[Federal Register Volume 72, Number 60 (Thursday, March 29, 2007)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 14865-14938]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 07-1474]



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Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service



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50 CFR Part 17



Grizzly Bears; Yellowstone Distinct Population; Notice of Petition 
Finding; Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 72, No. 60 / Thursday, March 29, 2007 / Rules 
and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AT38


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule 
Designating the Greater Yellowstone Area Population of Grizzly Bears as 
a Distinct Population Segment; Removing the Yellowstone Distinct 
Population Segment of Grizzly Bears From the Federal List of Endangered 
and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List as 
Endangered the Yellowstone Distinct Population Segment of Grizzly Bears

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Final rule; notice of petition finding.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service, we or us), hereby 
establish a distinct population segment (DPS) of the grizzly bear 
(Ursus arctos horribilis) for the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) and 
surrounding area (hereafter referred to as the Yellowstone DPS, 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS, or Yellowstone grizzly bear population) 
and remove this DPS from the List of Threatened and Endangered 
Wildlife. The Yellowstone grizzly bear population is no longer an 
endangered or threatened population pursuant to the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (Endangered Species Act or the Act) (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), based on the best scientific and commercial data 
available. Robust population growth, coupled with State and Federal 
cooperation to manage mortality and habitat, widespread public support 
for grizzly bear recovery, and the development of adequate regulatory 
mechanisms has brought the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to the 
point where making a change to its status is appropriate.
    The delisting of the Yellowstone DPS does not change the threatened 
status of the remaining grizzly bears in the lower 48 States, which 
remain protected by the Act. In an upcoming but separate notice, we 
will initiate a 5-year status review of the grizzly bear as listed 
under the Act based on additional scientific information that is 
currently being collected and analyzed. Finally, we announce a 90-day 
finding on a petition (submitted during the public comment period for 
the proposed rule) to list the Yellowstone grizzly bear population as 
endangered on the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife 
under the Act and to designate critical habitat. We find that the 
petition and additional information in our files did not present 
substantial scientific information indicating that listing the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population as endangered may be warranted. 
Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response to this 
petition.

DATES: This rule becomes effective April 30, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in preparation of this final rule, are available for 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours, at our 
Missoula office, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, University Hall, 
Room 309, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812. Call 
(406) 243-4903 to make arrangements. In addition, certain documents 
such as the Strategy and information appended to the recovery plan are 
available at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear 
Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at our Missoula 
office (see ADDRESSES above) or telephone (406) 243-4903. Individuals 
who are hearing-impaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay 
Service at 1-800-877-8337 for TTY assistance.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Prior to publication of this final rule, we--(1) Finalized the 
Conservation Strategy (Strategy) that will guide post-delisting 
monitoring and management of the grizzly bear in the GYA; (2) appended 
the habitat-based recovery criteria to the 1993 Recovery Plan and the 
Strategy; and (3) appended an updated and improved methodology for 
calculating total population size, known to unknown mortality ratios, 
and sustainable mortality limits for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population to the 1993 Recovery Plan and the Strategy. Additionally, 
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service finalized the 
Forest Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYA 
National Forests and made a decision to incorporate this Amendment into 
the affected National Forests' Land Management Plans. Yellowstone and 
Grand Teton National Parks also appended the habitat standards 
described in the Strategy to their Park Superintendent's Compendiums, 
thereby assuring that these National Parks will manage habitat in 
accordance with those habitat standards.

Species Description

    Grizzly bears are generally larger and more heavily built than 
other bears (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 517; Schwartz et al. 
2003b, p. 558). Grizzly bears can be distinguished from black bears, 
which also occur in the lower 48 States, by longer, curved claws, 
humped shoulders, and a face that appears to be concave (Craighead and 
Mitchell 1982, p. 517). A wide range of coloration from light brown to 
nearly black is common (LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 17-18). Spring 
shedding, new growth, nutrition, and coat condition all affect 
coloration. Guard hairs (long, course outer hair forming a protective 
layer over the soft underfur) are often pale in color at the tips; 
hence the name ``grizzly'' (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 517). In 
the lower 48 States, the average weight of grizzly bears is generally 
200 to 300 kilograms (kg) (400 to 600 pounds (lb)) for males and 110 to 
160 kg (250 to 350 lb) for females (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, pp. 
518-520). Grizzly bears are long-lived mammals, generally living to be 
around 25 years old (LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 47, 51).

Taxonomy

    Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are vertebrates that belong 
to the Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, and Family Ursidae. The grizzly 
bear is a member of the brown bear species (U. arctos) that occurs in 
North America, Europe, and Asia; the subspecies U. a. horribilis is 
limited to North America (Rausch 1963, p. 43; Servheen 1999, pp. 50-
53). Early taxonomic descriptions of U. arctos based primarily on skull 
measurements described more than 90 subspecies (Merriam 1918, pp. 9-
16), but this was later revised to 2 subspecies in North America (U. a. 
middendorfi on the islands of the Kodiak archipelago in Alaska and U. 
a. horribilis in the rest of North America) (Rausch 1963, p. 43). The 
two North American subspecies approach of Rausch (1963, p. 43) is 
generally accepted by most taxonomists today, and is the approach we 
use. Additional discussion of this issue can be found in the proposed 
rule (70 FR 69854-69855, November 17, 2005). The original 1975 listing 
(40 FR 31734-31736, July 28, 1975) had been inadvertently modified in 
the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to U. arctos with a 
historic holarctic range. With this final rule, we have corrected this 
error to reflect the original listed entity of U. arctos horribilis 
with a historic range of North America.

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Behavior

    Although adult bears are normally solitary (Nowak and Paradiso 
1983, p. 971), home ranges of adult bears frequently overlap (Schwartz 
et al. 2003b, pp. 565-566). Grizzly bears display a behavior called 
natal philopatry in which dispersing young establish home ranges within 
or overlapping their mother's (Waser and Jones 1983, p. 361; Schwartz 
et al. 2003b, p. 566). This type of movement makes dispersal across 
landscapes a slow process. Radio-telemetry and genetics data suggests 
females establish home ranges an average of 9.8 to 14.3 kilometers (km) 
(6.1 to 8.9 miles (mi)) away from the center of their mother's home 
range, whereas males generally stray further, establishing home ranges 
roughly 29.9 to 42.0 km (18.6 to 26.0 mi) away from their mother's 
(McLellan and Hovey 2001, p. 842; Proctor et al. 2004, p. 1108).
    The home range of adult male grizzly bears is typically three to 
five times the size of an adult female's home range (LeFranc et al. 
1987, pp. 27-30). The large home ranges of grizzly bears, particularly 
males, enhance genetic diversity in the population by enabling males to 
mate with numerous females (Blanchard and Knight 1991, pp. 46-51; 
Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 303-305). Grizzly bear population densities 
of one bear per 20 square kilometers (sq km) (8 square miles (sq mi)) 
have been reported in Glacier National Park (Martinka 1976, p. 150), 
but most populations in the Lower 48 States are much less dense 
(LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 47, 52-53). For example, estimates of grizzly 
bear densities in the GYA range from one bear per 50 sq km (20 sq mi) 
to one bear per 80 sq km (30 sq mi) (Blanchard and Knight 1980, pp. 
263-264; Craighead and Mitchell 1982, pp. 537-538).
    Grizzly bears have a promiscuous mating system (Hornocker 1962, p. 
70; Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 522; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 563) 
with genetic studies confirming that cubs from the same litter can have 
different fathers (Craighead et al. 1998, p. 325). Mating occurs from 
May through July with a peak in mid-June (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, 
p. 522; Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971). Age of first reproduction and 
litter size may be related to nutritional state (Stringham 1990, p. 
433; McLellan 1994, p. 20; Hilderbrand et al. 1999, pp. 135-136; 
Mattson 2000, p. 110). Age of first reproduction varies from 3 to 8 
years of age, and litter size varies from one to four cubs (Schwartz et 
al. 2003b, p. 563). For the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, the 
average age of first reproduction is approximately 6 years old, and the 
average litter size is 2.04 cubs (Schwartz et al. 2006a, p. 19). Cubs 
are born in a den in late January or early February and remain with the 
female for 2 to 3 years before the mother will again mate and produce 
another litter (Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 564). Grizzly bears have one 
of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, resulting 
primarily from the late age of first reproduction, small average litter 
size, and the long interval between litters (Nowak and Paradiso 1983, 
p. 971; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 564). Given the above factors and 
natural mortality, it may take a single female 10 years to replace 
herself in a population (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 4). 
Grizzly bear females cease breeding successfully some time in their 
mid-to-late 20s (Schwartz et al. 2003a, pp. 109-110).
    For 3 to 6 months during winter, grizzly bears across their range 
enter dens in an adaptive behavior which increases survival during 
periods of low food availability, deep snow, and low air temperature 
(Craighead and Craighead 1972, pp. 33-34). Grizzly bears in the lower 
48 States spend between 4 and 6 months in dens beginning in October or 
November (Linnell et al. 2000, p. 401). During this period, they do not 
eat, drink, urinate, or defecate (Folk et al. 1976, pp. 376-377; Nelson 
1980, p. 2955). Hibernating grizzly bears exhibit a marked decline in 
heart and respiration rate, but only a slight drop in body temperature 
(Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971). Due to their relatively constant 
body temperature in the den, hibernating grizzly bears can be easily 
aroused and have been known to exit dens when disturbed by seismic or 
mining activity (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278) or by human activity 
(Swenson et al. 1997a, p. 37). Both males and females have a tendency 
to use the same general area year after year, but the same exact den is 
rarely used twice by an individual (Schoen et al. 1987, p. 300; Linnell 
et al. 2000, p. 403). Females display stronger area fidelity than males 
and generally stay in their dens longer, depending on reproductive 
status (Judd et al. 1986, pp. 113-114; Schoen et al. 1987, p. 300; 
Linnell et al. 2000, p. 403).
    In preparation for hibernation, bears increase their food intake 
dramatically during a stage called hyperphagia (Craighead and Mitchell 
1982, p. 544). Hyperphagia is defined simply as overeating (in excess 
of daily metabolic demands) and occurs throughout the 2 to 4 months 
prior to den entry. During hyperphagia, excess food is deposited as 
fat, and grizzly bears may gain as much as 1.65 kg/day (3.64 lb/day) 
(Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 544). Grizzly bears must consume foods 
rich in protein and carbohydrates in order to build up fat reserves to 
survive denning and post-denning periods (Rode and Robbins 2000, pp. 
1643-1644). These layers of fat are crucial to the hibernating bear as 
they provide a source of energy and insulate the bear from cold 
temperatures, and are equally important in providing energy to the bear 
upon emergence from the den when food is still sparse relative to 
metabolic requirements (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 544).
    Although the digestive system of bears is essentially that of a 
carnivore, bears are successful omnivores, and in some areas may be 
almost entirely herbivorous (Jacoby et al. 1999, pp. 924-926; Schwartz 
et al. 2003b, pp. 568-569). Grizzly bears are opportunistic feeders and 
will consume almost any available food including living or dead mammals 
or fish, and, sometimes, garbage (Knight et al. 1988, p. 121; Mattson 
et al. 1991a, pp. 1620-1624; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 568-569). In 
areas where animal matter is less available, grasses, roots, bulbs, 
tubers, and fungi may be important in meeting protein requirements 
(LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 111-114). High-quality foods such as berries, 
nuts, insects, and fish are important in some areas (Schwartz et al. 
2003b, pp. 568-569).
    The search for food has a prime influence on grizzly bear movements 
(Mattson et al. 1991a, pp. 1625-1626). In the GYA, four food sources 
have been identified as important to grizzly bear survival and 
reproductive success (Mattson et al. 2002, p. 2). Winter-killed 
ungulates serve as an important food source in early spring before most 
vegetation is available (Green et al. 1997, p. 140; Mattson 1997, p. 
165). During early summer, spawning cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus 
clarki) are a source of nutrition for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone 
population (Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623; Mattson and Reinhart 1995, 
p. 2072; Felicetti et al. 2004, pp. 496, 499). Grizzly bears feed on 
army cutworm moths (Euxoa auxiliaris) during late summer and early fall 
as they try to acquire sufficient fat levels for winter (Mattson et al. 
1991b, p. 2432; French et al. 1994, p. 394). Lastly, in some years, 
whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) seeds serve as an important fall food 
due to their high fat content and abundance as a pre-hibernation food 
(Mattson and Reinhart 1994, p. 212). The distribution and abundance of 
these grizzly bear foods vary naturally among seasons and years.

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    On average, approximately 79 percent of the diet of adult male and 
45 percent of the diet of adult female grizzly bears in the GYA is 
terrestrial meat (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). In contrast, in Glacier 
National Park, over 95 percent of the diets of both adult male and 
female grizzly bears are vegetation (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). 
Ungulates rank as the second highest source of net digestible energy 
available to grizzly bears in the GYA (Mealey 1975, pp. 84-86; 
Pritchard and Robbins 1990, p. 1647; Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 250-
251). Grizzly bears with home ranges in areas with few plant foods 
depend extensively on ungulate meat (Harting 1985, pp. 69-70, 85-87). 
Grizzly bears in the GYA feed on ungulates primarily as winter-killed 
carrion from March through May although they also depredate elk calves 
for a short period in early June (Gunther and Renkin 1990, pp. 330-332; 
Green et al. 1997, p. 1040; Mattson 1997, pp. 165-166). Carcass 
availability fluctuates with winter severity because fewer ungulates 
die during mild winters (Mattson et al. 1991a, pp. 1622-1623).
    Due to their high digestibility and protein and lipid content, 
spawning cutthroat trout are one of the highest sources of digestible 
energy available to bears during early summer in Yellowstone National 
Park (Mealey 1975, pp. 84-86; Pritchard and Robbins 1990, p. 1647). 
Grizzly bears are known to prey on cutthroat trout in at least 36 
different streams tributary to Yellowstone Lake (Reinhart and Mattson 
1990, pp. 345-346). From 1997 to 1999, Haroldson et al. (2000, pp. 32-
35) identified 85 different grizzly bears that had likely fished 
spawning stream tributaries to Yellowstone Lake. While importance 
varies by season and year, few bears develop a dependence on this food 
source (Haroldson et al. 2005, pp. 173-174). Only 23 individuals 
visited spawning streams more than 1 year out of the 4 years sampled, 
suggesting that this resource is used opportunistically (Haroldson et 
al. 2005, pp. 174-175). In contrast to earlier studies which used 
different assumptions and methods (Reinhart and Mattson 1990, pp. 345-
349; Mattson and Reinhart 1995, pp. 2078-2079), Felicetti et al. (2004, 
pp. 496-499) found that male grizzly bears are the primary consumers of 
cutthroat trout, accounting for 92 percent of all trout consumed by 
Yellowstone grizzly bears.
    Alpine moth aggregations are an important food source for a 
considerable portion of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
(Mattson et al. 1991b, p. 2434). As many as 35 different grizzly bears 
with cubs-of-the-year have been observed feeding at moth sites in a 
single season (Ternent and Haroldson 2000, p. 39). Some bears may feed 
almost exclusively on moths for a period of over a month (French et al. 
1994, p. 393). Moths have the highest caloric content per gram of any 
other bear food (French et al. 1994, p. 391). Moths are available 
during late summer and early fall when bears consume large quantities 
of foods in order to acquire sufficient fat levels for winter (Mattson 
et al. 1991b, p. 2433). A grizzly bear feeding extensively on moths 
over a 30-day period may consume up to 47 percent of its annual energy 
budget of 960,000 calories (White et al. 1999, pp. 149-150). Moths also 
are valuable to bears because they are located in remote areas, thereby 
reducing the potential for grizzly bear/human conflicts during the 
late-summer tourist months (Gunther et al. 2004, p. 15).
    Due to their high fat content and potential abundance as a pre-
hibernation food, whitebark pine seeds are an important fall food for 
bears in the GYA (Mattson and Jonkel 1990, p. 223; Mattson et al. 
1991a, p. 1623). Yellowstone grizzly bears consume whitebark pine seeds 
extensively when whitebark cones are available. Bears may feed 
predominantly on whitebark pine seeds when production exceeds 20 cones 
per tree (Blanchard 1990, p. 362; Mattson et al. 1992, pp. 433, 436). 
During years of low whitebark pine seed availability, grizzly bears 
often seek alternate foods at lower elevations in association with 
human activities (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; Knight and Blanchard 
1995, p. 23; Gunther et al. 1997, pp. 9-11; Gunther et al. 2004, p. 
18).
    The production and availability of these four major foods can have 
a positive effect on reproduction and survival rates of Yellowstone 
grizzly bears (Mattson et al. 2002, p. 5). For example, during years 
when whitebark pine seeds are abundant, there are fewer grizzly bear/
human conflicts in the GYA (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; Gunther et al. 
2004, pp. 13-15). Grizzly bear/human conflicts are incidents in which 
bears kill or injure people, damage property, kill or injure livestock, 
damage beehives, obtain anthropogenic (man-made) foods, or damage or 
obtain garden and orchard fruits and vegetables (USDA Forest 
Service1986, pp. 53-54). During poor whitebark pine years, grizzly 
bear/human conflicts are more frequent, resulting in higher numbers of 
human-caused grizzly bear mortalities due to defense of life or 
property and management removals of nuisance bears (Mattson et al. 
1992, p. 436; Gunther et al. 2004, pp. 13-14). A nuisance bear is one 
that seeks human food in human-use areas, kills lawfully present 
livestock, or displays unnatural aggressive behavior toward people 
(USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 53-54). Introduced organisms (e.g., 
white pine blister rust and lake trout), habitat loss, and other human 
activities can negatively impact the quantity and distribution of these 
four primary foods (Reinhart et al. 2001, pp. 285-286). Potential 
effects to food supply and human/bear conflict are discussed in more 
detail in the 5-factor analysis.

Recovery

    Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the grizzly bear occurred 
throughout the western half of the contiguous United States, central 
Mexico, western Canada, and most of Alaska (Roosevelt 1907, pp. 27-28; 
Wright 1909, pp. vii, 3, 185-186; Merriam 1922, p. 1; Storer and Tevis 
1955, p. 18; Rausch 1963, p. 35; Herrero 1972, pp. 224-227; Mattson et 
al. 1995, p. 103; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 557-558). Pre-settlement 
population levels for the western contiguous United States are believed 
to be in the range of 50,000 animals (Servheen 1999, p. 50). With 
European settlement of the American West, grizzly bears were shot, 
poisoned, and trapped wherever they were found, and the resulting range 
and population declines were dramatic (Roosevelt 1907, pp. 27-28; 
Wright 1909, p. vii; Storer and Tevis 1955, pp. 26-27; Leopold 1967, p. 
30; Koford 1969, p. 95; Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 516; Mattson et 
al. 1995, p. 103). The range and numbers of grizzlies were reduced to 
less than 2 percent of their former range and numbers by the 1930s, 
approximately 125 years after first contact (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1993, p. 9; Mattson et al. 1995, p. 103; Servheen 1999, p. 51). 
Of 37 grizzly populations present in 1922, 31 were extirpated by 1975 
(Servheen 1999, p. 51).
    By the 1950s, with little or no conservation effort or management 
directed at maintaining grizzly bears anywhere in their range, the GYA 
population had been reduced in numbers and was restricted largely to 
the confines of Yellowstone National Park and some surrounding areas 
(Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 41-42; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 575-579). 
High grizzly bear mortality in 1970 and 1971, following closure of the 
open-pit dumps in Yellowstone National Park (Gunther 1994, p. 550; 
Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 34-36), and concern about grizzly population 
status throughout its remaining range prompted the 1975 listing of the 
grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 States under the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (40 FR

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31734-31736, July 28, 1975). When the grizzly bear was listed in 1975, 
the population estimate in the GYA ranged from 136 to 312 individuals 
(Cowan et al. 1974, pp. 32, 36; Craighead et al. 1974, p. 16; 
McCullough 1981, p. 175).
    In 1981, we hired a grizzly bear recovery coordinator to direct 
recovery efforts and to coordinate all agency efforts on research and 
management of grizzly bears in the lower 48 States. In 1982, the first 
Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) was completed (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1982, p. ii). The Recovery Plan identified five 
ecosystems within the conterminous United States thought to support 
grizzly bears. Today, grizzly bear distribution is primarily within, 
but not limited to, the areas identified as Recovery Zones (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 10-13, 17-18), including--the GYA in 
northwest Wyoming, eastern Idaho, and southwest Montana (24,000 sq km 
(9,200 sq mi)) at more than 500 bears (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study 
Team 2006, p. 15); the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) of 
north central Montana (25,000 sq km (9,600 sq mi)) at more than 500 
bears (Kendall 2006); the North Cascades area of north central 
Washington (25,000 sq km (9,500 sq mi)) at less than 20 bears (Almack 
et al. 1993, p. 4); the Selkirk Mountains area of north Idaho, 
northeast Washington, and southeast British Columbia (5,700 sq km 
(2,200 sq mi)) at approximately 40 to 50 bears (64 FR 26730, May 17, 
1999; 70 FR 24870, May 11, 2005); and the Cabinet-Yaak area of 
northwest Montana and northern Idaho (6,700 sq km (2,600 sq mi)) at 
approximately 30 to 40 bears (Kasworm and Manley 1988, p. 21; Kasworm 
et al. 2004, p. 2). There is an additional Recovery Zone known as the 
Bitterroot Recovery Zone in the Bitterroot Mountains of east-central 
Idaho and western Montana (14,500 sq km (5,600 sq mi)), but this area 
does not contain any grizzly bears at this time (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1996, p. 1; 65 FR 69624, November 17, 2000; U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2000, p. ix). The San Juan Mountains of Colorado also 
were identified as an area of possible grizzly bear occurrence (40 FR 
31734-31736, July 28, 1975; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, p. 12; 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 11), but no confirmed sightings 
of grizzly bears have been found in the San Juan Mountains since a bear 
was killed there in 1979 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 11).
    In the initial Recovery Plan, the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Ecosystem, later called the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone, was 
defined as an area large enough and of sufficient habitat quality to 
support a recovered grizzly bear population within which the population 
and habitat would be monitored (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, 
pp. 55-58; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 41). In 1993, we 
revised the Recovery Plan to include additional tasks and new 
information that increased the focus and effectiveness of recovery 
efforts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 41-58).
    However, recovery plans are not regulatory documents and are 
instead intended to provide guidance to us, States, and other partners 
on methods of minimizing threats to listed species and on criteria that 
may be used to determine when recovery is achieved. There are many 
paths to accomplishing recovery of a species, and recovery may be 
achieved without all criteria being fully met. For example, one or more 
criteria may have been exceeded while other criteria may not have been 
accomplished. In that instance, we may judge that the threats have been 
minimized sufficiently, and the species is robust enough, to reclassify 
the species from endangered to threatened or delist the species. In 
other cases, recovery opportunities may have been recognized that were 
not known at the time the Recovery Plan was finalized. These 
opportunities may be used instead of methods identified in the Recovery 
Plan. Likewise, information on the species may be learned that was not 
known at the time the Recovery Plan was finalized. The new information 
may change the extent that criteria need to be met for recognizing 
recovery of the species. Recovery of a species is a dynamic process 
requiring adaptive management (defined as a 6-step feedback loop 
including assessment, design of management actions and associated 
monitoring and research, implementation of management according to the 
design, monitoring, evaluation of outcomes, and adjustment of 
management based on evaluation of initial management actions) that may, 
or may not, fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan. In 
the end, any determination of whether a species is no longer in need of 
the protections of the Act must be based on an assessment of the 
threats to the species.
    Grizzly bear recovery has required cooperation among numerous 
Federal agencies, State agencies, non-government organizations, local 
governments, and citizens. In recognition that grizzly bear populations 
were unsustainably low, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 
(hereafter referred to as the Study Team) was created in 1973 to 
provide detailed scientific information for the management and recovery 
of the grizzly bear in the GYA. Current members of the Study Team 
include scientists from the Service, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA 
Forest Service, academia, and each State game and fish agency involved 
in grizzly bear recovery. The Study Team has developed protocols to 
monitor and manage grizzly bear populations and important habitat 
parameters.
    In 1983, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee was created to 
coordinate management efforts and research actions across multiple 
Federal lands and States within the various Recovery Zones to recover 
the grizzly bear in the lower 48 States (USDA and U.S. Department of 
the Interior 1983). Its objective was to change land management 
practices to more effectively provide security and maintain or improve 
habitat conditions for the grizzly bear (USDA and U.S. Department of 
the Interior 1983). The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is made up 
of upper level managers from all affected State and Federal agencies 
(USDA and U.S. Department of the Interior 1983). Also in 1983, the 
Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Committee, was formed to coordinate recovery efforts 
specific to the GYA (USDA and U.S. Department of the Interior 1983, p. 
3). Members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee are mid-level 
managers and include--the Service; representatives from the six GYA 
National Forests (the Shoshone, Custer, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-
Teton, Gallatin, and Targhee); Yellowstone National Park; Grand Teton 
National Park; the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD); the Montana 
Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MTFWP); the Idaho Department 
of Fish and Game (IDFG); the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); the Study 
Team; county governments from each affected State; the Northern 
Arapahoe Tribe; and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe (USDA and U.S. 
Department of the Interior 1983).
    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 that remanded for further study 
and clarification four issues that are relevant to the GYA--(1) The 
method used to measure the status of bear populations; (2) the impacts 
of genetic isolation; (3) monitoring of the mortalities related to 
livestock; and (4)

[[Page 14870]]

the monitoring of disease (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F. Supp. 96 
(D. D.C. 1995); 967 F. Supp. 6 (D. D.C. 1997)). Following this court 
decision, all parties filed appeals. In 1997, the parties reached a 
settlement whereby we agreed to append habitat-based recovery criteria 
to the Recovery Plan (Settlement dated March 31, 1997, and approved by 
the court on May 5, 1997, Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 967 F. Supp. 6 
(D. D.C. 1997)) (hereafter Fund for Animals v. Babbitt). These four 
issues and the necessary supplement to the Recovery Plan as required by 
the court order and subsequent settlement are discussed in detail in 
this section and in the threats analysis.
    Habitat Management and Development of Habitat-based Recovery 
Criteria--In 1979, the Study Team developed the first comprehensive 
Guidelines for Management Involving Grizzly Bears in the GYA (hereafter 
referred to as the Guidelines) (Mealey 1979, pp. 1-4). We determined in 
a biological opinion that implementation of the Guidelines by Federal 
land management agencies would promote conservation of the grizzly bear 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1979, p. 1). Beginning in 1979, the six 
affected National Forests (Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, 
Caribou-Targhee, Custer, Gallatin, and Shoshone), Yellowstone and Grand 
Teton National Parks, and the BLM in the GYA began managing habitats 
for grizzly bears under direction specified in the Guidelines.
    In 1986, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee modified the 
Guidelines to more effectively manage habitat by mapping and managing 
according to three different management situations (USDA Forest Service 
1986, pp. 35-39). In areas governed by ``Management Situation One,'' 
grizzly habitat maintenance and improvement and grizzly bear/human 
conflict minimization received the highest management priority. In 
areas governed by ``Management Situation Two,'' grizzly bear use was 
important, but not the primary use of the area. In areas governed by 
``Management Situation Three,'' grizzly habitat maintenance and 
improvement were not management considerations.
    Accordingly, the National Forests and National Parks delineated 18 
different bear management units within the Recovery Zone to aid in 
managing habitat and monitoring population trends. Each bear management 
unit was further subdivided into subunits, resulting in a total of 40 
subunits contained within the 18 bear management units (see map at 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm). The bear management units are analysis areas that 
approximate the lifetime size of a female's home range, while subunits 
are analysis areas that approximate the annual home range size of adult 
females. Subunits provide the optimal scale for evaluation of seasonal 
feeding opportunities and landscape patterns of food availability for 
grizzly bears (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 236). The bear management units 
and subunits were identified to provide enough quality habitat and to 
ensure that grizzly bears were well distributed across the recovery 
zone as per the Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
20, 41, 44-46). Management improvements made as a result of these 
Guidelines are discussed under Factor A below.
    Another tool employed to monitor habitat quality and assist in 
habitat management is the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Cumulative Effects 
Model. The model was designed to assess the inherent productivity of 
grizzly bear habitat and the cumulative effects of human activities on 
bear use of that habitat (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 234; Dixon 1997, pp. 
4-5; Mattson et al. 2002, p. 5). The model uses Geographic Information 
System (GIS) databases and relative value coefficients associated with 
human activities, vegetation, and key grizzly bear foods to calculate 
habitat value and habitat effectiveness (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 237; 
Mattson et al. 2002, p. 5). Habitat value is a relative measure of the 
average net digestible energy potentially available to bears in a 
subunit during each season. Habitat value is primarily a function of 
vegetation and major foods (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 236; Dixon 1997, pp. 
62-64). Habitat effectiveness is that part of the energy potentially 
derived from the area that is available to bears given their response 
to humans (Weaver et al. 1986, pp. 238-239; Dixon 1997, pp. 4-5; 
Mattson et al. 2002, p. 5). More specifically, habitat effectiveness is 
a function of relative value coefficients of human activities, such as 
location, duration, and intensity of use for motorized access routes, 
non-motorized access routes, developed sites, and front- and back-
country dispersed uses (Mattson et al. 2002, p. 5). The Cumulative 
Effects Model, which represents the best available scientific 
information in providing managers with a comparative index of how much 
habitat values have changed through time, is updated annually to 
reflect changes in vegetation, major foods, and the number and capacity 
of human activities.
    As per the court settlement (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt) and as 
recommended by the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan's Task Y423, we have 
worked to ``establish a threshold of minimal habitat values to be 
maintained within each Cumulative Effects Analysis Unit in order to 
ensure that sufficient habitat is available to support a viable 
population'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 55). On June 17, 
1997, we held a public workshop in Bozeman, Montana, to develop and 
refine habitat-based recovery criteria for the grizzly bear. A Federal 
Register notice notified the public of this workshop and provided 
interested parties an opportunity to participate and submit comments 
(62 FR 19777, April 23, 1997). After considering 1,167 written 
comments, we developed biologically-based habitat recovery criteria 
with the overall goal of maintaining or improving habitat conditions at 
levels that existed in 1998.
    There is no published method to deductively calculate minimum 
habitat values required for a healthy and recovered population. 
Recognizing that grizzly bears are opportunistic omnivores and that a 
landscape's ability to support grizzly bears is a function of overall 
habitat productivity, the distribution and abundance of major food 
sources, the levels and type of human activities, grizzly bear social 
systems, bear densities, and stochasticity, we selected 1998 levels as 
our baseline level. We chose this year because it was known that these 
habitat values had adequately supported an increasing Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population throughout the 1990s (Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 
362; Knight and Blanchard 1995, pp. 5, 9; Knight et al. 1995, p. 247; 
Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 10-11) and that levels of secure habitat 
(defined as areas more than 500 meters (m) (1650 feet (ft)) from a 
motorized access route and greater than or equal to 4 hectares (ha) (10 
acres (ac)) in size (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 41)) and 
the number and capacity of developed sites had changed little from 1988 
to 1998 (USDA Forest Service 2004, pp. 140-141, 159-162).
    The habitat-based recovery criteria lay out detailed management 
objectives and approaches to manage motorized access, maintain or 
increase secure habitat, limit increases in site development, and 
assure no increase in livestock allotments. As each of these management 
objectives are central to potential present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of habitat or range, each of these 
criteria are discussed in detail

[[Page 14871]]

under Factor A below. These habitat-based recovery criteria have been 
met.
    Additionally, we developed four general habitat-based parameters 
that will be monitored and related to demographic and population 
monitoring results--(1) Productivity of the four major foods; (2) 
habitat effectiveness as measured by the Cumulative Effects Model; (3) 
grizzly bear mortality numbers, locations, and causes; grizzly bear/
human conflicts; nuisance bear management actions; bear/hunter 
conflicts; and bear/livestock conflicts; and (4) development on private 
lands (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 25-60). The agencies 
will monitor, and the Study Team will annually analyze and report on 
the relationships between grizzly bear population and demographic data, 
and the availability and distribution of the four most important bear 
foods, habitat effectiveness, nuisance bear control actions, numbers 
and distribution of bear/human and bear/livestock conflicts, hunter 
numbers, and development on private lands. This information will be 
used to calculate an index of habitat sufficiency and to monitor 
relationships between decreases in foods or increases in human 
activity, and increasing bear mortality or changes in bear distribution 
that might impact the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. These 
analyses will use the demographic values of a stable to increasing 
population as a benchmark to be maintained. The current habitat-based 
recovery criteria have been appended to the Recovery Plan and are 
included in the Strategy.
    Population and Demographic Management--In 2000, we began a process 
to reevaluate the methods used to measure the status of the bear 
population, the methods used to estimate population size, and the 
sustainable level of mortality in the GYA. This process was initiated 
both in response to the 1995 court order (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt) 
and Task Y11 of the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1993, p. 44), which suggested that we ``Reevaluate and 
refine population criteria as new information becomes available.'' The 
Wildlife Monograph: Temporal, Spatial, and Environmental Influences on 
the Demographics of Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 
and the report entitled Reassessing Methods To Estimate Population Size 
and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
(hereafter referred to as the Reassessing Methods Document) 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005; Interagency Grizzly Bear 
Study Team 2006) were produced to respond to the need to reevaluate and 
refine the population criteria. The Wildlife Monograph is divided into 
separate chapters (Haroldson et al. 2006b, pp. 33-42; Harris et al. 
2006, pp. 44-55; Schwartz et al. 2006a, pp. 18-23; Schwartz et al. 
2006c, pp. 25-31; Schwartz et al. 2006d, pp. 9-16; Schwartz et al. 
2006e, pp. 57-63), and we reference these chapters individually as 
applicable. Relevant portions of the authors' analyses are summarized 
below, as well as relevant findings on the likelihood of population 
persistence (as defined in a population viability analysis (PVA)) into 
the foreseeable future for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.
    Harris et al. (2006, pp. 44-45) used the survival rates calculated 
by Haroldson et al. (2006b, p. 35) and Schwartz et al. (2006c, p. 27), 
and the reproductive rates calculated by Schwartz et al. (2006a, p. 19) 
to model population trajectory for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population between 1983 and 2002. Because the fates of some radio-
collared bears were unknown, Harris et al. (2006, p. 48) calculated two 
separate estimates of population growth rate (see our response to Issue 
5 under subheading B in the Responses to Public Comments section for 
additional detail on this methodology). They found that the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population increased at a rate between 4.2 and 7.6 percent 
per year between 1983 and 2002 (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48).
    Schwartz et al. (2006c, p. 29) concluded that grizzly bears are 
probably approaching carrying capacity inside Yellowstone National 
Park. Their conclusion resulted from the analysis of survivorship of 
cubs and yearlings, and of independent bears, inside Yellowstone 
National Park, outside the Park but inside the Primary Conservation 
Area (PCA), and outside the PCA, as well as the analysis of bear 
distribution in those three zones of residency.
    Population viability analyses are often used to describe a 
population's likelihood of persistence in the future. We consider the 
findings of Boyce et al. (2001, pp. 1-11) in the following paragraphs 
because they reviewed the existing published PVAs for Yellowstone 
grizzly bears, and updated these previous analyses using data collected 
since the original analyses were completed. They also conducted new 
PVAs using two software packages that had not been available to 
previous investigators. They found that the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population had a 1 percent chance of going extinct within the next 100 
years and a 4 percent chance of going extinct in the next 500 years 
(Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 1, 10-11). However, these analyses did not 
consider changes in habitat that may occur, so Boyce et al. (2001, pp. 
33-34) did not consider any of the PVAs to be sufficient. Instead, they 
recommended that a habitat-based PVA be developed that would link a 
grizzly bear population model with a resource selection function 
rigorously derived from the existing GIS databases compiled for the 
Cumulative Effects Model. However, given the uncertainty in 
parameterizing the habitat databases and the relationships between food 
availability and grizzly bear vital rates, we do not believe such an 
exercise, if it is ever possible to complete, is necessary to make 
informed management decisions and maintain a recovered grizzly bear 
population in the GYA in the foreseeable future. Such uncertainty could 
result in a model that is even less indicative or representative of 
potential responses of bears to habitat variation than what is 
available now. This rule relies upon the best scientific and commercial 
information available, which we view as more than adequate to support 
this action.
    Mortality control is a key part of any successful management 
effort; however, some mortality, including human-caused mortality, is 
unavoidable in a dynamic system where hundreds of bears inhabit large 
areas of diverse habitat with several million human visitors and 
residents. In 1977, Eberhardt documented that adult female survival was 
the most important vital rate influencing population trajectory 
(Eberhardt 1977, p. 210). Low adult female survival was the critical 
factor causing decline in the GYA population prior to the mid-1980s 
(Knight and Eberhardt 1985, p. 331). In the early 1980s, with the 
development of the first Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1982, pp. 21-24), agencies began to control mortality and increase 
adult female survivorship (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 1-2; Knight et 
al. 1999, pp. 56-57). The 1982 and 1993 Revised Recovery Plan (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, pp. 33-34, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1993, pp. 20-21) established three demographic (population) 
goals to objectively measure and monitor recovery of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population:
    Demographic Recovery Criterion 1--Maintain a minimum of 15 
unduplicated (only counted once) females with cubs-of-the-year over a 
running 6-year average both inside the Recovery Zone and within a 16-km 
(10-mi) area immediately surrounding the

[[Page 14872]]

