[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 129 (Thursday, July 5, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 39670-39674]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-16335]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-ES-R8-2012-0024; 4500030113]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To List a Distinct Population Segment of the American Black 
Bear in Nevada as Endangered or Threatened

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce a 90-day 
finding on a petition to list a distinct population segment (DPS) of 
the American black bear (Ursus americanus) in Nevada as endangered or 
threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
For the purposes of this finding, we evaluated whether the petition 
presents substantial information to indicate whether the petitioned 
entity (the DPS of the American black bear in Nevada) may be a listable 
entity. Based on our review, we conclude that the petition does not 
provide substantial information indicating that the DPS of the American 
black bear in Nevada may be a listable entity under the Act. Because 
the petition does not present substantial information indicating that 
the American black bear in Nevada may be a listable entity, we did not 
evaluate whether the information contained in the petition regarding 
threats was substantial. Therefore, we are not initiating a status 
review in response to this petition. However, we ask the public to 
submit to us any new information that becomes available concerning the 
status of, or threats to, the American black bear in Nevada or its 
habitat at any time.

DATES: The finding announced in this document was made on July 5, 2012.

ADDRESSES: This finding is available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket Number [FWS-ES-R8-2012-0024]. Supporting 
documentation we used in preparing this finding is available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, 1340 
Financial Boulevard, Suite 234, Reno, Nevada 89502-7147. Please submit 
any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning this 
finding to the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edward D. Koch, State Supervisor of 
the Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES), by telephone 775-
861-6300 or by facsimile to 775-861-6301. If you use a 
telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) requires 
that we make a finding on whether a petition to list, delist, or 
reclassify a species presents substantial scientific or commercial 
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted. We 
are to base this finding on information provided in the petition, 
supporting information submitted with the petition, and information 
otherwise available in our files. To the maximum extent practicable, we 
are to make this finding within 90 days of our receipt of the petition, 
and publish our notice of the finding promptly in the Federal Register.
    Our standard for substantial scientific or commercial information 
within the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) with regard to a 90-day 
petition finding is ``that amount of information that would lead a 
reasonable person to believe that the measure proposed in the petition 
may be warranted'' (50 CFR 424.14(b)). If we find that substantial 
scientific or commercial information was presented, we are required to 
promptly conduct a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On September 6, 2011, we received a petition dated September 1, 
2011, from Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org, requesting that the 
American black bear in Nevada be designated as a DPS and listed as 
endangered or threatened under the Act. The petition clearly identified 
itself as such and included the requisite identification information 
for the petitioners, as required by 50 CFR 424.14(a). In a November 4, 
2011, letter to the petitioner, we responded that we reviewed the 
information presented in the petition and determined that issuing an 
emergency regulation temporarily listing the species under section 
4(b)(7) of the Act was not warranted. We also stated that due to a 
requirement to complete a significant number of listing and critical 
habitat actions in Fiscal Year 2012, pursuant to court orders, 
judicially approved settlement agreements, and other statutory 
deadlines, we would conduct our review of the petition when we secured 
funding for the action. At that point, we anticipated making an initial 
finding on the petition. This finding addresses the petition.

Previous Federal Action(s)

    No previous Federal actions have been conducted specifically for 
American black bears in Nevada. Federal actions have been conducted for 
black bears in other states, as discussed below.
    On February 15, 1983 (48 FR 6752), the Service included the black 
bear in Pennsylvania in a list of various petitions; the Service 
determined that the petition to list the black bear in Pennsylvania did 
not provide substantial information.
    On June 21, 1990, the Service published a proposed rule (55 FR 
25341) to list the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) as 
threatened in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In addition, the 
Service proposed a designation of threatened for other black bear 
subspecies found within the range of the Louisiana black bear 
(Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas) based on similarity of appearance. On 
January 7, 1992, a final rule was published in the Federal Register (57 
FR 588) designating threatened status for the Louisiana black bear and 
other black bears within its range due to similarity of appearance.

