[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 164 (Wednesday, August 25, 1999)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 46542-46558]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-21959]


      

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Part III





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service



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50 CFR Part 17



Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To Remove the 
American Peregrine Falcon From the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife, and To Remove the Similarity of Appearance 
Provision for Free-Flying Peregrines in the Conterminous United States; 
Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 64, No. 164 / Wednesday, August 25, 1999 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 46542]]



DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AF04


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To 
Remove the American Peregrine Falcon From the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and To Remove the Similarity of 
Appearance Provision for Free-Flying Peregrines in the Conterminous 
United States

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have 
determined that the American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) 
is no longer an endangered or threatened species pursuant to the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This determination is 
based on available data indicating that this subspecies has recovered 
following restrictions on organochlorine pesticides in the United 
States and Canada, and following the implementation of successful 
management activities. This action will remove the American peregrine 
falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) throughout its range as an endangered 
species from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, 
thereby removing all protections provided by the Act. It also will 
remove the designation of ``endangered due to similarity of 
appearance'' for any free-flying peregrine falcons within the 48 
conterminous United States. It will not affect protection provided to 
this species by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Convention on 
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES), or state laws and regulations, nor will it affect the 
endangered listing status of the Eurasian peregrine falcon (Falco 
peregrinus peregrinus) under the Act.

EFFECTIVE DATE: August 25, 1999.

ADDRESSES: The administrative file for this rule is available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 
Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003 (telephone (805) 644-
1766/facsimile 805/644-3958).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert Mesta at the above address for 
further information on the removal of the peregrine falcon from the 
endangered species list.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a medium-sized raptor 
weighing approximately 1,000 grams (36 ounces) and having a wing span 
of 112 centimeters (44 inches). The adult peregrine falcon has a dark 
gray back and crown, dark bars or streaks on a pale chest and abdomen, 
and heavy malar (cheek) stripes on the face. Immature falcons are buff-
colored in front and have dark brown backs; adults are white or buff in 
front and bluish-gray on their backs. Peregrines prey almost entirely 
on other birds, and occasionally on bats, caught in midair (Hickey and 
Anderson 1969).
    The peregrine falcon has an almost worldwide distribution, with 
three subspecies recognized in North America (Brown and Amadon 1968). 
The Peale's falcon (F. p. pealei) is a year-round resident of the 
northwest Pacific coast from northern Washington through British 
Columbia to the Aleutian Islands. The Arctic peregrine falcon (F. p. 
tundrius) nests in the tundra of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, and is 
typically a long-distance migrant, wintering as far south as South 
America. The American peregrine falcon (F. p. anatum) occurs throughout 
much of North America from the subarctic boreal forests of Alaska and 
Canada south to Mexico. The American peregrine falcon nests from 
central Alaska, central Yukon Territory, and northern Alberta and 
Saskatchewan, east to the Maritimes and south (excluding coastal areas 
north of the Columbia River in Washington and British Columbia) 
throughout western Canada and the United States to Baja California, 
Sonora, and the highlands of central Mexico (48 FR 8799). American 
peregrine falcons that nest in subarctic areas generally winter in 
South America, while those that nest at lower latitudes exhibit 
variable migratory behavior; some are nonmigratory (Yates et al. 1988).
    Since the early 1970s, efforts to reestablish peregrine falcons in 
the eastern and midwestern United States have successfully returned 
this species to areas from which it was extirpated (See ``Eastern 
United States'' under ``Peregrine Falcon Recovery''). Peregrine falcons 
are now found nesting in all States within their historical range east 
of the 100th meridian, except for Rhode Island, West Virginia, and 
Arkansas.
    Peregrine falcons declined precipitously in North America following 
World War II (Kiff 1988). Research implicated organochlorine 
pesticides, mainly 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-ethane 
(DDT), applied in the United States and Canada during this same period, 
as causing the decline (for a review, see Risebrough and Peakall 1988). 
Use of these chemicals peaked in the 1950s and early 1960s and 
continued through the early 1970s. Organochlorines and their 
metabolites, including DDT and its principal metabolite DDE (1,1-
dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-ethylene), aldrin, dieldrin, and 
others, are stable, persistent compounds that are stored in the fatty 
tissues of animals ingesting contaminated food (Fyfe et al. 1988).
    Organochlorines can affect peregrine falcons either by causing 
direct mortality or by adversely affecting reproduction. Because 
mortality in wild birds is difficult to study, the effect of 
organochlorines on mortality is not as well known as the effects on 
reproduction. Organochlorines can adversely affect reproduction by 
causing egg breakage, addling, hatching failure, and abnormal 
reproductive behavior by the parent birds (Risebrough and Peakall 
1988). DDE prevents normal calcium deposition during eggshell 
formation, resulting in thin-shelled eggs that are susceptible to 
breakage during incubation. In general, populations laying eggs with 
shells that averaged more than 17 percent thinner than pre-DDT eggs had 
such high rates of reproductive failure that the number of peregrine 
falcon pairs declined (Peakall and Kiff 1988).
    During the period of DDT use in North America, eggshell thinning 
and nesting failures were widespread in peregrine falcons, and in some 
areas, successful reproduction virtually ceased (Hickey and Anderson 
1969). As a result, there was a slow but drastic decline in the number 
of peregrine falcons in many areas of North America. The degree of 
exposure to these pesticides varied among regions, and peregrine falcon 
numbers in more contaminated areas suffered greater declines. Peregrine 
falcons that nested outside of agricultural and forested areas where 
DDT was heavily used were affected less, although some of these 
individuals were still exposed to DDT when wintering in areas of 
pesticide use. Presumably all peregrine falcon individuals have eaten 
some migratory prey containing organochlorines (for reviews, see Hickey 
and Anderson 1969; Kiff 1988; Peakall and Kiff 1988).
    Peregrine falcons nesting in the agricultural and forested areas 
east of the Mississippi River in the United States and in eastern 
Canada south of the boreal forest were the most heavily contaminated 
and were essentially

[[Page 46543]]

extirpated by the mid-1960s (Berger et al. 1969). Peregrine falcons in 
the Great Plains states east of the Rocky Mountains and south of the 
boreal forest in Canada and the United States were also extirpated in 
the DDT-era (Cade 1975; Enderson et al. 1995). No active eyries (nests) 
were found in surveys of 133 formerly used peregrine falcon eyries in 
the latter part of the 1964 nesting season in the eastern United States 
and the Maritime Provinces in Canada (Berger et al. 1969). By 1975, 
there were only three peregrine falcon pairs in Alberta, and no other 
peregrine falcon pairs were found south of latitude 60 degrees North 
and east of the Rocky Mountains in Canada (Erickson et al. 1988).
    West of the 100th meridian, peregrine falcons were significantly 
reduced; only 33 percent of historical nest sites in the Rocky 
Mountains were still occupied by 1965 (Enderson 1969). The peregrine 
falcon disappeared as a breeding species from southern California, and 
major declines also occurred in other parts of the western United 
States and in much of southern Canada and the Northwest Territories 
(Kiff 1988). In contrast, peregrine falcons in most areas of the 
Pacific coast of Alaska remained fairly stable during this period, due 
to their lower exposure to organochlorine pesticides. The exact degree 
of local declines in much of western North America remains somewhat 
speculative due to a lack of accurate pre-pesticide era census data. 
For example, in the southwestern United States and mainland Mexico, 
peregrine falcons were not censused until after the beginning of the 
use of organochlorines (Kiff 1988).

Previous Federal Actions

    Population declines due to negative impacts of DDT and its 
metabolites on peregrine falcon reproduction and survival led us to 
list two of the three North American subspecies, the Arctic peregrine 
falcon and the American peregrine falcon, as endangered in 1970 under 
the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 (Public Law 91-135, 83 
Stat. 275). Arctic and American peregrine falcons were included in the 
United States' list of endangered foreign species on June 2, 1970 (35 
FR 8491) under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969, and the 
native list of endangered species on October 13, 1970 (35 FR 16047). 
Upon passage of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) 
(16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the native and foreign species lists were 
combined into a single list of endangered and threatened species. Both 
the American and Arctic peregrine falcon subspecies were listed as 
endangered throughout their respective ranges. The Peale's peregrine 
falcon was not listed because it was reproducing at near normal levels 
with only traces of DDT.
    On March 1, 1983, we published a proposed rule to (1) reclassify 
the Arctic peregrine falcon from endangered to threatened; (2) clarify 
the status of the American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) 
in some areas of its range; and (3) designate all free-flying peregrine 
falcons in the 48 conterminous United States as endangered under the 
similarity of appearance provisions of section 4(e) of the Act (48 FR 
8796). A final rule was published on March 20, 1984 (49 FR 10520). 
Pursuant to the similarity of appearance provisions, species that are 
not considered to be endangered or threatened are treated as such for 
the purpose of providing protection to a species that is biologically 
endangered or threatened.
    On June 12, 1991, we announced in the Federal Register a Notice of 
Status Review of American and Arctic peregrines (56 FR 26969). The 
Arctic peregrine was removed as a threatened species from the Federal 
List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife on October 5, 1994 (59 FR 
50796) but was still regulated under the Act in the lower 48 United 
States due to the similarity of appearance provision for all Falco 
peregrinus peregrine falcons. The similarity of appearance provision 
was maintained because the American peregrine falcon was still listed 
as endangered.
    We published an Advanced Notice of a Proposal to Remove the 
American Peregrine Falcon from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife on June 30, 1995 (60 FR 34406). This was based on 
data indicating this subspecies was recovered following restrictions on 
the use of organochlorine pesticides in the United States and Canada 
and because of successful management activities, including the 
reintroduction of captive-bred and relocated wild hatchling peregrine 
falcons. Current data provides additional support for recovery of all 
North American peregrine falcons, including the American peregrine 
falcon subspecies. We published a proposed rule to remove the peregrine 
falcon in North America from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife on August 26, 1998, based on continuing data 
indicating this species was recovered (63 FR 45446).
    The processing of this final rule conforms with our listing 
priority guidance published on May 8, 1998 (63 FR 25502). This guidance 
clarifies the order in which we will process rulemakings, giving 
highest priority to handling emergency situations (Tier 1) and second 
highest priority (Tier 2) to resolving the listing status of 
outstanding proposed listings, resolving the conservation status of 
candidate species, processing administrative findings on petitions to 
add species to the lists or reclassify species from threatened to 
endangered status, and delisting or reclassifying actions. The lowest 
priority actions, processing critical habitat designations, are in Tier 
3. Processing of this final rule is a Tier 2 action.

Peregrine Falcon Recovery

    Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement 
recovery plans for listed species. In some cases, we appoint experts to 
recovery teams to assist in the writing of recovery plans. Between 1974 
and 1975 we formed recovery teams consisting of Service, State, and 
other experts. In cooperation with us, these recovery teams produced 
four regional recovery plans: three for the American peregrine falcon 
(Alaska, Rocky Mountains/Southwest United States, and the Pacific Coast 
of the United States), and one for the peregrine falcon in the eastern 
United States. Although no United States recovery plans established 
recovery criteria for peregrine falcons nesting outside of the United 
States, the Canadian Wildlife Service published an Anatum Peregrine 
Falcon Recovery Plan (Erickson et al. 1988) establishing recovery 
criteria for American peregrine falcons in Canada. Recovery plans for 
peregrine falcons called for captive rearing and release of birds in 
several areas of North America. In the eastern United States, where 
peregrine falcons were extirpated, the initial recovery objective was 
to reestablish peregrine falcons through the release of offspring from 
a variety of wild stocks being held in captivity by falconers. The 
first experimental releases of captive-produced young occurred in 1974 
and 1975 in the United States. Since then, approximately 6,000 falcons 
were released throughout its historic range in North America. These 
releases helped to re-establish breeding pairs in areas where the 
species was extirpated, and accelerated the recovery of the species.
    Later, reintroduction was also pursued in eastern Canada using only 
F. p. anatum breeding stock from the boreal regions of the subspecies' 
range. All peregrine falcons released to augment wild populations in 
western North America west of the 100th meridian, where small numbers 
of

[[Page 46544]]