Recovery Zone. Status: This recovery criterion has been met (Haroldson 
2006b, p. 12).
    Demographic Recovery Criterion 2--Sixteen of 18 bear management 
units within the Recovery Zone (see map at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm) must be 
occupied by females with young, with no 2 adjacent bear management 
units unoccupied, during a 6-year sum of observations. Status: This 
criterion is important as it ensures that reproductive females occupy 
the majority of the Recovery Zone and are not concentrated in one 
portion of the ecosystem. This recovery criterion has been met 
(Podruzny 2006, p. 17).
    1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3--The running 6-year average 
for total known, human-caused mortality should not exceed 4 percent of 
the minimum population estimate in any 2 consecutive years; and human-
caused female grizzly bear mortality should not exceed 1.2 percent of 
the minimum population estimate in any 2 consecutive years. Status: The 
4 percent limit on total human-caused mortality has not been exceeded 
since 1995. Because female mortality averaged 7.5 female bears per year 
for the time period from 2001 to 2004 (Haroldson and Frey 2006, p. 30), 
even though there were only 2 female mortalities in 2005 and 3 female 
mortalities in 2006, the high mortality in the preceding years made the 
6-year average exceed the 1.2 percent limit in 2004, 2005, and 2006. 
This means that this component of 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 
was not met in the last consecutive 2-year period of 2005 to 2006.
    2007 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3--For independent females (at 
least 2 years old), the current annual mortality limit, not to be 
exceeded in 2 consecutive years and including all sources of mortality, 
is 9 percent of the total number of independent females. For 
independent males (at least 2 years old), the current annual mortality 
limit not to be exceeded in 3 consecutive years and including all 
sources of mortality, is 15 percent of the total number of independent 
males. For dependent young (less than 2 years old), the current annual 
mortality limit, not to be exceeded in 3 consecutive years and 
including known and probable human-caused mortalities only, is 9 
percent of the total number of dependent young (Interagency Grizzly 
Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 36-38). Status: Applying the current 
methodology to the 1999 to 2006 data, mortality limits have not been 
exceeded for consecutive years for any bear class and, therefore, this 
criterion has been met (Schwartz, in press).
    We no longer consider 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 to 
represent the best scientific and commercial data available, nor the 
best technique to assess recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population because--(1) There is now a method to calculate the total 
number of independent females from sightings and resightings of females 
with cubs (Keating et al. 2002, p. 173), and this method allows 
calculation of total population size (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study 
Team 2005, pp. 12-26) instead of minimum population size as used in the 
old method (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 41-44); (2) There 
is now a method to calculate the unknown and unreported mortalities 
(Cherry et al. 2002, pp. 176-181), and this method allows more 
conservative mortality management based on annually updated information 
rather than the estimate of unknown and unreported mortality used in 
the Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 20, 43); and 
(3) There are now improved and updated data on reproductive performance 
of Yellowstone grizzly bears (Schwartz et al. 2006a, pp. 19-23), 
updated data on survival of cub and yearling Yellowstone grizzly bears 
(Schwartz et al. 2006c, pp. 25-28), updated data on survival of 
independent Yellowstone grizzly bears (Haroldson et al. 2006b, pp. 33-
35), updated data on the trajectory of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population under alternate survival rates (Harris et al. 2006, pp. 44-
54), and new data on the impacts of spatial and environmental 
heterogeneity on Yellowstone grizzly bear demographics (Schwartz et al. 
2006e, pp. 58-61). These improved data and analyses, since the 
development of the 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 41-44), allow improved mortality management 
based on more accurate calculations of total population size, and the 
establishment of sustainable mortality for independent females, 
independent males, and dependent young.
    As stated above, the update to 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 
3 began in 2000, as per Task Y11 of the 1993 Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 44) and the court remand to the Service 
for further study and clarification (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt). When 
this review began in 2000, the 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 
had been achieved since 1998 (Haroldson and Frey 2006, p. 35). It was 
only since 2004, 4 years after the reassessment work began, that the 
1993 criterion was not met (Haroldson and Frey 2006, p. 35).
    Although the 1993 Recovery Plan suggested calculating sustainable 
mortality as a percentage of the minimum population estimate (as 
outlined in Demographic Recovery Criterion 3), this method no longer 
represents the best scientific and commercial data available 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 8-9). The Study Team 
conducted a critical review of both current and alternative methods for 
calculating population size, estimating the known to unknown mortality 
ratio, and establishing sustainable mortality levels for the 
Yellowstone grizzly population (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 
2005, pp. 13-41). The product of this work is the aforementioned 
Reassessing Methods Document, which evaluates current methods, reviews 
recent scientific literature, examines alternative methods, and 
recommends the most scientifically valid techniques based on these 
reviews (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 41-45). This 
Reassessing Methods Document was sent out to three peer reviewers, and 
the comments of the reviewers were incorporated into the final document 
that was released to the public in November of 2005 (70 FR 70632, 
November 22, 2005). These peer reviews are available in the 
administrative record for this final rule. We requested public comment 
on the Reassessing Methods Document (70 FR 70632-70633, Nov. 22, 2005). 
In response to the comments received, the Study Team prepared a 
Supplement to the Reassessing Methods Document, which addresses many of 
the concerns raised during the public comment period (Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006). This Supplement also underwent peer 
review. Both the Reassessing Methods Document and its Supplement are 
accessible at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm.
    The end result of this critical review and analysis are revised 
methods for calculating population size, estimating the known to 
unknown mortality ratio, and establishing sustainable mortality levels 
for the Yellowstone grizzly population based on the best available 
science. These methods and the 2007 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 
were appended to the Recovery Plan as a supplement and included in the 
Strategy (72 FR 11376; 72 FR 11376-11377).
    The current method is a much more comprehensive mortality 
management approach. Between 1980 and 2002,

[[Page 14873]]

approximately 21 percent of all known grizzly bear deaths were from 
undetermined causes (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 15). These deaths could 
not be counted against the 4 percent human-caused mortality limit using 
the previous method because the cause of death could not be confirmed. 
The previous method also assumed a 2-to-1 ``known-to-unknown'' 
mortality ratio. Many researchers hypothesize that unknown mortality is 
much higher than that suggested by a ratio of ``known-to-unknown'' of 
2-to-1 (Knight and Eberhardt 1985, pp. 332-333; McLellan et al. 1999, 
p. 916). After careful consideration and using the best available 
science, the Study Team adopted a new more conservative ``known-to-
unknown'' mortality ratio of approximately 1-to-2 that is recalculated 
each year based on the number of known, reported deaths (Cherry et al. 
2002, p. 179; Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 39-41).
    Annual allowable mortality limits for each bear class (independent 
female, independent male, and dependent young) are calculated annually 
based on total population estimates of each bear class for the current 
year (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 5-9). The Study 
Team calculates both the total population size and the mortality limits 
within an area designated by the Strategy (see The Conservation 
Strategy section of the rule below) that overlaps and extends beyond 
suitable habitat (see Figure 1 below). For independent females, a 9 
percent limit was considered sustainable because simulations have shown 
that this level of adult female mortality rate allows a stable to 
increasing population 95 percent of the time (Harris et al. 2006, p. 
50). For independent males, a 15 percent limit was considered 
sustainable because it approximates the level of male mortality in the 
GYA from 1983 to 2001 (Haroldson et al. 2006b, p. 38), a period when 
the mean growth rate of the population was estimated at 4 to 7 percent 
per year (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48). Independent males can endure a 
higher rate of mortality compared to females without affecting the 
overall stability or trajectory of the population because they 
contribute little to overall population growth (Mace and Waller 1998, 
pp. 1009-1013; Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 39). 
Similarly, the 9 percent limit on human-caused mortality for dependent 
young was chosen because this level of mortality is less than the 15 
percent human-caused mortality documented for each sex of this age 
group from 1983 to 2001, a period of population growth and expansion 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 9, 36-38). Although it 
is known that dependent bears experience far higher natural mortality 
rates than independent bears (Schwartz et al. 2006c, p. 30), there is 
no known way to sample these mortalities directly in the field. 
Instead, these rates are calculated from consecutive years of observing 
radio-collared females with cubs-of-the-year.
    These mortality limits can be reduced by individual management 
agencies of the multi-agency Yellowstone Grizzly Coordinating Committee 
(hereafter referred to as the Coordinating Committee and further 
described in Factor D below) within their jurisdictions, as part of the 
Coordinating Committee management process to meet the Strategy and the 
State plans' management objectives. These mortality limits, as 
described above in the Conservation Strategy Management Area (Figure 
1), cannot be increased above the limits of 9 percent for independent 
females, 15 percent for independent males, and 9 percent for dependent 
young, unless such an increase is justified or supported by new 
scientific findings using the best available science, and the basis for 
this increase is documented by the Study Team in a report to the 
Coordinating Committee. Any such recommendation to increase mortality 
limits would be considered an amendment to the Strategy open for public 
comment, and requiring a majority vote by the Coordinating Committee 
before finalization (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 63).
    The Study Team will reevaluate mortality limits every 8 to 10 
years, or as new scientific information becomes available (Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 45), or at the request of the 
Coordinating Committee. Allocation of mortality limits within the 
Conservation Strategy Management Area (see Figure 1 below) among 
management jurisdictions is the responsibility of the Coordinating 
Committee, but total mortality for independent females, independent 
males, and dependent young within the Conservation Strategy Management 
Area (see Figure 1 below) must remain at or below the sustainable 
mortality limits established by the Study Team. This allocation process 
may be used to adjust mortality numbers among jurisdictions to achieve 
management objectives while staying within the overall mortality 
limits.
    The Conservation Strategy--In order to provide adequate regulatory 
mechanisms after delisting and ensure the long-term maintenance of a 
recovered population, the Recovery Plan calls for the development of 
``a conservation strategy to outline habitat and population monitoring 
that will continue in force after recovery'' (Recovery Plan Task Y426) 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 55). To accomplish this goal, 
in 1993, we created the Interagency Conservation Strategy Team. This 
team included biologists from the Service, the National Park Service, 
the USDA Forest Service, the IDFG, the WGFD, and the MTFWP.
    In March 2000, a draft Conservation Strategy for the GYA was 
released for public review and comment (65 FR 11340, March 2, 2000). 
Also in 2000, a Governors' Roundtable was organized to provide 
recommendations from the perspectives of the three States that would be 
involved with grizzly bear management after delisting. In 2003, the 
draft Final Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the GYA was 
released, along with drafts of State grizzly bear management plans (all 
accessible at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm). We have responded to all public comments received on 
the Strategy and finalized the Strategy (72 FR 11376). The Strategy 
will become effective once this final rule takes effect.
    The purpose of the Strategy and associated State and Federal 
implementation plans is to--(1) Describe, summarize, and implement the 
coordinated efforts to manage the grizzly bear population and its 
habitat to ensure continued conservation of the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear population; (2) specify and implement the population, habitat, and 
nuisance bear standards to maintain a recovered grizzly bear population 
for the foreseeable future; (3) document the regulatory mechanisms and 
legal authorities, policies, management, and monitoring programs that 
exist to maintain the recovered grizzly bear population; and (4) 
document the actions which the participating agencies have agreed to 
implement (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 5-6).
    The Strategy identifies and provides a framework for managing two 
areas, the PCA and adjacent areas of suitable habitat where occupancy 
by grizzly bears is anticipated as per the State plans. The PCA 
boundaries (containing 23,853 sq km (9,210 sq mi)) correspond to those 
of the Yellowstone Recovery Zone (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, 
p. 41) and will replace the Recovery Zone boundary (see Figure 1 
below). The PCA contains adequate seasonal habitat components needed to 
support the recovered Yellowstone grizzly bear population for the 
foreseeable future and to allow bears to continue to expand outside the 
PCA.

[[Page 14874]]

The PCA includes approximately 51 percent of the suitable habitat 
within the DPS and approximately 84 to 90 percent of the population of 
female grizzly bears with cubs (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66).
    The Strategy will be implemented and funded by both Federal and 
State agencies within the Yellowstone DPS. The USDA Forest Service, 
National Park Service, and BLM will cooperate with the State wildlife 
agencies (MTFWP, IDFG, and WGFD) to implement the Strategy and its 
protective habitat and population standards. The USDA Forest Service 
and National Park Service (which collectively own and manage 
approximately 98 percent of the PCA) are responsible for maintaining or 
improving habitat standards inside the PCA and monitoring population 
criteria. Specifically, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National 
Park, and the Shoshone, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-
Targhee, Custer, and Gallatin National Forests are the primary areas 
with Federal responsibility for implementing the Strategy. Affected 
National Forests and National Parks have incorporated the habitat 
standards and criteria into their Forest Plans and National Park 
management plans via appropriate amendment processes so that they are 
legally applied to these public lands within the Yellowstone DPS 
boundaries (Grand Teton National Park 2006, p. 1; USDA Forest Service 
2006b, p. 4; Yellowstone National Park 2006, p. 12).
    Outside of the PCA, grizzly bears will be allowed to expand into 
suitable habitat as per direction in the State management plans. Here, 
the objective is to maintain existing resource management and 
recreational uses, and to allow agencies to respond to demonstrated 
problems with appropriate management actions. The key to successful 
management of grizzly bears outside of the PCA lies in their 
successfully utilizing lands not managed solely for bears, but in which 
their needs are considered along with other uses. Currently, 
approximately 10 to 16 percent of female grizzly bears with cubs occupy 
habitat outside of the PCA (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). The area 
of suitable habitat outside of the PCA is roughly 83 percent Federally 
owned; 6.0 percent Tribally owned; 1.6 percent State-owned; and 9.5 
percent privately owned. State grizzly bear management plans (Idaho's 
Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002; MTFWP 2002; WGFD 
2005), the Forest Plan Amendment (USDA Forest Service 2006a), and other 
appropriate planning documents provide specific management direction 
for areas outside of the PCA.
    This differential management standard (one standard inside the PCA 
and another standard for suitable habitat outside the PCA) has been 
successful in the past (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 19). Lands within 
the PCA/Recovery Zone are currently managed primarily to maintain 
grizzly bear habitat, whereas lands outside of the PCA/Recovery Zone 
boundaries are managed with more consideration for human uses (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 17-18). Such flexible management 
promotes communication and tolerance for grizzly bear recovery.
    As the grizzly bear population within the Recovery Zone has 
rebounded in response to recovery efforts, there has been a gradual 
natural recolonization of suitable habitat outside of the PCA/Recovery 
Zone (Pyare et al. 2004, p. 6). Today, most suitable habitat within the 
DPS boundaries is occupied by grizzly bears (68 percent) but 
approximately 14,500 sq km (5,600 sq mi) are still available for 
recolonization (see suitable habitat analysis in Factor A of this final 
rule below).
    The Strategy is an adaptive, dynamic document that establishes a 
framework to incorporate new and better scientific information as it 
becomes available or as necessary in response to environmental changes. 
Ongoing review and evaluation of the effectiveness of the Strategy is 
the responsibility of the State and Federal managers and will be 
updated by the management agencies every 5 years, or more frequently as 
necessary. Public comments will be sought on all updates to the 
Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 14).

Previous Federal Actions

    On July 28, 1975, the grizzly bear was designated as threatened in 
the conterminous (lower 48) United States (40 FR 31734-31736). On 
November 17, 2005, we proposed to designate the GYA population of 
grizzly bears as a DPS and to remove this DPS from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. This notice was followed by a 120-
day comment period (70 FR 69854, November 17, 2005; 71 FR 8251, 
February 16, 2006), during which we held two public hearings and four 
open houses (70 FR 69854, November 17, 2005; 71 FR 4097-4098, January 
25, 2006). Included in the public comments was a petition to uplist the 
Yellowstone DPS to endangered status. All assertions of this petition 
are addressed either in the Summary of Public Comments section below, 
in the 5-factor analysis that follows, or in the Reassessing Methods 
Document's issues and responses summary. A 90-day finding on whether 
the petition presented substantial information indicating whether the 
petitioned action may be warranted is included below. Similarly, this 
final rule addresses the 2004 Administrative Procedure Act petition 
from the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation to designate the grizzly bear 
in the GYA as a DPS (Hamilton et al. 2004). Finally, between 1991 and 
1999, we issued warranted-but-precluded findings to reclassify grizzly 
bears in the North Cascades (56 FR 33892-33894, July 24, 1991; 63 FR 
30453-30454, June 4, 1998), the Cabinet-Yaak (58 FR 8250-8251, February 
12, 1993; 64 FR 26725-26733, May 17, 1999), and the Selkirk Ecosystems 
(64 FR 26725-26733, May 17, 1999) from threatened to endangered. These 
uplisting actions remain precluded by higher priority actions. We hope 
to further evaluate each of these ecosystems during our upcoming 5-year 
review. Please refer to the proposed rule for more detailed information 
on previous Federal actions (70 FR 69861, November 17, 2005).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Policy Overview

    Pursuant to the Act, we shall consider for listing or delisting any 
species, subspecies, or, for vertebrates, any DPS of these taxa if 
there is sufficient information to indicate that such action may be 
warranted. To interpret and implement the DPS provision of the Act and 
congressional guidance, the Service and the National Marine Fisheries 
Service published, on December 21, 1994, a draft Policy Regarding the 
Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments under the Act 
(DPS Policy) and invited public comments on it (59 FR 65884-65885). 
After review of comments and further consideration, the Services 
adopted the interagency policy as issued in draft form, and published 
it in the Federal Register on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722-4725). This 
policy addresses the establishment of DPSs for potential listing and 
delisting actions.
    Under our DPS policy, three factors are considered when determining 
whether or not a population can be considered a DPS. These are applied 
similarly for additions to the list of endangered and threatened 
species, reclassification, and removal from the list. They are--(1) 
discreteness of the population segment in relation to the remainder of 
the taxon (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis); (2) the significance of the 
population segment to the taxon to which it belongs (i.e., Ursus arctos 
horribilis); and (3) the population segment's conservation status in 
relation

[[Page 14875]]

to the Act's standards for listing (i.e., is the population segment 
endangered or threatened).

Application of the Distinct Population Segment Policy

    Although the DPS Policy does not allow State or other intra-
national governmental boundaries to be used as the basis for 
determining the discreteness of a potential DPS, an artificial or 
manmade boundary may be used to clearly identify the geographic area 
included within a DPS designation. Easily identifiable manmade 
projects, such as the center line of interstate highways, Federal 
highways, and State highways are useful for delimiting DPS boundaries. 
Thus, the Yellowstone DPS consists of--that portion of Idaho that is 
east of Interstate Highway 15 and north of U.S. Highway 30; that 
portion of Montana that is east of Interstate Highway 15 and south of 
Interstate Highway 90; and that portion of Wyoming south of Interstate 
Highway 90, west of Interstate Highway 25, Wyoming State Highway 220, 
and U.S. Highway 287 south of Three Forks (at the 220 and 287 
intersection), and north of Interstate Highway 80 and U.S. Highway 30 
(see Figure 1 below). Due to the use of highways as easily described 
boundaries, large areas of unsuitable habitat were included in the DPS.
    The core of the Yellowstone DPS is the Yellowstone Recovery Zone 
(24,000 sq km (9,200 sq mi)) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 
39). The Yellowstone Recovery Zone includes Yellowstone National Park; 
a portion of Grand Teton National Park; John D. Rockefeller Memorial 
Parkway; sizable contiguous portions of the Shoshone, Bridger-Teton, 
Targhee, Gallatin, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, and Custer National Forests; 
BLM lands; and surrounding State and private lands (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1993, p. 39). As grizzly bear populations have 
rebounded and densities have increased, bears have expanded their range 
beyond the Recovery Zone, into other suitable habitat. Grizzly bears in 
this area now occupy about 36,940 sq km (14,260 sq mi) in and around 
the Yellowstone Recovery Zone (Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 207; Schwartz 
et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). No grizzly bears originating from the 
Yellowstone Recovery Zone have been suspected or confirmed beyond the 
borders of the Yellowstone DPS.
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P

[[Page 14876]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR29MR07.030

Analysis for Discreteness

    Under our DPS Policy, 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 (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis) as a consequence of 
physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors 
(quantitative measures of genetic or morphological discontinuity may 
provide evidence of this separation); 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) (``the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms'') of 
the Act. Our DPS policy does not require complete reproductive 
isolation among populations in order to determine that a population is 
markedly separated from other populations, and allows for some limited 
interchange among population segments considered to be discrete (61 FR 
4722).

[[Page 14877]]

    The Yellowstone grizzly bear population is the southernmost 
population remaining in the conterminous States and has been physically 
separated from other areas where grizzly bears occur for at least 100 
years (Merriam 1922, pp. 1-2; Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4334). The 
nearest population of grizzly bears is found in the NCDE. These 
populations are separated by land ownership, vegetation, and 
topographic patterns unsuitable for grizzly bears. The end result is a 
functional barrier to grizzly bear movement across the landscape and 
connectivity between the GYA and the NCDE. Grizzly bears from the GYA 
have not migrated north of the current location of Interstate 90 (the 
northern boundary of the DPS), probably for at least the last century 
(Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4334). Meanwhile, during the last decade, 
there have been periodic reports of grizzly bears from the NCDE as far 
south as Highway 12 near Helena, Montana. In the last 25 years, two 
male grizzly bears have been killed near Anaconda, Montana, and the 
Flint Creek mountains southwest of the NCDE. Both of these reports are 
approximately 120 km (75 mi) northwest of the most northerly 
Yellowstone grizzly bears. This distance is too far for normal grizzly 
bear dispersal distances of roughly 10 to 40 km (6 to 25 mi) (McLellan 
and Hovey 2001, pp. 841-842; Proctor et al. 2004, p. 1108) to 
effectively connect the NCDE population or other neighboring 
populations with the Yellowstone DPS. There is currently no 
connectivity, nor are there any known resident grizzly bears in this 
area between these two grizzly bear populations.
    Because the Yellowstone Ecosystem represents the most southerly 
population of grizzly bears, connectivity further south is not an 
issue. Connectivity to the east also is irrelevant to this action as 
grizzly bears in the lower 48 States no longer exist east of the GYA, 
and most of the habitat is unsuitable for grizzly bears. Finally, 
connectivity west into the Bitterroot Mountains is irrelevant to this 
action because no bears have been documented in this ecosystem in the 
past 25 years (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 12; 65 FR 69624, 
November 17, 2000; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000, p. viii).
    Genetic data also support the conclusion that grizzly bears from 
the GYA are demographically markedly separated from other grizzly 
bears. Genetic studies involving heterozygosity (which provides a 
measure of genetic variation in either a population or individual) 
estimates at 8 microsatellite loci show 55 percent heterozygosity in 
the GYA grizzly bears compared to 69 percent in the NCDE bears (Paetkau 
et al. 1998, pp. 421-424). Heterozygosity is a useful measure of 
genetic diversity, with higher values indicative of greater genetic 
variation and evolutionary potential. High levels of genetic variation 
are indicative of high levels of connectivity among populations or high 
numbers of breeding animals. By comparing heterozygosity of extant 
bears to samples from Yellowstone grizzlies of the early 1900s, Miller 
and Waits (2003, p. 4338) concluded that gene flow and, therefore, 
population connectivity between the GYA grizzly population and 
populations to the north was very low historically, even prior to the 
arrival of settlers. The reasons for this historic limitation of gene 
flow are unclear. Increasing levels of human activity and settlement in 
this intervening area over the last century further limited grizzly 
bear movements into and out of the GYA, resulting in the current lack 
of connectivity.
    Based on our analysis of the best available scientific data, we 
find that the GYA grizzly population and other remaining grizzly bear 
populations are markedly separated from each other. This contention is 
supported by evidence of physical separation between populations (both 
current and historical) and evidence of genetic discontinuity. 
Therefore, the Yellowstone DPS meets the criterion of discreteness 
under our DPS Policy.

Analysis for Significance

    If we determine a population segment is discrete, its biological 
and ecological significance will then be considered in light of 
congressional guidance that the authority to list DPS's be used 
sparingly while encouraging the conservation of genetic diversity. In 
carrying out this examination, we consider available scientific 
evidence of the population's importance to the taxon (i.e., Ursus 
arctos horribilis) to which it belongs. Our DPS policy states that 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 for the taxon; (2) Evidence that loss of the discrete 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon; (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 historic 
range; and/or (4) Evidence that the discrete population segment differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics. Below we address Factors 1, 2, and 4. Factor 3 does 
not apply to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.
    Unusual or Unique Ecological Setting--Grizzly bears in the GYA 
exist in an unusual and unique ecosystem that has greater access to 
large-bodied ungulates such as bison (Bison bison), elk (Cervus 
elaphus), and moose (Alces alces), and less access to fall berries than 
any other interior North American, European, or Asian grizzly bear 
populations (Stroganov 1969, p. 128; Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623; 
Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 568-569). The 
GYA ecosystem contains extensive populations of ungulates with an 
estimated 100,000 elk, 29,500 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and 
white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), 5,800 moose, 4,000 bison and, 
relative to other ungulate populations in the area, a small population 
of pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1994, p. ix; Toman et al. 1997, p. 56; Smith et al. 2003, pp. 
337-338). Although grizzly bears are successful omnivores, grizzlies in 
the rest of the conterminous States (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925), most 
of Europe (Berducou et al. 1983, pp. 154-155; Clevenger et al. 1992, 
pp. 416-417; Dahle et al. 1998, pp. 152-153), and Siberia (Stroganov 
1969, p. 128) rely on plant and insect materials for the majority of 
their diet. In contrast, grizzlies in the GYA rely on terrestrial 
mammals as their primary source of nutrition, as indicated by bear scat 
(Mattson 1997, p. 162), feed site analysis (Mattson 1997, p. 167), and 
bear hair isotope analysis (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). Concentration 
of isotopic nitrogen (\15\N) in grizzly bear hair from Yellowstone 
grizzly bears suggests that meat constitutes 45 percent and 79 percent 
of the annual diet for females and males, respectively (Jacoby et al. 
1999, p. 925). These high percentages of meat in Yellowstone grizzly 
bears' diet are in contrast to the 0 to 33 percent of meat in the diet 
of bears in the NCDE and 0 to 17 percent of meat in the diet of bears 
from the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). 
Furthermore, the source of this animal meat is primarily large-bodied 
ungulates, not fish, as in other populations of brown bears in Alaska 
and Siberia (Stroganov 1969, p. 128; Hilderbrand et al. 1996, pp. 2086-
2087). Of particular relevance is the Yellowstone grizzly bears' use of 
wild bison, a species endemic to North America, but eradicated in most 
of the lower 48 States except the GYA by the

[[Page 14878]]

end of the 19th century (Steelquist 1998, pp. 16, 30). Although bison 
numbers have increased since this time, the vast majority of today's 
bison are found in managed or ranched herds (Steelquist 1998, pp. 33-
37). Their habitat, bunchgrass prairie (tallgrass, mixed-grass, and 
shortgrass prairie), has been almost entirely converted to agricultural 
lands (Steelquist 1998, p. 11), leaving little opportunity for 
existence in areas outside of the isolated refuges and ranches where 
they are commonly found today. Mattson (1997, p. 167) found that wild 
bison comprised the second largest source of ungulate meat (24 percent) 
consumed by Yellowstone grizzly bears, second only to elk (53 percent).
    The Yellowstone grizzly population also exists in a unique 
ecological setting because it is able to use whitebark pine seeds as a 
major food source. Whitebark pine, a tree species found only in North 
America (Schmidt 1994, p. 1), exhibits annual variation in seed crops, 
with high seed production in some years and very low seed production in 
other years (Weaver and Forcella 1986, p. 70; Morgan and Bunting 1992, 
p. 71). During these years of high seed production, Yellowstone grizzly 
bears derive as much as 51 percent of their protein from pine nuts 
(Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 767). In fact, grizzly bear consumption of 
ungulates decreases during years of high whitebark pine seed production 
(Mattson 1997, p. 169). In most areas of North America where whitebark 
pine distribution overlaps with grizzly bear populations, bears do not 
consistently use this potential food source (Mattson and Reinhart 1994, 
pp. 212-214). This may be due to different climatic regimes that 
sustain berry-producing shrubs or simply the scarcity of whitebark 
pines in some areas of the bear's range (Mattson and Reinhart 1994, p. 
214). Dependence of Yellowstone grizzly bears on whitebark pine is 
unique because in most areas of its range, whitebark pine has been 
significantly reduced in numbers and distribution due to the introduced 
pathogen white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) (Kendall and 
Keane 2001, pp. 228-232). While there is evidence of blister rust in 
whitebark pines in the GYA, the pathogen has been present for more than 
50 years (McDonald and Hoff 2001, p. 210) and relatively few trees have 
been severely impacted (see Factor E below). Also, although several 
berry-producing shrubs occur in the area, these are relatively limited 
by climatic factors and most grizzly bears in the GYA do not rely on 
berries as a significant portion of their diets.
    Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon--Loss of the Yellowstone 
DPS would represent a significant gap in the range of the taxon. As 
noted above, grizzly bears once lived throughout the North American 
Rockies from Alaska and Canada, and south into central Mexico. Grizzly 
bears have been extirpated from most of the southern portions of their 
historic range. Today, the Yellowstone DPS represents the southernmost 
reach of the grizzly bear. The loss of this population would be 
significant because it would substantially curtail the range of the 
grizzly bear by moving the range approximately 4 degrees of latitude to 
the north. Thus, the loss of this population would result in a 
significant gap in the current range of the taxon.
    Given the grizzly bear's historic occupancy of the conterminous 
States and the portion of the historic range the conterminous States 
represent, recovery in the lower 48 States where the grizzly bear 
existed in 1975 when it was listed has long been viewed as important to 
the taxon (40 FR 31734-31736, July 28, 1975). The Yellowstone DPS is 
significant in achieving this objective, as it is 1 of only 5 known 
occupied areas and constitutes approximately half of the remaining 
grizzly bears in the conterminous 48 States. Finally, the Yellowstone 
DPS represents the only grizzly bear population not connected to bears 
in Canada.
    Marked Genetic Differences--Several genetics studies have confirmed 
the uniqueness of grizzly bears in the GYA. The GYA population has been 
isolated from other grizzly bear populations for approximately 100 
years or more (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4334). Yellowstone grizzly 
bears have the lowest relative heterozygosity of any continental 
grizzly population yet investigated (Paetkau et al. 1998, pp. 421-424; 
Waits et al. 1998a, p. 310). Only Kodiak Island grizzly bears, a 
different subspecies (Ursus arctos middendorfi), have lower 
heterozygosity scores (26.5 percent), reflecting as much as 12,000 
years of separation from mainland populations (Paetkau et al. 1998, p. 
421; Waits et al. 1998b, pp. 412-413). Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338) 
conclude that gene flow between the GYA and the closest remaining 
population was limited prior to the arrival of European settlers but 
could only speculate as to the reasons behind this historical 
separation. The apparent long-term difference in heterozygosity between 
Yellowstone and other Montana populations indicates a unique set of 
circumstances in which limited movement between these areas has 
resulted in a markedly different genetic situation for the Yellowstone 
population.
    We conclude that the Yellowstone grizzly population is significant 
because it exists in an unusual and unique ecological setting; the loss 
of this population would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon; and this population's genetic characteristics differ 
markedly from other grizzly bear populations.

Conclusion of Distinct Population Segment Review

    Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, as 
described above, we find that the Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
is discrete from other grizzly populations and significant to the 
remainder of the taxon (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis). Because the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population is discrete and significant, it 
warrants recognition as a DPS under the Act.
    It is important to note that the DPS Policy does not require 
complete separation of one DPS from other populations, but instead 
requires ``marked separation.'' Thus, if occasional individual grizzly 
bears disperse among populations, the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS 
would still display the required level of discreteness per the DPS 
Policy. And, as stated in the 1993 Recovery Plan, we recognize that 
natural connectivity is important to long-term grizzly bear 
conservation and we will continue efforts to work toward this goal 
independent of the delisting of the Yellowstone DPS (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1993, p. 53). This issue is discussed further under 
Factor E below. In addition, the conclusion regarding the conservation 
status (step 3 of the DPS analysis) of the Yellowstone DPS follows the 
5-factor analysis discussion below.

Summary of Public Comments

    In our proposed rule, we requested that all interested parties 
submit information, data, and comments concerning the status of grizzly 
bears in the GYA, their habitat, and their management (70 FR 69882, 
November 17, 2005). The comment period was open from November 17, 2005, 
through March 20, 2006 (70 FR 69854, November 17, 2005; 71 FR 8251, 
February 16, 2006). During this time, we held two formal public 
hearings and four informational meetings (70 FR 69854, November 17, 
2005; 71 FR 4097-4098, January 25, 2006). In addition, there were 
numerous press releases, a press conference with the Secretary of the 
Interior, and a conference call with

[[Page 14879]]

numerous environmental groups and non-government organizations 
discussing the proposed rule. Comments could be hand delivered to us or 
submitted to us via e-mail, mail, or public hearing testimony.
    During the 120-day comment period, we received comments from 
164,486 individuals, organizations, and government agencies. Those 
comments arrived in 193,578 letters, form letters, public hearing 
testimonies, and email messages. Numerous respondents submitted 
multiple comments, so the total number of comments received (193,578) 
is greater than the total number of people/groups responding (164,486). 
Twelve of these letters were signed as ``petitions'' with 974 
signatures. Finally, one of the above comment letters also formally 
petitioned the Service to list the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS as 
endangered under the Act and designate critical habitat. All assertions 
of this petition are addressed either in this section, in the 5-factor 
analysis that follows, or the Reassessing Methods Document's issues and 
responses summary.
    We have read and considered all comments received. A content 
analysis of these comments is available upon request (see ADDRESSES 
section above) or online at: http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm. We updated the proposed rule where it 
was appropriate, and we respond to all substantive issues received, 
below. We have grouped similar comments together in ``Issues,'' each of 
which is followed by our ``Response.''

A. General Comments

    Issue 1--Numerous comments suggesting corrections to facts and data 
in the proposed rule such as correcting typographical errors, including 
omitted cooperators, and modifying the presentation of statistical 
results. One commenter noted our reference to the DPS as both a 
``population'' and an ``area.'' This commenter also noted 
inconsistencies in our use of the words ``population'' and 
``populations'' in the proposed rule and asked if there is one 
population or multiple populations within the DPS boundaries.
    Response--There is one population within the DPS boundaries and the 
appropriate changes have been made in the text of the final rule to 
clarify this, as well as the other matters raised in Issue 1.
    Issue 2--A few commenters disputed the Service's claim that the 
nearest grizzly bear population to the Yellowstone DPS is 130 km (80 
mi) away. According to these commenters, grizzly bears originating from 
the NCDE have been documented near Anaconda, Montana, and one grizzly 
bear originating from the Yellowstone DPS was sighted north of Bozeman, 
Montana, in the Bridger Mountains. Furthermore, one commenter noted 
that the Tobacco Root Vegetation Management Plan Final Environmental 
Impact Statement (USDA Forest Service 2001, p. 44) describes the 
Tobacco Roots as habitat occupied by grizzlies on both a resident and 
transient basis. This puts the two populations only 72 km (45 mi) 
apart.
    Response--We know of two records of grizzly bears near Anaconda, 
Montana. In one case, the carcass of a subadult male grizzly bear was 
discovered by a hunter in 1980. The other report notes a 2005 incident 
in which a hunter mistakenly shot a grizzly bear 11 km (7 mi) west of 
Anaconda that was determined to be from the NCDE with DNA analysis. 
There are no other verified reports of grizzly bears within 76 km (45 
mi) of Anaconda. The Study Team has no record of any grizzly bears in 
the Bridger Mountains or in the Tobacco Root Mountains. Despite what 
the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Tobacco Root 
Vegetation Management Plan may identify as occupied habitat, a study 
conducted in the Tobacco Roots in 1999 and 2000 failed to document 
grizzly bear presence (Lukins et al. 2004, p. 171). In the final rule, 
we corrected the distance between the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population and the nearest bears to account for these two records near 
Anaconda, Montana. This resulted in the closest possible distance 
between the Yellowstone population and the nearest record of a grizzly 
bear as 120 km (75 mi) instead of 130 km (80 mi) as reported in the 
proposed rule.
    Issue 3--One commenter disputed our claim that 30 percent of 
suitable habitat outside the PCA within the DPS is protected by 
official Wilderness Area designation, instead suggesting only 15 
percent of occupied habitat outside the PCA within the DPS is protected 
as Wilderness.
    Response--This numeric disparity centers around a difference in our 
frame of reference. Our calculation is the percentage of ``suitable 
habitat'' outside the PCA within the DPS (6,799 sq km (2,625 sq mi)) 
that is protected by Wilderness Area designation (22,783 sq km (8,797 
sq mi)). In contrast, this comment is referring to ``occupied habitat'' 
outside the PCA within the DPS protected by Wilderness Area 
designation. We considered suitable habitat because we expect grizzly 
bears to naturally recolonize much of the remaining unoccupied suitable 
habitat in the next few decades.
    Issue 4--Several commenters noted that our definition of suitable 
habitat does not consider Wyoming's habitat criteria of ``socially 
acceptable.'' They request that this inconsistency in definitions be 
remedied.
    Response--Our definition of suitable habitat is based on biological 
criteria. Some considerations of social acceptance entered into the 
considerations of suitable habitat in the Wyoming plan. The Wyoming 
plan does not restrict grizzly bears from areas outside their 
definition of suitable habitat. Instead, it establishes management 
objectives in these areas to minimize conflicts between bears and human 
activities. Because most grizzly bears do not come into conflict with 
humans, the impact of this difference in designation of suitable 
habitat between the Service and Wyoming will have little functional 
impact on grizzly bear occupancy or mortality.

B. Population Concerns

    Issue 1--Several commenters noted their concern about the 
occurrence of high levels of female mortality since 2000 and requested 
that the impact of this trend be analyzed. It was noted that the 
allowable adult female mortality was exceeded in 2004 and 2005; 
therefore, the recovery goal that adult female mortality cannot be 
exceeded in 2 consecutive years has not been met. These commenters 
asked that we explain why delisting is being proposed when one of the 
recovery goals has not been met.
    Response--Recovery plans are intended to provide guidance and are 
subject to revision as new data are reported. They are not regulatory 
documents. Recovery of species requires adaptive management that may, 
or may not, fully follow the guidance provided in a recovery plan. That 
said, we no longer consider 1993 Demographic Recovery Criterion 3 to 
represent the best scientific and commercial data available nor the 
best technique to assess recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population. Therefore, the 1993 mortality management system for the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population has been reevaluated and revised 
using a recent and more accurate model (Harris et al. 2006, pp. 51-55). 
This approach was consistent with a 1995 court order to reevaluate this 
issue (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt) and Recovery Plan Task Y11, which 
suggested we work to ``determine population conditions at which the 
species is viable and self sustaining,'' and to ``reevaluate and refine

[[Page 14880]]

population criteria as new information becomes available'' (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 44). Under the revised methods for 
calculating sustainable mortality, female mortality was not exceeded in 
either 2004 or 2005. These changes have been appended to the Recovery 
Plan and the Strategy.
    Issue 2--Some commenters felt that delisting was premature without 
a PVA based on future habitat conditions and that PVAs based simply on 
past population trends are inadequate. A habitat-based PVA could 
determine how future habitat conditions such as the availability of 
major food sources, climate change, increasing human populations, and 
resource extraction may affect the long-term persistence of the 
Yellowstone DPS. One commenter referred to a similar PVA conducted by 
``Boyce et al. (2005)'' on grizzly bears in Alberta, Canada, and 
suggested that Boyce be contracted to do this analysis for the 
Yellowstone DPS.
    Response--When we contacted the commenter who suggested we consider 
employing a technique similar to ``Boyce et al. (2005)'', we were told 
that the correct citation for that article was Nielsen et al. 2006. 
Nielsen et al. (2006, pp. 219-221) predicted adult female grizzly bear 
occupancy and mortality across the landscape. Their exercise did not 
make any attempt to predict the long-term viability of the grizzly bear 
population in Alberta and, in this sense, was not a habitat-based PVA. 
Instead, Nielson et al. (2006, pp. 226-227) attempted to provide a 
useful tool to managers that linked not only occupancy, but also 
survival, to habitat conditions.
    In our view, a PVA based on possible future habitat conditions 
relies upon too many speculative variables to be relied upon to 
determine long-term persistence. Given the compound uncertainties 
associated with projections of possible future habitat changes, and the 
grizzly bear's corresponding responses to those changes, it is unlikely 
that a habitat-based PVA would provide an accurate representation of 
future population viability for Yellowstone grizzly bears. The 
management system outlined in the Strategy depends on monitoring of 
multiple indices including production and availability of all major 
foods; and monitoring of grizzly bear vital rates including survival, 
age at first reproduction, reproductive rate, mortality cause and 
location, dispersal, and human/bear conflicts. These data will be used 
in an adaptive management system to monitor the real-time status of the 
population and its relationship with major foods and environmental 
variables, allowing managers to implement actions that respond to 
changes in ecological conditions and/or vital rates. The continued 
monitoring of these multiple indices will allow rapid feedback on the 
success of management actions in maintaining a viable population. In 
addition, please see our response to Issue 12 under subheading F in the 
Summary of Peer Review Comments section below for more information on 
the models the Study Team is pursuing.
    Issue 3--One commenter stated that the Yellowstone DPS range has 
not expanded as much as we claim according to the 1980 Study Team 
report of verified sightings near Ketchum, Idaho, and Cody, Wyoming.
    Response--Because the cited 1980 Study Team report provides no 
information regarding the verification of the reported sighting near 
Ketchum, Idaho, it is impossible to make any conclusions on the 
sighting's credibility. There is no reason to connect this supposed 
sighting to the Yellowstone ecosystem or to indicate that a bear 
sighted there might have come from Yellowstone. We did not rely solely 
on sightings of grizzly bears to make the statement that the 
population's range had expanded. Instead, we used peer-reviewed 
literature that documented this range expansion through multiple data 
sources, including initial observations of unduplicated females with 
young, locations of radio-collared bears, and locations of grizzly 
bear/human conflicts (Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 204; Schwartz et al. 
2006b, p. 63). We are confident that the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population's range has expanded significantly since 1980 and the 
sightings from this time do not contradict the conclusions established 
by Schwartz et al. (2002, p. 207) and Schwartz et al. (2006b, p. 66).
    Issue 4--One commenter noted that because ``persistence time 
depends strongly on the magnitude of the variance in population growth 
rate'' and the Yellowstone population size estimates are extremely 
variable, we should consider this and other sources of stochasticity in 
our decision.
    Response--These variations have been considered in detail. The 
considerations of the variation of results is thoroughly evaluated and 
discussed in Harris et al. (2006, p. 46), Schwartz et al. (2006d, p. 
14), Schwartz et al. (2006e, pp. 62-63), the Reassessing Methods 
Document (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 25, 35-36), and 
its Supplement (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, pp. 2-10). 
Throughout the rulemaking process we also carefully considered the 
matter of uncertainty and its implications to management decisions. For 
additional discussion about sources of stochasticity and their effects 
on population persistence, see our response to Issue 5 under subheading 
R below.
    Issue 5--One commenter noted that the Service presents the 
estimated annual population growth rate as between 4 and 7 percent per 
year. This presentation deceptively makes it seem that these are the 
upper and lower bounds of a confidence interval, not merely two point 
estimates based on different assumptions; and, the Service claims that 
the total population size in 2004 was 588 individuals but does not 
disclose the confidence intervals around this estimate.
    Response--The 4 to 7 percent annual population growth rate is based 
on analyses conducted by Harris et al. (2006, p. 48) using survival 
estimates of grizzly bears determined by Haroldson et al. (2006b, p. 
36). Haroldson et al. (2006b, p. 34-35) used a data set of 323 
independent (greater than 2 years old) radio-collared bears, but 
analyzed the data two different ways to address the bears with unknown 
fates. Specifically, they estimated the survival rate for each of those 
data sets, assuming bears whose fates were unknown either all lived or 
all died, to establish the most conservative and most optimistic 
survival rates. The true estimate must be bracketed by those two 
bounds. The resulting annual survival rates of independent female bears 
were either 92.2 percent or 95.0 percent depending on which 
interpretation of unknown fate is used.
    Harris et al. (2006, p. 48) then used the two survival estimates 
produced by Haroldson et al. (2006b, p. 35) to estimate the growth rate 
of the GYA grizzly population from 1983 to 2002. For the estimate of 
population growth rate based on the assumption that all females with 
unknown fates died at last contact, the mean value of lambda is 1.042, 
with an approximate 95 percent confidence interval of 0.969-1.093. For 
the estimate of population growth rate when adult survival was 
estimated assuming females with unknown fates survived, the mean value 
is 1.076, with an approximate 95 percent confidence interval of 1.003-
1.113.
    These population growth rates mean that the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear population was increasing at a rate of 4.2 percent or 7.6 percent 
per year between 1983 and 2002 (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48). Those 
estimates are often reported as ``a growth rate between 4 percent and 7 
percent.'' That does not refer to a 95 percent confidence interval.

