[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 224 (Tuesday, November 22, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 70632-70633]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-23057]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Draft Document Reassessing Methods To Estimate Population Size 
and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
(Ursus arctos horribilis) Population

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the 
availability for public review of the draft document Reassessing 
Methods to Estimate Population Size and Sustainable Mortality Limits 
for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear. Once comments are received, analyzed, 
and addressed, the final revised population methodology will be 
appended to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and the Final Conservation 
Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Area. The 
Service solicits review and comment from the public on this draft 
information prior to appending it to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan.

DATES: Comments on the draft document Reassessing Methods to Estimate 
Population Size and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone 
Grizzly Bear must be received on or before February 21, 2006 to ensure 
that they will be received in time for our consideration prior to 
finalization of the revised methodology.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and materials regarding this information 
should be sent to the Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, University Hall, Room 309, University of Montana, Missoula, 
Montana 59812. Comments and materials received are available on request 
for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at 
the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear 
Recovery Coordinator (see ADDRESSES above), at telephone (406) 243-
4903.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Document Availability

    Persons wishing to review this document may obtain a copy by 
contacting the Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, at the above address, 
contacting the above official by telephone, or by viewing it online at 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/
yellowstone.htm. You also may make an appointment to view the documents 
at the above address during normal business hours.

Background

    Restoring an endangered or threatened animal or plant to the point 
where it is again a secure, self-sustaining member of its ecosystem is 
a primary goal of the Service's endangered species program. To help 
guide the recovery effort, the Service prepares recovery plans for most 
of the listed species native to the United States. Recovery plans 
describe actions considered necessary for conservation of the species; 
establish criteria for recovery levels for downlisting or delisting 
them, and estimate time and cost for implementing the recovery measures 
needed. Under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), the Service approved the revised 
Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan on September 10, 1993.
    In 1994, The Fund for Animals, Inc., and 42 other organizations and 
individuals filed suit over the adequacy of the 1993 Recovery Plan 
(Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F. Supp. 96 (D. D.C. 1995); 967 F. 
Supp. 6 (D. D.C. 1997). In 1995, the U.S. District Court for the 
District of Columbia issued an order which remanded for further study 
and clarification four issues that are relevant to the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population, including--(1) The methods used to measure the 
status of bear populations; (2) the impacts of genetic isolation; (3) 
how mortalities related to livestock are monitored; and (4) the 
monitoring of disease. The Service also agreed to append habitat-based 
recovery criteria to the Recovery Plan prior to any delisting action. 
All of these issues, except the draft revised methodology for 
calculating total population size and establishing sustainable 
mortality limits for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, have been 
addressed prior to publication of this Notice and were made available 
for public review and comment previously (62 FR 19777, April 23, 1997; 
62 FR 47677, September 10, 1997; 64 FR 38464, July 16, 1999; 64 FR 
38465, July 16, 1999).
    As recommended by Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan Task Y11 and as per 
the Court Opinion, the Service has worked to ``determine population 
conditions at which the species is viable and self sustaining'' and 
``reevaluate and refine population criteria as new information becomes 
available'' for the Yellowstone population of grizzly bears (Service 
1993 p. 44). At the request of the Service beginning in 2000, the 
Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), led by the U.S. Geological 
Survey in cooperation with various University specialists, began a 
comprehensive evaluation of the demographic data and the methodology 
used to estimate population size and establish the sustainable level of 
mortality for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Accordingly, 
the IGBST (2005) produced a critical review of the current methods for 
estimating population size and calculating the sustainable mortality 
levels for the Yellowstone grizzly population. This product is a report 
compiled by the IGBST that evaluates current methods, reviews recent 
scientific literature, examines alternative methods, and recommends the 
most valid technique based on the best available science (IGBST 2005). 
The end result of this review is the draft document Reassessing Methods 
to Estimate Population Size and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the 
Yellowstone Grizzly Bear.

[[Page 70633]]

    The method for calculating population size using females with cubs 
sightings (Keating et al. 2002) and the method for calculating the 
unknown and unreported mortalities (Cherry et al. 2002) have been 
published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. We are seeking comments 
only on the document Reassessing Methods to Estimate Population Size 
and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear, 
which applies these peer-reviewed methods to the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear population.
    Based on the comments received, the Service will finalize this 
methodology for calculating total population size and establishing 
sustainable mortality limits for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population and append it to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan prior to 
publishing a final rule to designate the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem 
population of grizzly bears as a distinct population segment and to 
remove the Yellowstone distinct population segment of grizzly bears 
from the Federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife.

Public Comments Solicited

    Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act, as amended in 1988, 
requires that public notice and an opportunity for public review and 
comment be provided during recovery plan development. We consider all 
information presented during a public comment period prior to approval 
of each new or revised recovery plan. We and other Federal management 
agencies also will take these comments into account in the course of 
implementing approved recovery plans. We now seek public comment on the 
draft document Reassessing Methods to Estimate Population Size and 
Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear to 
address both Task Y11 in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and the Court 
Opinion (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F. Supp. 96 (D. D.C. 1995); 
967 F. Supp. 6 (D. D.C. 1997)). All comments received by the date 
specified in the DATES section above will be considered prior to 
finalization of the information. Appropriate portions of the 
information will be appended to, and become part of, the 1993 Grizzly 
Bear Recovery Plan and the Final Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly 
Bear in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Literature Cited

Cherry, S., M.A. Haroldson, J. Robison-Cox, and C.C. Schwartz. 2002. 
Estimating total human-caused mortality from reported mortality 
using data from radio-instrumented grizzly bears. Ursus 13:175-184.
Keating, K.A., C.C. Schwartz, M.A. Haroldson, and D. Moody. 2002. 
Estimating numbers of females with cubs-of-the-year in the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Ursus 13:161-174.

    Authority: The authority for this Notice is under section 4(f) 
of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: July 11, 2005.
Ralph O. Morgenweck,
Regional Director, Denver, Colorado.
[FR Doc. 05-23057 Filed 11-21-05; 8:45 am]
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