American peregrines survived the pesticide era, were derived from 
western anatum stock (Enderson et al. 1995).
    The most significant factor in the recovery of the peregrine falcon 
was the restriction placed on the use of organochlorine pesticides. Use 
of DDT was banned in Canada in 1970 and in the United States in 1972 
(37 FR 13369). Restrictions that controlled the use of aldrin and 
dieldrin were imposed in the United States in 1974 (39 FR 37246). Since 
implementation of these restrictions, residues of the pesticides have 
significantly decreased in many regions where they were formerly used. 
Consequently, reproductive rates in most surviving peregrine falcon 
populations in North America improved, and numbers began to increase 
(Kiff 1988; Enderson et al. 1995).
    In Alaska and northwest Canada, American peregrine falcon 
populations were locally depressed, but enough individuals survived the 
pesticide era to allow populations to expand without the need for 
release of captive-bred falcons. Likewise, in the southwestern United 
States, very few captive-bred birds were released, and populations 
recovered naturally following restrictions on the use of organochlorine 
pesticides. In southwest Canada, the northern Rocky Mountain States, 
and the Pacific Coast States, however, local populations were greatly 
depressed or extirpated, and over 3,400 young American peregrine 
falcons were released to promote recovery in those areas (Enderson et 
al. 1995).
    American peregrine falcon population growth was noted in Alaska in 
the late 1970s (Ambrose et al. 1988b), and, by 1980, population growth 
was found in many other areas (Enderson et al. 1995). The rate of 
increase varied among regions of North America, undoubtedly influenced 
by variation in patterns of pesticide use, potential differences in the 
rate of pesticide degradation, and the degree to which local 
populations had declined. Populations in some portions of the range of 
American peregrine falcons, such as Alaska, northwest Canada, and 
southwestern United States, reached densities several years ago that 
suggested recovery was approaching completion (Ambrose et al. 1988b; 
Mossop 1988; Geoff Holroyd, Canadian Wildlife Service, in litt. 1993; 
Enderson et al. 1995). Residual organochlorine pesticide contamination 
continues to affect eggshells in some areas, such as portions of 
coastal California (Jarman 1994) and western Texas (Bonnie McKinney, 
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, pers. comm. 1997), but these 
effects are localized. Despite these localized effects and the 
variation in the rate of increase among regions, local populations 
throughout North America have increased in size, and positive trends in 
nearly all areas suggest that an extensive recovery of American 
peregrine falcons has taken place.

Recovery Status

    To aid in assessing peregrine falcon recovery, the current status 
was compared to specific recovery plan objectives for American 
peregrine falcons in (1) Alaska, (2) Canada, (3) the Pacific Coast, (4) 
the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest, and for the peregrine falcon in, 
and (5) the eastern United States. The current status of the subspecies 
in Mexico is discussed below, although no recovery plan or recovery 
objectives are established for Mexico.

Alaska

    The Peregrine Falcon Recovery Plan, Alaska Population (Alaska 
Recovery Plan) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982a) includes both 
Arctic and American peregrine falcons nesting in Alaska. The following 
discussion relates only to provisions regarding the American peregrine 
falcon, as the Arctic peregrine falcon was delisted on October 5, 1994 
(59 FR 50796).
    The Alaska Recovery Plan established recovery objectives based on 
four measurements for assessing the status of American peregrine 
falcons including population size, reproductive performance, pesticide 
residues in eggs, and eggshell thickness. The recovery objectives 
included:
    (1) 28 nesting pairs in 2 specified study areas (16 in upper Yukon 
and 12 in upper Tanana);
    (2) An average of 1.8 young per territorial pair;
    (3) Average organochlorine concentration in eggs of less than 5 
parts per million (ppm) (wet weight basis DDE); and
    (4) Eggshells no more than 10 percent thinner than pre-DDT era 
eggshells.

The Alaska Recovery Plan suggested that these objectives be maintained 
in the specified study areas for 5 years before reclassifying from 
endangered to threatened status, and remain constant or improve for an 
additional 5 years before delisting.
    Surveys were conducted in the upper Yukon and Tanana Rivers, for 
which historical population data were available, using consistent 
methodology from 1973 to the present so trends would be discernable. 
Surveys conducted between 1966 and 1998 along the upper Yukon River 
demonstrated increases in the number of occupied nesting territories 
from a low of 11 known pairs in 1973 to 46 pairs in 1998 (Ambrose et 
al. 1988b; Robert Ambrose, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in litt. 
1997a, 1999). Similarly, along the upper Tanana River, the number of 
occupied nesting territories increased from 2 in 1975 to 33 in 1998 
(R. Ambrose, in litt. 1997a; 1999). The recovery objective of 28 
occupied nesting territories in the two study areas was first achieved 
(post-DDT) in 1988, with 23 nesting territories on the Yukon River and 
12 on the Tanana River. The number has increased steadily since that 
time to the current level of 79 occupied nesting territories in 1998, 
with 46 pairs on the Yukon River and 33 pairs on the Tanana River (R. 
Ambrose, in litt. 1999). Thus, the recovery objective of 28 occupied 
nesting territories was achieved and surpassed for 10 years. A minimum 
of 301 breeding pairs of American peregrine falcons currently nest in 
Alaska.
    Productivity measured along the upper Yukon and Tanana Rivers fell 
to a low of about 1.0 young per territorial pair per year (yg/pr) in 
the late 1960s, but began to increase in the mid-1970s. By 1982, 
productivity exceeded the objective of 1.8 yg/pr, and varied between 
1.6 and 3.0 yg/pr in the years since. Between 1994 and 1998, 
productivity averaged 2.0 yg/pr (sample size (N) = 362 nests/pairs). 
Overall, between 1982 and 1998, the Yukon River study area averaged 
1.79 yg/pr, and the Tanana River study area averaged 1.85 yg/pr (R. 
Ambrose, in litt. 1999). It is expected that there are yearly 
variations in productivity, which most wildlife species experience. 
However, average productivity for the peregrine falcon was constant or 
improving, thus meeting the goal of at least 1.8 yg/pr over the last 10 
years as recommended by the Alaska Recovery Plan.
    Mean concentrations of DDE in peregrine falcon eggs in excess of 
15-20 ppm are associated with nesting failure, whereas productivity is 
usually sufficient to maintain population size if residues average less 
than this concentration (Peakall et al. 1975, as cited in Peakall and 
Kiff 1988; Newton et al. 1989). In Alaska, average DDE residues in 
American peregrine falcons averaged 12.2 ppm from 1979 through 1984, 
5.8 ppm from 1988 through 1991, and 3.5 ppm from 1993 through 1995 (R. 
Ambrose, in litt. 1997b). Current data suggest that the concentrations 
of less than 5 ppm DDE residue levels in peregrine falcon eggs have 
improved in the last 10 years (R. Ambrose in litt. 1997b). As a result 
of lowered DDE

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concentrations, there was consistent population growth during that 
time.
    In Alaska, eggshells were as much as 20-22 percent thinner than 
pre-DDT era shells in the mid-1960s (Cade et al. 1988). By the early 
1980s, shells were about 14 percent thinner than before the DDT era 
(Ambrose et al. 1988a). Eggshells averaged 13.0 percent thinner from 
1979 through 1984, 13.1 percent thinner from 1988 through 1991, and 
12.1 percent thinner from 1993 through 1995 (R. Ambrose, in litt. 
1997b). The average thickness of pre-DDT American peregrine falcon eggs 
from Alaska is not precisely known, so current estimates of thinning 
could be inaccurate. While average eggshell thinning has not yet 
reached the level of 10 percent or less of the pre-DDT era, it has 
improved over the last 10 years. Also, reproduction was sufficient to 
allow consistent population growth since the late 1970s, and 
productivity has, on average, exceeded its stated recovery objective 
for 17 years.
    In summary, based on the most current information (1998 survey and 
early 1990s contamination data), we conclude that goals underlying all 
four objectives were met or exceeded. On average, the number of pairs 
occupying nesting territories in the two study areas and productivity 
exceeded the recovery objectives for the past 17 years. Neither DDE 
residues in eggs nor eggshell thinning has prevented a dramatic 
population growth since the late 1970s.

Canada

    The 1988 Anatum Peregrine Falcon Recovery Plan for Canada (Canadian 
Recovery Plan) (Erickson et al. 1988) categorized the historical range 
of the American peregrine falcon throughout Canada into three regions, 
which include the Western Mountains, Interior Plains, and the Eastern 
Seaboard and Great Lakes. These regions were subdivided into nine zones 
on the basis of historical population levels, habitat, political 
boundaries, and restoration needs. The zones are (1) Maritime, (2) 
Great Lakes, (3) Prairies, (4) Mackenzie River Valley, (5) Northern 
Mountains, (6) Southern Mountains, (7) Eastern Mackenzie Watershed, (8) 
Western Canadian Shield, and the (9) Eastern Canadian Shield. Coastal 
British Columbia was excluded from consideration in the Canadian 
Recovery Plan because that area is occupied by F.p. pealei. 
    The goal of the Canadian Recovery Plan was to increase the wild 
American peregrine falcon population in Canada so the subspecies is no 
longer considered endangered or threatened by the Committee on the 
Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The proposed objectives were 
(1) to establish by 1992 a minimum of 10 territorial American peregrine 
falcon pairs in each of Zones 1 to 6, and (2) to establish by 1997, in 
each of 5 of these 6 zones, a minimum of 10 pairs naturally fledging 15 
(1.5 yg/pr) or more young annually, measured as a 5-year average 
beginning in 1993. No recovery objectives were established for Zones 7, 
8, and 9. The Canadian Recovery Plan did not contain separate 
objectives for reclassification of the subspecies in Canada from its 
current endangered status to threatened.
    Starting in 1990, the Canadian Wildlife Service has coordinated and 
published a national range-wide peregrine falcon population survey once 
every 5 years. The results of the 1995 national population survey were 
used in the following status summary of the American peregrine falcon 
in Canada (Ursula Banasch, Canadian Wildlife Service, in litt. 1997).
    There were 98 known nest sites in Zones 1 and 2 (southern Ontario 
and Quebec, northern Great Lakes, Bay of Fundy and Labrador), and 
surveys located 64 pairs. There were 98 known nest sites in Zone 3 
(Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta), and surveys located 41 pairs. 
There were 117 known nest sites in Zone 4 (eastern N.W. Territories), 
and surveys located 83 pairs. There were 125 known nest sites in Zone 5 
(Yukon), and surveys located 113 pairs. There were 50 known nest sites 
in Zone 6 (Interior British Columbia), and surveys located 18 pairs. 
The total known number of pairs for all six zones in 1995 was 319, with 
minimum objectives achieved for every recovery zone.
    The only comprehensive range-wide productivity surveys available to 
us were the national population surveys coordinated by the Canadian 
Wildlife Service in 1990 and 1995 (U. Banasch, in litt. 1997; Holroyd 
and Banasch 1996). Surveys conducted in the intervening years were not 
nationally coordinated, and therefore not complete. Thus, we used the 
combined average annual productivity data collected in the 1990 and 
1995 surveys to address this recovery objective.
    In Zones 1 and 2, average productivity was 1.7 yg/pr (N=104 nests). 
In Zone 3, average productivity was 1.5 yg/pr (N=55). In Zone 4, 
average productivity was 2.0 yg/pr (N=171). In Zone 5, average 
productivity was 1.8 yg/pr (N=626). No productivity data were available 
for Zone 6. The 2-year average annual productivity for the Canadian 
population of American peregrine falcons was 1.8 yg/pr.
    Although the Canadian Recovery Plan did not identify recovery 
objectives for pesticide residue or eggshell thinning levels, 205 eggs 
and 62 samples from 28 specimens of peregrine falcons were collected in 
Canada between 1965 and 1987 to assess organochlorine residue 
concentrations. In all three subspecies (F.p. anatum, F.p. tundrius, 
F.p. pealei), the proportion of specimens having residue concentrations 
above established critical values (concentration at which egg failure 
occurs, which varies among organochlorine contaminants) had decreased 
and was inversely correlated with improvements in the reproductive 
success of the population (Peakall et al. 1990).
    In summary, the Canadian Recovery Plan identified two objectives to 
determine recovery for the American peregrine falcon population in 
Canada. Based on current available information, both objectives were 
met. The total number of pairs for all six zones in 1995 was 319, with 
minimum objectives achieved for every recovery zone. This count exceeds 
the total recovery objective of 60 pairs by 259 pairs. The average 
annual productivity data for 1990 and 1995 either met or exceeded 
objectives in five of the six zones with an average annual productivity 
of 1.8 yg/pr for the American peregrine falcon population in Canada.