Species Information

    American black bears are large mammals with fur color that can be 
black or cinnamon (Hall 1946, p. 171). They are considered plantigrades 
(walk on whole sole of foot) and both the front and rear feet have five 
toes; claws are longer on the front feet than on the hind feet, and the 
tail is short (Hall 1946, p. 171). The profile is rather blunt; the 
eyes are small, and the nose pad is

[[Page 39671]]

broad with large nostrils (57 FR 588). During summer, adult males 
generally weigh between 300 and 350 pounds (lbs) (135-158 kilograms 
(kg)) and adult females about 150 lbs (68-90 kg) (Lackey 2004, p. 8). 
Large males may weigh in excess of 600 lbs (272 kg), but weight varies 
greatly throughout the species' range (57 FR 588).
    According to Hall (1981, p. 950), there are 16 subspecies of black 
bear in North America. Collectively, these subspecies number 
approximately 800,000-900,000 bears in North America with about 400,000 
in the United States (Williamson 2002, p. 12; Renda 2010a, no page 
number; Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 6).
    The American black bear is adaptable and inhabits forests, swamps, 
tundra, and even the edges of suburbia (Bowers et al. 2004, p. 142; Big 
Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7). American black bears are 
considered omnivores, able to eat many types of plant and animal 
material including fruits, berries, nuts, roots, grass, seeds, grubs, 
birds, fish, small mammals, and carrion (Bowers et al. 2004, p. 143; 
Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 8). They are considered 
intelligent, with learning capabilities (Jonkel 1978, p. 227; Big 
Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7). In addition, they are 
tolerant of humans (Lackey 2004, p. 13). American black bears have 
learned to associate humans (including their homes and vehicles) with 
food, leading some black bears to move into urban areas (Lackey 2004, 
p. 13). This can lead to conflict or damage between the two species 
(Beckmann and Berger 2003, pp. 595-596; Beckmann and Lackey 2004, p. 
269; Lackey 2004, p. 23; Breck et al. 2008, p. 429; Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7).
    Bears, in general, are wide-ranging animals with low reproductive 
rates and low population densities (Jonkel 1978, pp. 227, 231). The 
size of the habitat needed by bears is generally related to the 
abundance and availability of food (Jonkel 1978, p. 238) and the age 
and sex of the bear (Lackey 2004, p. 13). Males will have larger home 
ranges than females and may overlap with other males and females 
(Lackey 2004, p. 13). Bears can live within home ranges that are small, 
provided there are many available foods (Jonkel 1978, p. 238). American 
black bear home ranges have been recorded to be as small as 1 square 
mile (mi\2\) (2.6 square kilometers) (km\2\) (Jonkel 1978, p. 238). 
American black bears are capable of moving considerable distances in 
their search for food or mates, and they are known to return to their 
former habitat upon relocation (Beckmann and Lackey 2004, pp. 270-271; 
Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7).
    Sexual maturity for American black bear males occurs at about 4-6 
years of age; the age of sexual maturity for females is about 4-5 years 
(Lackey 2004, p. 11). American black bears mate in the spring, with the 
embryo(s) implanting in the fall; generally two or three cubs are born 
in January or February (Bowers et al. 2004, p. 142). The cubs do not 
emerge from the den until spring and stay with their mother until they 
are about 18 months old, at which time they disperse (Bowers et al. 
2004, p. 142).
    American black bears in western Nevada belong to the subspecies 
Ursus americanus californiensis, which is found in the Sierra Nevada of 
California and Nevada and the Cascade Range of northern California and 
south central Oregon (Hall 1981, pp. 949-950). Known as the Sierra 
Nevada population, it is estimated to consist of 10,000-15,000 
individuals (Renda 2010b, no page number). We accept the 