[[Page 14881]]

Instead, it refers to an estimate based on the assumption that all 
bears whose fates were unknown died at the time their radio 
transmissions stopped (4.2 percent), and an estimate based on the 
assumption that all bears whose fates were unknown were alive at the 
time their radio transmissions stopped (7.6 percent). Those assumptions 
result in conservative bounds, because some bears assumed to have died 
in the 4 percent growth rate data set were probably still alive, and 
because some bears assumed to be alive in the 7 percent growth rate 
data set were probably dead. The true population growth rate from 1983 
to 2002 was probably between 4 and 7 percent.
    Regarding the confidence interval around the total population 
estimate, the index of total population size is produced using the 
total number, an estimate of the total number of females with cubs-of-
the-year (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 24-26), and the 
proportions of females in the population applied to the proportions of 
sex and age classes in the population. The Chao2 estimator, a 
statistical tool used to correct sighting variability, was chosen by 
the Study Team to estimate the number of females with cubs-of-the-year 
(Keating et al. 2002, p. 170; Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, 
pp. 25-26) because it consistently returns results that are correct or 
biased low (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 20). 
Confidence intervals for the total population index from years 1983 to 
2005 are reported in the Supplement to the Reassessing Methods Document 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, p. 15). For 2005, the total 
population index is 546 bears with a 95 percent confidence interval 
between 491 and 602 (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, p. 15).
    Issue 6--Several commenters questioned why we were not using 
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) based methods, like the survey conducted in 
the NCDE during the summer of 2004, to get an accurate estimate of 
total population size. They considered DNA to be the best available 
method and wondered why this method was not employed before proposing 
to delist this population.
    Response--The methods developed for producing a population index in 
the Yellowstone ecosystem are based on the best available science and 
built on intensive sampling of this population for almost 26 years. 
These methods produce annually updated population size indices and 
continuously updated population trend estimates. Although the use of 
DNA to estimate population size has become more common in recent years 
(Mowat and Strobeck 2000, p. 183; Bellemain et al. 2005, p. 150; 
Solberg et al. 2006, p. 158), the method used to make a one-time total 
population estimate for the NCDE would be less useful in the GYA than 
current methods. DNA was chosen as the population estimate system in 
the NCDE because this ecosystem did not have the long-term consistent 
sampling data that exists in Yellowstone. The final point estimate for 
population size in the NCDE will be available in early 2007 and will be 
a one-time estimate for 2004--the year the sampling was done. Once 
completed, this DNA-based system will have taken 4 years and cost $4.5 
million, to produce a 2004 population estimate. Given that the long-
term intensive data were available in Yellowstone, population size 
estimates based upon peer-reviewed, published methods existed, and 
because the methods used in Yellowstone allow continuously updated 
population indices rather than a one-time estimate, the application of 
a DNA-based system was unnecessary for the Yellowstone ecosystem.
    Issue 7--One commenter noted that we violated the Administrative 
Procedure Act and the Endangered Species Act by not disclosing the 
apparent ``population crash'' that occurred in 2005 using the revised 
methods described in the Reassessing Methods Document (2004 = 588, 2005 
= 350) and discussing its implications for the population.
    Response--No population crash occurred in 2005. In 2004, a large 
number of females had cubs. Because female grizzly bears usually 
produce litters once every 3 years, high cub production years are 
typically followed by years with fewer cubs because less of the adult 
female population is available for breeding. The index of total 
population size described in the Reassessing Methods Document 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 5-9) is not equivalent 
to an exact number of animals in the population due to this natural 
biological variation associated with cub production in grizzly bear 
populations (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, pp. 1-2). 
Fluctuations in the estimate of population size are expected and 
addressed through the use of a modeling average technique to estimate 
the total number of females with cubs-of-the-year (Interagency Grizzly 
Bear Study Team 2006, pp. 2-7).
    Issue 8--One commenter stated that we claim that the Act only 
mandates that a species be ``viable,'' rather than ``recovered.'' They 
believed that this perceived interpretation has led us to focus on 
reducing mortality within occupied habitat rather than restoring 
formerly wide-ranging species to historically occupied habitat. This 
commenter noted that the courts have repeatedly rejected this 
interpretation and that true recovery requires connectivity or linkage, 
protection and enhancement of existing populations, meaningful habitat 
protections, adequate regulatory mechanisms, and recolonization of 
historic suitable habitat such that ecological effectiveness (Trombulak 
2006) is restored.
    Response--We disagree with the assertion that we have focused on 
viability instead of recovery. The principal goal of the Act is to 
return listed species to a point at which protection under the Act is 
no longer required (50 CFR 424.11(d)(2)). A species may be delisted on 
the basis of recovery only if the best scientific and commercial data 
available indicate that it is no longer endangered or threatened within 
all or a significant portion of its range (50 CFR 424.11(d)). As 
described later in this rule, we believe the Yellowstone DPS meets 
neither of these definitions for listing, thereby justifying delisting 
due to recovery.
    We also disagree with the claim that we have over-emphasized 
mortality control at the expense of other recovery goals. To date, 
recovery efforts have focused on sufficient mortality control, habitat 
monitoring, population levels, distribution, management of habitat 
effectiveness and habitat security, monitoring of all grizzly bear/
human conflicts, genetic analyses, and linkage zone maintenance. This 
comprehensive approach to recovery has led to reduced mortality, 
increasing population numbers, and significant increases in range, 
allowing grizzly bears to reoccupy habitat they have been absent from 
for decades, as well as demographic and habitat security into the 
foreseeable future. Grizzly bears now occupy 68 percent of suitable 
habitat within the DPS and will likely occupy the remainder within the 
foreseeable future. However, the Service does not believe that 
restoration of grizzly bears to all historic habitats (particularly 
those no longer capable of supporting grizzly bear populations) within 
the DPS boundaries is necessary or possible.
    While some have suggested recolonization of historically suitable 
habitat to achieve ``ecological effectiveness'' (Trombulak 2006), the 
Act neither requires us to consider ecological effectiveness, nor do we 
have any objective way of measuring this

[[Page 14882]]

type of success currently. We do not believe the restoration of the 
grizzly bear as a top predator and scavenger throughout all 
historically occupied habitat is feasible or required. Instead, we have 
restored grizzly bears to most of their suitable habitat within the DPS 
and anticipate the State management plans will lead to re-occupancy of 
the remaining suitable habitat in the near future. Other issues such as 
linkage are only relevant to this rulemaking to the extent that they 
impact the Yellowstone DPS. For example, connectivity or a lack 
thereof, has the potential to impact this population's genetic fitness. 
As such, this issue is discussed and addressed in our five factor 
analysis (see Factor E below) and in the Strategy.

C. Public Involvement

    Issue 1--Several commenters believe that the Service did not 
provide meaningful ways for the public in areas other than Bozeman, 
Montana, Cody and Jackson, Wyoming, and Idaho Falls, Idaho, to 
participate in a dialogue about this national issue, except via Web 
sites and mail. Numerous commenters at public hearings, in letters, and 
in emails encouraged the Service to give greater consideration to 
opinions of people that live in grizzly bear country than opinions of 
those that do not have to deal with grizzlies in their daily lives. 
Conversely, many argued that the grizzly bear is a national and 
international treasure and that all Americans should have an equal 
voice in how they are to be managed.
    Response--The public comment process considers all comments equally 
and gives no preference based on where commenters live or what format 
commenters use to comment. We believe that providing multiple formats 
for commenting on the proposed rule, including hand delivery, e-mail, 
and U.S. mail lessened the need for formal hearings throughout the 
country. Because all comments are considered equally, it does not 
matter whether comments were submitted via hand delivery, e-mail, mail, 
or public hearing. In fact, commenting via e-mail, hand delivery, or 
letter allowed unlimited space to express comments, as opposed to the 
public hearing format, which limited comments to three minutes in order 
to provide an opportunity for all attending to speak.
    Issue 2--Several commenters stated that asking the public to 
comment on the proposed rule when none of the supporting documents 
(Reassessing Methods Document, Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria, the 
Strategy, and the Forest Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat 
Conservation for the GYA National Forests) have been finalized does not 
allow the public to know what they are commenting on; furthermore, the 
Act requires an analysis of existing regulatory mechanisms, not those 
that will be added in the future.
    Response--The Strategy and the Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria 
supplement to the Recovery Plan have been finalized (72 FR 11376; 72 FR 
11376-11377). There have been no significant changes from the drafts of 
Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria, the Strategy, and the Forest Plan 
Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYA National 
Forests. All the supporting documents have been available for full 
public review, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (62 
FR 47677, September 10, 1997; 64 FR 38464, July 16, 1999; 64 FR 38465, 
July 16, 1999; 70 FR 70632, November 22, 2005). The proposed rule also 
noted that these draft documents were available online at--http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm. As 
envisioned by the Administrative Procedure Act, changes to the 
Reassessing Methods Document were made in response to public comments. 
These changes did not affect our final determination from that 
described in the draft rule. We responded to comments in the final 
documents. The Strategy and the Forest Plan Amendment are existing 
regulatory mechanisms that are currently in existence and take effect 
upon implementation of this final rule. Therefore, we considered these 
mechanisms when determining if the regulatory mechanisms were 
sufficient to protect the Yellowstone DPS' recovered status.
    Issue 3--Some commenters stated that the Service violated the 
Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act by not 
providing the raw data upon which it relied, thereby hindering the 
public's ability to comment on the proposed rule; ``[T]he 
Administrative Procedure Act requires the agency to make available to 
the public, in a form that allows for meaningful comment, the data the 
agency used to develop the proposed rule.''
    Response--We have a responsibility to rely upon the best scientific 
and commercial data available. In this case, we relied upon numerous 
peer reviewed and published documents that we made available upon 
request. Much of this information was publicly available when we 
published our proposed rule and during our public comment period. For 
example, mortality information, including date of death, sex, age, 
certainty of death, if the bear was marked or not, and location are 
published annually in the Study Team's annual reports, available at: 
http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/igbst-home.htm. However, requests 
received for exact locations of grizzly bears obtained via radio-
telemetry and GPS radio-collars (i.e., ``raw data'') could not be 
honored because this information was not in our possession. 
Additionally, without the permission of the Secretary of the Interior, 
the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Act of 1998 (16 U.S.C. 5937) 
prohibits the release of specific locations of threatened species that 
spend any part of their lives within National Parks.

D. Compliance With Court Settlements

    Issue 1--Some commenters claimed that the Service violated the Fund 
for Animals court settlement (Fund for Animals v. Babbitt), by 
publishing the proposed rule to delist before finalizing the Habitat 
Based Recovery Criteria. They noted that the Fund for Animals 
settlement stated that ``Prior to publishing any proposed rule to 
delist any grizzly bear population, the Service will establish habitat-
based recovery criteria for that population's ecosystem * * * . In any 
such rulemaking to delist a grizzly bear population, the Service will 
utilize the Habitat Based Recovery Criteria, as well as all other 
pertinent recovery criteria that have been established, when addressing 
the 5 factors set forth in section 4(a)(1) of the Act.''
    Response--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). The court remanded the 
Recovery Plan to us for further study, and in 1996 the parties reached 
a settlement agreement. As part of the settlement we agreed to hold a 
workshop on the habitat-based recovery criteria and to append habitat-
based recovery criteria to the Recovery Plan. On June 17, 1997, we held 
a public workshop in Bozeman, Montana, to develop and refine habitat-
based recovery criteria for the grizzly bear. A Federal Register notice 
notified the public of this workshop and provided interested parties an 
opportunity to participate and submit comments (62 FR 19777, April 23, 
1997).
    After considering 1,167 written comments, we developed 
biologically-based habitat criteria with the goal of maintaining or 
improving habitat conditions at 1998 levels. These draft criteria were 
published in the Federal Register on July 16, 1999 (64 FR 38464-38465), 
and a copy of the habitat-based

[[Page 14883]]

criteria also is available at--http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm. These revised habitat-based recovery 
criteria were relied upon in the proposed rule and have since been 
appended to the Recovery Plan and incorporated into the Strategy (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 39-43). Importantly, these habitat-
based recovery criteria have not changed significantly since being 
drafted and being made available for public comment in 1999. The 
Strategy ensures they will continue to be met in the foreseeable 
future. Our proposed rule and this final rule utilized the habitat-
based recovery criteria, as well as all other pertinent recovery 
criteria, when addressing the 5 factors set forth in section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act.
    Issue 2--Some commenters noted that we cannot claim that the 
demographic recovery goals have been met because the goals cited have 
been found inadequate by the courts.
    Response--The demographic recovery goals have not been found 
inadequate by the courts. The court opinion (Fund for Animals v. 
Babbitt, p. 30) stated, ``Based on the record the court does not find 
that the defendant's designation of population targets is arbitrary and 
capricious.'' The court directed us to ``reconsider the available 
evidence and its decision to adopt the population monitoring 
methodology that it has incorporated into the Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Plan.'' We did so in a formal response to public comments regarding the 
supplemental information (accessible at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm) and found 
these methods were the best available methods when the Recovery Plan 
was written in 1993. In order to apply the best available methods at 
the time of proposing delisting, we worked with the U.S. Geological 
Survey and the Study Team to begin the process detailed in the 
Reassessing Methods Document (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, 
pp. 12-41) to consider and apply newer science to the issues of 
population monitoring and the establishment of sustainable mortality. 
This effort has resulted in the improved methods appended to the 
Recovery Plan and incorporated into the Strategy.

E. Significant Portion of Range

    Issue 1--Many commenters expressed dissenting views and 
interpretations of the Act's phrase ``significant portion of its 
range'' as it is used to define a threatened species, or in this case, 
a recovered species. Some stated that range does or should mean 
historical range, thereby obligating us to recover species across a 
significant portion of their historical range to be considered 
recovered. Some commenters disagreed with our definition of range and 
said that it was the same as the court-invalidated wolf rule (68 FR 
15804, April 1, 2003), which stated that range, when defined as ``the 
area within the DPS boundaries where viable populations of the species 
now exist,'' was circular because if we define range as where grizzlies 
currently are and then conclude that they are therefore recovered 
within a significant portion of that range, this would have meant they 
were recovered in 1975. Several commenters noted that we must explain 
why the Yellowstone grizzly bear is no longer threatened by the loss of 
its historical range.
    Response--A species may be delisted according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) 
if the best scientific and commercial data available demonstrate that 
the threats to that species, as described in section 4(a)(1), have been 
removed such that it is neither endangered nor threatened. The Act 
defines an ``endangered species'' as one that ``is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.'' A 
``threatened species'' is one that ``is likely to become endangered in 
the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range.'' One consideration in deciding whether a species meets either 
of these definitions is the interpretation of ``significant portion of 
its range.''
    For a detailed discussion of ``range'' under the Act, see the 
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species portion of this rule below. 
That said, historical range is only relevant to the discussion of 
``significant portion of the range'' to the extent that it may offer 
evidence whether a species in its current range is likely to become 
endangered in the foreseeable future. In such situations, historical 
range is considered in the listing factor section 4(a)(1) analysis.
    Our 5-factor analysis was conducted over the entire current and 
foreseeable range of the grizzly bear including all ``suitable 
habitat'' within the DPS (defined and discussed under Factor A below). 
While grizzly bears once occurred throughout the area of the 
Yellowstone DPS (Stebler 1972, pp. 297-299), records indicate that even 
in the early 19th century, grizzly bears were less common in these 
eastern prairie habitats than in mountainous areas to the west and 
south (Rollins 1935, p. 191; Wade 1947, p. 444). Today, these habitats 
are no longer biologically suitable for grizzly bears as they lack 
adequate food resources (i.e., bison). These unsuitable areas are not 
relevant to the current or foreseeable status of the Yellowstone DPS. 
The current range of the DPS supports a population of adequate quantity 
and distribution to ensure a recovered population into the foreseeable 
future. And, additional unoccupied suitable habitat will provide 
opportunities for continued population growth. Finally, as discussed 
below, a lack of occupancy of all historic habitat within the DPS will 
not impact whether this population is likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range.
    Issue 2--One commenter noted that because grizzly bears experience 
negative growth rates outside the PCA, they are in danger in this 
portion of their range. The commenter believes that the area outside 
the PCA constitutes a significant portion of their range because we 
include all grizzly bears and the lands they currently occupy to make 
the statement that they are recovered within a significant portion of 
their range.
    Response--We agree that the suitable habitat outside the PCA 
represents a significant portion of the range, albeit less significant 
than suitable habitat within the PCA. See the Significant Portion of 
Range discussion under Factor A below for a more detailed discussion of 
this issue. That said, grizzly bears are not in ``danger'' in areas 
outside the PCA. The Yellowstone grizzly population is a single 
population with mortalities counted in all areas inside the 
Conservation Strategy Management Area (Figure 1) and sustainable 
mortality limits established for the entire population. The overall 
population growth rate will be managed for a stable to increasing 
population as per the methods and direction in the Reassessing Methods 
Document (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 5-11). Although 
the population may experience negative growth rates in some areas, this 
is not biologically significant. It would be inappropriate to suggest 
one ``segment'' is declining, while another ``segment'' is increasing 
because the population is contiguous and is considered as a whole 
entity per our DPS analysis above. The overall trajectory of the 
population will remain stable to increasing.

F. DPS Policy

    Issue 1--Some commenters believe that the DPS policy is to be used 
only in listing decisions and that using it in a delisting decision 
violates Congressional intent and the legislative and statutory 
structure of the Act.
    Response--We disagree with this interpretation of the DPS policy. 
The

[[Page 14884]]

Act, its implementing regulations, and our DPS policy provide no 
support for this interpretation. Section 4(a)(1) of the Act directs the 
Secretary of the Interior to determine whether ``any species'' is 
endangered or threatened. Numerous sections of the Act refer to adding 
and removing ``species'' from the list of threatened or endangered 
plants and animals. Section 3(15) defines ``species'' to include any 
subspecies ``and any distinct population segment of any species of 
vertebrate fish or wildlife * * * .'' The Act directs us to list, 
reclassify, and delist species, subspecies, and DPSs of vertebrate 
species. It contains no provisions requiring, or even allowing, DPSs to 
be treated in a different manner than species or subspecies when 
carrying out the listing, recovery, and delisting functions mandated by 
section 4. Furthermore, our DPS Policy states that the policy is 
intended for ``the purposes of listing, delisting, and reclassifying 
species under the Act'' (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and that it 
``guides the evaluation of distinct vertebrate population segments for 
the purposes of listing, delisting, and reclassifying under the Act'' 
(61 FR 4725, February 7, 1996).
    The comment also overlooks the untenable situation that would arise 
if DPSs could be listed but could never be delisted after they have 
been successfully recovered. Clearly Congress did not envision such an 
outcome when amending the definition of species to include vertebrate 
DPSs.
    Issue 2--A commenter noted that the DPS analysis in the proposed 
rule created a remnant population, contrary to a court decision. They 
stated that the Act allows us to ``consider listing only an entire 
species, subspecies, or DPS'' (Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans, 161 F. 
Supp. 2d 1154, 1162 (D. Or. 2001)); therefore, we cannot declare part 
of a listed subspecies a DPS without also designating the remaining 
listed subspecies as DPS(s). This commenter suggests that we reconsider 
the status of all other lower 48 grizzly bear populations 
simultaneously and should not delist the GYA population until we uplist 
all other populations in the Lower 48 States.
    Response--While in some situations it may be appropriate to 
designate multiple DPSs simultaneously, the lack of such a requirement 
provides useful flexibility, allowing the Service to subsequently list 
or delist additional DPSs when additional information becomes available 
or as the conservation status of the taxon changes. Importantly, courts 
have upheld this flexibility. In National Wildlife Federation v. Norton 
(1:03-CV-340, D. VT. 2005, p. 20), the court found that ``Nowhere in 
the Act is the Secretary prevented from creating a `non-DPS remnant' 
designation, especially when the remnant area was already listed'' * * 
*. Our current designation of a Yellowstone DPS, while retaining the 
remaining lower 48 State grizzly bear listing intact as threatened, is 
consistent with this aspect of the District Court's ruling.
    Furthermore, just as the Yellowstone DPS is discrete from the 
remaining populations in the lower 48 States, the remaining populations 
are discrete from the Yellowstone DPS. The amended lower 48 State 
listing is discrete from Canadian populations of Ursus arctos 
horribilis as delineated by the United States/Canadian international 
boundary with significant differences in control of exploitation, 
management of habitat, conservation status, and regulatory mechanisms. 
The amended lower 48 State listing is significant in that the loss of 
the lower 48 State population would result in a significant gap in the 
range of the taxon (U. a. horribilis). Therefore, the amended lower 48 
State listing is discrete and significant.
    Additional analysis is required to determine if the amended lower 
48 State listing warrants further splitting into additional DPSs. For 
now, the warranted-but-precluded findings for uplisting (from 
threatened to endangered) the Selkirk, the North Cascades, and the 
Cabinet-Yaak populations remain precluded by higher priority actions 
(71 FR 53755, 53835, September 12, 2006). While these warranted-but-
precluded findings are reviewed annually, we intend to review the 
status of the entire amended lower 48 State listing that results from 
this final rule in an upcoming 5-year review, as per section 4(c)(2)(A) 
of the Act.
    Issue 3--One commenter recommended that the Service use 
evolutionary divergence (Hall's subspecies) to designate DPSs across 
their historical range and that these should replace or supplement the 
current recovery zones.
    Response--The subspecies approach identified by Hall (1984, pp. 2-
11) suggested seven different North American grizzly bear subspecies 
and is not in accordance with accepted scientific taxonomic literature 
and approaches. We accept the holarctic species concept and North 
American subspecies designations established by the works of Couterier 
(1954, p. 5), Rausch (1953, pp. 95-107; 1963, p. 43), and Kurten (1968, 
p. 127-128). This literature establishes one single holarctic species 
(Ursus arctos) and two North American subspecies, U. a. horribilis and 
U. a. middendorfi. U. a. horribilis is the subspecies that occurs in 
North America outside of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Therefore, the current 
recovery zones consider recovery in light of this taxonomy.
    Issue 4--Some commenters noted that we violated the DPS policy 
because we failed to consider the effect of delisting the Yellowstone 
DPS on rangewide recovery of the species, especially in the Bitterroot 
Ecosystem, which is currently unoccupied by grizzly bears but 
considered vital to the metapopulation dynamics of grizzlies in the 
Lower 48 States.
    Response--The DPS policy was carefully followed in designating the 
Yellowstone DPS. The delisting of the Yellowstone DPS will not have 
detrimental impacts on grizzly bear recovery actions in other recovery 
zones, as the grizzly bears in these areas remain threatened under the 
Act. As such, coordinated recovery efforts will continue in these 
areas.
    Issue 5--Several commenters disagreed with the delineation of the 
boundaries for the Yellowstone DPS. Some believe that because the 
boundaries were mainly highways, they were arbitrary and not based on 
sound biological principles. Others believe that the DPS should be 
expanded to the north to allow for more dispersal because, currently, 
suitable habitat on the northern edge extends nearly to the DPS 
boundary. Others believe that the DPS boundaries should include the 
entire State of Wyoming to lessen confusion and allow for management by 
the State of Wyoming if bears disperse south of Interstate 80.
    Response--As noted in the proposed rule, an artificial or manmade 
boundary (such as Interstate, Federal, and State highways) may be used 
as a boundary of convenience in order to clearly identify the 
geographic area included within a DPS designation. The Yellowstone DPS 
boundaries were defined along easily identifiable boundaries and 
included the entire recovery zone, the primary conservation area, the 
conservation strategy management area, all suitable habitat within the 
GYA based on biological information, and all occupied habitat. We 
believe this represents the most appropriate DPS for this population. 
Expansion of the DPS boundaries is not necessary to maintain a 
recovered grizzly bear population and is not justified biologically, 
given the limited dispersal capabilities of grizzly bears.
    Issue 6--Some commenters pointed out that it would be confusing for 
State and Federal managers to have a grizzly bear roam outside of the 
boundaries, for

[[Page 14885]]

instance west of Interstate 15, and then be considered a threatened 
species. To address this confusion, some commenters believe that any 
grizzly bear originating from the Yellowstone DPS should be considered 
part of that DPS, regardless of where they are geographically.
    Response--A DPS is a geographic designation determining the listed 
status for all individuals of said species in that area. Bears outside 
the DPS area, no matter their origin, are listed as threatened under 
the Act. The State and Federal agencies are aware of and understand the 
management implications of the DPS boundaries. We used easily 
identifiable boundaries such as the center line of major highways to 
minimize management confusion. If a grizzly bear goes beyond the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries, it would become a threatened grizzly bear. 
Similarly, if a grizzly bear from another population enters the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries, it would be managed according to the 
Strategy and State management plans.
    Issue 7--One commenter stated that the DPS designation would 
preclude augmentation because it would destroy the genetic uniqueness 
of the DPS.
    Response--Designation of the DPS would not preclude future 
augmentation, if we determine augmentation to be necessary to maintain 
genetic fitness. The DPS Policy does not require complete separation of 
one DPS from other populations, but instead requires ``marked 
separation.'' As stated in the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, natural 
connectivity is important to long-term grizzly bear conservation, and 
we will continue efforts to work toward this goal (whether accomplished 
naturally or through augmentation) independent of the delisting of the 
Yellowstone DPS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 53). Thus, if 
occasional individual grizzly bears disperse among populations or are 
moved intentionally, the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS would still 
display the required level of discreteness, per the DPS Policy. Gene 
flow through either linkage or augmentation is discussed further under 
Factor E below.
    Issue 8--One commenter stated that he could not find the ``genetic 
monitoring information'' to be appended to the Recovery Plan.
    Response--This document was made available for public review and 
comment in 1997 (62 FR 47677, September 10, 1997) and noticed again in 
1999 (64 FR 38465, July 16, 1999). As noted in the proposed rule, the 
document also was posted on our website for the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear population (http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm). This document does not describe recovery 
criteria, as current levels of genetic diversity are consistent with 
known historic levels and do not threaten the long-term viability of 
the species, and instead proposes a post-delisting monitoring strategy 
to ensure that necessary levels of gene flow occur so that this 
population retains its recovered status for the foreseeable future. 
This 1999 information was never formally appended to the 1993 Recovery 
Plan. Due to the continuous and rapid evolution of the genetics field, 
this information no longer reflects the most up-to-date and 
scientifically sound approach. Therefore, we have determined that it is 
no longer appropriate to append the 1999 genetic monitoring methods and 
management responses to the Recovery Plan. Instead, a new genetic 
monitoring approach which reflects the most recent, best available 
science will be applied to the future management of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS as described in the Strategy's updating process (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 63). The Coordinating Committee will 
commence this genetic monitoring information updating process, which 
will include a public comment process, within 6 months of this final 
rule becoming effective.

G. Definition of Suitable Habitat

    Issue 1--Several commenters requested that we explain why lands 
excluded from our definition of suitable habitat or the State's 
definitions do not constitute a significant portion of the grizzly 
bears' range.
    Response--None of these unsuitable areas, either individually or 
collectively, are capable of contributing, in a meaningful way, to the 
overall status of the Yellowstone DPS. Therefore, these unsuitable 
areas do not represent a significant portion of the Yellowstone DPS 
range because their exclusion will not influence population trajectory 
or population health. Suitable habitat inside the PCA, which contains 
84 to 90 percent of the population of females with cubs (Schwartz et 
al. 2006b, p. 64), the most important age and sex group to population 
trajectory, will be protected by the habitat standards in the Strategy. 
Grizzly bears also will be allowed to expand into currently unoccupied 
suitable habitat as per the State plans. Outside the PCA, 60 percent of 
suitable habitat is protected by its status as Designated Wilderness, 
Wilderness Study Area, or Inventoried Roadless Area. Areas outside of 
suitable habitat will not affect the trajectory or health of the 
Yellowstone population now or in the future. A lack of occupancy of 
historic habitat will not impact whether this population is likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    Issue 2--Several commenters believe that the decision to exclude 
sheep allotments as suitable habitat was based upon social 
considerations rather than biology. Instead, they stated that ``* * * 
mortality rates in these areas are not a function of the habitat 
itself, but of land-use decisions'' and that the habitat could be made 
suitable by regulatory mechanisms. One commenter suggested that the 
Service be upfront and clear that the definition of suitable habitat 
``* * * is not based solely on an evaluation of the grizzly bear's 
resource needs.'' Another commenter requested that we prepare an 
analysis of what proportions of their lives individual grizzlies spend 
in ``suitable'' versus ``unsuitable'' habitat.
    Response--Our determination that sheep allotments were not suitable 
for grizzly bears was based on mortality rates, which is a biological 
issue. In areas of high conflict potential such as campgrounds, 
management actions are taken to limit grizzly bear presence or use. The 
sheep allotments outside suitable habitat are not necessary to ensure 
that this population avoids becoming threatened within all or a 
significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. Because of 
the habitat protections inside the PCA and the large percentage of 
suitable habitat outside the PCA (60 percent) that is currently a 
Designated Wilderness Area (6,799 sq km/4,225 sq mi), Wilderness Study 
Area (708 sq km/440 sq mi), or Inventoried Roadless Area (6,179 sq km/
3,839 sq mi), the long-term persistence of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population is assured without the sheep allotments.
    Our definition of suitable habitat reflects the best available 
science and is adequate to ensure that the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population is not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The three 
criteria we used to define suitable habitat in the proposed rule are--
(1) being of adequate habitat quality and quantity to support grizzly 
bear reproduction and survival (i.e., within the Middle Rockies 
ecoregion--please see discussion below in Suitable Habitat section 
under Factor A); (2) contiguous with the current distribution of 
Yellowstone grizzly bears such that

[[Page 14886]]

natural re-colonization is possible; and (3) having low mortality risk 
as indicated through reasonable and manageable levels of grizzly bear 
mortality. Upon the request of one peer reviewer and in response to 
this issue, we undertook additional analyses to examine how much 
suitable habitat would exist in the GYA under different definitions of 
suitable habitat.
    If grizzly bears were given priority over all other land uses, we 
found that an additional 13,837 sq km (5,342 sq mi) of habitat exists 
that meets the first two criteria for our definition of suitable 
habitat (found within the Middle Rockies ecoregion and contiguous with 
the current population distribution). Of that ``potentially'' suitable 
habitat, nearly 16 percent (2,184 sq km (843 sq mi)) is privately 
owned. The remaining habitat is 70 percent National Forest (9,637 sq km 
(3,720 sq mi)), 8.5 percent BLM (1,171 sq km (452 sq mi)), 4 percent 
State-owned (545 sq km (211 sq mi)), and less than 2 percent in other 
Federal ownerships (200 sq km/77 sq mi).
    Although management direction could change on these Federal and 
State-owned lands to favor grizzly bears by eliminating all other uses 
(e.g., livestock grazing allotments, oil and gas development), this 
action is not biologically necessary to maintain the recovered status 
of the Yellowstone grizzly bear. These areas do not constitute a 
significant portion of the range. If this habitat became biologically 
necessary in the future due to decreases in habitat quality or 
excessive mortality, the adaptive management approach described in the 
Strategy would allow managers to modify the management within what is 
currently ``potentially'' suitable habitat on public lands.
    When we examine all areas found within the DPS boundaries that are 
within the Middle Rockies ecoregion and do not consider whether these 
areas are contiguous with the current grizzly bear population, an 
additional 7,178 sq km (2,771 sq mi) of habitat meets this sole 
criterion. Of this ``potentially suitable'' habitat that is not 
contiguous with the current distribution of grizzly bears, 6,341 sq km 
(2,448 sq mi) is contained within the Bighorn Mountains and 837 sq km 
(323 sq mi) within the Pryor Mountains on the Wyoming and Montana 
border. Distances between these mountain ranges, the current 
distribution of grizzly bears, and land uses in the intervening habitat 
will preclude dispersal of most males and most, if not all, females. 
Without constant emigrants from suitable habitat, it is highly unlikely 
that the Bighorns or the Pryor Mountains can support a self-sustaining 
grizzly bear population. Again, this ``potentially suitable'' habitat 
is not biologically necessary to maintain the recovered status of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS.
    We have determined that an analysis examining the proportion of 
time grizzly bears spend in suitable and unsuitable habitats is 
unnecessary. Although this information may be useful when modeling 
source-sink dynamics, the sustainable mortality limits that have been 
established for the entire population ensure that mortality will not 
exceed recruitment. The Study Team will continue to monitor habitat use 
by radio-collared grizzly bears post-delisting and attempt to quantify 
why and where grizzly bears experience different mortality rates.
    Issue 3--Some commenters noted that we considered more than 
strictly biological criteria in the recovery process when we introduced 
the term ``socially acceptable'' in the Strategy.
    Response--The presence of grizzly bears in places with high levels 
of human activity and human occupancy results in biological impacts to 
grizzly bears in terms of increased mortality risk and displacement. 
The level of this impact is directly related to the location and 
numbers of humans, their activities, and their attitudes and beliefs 
about grizzly bears. The consideration of human activities is 
fundamental to the management of grizzly bears and their habitat.
    Issue 4--Many commenters questioned whether the 1998 baseline 
applied exclusively inside the PCA was adequate to ensure the continued 
viability of the Yellowstone DPS. They noted that in 1998, the 
population was already occupying a large area outside of the recovery 
zone and, therefore, to conclude that habitat conditions inside the PCA 
are what contributed to the observed 4 to 7 percent population growth 
is to portray an incomplete picture of what occurred. Many commenters 
believed all currently occupied habitat should be protected since it 
has contributed to the growth of the population. Many commenters 
suggested that protections must be extended to all suitable habitat to 
ensure long-term viability of the Yellowstone DPS. One commenter 
recommended that we employ a reserve design approach with the PCA 
designated as the protected core of the GYA Reserve (with no hunting) 
and the rest of the GYA managed as a buffer zone (with all protections 
currently provided in the PCA being extended to the entire GYA). One 
commenter also noted that we must have data on habitat conditions 
outside of the PCA to draw a conclusion about future risks and habitat 
changes there.
    Response--The Service has applied a reserve design approach by 
designating the PCA. The PCA, which is a subset of the suitable 
habitat, contains between 84 to 90 percent of the females with cubs 
(the population's most important age and sex group) (Schwartz et al. 
2006b, p. 64). The population has been growing at 4 to 7 percent per 
year since the 1990s (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48), with most of the 
growth occurring inside the PCA (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 64). The 
best available information demonstrates that the PCA contains the 
habitat necessary for a healthy and viable grizzly bear population in 
the long-term. Strict habitat protection within the PCA is guaranteed 
to assure the future of the population. Sixty percent of suitable 
habitat outside the PCA is Designated Wilderness, Wilderness Study 
Area, or Inventoried Roadless Area. This amount of protected habitat 
combined with the GYA National Forests' commitment to manage habitat 
for a viable grizzly bear population, forest-wide food storage orders, 
and designation of the grizzly bear as a species-of-concern on GYA 
National Forests, gives the Service reasonable assurance that grizzly 
bears outside of the PCA will continue to be protected adequately. In 
addition, allowable hunting mortalities will be determined and limited 
by the total sustainable mortality limit.