Pacific Coast

    To reclassify the American peregrine falcon from endangered to 
threatened, the Pacific Coast Recovery Plan (Pacific Population Plan) 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982b) recommended that 122 pairs be 
established in a specified distribution spanning California, 
Washington, Oregon, and Nevada. The distribution goals were based on 22 
management units distributed throughout the historic range of the 
Pacific Coast peregrine falcon population. For each management unit, 
the population must achieve a specified minimum number of active pairs 
before downlisting can be considered. The Pacific Population Plan also 
recommended that with attainment of 185 wild, self-sustaining pairs 
(California 120, Oregon 30, Washington 30, and Nevada 5 pairs) and an 
average productivity of 1.5 yg/pr for a 5-year period, the subspecies 
could be considered for delisting. Since this final rule addresses the 
delisting of the peregrine falcon, only the latter two objectives are 
discussed in this section. The Pacific Population Plan defined a 
``self-sustaining'' population as one whose natural productivity 
without human management is equal to or greater than its mortality.

[[Page 46546]]

    By 1976, no American peregrine falcons were found at 14 historical 
nest sites in Washington, and Oregon had also lost most of its 
peregrine falcons. In addition, only 1 or 2 pairs remained on the 
California coast, with no more than 10 nest sites known to be occupied 
in the entire State (Cade 1994). A steadily increasing number of 
American peregrine falcon pairs breeding in Washington, Oregon, and 
Nevada was indicated by surveys from 1991 through 1998. Known pairs in 
Washington increased from 17 to 45, in Oregon from 23 to 51, and in 
Nevada from 3 to 6 (Gary Herron, Nevada Division of Wildlife, pers. 
comm. 1997; Martin Nugent, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, in 
litt. 1999; David Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Game, in 
litt. 1997). The number of American peregrine falcons in California 
increased from an estimated low of 5 to 10 breeding pairs in the early 
1970s (Herman 1971), to a minimum of 167 occupied sites in 1998 (Janet 
Linthicum, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, in litt. 1999). 
The increase in California was concurrent with the restriction of DDT 
and management that included the release of over 750 American peregrine 
falcons, including captive-reared and relocated wild hatchlings, 
through 1997 (Walton 1997). Recovery of American peregrine falcons in 
some areas of California, however, was impeded by continuing elevated 
DDT levels (Jarman 1994; Walton 1997).
    The recovery of the peregrine falcon could be the result of a lower 
than expected first-year mortality of released birds from the 
augmentation program, which accelerated the growth of the Pacific 
population (Brian Walton, Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, 
pers. comm. 1997). As a result, intensive human management has 
essentially ended, and the release of captive-bred American peregrine 
falcons was suspended in Nevada in 1989, in California in 1992 
(although the relocation of wild hatchlings continues), and in Oregon 
and Washington in 1995. Based on available information, the first 
recovery objective was met; a minimum known population of 270 pairs 
exceeds the delisting goal of 185 by 85 pairs. Also, the distribution 
goals for the Pacific Coast population was met in all four States. 
Surveys conducted from 1991 through 1998 demonstrate a steadily 
increasing number of American peregrine falcon pairs, indicating that 
natural productivity is greater than mortality in this recovery region.
    Productivity measured in Washington between 1993 and 1998 ranged 
from 1.3 to 1.8 yg/pr, with an average of 1.5 yg/pr (N=204) (D. 
Anderson, in litt. 1999). In Oregon, productivity between 1993 and 1998 
ranged from 0.8 to 1.9 yg/pr, with an average of 1.3 yg/pr (N=178) (M. 
Nugent, in litt. 1997; David Peterson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
in litt. 1999). Between 1993 and 1998, productivity in California 
ranged from 1.4 to 1.7 yg/pr (N=523), with an average of 1.6 yg/pr (J. 
Linthicum in litt. 1999). No productivity data were available for 
Nevada.
    Productivity, an important measure of population health, can be 
difficult to determine in wide-ranging species nesting in remote 
landscapes that are often difficult to access. However, available data 
indicate that the average productivity from 1993 through 1998 in 
Washington, Oregon and California was 1.5 yg/pr (D. Anderson, in litt. 
1999; M. Nugent, in litt. 1997; David Peterson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, in litt. 1999; J. Linthicum in litt. 1999). Therefore, we 
consider this objective to be met.
    The Pacific Population Plan did not identify recovery objectives 
for pesticide residue or eggshell thinning levels. However, 
organochlorine residues and eggshell thinning were measured in 
California starting in the early 1970s. Jarman (1994) reported DDE 
concentrations in 105 peregrine eggs collected from California from 
1987 to 1992, and 11 eggs from Oregon from 1990 through 1993. Data 
collected in nine study regions in California (Jarman 1994) indicated 
the highest concentrations of DDE were found in California eggs from 
the Channel Islands and mid-coast with 21 and 13 ppm, respectively. The 
southern coast and San Francisco regions had the lowest concentrations 
of 5.5 and 4.3 ppm, respectively. The DDE concentrations in eggs 
collected along the coast of California (between San Francisco Bay and 
34 deg. N) did not decrease between 1969 and 1992 (Jarman 1994). Eggs 
from Oregon contained DDE levels of 10 ppm.
    Eggshells from coastal California continued to show thinning. In 
northern and central coastal California, eggshells collected between 
1975 and 1995 averaged 17.7 and 19.1 percent thinner than pre-DDT era, 
respectively (J. Linthicum, in litt. 1996). In northern interior 
California, where 104 of the 186 sites were active at least once from 
1975-1993, eggshells averaged 15.6 percent thinner than pre-DDT era 
shells (J. Linthicum, in litt. 1996). Eggshells collected on the 
Channel Islands off the southern coast of California in 1992-1995 
averaged 19.4 percent thinner than those collected in California prior 
to 1947 (J. Linthicum, in litt. 1996). In montane California, the 
average was 15 percent thinner than normal, and in the southern 
interior (coastal mountains) the average was 17.9 percent thinner than 
normal (J. Linthicum, in litt. 1996). Urban pairs experienced eggshell 
thinning averaging 8.7 percent in the San Francisco area and 10.9 
percent in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. A summary of 633 clutch 
mean measurements representing 1,237 samples of one or more eggshells 
collected between 1975 and 1995 from the historical range of the 
American peregrine falcon in California averaged 16.1 percent thinner 
(J. Linthicum, in litt. 1996). However, current reproduction indicates 
an expanding population in most areas despite high organochlorine 
residue concentrations and associated eggshell thinning in some areas 
of the Pacific population.

Rocky Mountain/Southwest

    The American Peregrine Falcon Rocky Mountain/Southwest Population 
Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1984) established three 
objectives for delisting, including (1) increasing the Falco peregrinus 
anatum population in the Rocky Mountain/Southwest region to a minimum 
of 183 breeding pairs and the following distribution: Arizona (46), 
Colorado (31), Idaho (17), Montana (20), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (23), 
North Dakota (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (8), Utah (21), and Wyoming 
(14); (2) sustaining a long-term average production of 1.25 yg/pr 
without manipulation by 1995; and (3) observing eggshell thinning of no 
more than 10 percent from the pre-DDT era for a 5-year span.
    The prairie States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, 
and Oklahoma contain little peregrine falcon habitat, and historical 
data are incomplete. No recovery goals for a specific number of 
peregrine falcon pairs were set for Kansas or Oklahoma; nesting 
peregrine falcons are not known from Oklahoma. Currently, South Dakota, 
Nebraska and Kansas each have one peregrine falcon pair (Mark Martell, 
The Raptor Center, pers. comm. 1998; Tordoff et al. 1997); no peregrine 
falcon pairs are currently known to occur in North Dakota or Oklahoma.
    The Rocky Mountain/Southwest population of the American peregrine 
falcon has made a profound comeback since the late 1970s when surveys 
showed no occupied nest sites in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming and few 
pairs in Colorado, New Mexico, and the Colorado Plateau, including 
parts of southern Utah and Arizona (Cade 1994). Surveys conducted from 
1991 through 1998 indicated that the number of American peregrine 
falcon pairs in the

[[Page 46547]]

Rocky Mountain/Southwest population is steadily increasing. In 1991, 
this population supported 367 known pairs; in 1998 the number of pairs 
increased to 535 (Robert Mesta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 
litt. 1999). Surveys conducted from 1992 through 1998 showed that, with 
the exception of North Dakota, all States within the Rocky Mountain/
Southwest population have met or exceeded their specific delisting 
goals for breeding pairs.
    The current minimum known number of peregrine falcon pairs for each 
State include Arizona 159, Colorado 89, Idaho 17, Montana 18, Nebraska 
1, New Mexico 32, North Dakota 0, South Dakota 1, Texas 11, Utah 164, 
Wyoming 42, and Kansas 1 (Greg Beatty, Arizona Game and Fish 
Department, in litt. 1997; James Enderson, Western Peregrine Falcon 
Recovery Team, pers. comm. 1999; Dennis Flath, Montana Department of 
Fish and Parks, in litt. 1999; Frank Howe, Utah Division of Wildlife 
Resources, in litt. 1999; Levine et al. 1998; McKinney 1994; B. 
McKinney, pers. comm. 1999; Robert Oakleaf, Wyoming Game and Fish 
Department, in litt. 1999; Sator O. Williams III, New Mexico Department 
of Game and Fish, in litt. 1999). The current Rocky Mountain/Southwest 
population is 535, which surpasses the objective of 183 by 352 pairs.
    In Arizona , productivity from 1989 through 1997 ranged from 0.9 to 
1.8 
yg/yr, with an average productivity of 1.1 yg/pr (N=294). Recent 
average productivity (1994-1997) is 0.9 yg/pr (N=194) (Ward and Siemens 
1995; G. Beatty, in litt. 1997).
    In 1973, 1974, and 1975, productivity in Colorado was 0.2 (N=11), 
1.9 (N=8), and 0.7 yg/pr (N=8), respectively, reflecting the irregular 
and generally poor productivity typical of the 1970s (Platt and 
Enderson 1988). Long term productivity measured in Colorado from 1985 
through 1998 ranged from 1.2 to 1.9 yg/pr, with an average of 1.6 yg/pr 
(N=753) (Gerry Craig, Colorado Division of Wildlife, in litt. 1999; 
J.H. Enderson, pers. comm. 1999). Recent productivity from 1994 through 
1998, averaged 1.6 yg/pr (N=395) (G. Craig, in litt. 1999).
    In Idaho, productivity recorded from 1989 through 1998 ranged from 
0 to 2.5 yg/pr, with an average of 1.6 yg/pr for this 10-year period 
(N=120). Recent productivity from 1994 through 1998 averaged 1.4 yg/pr 
(N=75) (Levine et al. 1998). In Montana, productivity between 1984 and 
1998 ranged from 0.3 to 3.0 yg/pr, with an average of 1.7 
yg/pr for the 15-year period (N=137). Recent productivity from 1994 
through 1998 averaged 1.5 yg/pr (N=91) (D. Flath, in litt. 1999). In 
Nebraska, productivity between 1992 and 1998 for a single pair ranged 
from 0 to 5.0 yg/pr, with an average of 1.7 yg/pr for the 7-year period 
(N=7) (Lloyd Kiff, The Peregrine Fund, in litt. 1997; Tordoff et al. 
1998).
    For the period 1986 through 1998, New Mexico experienced a 12-year 
average productivity of 1.6 yg/pr (N=278). Recent productivity from 
1995 through 1998 averaged 1.4 yg/pr (N=131) (S. Williams, in litt. 
1997, 1999). In Texas, long term productivity recorded from 1975 
through 1998 ranged from 0 to 2.3 yg/pr, with an average of 0.9 yg/pr 
(N=185) for the 23-year period. Recent productivity from 1994 through 
1998 averaged 0.5 yg/pr (N=69) (McKinney 1994; B. McKinney, pers. comm. 
1999).
    In Utah, between 1985 and 1987, productivity averaged 0.8 yg/pr 
(N=117). From 1991 through 1996, productivity ranged from 0.9 to 2.0 
yg/pr, with an average of 1.3 yg/pr (N=629) for the 6-year period 
(Bunnell 1994; F. Howe, in litt. 1997). In Wyoming, productivity 
between 1984 and 1998 ranged from 0.9 to 3.0 yg/pr, with an average of 
1.7 yg/pr (N=282) for the 15-year period. Recent productivity between 
1994 and 1998 averaged 1.8 
yg/pr (N=179) (Joe White, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in litt. 
1995; R. Oakleaf, in litt. 1999).
    In Kansas, productivity between 1993 and 1998 ranged from 0 to 3.0 
yg/pr, with an average of 1.0 yg/pr (N=6) for the 4-year period (L. 
Kiff, in litt. 1997; Tordoff et al. 1998). In 1998, the first pair of 
peregrine falcons were located in South Dakota; they produced no young.
    Although Texas and Arizona have exceeded their goals for number of 
pairs, current productivity is below the goal of 1.25 yg/pr and below 
their long term productivity averages by 44 and 18 percent 
respectively. Heavy metal contamination, particularly mercury, in 
adults and nestlings may be depressing productivity in Texas (Andrew 
Sansom, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in litt. 1995). Residual 
mercury contamination from mines operated along the Rio Grande River in 
the early 1900s is the suspected cause (B. McKinney, pers. comm. 1997). 
The current productivity level in Arizona is not fully understood, but 
may be a continuation of the variability exhibited in productivity 
between 1989 and 1995 (Garrison and Spencer 1996; Bruce Taubert, 
Arizona Game and Fish Department, pers. comm. 1999).
    Kansas and South Dakota are two more States that currently have not 
met the productivity goal of 1.25 yg/pr. Kansas has had only one 
peregrine falcon pair since 1992, and breeding is sporadic each year.
    Average productivity for the 11 States supporting breeding 
populations is 1.3 yg/pr, exceeding the goal of 1.25 yg/pr goal. Even 
though Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and Arizona currently have not met 
the productivity goal, productivity throughout the Rocky Mountain/
Southwest region is more than sufficient for recruitment to exceed 
mortality, so dramatic population growth has resulted.
    In Arizona, eggshells collected between 1978 and 1983 averaged 14.2 
percent thinner, and 20 eggshell replicates collected from 1989 through 
1994 averaged 13 percent thinner, than pre-DDT era eggshells (Ellis et 
al. 1989, Ward and Siemens 1995). In Colorado and New Mexico, shells 
from 260 eggs laid between 1977 and 1985 averaged 12 percent thinner 
than pre-DDT eggshells (Enderson et al. 1988). In another analysis of 
eggs from New Mexico, eggshells collected in 1977 averaged 20 percent 
thinner than pre-DDT eggshells, but in 1985 averaged only 14 percent 
thinner (Ponton et al. 1988). Eggshells collected in Colorado from 1973 
through 1997 were as much as 25.1 percent thinner and at least 6.0 
percent thinner than pre-DDT eggshells, with an average thinning of 
13.5 percent. Only Colorado has achieved the objective for eggshell 
thickness. Sampling in Colorado in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994 
produced measurements of 10.6, 11.7, 8.6, 8.1, and 6.0 percent thinning 
respectively, with an average annual mean of 9.0 percent thinning for 
this period (G. Craig, in litt. 1995). Although the recovery objective 
was not met in other States in the region, there is a general trend 
toward thicker eggshells in measurements taken since the mid-1970s (L. 
Kiff, pers. comm. 1995).
    The Rocky Mountain/Southwest Recovery Plan did not identify a 
recovery objective for pesticide residue levels. However, 
organochlorine pesticide residues in American peregrine falcon eggs 
measured in Colorado and New Mexico between 1973 and 1979 averaged 26 
ppm DDE, but the average declined to 15 ppm by 1980-1983 (Enderson et 
al. 1988). The average DDE concentration in 5 eggs collected in 
Colorado from 1986 through 1989 was 11 ppm (Jarman et al. 1993).
    In summary, the first recovery objective in the Rocky Mountain/
Southwest Recovery Plan was met; the current population of 535 pairs 
exceeds the goal of 183 pairs by 352 pairs. These pairs are distributed 
throughout the Rocky Mountain/Southwest States, meeting or exceeding 
the population goals in 10 of the 13 States in this