characterization of all American black bears in Nevada as subspecies U. 
a. californiensis based on Hall (1981, pp. 949-950) and Lackey (2004, 
p. 30).
    Hall (1946, pp. 171, 175) indicates that the historical 
distribution of American black bears in Nevada occurred near the 
vicinity of Lake Tahoe (Douglas and Washoe Counties, Nevada) on the 
border of Nevada and California. However, Lackey (2004, pp. 2-3, 15) 
states that the American black bear in Nevada historically occurred in 
several mountain ranges in the northeastern (Jarbidge and Ruby), 
central (Toiyabe), and western (Sierra Nevada) portions of the State.
    Currently, American black bears in Nevada are known to occur in the 
Carson (includes Lake Tahoe), Sweetwater, Pine Nut, and Wassuk Ranges 
of western Nevada (Beckmann and Berger 2003, p. 597; Lackey 2004, p. 
19; Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7). Goodrich (1993 cited 
in Lackey 2004, p. 15) mentions these ranges and also includes the 
Excelsior Range in Mineral County. Confirmed recent American black bear 
sightings have occurred in the Delano, Independence, and Jarbidge 
Mountains of Elko County; the Schell Creek Range of White Pine County; 
and the Vya Rim of northern Washoe County (Nevada Department of 
Wildlife (NDOW), unpublished data cited in Lackey 2004, p. 15). These 
sightings may indicate that the American black bear in Nevada is 
expanding its range eastward (Lackey 2004, p. 30).
    There are currently an estimated 150-300 adult American black bears 
living on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin and in the mountain 
ranges to the south (Sonner 2011, no page number, Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 6). During the early 1990s in Nevada, wild-
land American black bears (bears with almost 100 percent of their point 
locations outside of urban areas, in the Carson Range of the Sierra 
Nevada, Sweetwater Range, Pine Nut Range, and Wassuk Range) were at a 
density of 20-40 bears/39 mi\2\ (20-40 bears/100 km\2\) (Beckmann and 
Berger 2003, pp. 597-598). During the late 1990s and early 2000s, 
urban-interface American black bears (bears with 90 percent or more of 
their point locations inside urban areas defined by town and city 
delineation in Carson City, Incline Village, Glenbrook, Stateline, 
Minden, and Gardnerville, Nevada and South Lake Tahoe, California), 
which did not exist in the late 1980s (Goodrich 1990 cited in Beckmann 
and Berger 2003, p. 598), reached a density of 120 bears/39 mi\2\ (120 
bears/100 km\2\) (Beckmann and Berger 2003, pp. 597-598). Wild-land 
American black bears were found at a density of 3.2 bears/39 mi\2\ (3.2 
bears/100 km\2\) during the same period (Beckmann and Berger 2003, p. 
598). The availability of food resources, such as garbage, in urban 
areas is suggested to have resulted in a redistribution of American 
black bears across the landscape in Nevada (Beckmann and Berger 2003, 
p. 602), likely increasing the number of American black bears in urban-
interface areas while decreasing the number of American black bears in 
wild-land areas.
    Nevada Department of Wildlife estimates that the American black 
bear population in Nevada is growing at an annual rate of 16 percent 
(Sonner 2011, no page number). Beckmann and Berger (2003, p. 602) were 
uncertain if the American black bear population had increased in their 
western Nevada study area (Carson, Sweetwater, Pine Nut, and Wassuk 
Ranges). While these authors reported population numbers similar to 
Goodrich (1990 cited in Beckmann and Berger 2003, p. 602), they 
suggested that the increase in numbers may be the result of a shift of 
individuals from wild-land areas to urban-interface areas rather than 
an increase in population size. During 1997-2002, Beckmann (2002, p. 
20) and Beckmann and Berger (2003, p. 602) estimated Nevada's American 
black bear population at about 300 in the Carson, Sweetwater, Pine Nut, 
and Wassuk Ranges collectively. This number is similar to an estimate 
of 150-290 animals in the same population based on an extrapolation of 
Goodrich's density