H. Habitat Protections

    Issue 1--Some commenters questioned the adequacy of the habitat 
protections that we developed for the PCA and advocated more meaningful 
habitat protections including baseline values for major foods, 
restrictions on private land development, and limits on both motorized 
and non-motorized recreation.
    Response--Our habitat protection criteria are adequate and 
biologically sound. There is no biological way to define ``baseline'' 
levels for various foods because the natural foods for grizzly bears 
naturally fluctuate, annually and spatially, across the ecosystem. 
Instead of establishing artificial baseline values for major grizzly 
bear foods, the protocol in place for the monitoring of major foods 
will provide annual indices of the variation of these foods, and will 
compare changes in these foods to grizzly bear vital rates such as 
mortality causes and locations, cub production and survival, adult 
female survival, and numbers and distribution of bear/human conflicts. 
The results will guide adaptive management responses to changes in 
foods such as enhanced Information and

[[Page 14887]]

Education (I & E) efforts, limiting grizzly bear mortality, planting 
whitebark pine, controlling exotic species, and/or prescribed burning.
    Private lands comprise 2.1 percent of the PCA. Limits on developing 
private lands to reduce conflicts with resident wildlife are the 
responsibility of the counties and the States. County representatives 
are members of the Coordinating Committee and will insure that efforts 
to limit conflicts on private lands will continue. Their cooperation 
with the State wildlife agencies to promote outreach, education and 
management of land development activities in grizzly habitat to reduce 
bear/human conflicts will continue upon delisting. These efforts to 
limit conflicts on private lands will continue under the Coordinating 
Committee's management.
    Limiting motorized recreation is a fundamental component of the 
Strategy, hence the requirement for no net decrease in secure habitat 
inside the PCA. This measure directly limits the total area impacted by 
motorized recreation, so that grizzly bears have adequate secure 
habitat regardless of the number of people using motorized trails. 
Limitation of non-motorized recreation throughout the GYA is not 
currently necessary, as evidenced by the increasing grizzly bear 
population since the 1980's (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48). The adaptive 
management approach in the Strategy will allow managers to respond to 
detrimental levels of non-motorized recreation on a case-by-case basis 
and also provide managers with the data necessary to determine if 
ecosystem-wide limitations may be necessary in the future.
    Issue 2--Numerous comments stated that grizzly bears must be 
allowed access to habitat in the Southern Wind Rivers, Palisades, and 
Wyoming Range so that they can find food in light of declining food 
sources. These areas are currently deemed as socially unacceptable 
habitat by the Idaho and Wyoming State management plans. Many 
commenters thought that the States should throw out their concept of 
``socially acceptable'' areas and should, instead, encourage 
colonization of all biologically suitable habitat while improving 
efforts to manage conflicts in those areas.
    Response--The Idaho Plan does not limit or restrict bears in the 
Palisades. The Idaho Plan acknowledges this area as one of many outside 
the PCA where grizzly bear occupancy is anticipated in the next 5 to 10 
years (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, 
pp. 8-9). The Wyoming Plan calls for management emphasis to limit 
conflicts in the southern Wind River and the Wyoming Ranges by 
discouraging grizzly bear dispersal and occupancy of these areas. The 
Wyoming Grizzly Bear Management Plan (WGFD 2005, pp. 12-16) does not 
exclude grizzlies from the southern Wind Rivers; rather, it recognizes 
a higher potential for grizzly bear/human conflicts if they move into 
areas such as the southern Wind River or Wyoming Mountain ranges. The 
presence of grizzly bears in places where there are high levels of 
human activity and occupancy results in biological impacts to grizzly 
bears in terms of increased mortality risk and displacement. 
Consideration of these potential biological impacts was a critical 
element in the determination of suitable habitat. As the grizzly 
population increases in area and density, an emphasis will be placed on 
education, conflict prevention, relocation, or removal of bears to 
limit conflicts. Because there have been few if any bears in these 
areas for many decades and the population has continued to grow during 
this time, these areas are presently not necessary to include in the 
PCA.
    Issue 3--Commenters requested that we consider potential changes in 
management of Inventoried Roadless Areas resulting from the 2005 
Roadless Areas Rule (70 FR 25654) under which management decisions will 
be made based on State Governor's petitions and individual Forest 
Plans. Some thought we should undertake a more detailed analysis of ``* 
* * roadless areas that are specifically threatened [and] identify 
which formerly-protected areas are especially important to present and 
future grizzly bear conservation.''
    Response--The State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area 
Management Rule (70 FR 25654, May 13, 2005) that replaced the Roadless 
Area Conservation Rule (``Roadless Rule'') (66 FR 3244, January 12, 
2001) was overturned September 19, 2006 (People of the State of 
California ex rel. Bill Lockyer, et al. v. U.S. Department of 
Agriculture; Mike Johanns, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, 
et al., C05-03508 EDL). The State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless 
Area Management Rule was set aside and the 2001 Roadless Rule was 
reinstated. The USDA Forest Service was enjoined from taking any 
further action contrary to the 2001 Roadless Rule without undertaking 
environmental analysis consistent with the court opinion. Because this 
court decision voided the State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area 
Management Rule, the 2005 Roadless Areas Rule has no impacts. Even if 
the State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management Rule is 
sustained in a possible appeal of the September 19, 2006, court 
decision, the majority of roadless areas are likely to remain 
undeveloped. The six GYA National Forests are committed to managing for 
a viable grizzly bear population. If any roads are proposed to be built 
in roadless areas, the USDA Forest Service must first complete a formal 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) process and 
specifically consider the project's impacts on species of concern, 
which the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will be classified as 
post-delisting (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). State Petitions for 
Inventoried Roadless Area Management only allow the Governors to 
comment on the Forest Service process of considering management of 
Inventoried Roadless Areas and do not provide the Governors any 
authority to make decisions on road building. Any comments from the 
Governors would be considered during the EIS process.
    Issue 4--Several commenters suggested that we provide habitat 
protections for identified linkage zones between the GYA and other 
occupied and unoccupied grizzly bear habitat to the north and west.
    Response--A process to identify, maintain, and improve wildlife 
movement areas between the large blocks of public land in the Northern 
Rocky Mountains is ongoing (Servheen et al. 2003, p. 3). This 
interagency effort involves 13 State and Federal agencies working on 
linkage facilitation across private lands, public lands, and highways 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee 2001, pp. 1-2). To date, this 
effort has included: (1) Development of a written protocol and guidance 
document on how to implement linkage zone management on public lands 
(Public Land Linkage Taskforce 2004, pp. 3-5); (2) production of 
several private land linkage management documents, including ``Making 
Connections from the Perspective of Local People'' (Parker and Parker 
2002, p. 2), and the Swan Conservation Agreement (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1997), which is a collaborative linkage zone 
management document; (3) analyses of linkage zone management in 
relation to highways, including identification of multiple linkage 
areas in southeast Idaho from Idaho Falls to Lost Trail Pass (Geodata 
Services Inc. 2005, p. 2) and the effects of highways on wildlife 
(Waller and Servheen 2005, p. 998); and (4) a workshop in the spring of 
2006 on implementing management actions for wildlife linkage, the 
proceedings of which are available

[[Page 14888]]

online at: www.cfc.umt.edu/linkage. The objective of this work is to 
maintain and enhance movement opportunities for all wildlife species 
across the northern Rockies. This linkage work is not directly 
associated with the Yellowstone grizzly population and will continue to 
address ways to improve cooperation and affect management on public 
lands, private lands, and highways in linkage areas across the northern 
Rockies regardless of the listed status of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
DPS.
    Issue 5--Numerous commenters believed that resource extraction 
industries would dominate the landscape if delisting occurred. Some 
stated that the overall trend for habitat quality has been declining, 
at least in part, due to high-density oil and gas development. Some 
commenters believe that we did not fully evaluate or acknowledge the 
potential impacts from oil and gas development or increased logging in 
the GYA on the grizzly bear population. One commenter noted that, 
although there are large areas of land in the GYA that are not open to 
surface occupancy, such stipulations are routinely waived upon request 
and do not adequately address concerns of ``full field development'' 
that may occur in grizzly bear habitat.
    Response--Service-defined suitable habitat inside or outside the 
PCA (see Figure 1 above) does not contain active oil or gas wells. 
Timber is the primary resource extracted in grizzly bear habitat. 
Habitat quality (as a function of road density and timber harvest) has 
improved as a result of declining timber harvest and road construction 
and increasing road decommissioning since the mid-1990s (USDA Forest 
Service 2006a, pp. 156, 200).
    Inside the PCA, the potential for increased oil and gas development 
in the future is guided by the Strategy and its limitations on road 
density and development (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 41). 
We do not anticipate a dramatic increase in oil and gas development 
outside of the PCA due to moderate to low potentials for both 
occurrence and development throughout most of the six GYA National 
Forests, with the exception of the Bridger-Teton National Forest (USDA 
Forest Service 2006a, pp. 210-213). Even with the high potential for 
occurrence and development in the Bridger-Teton, only 14 active oil and 
gas wells are currently inside that National Forest and none are within 
Service-defined suitable grizzly habitat.
    Issue 6--Many commenters were concerned about the rapid human 
population growth in the GYA and the resulting increases in houses, 
recreationists, and grizzly bear/human conflicts. Some commenters 
suggested that overall habitat quality in the GYA had already declined, 
and would continue to do so, primarily due to houses and off-highway-
vehicle (OHV) use. Commenters believe that we must ensure future human 
population growth does not affect the grizzly bear population and 
recommended that we quantify current levels of use in the GYA for 
consideration in a risk assessment. They also recommended we develop a 
comprehensive monitoring, management, and enforcement plan for OHV and 
snowmobile use in the GYA before considering delisting.
    Response--Human populations in the GYA, and the rest of the United 
States, are expected to increase (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 229). 
In the six Wyoming counties where grizzly bears are, or are expected to 
be, in the next few decades, the human population is projected to 
increase by roughly 15,000 residents between 2000 and 2020 (from 
105,215 in 2000 to 120,771 by 2020) (Wyoming Department of 
Administration and Information Economic Analysis Division 2005). In the 
Montana counties of Gallatin, Madison, Beaverhead, Park, Sweet Grass, 
Stillwater, and Carbon, total populations are expected to increase by 
roughly 35,000 people during this same time (from 120,934 in 2000 to 
154,800 by 2020) (NPA Data Services 2002). We anticipate similar levels 
of population growth in the Idaho counties of the GYA given that the 
West, as a region, is projected to increase at rates faster than any 
other region (U.S. Census Bureau Population Division 2005). Increasing 
human populations do not necessarily lead to declining predator 
populations, when adequate management programs are in place with 
policies that promote the conservation of the species (Linnell et al. 
2001, p. 348) such as mortality control, research and monitoring, and 
outreach and education about living with wildlife.
    Recent reports (Gosnell et al. 2006, pp. 749-750) demonstrate that 
the majority of land sales over 162 ha (400 ac) in size in the greater 
Yellowstone ecosystem from 1990 to 2001 were to amenity buyers (39 
percent) (those who purchase for ambiance or recreation and who have 
little interest in the economic viability of the property), or to 
traditional ranchers (26 percent). Less than 6 percent of 605,814 ha 
(1.497 million ac) sold from 1990 to 2001 were to land developers, and 
12 percent were to investors whose ultimate intention was unknown. This 
report suggests that ongoing changes in land ownership may result in 
reduced conflicts between livestock and predators, and a lowered level 
of land development sales than previously projected. While there may be 
conservation benefits in this overall land ownership change, there are 
uncertainties as to the eventual land uses on these properties.
    The Service has no authority to limit or manage future human 
population growth. Current levels of human use of public lands are 
quantified (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 180-185) and managed to 
limit resource impacts in the management plans of the National Forests 
and the National Parks in the Yellowstone ecosystem. A modeling 
exercise to further predict the impacts of future population growth on 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS would be of minimal use due to 
multiple uncertainties regarding assumptions about human behavior and 
how humans will react to grizzly bears. As human populations and 
recreational activity have increased in the GYA National Forests, 
additional regulations have been implemented to limit bear/human 
conflicts such as the food storage orders in all suitable habitat on 
National Forest lands and comprehensive State and Federal I & E 
programs that explain how to coexist with bears. These efforts will 
continue upon delisting so that the potential negative impacts of 
increasing human populations on the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS are 
adequately mitigated.
    Under the Strategy, designated motorized access routes will not be 
increased inside the PCA, and OHV use is restricted to designated 
motorized access routes. The USDA Forest Service Final EIS on the 
Forest Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for The 
Greater Yellowstone Area National Forests (USDA Forest Service 2006a, 
p. 192) states that, ``It is likely that revised plans will revise, and 
possibly limit motorized access to address wildlife security needs, 
better manage conflicting recreation uses, and protect areas from 
resource damages.'' Quantification and management of OHV use and 
snowmachine use on public lands are presented in the management plans 
of the National Forests and the National Parks in the GYA. Any 
detrimental impacts on grizzly bear habitat use and/or mortality will 
be monitored as part of the comprehensive monitoring systems in the 
Strategy.
    Issue 7--Many commenters were concerned that declines in all four 
of the major foods that Yellowstone grizzlies rely upon will decrease 
the carrying capacity of the GYA, with resulting negative effects on 
long-term grizzly bear population viability. The

[[Page 14889]]

commenters stated that the proposed rule was too optimistic regarding 
grizzly bear response to decreases in major foods and noted that the 
alternative foods for grizzly bears in the GYA are not of the same 
quality and quantity found as the four major foods grizzlies currently 
use.
    Response--The amounts of major foods for grizzly bears will likely 
fluctuate due to possible changes in average temperature, 
precipitation, forest fires, introduced species, and resident insects. 
Changes in environmental conditions and resulting changes in foods for 
grizzly bears have been recognized by management agencies throughout 
the recovery process. That such changes will occur is neither 
exceptional nor unexpected. The key issue is determining how management 
agencies will quantify and respond to such changes. Presently, a system 
has been implemented to monitor changes in the production and 
distribution of foods in relation to grizzly bear vital rates (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 25-60). The Study Team will report 
the monitoring results on food production, extent and impact of insect 
and disease on food production, bear mortality, reproductive success, 
and age-specific survival annually to the Coordinating Committee. The 
relationships between these factors will detect any impacts of changes 
in foods on bear viability in the ecosystem and will be the basis for 
an adaptive management response by the Coordinating Committee.
    Issue 8--Some private landowners in the GYA were concerned about 
the direction given in the Strategy that encourages citizens to become 
involved in private land issues and questioned what authority we have 
to make such a recommendation.
    Response--We have no direct authority over private lands nor can we 
require private citizen actions. Instead, the Strategy put forward 
voluntary recommendations. The consideration of private land activities 
on grizzly/human conflicts is fundamental to the proper management of 
grizzly bears and to human safety because a disproportionate number of 
grizzly bear/human conflicts occur at site developments on private 
lands (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 15).
    Issue 9--Some commenters were concerned about the amount of denning 
habitat both inside and outside of the PCA that will be open to 
snowmachine use.
    Response--The Forest Plan Amendment includes guidance that inside 
the PCA, localized area restrictions are to be used to mitigate 
conflicts, where conflicts occur during denning or after bear emergence 
in the spring. Much of the grizzly bear denning habitat identified in 
the Forest Plan Amendment Final EIS as being open to snowmobiling is 
not actually used by snowmachines (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 92). 
Bears tend to den in remote areas with characteristics that are not 
conducive to snowmachining (i.e., steep, forested habitats). Eighty-
eight percent of the known dens in the Yellowstone ecosystem are 
located in areas where snowmachine use does not occur (USDA Forest 
Service 2006a, p. 92).
    Suitable denning habitat is well distributed on the forests. Five 
of the six GYA National Forests consulted with us in 2001 regarding the 
effect of snowmachines on denning grizzly bears. Our best information 
suggests that current levels of snowmachine use are not appreciably 
reducing the survival or recovery of grizzly bears. While the potential 
for disturbance exists, USDA Forest Service and Study Team monitoring 
over the last three years has not documented any disturbance (Gallatin 
National Forest 2006, p. D-68). Monitoring will continue to support 
adaptive management decisions to limit snowmachine use in areas where 
disturbance is documented or likely to occur.

I. 1998 Baseline for Secure Habitat, Developed Sites, and Livestock 
Allotments

    Issue 1--Many comments questioned the logic and supporting evidence 
for using 1998 as the baseline year. Some commenters said that the 1998 
baseline was chosen arbitrarily and that the Service did not analyze 
the implications of selecting any other particular year within the time 
of 4 to 7 percent population increase (1983-2001).
    Response--The year 1998 was chosen because secure habitat and site 
developments had been roughly the same during the previous ten years 
(USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 27) and the population was increasing 
during these years (Eberhardt and Knight 1996, p. 419; Harris et al. 
2006, p. 48). The selection of any other year between 1988 and 1998 
would have resulted in approximately the same baseline values for roads 
and developed sites. We did not select baseline habitat values from 
years before 1988 because habitat improvements that occurred after the 
implementation of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Guidelines 
(USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 6-21) would not have been reflected.
    Issue 2--Several commenters said that the 1998 baseline did not 
adequately consider alternative hypotheses and processes that may have 
lead to positive growth rates for the grizzly population from 1983-2001 
(e.g., good whitebark pine years in the early 1990s), and that it is 
overly simplistic to assume that levels of secure habitat, developed 
sites, and livestock allotments are adequate to explain the observed 
population growth.
    Response--Numerous studies have confirmed that secure habitat, 
developed sites, and livestock allotments affect grizzly bear survival 
on a landscape scale (Mattson et al. 1987, p. 271; Mace et al. 1996, 
pp. 1402-1403; Servheen et al. 2004, p. 20). We used these variables as 
surrogates for habitat effectiveness because the annual variability in 
the abundance and distribution of major foods precludes the Service 
from establishing baseline values for them.
    We believe that high whitebark pine cone production in the early 
1990s does not adequately explain the observed population growth during 
this time (Haroldson et al. 2006b, p. 41). The Annual Study Team 
reports document that the early 1990s were not particularly good 
whitebark pine production years as evidenced by average counts of less 
than 20 cones per tree from 1990 through 1995. In fact, the only 2 
years during the 1990s with cone counts above 20 cones per tree were 
1996 and 1999 (Haroldson and Podruzny 2006, p. 45). We also note that 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear population was declining in the 1960s and 
1970s, regardless of whitebark pine production. Declines continued 
until management intervention occurred with the implementation of the 
Guidelines (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 6-21) by the affected 
National Parks and Forests. These Guidelines (USDA Forest Service 1986, 
pp. 6-21) focused on improving habitat quality and limiting human-
caused mortality resulting from grizzly bear/human conflicts. Because 
of the subsequent success of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population in 
the decades following implementation of the Guidelines, it is 
reasonable to infer that the Guidelines played a significant role and 
that the continuation of such management actions will ensure the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS remains recovered.
    Issue 3--Some commenters suggested that subunits on the Gallatin 
National Forest need to improve levels of secure habitat before 
delisting occurs even if this means closing additional USDA Forest 
Service roads to compensate for adjacent, highly roaded, private lands.
    Response--The Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS increased 4 to 7 percent 
per year between 1983 and 2002 (Harris et

[[Page 14890]]

al. 2006, p. 48) with the current level of road density on the Gallatin 
National Forest. There is no biological reason to conclude that 
additional road density reductions on the Gallatin National Forest are 
necessary before delisting can move forward.
    Issue 4--Several commenters believe that the 1998 baseline is 
unrealistic because habitat changes are already occurring due to oil 
and gas extraction, human population growth, pine beetles, and other 
threats to food sources. One commenter said that the 1998 baseline 
contained inaccuracies in its road data thus making its use as a 
baseline value ineffective.
    Response--Habitat conditions relating to the habitat standards 
described in the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 38-
56) have either remained stable or improved since 1998 for road 
densities, levels of secure habitat, site developments, and livestock 
allotments. The 1998 baseline was not developed to address specific 
projects such as oil and gas development or timber harvest. Using the 
adaptive management approach described in the Strategy (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 5-11), management agencies will respond with 
adequate restrictions and enforcement if recreation on public lands due 
to increased human populations in the GYA becomes detrimental to the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population. The 1998 baseline does not contain 
threshold values for any of the major foods due to the natural 
variability in their abundance and distribution that occurs annually. 
The 1998 baseline attempted to establish realistic habitat standards 
that ensure adequate habitat security and minimum livestock conflicts 
within the PCA. We consider the establishment of habitat thresholds for 
human population growth, food sources, and specific projects to be 
unrealistic and that the 1998 baseline will address these issues 
adequately through access management and limitations on site 
development. Regarding the accuracy of road data, the 1998 baseline for 
roads is calculated using the best available road layers compiled by 
each GYA National Forest.
    Issue 5--Some commenters suspected that the 1998 baseline would not 
be enforced and noted that we have already allowed three projects that 
violate the terms of the Strategy--(1) the Togwotee Pass road 
expansion, (2) Grand Teton National Park's plan to build miles of paved 
pathways, and (3) Yellowstone National Park's installation of large 
trailer-home developments at Lake and Canyon for employees and 
contractors.
    Response--The 1998 baseline values are being maintained and 
enforced. With their signatures on the Strategy, the agencies have 
committed to implement the habitat standards by adhering to the 1998 
baseline (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 13, 63-67), amending 
the forest plans on the six GYA National Forests, and implementing 
changes to the Superintendent's Compendiums regulating habitat 
management within Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. One phase 
of the Togwotee Pass road expansion that would have violated the secure 
habitat terms of the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
39-44) has been reevaluated and abandoned because it violated the 
agreed-upon habitat standards (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
38-56). The paved pathways in Grand Teton National Park's plan are for 
exclusive use by bicyclists and pedestrians and, therefore, do not 
violate the established limits on motorized access routes. The addition 
of trailer homes at Lake and Canyon in Yellowstone National Park does 
not violate the developed site standard because administrative site 
expansions for improvement of management on public lands, for temporary 
construction camps, or for temporary housing for major maintenance 
projects are exempt.
    Issue 6--Many commenters objected to the exceptions that we allow 
to the 1998 baseline regarding the 1 percent rule for temporary changes 
and the application rules for permanent changes in secure habitat and 
developed sites. They believe that these allowances are unacceptable 
and not based on biology. Some commenters asked why replacement habitat 
used to mitigate permanent changes in secure habitat would only be 
maintained for 10 years and suggested that this would lead to a net 
loss of secure habitat over time. Other commenters noted that 
exceptions allowed in the USDA Forest Service's Draft EIS (USDA Forest 
Service 2004, p. 141) could result in an increase in developed sites 
above 1998 levels. Some groups believe that the 1 percent rule was too 
restrictive and questioned why the Service would implement more strict 
standards than those in use while the grizzly population was increasing 
(i.e., the Guidelines).
    Response--Regarding developed sites, the habitat standard in the 
Strategy states that there will be no net increase in the capacity or 
number of developed sites from the 1998 baseline (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, p. 42). Any proposed expansion of an existing 
developed site or any new developed sites will be analyzed, with the 
potential detrimental and positive impacts on grizzly bears documented, 
through a biological evaluation or assessment. This evaluation/
assessment would determine the mitigation necessary for any proposed 
increases in number or capacity of developed sites. The final EIS 
states that any project that changes the number or capacity of 
developed sites must follow specific application rules requiring that 
any new sites be mitigated by removing an existing site within that 
subunit to offset any increases in human capacity, habitat loss, or 
human access to surrounding habitats (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 
36). The application rules allow for an expansion of developed 
campgrounds if an equivalent capacity of dispersed campsites is 
eliminated. Administrative site expansions are exempt from human 
capacity mitigation expansion only if they are necessary for 
enhancement of management of public lands and other viable alternatives 
are not available.
    The requirement to maintain secure habitat for 10 years is 
considered a minimum, and cannot be eliminated after the 10 years 
unless mitigated by an equal quantity and quality of secure habitat 
that then must be retained for at least 10 years. There will be no net 
loss of secure habitat in any subunit. Temporary changes in secure 
habitat may reduce secure habitat for a period no longer than 3 years 
and can be no larger than 1 percent of the largest subunit size within 
that Bear Management Unit. All secure habitat would be restored upon 
completion of a temporary project. There are no biological data that 
demonstrate that the temporary 1 percent level of secure habitat 
disturbance in any subunit has had any detrimental impact on the 
grizzly bear population.

J. Whitebark Pine

    Issue 1--Numerous commenters noted the importance of whitebark pine 
to grizzly bear survival and reproductive success. They believe that we 
were overly optimistic about the severity of the decline of whitebark 
pine in the GYA and the potential impacts to the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear DPS. These commenters suggested that we complete a more thorough 
analysis of impacts of potential decreases in whitebark pine cone 
production. Several commenters were concerned that the monitoring 
systems described by the Strategy will not detect changes in the 
grizzly bear population related to decreases in whitebark pine cone 
production soon enough, and that there is no clear management response 
if this occurs.
    Response--We have added additional information to the final rule 
concerning potential threats to whitebark pine and possible impacts to 
grizzly bears. The

[[Page 14891]]

extent to which whitebark pine nut production will be affected across 
the landscape is unknown and difficult to calculate with any degree of 
certainty. Instead, managers will use an adaptive management approach 
that addresses poor food years with responsive management actions.
    The Strategy commits the agencies to intensive monitoring of all 
grizzly bear vital rates, and the relationship of these rates to 
changes in major foods and levels and types of human activities. Vital 
rates that are more sensitive to habitat changes such as litter size 
and cub survival also will be monitored. Due to the reproductive 
biology of grizzly bears in which fertilized eggs are not implanted 
into the uterus if the nutritional status of the female is inadequate, 
poor whitebark pine production resulting from a landscape scale 
decrease in overall carrying capacity would be detected by a decreased 
number of females with cubs-of-the-year.
    In the short-term, management responses to poor whitebark pine cone 
production years will include immediate limitation on all discretionary 
mortalities; enhanced outreach and education to minimize bear/human 
conflicts and the availability of attractants in bear habitat that 
might promote such conflicts; notice to residents and users of bear 
habitat about the possible increased foraging of bears in peripheral 
habitats; detailed monitoring of food habit shifts and possible changes 
in home range size and locations, particularly for adult females; 
limitation of human activities in new or expanded feeding areas should 
there be changes in range or feeding area; and requests for a status 
review and/or immediate emergency relisting. The long-term response to 
decreases in whitebark pine will be continued efforts to replant 
whitebark pine, habitat management that encourages whitebark pine 
recruitment and growth, and enhancing secure habitat availability in 
specific areas outside the PCA where healthy whitebark pine may be 
available.
    Issue 2--Some commenters critiqued the current monitoring protocol 
for whitebark pine. Specifically, one commenter suggested that the 
Service update the monitoring protocol for whitebark pine to count dead 
trees as cone production equal to zero, so that whitebark pine 
mortality due to pine beetle and blister rust is reflected in total 
cone production estimates. Other commenters recommended that any 
delisting proposal be intimately tied with whitebark pine restoration 
and protection from mountain pine beetle attack via verbenone (a 
hormone that decreases mountain pine beetle success).
    Response--We believe that the current whitebark monitoring system 
provides a representative, ecosystem-wide index of cone production, 
numbers of dead trees and the sources of death, and changes in pine nut 
production over time. This comprehensive monitoring system is made 
possible by the synergistic work of the Study Team, the Greater 
Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group, and the Whitebark 
Pine Subcommittee.
    Currently, the Study Team monitors 19 whitebark pine cone 
production transects within the PCA, 9 of which have been monitored on 
an annual basis since 1980 (Knight et al. 1997, p. 14). The purpose of 
monitoring these transects is to assess whitebark pine production, 
because Blanchard (1990, p. 362) demonstrated that grizzly bears in the 
GYA use whitebark pine seeds almost exclusively when pine cone 
production averages more than 20 cones per tree. As such, counting dead 
trees which have no cone production produces an unreliable estimate of 
cone production of live trees.
    We agree that it is important to monitor mortality of whitebark 
pine trees due to blister rust infection and mountain pine beetle 
infestation. One of the three stated objectives of the Greater 
Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group is to ``* * * 
estimate survival of individual whitebark pine trees greater than 1.4 m 
high'' (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group 
2005, p. 96). To assess whitebark pine mortality, the Greater 
Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group has established 
more than 70 transects outside the PCA and works closely with 
statisticians to ensure a representative sample and a high power of 
inference (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group 
2006, p. 76) for more accurate results.
    The Whitebark Pine Subcommittee, formed in 1998, is an interagency 
group comprised of members from the USDA Forest Service, the National 
Park Service, the Study Team, and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem 
Foundation (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 148). The Whitebark Pine 
Subcommittee coordinates the implementation of restoration techniques, 
management responses, and gathering whitebark pine status information. 
Current work on whitebark pine includes planting in several areas, cone 
collection from healthy trees, silvicultural treatments to improve 
growth and establishment, prescribed burning to encourage natural 
whitebark pine seedling establishment, and surveys for healthy trees 
that may possess blister rust resistant genes.
    Verbenone is an anti-aggregation pheromone of the mountain pine 
beetle (Kegley and Gibson 2004, p. 1). It has usefulness in protecting 
individual trees or small areas 0.4 ha (1 ac) from pine beetle attack 
(Kegley et al. 2003, pp. 4-5, Kegley and Gibson 2004, p. 1), but its 
use is limited to individual high-value trees or very small areas. Its 
use is impractical over thousands of square kilometers throughout an 
ecosystem.
    Under the Strategy, the Study Team will continue to work with the 
Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group and the 
Whitebark Pine Subcommittee to monitor whitebark pine cone production, 
the prevalence of white pine blister rust, whitebark pine mortality, 
and to actively restore whitebark pine in the GYA.
    Issue 3--One commenter stated that the Service failed to consider 
the threat of dwarf mistletoe to whitebark pine.
    Response--While dwarf mistletoe can infect and kill whitebark pine 
trees, it has only ever been detected on one whitebark pine tree in the 
GYA of the thousands surveyed each year (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark 
Pine Monitoring Working Group 2005, p. 111). There is no evidence to 
suggest that dwarf mistletoe represents a serious threat to whitebark 
pine as a food source for grizzly bears, but the Greater Yellowstone 
Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group will continue to monitor for 
its presence on the transects it has distributed throughout the GYA.

K. Cutthroat Trout

    Issue 1--Some commenters suggest delisting be delayed until the 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout status review is complete and the findings 
can be considered in our decision.
    Response--The Yellowstone cutthroat trout was found to be not 
warranted for listing under the Act on February 21, 2006 (71 FR 8818).
    Issue 2--Some commenters noted that we did not assess the threat to 
cutthroat trout from direct competition for food between non-native, 
invasive New Zealand mud snails and cutthroat trout fry.
    Response--The New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) is a 
recently arrived invasive species that was first observed in the GYA in 
1994 (Hall et al. 2006, p. 1122). They are most abundant in the mid-
elevation geothermal streams in Yellowstone National Park. New Zealand 
mud snails can occur in such great abundance that they out-compete and 
displace native

[[Page 14892]]

aquatic invertebrates that are the preferred foods of cutthroat trout. 
However, the Service's 12-month finding on a petition to list 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout stated that ``While it is likely this 
organism (New Zealand mud snail) is increasingly becoming more 
widespread and will continue to spread, to date there is no evidence 
that implicates the New Zealand mud snail in the collapse of any 
conservation populations of Yellowstone cutthroat trout'' (71 FR 8829, 
February 21, 2006). Because cutthroat trout are not as important to 
reproductive female grizzly bears as previously thought (Felicetti et 
al. 2004, p. 496, Reinhart and Mattson 1990, p. 349; Mattson and 
Reinhart 1995, pp. 2076-2079), we do not foresee New Zealand mud snails 
as a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in all or a significant 
portion of its range in the foreseeable future.
    Issue 3--A few commenters noted that the Yellowstone National Park 
lake trout removal program has not succeeded in reversing the decline 
in the number of cutthroat trout spawning in the tributaries to 
Yellowstone Lake.
    Response--Over 100,000 lake trout were removed from Yellowstone 
Lake between 1994 and 2004. The average length of captured lake trout 
and the catch per unit effort have declined during this time, 
suggesting that lake trout control efforts are impacting the 
population. Fewer and smaller lake trout will have a reduced impact on 
cutthroat trout. The lake trout removal program will continue. Overall, 
we do not foresee a decline in Yellowstone cutthroat trout as a threat 
to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in all or a significant portion of 
its range in the foreseeable future (see Factor E below).
    Issue 4--One commenter stated that the decline in availability of 
spawning cutthroat trout may be forcing more grizzlies out of 
Yellowstone National Park where they are at greater risk of human-
caused mortality.
    Response--Only a small proportion of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
DPS eat cutthroat trout and the nutritional contribution of cutthroat 
trout to the overall diet of those few bears is minimal (Felicetti et 
al. 2004, p. 496). Movement data from radio-collared grizzly bears who 
consume trout do not indicate these bears move outside Yellowstone 
National Park any more than bears eating foods other than trout. The 
Strategy and the Study Team have established biologically sustainable 
mortality limits for the entire GYA and if bears experience 
unsustainable mortality levels as a result of leaving Yellowstone 
National Park in search of alternative foods to cutthroat trout, this 
trend will be detected and addressed.

L. Army Cutworm Moths

    Issue 1--Most comments we received about army cutworm moths 
addressed the proposed rule's lack of a discussion about the impacts of 
global climate change and pesticide use on the moths. Some commenters 
believe that we should analyze the impacts of human recreation on 
grizzly bear use of army cutworm moth sites and that identified sites 
should be protected from heavy recreation and development.
    Response--The final rule contains a discussion of the potential 
effects of global climate change and pesticides on army cutworm moths. 
The Study Team is sponsoring research on the geospatial prediction of 
army cutworm moth sites that will help managers identify sites that are 
potentially exposed to human recreational use. It is highly unlikely 
that any of the high-elevation sites used by the moths, all of which 
are on public lands, will be exposed to development.

M. Availability of Ungulates

    Issue 1--Some commenters noted that we failed to consider the 
multiple factors that may affect the availability of ungulate carcasses 
to grizzly bears in the future. These include brucellosis control and 
management plan impacts on the availability of elk and bison, the 
potential for chronic wasting disease to afflict elk populations, 
competition with wolves at carcasses, displacement of female grizzlies 
with cubs, loss of winter habitat and migration routes due to human 
housing trends, and fewer carcasses available to grizzlies in the 
spring due to milder winters.
    Response--The final rule contains a discussion of all of these 
issues.
    Issue 2 --One commenter noted that we failed to consider the large 
declines of the northern Yellowstone elk population and how or if this 
may affect the grizzly bear population.
    Response--The northern elk herd declined from about 17,000 elk in 
1995 to about 8,000 elk in 2005. The decline has been attributed to a 
variety of factors including severe winters, drought, hunter harvest, 
and increased predation on elk calves by grizzly bears, black bears, 
and wolves (Vucetich et al. 2005, pp. 266-268; Barber et al. 2005, pp. 
42-43). The grizzly bear population has continued to increase at 4 to 7 
percent per year during this time period, meaning there is no 
detectable cause and effect relationship between the elk population 
decline and the health of the grizzly population.

N. Hunting

    Issue 1--Many commenters were concerned that the Yellowstone 
population cannot sustain additional human-caused mortality and that 
this will lead to a decline in the population and eventually to their 
extinction.
    Response--Because the revised sustainable mortality limits for 
independent males and females include mortalities from all sources 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 6-7), including hunting, 
and are applied ecosystem-wide within the Conservation Strategy 
Management Area (Figure 1), hunting should never threaten the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Hunting is a discretionary 
mortality source and will occur only if the mortality limits from all 
causes have not been exceeded (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 
31).
    Issue 2--Some commenters requested that we discuss the potentially 
negative impacts on grizzly bear population dynamics that can be caused 
by hunting, particularly when large males are targeted.
    Response--When large males are removed from the population, new 
male bears may move into an area and kill resident females' cubs 
(Swenson et al. 1997b, p. 450). This process of sexually-selected 
infanticide has been documented in Scandinavia (Swenson et al. 1997b, 
p. 450). However, the only study of sexually-selected infanticide 
conducted in North America concluded that a limited hunting season 
under a sustainable mortality regime does not decrease cub survival 
(McLellan 2005, p. 146). This issue is still being debated in the 
scientific community. For more discussion about this issue, please see 
Issue 2 under subheading A in the Summary of Peer Review Comments 
section below. Because hunting in the Yellowstone ecosystem will be 
limited, it is unlikely to have an impact on the population dynamics of 
the Yellowstone ecosystem population.
    Issue 3--Many commenters are opposed to sport hunting of any kind 
and believe such practices to be barbaric, unnecessary, and unethical.
    Response--While we respect the values and opinions of all 
commenters, we are required by law to make decisions based on the best 
available science. As such, the various values that people hold about 
sport hunting are outside the scope of our decision-making authority. 
The Study Team has established sustainable mortality limits for the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population that ensure that hunting will not 
threaten the overall status of the

[[Page 14893]]

population (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 5-9).
    Issue 4--One commenter noted that hunting mortality would not be 
compensatory, because it would take place mostly in Wilderness Areas 
rather than developed areas, where most human-caused mortalities occur.
    Response--Hunting will always be a source of compensatory mortality 
for the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS because all hunting mortalities 
will fall within the sustainable mortality limits established by the 
Study Team and the Strategy. Hunting permits will not be issued by the 
States if mortality limits are exceeded.
    Response--One commenter suggested that we research the effects of 
hunting on grizzly bear/human conflicts.
    Response--We agree that it would be useful to compare grizzly bear/
human conflicts before and after the implementation of a hunting season 
to demonstrate its effects on the frequency of grizzly bear/human 
conflicts. The Study Team and State agencies collect data on grizzly 
bear/human conflicts, and will continue to do so after delisting. These 
data are reported and displayed spatially in the Study Team's Annual 
Report. If the effects of any change in the frequency, location, or 
nature of grizzly bear/human conflicts are detectable, the data will 
indicate these changes.

O. Disease

    Issue 1--Most comments we received that mentioned disease did so in 
the context of increased susceptibility to diseases as a result of 
genetic isolation and are discussed below in the genetic concerns 
section. Some commenters referenced the 2005 outbreak of parvovirus in 
the Yellowstone wolf population and suggested that, because this 
outbreak was not anticipated, we should have a plan to manage a 
potential epidemic disease in bears.
    Response--Approximately 10 percent of the Yellowstone grizzly 
population is currently tracked using radio collars. The Study Team 
examines all bears captured for research or management purposes, and 
performs post mortem examinations on the carcasses of dead bears. If a 
disease outbreak were to occur, it would be identified promptly. Due to 
the lack of evidence that diseases and parasites play any significant 
role in grizzly bear population dynamics in the GYA (see Factor C 
below), we do not view developing a management plan to respond to a 
potential outbreak as necessary.

