[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 244 (Wednesday, December 19, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 75091-75093]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-30554]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097; FXES11130900000C2-123-FF09E32000]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on 
a Petition To Delist the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of 
Woodland Caribou

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status 
review.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 
90-day finding on a petition to delist the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) from the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants as 
determined under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). 
Based on our review, we find that the petition presents substantial 
information indicating that delisting this population of the woodland 
caribou subspecies may be warranted. Therefore, with the publication of 
this notice, we initiate a review of the status of the subspecies to 
determine if delisting the southern Selkirk Mountains population of 
woodland caribou is warranted. To ensure that this status review is 
comprehensive, we are requesting scientific and commercial data and 
other information regarding the status of the woodland caribou 
subspecies (Rangifer tarandus caribou), the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou, the mountain ecotype of the woodland 
caribou, and other possible woodland caribou distinct population 
segment configurations. Based on the status review, we will issue a 12-
month finding on the petition, which will address whether the 
petitioned action is warranted, as provided in section 4(b)(3)(B) of 
the Act.

DATES: We request that we receive scientific and commercial data and 
other information pertinent to the petitioned action and the rangewide 
status review of the subspecies on or before January 18, 2013. The 
deadline for submitting information using the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal (see the ADDRESSES section below) is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 
this date. After January 18, 2013, you must submit information directly 
to the Division of Policy and Directives Management (see the ADDRESSES 
section below). Please note that we might not be able to consider 
information that we receive after the above requested date.

ADDRESSES: You may submit information by one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Search for FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097, which is the 
docket number for this action. You may submit information for the 
status review by clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097; Division of Policy and 
Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax 
Drive, MS 2042-PDM: Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept emails or faxes. We will post all information we 
receive on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Request for 
Information section below for more details).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Kelly, State Supervisor, Idaho 
Fish and Wildlife Office, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 
83709; by telephone at 208-378-5243; or by facsimile at 208-378-5262. 
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Request for Information

    When we make a finding that a petition presents substantial 
information indicating that listing, delisting, or reclassifying a 
species may be warranted, we are required to promptly initiate review 
of the status of the species (status review). For the status review to 
be complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial 
information, we request information on the woodland caribou subspecies 
(Rangifer tarandus caribou), including the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population and the mountain ecotype to which this

[[Page 75092]]

population belongs, from governmental agencies, Native American tribes, 
the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties. 
We seek information on:
    (1) The subspecies' biology, range, and population trends, 
including:
    (a) Habitat requirements for feeding, breeding, and sheltering;
    (b) Genetics and taxonomy;
    (c) Historical and current range, including distribution patterns;
    (d) Historical and current population levels, and current and 
projected trends; and
    (e) Past and ongoing conservation measures for the species, its 
habitat, or both.
    (2) Information relevant to whether the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou is in need of protections from the Act 
and can be considered discrete and significant to the woodland 
subspecies.
    (3) Information relevant to whether some other subset of the 
woodland caribou subspecies (for example, the mountain ecotype) is in 
need of protections under the Act, and can be considered discrete and 
significant to the subspecies.
    Please include sufficient supporting documentation with your 
submission (such as maps, scientific journal articles, or other 
publications) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial 
information you provide.
    Submissions merely stating support for or opposition to the action 
under consideration without providing supporting information, although 
noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 
4(b)(1)(A) of the Act directs that determinations as to whether any 
species is an endangered or threatened species must be made ``solely on 
the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.''
    You may submit your information concerning this status review by 
one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit 
information via http://www.regulations.gov, your entire submission--
including any personal identifying information--will be posted on the 
Web site. If your submission is made via a hardcopy that includes 
personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your 
document that we withhold this personal identifying information from 
public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do 
so.
    Information and supporting documentation that we received and used 
in preparing this finding is available for review at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R1-ES-2012-0097 or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service's Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office (see the FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section above).

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 initiate a species status review, which we subsequently 
summarize in our 12-month finding.

Petition History

    On May 14, 2012, we received a petition dated May 9, 2012, from the 
Pacific Legal Foundation, representing Bonner County, Idaho, and the 
Idaho State Snowmobile Association, requesting that the southern 
Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus 
caribou) be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. The petition clearly identified itself as such and 
included the requisite identification information for the petitioners, 
as required by 50 CFR 424.14(a).
    The petition asserted that we did not correctly apply the 1996 
distinct population segment (DPS) policy in our 2008 5-year status 
review of the southern Selkirk Mountains population. Specifically, the 
petition questioned the analysis of discreteness and significance of 
this population to the mountain ecotype of woodland caribou, not the 
woodland caribou subspecies (i.e., the taxon to which it belongs), 
which the petitioners assert would be the appropriate interpretation of 
the DPS policy. As such, the petition asserted that the southern 
Selkirk Mountains DPS is not a listable entity, and therefore our 
listing of the population violates the Act. We acknowledge that 
information provided in the petition on the appropriateness of our DPS 
analysis in our 2008 status review warrants a more thorough review.