[[Page 39672]]

estimate of 20-41 bears/39 mi\2\ (20-41 bears/100km\2\) (Goodrich 1990 
cited in Beckmann 2002, p. 20; Beckmann and Berger 2003, p. 602) to the 
total area of available habitat. The petitioners did not provide, nor 
do we have in our files, the information NDOW used to determine that 
the American black bear population in Nevada is increasing at an annual 
rate of 16 percent. While the petition presents information on the 
total number of mortalities (104) that occurred during the period from 
1997 to 2004, we do not have data that indicate the American black bear 
population in Nevada is declining as stated in the petition (Big 
Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 9). Based on the petition and 
information available in our files indicating past population 
estimates, the current American black bear population in Nevada appears 
to be stable.

Review of Petition

    The petition requests that the American black bear in Nevada be 
listed as a DPS under the Act. The petition states that the American 
black bear in Nevada is threatened by habitat loss due primarily to 
residential development and recreational encroachment (Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 5). The petition also states that, due to 
increasing interactions with humans, anthropogenic killing of these 
bears is identified as significant and increasing (Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 5). In addition, NDOW authorized, for the 
first time, a fall hunt in 2011; the petition asserts that hunting will 
further endanger this population (Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 
2011, p. 5).
    The petition asserts that the American black bear in Nevada should 
be listed under the Act as a DPS because Nevada's black bears are 
markedly separated (discrete) from other populations of American black 
bears due to physical and behavioral factors (Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 13). The petition cites Breck et al. (2008) 
in support of genetic and behavioral differences related to conflict 
behavior between people and American black bear populations in Yosemite 
National Park, California, and Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada (Big Wildlife 
and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 13).
    The petition also asserts that the American black bear population 
in Nevada is significant due to the bear's continued existence in 
western Nevada since the early 1990s in forested, mountain range 
habitat that is isolated by wide desert valleys; however, the petition 
notes that American black bears will occasionally use the desert 
valleys in Nevada for travel between mountain ranges (Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 13). The petition asserts that this bear 
habitat in western Nevada is characteristic of the unique Great Basin 
ecosystem (Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 13). The petition 
asserts that loss of the American black bear population in Nevada would 
result in a significant gap in the species' range because this 
population is genetically and behaviorally distinct from other American 
black bears as indicated above, and, therefore, a unique population 
would be lost (Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 14).

Evaluation of Listable Entity

    Under the Service's Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segments Under the Endangered Species Act (61 FR 
4722, February 7, 1996), three elements are considered in the decision 
concerning the establishment and classification of a possible DPS. 
These are applied similarly for additions to or removal from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. These elements 
include:
    (1) The discreteness of a population in relation to the remainder 
of the taxon to which it belongs;
    (2) The significance of the population segment to the taxon to 
which it belongs; and
    (3) The population segment's conservation status in relation to the 
Act's standards for listing, delisting (removal from the list), or 
reclassification (i.e., is the population segment endangered or 
threatened).
    In this analysis, we evaluate whether the petition provides 
substantial information that the American black bear in Nevada may 
constitute a DPS.

Discreteness

    Under the DPS policy, a population segment of a vertebrate taxon 
may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following 
conditions:
    (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the same 
taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral factors. Quantitative measures of genetic or morphological 
discontinuity may provide evidence of this separation.
    (2) It is delimited by international governmental boundaries within 
which differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.
    The petition asserts that American black bears in Nevada should be 
listed under the Act as a DPS because they are markedly separate from 
other populations of American black bears due to physical and 
behavioral factors, citing Breck et al. (2008) (Big Wildlife and 
NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 13). Review of Breck et al. (2008) does not 
support this assertion. Breck et al. (2008, p. 428) investigated 
whether food-conditioning behavior (discussed more fully in the 
following paragraphs) was inherited or learned through parent-offspring 
social learning. This study involved the collection of genetic samples 
(blood and hair) from two American black bear populations: Lake Tahoe 
Basin, Nevada, and Yosemite National Park, California. Both populations 
evaluated in this study comprised individuals who were not food-
conditioned as well as those who were food-conditioned (Breck et al. 
2008, pp. 431-432). Breck et al. (2008) used genetic data to determine 
relatedness of individuals through mother-offspring and sibling 
relationships within each population. These relationships were then 
used to determine how food-conditioning behavior was acquired. If 
behavior is inherited or if parent-offspring learning is a dominant 
means for obtaining behavior, then behaviors that are of significant 
advantage should lead to subpopulations of related individuals with 
similar behaviors (Breck et al. 2008, p. 428).
    Breck et al. (2008) did not analyze their genetic data to evaluate 
the degree of genetic divergence between the Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada, 
and Yosemite National Park, California populations. In order to 
determine the degree of genetic similarity among populations, genetic 
material should be obtained from many individuals from different 
geographic areas to assess patterns and amounts of gene flow among 
populations (Allendorf and Luikart 2007, pp. 393-394). The genetic 
information presented in Breck et al. (2008, pp. 430-431) does not 
support the petition's assertion that the American black bear 
population in Nevada is markedly separate from other American black 
bear populations. We do not have additional information in our files 
addressing the genetics of other American black bears found in Nevada 
or California. Therefore, substantial information was not provided in 
the petition, and information available in our files does not suggest, 
that American black bears in Nevada may be markedly separate from other 
American black bears found outside of Nevada based on genetics.
    As indicated above, Breck et al. (2008, p. 428) investigated 
whether food-conditioning behavior was inherited or