P. Human-caused Mortality, Poaching, Grizzly Bear/Human Conflicts, and 
Information and Education Programs

    Issue 1--Several commenters were concerned that poaching would 
increase without the deterrent of prosecution under the Act. Many more 
questioned how much enforcement would occur after delisting and whether 
the States had the infrastructure or the desire to pursue poaching 
investigations. Some commenters noted that the number of State 
enforcement officers is lower than Federal enforcement officers, and 
that enforcement would be reduced under State management.
    Response--The States are committed to prosecuting illegal grizzly 
bear kills, as per the State plans (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, p. 15), and they have the legal authorities to do so under State 
law (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 72-76). There are no data 
to suggest that the jurisdiction under which poaching is prosecuted 
affects the willingness of poachers to commit the crime.
    State and Federal conservation officers are usually cross-
commissioned, so that Federal conservation officers cite State law 
violators when they encounter them, and vice versa. National Park 
Service rangers would have little occasion to encounter State 
conservation law violators, but State conservation officers, our 
special wildlife agents, Tribal conservation officers, and USDA Forest 
Service enforcement officers will continue to cooperate in the 
investigation of poaching incidents.
    Issue 2--We received numerous comments suggesting how and why we 
should focus on reducing grizzly bear/hunter conflicts. Many thought we 
should expand efforts to reduce grizzly bear/hunter conflicts with 
black bear and elk hunters either through I & E or stricter 
regulations. Some commenters recommended that all hunters be required 
to carry bear spray and hang their meat immediately when hunting in 
grizzly bear territory. Several commenters believed that the practice 
of black bear baiting, (currently permitted in Idaho and Wyoming) 
should be illegal in all suitable grizzly bear habitat or outlawed 
entirely.
    Response--The Strategy prioritizes outreach and education to 
minimize grizzly bear/human conflicts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 57-62). The State plans also contain direction on ways to 
minimize grizzly bear/hunter conflicts (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly 
Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, p. 15; MTFWP 2002, pp. 24, 62; WGFD 
2005, pp. 31-35). Although the States do not currently require hunters 
to carry pepper spray, it is strongly encouraged in hunter education 
courses and other educational materials. Elk hunters in Grand Teton 
National Park are required to carry bear spray, and this may prove to 
be a research opportunity to quantify how much, if any, this 
requirement reduces grizzly bear conflicts with elk hunters.
    Montana does not allow black bear baiting in any areas and black 
bear baiting inside the PCA is not allowed in Idaho or Wyoming 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 11). In areas outside the PCA in Idaho and 
Wyoming, State wildlife agencies will monitor grizzly bear mortality 
associated with black bear hunting to respond to problems if they 
occur. The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has increased while 
black bear baiting has been allowed in Idaho and Wyoming outside the 
PCA, so it cannot be identified as a significant factor that will 
threaten the recovered status of the Yellowstone DPS.
    Issue 3--One commenter noted that we must consider the impacts of 
increased poaching in habitat surrounding areas of high-density oil and 
gas production.
    Response--Poaching violations may increase in the vicinity of 
resource extraction boom towns, and the magnitude of increase relative 
to population growth is greater at industrial sites than at 
agricultural or recreational sites (Berger and Daneke 1988, pp. 285-
287). State agencies are aware of this potential and will manage 
accordingly through increased Information and Education efforts and 
enforcement near boom towns.
    Issue 4--To prevent grizzly bear/human conflicts before they occur, 
many commenters recommended that proper sanitation and garbage storage 
be implemented in all occupied habitat and, preferably, in all suitable 
habitat. These preventative measures should be in place before 
delisting occurs and are especially important in light of projected 
increases in human population and private land development over the 
next several decades.
    Response--The USDA Forest Service currently has food storage orders 
in most Service-defined suitable habitat, and food storage orders will 
be implemented in all suitable habitat found within National Forests by 
2008. For a complete map of when and where food storage orders will 
take effect on National Forest lands in the GYA, please see http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm. 
Extensive collaborative efforts involving State

[[Page 14894]]

wildlife agencies, NGOs, waste management companies, and private 
landowners to improve garbage storage and to avoid future grizzly bear/
human conflicts on private lands will continue (Servheen et al. 2004, 
pp. 6-7). Over two-thirds of the suggested budgets created by the 
States and Federal agencies responsible for managing the grizzly bear 
post-delisting are for managing grizzly bear/human conflicts and 
Information and Education efforts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, 
p. 154). This level of commitment by responsible agencies demonstrates 
their understanding that I & E efforts and conflict management and 
prevention are crucial elements of maintaining a healthy Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population.
    Issue 5--Some commenters believe that aversive conditioning, not 
management removals, should be emphasized when conflicts with livestock 
occur or when conflicts are the result of human attractants.
    Response--The Federal and State management agencies emphasize 
preventative measures and aversive conditioning whenever possible 
(Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 15-
16; MTFWP 2002, pp. 46-49; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 59-
60; WGFD 2005, pp. 28, 31). Management removal is only used as a last 
resort.
    Issue 6--Some commenters thought that grizzly bear conflicts with 
livestock grazing on public lands should always be settled in favor of 
the grizzly bear.
    Response--Inside the PCA, numerous sheep allotments have been 
retired or relocated to other, less-conflict-prone areas to accommodate 
grizzly bears (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 170). As of 2006, there 
are only two remaining active sheep allotments inside the PCA (USDA 
Forest Service 2006a, p. 168). In areas inside the PCA, grizzly bears 
involved in any livestock conflict will be given a second chance and 
relocated at least once before removal is used (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p. 59). Management of grizzly bear conflicts with 
livestock grazing on public lands outside of the PCA will be guided by 
the respective State wildlife agency's grizzly bear management plan and 
will remain within the sustainable mortality limits established for the 
Conservation Strategy Management Area. As such, this source of 
mortality will not threaten the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.

Q. Adequacy of Regulatory Mechanisms

    Issue 1--Several commenters noted that the Strategy, the State 
plans, and the revised mortality methods cannot be considered adequate 
regulatory mechanisms because they are not legally enforceable. 
Numerous commenters also noted that the habitat standards described in 
the Strategy will be unenforceable due to the 2005 USDA Forest Service 
Planning Regulations, which revoked the use of ``standards'' in Forest 
Land Management Plans (70 FR 1023).
    Response--By signing the Strategy, responsible agencies demonstrate 
that they are committed to implementing the features within their 
discretion and authority. The Strategy provides adequate assurance that 
the participating agencies will implement the agreement, which is 
sufficient to meet the reasonableness required for regulatory 
mechanisms. Furthermore, the USDA Forest Service finalized the Forest 
Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYA 
National Forests and has incorporated this Amendment into the affected 
National Forests' Land Management Plans (USDA Forest Service 2006a, 
2006b, p. 4). This amendment was completed pursuant to the 1982 
planning regulations and supported by full Environmental Impact 
Statement analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act and 
would not be invalidated by a revision of the Forest Plan pursuant to 
the 2005 planning regulations. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National 
Parks appended the habitat standards to their Park Superintendent's 
Compendiums, thereby assuring that these National Parks would manage 
habitat in accordance with the habitat standards (Grand Teton National 
Park 2006, p. 1; Yellowstone National Park 2006, p. 44). These issues, 
and the use and impact of the various forest planning regulations (1982 
and 2005), are discussed under Factor D below.
    Issue 2--One commenter noted that the States of Wyoming, Montana, 
and Idaho do not currently have sufficient State laws to prevent 
excessive mortality. Some commenters suggested that the Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Committee petition Congress for legally binding, habitat 
protection for the PCA as a prerequisite for delisting, resulting in a 
piece of legislation that provides permanent, Federal, legal protection 
for the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS similar to that afforded to bald 
eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) by the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 
1940.
    Response--State agencies have the authority and the necessary State 
laws to limit human-caused mortality (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 72-76) and have committed to do so by signing the Strategy 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 13).
    Issue 3--Some commenters noted that because of the 2005 Roadless 
Rule (70 FR 25653, May 13, 2005), Inventoried Roadless Areas cannot be 
considered secure habitat protected by adequate regulatory mechanisms.
    Response--The State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area 
Management Rule (70 FR 25654, May 13, 2005) that replaced the Roadless 
Area Conservation Rule (``Roadless Rule'') (66 FR 3244, January 12, 
2001) was overturned September 19, 2006. Management of roadless areas 
must comply with the provisions of the 2001 Roadless Rule. Such areas 
are protected by adequate regulatory mechanisms. For further 
discussion, see Factor D below and our response to Issue 3 under 
subheading H above.
    Issue 4--Some commenters noted that the proposed rule failed to 
include significant habitat on the Wind River Reservation. These 
commenters recommended that the final rule recognize the Eastern 
Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes as active participants and discuss 
their plans to create grizzly bear management plans for the Wind River 
Reservation.
    Response--The Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribes of 
the Wind River Reservation manage wildlife within their Federally 
recognized boundaries (see Figure 1 above). Both of these tribes have 
been invited to participate as representatives on the Coordinating 
Committee under the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 
9). They are working with us to develop a Grizzly Bear Management Plan 
specific to their lands. Less than three percent of all suitable 
habitat will be affected by Tribal management decisions. We anticipate 
that their management plan will encourage grizzly bear occupancy in 
areas of suitable habitat on the Wind River Reservation. We have 
recommended that the Tribal Grizzly Bear Management Plan (currently 
being drafted) include grizzly bear occupancy of the Wind River 
Mountains on the Reservation, as this will allow grizzly bears 
continued access to high-elevation whitebark pine and army cutworm 
moths in these mountains.
    Issue 5--Some commenters noted that case history (Federation of Fly 
Fishers v. Daley, 131 F. Supp. 2d 1158, 1167-68 (N.D. Cal. 2000)) 
suggests that the Strategy cannot be considered an adequate regulatory 
mechanism because ``no reliable source for its future funding'' exists.
    Response--It is not possible to predict with certainty future 
governmental

[[Page 14895]]

appropriations, nor can we commit or require Federal funds beyond those 
appropriated (31 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1)(A)), but by signing the Strategy, 
State and Federal management agencies have committed to implement the 
protective features that are within their discretion and authority, and 
to seek adequate funding for implementation. The Strategy provides 
adequate assurance that the participating agencies will implement the 
agreement, which is sufficient to meet the reasonableness required for 
regulatory mechanisms. We are authorized to provide grants to States to 
assist in monitoring the status of recovered species under section 6(d) 
of the Act.
    Issue 6--Some commenters disagreed with our assertion that the NEPA 
will adequately protect habitat outside of the PCA regarding road 
construction and resource extraction. They noted that reliance on NEPA 
or ``sensitive species'' designation to adequately protect suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA is not adequate because of the 2005 USDA 
Forest Service Planning regulations, which eliminated species' 
viability requirements.
    Response--We believe that the potential effects on grizzly bears of 
any proposed projects on public land will be fully and adequately 
considered through the requirements of NEPA. The USDA Forest Service is 
designating the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS a ``species of concern'' 
upon delisting (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). This designation 
means that the GYA National Forests must ``* * * provide the 
appropriate ecological conditions (i.e., habitats) necessary to 
continue to provide for a recovered population'' (USDA Forest Service 
2006b, p. 26). For further discussion of the USDA Forest Service 
Planning regulations, see Factor D below.
    Issue 7--Some commenters disputed the adequacy of State management 
plans because none of the plans contain clearly defined standards or 
methods of enforcing compliance of their population goals, and because 
States cannot compel Federal land management agencies to manage their 
lands in accordance with the State plans or the Strategy.
    Response--It is true that States cannot compel Federal agencies to 
manage their lands in accordance with their State plans. However, as 
participants in the Strategy, both State and Federal agencies have 
agreed to carry out all provisions of the Strategy, including the 
appended State plans.
    Issue 8--Some commenters expressed concern about the 
decentralization of grizzly bear monitoring and management efforts, 
believing that it would be confusing and challenging to effectively 
implement monitoring and management efforts across multiple 
jurisdictions without the cohesive force of the Act.
    Response--All monitoring, reporting results, and management actions 
are centralized under the Coordinating Committee and the Study Team, as 
described in the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 25-
67), which all the State and Federal agencies have signed and agreed to 
implement. The agencies responsible for managing the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population upon delisting helped develop the Strategy and 
have been effectively cooperating and communicating with each other 
about grizzly bear management decisions for the last 25 years.

R. Genetic Concerns, Isolation, and Connectivity With Other Grizzly 
Bear Populations

    Issue 1--Numerous commenters expressed concern that, due to the 
isolation of the Yellowstone population, we should maintain an 
effective population size of at least 500 individuals to ensure long-
term viability. Therefore, many commenters believe that we should set a 
population objective of 2,000 to 3,000 bears in the GYA or reestablish 
connectivity among all grizzly bear populations in the Lower 48 States 
(so that the total population size is approximately 2,000) before 
delisting occurs.
    Response--Although the effective population size (i.e., the number 
of breeding individuals in an idealized population that would show the 
same amount of dispersion of allele frequencies under random genetic 
drift or the same amount of inbreeding as the population under 
consideration) of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is lower than 
recommended for evolutionary success in the absence of management in 
published literature on evolutionary theory (e.g., Franklin 1980, 
p.136), the genetic program for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
will effectively address future genetic concerns (Hedrick 1995, p. 
1004; Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). As Miller and Waits (2003, p. 
4338) recommend, we will continue efforts to reestablish natural 
connectivity, but our partners will transplant one to two effective 
migrants per generation if no movement or genetic exchange is 
documented by 2020 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 37).
    Issue 2--Several commenters believe that the reduced heterozygosity 
of the Yellowstone population increases their vulnerability to disease 
epidemics due to a likely decrease in allelic diversity at the major 
histocompatibility complex locus. They noted that because the 
Yellowstone DPS has been isolated for the last 100 years and has not 
been challenged with any epidemic diseases, disease-resistant genetic 
material may have decreased, thereby ensuring that if an epidemic does 
occur, it will be severe.
    Response--We do not know that allelic diversity has declined at the 
major histocompatibility complex locus in the GYA grizzly population. 
Because overall allelic diversity has declined some over the 20th 
century (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4337), it may have declined at the 
major histocompatibility complex locus too. We do not know that the GYA 
population has not been challenged by epidemic diseases in the past 100 
years. We can say that epidemic diseases are not known to have caused 
high mortality in any grizzly or brown bear population, including the 
Kodiak Island, Alaska population, in which heterozygosity, and 
presumably allelic diversity, is much lower than in the GYA population. 
The Study Team monitors the health of GYA grizzlies by examining all 
bears captured each year (approximately 60-80 captures per year) and 
all known mortalities. If disease or an epidemic occurs, it will be 
detected promptly and responded to appropriately.
    Issue 3--Some commenters noted that relatively modest decreases in 
heterozygosity values (the proportion in an individual of loci that 
have more than one allele) correspond to much larger decreases in 
allelic diversity (due to inbreeding) and that the proposed rule does 
not contain an adequate discussion of this effect or its conservation 
implications. In other words, they believe that a population could be 
experiencing declines in allelic diversity that would not be detected 
if the only measure of genetic diversity was heterozygosity, and that 
we should evaluate the biological and conservation implications of a 
reduction in allelic diversity, if this is occurring in the Yellowstone 
DPS.
    Response--Although allelic diversity has declined in the GYA 
population over the 20th century, the decline was not as precipitous as 
previously anticipated (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). As measured by 
Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4337), allelic richness decreased from 
approximately 5.89 alleles per locus at the beginning of the 20th 
century (1910s) to 5.50 at the end of the century (1990s). Considering 
all of the information available that

[[Page 14896]]

examines heterozygosity and allelic diversity of grizzly bears in the 
GYA, Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338) conclude that ``the viability of 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is unlikely to be compromised 
by genetic factors in the near future * * *'' and that ``* * * one to 
two effective migrants per generation from the NCDE to the YE 
(Yellowstone ecosystem) is an appropriate level of gene flow.'' We 
considered these conclusions pertinent to the genetic management of the 
DPS and incorporated them into the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p. 37).
    Issue 4--One commenter noted that our statement in Appendix D of 
the Strategy that ``current levels of genetic diversity * * * are not 
resulting in deleterious effects'' is not supported by the literature 
and that Miller and Waits' (2003, p. 4335) study was not designed to 
answer this question. Another commenter noted that deleterious effects 
to the Yellowstone population as a result of genetic isolation have 
already been documented by Dr. Michael Gilpin in his guest commentary 
in the Bozeman Chronicle newspaper on January 23, 2006, and that the 
level of inbreeding in the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is 
analogous to mating with first cousins.
    Response--Indicators of fitness in the Yellowstone population 
demonstrate that the current levels of genetic heterozygosity are 
adequate, as evidenced by measures such as litter size, little evidence 
of disease, high survivorship, an equal sex ratio, normal body size and 
physical characteristics, and an increasing population. These 
indicators of fitness will be monitored annually, in perpetuity. The 
assertion by Dr. Gilpin that grizzly bears in the GYA are experiencing 
inbreeding coefficients of 12.5 percent, equivalent to mating with 
their first cousins, is incorrect (Miller 2006). Dr. Gilpin did not 
cite a source for his reported inbreeding coefficient for GYA bears, 
and we are unaware of this figure being reported elsewhere. Miller 
(2006) estimated an inbreeding coefficient for the GYA population of 
approximately 6 percent over the last 10 generations, not 12.5 percent 
over a single generation, as implied by a scenario in which first 
cousins mate with each other. The very low rate of loss of 
heterozygosity over the 20th century, in combination with the 
introduction of 1 or 2 effective migrants per generation (naturally or 
through augmentation), will ensure long-term genetic viability, and the 
recovered status, of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS (Miller and Waits 
2003, p. 4338).
    Issue 5--A few commenters believed that we failed to consider the 
relationship between isolation and elevated extinction risk. Extinction 
of isolated populations can occur simply as a function of their 
isolation and habitat size or due to increases in the magnitude of 
population fluctuations resulting from environmental and demographic 
stochasticity. They believe that we should fully consider these sources 
of stochasticity on the extinction risk of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
DPS.
    Response--This comment refers to PVAs and questions whether the 
persistence of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will be 
significantly impacted by the effects of environmental and demographic 
stochasticity due to its isolation. The Service has considered 
population viability in considerable depth (Boyce et al. 2001, p. 2). 
Boyce et al. (2001, p. 1) concluded that the available data ``provide 
optimistic projections of the likelihood of persistence for grizzly 
bears in the GYE; a 99.2% probability that the GYE grizzly bear 
population will persist for 100 years.''
    Boyce et al. (2001, pp. 30-31) discuss the implications of several 
types of stochastic (random) events on the likelihood of persistence 
for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Catastrophes were believed 
merely to represent extreme environmental events that had a low 
probability of occurrence and were unpredictable. They believe that 
there are insufficient data on grizzly bear genetics to understand or 
model genetic stochasticity, such as inbreeding depression or genetic 
drift. Boyce et al. (2001, p. 30) believe that demographic 
stochasticity, such as chance events associated with births and deaths, 
only affects viability when populations are very small (e.g., 30 to 50 
bears). Similarly, Harris et al. (2006, p. 50) found that demographic 
stochasticity had little effect on the growth rate estimates unless 
population size fell below 100 females.
    Environmental stochasticity is generally thought to be more 
important than demographic stochasticity when calculating extinction 
risk (Lande 1988, p. 1457). In light of this, Boyce et al. (2001, pp. 
31-32, 34) recommend that the best possible analysis of population 
viability for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population would be based on 
relationships between grizzly bear vital rates (survival and 
reproduction) and habitat factors (a habitat-based PVA). However, the 
range of possible outcomes of such a modeling exercise, based on 
compound uncertainties, provides little management value and minimal 
confidence about future viability. Instead, the Strategy will ensure 
monitoring of multiple indices and use an adaptive management system 
that allows rapid feedback about the success of management actions 
designed to address the maintenance of a viable population.
    Because it is generally accepted that isolated populations are at 
greater risk of extinction over the long-term, we will continue efforts 
to reestablish natural connectivity between the GYA and other grizzly 
bear ecosystems. Although natural connectivity is the best possible 
scenario, isolation does not constitute a long-term threat to the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population because of intensive monitoring and 
adaptive management strategies that will remain in effect post-
delisting.
    Issue 6--One commenter requested that we undertake an in-depth 
discussion of what inbreeding depression is and the three ways in which 
it is manifested: (1) The unmasking of recessive, lethal alleles; (2) 
unmasking of partially recessive, deleterious alleles; and (3) 
decreases in genetic diversity; and what conservation implications 
these have for the Yellowstone DPS.
    Response--This issue is discussed in the Supplemental Information 
Appended to the Recovery Plan, its supporting literature, and the 
literature cited in this final rule. Both the Strategy and this final 
rule recognize that declines in genetic diversity due to inbreeding 
effects are expected in isolated populations (Ralls et al. 1986, p. 35; 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 37). We agree that inbreeding 
depression has the potential to negatively affect the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS if genetic diversity declines below current levels. 
For this reason, we have reviewed relevant literature about this topic 
(Ralls and Ballou 1983, pp. 147-179; Allendorf and Leary 1986, pp. 72-
76; Ralls et al. 1986, pp. 35-37; Lande 1988, pp. 1455-1456, 1460; 
Roelke et al. 1993, pp. 344-348; Hunter 1996, pp. 88-90; Wang et al. 
1999, pp. 168-176) and, upon the recommendation of Miller and Waits 
(2003, p. 4338), our partners will translocate grizzly bears from other 
populations into the GYA to maintain current levels of genetic 
diversity if natural movement of grizzly bears into the GYA from other 
areas is not documented by 2020.
    Issue 7--We received numerous comments regarding the plan to 
augment the Yellowstone DPS with grizzly bears from the NCDE population 
to address genetic concerns should connectivity between these two

[[Page 14897]]

ecosystems not occur naturally by 2020. Some of these comments 
pertained to the feasibility of transplanting bears from the NCDE to 
Yellowstone. These commenters noted that, based on augmentation 
experiments in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, we may have to move eight 
bears to get two to stay and reproduce successfully (i.e., become 
effective migrants). Some commenters also questioned whether survival 
of augmented bears would be affected by interactions with other grizzly 
bears and/or a bear's willingness to stay in a new environment instead 
of one it was highly familiar with. Finally, some commenters suggested 
that high mortality in the NCDE may preclude this option, because 
moving bears from the NCDE to Yellowstone would count as a mortality in 
the NCDE ecosystem.
    Response--The feasibility of translocating grizzly bears for 
genetic augmentation is not untested. Translocation has been 
successfully employed in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (Kasworm et al., in 
press, p. 6). Kasworm et al. (in press, pp. 6, 8) were only able to 
document successful reproduction by one of the three bears that 
remained in the area after being translocated; confirmation of 
successful reproduction events for the other two bears was not possible 
because they lacked reference genetic material. Any bear that is 
translocated from the NCDE into the GYA will be radio-collared and 
monitored to determine whether it remains in the area and survives. As 
in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, genetic analysis will be used in 
subsequent years to confirm whether a transplanted bear has 
successfully reproduced in the GYA. The exact number of translocated 
migrants into the GYA will be determined through these monitoring 
activities. Any bear translocated from the NCDE to the GYA would be 
counted as an NCDE mortality. Please see our response to Issue 12 in 
this section below for more discussion about the adequacy of the NCDE 
to serve as a source population. Augmentation in the GYA may not be 
necessary if natural immigration occurs before 2020.
    Issue 8--One commenter questioned our use of the ``one-migrant-per-
generation rule'' and believed that our definition of ``effective 
migrant'' was incorrect. Another commenter believed we failed to 
consider the effects of other evolutionary processes (mutation, 
directional, or stabilizing selection) on the one-migrant-per-
generation rule. Both recommended more research to answer whether the 
one-migrant-per-generation rule was appropriate and adequate to address 
genetic concerns for the Yellowstone DPS.
    Response--Our recommendation to augment the population with one 
migrant per generation is based on Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338), 
who conclude that one to two effective migrants per generation is 
appropriate to maintain current levels of genetic diversity. ``The 
viability of the Yellowstone grizzly population is unlikely to be 
compromised by genetic factors in the near future as we hypothesized 
based on modern samples. Rather, the genetic consequences of inbreeding 
and isolation are likely to transpire over longer time periods (decades 
or centuries)'' (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). Regarding our 
definition of an ``effective migrant'' as one which remains in the 
area, survives, and successfully reproduces, we recognize that a more 
complete definition involves measures of relatedness between the source 
and recipient population, as well as other genetic measures (Wang 2004, 
p. 335). If translocation is required in the future, our partners will 
consult with geneticists and use the best available science to 
determine how many bears must be translocated from the source 
population to equal one effective migrant to the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear DPS. Regarding the effects of other selective forces on the one-
migrant-per-generation rule, Wang (2004, p. 341) concluded that, ``In 
general, the one-migrant-per-generation rule is robust to the 
systematic forces of selection and mutation.''
    Issue 9--Most commenters preferred the idea of natural connectivity 
over artificial augmentation and noted that connectivity is a vital 
component of recovery and should be restored before delisting can 
occur. Numerous commenters wanted population connectivity re-
established with the NCDE and Bitterroot ecosystem and the Bitterroot 
population reintroduction implemented. Conversely, some commenters 
supported the augmentation plan because they viewed it as effectively 
nullifying the need to establish natural population connectivity.
    Response--We prefer natural reconnection as well and are actively 
involved in efforts to maintain and expand the opportunities for 
grizzly bears to move into and out of the Yellowstone ecosystem via the 
linkage zone program. However, we cannot control bear movement and as 
discussed in the final rule (see Behavior section above), they have 
limited dispersal mechanisms. By working to maintain current movement 
opportunities while implementing conservation actions to recover 
populations in other grizzly bear ecosystems, we anticipate that bears 
will naturally reestablish themselves between recovery ecosystems and 
achieve connectivity. We agree that the establishment of a grizzly bear 
population in the Bitterroot Recovery Zone would contribute to recovery 
of the grizzly bear in the Lower 48 States (Boyce 2000, p. 6-243). 
However, the lack of natural connectivity will not threaten the 
Yellowstone DPS because of the genetic management plan described in the 
Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 37).
    Issue 10--Several commenters objected to relocating bears from the 
NCDE to the GYA to address genetic concerns because it would violate 
the Act's vision of ``self-sustaining populations,'' ``recovery of 
populations in the wild,'' and ``natural recovery.'' They cited the 
need for augmentation as evidence that the Yellowstone DPS is not truly 
recovered.
    Response--The Act does not require a ``hands off'' approach as a 
prerequisite for delisting. In fact, the presence of adequate 
regulatory mechanisms to ensure that appropriate management and 
monitoring activities continue is required before delisting can occur. 
For the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS to remain unthreatened in all or a 
significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future, active 
management is necessary to limit mortality, provide adequate habitat, 
respond to grizzly bear/human conflicts, and maintain genetic diversity 
either through natural connectivity or through translocation. In this 
way, the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS is a ``conservation-reliant 
species'' (Scott et al. 2005, p. 383). Augmentation is proposed as a 
precautionary measure based on the recommendations of Miller and Waits 
(2003, p. 4338) to maintain current levels of genetic diversity, should 
grizzly bear movement into the GYA not occur over the next 20 years.
    Issue 11--One commenter suggested that we analyze the benefits and 
disadvantages of genetic augmentation before concluding that benefits 
outweigh potential negatives.
    Response--The recommendation to either allow bears to move into the 
Yellowstone ecosystem or to use augmentation in lieu of natural 
movement was made by genetics experts in Miller and Waits (2003, p. 
4338). They detail the biological and genetic rationale for this 
recommendation, and we agree with their analysis and conclusions. 
Should future genetic data challenge the conclusions of Miller and 
Waits (2003, p. 4338), the Study Team and the Coordinating Committee 
will rely upon the best available scientific

[[Page 14898]]

information to guide management of the Yellowstone DPS.
    Issue 12--A few commenters noted that our plan to augment the 
Yellowstone DPS with one to two bears per generation was flawed because 
it violated a key assumption that the source population is infinite in 
numbers. They believe that the proposed rule also overlooked the 
possibility that the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS could go extinct as a 
result of the NCDE going extinct; and furthermore, we failed to 
consider the genetic issues affecting the NCDE, which may itself be an 
isolated population from Canada, due to ongoing and increasing 
development just north of the border.
    Response--We make no assumption that the NCDE or any other 
population is infinite in numbers. The NCDE is not genetically isolated 
from areas in Canada, and male grizzly bear movement across Highway 3 
has been documented (Proctor 2003, p. 24). The NCDE population has 
higher allelic diversity and heterozygosity values than the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS (Paetkau et al. 1998, p. 421) and its relative 
proximity and short time of separation from the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear DPS make it an ideal genetic source population. The NCDE 
population is larger than previously thought, with more than 500 
individuals (Kendall 2006), and the portion of the population that is 
located in the North Fork of the Flathead Valley just north of the 
United States/Canadian border is the highest density grizzly bear 
population anywhere in North America outside of Alaska (LeFranc et al. 
1987, pp. 52-53; McLellan 1994, p. 21; Mowat et al. 2005, p. 41). We 
will continue to cooperate with Canadian wildlife and land management 
agencies to promote grizzly bear conservation and to mitigate projects 
in Canada that have the potential to negatively impact U.S. grizzly 
bear populations.
    The placement of bears into the Yellowstone by augmentation would 
be a precautionary approach to assure that genetic issues are not a 
factor in the survival of the Yellowstone population. As stated by 
Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338)--``The viability of the Yellowstone 
grizzly population is unlikely to be compromised by genetic factors in 
the near future.'' Although we view the NCDE as the most likely source 
population, many other appropriate grizzly bear populations in Canada 
could serve as source populations, should the NCDE population not be 
adequate for some unforeseen reason. We have previously cooperated with 
international partners to translocate bears from the North Fork of the 
Flathead River in Canada to the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem (Kasworm et al. 
1998, p. 148).

S. Comments About The States' Management Approach

    Issue 1--Numerous commenters expressed concern over the management 
approach that will be taken by the States of Montana, Idaho, and 
Wyoming. In general, commenters questioned the desire of the States to 
manage the population in the best interest of grizzly bears, and cited 
the historical and current anti-predator attitudes frequently displayed 
by residents and State wildlife agencies and commissions, as evidence 
that State management of the Yellowstone DPS could result in severe 
decline.
    Response--The States are committed to manage grizzlies in 
accordance with the Strategy and its appended State grizzly bear 
management plans. By signing the Strategy, all management agencies have 
agreed to adhere to the sustainable mortality limits.
    Issue 2--Some commenters noted that the head of WGFD has said that 
Wyoming intends to manage the population down to the minimum allowed by 
the Strategy (500 bears) and other WGFD Commissioners have said they 
plan to push for an increase in allowable mortality from the recently 
revised 9 percent to 12 percent. They note that four Wyoming counties, 
which encompass most grizzly bear habitat in Wyoming, have outlawed 
grizzlies within their borders and asserted that their State-authorized 
land use planning legislation trumps the bear management 
responsibilities of WGFD.
    Response--In response to concerns about the ordinances, 
regulations, or resolutions passed by county governments in Wyoming 
regarding the presence or distribution of grizzly bears in these 
counties, we requested a letter from the Wyoming Attorney General's 
office clarifying the authority of counties in Wyoming to legislate in 
the area of grizzly bear management. The Wyoming Attorney General's 
office's response, dated August 8, 2006, states on p. 2, `` `* * * as 
an arm of the State, the county has only those powers expressly granted 
by the constitution or statutory law or reasonably implied from the 
powers granted.' Laramie Co. Comm'rs v. Dunnegan, 884 P.2d 35, 40 (Wyo. 
1994). Neither the Wyoming Constitution nor the legislature has 
provided the counties in Wyoming with any expressed or implied 
authority over management of grizzly bears. Therefore, counties lack 
the authority to enact any ordinances(s), regulation(s), or 
resolution(s) which would affect the (Wyoming Game and Fish) 
Commission's Grizzly Bear Plan on mortality or distribution of grizzly 
bears in Wyoming'' (Martin 2006).
    This letter clearly indicates that Wyoming county governments have 
no authority to affect grizzly bear management in county ordinances and 
have no legal standing or impact on commitments made by the Wyoming 
Game and Fish Commission.
    Wyoming has committed to the revised (9 percent) thresholds as per 
their signature on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved 
Strategy. Changes in mortality limits cannot be completed unilaterally 
by Wyoming, or any one management agency, but instead must be based on 
the best available science, and documented by a Study Team lead process 
that is opened to public comment and approved through a Coordinating 
Committee majority vote (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 63).

T. Lack of a Secure, Long-Term Funding Source

    Issue 1--A number of comments received maintained that, before 
delisting can occur, a long-term secure funding source must be 
obtained. They stated that this funding issue must be addressed to 
ensure that the extensive monitoring and management plans, as well as 
conflict prevention through I & E programs described in the Strategy, 
are carried out. Some commenters suggested that long-term funding 
security could be achieved by creating a trust fund as the Yellowstone 
Ecosystem Subcommittee has discussed at several meetings. Other 
commenters suggested that inadequate funding in any given year be a 
trigger for a Biology and Monitoring Review and potential relisting.
    Response--It is true that there is no guarantee of long-term 
funding for grizzly bear management by any of the States or the Federal 
Government. However, the funding issue remains whether the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS is delisted or not. It is not possible to predict 
future governmental appropriations, nor can we commit or require 
Federal funds beyond those appropriated (31 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1)(A)), but 
by signing the Strategy, responsible agencies demonstrate that they are 
committed to implementing the features within their discretion and 
authority, and to pursuing adequate funding. The Strategy provides 
adequate assurance that the participating agencies will implement the 
agreement, which is sufficient to meet the reasonableness

[[Page 14899]]

required for regulatory mechanisms. The creation of a trust fund has 
been explored by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, but would 
require the acquisition of an estimated $40 million to endow the fund.
    In response to these concerns, we have made inadequate funding in 
any given year a trigger for a Biology and Monitoring Review. The 
purpose of such a Review would be to determine whether the fiscal 
short-coming is a threat to the implementation of the Strategy to such 
an extent that it also threatened the long-term viability of the 
Yellowstone DPS.

U. Triggers for Relisting and Monitoring Plan

    Issue 1--Many commenters were uncomfortable with the process that 
could lead to relisting, fearing that the process would be slow, 
bureaucratic, or subject to political influence. Many recommended 
additional, clearly defined thresholds leading to immediate relisting, 
rather than merely to the first step in a long process that may lead to 
relisting (i.e., a Biology and Monitoring Review). Some recommended 
that we develop an emergency response process specifically designed for 
the Yellowstone population that gives us authority to bypass the 
traditional Act listing methods.
    Response--The listing procedures described in the Act allow prompt 
emergency listings if necessary. For instance, the desert tortoise was 
petitioned in May 1989 and listed on August 7, 1989, in an emergency 
listing rule (54 FR 32326, August 4, 1989). An emergency relisting can 
be pursued independently by the Service or in response to a 
recommendation by the Study Team or Coordinating Committee. This 
process is adequate to respond to a precipitous decline in the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS or a significant threat to its habitat in 
a timely manner and precludes the need for a specific trigger that 
would begin an emergency response process.
    Issue 2--Several commenters believe that because a decline in any 
of the four major foods represents a decrease in the GYA's carrying 
capacity, we should include threshold values for these food sources 
that either trigger a response action or plans to protect additional 
habitat.
    Response--Aside from the well-documented association between 
whitebark pine cone crop size and subsequent management actions on 
grizzly bears (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 432), we have not been able to 
detect any statistically significant relationships between abundance of 
the other three major foods and grizzly bear vital rates. Those foods 
have either fluctuated (e.g., ungulates, army cutworm moths), or 
declined (e.g., cutthroat trout), during the period when the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population was increasing at a rate between 4 
and 7 percent annually. Due to this natural annual variation in 
abundance and distribution, there is no known way to calculate minimum 
threshold values for grizzly bear foods. Instead, managers will use an 
adaptive management approach that addresses poor food years with 
responsive management actions, such as limiting grizzly bear mortality, 
increasing Information and Education efforts, and considering 
relisting, if appropriate.
    Issue 3--Several commenters believe we failed to address the issue 
of lag time between habitat degradation and loss, and changes in vital 
rates. They believe that the proposed rule relies almost exclusively on 
monitoring population parameters rather than habitat parameters to 
detect a future threat, and because of this time lag, we should include 
habitat thresholds that act as triggers for a Biology and Monitoring 
Review.
    Response--The Strategy commits the management agencies to intensive 
monitoring of all grizzly bear vital rates, and their relationship to 
changes in major foods and the levels and types of human activities in 
their habitat. This monitoring does not solely rely on vital rate 
monitoring to indirectly infer changes in habitat, but will produce 
annual results on any changes in habitat values, key food production, 
and possible disease in key foods. Please see our response to Issue 2 
in this subheading, above, for more information.
    Issue 4--Many commenters criticized our use of unduplicated counts 
of females with cubs-of-the-year to estimate population size. They 
suggested we should abandon this measure for a more reliable and 
accurate method because of the biases such as observer variability and 
differences in detection in different habitat types.
    Response--The Study Team reviewed the feasibility of several 
different population estimation methods (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study 
Team 2005, pp. 12-13, 17-31). Because of the high cost of DNA-based 
population surveys ($3.5 million to $5 million) and the lag between 
sampling and a resulting population estimate (3 years), annual use of 
DNA-based population surveys is not feasible or appropriate for our 
objectives of establishing annual population estimates and sustainable 
mortality limits. The Study Team rejected the idea of using capture-
mark-recapture techniques with the radio-collared sample of grizzly 
bears due to unreasonably large confidence intervals (Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 12).
    Because of the strict rule set used to collect females with cubs-
of-the-year data (Knight et al. 1995, p. 246), it is inherently 
conservative and tends to underestimate the number of females with 
cubs-of-the-year. The Study Team chose to use the Chao2 estimator to 
correct many of the biases associated with females with cubs-of-the-
year data concerning sighting heterogeneity (Keating et al. 2002, pp. 
170-172; Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 20). The Chao2 
estimator and the model averaging approach described in the Supplement 
to the Reassessing Methods Document (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study 
Team 2006, pp. 2-10) reflect the best available scientific method for 
calculating an annual population index and establishing biologically 
sustainable annual mortality limits for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population.
    Issue 5--Some commenters stated that a DNA-based survey would be a 
better monitoring method and that it would provide much more 
information about the population. One commenter noted that the proposed 
monitoring of genetic diversity does not specify the point at which 
population augmentation would be considered necessary. Another believed 
that the proposed monitoring of genetic diversity would not be 
sufficient to detect the expected slight decline in heterozygosity, due 
to inadequate sample size and inadequate statistical power.
    Response--We agree that DNA-based surveys may offer more 
information about the population than population size alone, but 
because the most immediate factors likely to impact the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population will come from habitat degradation and loss, 
and human-caused mortality, we believe addressing these two sources of 
potential decline is a more appropriate and relevant approach to 
ongoing conservation efforts in the GYA. The Strategy clearly 
establishes that augmentation of the Yellowstone population with 
grizzly bears from other populations will be pursued if no movement is 
detected between these two populations by 2020 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p. 37). Based on the best available science, we have 
concluded that any threats to genetic diversity will be adequately 
addressed through this approach (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). There 
is no defined threshold for acceptable heterozygosity values because 
there is no consensus as to what value would constitute a

[[Page 14900]]

biologically significant threat in any specific bear population. We do 
not propose to monitor changes in genetic diversity, as the statistical 
power would likely be insufficient to detect changes over time. To 
monitor genetic isolation, we will establish a repository for all 
samples from the Yellowstone population to document any bears moving 
from the NCDE into the GYA. Such movement will be detected by using an 
``assignment test,'' which identifies the area from which individuals 
are most likely to have originated based on their unique genetic 
signature (Paetkau et al. 1995, p. 350; Waser and Strobeck 1998, pp. 
43-44; Paetkau et al. 2004, pp. 56-57; Proctor et al. 2005, pp. 2410-
2415).
    Issue 6--A few commenters wanted clearly formalized monitoring 
programs established outside the PCA, and some wanted monitoring 
programs inside and outside the PCA to determine trends in use of roads 
and trails, OHV use, and private land development.
    Response--Data on private land development are available from the 
counties. The Park Service and Forest Service monitor traffic volumes 
on some roads, and the Park Service controls, through its permit 
system, overnight use of its backcountry sites. We do not know what 
predictive value those measures would have for grizzly bear management.
    Issue 7--One commenter noted that the planned extent of trapping 
and radio-collaring of bears was unethical, and that this intensive and 
invasive monitoring approach should be abandoned in favor of keeping 
the bears listed as threatened.
    Response--Since 1982, there has not been a single capture mortality 
associated with research trapping in the Yellowstone area spanning more 
than 468 grizzly bear captures (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Because 
of rigorous protocols dictating proper bear capture, handling, and 
drugging techniques used today, this type of scientific overutilization 
is not a significant factor impacting the Yellowstone DPS. The Study 
Team, bear biologists, and researchers will continue implementing these 
protocols after delisting.
    The Act requires us to delist species that no longer meet the 
definition of threatened or endangered. As discussed in the final rule, 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS does not meet either of these 
definitions. We cannot leave the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS listed in 
perpetuity, or neglect to gather data on its status. We are required to 
use the best available science to recover grizzly bears in the Lower 48 
States and monitor their status post-delisting. With existing funding 
and technology, radio-telemetry is the best way to obtain that 
information. When equivalent or more effective non-invasive techniques 
become economically available, they will be employed.
    Issue 8--A few commenters suggested that Resource Selection 
Functions be used to monitor habitat rather than the Cumulative Effects 
Model. Supporters of Resource Selection Functions said they are more 
grounded in an empirical approach and, therefore, are superior to the 
Cumulative Effects Model. Some commenters noted that if we are going to 
rely on the Cumulative Effects Model so heavily, it should be validated 
and a protocol developed for training additional personnel on how it 
works.
    Response--The use of Resource Selection Functions offers many 
advantages over the use of the existing Cumulative Effects Model. 
However, critics point out that estimated Resource Selection Functions 
are not always proportional to the true probability of use (Keating and 
Cherry 2004, p. 788). The Cumulative Effects Model represents the best 
available scientific information in its ability to provide managers 
with a comparative index of how much habitat values have changed 
through time. This remains the case even though the validity of all 
coefficients has not been confirmed. This method will remain in use 
until the research community arrives at a consensus or a better method 
to replace the Cumulative Effects Model is developed.
    The Cumulative Effects Model is one of many tools used to monitor 
habitat in the Yellowstone ecosystem. However, it is not the only tool 
nor is it the dominant tool. The Forest Service is contracting with a 
computer programmer to make the Cumulative Effects Model a more user 
friendly, Windows compatible format. The Study Team is committed to 
using the best scientific methods and models available to them. Use of 
such models will change as the science changes.
    Issue 9--Some commenters recommended that we monitor litter size 
and cub survival of radio-collared females as indicators of habitat 
quality and carrying capacity.
    Response--The monitoring program does annually monitor litter size 
and cub survival. These data are compared to indicators of habitat 
quality such as annual production and availability of major foods.
    Issue 10--Some commenters recommended that we monitor human values 
and attitudes toward grizzly bears in the GYA. This information could 
contribute substantially to our understanding of human-caused mortality 
in the GYA and the human dimensions of grizzly bear management.
    Response--Some social science research has been conducted in the 
GYA on attitudes toward grizzly bears (Kellert 1994, pp. 44-45; 
Responsive Management 2001, pp. 5-14), but we are not sure of its 
utility in predicting or reducing human-caused mortalities. Our current 
methods to reduce human-caused grizzly bear mortality by preventing 
conflicts and addressing conflicts in a systematic, fair, and prompt 
manner were adequate to accommodate an increasing Yellowstone grizzly 
bear population during the last two decades. These efforts to address 
grizzly bear conflicts will continue to comprise the vast majority of 
fiscal expenditures post delisting (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, p. 154).

