears
KIC must conduct its activities in a manner that, to the greatest
extent practicable, minimizes adverse impacts on the availability of
polar bears for subsistence uses.
(1) KIC will conduct community consultation as specified in (D)
Measures to Reduce Impacts to Subsistence Users.
(2) KIC has provided a Service-approved POC as described in (D)
Measures to Reduce Impacts to Subsistence Users.
Prior to conducting the work, KIC will take the following steps to
reduce potential effects on subsistence harvest of polar bears: (i)
Avoid work in areas of known polar bear subsistence harvest; (ii)
discuss the planned activities with subsistence stakeholders including
the North Slope Borough (NSB), the Native Village of Kaktovik, the City
of Kaktovik, subsistence users in Kaktovik, community members of
Kaktovik, the State of Alaska, the Service, the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), and other interested parties on a Federal, State, and
local regulatory level; (iii) identify and work to resolve concerns of
stakeholders regarding the project's effects on subsistence hunting of
polar bears; (iv) if any unresolved or ongoing concerns remain, modify
the POC in consultation with the Service and subsistence stakeholders
to address these concerns; and (v) develop mitigation measures that
will reduce impacts to subsistence users and their resources.
E. Reporting Requirements
KIC must report the results of monitoring and mitigation to the
Service MMM via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) In-season monitoring reports.
(i) Activity progress reports. KIC must:
(A) Notify the Service at least 48 hours prior to the onset of
(B) Provide the Service weekly progress reports summarizing
activities. Reports must include GPS/GIS tracks of all vehicles
including scout vehicles in .kml or .shp format with time/date stamps
(C) Notify the Service within 48 hours of project completion or end
of the work season.
(ii) Polar bear observation reports. KIC must report, within 48
hours, all observations of polar bears and potential polar bear dens
during any project activities including AIR surveys. Upon request,
monitoring report data must be provided in a common electronic format
(to be specified by the Service). Information in the observation report
must include, but is not limited to:
(A) Date and time of each observation;
(B) Locations of the observer and bears (GPS coordinates if
(C) Number of polar bears;
(D) Sex and age class--adult, subadult, cub (if known);
(E) Observer name and contact information;
(F) Weather, visibility, and if at sea, sea state, and sea-ice
conditions at the time of observation;
(G) Estimated closest distance of polar bears from personnel and
(H) Type of work being conducted at time of sighting;
(I) Possible attractants present;
(J) Polar bear behavior--initial behavior when first observed
(e.g., walking, swimming, resting, etc.);
(K) Potential reaction--behavior of bear potentially in response to
presence or activity of personnel and equipment;
(L) Description of the encounter;
(M) Duration of the encounter; and
(N) Mitigation actions taken.
(2) Notification of human-bear interaction incident report. KIC
must report all human-bear interaction incidents immediately, and not
later than 48 hours after the incident. A human-bear interaction
incident is any situation in which there is a possibility for
unauthorized take. For instance, when project activities exceed those
included in an IHA, when a mitigation measure was required but not
enacted, or when injury or death of a polar bear occurs. Reports must
(i) All information specified for an observation report in
paragraphs (1)(ii)(A-N) of this section;
(ii) A complete detailed description of the incident; and
(iii) Any other actions taken.
Injured, dead, or distressed polar bears that are clearly not
associated with project activities (e.g., animals found outside the
project area, previously wounded animals, or carcasses with moderate to
advanced decomposition or scavenger damage) must also be reported to
the Service immediately, and not later than 48 hours after discovery.
Photographs, video, location information, or any other available
documentation must be included.
(3) Final report. The results of monitoring and mitigation efforts
identified in the polar bear avoidance and interaction plan must be
submitted to the Service for review within 90 days of the expiration of
this IHA. Upon request, final report data must be provided in a common
electronic format (to be specified by the Service). Information in the
final report must include, but is not limited to:
(i) Copies of all observation reports submitted under the IHA;
(ii) A summary of the observation reports;
(iii) A summary of monitoring and mitigation efforts including
areas, total hours, total distances, and distribution;
(iv) Analysis of factors affecting the visibility and detectability
of polar bears during monitoring;
(v) Analysis of the effectiveness of mitigation measures;
(vi) A summary and analysis of the distribution, abundance, and
behavior of all polar bears observed; and
(vii) Estimates of take in relation to the specified activities.
Request for Public Comments
If you wish to comment on this proposed authorization, the
associated draft environmental assessment, or both documents, you may
submit your comments by any of the methods described in ADDRESSES.
Please identify if you are commenting on the proposed authorization,
draft environmental assessment or both, make your comments as specific
as possible, confine them to issues pertinent to the proposed
authorization, and explain the reason for any changes you recommend.
Where possible, your comments should reference the specific section or
paragraph that you are addressing. The Service will consider all
comments that are received before the close of the comment period (see
DATES). The Service does not anticipate extending the public comment
period beyond the 30 days required under section 101(a)(5)(D)(iii) of
Comments, including names and street addresses of respondents, will
become part of the administrative record for this proposal. Before
including your address, telephone number, email address, or other
personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your
entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be
made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your
comments to withhold from public review your personal identifying
information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Regional Director, Alaska Region.
[FR Doc. 2020-26747 Filed 12-7-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4333-15-P