Distinct Population Segment Policy

    Section 3(15) of the Act defines a ``species'' to include ``* * * 
any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which 
interbreeds when mature.'' The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 
and the Service published a joint policy defining the phrase ``distinct 
population segment'' on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722) (DPS policy). 
According to the DPS policy, two elements must be satisfied in order 
for a population segment to qualify as a DPS: discreteness and 
significance. If a population segment qualifies as a DPS, the 
conservation status of that DPS is evaluated to determine whether it is 
threatened or endangered.
    A population segment of a vertebrate species 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; or (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.
    If a population is found to be discrete, then it is evaluated for 
significance under the DPS policy on the basis of its importance to the 
taxon to which it belongs. This consideration 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, (3) evidence that the 
population represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon 
that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside 
of its historical range, or (4) evidence that the population differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics.
    If a population segment is both discrete and significant (i.e., it 
is a DPS) its evaluation for endangered or threatened status is based 
on the Act's definitions of those terms and a review

[[Page 75093]]

of the factors listed in section 4(a) of the Act. According to our DPS 
policy, it may be appropriate to assign different classifications to 
different DPSs of the same vertebrate taxon.

Previous Federal Actions

    The southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou was 
emergency listed as endangered in northeastern Washington, northern 
Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia under the Act on January 14, 
1983 (48 FR 1722). A second emergency rule to extend emergency 
protection was published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 
(48 FR 49245). Final listing as endangered occurred on February 29, 
1984 (49 FR 7390).
    Notices of 90-day findings on two previous petitions to delist the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou were 
published in the Federal Register on November 29, 1993 (58 FR 62623), 
and November 1, 2000 (65 FR 65287). Our response to both petitions 
stated that the petitions did not present substantial scientific or 
commercial information indicating that delisting of the population may 
be warranted.
    Based on a stipulated settlement agreement resulting from a 
complaint on a petition we received to designate critical habitat for 
the endangered southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou (Defenders of Wildlife et al., v. Salazar, CV-09-15-EFS), we 
proposed critical habitat on November 30, 2011 (76 FR 74018). Our 
substantial 90-day finding on the current petition to delist the 
southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland caribou does not 
affect the current listing status or our current process underway to 
determine critical habitat for the species at this time.

Finding

    On the basis of our determination under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the 
Act, we find that the petition presents substantial information that 
the currently listed southern Selkirk Mountains population of woodland 
caribou may not be a listable entity under our 1996 DPS policy. We will 
reevaluate the significance of the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population to the taxon as a whole (i.e., the woodland caribou 
subspecies), and if necessary, the configuration and status of any 
distinct population segments.
    The ``substantial information'' standard for a 90-day finding, 
under section 4(b)(3)(A) of the Act and 50 CFR 424.14(b) of our 
regulations, differs from the Act's ``best scientific and commercial 
data'' standard that applies to a status review to determine whether a 
petitioned action is warranted. A 90-day finding does not constitute a 
status review under the Act. In a 12-month finding, we will determine 
whether a petitioned action is warranted after we have completed a 
thorough status review of the species, which is conducted following a 
substantial 90-day finding. Because the Act's standards for 90-day and 
12-month findings are different, as described above, a substantial 90-
day finding does not necessarily mean that the 12-month finding will 
conclude that the petitioned action is warranted. In other words, we 
might determine that the southern Selkirk Mountains population is a 
valid DPS. However, if the 12-month finding concludes that the 
petitioned action is warranted, we would then need to publish a 
proposed rule, subject to peer review and public comment, to initiate 
any change in the Federal listing status of the current DPS. In 
summary, the outcome of our status review could result in: (1) No 
change in the species' listing status; (2) a recommendation to delist 
the southern Selkirk Mountains population; or (3) a recommendation to 
list some different configuration of the woodland caribou subspecies.
    With this substantial 90-day finding, we initiate a status review 
of the woodland caribou subspecies, and once it is completed, we will 
make a finding on whether delisting the southern Selkirk Mountains 
population of woodland caribou is warranted. Our review will also 
evaluate the status of the subspecies throughout its range and assess 
whether alternative DPS configurations of the subspecies are warranted. 
This finding fulfills any obligation under 16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(3)(A) and 
the regulations at 50 CFR 424.14(b).

Author

    The primary authors of this notice are staff of the Idaho Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section 
above).

Authority

    The authority for this action is section 4 of the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: December 10, 2012.
Daniel M. Ashe,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-30554 Filed 12-18-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P