V. Using the Best Available Science

    Issue 1--Many commenters questioned the quality or interpretation 
of the data used to support the proposed rule. Some offered alternative 
explanations for the increases in the population estimates that would 
not require an actual increase in bear numbers while others were 
satisfied that the best available science and data had been used in the 
development of the proposed rule.
    Response--The peer-reviewed scientific journal articles used in the 
final rule represent the best available science. The science available 
on the Yellowstone grizzly bears and their habitat is the best 
information available on any bear population in the world. None of the 
alternative explanations offered for the increasing population size 
were compelling.
    Issue 2--Some commenters objected to the use of data that they 
believed were out-of-date, particularly regarding the spread of 
diseases and parasites of whitebark pine, and advocated the use of 
readily available and more recently collected data sets.
    Response--The science and data in the proposed rule were the most 
recent information available when the rule was written and submitted 
for review and publication in the Federal Register. The final rule 
incorporates newer data on blister rust and mountain pine beetle (see 
Factor E below) available since the proposed rule was written.
    Issue 3--Some commenters specifically critiqued sources that we 
used in the proposed rule. One described problems associated with the 
Monograph cited in the proposed rule as Schwartz et al. (2005) [note: 
the Schwartz et al. 2005 citation has been

[[Page 14901]]

updated in this final rule as Schwartz et al. 2006]. Major commenter 
concerns included--(1) the study sample is not representative of the 
population, (2) habitat-based demographic analysis is needed, and (3) 
heterogeneous mortality rates violate assumptions described in the 
Monograph. Another comment received was about our assertion that nearly 
90 percent of females with cubs-of-the-year occur inside the PCA. The 
commenter noted that because Schwartz et al.'s (2002, pp. 204-205; 
2006b, pp. 63-64) survey methods focused primarily on sighting bears 
within the PCA, these publications do not provide reliable information 
on what portion of grizzly bears spend any time outside the PCA.
    Response--The Monograph fully discusses the assumptions that must 
be satisfied in order to draw the conclusions stated in the document. 
These assumptions and conclusions in the Monograph went through 
extensive independent peer review prior to being accepted for 
publication. Schwartz et al. (2006d, pp. 9-12) clearly describe their 
experimental design to obtain a representative sample. For our 
discussion about the need for, and the caveats associated with, 
habitat-based demographic analysis, please see our response to Issue 2 
under subheading B above. Regarding the assertion that heterogeneous 
mortality rates violate assumptions made in the Monograph, we recognize 
that mortality rates are heterogeneous. The fact that mortality rates 
are different inside Yellowstone National Park, outside of Yellowstone 
National Park but inside the PCA, and outside of the PCA was one of the 
key findings of the Monograph (Haroldson et al. 2006b, p. 40). This 
comment is suggesting that, because mortality rates are different in 
the three different areas (i.e., heterogeneous), then we must know the 
movement rates of bears among those areas. Heterogeneous mortality 
rates do not violate assumptions made in the Monograph because the 
study sample is representative of bears living in all three areas of 
differing mortality rates. We consider the Monograph to be the best 
available scientific data about the demographics of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS.
    Regarding the sampling method used by Schwartz et al. (2002, pp. 
204-205; 2006b, pp. 63-64), the monitoring system for females with cubs 
includes all areas where bears are known to occur, both inside and 
outside the PCA. Thirty-seven search areas are flown each year, 12 of 
which are completely or partially outside the PCA. For an example of 
the effort in observation flights alone, 74 observation flights were 
flown in 2005, totaling more than 172 hours of flight time and covering 
all 37 observation areas. There also were more than 411 hours of 
telemetry flights in 2005. These telemetry flights also contribute to 
the total sightings of females with cubs. The details of capture 
efforts both inside and outside the PCA, along with details on these 
flights and the efforts to sight females with cubs both inside and 
outside the PCA, are reported in the Study Team's Annual Reports 
(Haroldson et al. 2006a, pp. 4-10; Haroldson 2006b, pp. 11-16; West 
2006a, pp. 18-22; West 2006b, pp. 23-24). The Study Team, the 
Coordinating Committee, and the responsible agencies will continue to 
use the best available science to update protocols and direct 
management responses.
    Issue 4--A few commenters suggested that we incorporate the 
findings of Mattson et al. (2002) into the discussion about threats to 
major foods because it ``provides a solid empirical basis for 
understanding the extent to which grizzly bears will be able to switch 
to alternative foods when whitebark pine and cutthroat trout decline.''
    Response--Mattson et al. (2002, p. 32) cautioned that ``it is 
unclear to what extent bears can compensate by reverting to extant 
alternate foods'' if any currently important food were to diminish in 
abundance. We agree that the extent of the bears' potential 
compensation is unknown. However, the management response to decreases 
in carrying capacity established by the Strategy and State management 
plans includes limiting human-caused mortality, enhancing Information 
and Education efforts in poor food years, actively restoring whitebark 
pine communities, eradicating lake trout, minimizing disturbance at 
known army cutworm moth sites, and monitoring female reproductive 
parameters.
    Issue 5--Some commenters disagreed with the levels of secure 
habitat and road density standards in the Strategy and noted that these 
were not based on the best available science. They thought that we 
accepted road densities present in 1998 instead of defining acceptable 
road densities based on habitat selection by female grizzly bears. 
Similarly, some commenters thought that our definition of secure 
habitat did not include any biological requirements (such as food, 
denning, and breeding grounds) and ignored the minimum core sizes of 
approximately 1,012 ha (2,500 ac) preferred by female grizzly bears in 
other ecosystems as documented by Mace et al. (1998) and Kasworm 
(1997).
    Response--The secure habitat levels and road densities in the 
Yellowstone ecosystem are more secure than the required road density 
and secure habitat in either the NCDE or the Cabinet/Yaak and Selkirk 
ecosystems. The best measure of the direct effect of habitat on a 
population is the trajectory of the population. Under the 1998 levels 
of road density and secure habitat, the Yellowstone grizzly population 
has been increasing at between 4 and 7 percent per year. From 1986 to 
2002, there was a net reduction of more than 1,000 miles of road on the 
6 Yellowstone Ecosystem National Forests (inside and outside the PCA) 
(USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 200). Inside the PCA on the National 
Forests, roads were reduced an average of 42.7 miles per year from 1986 
to 2002 (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 200). Outside the PCA, an 
average of 40.5 miles of road were decommissioned for the same time 
period (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 200). The 1998 road density 
levels are lower than previous road densities and are at a level that 
has allowed the population to increase.
    Regarding secure habitat, the average percentage of secure habitat 
in each of the 40 subunits inside the PCA is 85.6 percent, and 20 of 
these 40 subunits contain more than 90 percent secure habitat (USDA 
Forest Service 2006a, pp. 368-369). These levels of secure habitat are 
higher than the percentage of secure habitat in the home ranges of 
adult female grizzly bears reported by Mace et al. (1996, p. 1400) 
(Note that the commenter was incorrect in the date of this citation)), 
where 56 percent of the composite adult female home range was inside 
secure habitat. We could not find a publication by Kasworm in 1997 that 
addressed the issue of road densities and female home range size, but 
believe the commenter was referring to Wakkinen and Kasworm (1997, p. 
24), who found that 44 to 68 percent of adult female home range was in 
secure habitat. Again, the levels of secure habitat in each subunit 
within the PCA (approximately the size of an annual female's home 
range) are greater than what was observed in these studies.
    The large secure areas of these subunits do include important 
feeding and denning areas. The secure or core area size was not limited 
to areas greater than 1,012 ha (2,500 ac) because that would eliminate 
protection for all secure habitat areas less than this size. We believe 
that all secure habitats are important and that secure pockets are very 
important for grizzly bears, particularly in peripheral habitats.
    Issue 6--Some commenters noted that there is no social or 
scientific literature

[[Page 14902]]

to support our contention that delisting will build public support and 
tolerance for grizzly bear conservation.
    Response--We agree that there is no scientific literature 
documenting that delisting would or could build public support and 
tolerance for grizzly bears. This result is inferred by professional 
wildlife biologists familiar with local community attitudes in the 
Yellowstone ecosystem. We have eliminated this rationale from the final 
rule.

W. Miscellaneous

    Issue 1--A few commenters suggested that we could improve the 
Coordinating Committee structure by including an opportunity for public 
involvement on proposed actions and including a conservation 
organization representative.
    Response--The Coordinating Committee process is open to the public, 
and public comment and involvement at meetings is allowed and 
encouraged. Although a conservation organization representative is not 
formally a member of the Coordinating Committee, all conservation 
organization representatives will continue to be able to comment and be 
involved in Coordinating Committee meetings.
    Issue 2--Numerous commenters suggested that we take a more 
conservative or precautionary management approach. Some cited Schwartz 
et al. (2006e, p. 62) as supporting this idea, especially in relation 
to long-term, irreversible habitat alterations such as private land 
development.
    Response--The Reassessing Methods Document and its Supplement 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 6, 20, 35; Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, p. 15-16) advocate a precautionary 
management approach by establishing biologically sustainable mortality 
limits to ensure that the population trajectory of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS is stable to increasing. The adaptive management 
system in the Strategy incorporates the results from intensive 
monitoring of population vital rates, habitat standards, and major 
foods into management decisions.
    Issue 3--Many comments received did not pertain directly to this 
decision or were outside of our scope and authority. These included 
comments opposing all livestock grazing on public lands, opposing the 
sale of public lands proposed in the Fiscal Year 2007 President's 
budget, favoring the need to switch to alternative energy sources, and 
opposing or supporting Act reform. Also included was a comment 
proposing the transfer of public lands in the PCA from the USDA Forest 
Service and BLM to the National Park Service. A large number of 
commenters expressed some degree of mistrust about the motivations 
behind delisting and accused us of catering to the oil and gas 
industry, timber industry, developers, livestock owners, and hunting 
interests. Numerous commenters also expressed value-based reasons as to 
why they opposed delisting, such as animal rights, spiritual 
importance, the grizzly bear as a national treasure and symbol of 
wilderness, and that humans should behave as caretakers and stewards of 
the grizzly bear, not as pillagers of its habitat.
    Response--Our decision to delist the Yellowstone DPS is based 
solely on our assessment of the best scientific and commercial data 
available, which indicate that the population is neither threatened nor 
endangered. Otherwise, these comments are either not relevant to the 
management decision or are outside the scope and authority of the final 
rule.

Summary of Peer Review Comments

    In accordance with the Service's 1994 Peer Review policy (59 FR 
34270, July 1, 1994) and the peer review requirements of the Office of 
Management and Budget's (OMB) Final Information Quality Bulletin for 
Peer Review (OMB 2004), the Service selected and solicited peer review 
of the proposed rule (70 FR 69854, November 17, 2005) from nine 
independent scientific experts. Eight of the nine reviewers accepted 
the opportunity to review the proposed rule and answered questions 
pertaining to the logic of our assumptions, arguments, and conclusions. 
These reviewers were experienced bear biologists and researchers who do 
not work for the Service, although two of the reviewers are employed by 
the Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. They were 
chosen based on their direct research experience with bears and their 
experience with the conservation and management of bears. The names and 
affiliations of the reviewers are--(1) Dr. Joseph D. Clark, Research 
Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Southern Appalachian Field Branch; 
(2) Dr. Piero Genovesi, Italian National Wildlife Institute, Italy; (3) 
Dr. Steven Herrero, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, 
University of Calgary, Canada; (4) Dr. Djuro Huber, Biology Department, 
University of Zagreb, Croatia; (5) Dr. Bruce McLellan, Wildlife 
Research Ecologist, British Columbia Ministry of Forests Research 
Branch, Canada; (6) Dr. Gordon Stenhouse, Alberta Sustainable Resource 
Development and Foothills Model Forest Grizzly Bear Research Program, 
Canada; (7) Dr. Jon Swenson, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource 
Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway; and (8) Dr. 
Frank T. van Manen, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, 
Southern Appalachian Field Branch.
    Each reviewer was paid $500 (U.S.) for their analysis (with the 
exception of those who also work for the U.S. Government, who were not 
paid for their services). The purpose of seeking independent peer 
review is to ensure that the best biological and commercial data are 
being used in the decision-making process, as well as to ensure that 
reviews by recognized experts are incorporated into the review process 
of the rulemakings. Peer reviewers were asked to consider, but not 
limit their comments, to the following questions and provide any other 
relevant comments, criticisms, or ideas--(1) Does the proposed rule 
provide adequate review and analysis of the factors relating to the 
persistence of the grizzly bear population in the GYA (demographics, 
habitat, adequate regulatory mechanisms, disease and predation, and 
genetics)?; (2) Is our establishment of this population as a DPS 
logical and adequate? Specifically, are our arguments pertaining to the 
discreteness and significance of the population sufficient according to 
the DPS policy, as described in the rule?; (3) Are our assumptions and 
definition of suitable habitat logical and adequate?; (4) Are the 
conclusions we reach logical and supported by the evidence we provide?; 
(5) Are our conclusions relating to food resources logical and 
adequate?; (6) Is the post-delisting monitoring program for habitat and 
population criteria logical and adequate to ensure survival of this 
population of grizzly bears in the foreseeable future?; and (7) Did we 
include all the necessary and pertinent literature to support our 
assumptions/arguments/conclusions?
    Peer reviewers provided individual, written responses during the 
public comment period. Copies of individual peer review responses are 
available upon request (see ADDRESSES section above). The issues raised 
by the peer reviewers are summarized and responded to below. We have 
grouped similar comments together under major headings that correspond 
to the questions we asked peer reviewers and summarized concerns into 
categories called ``Issues,'' which are followed by our ``Responses.'' 
Not all peer reviewers commented on all questions. The

[[Page 14903]]

comments we received from peer reviewers generally reflected their 
areas of expertise, so when we discuss specific issues below, we are 
only summarizing those comments we received. The views discussed do not 
necessarily reflect all of the peer reviewers' opinions, just the 
opinions of the reviewers who responded on that particular issue.
    Several reviewers also commented on the Reassessing Methods 
Document. A summary of those issues brought up by the reviewers, as 
well as responses to their concerns, were incorporated into the final 
Reassessing Methods Document as an appendix.

A. Does the proposed rule provide adequate review and analysis of the 
factors relating to the persistence of the grizzly bear population in 
the GYA?

    Issue 1--In general, the peer reviewers believed the Service did an 
adequate job of discussing the relevant factors related to the 
persistence of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS. One reviewer noted 
that the Yellowstone DPS does not meet either the Committee on the 
Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) (the first stage 
toward consideration for protection under the Canadian Species at Risk 
Act) or the World Conservation Union (IUCN) standards for a non-
threatened species. However, they further noted that because the 
threats to habitat are well understood and manageable (at least in the 
short-term) and the population has been expanding in size and 
distribution, delisting may be appropriate so long as the laws, plans, 
and strategies that are identified in the proposed rule do not get 
diluted after delisting.
    Response--While we view the IUCN and COSEWIC standards as 
informative in our decision-making process, the Act employs different 
standards for listing consideration, which are considered below. On the 
whole, we agree that the laws, plans, and strategies will provide for 
robust habitat protection measures; therefore, allowing the population 
to continue to expand and thrive. The Strategy will guide post-
delisting management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS. The plans 
described in the Strategy can change after delisting only if new 
science becomes available and through agreement within the Coordinating 
Committee (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 63). Any future 
changes to the management documents for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population will be modified in an adaptive management framework as a 
result of accumulated knowledge about grizzly bear management.
    Issue 2--The reviewers who commented on disease and predation 
agreed that disease is not an issue for grizzly bear populations. 
Regarding human-caused predation (i.e., mortality), some reviewers 
recommended that the Service explore the potential impacts of a hunting 
season that targeted adult males. It is possible that decreased cub 
survival through sexually selected infanticide may affect population 
trajectory. One reviewer also suggested that the final rule be more 
clear that although the impact of hunting to the total population is 
negligible, some local populations of bears may be reduced. One 
reviewer also recommended clarification about whether the penalty for 
poaching a grizzly bear will be the same as before delisting.
    Response--Sexually selected infanticide is the practice by which a 
territory vacated by an adult male is filled by a newly arrived 
subadult male, which then kills any cubs in the territory (Swenson et 
al. 1997b, p. 450). That behavior can reduce the population growth rate 
through cub mortality (Swenson et al. 1997b, p. 450). It has been 
documented in two European brown bear populations (Swenson et al. 2001, 
pp 75-77), and instances of infanticide by North American grizzly bears 
of both sexes also have been documented (McLellan 1994, pp.15-16). 
However, Miller et al. (2003, p. 144) and McLellan (2005, pp. 153-154) 
could not find evidence of population level effects of sexually 
selected infanticide in North American grizzly populations. If sport 
hunting preferentially removes adult male bears, and if sexually 
selected infanticide is common, sport hunting might result in some 
reduction in cub survival in localized areas. However, this would 
likely have little impact on overall population growth rate because 
hunting mortality on males would be limited in numbers and extent.
    The States have control over when and where a grizzly bear permit 
holder may hunt, so the targeting of bears in specific areas, or even 
specific individual bears, is possible. Sport hunting could be used in 
that way as a compensatory mortality source, by killing bears that 
would otherwise have to be removed by management action. However, 
hunting will be allowed only as long as the overall mortality limits 
are not exceeded.
    Each of the three States will establish penalties for poaching 
grizzly bears in their jurisdictions, and those penalties may not be 
the same as before delisting. Judges have discretion to impose fines 
under State law. Predicting the average poaching fine is not possible, 
due to the variety of circumstances surrounding a poaching incident, 
numerous State laws that may apply, and various punishments available 
under those State laws. We have been assured by State wildlife agencies 
that poaching incidents will continue to be investigated and prosecuted 
under State law.
    Issue 3--A few reviewers commented on the proposed rule's 
discussion of grizzly bear/human conflicts. One reviewer thought that 
preventing access to human foods by bears should be better addressed. 
Another reviewer recommended that ``Emphasis should be placed on 
managing human/bear conflicts on the interface of bear habitat and 
humans to ensure that mortality there does not exceed recruitment of 
the population as a whole.''
    Response--We agree that preventing grizzly bear habituation to 
humans and their foods is a priority. More than two-thirds of all 
suggested funding to implement the Strategy is designated for managing 
conflicts and outreach efforts to minimize conflicts (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, p. 154). All suitable habitat on GYA National 
Forests will have food storage orders in effect by 2008. Outreach 
efforts are directed toward decreasing attractants on private lands. 
The sustainable mortality limits will ensure that mortality in the 
outer zone of grizzly occupancy (those bears in closest proximity to 
private land) does not exceed the recruitment of the population as a 
whole.
    Issue 4--Although genetic isolation should be a consideration, one 
reviewer noted that, ``Within the foreseeable future, demographic or 
habitat threats are much more likely than a genetic threat.'' The 
reviewers endorsed natural population connectivity and stated that 
these opportunities should not decrease after delisting. Connectivity 
would increase the chances of long-term population persistence and 
would be a good buffer against the uncertainties surrounding major 
foods. One reviewer noted that, ideally, connectivity would be 
established before delisting occurred. Finally, one reviewer suggested 
that the Service analyze the ramifications of delisting on the ability 
to naturally recover the Bitterroot Ecosystem and to link the 
Yellowstone population with the NCDE.
    Response--We agree that demographic or habitat threats are more 
likely a threat than genetic factors in the foreseeable future, and 
that natural connectivity is desirable. Efforts to promote connectivity 
between existing populations will continue after delisting

[[Page 14904]]

as these programs are independent of the delisting of the GYA 
population. Due to the habitat protections, population standards, 
mortality control, outreach efforts, and the adaptive management 
approach described in the Strategy, we do not believe isolation is a 
threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and, therefore, does 
not preclude delisting. Delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population should have no effect on the potential for natural recovery 
of grizzly bears through the Bitterroot Ecosystem. Both the GYA and 
NCDE populations are increasing in size and expanding their 
geographical ranges, increasing the likelihood of eventual dispersal to 
the Bitterroot Ecosystem.
    Issue 5--One reviewer believed that one of the biggest threats to 
grizzly bear habitat post-delisting ``* * *will come from those who 
want to use or develop important grizzly bear habitat and who feel that 
their action is such a small part of the whole that it doesn't 
matter.'' He recommended that the Service more fully consider and 
discuss cumulative impacts of multiple projects.
    Response--The intent of the 1998 habitat baseline is to prevent or 
mitigate those cumulative effects on bear habitat within the PCA, where 
84 to 90 percent of the females with cubs occur. By maintaining the 
amount of secure habitat and restricting increases in the total mileage 
of roads, the number of developed sites, and livestock allotments, the 
PCA will be able to support a stable to increasing bear population. The 
USDA Forest Service will continue to apply and improve the Cumulative 
Effects Model and run this model at least every 5 years to assess the 
cumulative effects of development on bears. The Study Team will 
continue to pursue improved methods to assess cumulative impacts.
    Outside the PCA, nearly 60 percent of all suitable habitat is 
either Designated Wilderness Area, Wilderness Study Area, or 
Inventoried Roadless Area. These designations will prevent many 
extractive projects from occurring (see Factor D below). All projects 
on Federal lands are required to comply with the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) process, which 
includes a section on the cumulative effects of the proposed project. 
Any NEPA process for a project on National Forest lands also will 
include an analysis of the impacts of the proposed project on USDA 
Forest Service species of concern, which will include the grizzly bear 
upon delisting (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26).
    Issue 6--One reviewer noted, regarding regulatory mechanisms, only 
Montana appears to possess a law that mentions the importance of 
research and the best-available science to guide grizzly bear 
management, and that Idaho and Wyoming should be encouraged to adopt a 
similar law. One reviewer asked if the Strategy will have the 
regulatory power to ensure that signatories implement management 
decisions and that resources are available.
    Response--We have no authority to compel the States to enact laws, 
nor do we believe it is necessary. The Strategy, signed by all three 
affected States, is based on the best available science to guide 
Yellowstone grizzly bear management. The adaptive management approach 
described in the Strategy ensures that decisions are to be made based 
upon the best available science. While the Strategy cannot legally 
compel any of the signatories to implement management policies or 
obligate funding, the various Federal agencies' and State governments' 
signatures on the Strategy clearly indicate their intention to manage 
grizzly bears according to the Strategy.
    Issue 7--One reviewer commented that the proposed rule focused 
solely on current status and how future conditions will be monitored 
but failed to discuss carrying capacity of the GYA and ``* * * what 
effect population expansion may have on a distinct population unit that 
has clear limits to range or habitat expansion.'' He recommended that 
the Study Team start to consider this type of issue.
    Response--Schwartz et al. (2006c, p. 29) discuss the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population's growth towards carrying capacity. Carrying 
capacity has probably already been reached inside Yellowstone National 
Park (Schwartz et al. 2006c, p. 29), and its effect has been to reduce 
cub survival to levels found in grizzly bear populations at carrying 
capacity in Alaska. It does not appear that carrying capacity has been 
reached outside of Yellowstone National Park (Schwartz et al. 2006c, p. 
29). There are 14,554 sq km (5,619 sq mi) of suitable habitat in the 
GYA that are currently unoccupied by grizzly bears. This habitat, 
coupled with the sustainable mortality limits, will allow the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population to continue to increase and expand 
as per the State management plans.
    At some point in the future, monitoring data may demonstrate that 
carrying capacity has been reached throughout the GYA and that the 
sustainable mortality limits must be revised to accommodate increasing 
natural mortality or to stabilize the population. The Study Team will 
reevaluate demographic parameters including reproductive rate, survival 
rate, annual population growth rate (lambda), stable age distribution, 
and transition probabilities--every 8 to 10 years; as directed by a 
violation of the population standards (for a complete list of all 
population standards and triggers that are considered violations, see 
Factor D below); or at the request of the Coordinating Committee. 
During these formal evaluations, any impacts that density dependence or 
lowered carrying capacity may have will be identified and addressed 
through adjustments to methods used to estimate population size, 
sustainable mortality, unknown and unreported mortality, or other 
management recommendations. The application of adaptive management will 
allow prompt application of new data or techniques to management 
decisions. Future conditions may not be like past conditions and the 
monitoring and adaptive management systems in place are designed to 
respond to changes that occur.

B. Is our establishment of this population as a distinct population 
segment logical and adequate?

    Issue 1--Most of the reviewers agreed with our DPS analysis and 
stated that, due to its discreteness and significance, the GYA grizzly 
bear population warrants DPS status. Some reviewers did point out that 
DPS designation is biologically justified but highlights one of the 
major problems faced by the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is its 
isolation. Gene flow must be attained, either through natural 
connectivity or augmentation. One reviewer also stated that DPS status 
can complicate future augmentation efforts if the source population is 
not similar enough to the recipient population.
    Response--As noted in the final rule, we agree that the Yellowstone 
population is both discrete and significant, thus qualifying as a DPS 
under our policy. Regarding isolation of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population, those potential threats are related to genetic concerns and 
changes in the population's habitat. Based on the best available 
science (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338), the Service concludes that 
the genetic diversity of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will 
be adequately maintained by the immigration or relocation of one to two 
effective migrants from the NCDE every 10 years. This movement of 
grizzly bears between ecosystems may occur naturally or through 
management intervention. Regardless of the method, the Service is 
confident that genetic impoverishment will not threaten the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population.

[[Page 14905]]

The source population for augmentation, if augmentation becomes 
necessary, will be the NCDE population. The NCDE bears are those most 
closely related to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS, having been 
separated for roughly 100 years (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4334). 
Offspring of individuals from these two populations are unlikely to 
experience outbreeding depression. Limited gene flow, as suggested 
here, would not compromise the required level of discreteness for DPS 
status, as the DPS policy does not require complete separation of one 
DPS from other populations, but instead requires ``marked separation.''
    Issue 2--Regarding significance, a few of the reviewers responded 
that there are other populations of grizzlies that have great access to 
ungulates and whitebark pine seeds but that diets have not been 
quantified in these areas. One reviewer questioned just how unique the 
ecological setting of the GYA really is.
    Response--While we recognize that there are populations around the 
world that have access to large ungulates (Canada, Alaska, northeast 
Asia) and whitebark pine seeds (Canada), what is unusual and unique 
about the GYA is that there is relatively high use of ungulate meat. 
Also, although several berry-producing shrubs occur in the area, these 
are relatively limited by climatic factors and most grizzly bears in 
the GYA do not rely on berries as a significant portion of their diets. 
It is this combination of reliance on large mammals and whitebark pine 
seeds, while having little opportunity to feed on berries, which makes 
the ecological setting of the GYA unusual, unique, and significant, as 
none of these factors alone differentiates the GYA from other 
ecosystems.
    Issue 3--One reviewer thought that the Service should reevaluate 
the status of all of the grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 
simultaneously with the Yellowstone assessment.
    Response--The Service intends to initiate a 5-year review of 
grizzly bear populations in the conterminous States outside of the 
Yellowstone DPS, based on additional scientific information that is 
currently being collected and analyzed. This review will likely be 
initiated a few months after the publication of this final rule.

C. Are our assumptions and definition of suitable habitat logical and 
adequate?

    Issue 1--One reviewer thought it would be helpful for the Service 
to re-categorize and include an analysis of suitable habitat, 
potentially suitable habitat (if management decisions favored grizzly 
bears), and unsuitable habitat, stating that this may help direct 
management decisions in the future.
    Response--In response to this comment and several others received 
by the general public, we have conducted additional analyses to 
determine how much potentially suitable habitat there is inside the DPS 
boundaries that could be made suitable through management actions. We 
found that an additional 9,637 sq km (3,720 sq mi) of National Forest 
lands (including the Salt River and Palisades Mountain Range) could be 
made suitable by eliminating all sheep grazing allotments and existing 
oil and gas developments. These areas are not currently suitable and 
would require elimination of existing management activities to make 
them suitable. Such an action is not biologically necessary to maintain 
the recovered status of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS. These areas 
do not constitute a significant portion of the range. Please see our 
response to Issue 2 under subheading G in the Summary of Public 
Comments section above for additional discussion about this concern.
    Issue 2--One reviewer agreed with the first two criteria for 
suitable habitat but questioned the third criterion (having low 
mortality risk as indicated through reasonable and manageable levels of 
grizzly bear/human conflicts). This reviewer suggested that the Service 
conduct ``Additional work on mortality risk modeling in suitable 
habitats (Nielsen et al. 2006, pp. 220-222) [which] would serve as a 
valuable supplement to the tracking of conflicts and would have the 
added benefit of providing a system that could aid in conflict 
reduction.''
    Response--The Service agrees that such additional efforts to assess 
mortality risk in suitable habitats would be useful and supports such 
work. The Study Team is currently developing habitat-based risk 
analysis models that will provide insight into mortality risk across 
the GYA landscape. One management recommendation (Schwartz et al. 
2006e, p. 62) was to obtain funds to explore more spatially explicit 
models beyond the three political zones (i.e., inside Yellowstone 
National Park, inside the recovery zone but outside Yellowstone 
National Park, and outside the recovery zone) that were addressed. In 
fact, before Schwartz et al. (2006e) was printed, the Study Team 
submitted a proposal to address this recommendation and obtained 
funding for this project. It took more than 1.5 years to create the 
required spatial layers needed for the analyses. The Study Team then 
began to construct models looking at hazards on the landscape and how 
they affect grizzly bear survival. These models consider foods, habitat 
productivity, and human impacts to the landscape. As part of the 
adaptive management approach in the Strategy, the Study Team intends to 
link these hazard models with similar models of reproduction to develop 
models predicting population change on the landscape. Combined, these 
models will yield a projection of population viability. These efforts 
will continuously be updated and improved as new methods and 
information become available.
    The Study Team also analyzes the location of grizzly bear/human 
conflicts and mortalities in relation to land ownership and type of 
conflict in their annual reports. In this way, the Study Team 
identifies ``hotspot'' conflict areas in which I & E and prevention 
efforts are likely to be most beneficial.
    Issue 3--A few reviewers questioned the simplicity of the Service's 
definition of suitable habitat. These reviewers felt that because the 
Service and the Study Team have abundant data regarding habitat use, 
the Service should have employed a more empirical definition ``* * * 
using data-based, statistical techniques, such as logistic regression 
(e.g., Mladenoff et al. 1995) or Mahalanobis distance (e.g., Thatcher 
et al. 2006).''
    Response--We thought it was adequate to use a more generalized, 
coarse-scale interpretation of what habitat would meet grizzly bear 
needs. Other models predicting where unoccupied suitable grizzly bear 
habitat occurs within the GYA produced results similar to ours (Noss et 
al. 2002, p. 903; Merrill and Mattson 2003, pp. 182, 184). The results 
of our analysis agree with previous studies that have identified the 
Wind River Mountains and the Centennial Mountains as potentially 
suitable, but currently unoccupied habitat.
    Issue 4--Several reviewers felt that the Service should include 
some measure of habitat quality in its definition because it also is 
important to understand other health parameters in suitable habitat, 
such as body condition, movement rates, habitat use, and reproductive 
function. A couple of reviewers thought habitat quality was 
particularly important to include in any definition of suitable habitat 
in light of climate change and possible shifts in habitat use to 
respond to declines in food resources. If bears show major shifts in 
habitat use in response to changing food availability, suitable habitat 
may need to be redefined.
    Response--We used the Middle Rockies Ecoregion as a surrogate for

[[Page 14906]]

habitat quality/capacity. This approach is supported by many previous 
studies which have found that mountainous regions generally possess the 
habitat components necessary for grizzly bear persistence, including 
hiding cover, topographic variation necessary to ensure a wide variety 
of seasonal foods, steep slopes used for denning, and remoteness from 
humans (Craighead 1980, pp. 8-13; Knight 1980, pp. 1-3; Judd et al. 
1986, pp. 114-115; Peek et al. 1987, 160-161; Aune and Kasworm 1989, 
pp. 29-58; Merrill et al. 1999, pp. 233-235; Pease and Mattson 1999, p. 
969; Linnell et al. 2000, pp. 403-405; Mattson and Merrill 2002, p. 
1128). We have not assigned numerical quality scores to habitats based 
on grizzly bear body condition or productivity because of the 
uncertainties surrounding such calculations.

D. Are the conclusions we reach logical and supported by the evidence 
we provide?

    Issue 1--A couple of reviewers criticized our contention that 
hunted grizzly bear populations may experience lower incidences of 
vandal killing, and one reviewer noted that data he had collected in 
Alberta since 1999 do not support the conclusion that sport hunting of 
grizzly bears lowers mortality from poaching.
    Response--The reviewer's evidence convinced us to conclude that 
sport hunting of grizzly bears may not lower mortality from poaching. 
We have removed any such wording and logic from this final rule.
    Issue 2--One reviewer suggested that we could strengthen our 
assumptions about secure habitat serving adequately as the primary 
habitat component monitored, if we expanded the definition of secure 
habitat to include a probability of grizzly bear occurrence (through 
ongoing monitoring of food resources in space and time) coupled with 
mortality risk (Nielsen et al. 2006, pp. 220-222)
    Response--The negative impacts of humans on grizzly bear survival 
and habitat use are well documented (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278; 
McLellan and Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 
83-103; McLellan 1989, pp. 1862-1864; McLellan and Shackleton 1989, pp. 
377-378; Mattson 1990, pp. 41-44; Mattson and Knight 1991, pp. 9-11; 
Mattson et al. 1992, pp. 436-438; Mace et al. 1996, p. 1403; McLellan 
et al. 1999, pp. 914-916; White et al. 1999, p. 150; Woodroffe 2000, 
pp. 166-168; Boyce et al. 2001, p. 34; Johnson et al. 2004, p. 976). In 
light of this, the importance of secure habitat, simply defined as a 
function of distance from roads, is indisputable. Although we do not 
include any prediction of where grizzly bears may occur or what their 
mortality risk in identified secure habitat might be, the Study Team 
will monitor food resources and grizzly bear mortalities in the GYA 
annually.

E. Are our conclusions relating to food resources logical and adequate?

    Issue 1--Many reviewers thought that the proposed rule was too 
optimistic in its discussion of how bears may respond to declines in 
major foods. They noted that although bears display some foraging 
plasticity, the extent to which this behavior might buffer loss of one 
of the four major foods is not known. In contrast, one reviewer thought 
that food availability was of minor importance in comparison to other 
human influences such as roads and human-caused mortality and stated 
that preventing grizzly bear use of human garbage and food will become 
increasingly important if traditional foods decrease.
    Response--While we agree that the extent to which grizzly bears 
might be able to compensate for the loss of one of the four major foods 
is unknown, the rule reflects the best scientific and commercial data 
available. Future food source availability and the possible grizzly 
bear reaction to those possible future changes are discussed under 
Factor E below and in the Summary to Public Comments' sections J, K, L, 
and M above. We also agree that human-caused mortality is probably the 
major factor limiting grizzly populations, although mortality can be 
mediated by food availability (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 432). The Study 
Team will continue to monitor major food abundance and grizzly bear 
conflicts and mortalities. The combination of results and Study Team 
analyses from these multiple monitoring indices on foods, bear vital 
rates, and bear/human conflicts will allow managers to respond to 
changes as necessary. Managers will respond to poor food years with 
reductions in allowable mortalities and with increased I & E efforts 
that forewarn the public about the increased potential for grizzly 
bear/human conflicts.
    Issue 2--The reviewers thought it was important to continue 
monitoring the abundance and distribution of the four major food 
sources. One reviewer suggested that the Service use statistical power 
analyses ``* * * to determine what level of change in each food source 
can be detected with these surveys' and to make adjustments to improve 
the effectiveness and efficiency of the food monitoring techniques. 
Another reviewer recommended that the Service monitor reproductive 
rates and define threshold values for these as they might be more 
sensitive to food fluctuations than mortality rates would be. One 
reviewer suggested that non-invasive methods could be used to monitor 
reproductive hormone cycles in adult female bears that may tie directly 
to habitat and landscape conditions.
    Response--The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working 
Group (2005, pp. 98-107) worked closely with statisticians to ensure 
the best possible sampling design in terms of statistical power and 
ecological inference. They have established over 70 transects 
throughout the GYA to assess the status of whitebark pine. The Study 
Team also documents annual whitebark pine cone production through 
monitoring of 19 transects inside the PCA. The Study Team has found 
that its surveys of whitebark pine cone production can effectively 
predict the magnitude of the number of management actions taken on 
grizzly bears during each crop year (Haroldson and Podruzny 2006, p. 
45). The Study Team's research has resulted in a tentative threshold 
value, a mean of 20 cones per tree, which predicts near exclusive use 
of cones by bears from August through October, and also predicts that 
management actions will be reduced in such years. This level of 
predictive ability to detect this effect is adequate for management 
purposes. Whitebark pine cone production fluctuates from year to year, 
as an evolved strategy on the part of the trees to avoid seed 
parasitism and predation. Human management cannot guarantee a large 
cone crop.
    Abundances of the other three major foods (ungulate carcasses, 
cutthroat trout, and army cutworm moths) have not been reliable 
predictors of grizzly bear abundance, fecundity, mortality, or 
management activity. All have fluctuated in abundance during the period 
in which the grizzly population has continued to increase.
    Although adult female survival is the factor most important to 
population trajectory, the Study Team also monitors reproductive rates 
to obtain a complete picture of the overall health of the grizzly bear 
population. Annually, the Study Team monitors litter size through 
counts of females with cubs-of-the-year. In addition, every 8 to 10 
years, the Study Team will recalculate litter size and cub survival 
based on the radio-collared sample of female grizzly bears. The Study 
Team does not currently monitor reproductive hormone cycles but will 
consider its use in the future as it becomes more feasible and cost-
effective.