[[Page 46548]]

region. The second objective of sustaining a long-term average 
production of 1.25 yg/pr without manipulation by 1995 was met by all 
Rocky Mountain/Southwest States that have breeding American peregrine 
falcons except Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Arizona. By the mid-
1980s the practice of fostering young into active nests was terminated, 
therefore, the long-term average productivity this recovery region has 
experienced was accomplished without nest manipulation. The current 
reproductive level in the 11 States with breeding populations is 1.3 
yg/pr, exceeding the second objective of 1.25 yg/pr. Therefore, we 
consider the intent of this objective met. Based on the degree of 
recovery achieved, the third objective, that average eggshell thinning 
be no more than 10 percent from the pre-DDT era average for 5 years, 
appears to be conservative. The increase in numbers of American 
peregrine falcons indicates the subspecies has recovered without the 
necessity of reaching this specific recovery objective.

Eastern United States

    The eastern peregrine population has a unique history and complex 
status under the Act. As stated previously, peregrine falcons were 
extirpated in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada by the 
mid-1960s. In 1974, shortly after the passage of the Act, the National 
Audubon Society sponsored a meeting of experts in peregrine biology, 
including representatives from the Service, to address the conservation 
of the species in North America (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1991). 
This sparked the beginning of an effort to reestablish the peregrine in 
the eastern United States through the introduction of offspring from 
parents of multiple subspecies. Peregrine falcons were raised in 
captivity from parent subspecies then listed as endangered (Falco 
peregrinus anatum, F. p. tundrius, F. p. peregrinus), unlisted 
subspecies (F. p. pealei, F. p. brookei, etc.), and combinations of 
these subspecies. The first experimental releases of captive-produced 
young in the eastern States occurred in 1974 and 1975 (Cade 1994). 
These and future releases, coordinated by the Service, State fish and 
wildlife agencies, and representatives of The Peregrine Fund, 
demonstrated that hacking, the practice of retaining and feeding young 
captive-bred birds in partial captivity until they learn to fly and 
hunt on their own, was an effective method of introducing captive-bred 
peregrines to the wild (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1991).
    In 1978, we issued a policy statement confirming support for the 
use of North American peregrines to establish an eastern peregrine 
falcon population, supported with endangered species funds, and the use 
of peregrines from other geographic areas for specific research 
purposes. The policy applied only to peregrine falcons in the east 
(Keith M. Schreiner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in litt. 1978).
    Thus, notwithstanding the similarity of appearance designation, we 
have continued to fully support the restoration of the eastern 
peregrine falcon under the 1991 revised Peregrine Falcon Eastern 
Population Recovery Plan. We have given the eastern peregrine falcon 
equal consideration with the American peregrine falcon with respect to 
recovery.
    The Peregrine Falcon Eastern Population Recovery Plan (Eastern 
Plan), first published in 1979, and revised in 1985 and 1991 (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1991), addressed the recovery of the peregrine 
falcon in the Eastern United States, a population re-established 
beginning in 1974 and 1975 by releasing captive-bred peregrine falcons 
of mixed genetic heritage. The recovery plan established two recovery 
objectives (1) establish a minimum of 20-25 nesting pairs in each of 5 
recovery units and sustained them for a minimum of 3 years; and (2) an 
overall minimum of 175'200 pairs demonstrating successful, sustained 
nesting. The five recovery units are (1) Mid-Atlantic Coast, (2) 
Northern New York and New England, (3) Southern Appalachians, (4) Great 
Lakes, and (5) Southern New England/Central Appalachians.
    The first recovery objective is nearly achieved, with three of the 
five recovery units (Mid-Atlantic Coast, Northern New York and New 
England, and Great Lakes) surpassing 20 to 25 nesting pairs of 
peregrine falcons for 3 years. The Mid-Atlantic Coast unit had 65 pairs 
fledging 110 young in 1998 and averaged 62 pairs and 90 fledglings 
annually from 1996 through 1998. The Northern New York and New England 
unit had 50 pairs fledging 70 young in 1998 and averaged 47 pairs and 
61 fledglings annually from 1996 through 1998. The Great Lakes unit had 
44 pairs fledging 95 young in 1998 and averaged 40 pairs and 74 
fledglings from 1996 through 1998. The Southern Appalachians unit had 
14 pairs fledging seven young in 1998, and averaged 11 pairs fledging 
14 young from 1996 through 1998. The Southern New England and Central 
Appalachians unit had 20 pairs fledging 26 young in 1998 and averaged 
15 pairs fledging 22 young from 1996 through 1998 (L. Kiff, in litt. 
1997; David Flemming, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in litt. 1997; 
Mike Amaral, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in litt. 1999). In 1998, 
there was a total of 193 pairs counted in the five eastern State 
recovery units, which was the upper minimum recovery level of the 
Eastern Plan. The recovery goal, however, was probably met in 1997, 
because up to 10 percent of territorial pairs in any given year are 
believed to escape detection and are not counted (Cade et al. 1988). 
Importantly, the number of territorial pairs recorded in the eastern 
peregrine falcon recovery area has increased an average of 10 per cent 
annually for the past 7 years (1992-1998). Equally important is that 
the productivity of these pairs during the same 7-year period has 
averaged 1.5 
yg/pr, thus demonstrating sustained successful nesting.
    As of 1998, there were at least 32 nesting peregrine pairs in six 
midwestern States, which is outside the recovery area delineated in the 
1991 Eastern Plan. The birds are nesting successfully in a larger area 
than was believed likely in 1991. Peregrine falcons now found in 
midwestern States are the result of captive-reared and released birds, 
and others that probably came from the peregrine falcons released in 
the eastern States. However, there appears to be a zone of no nesting 
in the northeastern Great Plains that separates the western American 
peregrine falcons from the introduced eastern peregrine falcons (Chuck 
Kjos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 1997). There are now 
more than 225 pairs of peregrine falcons in the midwestern and eastern 
States where peregrine falcons were extirpated.

Mexico

    None of the existing recovery plans written for peregrine falcons 
in North America established recovery criteria for birds that nest in 
Mexico. There is very little historical or recent information on 
peregrine falcons in Mexico to accurately assess their current status 
in Mexico.
    Porter et al. (1988) reported 42 known nesting territories on the 
western side of the Baja California Peninsula. From 1966 through 1971, 
only three pairs occurred in this region and none were found in 1976 
(Porter et al. 1988), indicating a substantial decline had occurred by 
the mid-1970s. Most of these territories apparently were checked since 
that time, but seven pairs were located between 1985 and 1992 in areas 
not occupied in previous years (Massey and Palacios 1994).

[[Page 46549]]