[[Page 39673]]

learned through parent-offspring social learning. Learning can also 
occur asocially (independently of others) and socially (observing 
unrelated individuals) (Breck et al. 2008, p. 428). The authors 
concluded that three of their four analyses were similar in that they 
revealed little evidence that food-conditioning behavior was inherited 
or learned from the parent-offspring relationship (Breck et al. 2008, 
p. 431). While their fourth analysis indicated some statistical 
difference for the food-conditioned category compared with the other 
category pairings (nonfood-conditioned compared to nonfood-conditioned; 
nonfood-conditioned compared to food conditioned) for American black 
bears at Yosemite National Park, they also concluded that it did not 
show strong evidence that food-conditioning behavior was inherited or 
learned from the parent-offspring relationship (Breck et al. 2008, p. 
432). They concluded that this fourth analysis was statistically 
significant, but not biologically meaningful, and the result may be 
attributable to the large sample size of the study (Breck et al. 2008, 
p. 432).
    While food-conditioning behavior could be learned from the parent-
offspring relationship or through inheritance, these are not the 
primary means of learning (Breck et al. 2008, p. 433). Breck et al. 
(2008, p. 433) state that, because American black bears are adaptable, 
it is unlikely that a behavior that can be applied under various 
environmental conditions and over a large geographic area would result 
in a genetic lineage that is distinct. Breck et al. (2008, pp. 430-431) 
do not support the petition's assertion that the American black bear 
population in Nevada may be markedly separate from other populations of 
American black bears outside of the State due to behavioral 
differences. The petition does not provide substantial information, nor 
do we have information in our files, to indicate that American black 
bears in Nevada may be markedly separate from other American black 
bears outside of Nevada based on behavioral factors.
    There is further lack of support for the claim that American black 
bear populations between Nevada and California are markedly separate 
because the American black bear population in Nevada is not physically 
separated from American black bears in California, nor is the habitat 
used by American black bears in Nevada unique. While Lake Tahoe (and 
its Basin) is divided by the State boundary between California and 
Nevada, it is not a complete physical barrier to American black bear 
movement between the two States; American black bears are found 
throughout the Sierra Nevada (Zielinski et al. 2005, pp. 1396, 1400) 
and can move between the two States in the Basin as well as to the 
north and south of the Basin. There is no physical barrier or terrain 
along the remaining State boundary north or south of Lake Tahoe (and 
its Basin) within the range of the subspecies that prevents cross-
border movement. Beckmann (2002, pp. 39, 42-43) provides home range 
maps of collared Nevada and California American black bears that 
demonstrate individuals' use of habitat in both States on both the 
north and south ends of Lake Tahoe. Also, the American black bear 
population in Nevada is not isolated by individual mountain ranges 
within the State. Beckmann (2002, pp. 42-43) demonstrated overlap of 
American black bear home ranges in central Nevada. This wide-ranging 
species can travel long distances and is capable of, and has been 
documented, crossing desert valleys between mountain ranges in Nevada 
(Beckmann and Lackey 2004, p. 271).
    The petition asserts that American black bear habitat in western 
Nevada (forested mountain ranges isolated by valleys) is characteristic 
of the unique Great Basin ecosystem (Big Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 
2011, p. 13). American black bears are adaptable and are found in many 
habitat types across North America (Bowers et al. 2004, p. 142; Big 
Wildlife and NoBearHuntNV.org 2011, p. 7). The use of forested mountain 
habitats by American black bears in Nevada is not unique (Zielinski et 
al. 2005, p. 1385). Forested mountain ranges are not unique to Nevada, 
nor do they terminate discretely at the State border. The Great Basin 
covers a large geographic area in the western United States and 
includes portions of the States of Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, 
and Idaho (70 FR 73190, December 9, 2005). This geographic area extends 
well beyond the boundaries of Nevada. The Great Basin does not lie 
wholly within the State of Nevada nor does it correspond to Nevada 
State boundaries. The petition does not provide substantial 
information, nor is there information available in our files, to 
suggest that the American black bear in Nevada may be markedly separate 
from other populations of American black bears outside of Nevada due to 
physical or geographic reasons.
    The petition does not present information to suggest there may be a 
markedly separate population of American black bears in Nevada due to 
physiological reasons. Additionally, we do not have information in our 
files to indicate that the American black bear in Nevada may be 
markedly separate from other American black bears outside of this area 
due to physiological reasons.
    Substantial information is not presented in the petition, nor is it 
available in our files, to suggest there may be a markedly separate 
population of American black bears in Nevada due to physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral differences as compared to 
American black bears located in the Sierra Nevada of California and 
elsewhere. Therefore, we determine, based on the information provided 
in the petition and in our files that the American black bear 
population in Nevada may not be markedly separate from other black bear 
populations found outside of the State. Therefore, we conclude that the 
black bear population in Nevada does not meet the discreteness 
criterion of the 1996 DPS policy.
    There are no international governmental boundaries associated with 
this subspecies that are significant. The American black bear 
population found in Nevada lies wholly within the United States. 
Because this element is not relevant in this case for a finding of 
discreteness, it was not considered in reaching this determination.