[[Page 14907]]

    Issue 3--One reviewer thought the Service should make it clear that 
the four major foods and their potential declines were not included in 
any models of future population trajectory.
    Response--The potential abundances of the four major foods have not 
been employed in any of the PVAs predicting future population 
trajectory. The reasons for this and our progress toward this goal are 
discussed above in our response to Issue 2 under subheading B in the 
Summary of Public Comments section of this final rule.
    Issue 4--Two reviewers thought the Service should analyze the 
implications of the recently introduced wolf populations on the 
availability of ungulates to Yellowstone grizzly bears.
    Response--Recent models and investigations in the field suggest 
that reintroduced wolves have had little effect on ungulate 
availability to grizzly bears in the GYA (Wilmers et al. 2003a, pp. 
914-915; Barber et al. 2005, p. 43; Vucetich et al. 2005, p. 259). This 
issue is discussed in more detail under Factor E below.

F. Is the post-delisting monitoring program for habitat and population 
criteria logical and adequate to ensure survival of this population of 
grizzly bears in the foreseeable future?

    Issue 1--A couple of the reviewers commented that a clear, 
unequivocal set of criteria for automatic relisting should be 
established to reduce process-based uncertainty. One reviewer stated 
that, given past controversy surrounding listing decisions, relisting 
cannot be regarded as a potential solution to future problems.
    Response--The Act contains no provision for automatic relisting of 
a species based on quantitative criteria. If, at any time, data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
listing. Any such relisting would be based on the definition of 
threatened or endangered and the 5-factor analysis. A petition for 
relisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS would have to go through the 
same procedure as a species newly petitioned for listing. However, the 
Service can issue an emergency listing rule independent of the petition 
process or in response to a petition, as it did for the Mojave 
population of the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) (54 FR 32326, 
August 4, 1989). The Service would then have 240 days to complete a 
conventional listing rule before the protections of the emergency rule 
expire. The Service believes the process described in this final rule 
is sufficient to ensure that relisting will be carried out if 
necessary, based upon the best available science.
    Issue 2--One reviewer stated that monitoring is not sufficient if 
the results of investigations are not promptly incorporated in policy 
and management, and that this type of rapid response requires 
availability of contingency funds, clear roles and authorities, and the 
power to impose the necessary actions on all involved partners. One 
reviewer believes that since the effectiveness of the monitoring 
program depended ``* * * upon adequate funding to provide research 
results with scientifically acceptable confidence limits,'' the 
monitoring plan should have secure funding for at least 5 to 10 years 
before delisting occurs.
    Response--The signatories to the Strategy will practice adaptive 
management by incorporating the findings of the monitoring programs 
into management of the GYA grizzly bear population. The Federal 
Government does not have the statutory or constitutional authority to 
compel the States or individuals to participate in managing grizzly 
bears if they choose not to, although the responsible agencies' 
signatures on the Strategy indicate their willingness to manage the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS. Funding for government programs is never 
certain at any level, but the funding to support the grizzly bear and 
grizzly bear habitat management activities of the various Federal and 
State agencies has been consistently obligated for the past 30 years.
    Issue 3--One reviewer encouraged the Service to investigate human 
dimensions with a protocol that would allow quantification of changes 
in the attitudes of the general public, farmers, hunters, and other 
stakeholders.
    Response--Although we agree that the values people hold about 
grizzly bears may provide some insight into poaching incidents and 
successful management approaches, due to the complications associated 
with quantifying shifts in public attitudes, we do not see such 
research as a priority essential to grizzly bear conservation in the 
GYA. Instead, we believe successful conservation of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear should focus on reducing human-caused mortality, 
protecting habitat, preventing grizzly bear/human conflicts, and 
monitoring demographic and habitat parameters. That said, in 2001, the 
State of Wyoming contracted a private business to survey its residents 
about their attitudes toward grizzly bear management (Responsive 
Management 2001, p. i). This information was used in the development of 
the Wyoming State grizzly bear management plan.
    Issue 4--The reviewers supported our post-delisting monitoring plan 
to maintain a minimum of 25 adult female bears distributed throughout 
the GYA with radio collars at all times, to examine the trends and 
welfare of the population. One reviewer recommended to us that such 
research trapping and radio-collaring should strive to minimize the 
number of capture events per individual to minimize stress, perhaps by 
using radio transmitters that have a longer operational life.
    Response--The minimization of stress during capture events is 
always a priority for research-trapped bears. A strict protocol (Jonkel 
1993, pp. 1-4) is followed by the Study Team when trapping grizzly 
bears for research purposes. In addition, the latest veterinary medical 
research is incorporated into the Study Team's protocol when they renew 
their veterinary permit annually. These protocols are designed to 
minimize restraint time, minimize capture-related stress, monitor the 
health of captured animals, administer appropriate levels of 
anesthesia, and minimize the duration of anesthesia through the use of 
appropriate antagonists. As radio-telemetry technology improves, the 
Study Team will incorporate those advances into the monitoring program. 
If collars can be safely retained for longer periods, the Study Team 
will make use of improved battery life as these advancements are made. 
As collar life increases, the total number of capture events will 
decrease.
    Issue 5--One reviewer believes that the Service should state 
clearly how often important population parameters such as female 
survival, litter size, litter interval, population growth rates 
(lambda), sex ratios, and age ratios will be calculated.
    Response--These parameters will be recalculated every 8 to 10 years 
based on the radio-collared sample (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 
2005, p. 45) or as required by a Biology and Monitoring Review 
triggered by a violation of a habitat or population criterion.
    Issue 6--Some reviewers suggested that a DNA-based population 
estimate be conducted at least once to check the estimate given by 
using the methods described in the Reassessing Methods Document. Some 
believe that the Service should integrate large-scale, non-invasive 
genetic sampling into future monitoring protocol since the data 
gathered during such sampling provides much more information than just 
a population estimate. Genetic

[[Page 14908]]

sampling also can provide reliable estimates of sex ratio, reproductive 
success, effective population size, dispersal, allelic diversity, 
heterozygosity, and inbreeding levels.
    Response--The current cost of a one-time, point population estimate 
using DNA is roughly $3.5 million to $5 million (Interagency Grizzly 
Bear Study Team 2005, p. 12). The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee 
decided in 2001 that such funds would be spent more effectively on 
other management actions. The Service and the Study Team recognize the 
need to improve methods to estimate population size and calculate 
sustainable mortality limits and will continue to consider ways in 
which this might be accomplished. As the costs associated with DNA 
amplification and analysis decrease with time, the Study Team may 
revisit this possibility. The Study Team will continue to take DNA 
samples opportunistically from all bears trapped for research or 
management and all known mortalities so that future analyses of other 
genetic or demographic parameters are possible. For now, as long as 
mortality continues to remain within the sustainable mortality limits 
as evidenced by a Chao2 estimate of at least 48 females with cubs of 
the year, there are no data to indicate that this method is inadequate 
to manage for a stable to increasing Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population.
    Issue 7--Several reviewers thought the 1998 baseline gives 
reasonable assurance that grizzly bear habitat needs within the PCA 
will continue to be met. One reviewer commented that the assumption 
that 1998 habitat conditions allowed the population to increase by 4 to 
7 percent is ``largely valid,'' but questioned the Service's choice of 
the year 1998 and the biological justification behind the criteria for 
acceptable road densities and levels of secure habitat. A couple of 
reviewers agreed with the Service that, currently, there is no known 
way to deductively calculate habitat quality for grizzly bears (e.g., 
security) and that the use of surrogates (e.g., levels of secure 
habitat) was appropriate, but reminded us that ``If we are monitoring 
the wrong surrogates, however, there is no guarantee that the true 1998 
habitat baseline will be met. We should acknowledge this and continue 
to strive for better measures of what constitutes true habitat quality 
for bears.''
    Response--The year 1998 was chosen because we know that levels of 
secure habitat and site developments had been roughly the same during 
the previous 10 years (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 27), and that, 
during these years, the population was increasing (Eberhardt and Knight 
1996, p. 419; Harris et al. 2006, p. 48). Therefore, the selection of 
any other year between 1988 and 1998 would have resulted in 
approximately the same baseline values for roads and developed sites 
but the selection of the latter date allowed improvements made since 
1988 to be included in the baseline. To address the possibility that we 
could be monitoring the ``wrong surrogates,'' the responsible agencies 
also will be monitoring a suite of other factors including habitat 
parameters, population criteria, mortalities, and conflicts. Our 
partners will improve the technique for the monitoring of habitat as 
better methods become available and as the relationships between 
habitat quality and vital rates are better documented.
    Issue 8--A couple of reviewers suggested that in order to truly 
maintain 1998 conditions, the level of human use also must be 
maintained at 1998 levels because the intensity of human use is the 
driving factor behind security, not the sheer number of developed sites 
and roads on the landscape; intensity of use will only increase as the 
human population in the area increases. One reviewer suggested that the 
Service create limits on the numbers of visitors (visitors/days) 
allowed in Yellowstone National Park. He believes that this limitation 
on human activities is especially important in light of uncertainties 
surrounding food sources. One reviewer also noted that, in light of 
potential decreases in important foods, it would be preferable to 
institute habitat guidelines that are more restrictive toward resource 
exploitation than the 1998 baseline.
    Response--Human use of the GYA, as measured by the annual number of 
people visiting Yellowstone National Park, has increased since the 
grizzly was listed as threatened in 1975 (Gunther 2000, p. 48). During 
the 1970s, the average annual number of people visiting the Park was 
2,243,737. In the 1990s, this number was 3,023,916 (Gunther 2000, p. 
48). However, during that period, the grizzly population also has 
increased, and the bears within Yellowstone National Park appear to 
have reached the carrying capacity of the Park habitat (Schwartz et al. 
2006c, p. 29). The Service considers the establishment of habitat 
thresholds for human population growth and recreation to be unrealistic 
and feels that the 1998 baseline will address these issues adequately 
through access management and limitations on site development. Using 
the adaptive management approach described in the Strategy, management 
agencies will respond with adequate restrictions and enforcement if 
recreation on public lands due to increased human populations in the 
GYA becomes detrimental to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.
    Resource extraction in grizzly bear habitat is primarily timber 
harvest, and it has declined. Habitat quality, as measured by road 
density and timber harvest, has increased due to declines in these 
activities in grizzly habitat. Timber harvest volumes and road 
construction have declined since the mid-1990s. Under the 1998 level of 
secure habitat, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has been 
increasing at between 4 to 7 percent per year (Harris et al. 2006, p. 
48). From 1986 to 2002 there has been a net reduction of more than 
1,600 km (1,000 mi) of road on the six GYA National Forests (inside and 
outside the PCA). Inside the PCA on National Forests, there was an 
average reduction (elimination) of 59.9 km (37.2 mi) of road per year 
from 1986 to 2002 (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 200). Similarly, 
outside the PCA, there was an average reduction of 40.7 km (25.3 mi) of 
road per year for this time period (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 200). 
There are no active oil and gas wells in Service-defined suitable 
grizzly habitat. There has never been any high-density oil and gas 
development in suitable grizzly habitat in the GYA. Inside the PCA, the 
potential for increased resource extraction in the future is severely 
limited due to the constraints on road construction and site 
development established by the Strategy.
    We do not anticipate a dramatic increase in resource extraction 
outside of the PCA either due to the quantity of National Forest land 
designated as Wilderness Area (6,799 sq km (2,625 sq mi)), Wilderness 
Study Area (708 sq km (273 sq mi)), or Inventoried Roadless Area (6,179 
sq km (2,386 sq mi)). Approximately 79 percent of all suitable habitat 
on National Forest lands outside the PCA falls into one of these 
categories.
    Issue 9--One reviewer stated that there are no clear management 
responses described if habitat threshold values are not achieved. 
Another reviewer recommended that threshold values for habitat 
effectiveness be established, as these would be helpful for managers, 
even if they do not trigger exact management responses like the 
demographic criteria do.
    Response--Because of the natural annual variability in the 
distribution and abundance of grizzly bear foods, there were no 
threshold values

[[Page 14909]]

established for these habitat parameters. Instead, the 1998 baseline 
attempted to establish realistic habitat standards that ensure adequate 
habitat security and minimum livestock conflicts within the PCA. The 
Study Team will continue to communicate with managers and the media 
about whitebark pine production as they obtain data each year. The goal 
of this effort is to inform the public of ways to avoid grizzly bear 
conflicts in poor food years.
    Issue 10--One reviewer noted that the time lag in the feedback loop 
between habitat changes and population size (Doak 1995, p. 1378) poses 
a problem for monitoring population size alone. This reviewer suggested 
that a major research focus for the future should be to strive to 
improve habitat monitoring protocols such that habitat is monitored 
directly, not just via grizzly bear vital rates.
    Response--The Strategy commits the agencies to intensive monitoring 
of all grizzly bear vital rates and the relationship of these vital 
rates to changes in major foods and levels and types of human 
activities in their habitat. This monitoring does not solely rely on 
vital rate monitoring to indirectly infer changes in habitat. Annual 
habitat monitoring will produce results on any changes in habitat 
values and key food production and possible disease in key foods. Thus, 
the system in place will not rely on indirect measures of habitat 
values but will produce direct measures of habitat values annually. 
Since our partners will be monitoring a suite of vital rates including 
survival of radio-collared bears, mortality of all conflict bears, and 
fecundity, we feel confident that we will be able to detect the 
consequences of significantly reduced habitat productivity.
    Issue 11--One reviewer wanted to see more emphasis placed on not 
only tracking and categorizing private land development, but predicting 
it as well, to allow for proactive management.
    Response--Data on private land development are gathered by, and are 
available from, the counties. These data are used by nongovernmental 
organizations and university researchers to project future growth and 
prioritize private lands that are most important to landscape 
connectivity and species diversity. For more information on recent land 
sale statistics, please see our response to Issue 6 under subheading H 
of the Summary of Public Comments section above.
    The Service contends that grizzly bears can coexist with projected 
human population growth and land use in the foreseeable future, if an 
adequate management framework (i.e., the Strategy) is in place to 
manage grizzly bear mortality and habitat quality (Linnell et al. 2001, 
p. 348).
    Issue 12--One reviewer recommended that the Service abandon the 
current Cumulative Effects Model in favor of a model that employs 
Resource Selection Functions. He contends that Resource Selection 
Functions models avoid many of the limitations associated with the 
Cumulative Effects Model including ``* * * lack of empiricism, pre-
defined model structure, and arbitrary threshold criteria.'' Another 
reviewer also endorsed the use of Resource Selection Functions models 
and noted that they are becoming sophisticated enough to incorporate 
mortality risk, which would be invaluable to grizzly bear management.
    Response--The Study Team is currently exploring alternative habitat 
models to the Cumulative Effects Model. Resource Selection Functions 
models are not always the best way to describe habitat relationships 
because estimated resource selection functions are not always 
proportional to the true probability of use (Keating and Cherry 2004, 
p. 788). We agree that linking habitat conditions to demographic data 
would be an invaluable management tool. The Study Team is currently 
developing habitat-based risk analysis models that will provide insight 
into these relationships. These models consider foods, habitat 
productivity, and human impacts to the landscape. As part of the 
adaptive management approach in the Strategy, the Study Team intends to 
link these hazard models with similar models of reproduction to develop 
models predicting population change on the landscape. Combined, these 
models will yield a projection of population viability. These efforts 
will continuously be updated and improved as new methods and 
information become available.
    Issue 13--Several reviewers recommended that the Cumulative Effects 
Model be validated with empirical data and suggested that predicted use 
may not correlate well with actual grizzly bear use. They believed such 
validation would be helpful since the Service relies on the Cumulative 
Effects Model as a monitoring tool for habitat effectiveness and 
habitat mitigation. One reviewer suggested an approach that could link 
habitat (foods) and mortality so that the Cumulative Effects Model is 
adequate.
    Response--Although we currently view the Cumulative Effects Model 
as the best scientific and commercial data available, we agree that it 
would be valuable to confirm the Cumulative Effects Model with 
empirical data. This criticism of the Cumulative Effects Model is one 
reason that the Strategy does not include threshold values for habitat 
effectiveness as calculated by the Cumulative Effects Model as a 
trigger for management action or a Biology and Monitoring Review. What 
the Cumulative Effects Model does provide is a relative measure of 
whether habitat quality has increased or decreased in areas across the 
landscape. However, it does not provide a reliable estimate of exactly 
how those changes in habitat quality will affect the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population. The Study Team is currently exploring 
alternative habitat models to the Cumulative Effects Model. As the 
science further evolves, the Study Team will continue to use the best 
scientific and commercial information available.

G. Did we include all the necessary and pertinent literature to support 
our assumptions, arguments, and conclusions?

    Issue 1--Several peer reviewers suggested additional literature to 
consider and possibly include in the final rule.
    Response--The literature used and recommended by the peer reviewers 
has been considered and incorporated, as appropriate, in this final 
rule.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and regulations promulgated to implement the 
listing provisions of the Act (50 CFR part 424) set forth the 
procedures for listing, reclassifying, and delisting species. A species 
may be delisted, according to 50 CFR 424.11(d), if the best scientific 
and commercial data available demonstrate that the species is no longer 
endangered or threatened because of (1) extinction; (2) recovery; or 
(3) error in the original data used for classification of the species.
    A recovered population is one that no longer meets the Act's 
definition of threatened or endangered. The analysis for a delisting 
due to recovery must be based on the five factors outlined in section 
4(a)(1) of the Act. This analysis must include an evaluation of threats 
that existed at the time of listing and those that currently exist or 
that could potentially affect the species in the foreseeable future 
once the protections of the Act are removed.
    The Act defines ``species'' to also include any subspecies or, for 
vertebrates, any DPS. Because the Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
is discrete and significant, as defined

[[Page 14910]]

above, it warrants recognition as a DPS under the Act and our policy 
(61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996). Therefore, our analysis only covers the 
Yellowstone DPS.
    In terms of the ``foreseeable future,'' for the purposes of this 
final rule, we view ``foreseeable'' as ``such as reasonably can or 
should be anticipated: Such that a person of ordinary prudence would 
expect it to occur or exist under the circumstances'' (Merriam-
Webster's Dictionary of Law 1996; Western Watershed Project v. Foss (D. 
Idaho 2005)). We use this definition, as opposed to an a priori time 
period (e.g., 100 years), to avoid placing an arbitrary limit on our 
time horizon. The foreseeable future is likely to differ for each 
factor potentially impacting the DPS. When evaluating population models 
or other modeling efforts (e.g., climate change models), with respect 
to foreseeable future, we take into consideration model variance over 
time and model outputs along with the decay in confidence as we 
forecast further into the future. This approach is more robust than 
simply looking at a single time-horizon because it uses all available 
data and takes into consideration the predictive value of that data. 
However, the Strategy which is intended to guide all management post-
delisting, is anticipated to continue in perpetuity. To provide 
assurance that the DPS remains recovered beyond the foreseeable future, 
the Strategy provides that if future threats arise or known threats 
increase in magnitude, the Study Team and the Coordinating Committee 
are to adapt management to address any new or increased threats.
    A species is ``endangered'' for purposes of the Act if it is in 
danger of extinction throughout all or a ``significant portion of its 
range'' and is ``threatened'' if it is likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a ``significant portion 
of its range.'' The following describes how we interpret the terms 
``range'' and ``significant'' as used in the phrase ``significant 
portion of its range,'' and explains the basis for our use of those 
terms in this rule.
    ``Range''--The word ``range'' in the phrase ``significant portion 
of its range'' refers to the range in which a species currently exists, 
not to the historical range of the species where it once existed. The 
context in which the phrase is used is crucial. Under the Act's 
definitions, a species is ``endangered'' only if it ``is in danger of 
extinction'' in the relevant portion of its range. The phrase ``is in 
danger'' denotes a present-tense condition of being at risk of a 
future, undesired event. To say that a species ``is in danger'' in an 
area that is currently unoccupied, such as unoccupied historical range, 
would be inconsistent with common usage. Thus, ``range'' must mean 
``currently-occupied range,'' not ``historical range.'' This 
interpretation of ``range'' is further supported by the fact that 
section 4(a)(1)(A) of the Act requires us to consider the ``present'' 
or ``threatened'' (i.e., future), rather than the past, ``destruction, 
modification, or curtailment'' of a species' habitat or range in 
determining whether a species is endangered or threatened.
    However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to conclude, 
without any analysis or explanation that the ``range'' referred to in 
the ``significant portion of its range'' phrase includes the historical 
range of the species. The court stated that a species ``can be extinct 
`throughout * * * a significant portion of its range' if there are 
major geographical areas in which it is no longer viable but once 
was,'' and then faults the Secretary for not ``at least explain[ing] 
her conclusion that the area in which the species can no longer live is 
not a significant portion of its range.'' Defenders of Wildlife v. 
Norton, 258 F.3d 1136, 1145 (emphasis added). This would suggest that 
the range we must analyze in assessing endangerment includes unoccupied 
historical range--i.e., the places where the species was once viable 
but no longer exists.
    The statute does not support this interpretation. This 
interpretation is based on what appears to be an inadvertent misquote 
of the relevant statutory language. In addressing this issue, the Ninth 
Circuit states that the Secretary must determine whether a species is 
``extinct throughout * * * a significant portion of its range.'' Id. If 
that were true, we would have to study the historical range. But that 
is not what the statute says, and the Ninth Circuit quotes the statute 
correctly elsewhere in its opinion. Under the Act, we are not to 
determine if a species is ``extinct throughout * * * a significant 
portion of its range,'' but are to determine if it ``is in danger of 
extinction throughout * * * a significant portion of its range.'' A 
species cannot presently be ``in danger of extinction'' in that portion 
of its range where it ``was once viable but no longer is''--if by the 
latter phrase the court meant lost historical habitat. In that portion 
of its range, the species has by definition ceased to exist. In such 
situations, it is not ``in danger of extinction''; it is extinct.
    Although we must focus on the range in which the species currently 
exists, data about the species' historical range and how the species 
came to be extinct in that location may be relevant in understanding or 
predicting whether a species is ``in danger of extinction'' in its 
current range and therefore relevant to our 5 factor analysis. But the 
fact that it has ceased to exist in what may have been portions of its 
historical range does not necessarily mean that it is ``in danger of 
extinction'' in a significant portion of the range where it currently 
exists.
    ``Significant''--The Act does not clearly indicate what portion(s) 
of a species' range should be considered ``significant.'' Most 
dictionaries list several definitions of ``significant.'' For example, 
one standard dictionary defines ``significant'' as ``important,'' 
``meaningful,'' ``a noticeably or measurably large amount,'' or 
``suggestive'' (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 1088 (10th ed. 
2000)). If it means a ``noticeably or measurably large amount,'' then 
we would have to focus on the size of the range in question, either in 
relation to the rest of the range or perhaps even in absolute terms. If 
it means ``important,'' then we would have to consider factors in 
addition to size in determining a portion of a species' range is 
``significant.'' For example, would a key breeding ground of species be 
``significant,'' even if it was only a small part of the species' 
entire range?
    One district court interpreted the term to mean ``a noticeably or 
measurably large amount'' without analysis or any reference to other 
alternate meanings, including ``important'' or ``meaningful.'' 
Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 239 F. Supp. 2d 9, 19 (D.D.C. 2002). 
We consider the court's interpretation to be unpersuasive because the 
court did not explain why we could not employ another, equally 
plausible definition of ``significant.'' It is impossible to determine 
from the word itself, even when read in the context of the entire 
statute, which meaning of ``significant'' Congress intended. Moreover, 
even if it were clear which meaning was intended, ``significant'' would 
still require interpretation. For example, if it were meant to refer to 
size, what size would be ``significant'': 30 percent, 60 percent, 90 
percent? Should the percentage be the same in every case or for each 
species? Moreover, what factors, if any, would be appropriate to 
consider in making a size determination? Is size all by itself 
``significant,'' or does size only become ``significant'' when 
considered in combination with other factors? On the other hand, if 
``significant'' were meant to refer to importance, what factors would 
need to be considered in

[[Page 14911]]

deciding that a particular portion of a species' range is ``important'' 
enough to trigger the protections of the Act?
    Where there is ambiguity in a statute, as with the meaning of 
``significant,'' the agency charged with administering the statute, in 
this case the Service, has broad discretion to resolve the ambiguity 
and give meaning to the term. As the Supreme Court has stated:

    In Chevron, this Court held that ambiguities in statutes within 
an agency's jurisdiction to administer are delegations of authority 
to the agency to fill the statutory gap in reasonable fashion. 
Filling these gaps, the Court explained, involves difficult policy 
choices that agencies are better equipped to make than courts. If a 
statute is ambiguous, and if the implementing agency's construction 
is reasonable, Chevron requires a federal court to accept the 
agency's construction of the statute, even if the agency's reading 
differs from what the court believes is the best statutory 
interpretation.

Nat'l Cable & Telecomms. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 
967, 980 (2005) (internal citations omitted).
    We have broad discretion in defining what portion of a species' 
range is ``significant.'' No ``bright line'' or ``predetermined'' 
percentage of historical range loss is considered ``significant'' in 
all cases, and we may consider factors other than simply the size of 
the range portion in defining what is ``significant.'' In light of the 
general ecosystems conservation purposes and findings in section 2 of 
the Act, our goal is to define ``significant'' in such a way as to 
insure the conservation of the species protected by the Act. In 
determining whether a range portion is significant, we consider the 
ecosystems on which the species that use that range depend as well as 
the values listed in the Act that would be impaired or lost if the 
species were to become extinct in that portion of the range or in the 
range as a whole.
    However, our discretion in defining ``significant'' is not 
unlimited. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, while acknowledging that 
we have ``a wide degree of discretion in delineating'' what portion of 
a range is ``significant,'' appeared to set outer limits of that 
discretion. See Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 258 F.3d 1136. On the 
one hand, it rejected what it called a quantitative approach to 
defining ``significant,'' where a ``bright line'' or ``predetermined'' 
percentage of historical range loss is considered ``significant'' in 
all cases. 258 F.3d. at 1143. As the court explained:

    First, it simply does not make sense to assume that the loss of 
a predetermined percentage of habitat or range would necessarily 
qualify a species for listing. A species with an exceptionally large 
historical range may continue to enjoy healthy population levels 
despite the loss of a substantial amount of suitable habitat. 
Similarly, a species with an exceptionally small historical range 
may quickly become endangered after the loss of even a very small 
percentage of habitat.

    The Ninth Circuit concluded that what is ``significant'' must 
``necessarily be determined on a case by case basis,'' and must take 
into account not just the size of the range but also the biological 
importance of the range to the species. 258 F.3d. at 1143. At the other 
end of the spectrum, the Ninth Circuit rejected what it called ``the 
faulty definition offered by us,'' a definition that holds that a 
portion of a species' range is ``significant'' only if the threats 
faced by the species in that area are so severe as to threaten the 
viability of the species as a whole. 258 F.3d. at 1143, 1146. It thus 
appears that within the two outer boundaries set by the Ninth Circuit, 
we have wide discretion to give the definitive interpretation of the 
word ``significant'' in the phrase ``significant portion of its 
range.''
    Based on these principles, we considered the following factors in 
determining whether a portion of the grizzly's range is 
``significant''--quality, quantity, and distribution of habitat 
relative to the biological requirements of the species; the historical 
value of the habitat to the species; the frequency of use of the 
habitat; the uniqueness or importance of the habitat for other reasons, 
such as breeding, feeding, migration, wintering, or suitability for 
population expansion; genetic diversity; and other biological factors. 
We focused on portions of the grizzly's range important to its 
conservation, such as identified ``recovery units''; unique habitat or 
other ecological features that provide adaptive opportunities that are 
of conservation importance to the species; and ``core'' populations 
that generate additional individuals of a species that can, over time, 
replenish depleted populations or stocks at the periphery of the 
species' range. We did not apply the term ``significant'' to portions 
of the species' range that constitute less-productive peripheral 
habitat, artificially-created habitat, or areas where the species has 
established itself in urban or suburban settings. Such portions of the 
species' range are not ``significant,'' in our view, to the 
conservation of the species as required by the Act.
    The following analysis utilizes these definitions and examines all 
important factors currently affecting the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS 
or likely to affect it within the foreseeable future. Therefore, this 
analysis was conducted over the entire current and foreseeable range of 
the grizzly bear including all ``suitable habitat'' (defined and 
discussed under Factor A below) within the DPS boundaries.

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

    Habitat destruction and modification were major contributing 
factors leading to the listing of the grizzly bear as a threatened 
species under the Act in 1975 (40 FR 31734-31736, July 28, 1975). Both 
the dramatic decreases in historical range and land management 
practices in formerly secure grizzly bear habitat led to the 1975 
listing (40 FR 31734-31736, July 28, 1975). To address this source of 
population decline, the Study Team was created in 1973 to collect, 
manage, analyze, and distribute science-based information regarding 
habitat and demographic parameters upon which to base management and 
recovery. Then, in 1983, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee was 
created to coordinate management efforts across multiple Federal lands 
and different States within the various Recovery Zones ultimately 
working to achieve recovery of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 States. 
Its objective was to change land management practices on Federal lands 
that supported grizzly bear populations at the time of listing to 
provide security and maintain or improve habitat conditions for the 
grizzly bear. Since 1986, National Forest and National Park plans have 
incorporated the Guidelines (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 1-2) to 
manage grizzly bear habitat in the Yellowstone Recovery Zone.
    Management improvements made as a result of the Guidelines include, 
but are not limited to--(1) Federal and State agency coordination to 
produce nuisance bear guidelines that allow a quick response to resolve 
and minimize grizzly bear/human confrontations; (2) reduced motorized 
access route densities through restrictions, decommissioning, and 
closures; (3) highway design considerations to facilitate population 
connectivity; (4) closure of some important habitat areas to all human 
access in National Parks during certain seasons that are particularly 
important to grizzlies; (5) closure of many areas in the GYA to oil and 
gas leasing, or implementing restrictions such as no surface occupancy; 
(6) elimination of two sheep allotments on the Caribou-Targhee National 
Forest in 1998, resulting in a 46 percent decrease in total sheep

[[Page 14912]]

animal months inside the Yellowstone Recovery Zone; and (7) expanded I 
& E programs in the Yellowstone Recovery Zone to help reduce the number 
of grizzly mortalities caused by big-game hunters. Overall, adherence 
to the Guidelines has changed land management practices on Federal 
lands to provide security and to maintain or improve habitat conditions 
for the grizzly bear. Implementation of these Guidelines has led to the 
successful rebound of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, allowing 
it to significantly increase in size and distribution since its listing 
in 1975.
    In 2002, an interagency group representing pertinent State and 
Federal parties released the draft Final Conservation Strategy for the 
Grizzly Bear in the GYA to guide management and monitoring of the 
habitat and population of Yellowstone grizzly bears after delisting. 
The Strategy identifies and provides a framework for managing two 
areas, the PCA and adjacent areas of suitable habitat where occupancy 
by grizzly bears is anticipated in the foreseeable future. What follows 
is an assessment of present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of the grizzly bear's habitat and range. More specifically, 
this analysis evaluates all areas capable of supporting grizzly bears 
including the PCA and all suitable habitat within the DPS. These terms 
and areas are defined below.
    Suitable Habitat--Because we used easily recognized boundaries to 
delineate the Yellowstone DPS, the DPS includes both suitable and 
unsuitable habitat (see Figure 1 above). For the purposes of this final 
rule, suitable habitat is considered the area within the DPS boundaries 
capable of supporting a viable grizzly bear population now or in the 
foreseeable future. We have defined suitable habitat for grizzly bears 
as areas having three characteristics--(1) being of adequate habitat 
quality and quantity to support grizzly bear reproduction and survival; 
(2) contiguous with the current distribution of Yellowstone grizzly 
bears such that natural re-colonization is possible; and (3) having low 
mortality risk as indicated through reasonable and manageable levels of 
grizzly bear mortality. For more information see our response to Issue 
2 under subheading G in the Summary of Public Comments section above.
    Our definition and delineation of suitable habitat is built on the 
widely accepted conclusions of extensive research (Craighead 1980, pp. 
8-11; Knight 1980, pp. 1-3; Peek et al. 1987, pp. 160-161; Merrill et 
al. 1999, pp. 233-235; Pease and Mattson 1999, p. 969) that grizzly 
bear reproduction and survival is a function of both the biological 
needs of grizzly bears and remoteness from human activities, which 
minimizes mortality risk for grizzly bears. Mountainous areas provide 
hiding cover, the topographic variation necessary to ensure a wide 
variety of seasonal foods, and the steep slopes used for denning (Judd 
et al. 1986, pp. 114-115; Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 29-58; Linnell et 
al. 2000, pp. 403-405). Higher elevation, mountainous regions in the 
GYA (Omernik 1987, pp. 118-125; Omernik 1995, pp. 49-62; Woods et al. 
1999; McGrath et al. 2002; Chapman et al. 2004) contain high-energy 
foods such as whitebark pine seeds (Mattson and Jonkel 1990, p. 223; 
Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623) and army cutworm moths (Mattson et al. 
1991b, 2434; French et al. 1994, p. 391).
    For our analysis of suitable habitat, we considered the Middle 
Rockies ecoregion, within which the Greater Yellowstone Area is 
contained, (Omernik 1987, pp. 120-121; Woods et al. 1999; McGrath et 
al. 2002; Chapman et al. 2004) to meet grizzly bear biological needs 
providing food, seasonal foraging opportunities, cover, and denning 
areas (Mattson and Merrill 2002, p. 1125). The Middle Rockies ecoregion 
has Douglas-fir, subalpine fir, and Engelmann spruce forests and alpine 
areas. Forests can be open. Foothills are partly wooded or shrub- and 
grass-covered. Intermontane valleys are grass- and/or shrub-covered and 
contain a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic fauna that is distinct from 
the nearby mountains. Many mountain-fed, perennial streams occur and 
differentiate the intermontane valleys from the Northwestern Great 
Plains. Recreation, logging, mining, and summer livestock grazing are 
common land uses in this ecoregion.
    Although grizzly bears historically occurred throughout the area of 
the Yellowstone DPS (Stebler 1972, pp. 297-298), many of these habitats 
are not, today, biologically suitable for grizzly bears. While there 
are records of grizzly bears in eastern Wyoming near present-day 
Sheridan, Casper, and Wheatland, even in the early 19th century, 
indirect evidence suggests that grizzly bears were less common in these 
eastern prairie habitats than in mountainous areas to the west (Rollins 
1935, p. 191; Wade 1947, p. 444). Grizzly bear presence in these drier, 
grassland habitats was associated with rivers and streams where 
grizzlies used bison carcasses as a major food source (Burroughs 1961, 
pp. 57-60; Herrero 1972, pp. 224-227; Stebler 1972, pp. 297-298; 
Mattson and Merrill 2002, pp. 1128-1129). Because wild bison herds no 
longer exist in these areas, these areas are no longer capable of 
contributing, in a meaningful way, to the overall status of the 
Yellowstone DPS. Thus, we did not include drier sagebrush, prairie, or 
agricultural lands within our definition of suitable habitat because 
these land types no longer contain adequate food resources (i.e., 
bison) to support grizzly bears. Figure 1 above illustrates suitable 
habitat within the Yellowstone DPS.
    Unavoidable and uncontrollable mortality also can impact which 
habitat might be considered suitable. Some mortality, including human-
caused mortality, is unavoidable in a dynamic system where hundreds of 
bears inhabit large areas of diverse habitat with several million human 
visitors and residents. The negative impacts of humans on grizzly bear 
survival and habitat use are well documented (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 
278; McLellan and Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; Aune and Kasworm 1989, 
pp. 83-103; McLellan 1989, pp. 1862-1864; McLellan and Shackleton 1989, 
pp. 377-378; Mattson 1990, pp. 41-44; Mattson and Knight 1991, pp. 9-
11; Mattson et al. 1992, pp. 436-438; Mace et al. 1996, p. 1403; 
McLellan et al. 1999, pp. 914-916; White et al. 1999, p. 150; Woodroffe 
2000, pp. 166-168; Boyce et al. 2001, p. 34; Johnson et al. 2004, p. 
976). These effects range from temporary displacement to actual 
mortality. Mattson and Merrill (2002, pp. 1129-1134) found that grizzly 
bear persistence in the contiguous United States between 1920 and 2000 
was negatively associated with human and livestock densities. As human 
population densities increase, the frequency of encounters between 
humans and grizzly bears also increases, resulting in more human-caused 
grizzly bear mortalities due to a perceived or real threat to human 
life or property (Mattson et al. 1996, pp. 1014-1015). Similarly, as 
livestock densities increase in habitat occupied by grizzly bears, 
depredations follow. Although grizzly bears frequently coexist with 
cattle without depredating them, when grizzly bears encounter domestic 
sheep, they usually are attracted to such flocks and depredate the 
sheep (Jonkel 1980, p. 12; Knight and Judd 1983, pp. 188-189; Orme and 
Williams 1986, pp. 199-202; Anderson et al. 2002, pp. 252-253). If 
repeated depredations occur, managers either relocate the bear or 
remove it from the population, resulting in such domestic sheep areas 
becoming