    In 1993, three active American peregrine falcon nests were 
discovered in Ojo de Liebre (Scammon's Lagoon) on the western side of 
the Baja California Peninsula in an area without historical nesting 
records (Castellanos et al. 1994). The central west coast of the Baja 
California Peninsula was an important breeding area with a historical 
population of about 13 pairs (Banks 1969). Between 1980 and 1994, 
Castellanos et al. (1997) conducted breeding surveys of American 
peregrine falcons in this area of the coast and found 10 nesting pairs. 
Castellanos et al. (1997) studied the reproductive success of three 
pairs in 1993 and five pairs in 1994 located at Ojo de Liebre and San 
Ignacio Lagoons. An average of three eggs, 1.8 nestlings, and 1.6 
fledglings were produced per nest. This productivity appears to be 
within the range of normal productivity for healthy populations (Cade 
et al. 1988). These observations suggest some recent recovery on the 
west coast of the Baja California Peninsula.
    On the western (Gulf of California) side of mainland Mexico, Porter 
et al. (1988) reported 23 historical nest sites. A number of new nest 
sites were found in this area between 1966 and 1984, increasing the 
number of known nest sites to 51. Territory occupancy averaged about 82 
percent between 1967 and 1971 and 77 percent between 1971 through 1975, 
indicating that territory occupancy in that area never declined as 
significantly as on the west side of the Baja California Peninsula. 
Porter and Jenkins (1988) believed that the number of occupied 
territories in the Gulf area increased after 1967 following a reduction 
in DDE residues in prey.
    Between 1989 and 1997, Robert Mesta, (in litt. 1997) found three 
pairs of American peregrine falcons, one pair on the Rio Aros and two 
on the Rio Yaqui, Sonora. Hunt et al. (1988) found 14 occupied nesting 
territories in the highlands of northeast Mexico in 1982. In this area 
and adjacent west Texas, territory occupancy averaged about 70 percent 
during 1973-1985.
    Most of what is known about productivity and pesticide residues in 
Mexico comes from the western mainland near the Gulf of California. 
Porter et al. (1988) found that productivity along the Gulf of 
California between 1965 and 1984 was ``somewhat less than normal,'' and 
five addled eggs collected between 1976 and 1984 averaged 12.8 ppm DDE 
with a range of 2.4 to 25.0 ppm (Porter and Jenkins 1988). DDE residues 
in prey in the Gulf area declined from the 1960s to the 1980s, and this 
decline correlated with increases in productivity and the number of 
breeding pairs (Porter and Jenkins 1988). Some prey, however, still 
contained high pesticide residues, and reproduction appeared to be 
affected by organochlorine at three of 15 nests examined (Porter and 
Jenkins 1988).
    Hunt et al. (1988) found that only five of 14 pairs produced young 
in northeast Mexico in 1982. Hunt et al. (1988) reported significant 
DDE residues in peregrine falcon prey species in western Texas in the 
mid 1980s, but prey species in Mexico were not sampled.
    In summary, there was little research on the distribution, numbers, 
and status of American peregrine falcons in Mexico, and most research 
took place in the Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California 
regions. Numbers on the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula 
declined significantly (Porter et al. 1988), but observations suggest 
that numbers may have increased in recent years (Massey and Palacios 
1994; Castellanos et al. 1994; and Castellanos et al. 1997). In the 
Gulf of California area, territory occupancy never was known to drop 
below 77 percent (Porter et al. 1988), and it increased in the 1970s 
and 1980s (Porter and Jenkins 1988).
    No information on population trends for American peregrine falcons 
in Mexico is available. However, the status of the Mexican population 
may be similar to that of the population occupying similar habitat in 
nearby Arizona (G. Hunt, pers. comm. 1997). Exposure to organochlorine-
based pesticides by Mexico nesting populations continues to be a 
concern. In 1997, as part of the North American Agreement for 
Environmental Cooperation, a parallel agreement to the North American 
Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the 
Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) established a North 
American Regional Action Plan (NARA) on DDT. Mexico, a member nation of 
the CEC, proposes a phased reduction of DDT (Philip Johnson, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, pers. comm. 1999). Specific goals of this 
reduction are: (1) Reduce the use of DDT for malaria control in Mexico 
by 80 percent in 5 years (beginning in 1997); (2) eliminate the illegal 
use of DDT in agriculture in Mexico; (3) develop a cooperative approach 
to minimize movement of malaria-infected mosquitos across borders and 
reduce the illegal importation of DDT; and (4) advance global controls 
on DDT production, export and use.
    Adverse effects of organochlorine pesticides in the environment 
remains an international concern for peregrine falcons nesting in 
Mexico, and for peregrine falcons wintering in or migrating through 
Latin America. By undertaking the steps proposed in the NARA, the 
United States, Canada, and Mexico are committing to ongoing cooperative 
activities and yearly reporting on progress made on these initiatives 
and objectives. Annual reports will be submitted to the North American 
Working Group for the Sound Management of Chemicals and subsequently 
disseminated to the Council of the Commission for Environmental 
Cooperation and the public.

Summary of Peregrine Falcon Recovery

    Five regional peregrine falcon recovery plans, four for American 
peregrine falcons in Canada and the western United States, and one for 
the eastern United States introduced peregrine falcon population, were 
written to guide recovery efforts and establish criteria to be used in 
measuring recovery. These recovery plans included objectives for 
population size and reproductive performance. Only two of the recovery 
plans included specific objectives that applied to pesticide residues 
in eggs and eggshell thinning. The combined breeding population size 
goal for the four American peregrine falcon recovery plans is 456 
pairs. Currently, a minimum of 1,425 pairs occupy the range of the 
American peregrine falcon in Alaska, Canada, and the western United 
States. There are 193 peregrine falcon pairs in the five recovery units 
included in the Eastern Plan, and an additional 32 peregrine falcon 
pairs occur in midwestern States in areas not included in the Eastern 
Plan recovery units. In 1998, the total known breeding population of 
peregrine falcons was 1,650 pairs in the United States and Canada.
    Productivity is an important measure of population health, and each 
of the four American peregrine falcon recovery regions met or exceeded 
their respective productivity goals, as did the eastern peregrine 
population.
    Other objectives, including those for pesticide residues in eggs 
and the degree to which eggshells are thinner than pre-pesticide era 
eggshells, vary among the plans. In the case of eggshell thinning, 
current measurements obtained in some areas fall short of recovery 
objectives. Eggshell thinning was originally suggested by recovery 
teams as an indicator of whether organochlorine contamination was 
preventing species recovery. Despite the failure of populations in 
localized areas to meet recovery objectives, overall, populations of 
American peregrine

[[Page 46550]]

falcons have increased considerably. This increase continues to occur 
even after reintroduction efforts were curtailed. The consistent and 
geographically widespread trends in increasing population size 
demonstrate that current levels of reproductive failure, pesticide 
residues, and eggshell thinning still affecting American peregrine 
falcons in some areas have not prevented recovery of the subspecies in 
North America.
    Table 1 summarizes the recovery plan goals for each of the regions 
and Canada, as well as the current recovery status.

           Table 1.--American Peregrine Falcon Recovery Plan Goals and Current (1998) Recovery Status.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       Comments/degree to which delisting goals
         Recovery plan            Delisting goal     Current status                     are met
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alaska:
    Pairs.....................  28 pairs in study  79 pairs in study  Exceeded goal by 51 pairs in study areas.
                                 areas.             areas.             Approximately 301 pairs known State-wide.
    Productivity (young/pair).  1.8 yg/pr........  1.9 yg/pr........  Exceeded goal.
    DDT (parts per million)...  less than 5 ppm..  3.5 ppm..........  Exceeded goal.
    Eggshell thinning.........  less than 10       12.1 percent.....  Goal not met, but has not prevented
                                 percent.                              recovery; goal probably too conservative.
Canada:
    Pairs.....................  60 pairs (10 each  319 pairs........  Exceeded goal by 259 pairs.
                                 in 6 zones).
    Productivity..............  1.5 yg/pr........  1.8 yg/pr........  Exceeded goal.
Pacific Coast:
    Pairs.....................  185 pairs........  270 pairs........  Exceeded goal by 85 pairs.
    Productivity..............  1.5 yg/pr........  1.5 yg/pr........  Goal met.
Rocky Mountain/Southwest:
    Pairs.....................  183 pairs........  535 pairs........  Exceeded goal by 352 pairs.
    Productivity..............  1.25 yg/pr.......  1.3 yg/pr........  Exceeded goal.
    Eggshell thinning.........  less than 10       .................  Goal measured by only a few States; cannot
                                 percent.                              be assessed.
Eastern/Great Lakes:
    Pairs.....................  175-200 pairs      193 pairs........  Exceeded goal in 3 zones; goals in other 2
                                 (with no fewer                        zones probably were met; an additional 32
                                 than 20-25 in                         peregrine falcon pairs occur in several
                                 each of 5                             Midwestern States not included under the
                                 recovery zones).                      Eastern Plan.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Summary of Issues and Recommendations

    In the August 26, 1998, proposed rule (63 FR 45446), we requested 
that all interested parties provide information and comments on the 
status of and proposal to delist the American peregrine falcon. 
Announcements of the proposed rule were sent to Federal, State, county, 
and city-elected officials, Federal and State agencies, interested 
private citizens, and local area newspapers and radio stations. We 
provided the governments of Canada and Mexico with the proposed rule, 
and both countries responded with comments. We held public hearings on 
December 3, 1998, in Wisconsin and December 8, 1998, in New Hampshire. 
In addition, we solicited formal scientific peer review of the proposal 
in accordance with our July 1, 1994, Interagency Cooperative Policy for 
Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities (59 FR 34270). We 
requested three individuals, who possess expertise in peregrine falcon 
biology, to review the proposed rule by the close of the comment 
period. All three individuals responded to our request and their 
comments were incorporated into this final rule.
    We considered all comments, including oral testimony at the public 
hearings. We received a total of 29 oral comments and 893 comment 
letters from 49 States, and the District of Columbia, Canada, Mexico, 
Germany, Bali, four Federal agencies, 27 State resource agencies, 305 
falconry associations or individual falconers, and 40 conservation 
organizations. Of the comments received, 633 supported the proposal to 
delist, 266 opposed the proposal, 11 supported downlisting, and 12 
letters duplicated comments from individuals who previously provided 
oral comments.
    Because many respondents offered similar comments, those comments 
of a similar nature are grouped. These comments, and our responses, are 
presented below.
    Issue 1: In the Midwest, delisting will result in less cooperation 
by building owners and managers to protect peregrine falcons nesting on 
their buildings.
    Our Response: Currently, 28 States in the midwestern and eastern 
United States support nesting peregrine falcons. Approximately 87 
percent of the midwestern pairs and 33 percent of the eastern pairs are 
nesting on manmade structures: bridges, buildings and smokestacks 
(Martell and McNicoll 1999). Currently, there are 117 nests on nest 
boxes or trays in 19 States and the District of Columbia. Should 
delisting the peregrine falcon act as a disincentive for owners and 
managers to protect nesting peregrine falcons on their buildings, the 
long-term security of this urban population could be threatened 
(Martell and McNicoll 1999).
    Between January and March of 1999, 75 people with information on 95 
of the 117 nest sites were asked if delisting would affect their 
current management strategies. Responses were overwhelmingly in favor 
of continuing to manage for the presence of nesting pairs for some of 
the following reasons: pigeon control, good public relations, positive 
effect on building employees, and good environmental stewardship 
(Martell and McNicoll 1999). Survey results do not suggest that 
delisting of the peregrine falcon would result in widespread removal of 
nest boxes and trays or discouragement of nesting on manmade 
structures. Furthermore, the survey found the public widely appreciated 
and accommodated

[[Page 46551]]

peregrines at the manmade structures on which they nest (Martell and 
McNicoll 1999).
    Issue 2: Disturbance due to recreational rock climbing poses a 
threat to nesting peregrine falcons.
    Our Response: The increasing popularity of rock climbing throughout 
North America, particularly in the northeast, is becoming a serious 
problem for land managers trying to protect nesting peregrine falcons. 
Unlike the western landscape that provides rock climbers with more and 
larger cliffs and thus some alternatives to conflicts with nesting 
peregrine falcons, the smaller and limited cliffs of the northeast 
present fewer alternatives to peregrine/climber conflicts.
    The peregrine falcon will still be protected by the MBTA. 
Additional protection is provided by other laws such as the National 
Forest Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1600) and the Federal Land Management 
and Policy Act (43 U.S.C. 1701). These continued protections are 
adequate to address this threat. See Factor D under Summary of Factors 
Affecting the Species.
    In addition, we are aware of several very effective raptor 
management plans that were cooperatively developed by land managers, 
representatives of the climbing community, and other interested parties 
(plans that contain effective public education components). Some 
examples include plans developed by the Prescott National Forest in 
Arizona, Yosemite National Park in California, Adirondack State Park in 
New York, Zion National Park in Utah, Smith Rock State Park in Oregon, 
the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina, and the Colorado 
National Monument in Colorado. All of these plans include seasonal rock 
climbing restrictions to prevent disturbance of raptor nests from rock 
climbing activities. The development of more of these partnerships is 
essential to the preservation of the peregrine falcon and the sport of 
rock climbing. Organizations like the Access Fund which represent the 
climbing community have continued to express a strong desire to work 
with both private and public land managers to resolve any conflicts 
originating from the use of cliffs by climbers.
    Issue 3: The Act's section 6 funds currently being used by States 
to support peregrine falcon monitoring programs will not be available 
once the peregrine is delisted.
    Our Response: We are authorized through the Secretary of the 
Interior to provide grants to States to assist in monitoring the status 
of recovered species pursuant to section 4(g) under section 6 of the 
Act. Existing and future Federal assistance in the form of section 6 
funding to States for conservation work will not be affected by the 
delisting, as long as States continue to identify monitoring peregrine 
falcons as a high priority.
    Issue 4: The data do not support delisting the American peregrine 
falcon throughout its range in the United States. The Service should 
consider downlisting the American peregrine falcon to threatened rather 
than delisting.
    Our Response: Recent data show improvements in numbers of breeding 
pairs of peregrine falcons and productivity (Refer to Table 1, 
``Recovery Status,'' and ``Summary of Peregrine Falcon Recovery''), and 
demonstrate that goals set for numbers and productivity for the 
American peregrine falcon recovery plans were met or exceeded. The 
combined population size goal for the four American peregrine falcon 
recovery plans is 456 pairs. Currently, a minimum of 1,425 known pairs 
occupy sites in Alaska, Canada, and the western United States, and a 
number of additional pairs have probably gone undetected. Overall 
average productivity goals in all four American peregrine falcon 
recovery plans, using productivity as a recovery criterion, were met or 
exceeded.
    Only the Alaska recovery plan set a goal for DDT levels, and only 
two recovery plans (Alaska and Rocky Mountain/Southwest) specified 
objectives for eggshell thinning. The Alaska Recovery Plan set a 
delisting goal of less than 5 ppm DDT and less than 10 percent eggshell 
thinning. Recent data for American peregrine falcon eggs in Alaska 
indicate DDT levels at less than 3.5 ppm, exceeding that goal, and 
eggshell thinning is at 12.1 percent. Measurements for eggshell 
thinning were not consistently taken in the Rocky Mountain/Southwest 
States. Colorado has met the recovery plan eggshell thinning goal of 
less than 10 percent; the average of the annual means for 1990-1994 was 
9.0 percent. Data for other States show a general trend toward thicker 
eggshells since the mid-1970s (refer to Rocky Mountain/Southwest 
section under Recovery Status).
    Three of 5 peregrine falcon recovery units in the eastern United 
States have met recovery goals, and 193 pairs documented in 1998 
indicate the overall recovery goal of 175-200 pairs was met. In 
addition, another 32 pairs are nesting in areas of the Midwest outside 
the recovery units specified in the Eastern Plan but nevertheless 
contribute to overall restoration goals.
    We believe that the species has essentially achieved the goals 
established for recovery and, in many areas, has exceeded the goals. We 
believe the available information supports full delisting of the 
species throughout its range, and the species clearly is not in danger 
of extinction, is not likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range, and 
warrants full delisting.
    Issue 5: American peregrine falcons should not be delisted because 
they are not restored throughout the historical range.
    Our Response: We have determined the American peregrine falcon has 
recovered throughout its historical range. Restoration of the American 
peregrine falcon within every area throughout its historical range is 
not required by the Act, is not required for recovery, nor was it a 
goal of any of the recovery plans. Generally, the goal of a recovery 
program is to restore the species to a point at which protection under 
the Act is no longer required. To be recovered, a species must not be 
endangered with extinction, or be likely to become endangered within 
the foreseeable future. Although a few, localized areas have not quite 
met their numerical recovery goals, the overall status of the American 
peregrine falcon has improved significantly such that it is considered 
recovered and warrants delisting. As a species recovers in numbers and 
populations expand, more of the historical range can be re-occupied 
where appropriate habitat remains.
    Issue 6: There are gaps in the scientific knowledge about American 
peregrine falcon biology. A population viability analysis was not done, 
and genetic diversity, viable population size, population dynamics, and 
long-term stability of populations have not been determined.
    Our Response: A complete understanding of the biology of a species 
is not required to determine a species' conservation status under the 
Act. Population viability analyses are important tools for attempting 
to quantify threats to a species, particularly those facing loss and 
fragmentation of habitat, and the consequences of conservation actions, 
as well as aiding in identifying critical factors for study, 
management, and monitoring. These analyses are not always essential, 
however, to determine when a species has achieved recovery, 
particularly in the case of the American peregrine falcon. It is 
evident that