Significance

    If a population segment is considered discrete under one or more of 
the conditions described in our DPS policy, its biological and 
ecological significance will be considered in light of Congressional 
guidance that the authority to list DPSs be used ``sparingly'' while 
encouraging the conservation of genetic diversity. In making this 
determination, we consider available scientific evidence of the 
discrete population segment's importance to the taxon to which it 
belongs. Since precise circumstances are likely to vary considerably 
from case to case, the DPS policy does not describe all the classes of 
information that might be used in determining the biological and 
ecological importance of a discrete population. However, the DPS policy 
does provide four possible reasons why a discrete population may be 
significant. As specified in the DPS policy (61 FR 4722), this 
consideration of the population segment's significance may include, but 
is not limited to, the following:
    (1) Persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological 
setting unusual or unique to the taxon;
    (2) Evidence that loss of the discrete population segment would 
result in a significant gap in the range of a taxon;

[[Page 39674]]

    (3) Evidence that the discrete population segment represents the 
only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant 
elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historical range; or
    (4) Evidence that the discrete population segment differs markedly 
from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics.
    A population segment needs to satisfy only one of these criteria to 
be considered significant. Furthermore, the list of criteria is not 
exhaustive; other criteria may be used as appropriate.
    Because we must find a population to be both discrete and 
significant to qualify as a DPS, and we did not find the population to 
be discrete, we will not address the potential significance of the 
American black bear in Nevada to the remainder of the taxon, nor will 
we evaluate the population's conservation status.
Conclusion of Distinct Population Segment Review
    Based on the information provided in the petition and in our files, 
we find that the petition does not provide substantial information to 
indicate that the American black bear population in Nevada meets the 
discreteness criterion of the DPS policy. Since both discreteness and 
significance are required to satisfy the DPS policy, we have determined 
that the American black bear population in Nevada does not qualify as a 
DPS under our policy and, therefore, is not a listable entity under the 
Act. As a result, no further analysis under the DPS policy is 
necessary.

Finding

    We reviewed the information presented in the petition, and we 
evaluated that information in relation to information readily available 
in our files. On the basis of our review, we find that neither the 
petition, nor information readily available in our files, suggests that 
the American black bear population in Nevada meets the criteria for 
being discrete under our DPS policy. Available information from the 
petition and our files does not suggest there may be a markedly 
separate population of American black bears in Nevada compared with 
other populations due to physical, physiological, ecological, or 
behavioral differences. The American black bear in Nevada is not found 
to be markedly separate from other American black bear populations 
because it is not physically separate from other adjacent populations 
due to various kinds of barriers, it is not genetically different and 
does not demonstrate physiological or behavioral differences, nor does 
it occur in ecological settings in Nevada that are dissimilar from 
other areas occupied by the American black bear. Because the petition 
does not present substantial information that the American black bear 
in Nevada may be a DPS, we did not evaluate whether the information 
contained in the petition regarding the conservation status was 
substantial. We conclude that the American black bear in Nevada does 
not satisfy the elements of being a DPS under our 1996 policy and, 
therefore, is not a listable entity under section 3(16) of the Act.
    We encourage interested parties to continue to gather data that 
will assist with the conservation of the American black bear in Nevada. 
If you wish to provide information regarding the American black bear in 
Nevada, you may submit your information or materials to the State 
Supervisor, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES), at any 
time.

References Cited

    A complete list of references cited is available on the Internet at 
http://www.regulations.gov and upon request from the Nevada Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Author

    The primary authors of this notice are the staff of the Nevada Fish 
and Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES).

Authority

    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 19, 2012.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-16335 Filed 7-3-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P