[[Page 46552]]

recovery of this subspecies was largely achieved by eliminating the use 
of DDT and by successful management activities, including the 
reintroduction of captive-bred American peregrine falcons. Recovery 
goals established for the species were met or exceeded, with few 
exceptions.
    Issue 7: Organochlorine pesticides still persist within the 
breeding range of the American peregrine falcon and continue to depress 
natural productivity.
    Our Response: We recognize that although the peregrine falcon has 
made a dramatic recovery throughout its historical range in the United 
States, the presence of environmental contaminants is still affecting 
the productivity of certain regional populations. Eggs collected on the 
eastern shore of Virginia and Maryland had slightly elevated levels of 
DDE, dieldrin, and mercury, which was associated with reproductive 
problems (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1994). On the Channel Islands 
in California, particularly Catalina, populations are still affected by 
organochlorine residues and eggshell thinning (Jarman 1994). In west 
Texas, heavy metal contamination, particularly mercury may be 
depressing productivity (A. Sansom, in litt.1995). Residual mercury 
from mines operated along the Rio Grande River in the early 1900s is 
the suspected source of this contamination (B. McKinney, pers. comm. 
1997). We recognize the possible threat that environmental contaminants 
pose to the sustained recovery of this species and therefore, will 
include a contaminant monitoring component in the post-delisting 
monitoring plan. Refer to Factor E under Summary of Factors Affecting 
the Species, for an in-depth discussion of contaminants. See also our 
response to issue 8.
    Issue 8: The continued unrestricted use of organochlorine 
pesticides in Latin America places the American peregrine falcon at 
risk of contamination while on migration and on its wintering grounds.
    Our Response: Comparisons of blood samples collected during fall 
and spring migration indicate that, although migrant peregrine falcons 
are known to accumulate pesticides while wintering in Latin America, 
DDE residues in the blood taken from female peregrine falcons captured 
during spring migration at Padre Island, Texas decreased between 1978 
and 1994 below levels that would affect reproduction (Henny et al. 
1996). Despite the use of organochlorines in Latin America, the 
American peregrine falcon has recovered over its historical range, and 
Arctic peregrine falcons, which also winter in Latin America, were 
delisted due to their recovery. Refer to Factor E under Summary of 
Factors Affecting the Species for an in-depth discussion. The North 
American Working Group for the Sound Management of Chemicals promotes a 
regional perspective that encourages the active involvement of Central 
and South American countries in the implementation of the North 
American Regional Action Plan on DDT, and is facilitating international 
cooperation on combating malaria in these regions without the continued 
use of organochlorine pesticides. This effort could eventually 
eliminate or reduce one source of DDT in Central and South American 
countries.
    Issue 9: The take of American peregrine falcons for falconry after 
its delisting will create an additional threat to the subspecies.
    Our Response: Delisting the American peregrine falcon will not 
affect the protection given to all migratory bird species, including 
the peregrine falcon, under the MBTA. The regulations issued pursuant 
to the MBTA allow for issuance of permits to take raptors for falconry 
and other purposes provided the taking will not threaten wildlife 
populations (50 CFR 21.28 and 13.21(b)). Currently we are working with 
State wildlife agencies to develop biological criteria and two 
management plans to govern the issuance of permits for take of 
peregrine falcons to ensure the taking does not negatively impact wild 
populations, particularly those in need of further restoration. The 
first management plan will deal with the take of eyas (nestling) 
peregrines. A second management plan will deal with the take of passage 
(migrating first-year) peregrines. The management plans will include 
criteria for harvest, implementation criteria, and procedures for 
evaluating effects of the harvest. They will pertain to the take of all 
wild peregrine falcons in the U.S., including the American peregrine 
falcon, and will apply to all falconry, raptor propagation, and 
scientific collecting permits. Take will not be permitted under the 
MBTA until the draft management plans undergo public review, are 
approved, finalized, and published in the Federal Register. Some 
exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for scientific purposes. 
The effects of take for all purposes will be assessed during the 
monitoring period following delisting. Refer to Factor D under the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species section and the Effects of 
This Rule section for further information.
    Issue 10: The Canadian Wildlife Service has expressed concern that 
American peregrine falcons breeding in Canada but migrating to or 
through the United States will be taken for falconry purposes.
    Our Response: Canada's recovery program for American peregrine 
falcons is still in progress and the Canadian government is concerned 
that any take of American peregrines migrating from Canada could impact 
recovery. We are working with the governments of Canada and Greenland 
in considering the appropriateness of harvest of peregrines migrating 
through the United States. If take of these passage birds is approved, 
it would be designed to avoid take of American peregrines originating 
in Canada and instead target the more abundant Arctic peregrines from 
northern Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
    Issue 11: The Service cannot consider delisting the American 
peregrine falcon until all recovery goals in the four existing recovery 
plans for this subspecies are met or exceeded.
    Our Response: Section 4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and 
implement recovery plans for species of animals or plants listed as 
endangered or threatened. Recovery is the process by which the decline 
of an endangered or threatened species is arrested or reversed and 
threats to its survival are neutralized so that long-term survival in 
nature can be ensured. The goal of this process is the maintenance of 
secure, self-sustaining wild populations of species with the minimum 
investment of resources. One of the main purposes of the recovery plan 
is to enumerate goals (guidelines) that will help us to determine when 
recovery for a particular species is achieved. Meeting or exceeding all 
of the specific recovery goals for a listed species is not required by 
the Act before delisting can occur.
    We determine whether recovery is achieved based on a species' 
performance relative to the goals set in its recovery plan and the best 
available scientific information. A species is considered recovered 
when it is no longer in danger of extinction (i.e., endangered), or 
likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range (i.e., threatened). The 
American peregrine falcon has either met, exceeded, or is very close to 
meeting the recovery goals set for this subspecies throughout its 
range. We believe that the intent of all the objectives are met and 
that the recovery of the subspecies justifies delisting.
    Issue 12: The eastern peregrine falcon population has not met the 
recovery goals set forth in the Eastern Recovery

[[Page 46553]]

Plan and, therefore, should remain on the endangered species list.
    Our Response: The eastern peregrine falcon population is protected 
only due to the similarity of appearance to F. p. anatum, which has 
protected individual eastern peregrine falcons from direct take. Thus, 
their status with respect to recovery has no direct impact on the 
decision to delist the American peregrine falcon. Nevertheless, we have 
supported and still fully support the restoration of this population.
    Data through 1998 on the status of the eastern peregrine falcon 
population indicate that the intent of the recovery goals set for this 
population are met. The recovery plan established 2 recovery objectives 
including (1) a minimum of 20-25 nesting pairs in each of 5 recovery 
units which are established and sustained for a minimum of 3 years, and 
(2) an overall minimum of 175-200 pairs demonstrating successful, 
sustained nesting. Three of the five recovery units (Mid-Atlantic 
Coast, Northern New York and New England, and Great Lakes) have 
surpassed the nesting pair goal for 3 years. The Southern Appalachians 
and Southern New England/Central Appalachians units may not yet have 
achieved the goals established for the number of breeding pairs for 
those areas. However, the overall minimum of 175-200 successful pairs 
in the eastern region was achieved, and over the past 6 years (1992-
1998), the number of territorial pairs has increased an average of 10 
percent annually. There are now at least 193 pairs of peregrine falcons 
in the eastern States where falcons were extirpated, and pairs are 
successfully nesting throughout a greater range than was anticipated. 
We believe the intent of the recovery objectives are satisfied and that 
recovery of the peregrine in the eastern United States is sufficiently 
established. Refer to the Recovery Status section for additional 
discussion on this subject.
    Issue 13: The status of the American peregrine falcon in Mexico was 
not adequately addressed.
    Our Response: While population status and trends for falcons 
nesting in Mexico are not well known, American peregrine falcon 
populations in the United States and Canada, including those migrating 
to and from Latin America, have met or exceeded their criteria for 
delisting. Restoration of the American peregrine falcon within every 
area throughout its historical range is not required by the Act, nor is 
it required for recovery. Mexico's proposed phased reduction of DDT 
under the North American Regional Action Plan will make a significant 
contribution toward increasing peregrine falcon populations in Mexico. 
Refer to the Mexico section under Recovery Status for additional 
discussion on this subject.
    Issue 14: The Service's delisting proposal is not supported by an 
adequate scientific review.
    Our Response: The proposed rule to remove the peregrine falcon in 
North America from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife received reviews from a variety of scientific institutions and 
individual scientists. Two examples are the Ornithological Council and 
the Raptor Research Foundation. The Ornithological Council consists of 
nine leading scientific ornithological societies: the American 
Ornithologists' Union, Association of Field Ornithologists, Consejo 
Internacional para la Preservacion de las Aves, Cooper Ornithological 
Society, Colonial Waterbird Society, Pacific Seabird Group, Raptor 
Research Foundation, Society of Caribbean Ornithology, and Wilson 
Ornithological Society. Together it has a membership of approximately 
6,500 ornithologists. One of its primary missions is to provide 
scientific information about birds to legislators, regulatory agencies, 
industry decision makers, conservation organizations and others, and to 
promote the use of scientific information in the making of policies 
that affect birds.
    The task of evaluating the proposed rule on behalf of the 
Ornithological Council was accepted by a committee of Raptor Research 
Foundation scientists. The Raptor Research Foundation is a scientific 
society that represents professional raptor scientists and managers 
throughout North America and around the world. This committee of raptor 
scientists reviewed the available data and submitted a report that was 
endorsed by both the Ornithological Council and the Raptor Research 
Foundation as their position on the proposed rule. This report 
underwent peer review and was published in the Wildlife Society 
Bulletin (Millsap et al., 1998, WSB 26(3); 522-538). While expressing 
some concern about the status of the eastern peregrine population, the 
authors concurred with our position that the peregrine falcon warranted 
delisting range-wide.
    Issue 15: Recovery plans used to evaluate the recovery of the 
peregrine falcon are out of date and need to be revised to reflect more 
accurate contemporary goals and the Service should not misrepresent the 
goals in the current plans.
    Our Response: As addressed in our response to Issue 11, section 
4(f) of the Act directs us to develop and implement recovery plans for 
species of animals or plants listed as endangered or threatened. 
Recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered or 
threatened species is arrested or reversed and threats to its survival 
are neutralized so that long-term survival in nature can be ensured. 
One of the main purposes of the recovery plan is to enumerate goals 
(guidelines) that will help us to determine when recovery of a 
particular species is achieved. Meeting or exceeding all of the 
specific recovery goals for a listed species before it can be delisted 
is not required by the Act. Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 
CFR Part 424) promulgated to implement the listing provisions of the 
Act, establish the procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting 
species. We may list a species if one or more of the five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act threatens the continued 
existence of the species. A species may be delisted, according to 50 
CFR 424.11(d), if the best scientific and commercial data available 
substantiate that the species is neither endangered or threatened 
because of (1) extinction, (2) recovery, or (3) the original data for 
classification of the species were in error. We have determined that 
substantial peregrine falcon recovery has taken place, and none of the 
five factors addressed in section 4(a)(1) of the Act is currently 
negatively affecting the peregrine falcon to the degree that the 
species is endangered or threatened.
    Issue 16: Post-delisting monitoring for at least 5 years is 
essential.
    Our Response: We agree. Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires the 
Secretary to implement a system, in cooperation with the States, to 
monitor for not less than 5 years the status of all species which have 
recovered to the point that protection of the Act is no longer required 
(section 4(g)). If it becomes evident during the course of the post-
delisting monitoring that the species again requires the protection of 
the Act, it would be relisted.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations (50 CFR Part 424) promulgated 
to implement the listing provisions of the Act, set forth the 
procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting species on the 
Federal lists. We may list a species if one or more of the five factors 
described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act threatens the continued 
existence of the species. A species may be delisted, according to 50 
CFR 424.11(d), if the

[[Page 46554]]

best scientific and commercial data available substantiate that the 
species is neither endangered or threatened because of (1) extinction, 
(2) recovery, or (3) the original data for classification of the 
species were in error.
    After a thorough review of all available information, we have 
determined that substantial peregrine falcon recovery has taken place 
since the early 1980s. We determined that none of the five factors 
addressed in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, and discussed below, is 
currently affecting the species, including the American peregrine 
falcon subspecies and introduced peregrine falcon populations, such 
that the species is no longer endangered (in danger of extinction 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range) or threatened 
(likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all 
or a significant portion of its range). These factors and their 
application to the peregrine falcon in North America are as follows:

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Peregrine falcons occupy a variety of habitat types and nest from 
the boreal forest region of Alaska and Canada, through much of Canada 
and the western United States, south to parts of central and western 
Mexico. Nesting habitat includes cliffs and bluffs in boreal forests, 
coastal cliffs and islands, urban skyscrapers and other structures, and 
cliffs and buttes in southwestern deserts. In some breeding areas, such 
as the southern United States, some or all of the birds remain year-
round on their nesting territories. In other breeding areas, 
particularly in high latitudes, many or all of the individuals are 
highly migratory; these individuals occupy a number of regions and 
habitat types throughout the year as they nest, migrate to and from 
wintering areas, and occupy their wintering ranges. Due to the 
extensive geographic distribution of the peregrine falcon, the wide 
variety of habitat types in which the species nests, and the immense 
area that some of the more migratory individuals occupy during a year, 
the peregrine falcon occupies an extremely broad array of areas and 
habitats throughout its range. As a result, the degree to which 
peregrine falcons were affected by human-caused habitat modification 
varies widely by region, habitat type, and individual falcons within 
the population.
    As the human population has grown in North America, the rate of 
habitat alteration has unquestionably increased. Certainly some 
peregrine falcon habitat was destroyed, such as the many wetlands 
drained in recent years that were previously used by peregrine falcons 
for foraging or as migratory staging areas during spring and fall. But 
peregrine falcons have colonized many cities in North America due to 
the abundance of nest sites on buildings and the abundance of prey, 
such as rock doves (Columba livia), that thrive in urban areas. 
Therefore, some forms of habitat modification have negatively affected 
peregrine falcons while other forms have benefited them. It would be 
burdensome to estimate the net, overall effect of habitat modification 
on the species throughout North America.
    Although the rate of habitat modification in North America has 
increased in recent decades, the number of American peregrine falcons 
occupying the region has increased substantially since the late 1970s 
or early 1980s. In several parts of their range, including parts of 
Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, California, and the 
southwestern United States, the number of breeding pairs has increased 
rapidly in recent years, and some local populations now occur at very 
high densities (R. Ambrose, pers. comm. 1997; G. Holroyd, pers. comm. 
1997; Enderson et al. 1995). Because these rapid population growth 
rates and high densities were achieved despite habitat modification in 
North America, we conclude that habitat modification or destruction was 
not a limiting factor in peregrine recovery. It does not currently 
threaten the existence of the American peregrine falcon nor is it 
likely to in the foreseeable future.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    Delisting the peregrine falcon will not result in overutilization 
because the delisting will not affect protection provided the peregrine 
falcon by the MBTA. The take of all migratory birds, including 
peregrine falcons, is governed by the MBTA's regulations on the taking 
of migratory birds for educational, scientific, and recreational 
purposes and requiring harvest be limited to levels that prevent 
overutilization (See Factor D).

C. Disease or Predation

    Peregrine falcons are susceptible to a number of diseases and 
parasites such as tapeworms, mites, ticks, botulism, fowl pox, and 
viral encephalitis (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982b; Trainer 
(1969) as cited in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1984). However, these 
organisms are not known to affect the peregrine falcon at the 
population level.
    Mammals and other raptors are known to prey on peregrine falcons, 
including such species as the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), red-
tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and coyote 
(Canis latrans) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982b, 1984). For 
example, great horned owls are natural predators of peregrine falcons 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1991) and are possibly responsible for 
the slow recovery of peregrine falcons in the two northern recovery 
areas in the reestablished eastern population (M. Amaral in litt. 
1995). Great horned owl predation was not documented as a significant 
cause of the decline in peregrine falcons and has not affected the 
species' overall recovery.
    Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) are also known to prey on young 
peregrine falcons. Barbara Behan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pers. 
comm. 1999) witnessed a golden eagle prey on young peregrine falcons at 
a hack site in Colorado, stooping and footing one of the falcons, and 
leaving the area with it in its talons. The same eagle, or another, 
returned numerous times over the next several days, and the other four 
falcons disappeared in that time, despite efforts by the hack site 
attendants to scare the eagles away from the site.
    Though the peregrine falcon is occasionally preyed upon, this 
factor is not known to affect the peregrine falcon at the population 
level.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Protection from take and commerce for the peregrine falcons under 
the Endangered Species Act will be removed upon delisting. However, 
peregrine falcons are still protected by the MBTA. Section 704 of the 
MBTA states that the Secretary of the Interior is authorized and 
directed to determine if, and by what means, the take of migratory 
birds is allowed and to adopt suitable regulations permitting and 
governing the take. In adopting regulations, the Secretary is to 
consider such factors as distribution and abundance to ensure that take 
is compatible with the protection of the species.
    The MBTA and its implementing regulations (50 CFR Parts 20 and 21) 
prohibit take, possession, import, export, transport, selling, 
purchase, barter, or offering for sale, purchase or barter, any 
migratory bird, their eggs, parts, and nests, except as authorized 
under a valid permit (50 CFR 21.11). Regulations at 50 CFR 21.28 and 
21.30 authorize the issuance of permits to take, possess, transport and 
engage in

[[Page 46555]]

commerce with raptors for falconry and for propagation. Other 
regulations authorize the issuance of permits for scientific collecting 
(50 CFR 21.23), special purposes such as rehabilitation or education 
(50 CFR 21.27), and depredation (50 CFR 21.41). Prior to issuance of 
these permits, meeting certain criteria is required, including a 
requirement that the issuance will not threaten a wildlife population 
(50 CFR 13.21(b)(4)). In cooperation with State wildlife agencies we 
will develop draft biological criteria for management of take of wild 
peregrines under the MBTA. The resulting management plans will include 
biological criteria for take, implementation criteria, and procedures 
for evaluating the effects of the taking. It will pertain to the take 
of peregrines in the United States for falconry and other purposes. 
With limited exceptions, take will not be permitted under MBTA until 
the draft management plans undergo public review, are approved, 
finalized, and published in the Federal Register. In addition to 
considering the effect on wild populations, issuance of raptor 
propagation permits requires that we consider whether suitable captive 
stock is available and whether wild stock is needed to enhance the 
genetic variability of captive stock (50 CFR 21.30(c)(4)).
    These existing regulatory provisions will adequately protect 
against excessive take of peregrine falcons. If necessary, protective 
measures could be expanded by promulgation of a regulation under the 
MBTA. We have both the legal authority and the obligation to regulate 
take of peregrines under the MBTA (see additional discussion of the 
MBTA in the Effects of this Rule section below).
    In the absence of habitat protection under the Act, there are no 
other existing Federal laws that specifically protect the habitat of 
this species (see ``Critical Habitat''). However, loss of habitat was 
not identified as a threat to the species and was not a factor 
identified as contributing to the species' listing.
    An important regulatory mechanism affecting peregrine falcons is 
the requirement that pesticides be registered with the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA). Under the authority of the Federal 
Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136), the EPA 
requires environmental testing of all new pesticides. Testing the 
effects of pesticides on representative wildlife species prior to 
pesticide registration is specifically required. This protection from 
effects of pesticides are not altered by delisting the peregrine 
falcon.
    On July 1, 1975, peregrine falcons were included in Appendix I of 
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora. This treaty was established to prevent international 
trade that may be detrimental to the survival of plants and animals. 
Generally, both import and export permits are required by the importing 
and exporting countries before an Appendix I species may be shipped, 
and Appendix I species may not be imported for primarily commercial 
purposes. Although CITES does not itself regulate take or domestic 
trade, CITES permits may not be issued if the export will be 
detrimental to the survival of the species or if the specimens were not 
legally acquired. This protection is not be altered by delisting the 
peregrine falcon under the Act.
    Peregrine falcons are still afforded some protection by land 
management agencies under laws such as the National Forest Management 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1600) and the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (43 
U.S.C. 1701). National Forest Management Act regulations specify that 
``fish and wildlife habitat shall be managed to maintain viable 
populations of existing native and desired non-native vertebrate 
species in the planning area.'' (36 CFR 219.19). Guidelines for each 
planning area must provide for a diversity of plant and animal 
communities based on the suitability of a specific land area. United 
States Forest Service regional foresters are responsible for 
identifying sensitive species occurring within their Region. Sensitive 
species are those that may require special management emphasis to 
ensure their viability and to preclude trends toward endangerment that 
would result in the need for Federal listing. The delisting of the 
peregrine falcon will require Federal land managers to consider the 
need for designating the peregrine falcon as a sensitive species to 
ensure that forest management activities do not contribute to a need 
for relisting. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires that 
public lands be managed to protect the quality of scientific, 
ecological, and environmental qualities, among others, and to preserve 
and protect certain lands in their natural condition to provide food 
and habitat for fish and wildlife.
    Federal delisting of the peregrine falcon will not remove the 
peregrine falcon from State threatened and endangered species lists, or 
suspend any other legal protections provided by State law. States may 
have more restrictive laws protecting wildlife, including restrictions 
on use for falconry, and may retain State threatened or endangered 
status for the peregrine falcon (see 50 CFR 21.28). Depending on the 
biological status, States generally list peregrine falcons as 
endangered, threatened, critically imperiled or as a species of 
concern. Currently, the peregrine falcon is State-listed in 38 of the 
40 States that have nesting pairs. The two States that do not have the 
species listed--Colorado and Arizona--removed the peregrine falcon from 
their lists due to its recovery in those States. However, both will 
continue to regulate take for falconry and other purposes. In many 
States, falconry is administered cooperatively by the Service and the 
States.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Egg collecting, shooting, harvest for falconry, habitat 
destruction, climate change, and the extinction of passenger pigeons 
were all considered as possible factors causing or contributing to the 
decline in peregrine falcon populations in North America; however, no 
evidence supports any of these factors as causing the widespread 
reproductive failure and population decline that occurred. In contrast, 
an overwhelming body of evidence has accumulated showing that 
organochlorine pesticides affected survival and reproductive 
performance sufficiently to cause the decline. There currently is no 
question within the scientific community that contamination with 
organochlorines was the principal cause for the drastic declines and 
extirpations in peregrine falcon populations that took place in most 
parts of North America (Kiff 1988).
    Although the use of all organochlorine pesticides causing 
reproductive failure in peregrine falcons was restricted in the United 
States and Canada in the early 1970s, their use continues in some areas 
of Latin America. It was shown, by comparing blood samples collected 
during fall and spring migration, that migrant peregrine falcons 
accumulate organochlorines while wintering in Latin America (Henny et 
al. 1982). Henny et al. (1996) demonstrated that DDE residues in the 
blood taken from female peregrine falcons captured during spring 
migration at Padre Island, Texas decreased between 1978 and 1994. In 
second-year peregrines, residues dropped from 1.43 ppm between 1978 and 
1979 to only 0.25 ppm in 1994 and from 0.88 to 0.41 ppm for older 
peregrines; these levels are well below those that would affect 
reproduction (Henny et al. 1996).
    The widespread reproductive failure and population decline of 
peregrine

[[Page 46556]]

falcons in North America coincided with the period of heavy 
organochlorine use in the United States. Although there was not an 
immediate lowering of pesticide residues in eggs following restrictions 
on the use of organochlorines north of Mexico (Enderson et al. 1995), 
residues gradually declined following the restrictions (Ambrose et al. 
1988b; Enderson et al. 1988; Peakall et al. 1990), and most surviving 
populations began to increase in size thereafter. Despite the continued 
use of organochlorines in Latin America, populations of American 
peregrine falcons in North America have recovered substantially in 
recent years. In fact, Arctic peregrine falcons that winter 
predominantly in Latin America recovered to the point that the 
subspecies was removed from the Federal List of Threatened and 
Endangered Wildlife on October 4, 1994 (59 FR 50796).
    Additionally, some of the avian prey used during the nesting season 
by peregrine falcons throughout North America also winter in Latin 
America. Many of these prey return to their nesting areas with 
pesticide residues accumulated during the winter (Fyfe et al. 1990). 
Peregrine falcons preying upon these birds during the summer are 
further exposed to Latin American pesticides. Overall, pesticide use in 
Latin America does not appear to have adversely affected reproductive 
success in American peregrine falcon populations in North America.
    We recognize that certain populations of American peregrine falcons 
have recovered to a lesser degree, and that in some of these 
populations organochlorine residues are still high and reproductive 
rates remain lower than normal. Populations on the Channel Islands off 
southern California are still affected by high organochlorine residues 
and eggshell thinning (Jarman 1994). This is a localized threat, and 
the result of using offshore islands as DDT disposal areas during the 
1940s. Despite the residual effects of organochlorines on the Channel 
Islands, this population is continuing to increase, although some of 
the increase could be the result of the release of a significant number 
of captive-bred young or dispersal from other areas where recovery is 
greater (B. Walton, pers. comm. 1997). Based on published values in the 
literature, detected concentrations of DDT in peregrine falcon eggs 
collected in New Jersey were sufficient to impact reproduction. 
Productivity and eggshell thinning data, however, did not support a 
conclusion of reproductive impairment due to DDT contamination (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Department of Environmental 
Protection 1997). Jarman (1994) suggested that these locally higher egg 
residues result from a local source of DDT or DDE. As a result, the 
effects are localized, and the observations do not reflect the current 
status of peregrine falcons as a whole. In recent years, numbers of 
peregrine falcons have increased significantly throughout their 
historical range despite the effects of localized organochlorine 
residues.
    Similarly, American peregrine falcons in southwest Canada have not 
recovered as well as in most other regions of North America. Despite 
the release of several hundred captive-bred young in the prairie 
Provinces and western Canada (Holroyd and Banasch 1990), the number of 
pairs occupying territories is still well below the number of known 
historical nest sites (G. Holroyd, in litt. 1993). In southern Canada, 
including the prairie region, the proportion of reintroduced young that 
entered the breeding population was considerably lower than in the 
United States (Peakall 1990; Enderson et al. 1995). The factor or 
factors causing this lower recruitment rate remain unknown, but 
survivorship of peregrine falcons released into this area may be lower 
than in adjacent portions of the subspecies' range. Pesticide residues 
in American peregrine falcon eggs do not appear to be higher in 
southwest Canada than in the United States (Peakall et al. 1990). 
Therefore, higher residual organochlorine contamination is apparently 
not responsible, and the number of pairs occupying this region 
continues to increase.
    Exposure to organochlorine pesticides caused drastic population 
declines in peregrine falcons. Following restrictions on the use of 
organochlorines in the United States and Canada, residues in eggs 
declined and reproduction rates improved. Improved reproduction, 
combined with the release of thousands of captive-reared young and 
relocated wild hatchlings, allowed the American peregrine falcon to 
recover and peregrine falcons to be successfully reestablished in those 
areas of the historical range from which the species was extirpated. 
Pesticide residues, reproductive rates, and the rate of recovery have 
varied among regions within the vast range of this species. In some 
areas, such as the Channel Islands off the southern coast of 
California, the lingering effects of DDT have caused reproductive rates 
to remain low. Local source contamination may even cause continued 
reproductive problems in the Channel Islands. In southwest Canada, the 
rate of recovery, or onset of recovery, apparently lagged behind most 
other areas, but recent trends suggest that historical nest sites will 
continue to be gradually re-colonized.
    The peregrine falcon has recovered throughout its historical range. 
Although the recovery is slow in a few parts of the historical range, 
these areas represent a small portion of the species' overall range. 
Furthermore, evidence collected in recent years shows that a 
combination of lingering residues of organochlorines in North America 
and contamination resulting from the continued use of organochlorines 
in Latin America has not prevented a widespread and substantial 
recovery of peregrine falcons, as numbers of peregrine falcons continue 
to increase. We conclude, therefore, that the continued existence of 
the American peregrine falcon is no longer threatened by exposure to 
organochlorine pesticides.
    In summary, due to the reduction in the effects of pesticides and 
widespread positive trends in population size, we have determined that 
the American peregrine falcon has recovered and is no longer endangered 
with extinction, or likely to become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. We 
considered the alternative of downlisting the species, but recent data 
show improvements in breeding pair numbers and productivity, 
demonstrating that the delisting goals set for the American peregrine 
falcon in recovery plans were met or exceeded. We believe this 
available information supports the full delisting of the species 
throughout its range. Therefore, we are removing the peregrine falcon 
from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, thus, 
removing endangered status for the American peregrine falcon throughout 
its range, and the similarity of appearance provision for all free-
flying peregrine falcons within the 48 conterminous United States.
    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(d), we have determined that this 
rule relieves an existing restriction and good cause exists to make the 
effective date of this rule immediate. Delay in implementation of this 
delisting would cost government agencies staff time and monies 
conducting formal section 7 consultation on actions which may affect 
species no longer in need of the protections under the Act. Relieving 
the existing restriction associated with this listed species will 
enable Federal agencies to minimize any further delays in project 
planning and implementation for actions that may affect peregrine 
falcons.

[[Page 46557]]

Effects of This Rule

    This final rule will affect the protection afforded to North 
American peregrine falcons under the Act. It will not affect the status 
of the Eurasian peregrine falcon (F. p. peregrinus), currently listed 
under the Act as endangered wherever it occurs. The endangered 
designation under the Act for the American peregrine falcon will be 
removed and the designation of endangered due to similarity of 
appearance for all free-flying peregrine falcons found within the 48 
conterminous United States, including the Arctic and Peale's peregrine 
falcons, and the reestablished eastern and midwestern populations, will 
be removed. Therefore, taking, interstate commerce, import, and export 
of North American peregrine falcons will no longer be prohibited under 
the Act. In addition, Federal agencies will no longer be required to 
consult with the Service under section 7 of the Act in the event 
activities they authorize, fund or carry out adversely affect peregrine 
falcons. However, as previously discussed, removal of the protection of 
the Act will not affect the protection afforded all peregrine falcons 
under the MBTA.
    The take and use of peregrine falcons must comply with appropriate 
State regulations. State regulations applying to falconry vary among 
States and are subject to change over time. The applicable State 
regulations may be more but not less restrictive than Federal 
regulations.
    This rule will not affect the peregrine falcon's Appendix I status 
under CITES, and CITES permits will still be required to import and 
export peregrine falcons to and from the United States. CITES permits 
will not be granted if the export will be detrimental to the survival 
of the species or if the falcon was not legally acquired.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat for the American peregrine falcon includes five 
areas in northern California (50 CFR 17.95). The Act defines critical 
habitat as ``specific areas within the geographical area occupied by 
the species, at the time it is listed on which are found those physical 
or biological features essential to the conservation of the species and 
which may require special management considerations or protection.'' 
Since critical habitat can be designated only for species listed as 
endangered or threatened under the Act, all currently designated 
American peregrine falcon critical habitat will be removed upon 
publication of this final rule.

Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to monitor a species for at 
least 5 years after delisting. A monitoring plan was provided in the 
proposed delisting rule on August 26, 1998 (63 FR 45446). We are 
currently developing a revised monitoring plan which will be made 
available for public review in the Federal Register in the near future.

Take for Falconry and Other Purposes

    Wild American and Arctic peregrine falcons were unavailable for 
falconry and raptor propagation in the contiguous United States since 
these two subspecies of peregrine falcons were listed under the Act in 
1970. In Alaska, the Arctic peregrine became available for take in 1994 
when it was delisted, but take of this subspecies was still restricted 
in the contiguous United States pursuant to the similarity of 
appearance provision of the Act. Take of Peale's peregrines also was 
restricted in the contiguous United States since 1984 pursuant to the 
similarity of appearance provisions of the Act.
    With this delisting, which removes protection of the Act, 
regulation and management of peregrine falcons in the United States 
will fall primarily under the MBTA and State regulations. In 
anticipation of delisting, we are working with the State wildlife 
agencies to develop draft biological criteria for management of take of 
peregrines. These criteria will serve as the basis for discussions with 
authorities in Canada and Greenland to identify appropriate limits for 
take of passage birds. We will then prepare environmental assessments 
on the management of nestlings and passage birds and solicit public 
comment. The resulting management plans will include biological 
criteria for harvest, implementation criteria, and procedures for 
evaluating the harvest. One objective of the plans is to allow a level 
of take that does not compromise continuing restoration of peregrine 
falcons in North America. We expect to complete the management plan for 
nestlings by the Spring of 2000, and the management plan for passage 
birds by the Fall of 2000. Take of peregrine falcons in the 
conterminous United States is not permitted under the MBTA until the 
management plans undergo public review and are finalized, approved, and 
published in the Federal Register. Some permit exceptions may be made 
for scientific research. In Alaska, take of American peregrine falcons 
is not permitted but take of Peale's and Arctic peregrines may be 
authorized.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule was not reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget 
under Executive Order 12866.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320, 
which implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, require that 
interested members of the public and affected agencies have an 
opportunity to comment on agency information collection and 
recordkeeping activities (see 5 CFR 1320.8(d)). We cannot conduct or 
sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to a collection of 
information, unless we are in possession of a current OMB Control 
Number. We intend to collect information from the public during the 
post-delisting monitoring period. A description of the information that 
will be collected was provided in the proposed delisting rule. We are 
revising the monitoring plan that was described in the proposed 
delisting rule, and will obtain a revised OMB Control Number for, and 
request public comment on, the revised monitoring plan in the Federal 
Register in the near future.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that an environmental assessment or 
environmental impact statement, as defined under the authority of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, need not be prepared in 
connection with regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. We published a notice 
outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on 
October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

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

Author

    The primary author of this proposed rule is Robert Mesta, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES 
section).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, we hereby amend part 17, 
subchapter B of chapter I, Title 50 of the

[[Page 46558]]

Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17--[AMENDED]

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

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

Sec. 17.11  [Amended]

    2. Section 17.11(h) is amended by removing the entries for 
``Falcon, American peregrine, Falco peregrinus anatum'' and ``Falcon, 
peregrine, Falco peregrinus'' under ``BIRDS'' from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.


Sec. 17.95  [Amended]

    3. Section 17.95(b) is amended by removing the critical habitat 
entry for ``American Peregrine Falcon.''

    Dated: August 17, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
Director, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 99-21959 Filed 8-20-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P