[[Page 14913]]

population sinks (Knight et al. 1988, pp. 122-123).
    Because urban sites and sheep allotments possess high mortality 
risks for grizzly bears, we did not include these areas as suitable 
habitat (Knight et al. 1988, pp. 122-123). Based on 2000 Census data, 
we defined urban areas as census blocks with human population densities 
of more than 50 people per sq km (129 people per sq mi). Cities within 
the Middle Rockies ecoregion such as West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Big 
Sky, and Cooke City, Montana, and Jackson, Wyoming, were not included 
as suitable habitat. There are large, contiguous blocks of sheep 
allotments in peripheral areas of the ecosystem in the Wyoming Mountain 
Range, the Salt River Mountain Range, and portions of the Wind River 
Mountain Range on the Bridger-Teton and the Targhee National Forests 
(see Figure 1 above). This spatial distribution of sheep allotments on 
the periphery of suitable habitat results in areas of high mortality 
risk to bears within these allotments and a few small, isolated patches 
or strips of suitable habitat adjacent to or within sheep allotments. 
These strips and patches of land possess higher mortality risks for 
grizzly bears because of their enclosure by and proximity to areas of 
high mortality risk. This phenomenon in which the quantity and quality 
of suitable habitat is diminished because of interactions with 
surrounding less suitable habitat is known as an ``edge effect'' (Lande 
1988, pp. 3-4; Yahner 1988, pp. 335-337; Mills 1995, p. 396). Edge 
effects are exacerbated in small habitat patches with high perimeter-
to-area ratios (i.e., those that are longer and narrower) and in wide-
ranging species such as grizzly bears because they are more likely to 
encounter surrounding, unsuitable habitat (Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998, 
p. 2126). Due to the negative edge effects of this distribution of 
sheep allotments on the periphery of grizzly range, our analysis did 
not classify linear strips and isolated patches of habitat as suitable 
habitat.
    Finally, dispersal capabilities of grizzly bears were factored into 
our determination of which potential habitat areas might be considered 
suitable. Although the Bighorn Mountains west of I-90 near Sheridan, 
Wyoming, are grouped within the Middle Rockies ecoregion, they are not 
connected to the current distribution of grizzly bears via suitable 
habitat or linkage zones, nor are there opportunities for such linkage. 
The Bighorn Mountains are comprised of 6,341 sq km (2,448 sq mi) of 
habitat that is classified as part of the Middle Rockies ecoregion, but 
are separated from the current grizzly bear distribution by 
approximately 100 km (60 mi) of a mosaic of private and BLM lands 
primarily used for agriculture, livestock grazing, and oil and gas 
production (Chapman et al. 2004). Although there is a possibility that 
individual bears may emigrate from the GYA to the Bighorns 
occasionally, this dispersal distance exceeds the average dispersal 
distance for both males (30 to 42 km (19 to 26 mi)) and females (10 to 
14 km (6 to 9 mi)) (McLellan and Hovey 2001, p. 842, Proctor et al. 
2004, p. 1108). Without constant emigrants from suitable habitat, the 
Bighorns will not support a self-sustaining grizzly bear population. 
Therefore, due to the fact that this mountain range is disjunct from 
other suitable habitat and current grizzly bear distribution, our 
analysis did not classify the Bighorns as suitable habitat within the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries.
    Some areas that are not considered suitable habitat by our 
definition are occasionally used by grizzly bears (4,635 sq km (1,787 
sq mi)) (see Figure 1 above) (Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 209; Schwartz et 
al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). The records of grizzly bears in these unsuitable 
habitat areas are generally due to recorded grizzly bear/human 
conflicts or to transient animals. These areas are defined as 
unsuitable due to the high risk of mortality resulting from these 
grizzly bear/human conflicts. These unsuitable habitat areas do not 
permit grizzly bear reproduction or survival because bears that 
repeatedly come into conflict with humans or livestock are usually 
either relocated or removed from these areas.
    According to the habitat suitability criteria described above, the 
Yellowstone DPS contains approximately 46,035 sq km (17,774 sq mi) of 
suitable grizzly bear habitat within the DPS boundaries; or roughly 24 
percent of the total area within the DPS boundaries (see Figure 1 
above). This amount of suitable habitat is sufficient to meet all 
habitat needs of a recovered grizzly bear population and provide 
ecological resiliency to the population through the availability of 
widely distributed, high-quality habitat that will allow the population 
to respond to environmental changes. Grizzly bears currently occupy 
about 68 percent of that suitable habitat (31,481 sq km (12,155 sq mi)) 
(Schwartz et al. 2002, pp. 207-209; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). 
It is important to note that the current grizzly bear distribution 
shown in Figure 1 does not mean that equal densities of grizzly bears 
are found throughout the region. Instead, most grizzly bears 
(approximately 84 to 90 percent of females with cubs-of-the-year) are 
found within the PCA (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Grizzly bear 
use of suitable habitat may vary seasonally and annually with different 
areas being more important than others in some seasons or years (Aune 
and Kasworm 1989, pp. 48-62). An additional 14,554 sq km (5,619 sq mi) 
of suitable habitat is currently unoccupied by grizzly bears (see 
Figure 1 above) (Schwartz et al. 2002, pp. 207-209; Schwartz et al. 
2006b, pp. 64-66). We expect natural recolonization of much, if not 
all, of this area in the next few decades (Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-6).
    Significant Portion of Range--We determined whether a portion of 
the species range is significant based on the biological needs of the 
species and the nature of the threats to the species. As stated above, 
the factors we used to determine significance include, but may not be 
limited to the following: Quality, quantity, and distribution of 
habitat relative to the biological requirements of the species; the 
historic value of the habitat to the species; the frequency of use of 
the habitat; the uniqueness or importance of the habitat for other 
reasons, such as breeding, feeding, migration, wintering, or 
suitability for population expansion; genetic diversity (the loss of 
genetically based diversity may substantially reduce the ability of the 
species to respond and adapt to future environmental changes or 
perturbations); and other biological factors (e.g. resilience to 
recover from periodic disturbances or environmental variability).
    After careful examination of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in 
the context of our definition of ``significant portion of its range,'' 
we have determined all suitable habitat in the DPS (as per our 
definition above) (approximately 46,035 sq km (17,774 sq mi)) (see 
Figure 1 above), to varying levels, is a significant portion of its 
range. Within suitable habitat, the PCA represents the most significant 
portion of the range. As such, this area is designated the ``primary'' 
conservation area and provides the highest levels of protective 
management. This area was originally selected as the focus of our 
recovery efforts because it was seen ``as an area large enough and of 
sufficient habitat quality to support a recovered grizzly bear 
population'' (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, pp. 55-58; U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 41). This area includes approximately 51 
percent of the suitable habitat within the DPS and approximately 84 to 
90 percent of the population of female grizzly bears with cubs 
(Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Because an estimated

[[Page 14914]]

86.5 percent of the GYA grizzly bears live within the PCA and these 
bears have experienced positive annual population increases of 4 
percent inside Yellowstone National Park, and 12 percent in the area 
inside the PCA but outside of Yellowstone National Park (Schwartz et 
al. 2006e, p. 58), the PCA is particularly biologically significant to 
the Yellowstone DPS. It serves as a source area from which grizzly 
bears can expand into peripheral areas and currently unoccupied 
suitable habitat. Additionally, the PCA's geographic location in the 
northwest corner of the DPS area adds to its biological significance 
because it is the area nearest to other grizzly bear recovery 
ecosystems. If and when connectivity is established among grizzly bear 
populations in the lower 48 States, the PCA will play a role in 
providing dispersers to other ecosystems and providing secure, quality 
habitat for dispersers from other grizzly bear ecosystems. This portion 
of the range is necessary for maintaining a recovered population.
    While the PCA provides for the primary biological needs of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS, suitable habitat outside the PCA also 
plays a role in ensuring the future viability of the species, in that 
it allows for continued population expansion into adjacent areas of 
public land in the GYA, and therefore, provides additional ecological 
resiliency to respond to environmental change. Given this differential 
level of importance, differential levels of management and protection 
(one standard inside the PCA and another standard for suitable habitat 
outside the PCA) are justified.
    As noted above, we do not believe that areas of unsuitable habitat: 
Contribute, in a meaningful way, to the biological requirements of the 
species; are of especially important historical value; represent unique 
habitats or other ecological features that provide adaptive 
opportunities that are of conservation importance to the species; or, 
are necessary to maintain genetic diversity. Unsuitable habitat, by and 
large, constitutes less-productive peripheral habitat. Therefore, we 
believe unsuitable habitat, as defined in this section above, is not 
``significant'' to the conservation of the species and does not 
constitute a significant portion of range. A lack of occupancy in 
unsuitable habitat will not impact whether this population is likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    Suitable Habitat Management within the Primary Conservation Area--
As per the Strategy and the habitat-based recovery criteria discussed 
above, the PCA will be a core secure area for grizzlies where human 
impacts on habitat conditions will be maintained at or below levels 
that existed in 1998 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 38). The 
1998 baseline for habitat standards was chosen because the levels of 
secure habitat and developed sites remained relatively constant in the 
10 years preceding 1998 (USDA Forest Service 2004, pp. 140-141), and 
the selection of 1998 assured that the habitat conditions that allowed 
the population to increase at a rate of 4 to 7 percent per year (Harris 
et al. 2006, p. 48) would be maintained. For each of the 40 bear 
management subunits, the 1998 baseline was determined through a GIS 
analysis of the amount of secure habitat, open and closed road 
densities, the number and capacity of livestock allotments, the number 
of developed sites on public lands, and habitat effectiveness.
    Secure habitat refers to those areas with no motorized access that 
are at least 4 ha (10 ac) in size and more than 500 m (1650 ft) from a 
motorized access route or reoccurring helicopter flight line (USDA 
Forest Service 2004, pp. 160-161). Grizzly bear habitat security is 
primarily achieved by managing motorized access which--(1) minimizes 
human interaction and reduces potential grizzly bear mortality risk; 
(2) minimizes displacement from important habitat; (3) minimizes 
habituation to humans; and (4) provides habitat where energetic 
requirements can be met with limited disturbance from humans (Mattson 
et al. 1987, pp. 269-271; McLellan and Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; 
McLellan 1989, pp. 1862-1864; Mace et al. 1996, pp. 1402-1403; Mattson 
et al. 1996, pp. 1014-1015). Secure habitat is important to the 
survival and reproductive success of grizzly bears, especially adult 
female grizzly bears (Mattson et al. 1987, p. 270; Interagency Grizzly 
Bear Committee 1994, p. 2). In the 1998 baseline, secure habitat 
comprised 45.4 to 100 percent of the total area within a given subunit 
with an average of 85.6 percent throughout the entire PCA (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 133-144, Appendix F). These levels of 
secure habitat have been successfully maintained and will continue to 
be maintained and improved, where possible, as directed by the Strategy 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 135, Table 2 in Appendix F). 
Because of the positive effect that secure habitat has on grizzly bear 
survival and reproduction, it is especially important to maintain these 
levels of secure habitat inside the PCA so that it will continue to 
function as a source area for grizzly bears.
    Open road densities of more than 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi) were 
calculated for two seasons to account for seasonal road closures. The 
percentage of land within each subunit containing road density values 
higher than 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi) in 1998 ranged from 0 to 46.1 
percent, although the average for all subunits was only 10.7 percent. 
Lands containing total road density values of more than 3.2 km/2.6 sq 
km (2 mi/sq mi) in 1998 comprised 0 to 28.1 percent of the total area 
within each subunit, with an average for all subunits of 5.3 percent 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 135). These levels of 
motorized access have been effectively maintained or improved from 1998 
levels. The Strategy assures that current levels of secure habitat will 
be maintained at 1998 levels (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 
38).
    Several subunits within the boundaries of the Gallatin National 
Forest (Henry's Lake No. 2, Gallatin No. 3, and Madison No. 2) within 
the PCA have been identified as needing improvement in access 
parameters. However, the high road density values and subsequently low 
levels of secure habitat in these subunits is primarily due to 
motorized access on private land (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, 
p. 145-152, Appendix G). The Gallatin National Forest is working on 
several land exchange efforts with private parties in these subunits. 
These land exchanges would allow management of the roads on these 
private parcels and increase the secure habitat in these subunits. All 
the above-mentioned subunits on the Gallatin National Forest have the 
potential for improvement in the long term. The timing and amount of 
improvement will be determined through the Gallatin National Forest 
travel management planning process (Gallatin National Forest 2006, pp. 
82-85). Improved levels of secure habitat as per the Gallatin National 
Forest travel management plan will assure that the habitat security 
will be maintained.
    The Gallatin Range Consolidation and Protection Act of 1993 (Pub. L 
103-91) and the Gallatin Range Consolidation Act of 1998 (Pub. L 105-
267) will result in trading timber for land in the Gallatin No. 3 and 
Hilgard No. 1 subunits. The private land involved will become public 
land under the jurisdiction of the Gallatin National Forest. In order 
to complete the exchange, access values in these two subunits will 
temporarily decline below 1998 values. However, upon completion of this 
sale and land

[[Page 14915]]

exchange, secure habitat will increase and motorized access route 
density will decrease in these subunits from the 1998 baseline (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 133-144, Appendix F).
    The Strategy also identified several subunits within the boundaries 
of the Targhee National Forest within the PCA in need of improvement in 
terms of motorized access (Plateau No. 1, Plateau No. 2, and Henry's 
Lake No. 1). The Strategy states that full implementation of the access 
management changes in the revised 1997 Targhee Forest Plan would result 
in those subunits having acceptable levels of road densities and secure 
habitat, due to the decommissioning of roughly 697 km (433 mi) of roads 
within the PCA (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 43-44). As of 
2005, the Targhee National Forest completed this decommissioning work 
(USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 200-201). The 1998 baseline (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 133-144, Appendix F) for these subunits 
was modified to reflect these road closures. Henry's Lake subunit No. 1 
and No. 2 still have high levels of motorized access density and a low 
secure habitat level due to motorized access routes on private lands as 
well as county roads, State and Federal highways, and roads to special 
use sites (such as the Federal Aviation Administration radar site on 
Sawtell Peak) that cannot be closed (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 133-144, Appendix F). These levels of secure habitat do not 
constitute a threat to the grizzly bear population in all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    At least 3 million people visit and recreate in the National Parks 
and National Forests of the GYA annually (USDA Forest Service 2006a, 
pp. 176, 184). This volume of people in grizzly bear habitat presents a 
potential for grizzly bear/human conflicts, yet the average number of 
conflicts per year between 1992 and 2004 was only 135 (Gunther et al. 
2006, p. 58). Based on past trends, visitation and recreation are 
expected to increase in the future. For instance, Yellowstone National 
Park has shown an approximate 15 percent annual increase in the number 
of people visiting each decade since the 1930s (USDA Forest Service 
2006a, p. 183); however, the number of people recreating in the 
backcountry there has remained relatively constant from the 1970s 
through 1999 (Gunther 2000, p. 48). Many grizzly bear/human conflicts 
with people recreating occur on National Forest lands and are related 
to hunting (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21) (also see our discussion under 
Factor C below). Black bear hunting is not allowed in either National 
Park and elk hunting is only allowed in Grand Teton National Park. Elk 
hunters in Grand Teton National Park are required to carry bear pepper 
spray in an accessible location. The number of elk hunter visits in the 
PCA on National Forests has declined 26 percent from 1991 to 2001 (USDA 
Forest Service 2006a, p. 186). Most conflicts between grizzly bears and 
people recreating in grizzly bear habitat can be avoided if proper I & 
E materials are received and used, especially pertaining to food and 
carcass storage, and therefore ensure the Yellowstone DPS is not likely 
to become endangered in all or a significant portion of its range 
within the foreseeable future.
    Recreation in the GYA can be divided into 6 basic categories based 
on season of use (winter or all other seasons), mode of access 
(motorized or non-motorized), and level of development (developed or 
dispersed) (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 187). Inside the PCA, the 
vast majority of lands available for recreation are accessible through 
non-motorized travel only (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 179). 
Motorized recreation during the summer, spring, and fall inside the PCA 
will be limited to existing roads as per the standards in the Strategy 
that restrict increases in roads or motorized trails. Similarly, 
recreating at developed sites such as lodges, downhill ski areas, and 
campgrounds will be limited by the developed sites' habitat standard 
described in the Strategy. The number and capacity of existing 
developed sites will not increase once delisting occurs. For a more 
complete discussion of projected increases in recreation in the GYA 
National Forests, see the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Forest Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYA 
National Forests (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 176-189).
    Habitat standards described in the Strategy regarding livestock 
require that the number of commercial livestock allotments and 
permitted sheep animal months within the PCA not increase above 1998 
levels (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 43). Livestock 
allotments, particularly sheep allotments, decrease habitat security 
(i.e., habitat effectiveness) as grizzly bears occupying lands with 
sheep are more likely to come into conflict with these sheep. This 
increase in encounters between bears and livestock or their human 
owners decreases survival rates of grizzly bears in areas of active 
sheep allotments, as repeat depredators are removed from the 
population. Although sheep and cattle also can compete directly to some 
degree with grizzly bears during late spring and early summer for 
desired foods such as grasses, sedges, and forbs (Jonkel 1980, p. 12), 
this is considered negligible to grizzly bear population dynamics. Due 
to the higher prevalence of grizzly bear conflicts associated with 
sheep grazing, existing sheep allotments will be phased out as the 
opportunity arises with willing permittees (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p. 43).
    A total of 100 livestock allotments existed inside the PCA in 1998. 
Of these allotments, there were--69 active and 13 vacant cattle 
allotments; and 11 active and 7 vacant sheep allotments with a total of 
23,090 animal months (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 382). Sheep animal 
months are calculated by multiplying the permitted number of animals by 
the permitted number of months. Any use of vacant allotments will only 
be permitted after an analysis is completed to evaluate impacts on 
grizzly bears. Since 1998, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest has 
closed five sheep allotments within the PCA while the Shoshone National 
Forest has closed two sheep allotments (USDA Forest Service 2005, p. 
50). This has resulted in a reduction of 7,889 sheep animal months 
under the total calculated for 1998 within the PCA, and is a testament 
to the commitment land management agencies have to the ongoing success 
of the grizzly bear population in the GYA. As of 2006, there are a 
total of two active sheep allotments within the PCA, both on the 
Targhee National Forest. The permittee of the two allotments on the 
Gallatin National Forest that were active in 2005 when the Proposed 
rule was published, agreed to waive the grazing permit back to the 
Gallatin National Forest without preference and these two sheep 
allotments were closed in 2006. The Gallatin National Forest plans to 
close three other vacant allotments when they revise their current 
Forest Plan. This Forest Plan revision process is scheduled to be 
completed by 2010 (USDA Forest Service 2005, p. 11). The mandatory 
restriction on creating new livestock allotments and the voluntary 
phasing out of livestock allotments with recurring conflicts further 
ensure that the PCA will continue to function as source habitat.
    The National Parks and National Forests within the PCA will manage 
developed sites at 1998 levels within each bear management subunit, 
with some exceptions for administrative and maintenance needs (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 38-56). Developed sites refer to 
sites on public land developed or improved for human

[[Page 14916]]

use or resource development. Examples include campgrounds, trailheads, 
lodges, summer homes, restaurants, visitor centers, oil and gas 
exploratory wells, production wells, and work camps. The primary 
concerns related to developed sites are direct mortality from bear/
human encounters, food conditioning, and habituation of bears to humans 
(Mattson et al. 1987, p. 271). Habituation occurs when grizzly bears 
encounter humans or developed sites frequently, and without negative 
consequences, so that the bears no longer avoid humans and areas of 
human activity (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 6). Habituation 
does not necessarily involve human-related food sources. Food 
conditioning occurs when grizzly bears receive human-related sources of 
food and thereafter seek out humans and human use areas as feeding 
sites (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 6). In areas of suitable 
habitat inside the PCA, the National Park Service and the USDA Forest 
Service enforce food storage rules aimed at decreasing grizzly bear 
access to human foods (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 23-24). 
These regulations will continue to be enforced and are in effect, or 
proposed, for all currently occupied grizzly bear habitat within the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
23-24).
    Gunther (1994, pp. 558-559) noted that grizzly bear management in 
Yellowstone National Park has shifted from problems involving food-
conditioned bears to problems involving habituated (but not food-
conditioned) bears seeking natural foods within developed areas or 
along roadsides. New or expanded developed sites can impact bears 
through temporary or permanent habitat loss and displacement, increased 
length of time of human use, increased human disturbance to surrounding 
areas, and, potentially unsecured bear attractants.
    Developed sites on public lands are currently inventoried in 
existing GIS databases and are input in the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Cumulative Effects Model. As of 1998, there were 598 developed sites on 
public land within the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2005, pp. 56-57). All 
changes in developed sites since 1998 have been evaluated against the 
baseline and have been determined to be acceptable under the standard 
for developed sites identified in the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, pp. 44-45). For a new developed site to be determined 
acceptable, it must be demonstrated that it will have no effect on 
grizzly bears (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 42). For 
example, a cell phone tower would fit this criterion because there is 
no human occupancy, nor human attractants such as garbage or other 
potential food sources. However, campgrounds, trailheads, lodges, 
summer homes, restaurants, visitor centers, oil and gas exploratory 
wells, production wells, and work camps would not be considered 
acceptable. Inside the PCA, no changes in the 1998 baseline have 
occurred in terms of site developments. The maintenance of the number 
and capacity of developed sites at 1998 levels further protects this 
significant portion of the DPS' range and ensures the Yellowstone DPS 
is not likely to become endangered in all or a significant portion of 
its range within the foreseeable future.
    Management of oil, gas, and mining are tracked as part of the 
developed site monitoring effort (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, 
p. 44). There were no active oil and gas leases inside the PCA as of 
1998 (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 209). There are approximately 631 
sq km (244 sq mi) of secure habitat potentially available for timber 
projects and 243 sq km (94 sq mi) of secure habitat that allows surface 
occupancy for oil and gas, projects within the PCA (USDA Forest Service 
2006a, Figures 48, 96). This comprises less than 4 percent of all 
suitable habitat within the PCA. Additionally, 1,354 mining claims 
existed in 10 of the subunits inside the PCA (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p.134, Appendix F), but only 27 of these mining claims 
had operating plans. These operating plans are included in the 1998 
developed site baseline. Under the conditions of the Strategy, any new 
project will be approved only if it conforms to secure habitat and 
developed site standards (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 44-
45). For instance, any project that reduces the amount of secure 
habitat permanently will have to provide replacement secure habitat of 
equivalent habitat quality (as measured by the Cumulative Effects Model 
or equivalent technology) and any change in developed sites will 
require mitigation equivalent to the type and extent of the impact, and 
such mitigation must be in place before project initiation or be 
provided concurrently with project development as an integral part of 
the project plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 40-41). For 
projects that temporarily change the amount of secure habitat, only one 
project is allowed in any subunit at any time (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, pp. 40-41). Mitigation of any project will occur within 
the same subunit and will be proportional to the type and extent of the 
project (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 40-41).
    Finally, we established a habitat effectiveness baseline by 
documenting habitat effectiveness values using the Cumulative Effects 
Model and 1998 habitat data (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
52-53). Habitat effectiveness values reflect the relative amount of 
energy (derived from natural foods) that is available to grizzly bears 
given their response to human activities. Important foods are key 
habitat-based criteria. The inverse relationship between whitebark pine 
cone production and grizzly conflicts in the Yellowstone Ecosystem has 
been documented (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; Gunther et al. 1997, p. 
38; Gunther et al. 2004, pp. 13-14). However, the relationship between 
other important foods such as spring ungulate carcasses, cutworm moths, 
and cutthroat trout is not as clear cut. Therefore, it is important to 
monitor foods and continue to relate major food abundance to 
demographics and human/bear conflicts. Monitoring habitat effectiveness 
using the Cumulative Effects Model is valuable in understanding and 
maintaining important habitats for grizzly bears. The Study Team will 
continue coordinating with the National Forests and National Parks 
within the PCA to update and evaluate habitat effectiveness against the 
1998 baseline.
    To establish the 1998 baseline for habitat effectiveness values, 
the USDA Forest Service calculated habitat effectiveness within each 
subunit for four important bear seasons--spring (March 1 to May 15); 
estrus (May 16 to July 15); early hyperphagia (July 16 to August 31); 
and late hyperphagia (September 1 to November 30) (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 133-144, Table 6 in Appendix F). High 
habitat effectiveness values during estrus are associated with 
cutthroat trout spawning streams (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, 
p. 140). Similarly, high habitat effectiveness values during early 
hyperphagia and late hyperphagia are associated with moth aggregation 
sites and whitebark pine, respectively (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, p. 140). Habitat effectiveness values also are directly 
influenced by the amount of secure habitat in a subunit. This 
combination of the distribution and abundance of natural foods and the 
distribution and abundance of human activities produces relative values 
indicative of how effective a certain subunit is at supporting grizzly 
bear growth, reproduction, and survival (U.S. Fish

[[Page 14917]]

and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 140). As such, values varied widely among 
seasons and across seasons within subunits (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p 141, Table 6 in Appendix F). Because the National Park 
Service and the USDA Forest Service have not changed levels of road 
densities, secure habitat, developed sites, or livestock allotments 
except to improve upon the 1998 baseline, the 1998 habitat 
effectiveness values remain applicable. Regardless of habitat 
effectiveness values, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has 
continued to grow and expand in distribution (Harris et al. 2006, p. 
48; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Upon delisting, the USDA Forest 
Service will measure changes in seasonal habitat effectiveness values 
in each Bear Management Unit and subunit by regular application of the 
Cumulative Effects Model or best available system and compare outputs 
with the 1998 baseline values (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
52-53). The Cumulative Effects Model provides a relative index of 
habitat change over time and how it has increased or decreased since 
1998. The Cumulative Effects Model databases will be reviewed annually 
and updated as needed (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 52-53).
    The Strategy calls for maintaining or improving the existing 
habitat effectiveness values in secure habitat in each subunit but 
recognizes that they change annually and seasonally due to natural 
processes such a wildfire and natural variations (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 52-53). The best way to maintain existing 
habitat effectiveness values is to manage motorized access and 
developed sites, as described in the Strategy. Private land development 
also will be monitored and linked to numbers of human-bear conflicts, 
causes of human-bear conflicts, and distribution of human-bear 
conflicts so as to direct management efforts to improve food supply and 
minimize bear/human conflicts in such areas.
    Within the PCA, each National Forest and National Park will monitor 
adherence to the secure habitat, developed site, and livestock 
standards inside the PCA, as established by the Strategy (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, p. 64). The Study Team will monitor habitat 
effectiveness and track any changes to the habitat from fire, insects, 
and disease, and other human activities not measured by the habitat 
standard monitoring efforts. The agencies will measure changes in 
seasonal habitat value and effectiveness in each bear management unit 
and subunit by regular application of the Cumulative Effects Model or 
the best available system, and compare outputs to the 1998 baseline. 
These databases incorporate information regarding vegetation, the 
abundance and distribution of the four major bear foods, location, 
duration, and intensity of use for motorized access routes, non-
motorized access routes, developed sites, and front-country and back-
country dispersed uses. The Study Team will review Cumulative Effects 
Model databases annually to refine and verify Cumulative Effects Model 
assumptions and update them as needed to reflect changes in intensity 
or duration of human use. The Coordinating Committee may review and 
revise habitat standards based on the best available science, after 
appropriate public processes have been conducted by the affected land 
management agencies.
    To prevent habitat fragmentation and degradation, the Strategy 
requires that all road construction projects in suitable habitat on 
Federal lands throughout the entire GYA (both inside and outside of the 
PCA) evaluate the impacts of the project on grizzly habitat 
connectivity during the NEPA process (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 38-39). By identifying areas used by grizzly bears, officials 
can mitigate potential impacts from road construction both during and 
after a project. Federal agencies will identify important crossing 
areas by collecting information about known bear crossings, bear 
sightings, ungulate road mortality data, bear home range analyses, and 
locations of game trails. Potential advantages of this requirement 
include reduction of grizzly bear mortality due to vehicle collisions, 
access to seasonal habitats, maintenance of traditional dispersal 
routes, and decreased fragmentation of individual home ranges. For 
example, work crews will place temporary work camps in areas with lower 
risk of displacing grizzly bears, and food and garbage will be kept in 
bear-proof containers. Highway planners will incorporate warning signs 
and crossing structures such as culverts or underpasses into projects 
when possible to facilitate safe highway crossings by wildlife.
    ``Suitable Habitat'' Management Outside the Primary Conservation 
Area--In suitable habitat outside of the PCA within the DPS, the USDA 
Forest Service, BLM, and State wildlife agencies will monitor habitat 
and population criteria to prevent potential threats to habitat, 
ensuring that the measures of the Act continue to be unnecessary 
(Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 2-
3; MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 2005, p. 1; USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 
44-45; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 5). Factors impacting 
suitable habitat outside of the PCA in the future may include increased 
road densities, livestock allotments, developed sites, human presence, 
and habitat fragmentation. Both Federal and State agencies are 
committed to managing habitat so that the measures of the Act are not 
required to assure the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS is not likely to 
become endangered in all or a significant portion of its range in the 
foreseeable future (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 12-85; 
Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 2-3; 
MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 2005, p. 1) (see Factor D below). In suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA, restrictions on human activities are more 
flexible but still the USDA Forest Service, BLM, and State wildlife 
agencies will carefully manage these lands, monitor bear/human 
conflicts in these areas, and respond with management as necessary to 
reduce such conflicts to account for the complex needs of both grizzly 
bears and humans (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 58; Idaho's 
Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 16-17; MTFWP 
2002, pp. 55-56; WGFD 2005, pp. 25-26; USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. 
A1-A27).
    Currently, there are 22,783 sq km (8,797 sq mi) of suitable habitat 
outside of the PCA within the DPS boundaries (see Figure 1 above). Of 
this, 17,292 sq km (6,676 sq mi) are on National Forest lands. About 10 
to 16 percent of the population of female grizzly bears with cubs 
occurs outside the PCA (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Management 
decisions on USDA Forest Service lands will continue to consider 
potential impacts on grizzly bear habitat and will be managed so as to 
maintain the habitat conditions necessary to support a recovered 
grizzly bear population (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). 
Approximately 79 percent of suitable habitat outside the PCA on 
National Forest lands within the DPS is currently designated a 
Wilderness Area (6,799 sq km (2,625 sq mi)), a Wilderness Study Area 
(708 sq km (273 sq mi)), or an Inventoried Roadless Area (6,179 sq km 
(2,386 sq mi). The amount of designated Wilderness Area, Wilderness 
Study Area, and Inventoried Roadless Area within each National Forest 
ranges from 56 to 90 percent, depending upon the forest. This large 
area of widely distributed habitat allows for continued population 
expansion and provides

[[Page 14918]]

additional resiliency to environmental change.
    Wilderness areas outside of the PCA are considered secure because 
they are protected from new road construction by Federal legislation. 
In addition to restrictions on road construction, the Wilderness Act of 
1964 (Pub. L. 88-577) also protects designated wilderness from 
permanent human habitation and increases in developed sites. The 
Wilderness Act allows livestock allotments existing before the passage 
of the Wilderness Act and mining claims staked before January 1, 1984, 
to persist within wilderness areas, but no new grazing permits or 
mining claims can be established after these dates. If pre-existing 
mining claims are pursued, the plans of operation are subject to 
Wilderness Act restrictions on road construction, permanent human 
habitation, and developed sites.
    Wilderness study areas are designated by Federal land management 
agencies (e.g., USDA Forest Service) as those having wilderness 
characteristics and being worthy of congressional designation as a 
wilderness area. Individual National Forests that designate wilderness 
study areas manage these areas to maintain their wilderness 
characteristics until Congress decides whether to designate them as 
permanent wilderness areas. This means that individual wilderness study 
areas are protected from new road construction by Forest Plans. As 
such, they are safeguarded from decreases in grizzly bear security. 
Furthermore, activities such as timber harvest, mining, and oil and gas 
development are much less likely to occur because the road networks 
required for these activities are unavailable. However, because these 
lands are not congressionally protected, they could experience changes 
in management prescription with Forest Plan revisions.
    Inventoried Roadless Areas currently provide 4,891 sq km (1,888 sq 
mi) of secure habitat for grizzly bears outside of the PCA within the 
DPS boundaries. A USDA Forest Service Interim Directive (69 FR 42648, 
July 16, 2004) which instructs National Forests to preserve the 
``roadless characteristics'' of roadless areas remained in effect until 
November 2006. In September 2006, a Federal court remanded the 2005 
State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management Rule (70 FR 
25653-25662, May 13, 2005) and reinstated the 2001 Roadless Areas 
Conservation Rule (66 FR 3244-3273, January 12, 2001) (see Factor D 
below for a more complete discussion of this court decision and the two 
different Federal Rules issued regarding Roadless Area Management). The 
2001 Roadless Areas Conservation Rule prohibits road construction, road 
re-construction, and timber harvest in Inventoried Roadless Areas (66 
FR 3244-3273, January 12, 2001). This restriction on road building 
makes mining activities and oil and gas production much less likely 
because access to these resources becomes cost-prohibitive or 
impossible without new roads. Potential changes in the management of 
these areas are not anticipated, but are discussed further under Factor 
D.
    An estimated 7,195 sq km (2,778 sq mi) of suitable habitat outside 
the PCA on USDA Forest Service lands within the DPS could experience 
permanent or temporary changes in road densities. Because grizzly bears 
will remain on the USDA Forest Service Sensitive Species list after 
delisting and will be classified as a ``species of concern'' (USDA 
Forest Service 2006b, p. 26) under the 2005 USDA Forest Service 
Planning Regulations, any increases in roads on National Forests would 
have to comply with National Forest Management Act and be subject to 
the NEPA process considering potential impacts to grizzly bears.
    Importantly, all three State grizzly bear management plans 
recognize the importance of areas that provide security for grizzly 
bears in suitable habitat outside of the PCA within the DPS boundaries 
on Federal lands. Although State management plans apply to all suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA, habitat management on public lands is 
directed by Federal land management plans, not State management plans. 
The Montana and Wyoming plans recommend limiting average road densities 
to 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi) or less in these areas (MTFWP 2002, 
pp. 32-34; WGFD 2005, pp. 22-25). Both States have similar standards 
for elk habitat on State lands and note that these levels of motorized 
access benefit a variety of wildlife species while maintaining 
reasonable public access. Similarly, the Idaho State plan recognizes 
that management of motorized access outside the PCA should focus on 
areas that have road densities of 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi) or 
less. The area most likely to be occupied by grizzly bears outside the 
PCA in Idaho is on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The 1997 
Targhee Forest Plan includes motorized access standards and 
prescriptions outside the PCA with management prescriptions that 
provide for long-term security in 59 percent of existing secure habitat 
outside of the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 78, 109).
    In suitable habitat outside the PCA within the DPS boundaries, 
there are roughly 150 active cattle allotments and 12 active sheep 
allotments (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 129). The Targhee Forest 
closed two of these sheep allotments in 2004 (USDA Forest Service 
2006a, p. 168). The USDA Forest Service will allow these allotments 
within suitable habitat to persist along with other existing livestock 
allotments outside of suitable habitat. Although conflicts with 
livestock have the potential to result in mortality for grizzly bears, 
the Strategy will prevent mortality from exceeding established 
sustainable mortality limits and preclude population level impacts. The 
Strategy directs the Study Team to monitor and spatially map all 
grizzly bear mortalities (both inside and outside the PCA), causes of 
death, the source of the problem, and alter management to maintain a 
recovered population and prevent the need to relist the population 
under the Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 31-34).
    There are over 500 developed sites on the 6 National Forests in the 
areas identified as suitable habitat outside the PCA within the DPS 
boundaries (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 138). Grizzly bear/human 
conflicts at developed sites are the most frequent reason for 
management removals (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Existing USDA Forest 
Service food storage regulations for these areas will continue to 
minimize the potential for grizzly bear/human conflicts through food 
storage requirements, outreach, and education. The number and capacity 
of developed sites will be subject to management direction established 
in Forest Plans. Should the Study Team determine developed sites are 
related to increases in mortality beyond the sustainable limits 
discussed above, they may recommend closing specific developed sites or 
otherwise altering management in the area in order to maintain a 
recovered population and prevent the need to relist the population 
under the Act. Due to the USDA Forest Service's commitment to manage 
National Forest lands in the GYA such that a viable grizzly bear 
population is maintained (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 42-
43; USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. iii, A-6), we do not expect 
livestock allotments or developed sites in suitable habitat outside of 
the PCA to reach densities that are likely to threaten the Yellowstone 
DPS in all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable 
future.
    Less than 19 percent (3,213 sq km (1,240 sq mi)) of suitable 
habitat outside the PCA within the DPS boundaries on

[[Page 14919]]

USDA Forest Service land allows surface occupancy for oil and gas 
development and 11 percent (1,926 sq km (744 sq mi)) has both suitable 
timber and a management prescription that allows scheduled timber 
harvest. The primary impacts to grizzly bears associated with timber 
harvest and oil and gas development are increases in road densities, 
with subsequent increases in human access, grizzly bear/human 
encounters, and human-caused grizzly bear mortalities (McLellan and 
Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; McLellan and Shackleton 1989, pp. 377-
379; Mace et al. 1996, pp. 1402-1403). Although seismic exploration 
associated with oil and gas development or mining may disturb denning 
grizzly bears (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278; Reynolds et al. 1986, pp. 
174-175), actual den abandonment is rarely observed, and there has been 
no documentation of such abandonment by grizzly bears in the GYA. 
Additionally, only a small portion of this total land area will contain 
active projects at any given time, if at all. For example, among the 
roughly 1,926 sq km (744 sq mi) identified as having both suitable 
timber and a management prescription that allows timber harvest, from 
2000 to 2002, an average of only 5 sq km (2 sq mi) was actually logged 
annually (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 118). Similarly, although nearly 
3,213 sq km (1,240 sq mi) of suitable habitat on National Forest lands 
allow surface occupancy for oil and gas development, there currently 
are no active wells inside these areas (USDA Forest Service 2004, pp. 
170-171).
    Ultimately, the six affected National Forests (the Beaverhead-
Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer, Gallatin, and 
Shoshone) will manage the number of roads, livestock allotments, 
developed sites, timber harvest projects, and oil and gas wells outside 
of the PCA in suitable habitat to allow for a viable grizzly bear 
population and ensure that the Yellowstone DPS is not likely to become 
endangered in all or a significant portion of its range within the 
foreseeable future. Because the grizzly bear will be classified as a 
sensitive species (or a species of concern when Forest Management Plans 
are again revised using the 2005 USDA Forest Service planning 
regulations and the USDA Forest Service Manual), land management 
activities will be managed so as to a provide for the needs of a 
recovered population. Any road construction, timber harvest, or oil and 
gas projects would require compliance with the NEPA and the National 
Forest Management Act of 1976 (15 U.S.C. 1600), considering all 
potential impacts to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and its 
habitat.
    Rapidly accelerating growth of human populations in some areas in 
grizzly bear habitat within the DPS boundaries but outside of the PCA 
continues to define the limits of grizzly habitat, and will likely 
limit the expansion of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population onto 
private lands in some areas outside the PCA. Urban and rural sprawl 
(low-density housing and associated businesses) has resulted in 
increasing numbers of grizzly bear/human conflicts with subsequent 
increases in grizzly bear mortality rates. Private lands account for a 
disproportionate number of bear deaths and conflicts (see Figures 15 
and 16 in the Strategy). Nearly 9 percent of all suitable habitat 
outside of the PCA is privately owned. As private lands are developed 
and as secure habitat on private lands declines, State and Federal 
agencies will work together to balance impacts from private land 
development (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 54). Outside the 
PCA, State agencies will assist non-government organizations and other 
entities to identify and prioritize potential lands suitable for 
permanent conservation through easements and other means as possible 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 54). Due to the large areas of 
widely distributed suitable habitat on public lands managed by agencies 
committed to the maintenance of a recovered grizzly bear population, 
human population growth on private lands is not likely to endanger the 
Yellowstone DPS in all or a significant portion of its range in the 
foreseeable future.
    Summary of Factor A--In summary, the primary factors related to 
past habitat destruction and modification have been directly addressed 
through changes in management practices. Within suitable habitat, 
differential levels of management and protection (one standard inside 
the PCA and another standard for suitable habitat outside the PCA) are 
applied to areas based on their level of importance. Within the PCA, 
the most significant portion of the range where 84 to 90 percent of the 
females with cubs live (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 66), comprehensive 
protections are in place. For this area, the Service developed 
objective and measurable habitat criteria concerning secure habitat, 
human site developments, and livestock allotments which will be habitat 
requirements on public lands once this final rule becomes effective 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 39-45). In addition, the 
Study Team, State, National Park Service, and USDA Forest Service 
biologists and technicians will monitor the availability and abundance 
of the four major foods, and of habitat value and habitat effectiveness 
using the Cumulative Effects Model or other appropriate methods (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 45-52). The Coordinating Committee 
will respond to these monitoring data with adaptive management (Holling 
1978, pp. 11-16) as per the Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 63-64). Accordingly, the PCA, which comprises 51 percent of 
the suitable habitat within the DPS boundaries and is occupied by 84 to 
90 percent of all females with cubs (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 64), 
will be a highly secure area for grizzlies upon delisting, with habitat 
conditions maintained at or above levels documented in 1998. 
Maintenance of this portion of the range, as described above, will 
satisfy the habitat requirements of the species relative the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS's biological demands and is sufficient to 
support a recovered grizzly bear population.
    Suitable habitat outside the PCA is also significant, albeit to a 
lesser extent, in that it allows for continued population expansion 
into adjacent areas of public land in the GYA, and therefore, provides 
additional ecological resiliency to respond to environmental change. 
These areas will be carefully monitored and managed to ensure that the 
measures of the Act are not again required. Management in this area 
will provide for the complex needs of both grizzly bears and humans. In 
suitable habitat outside the PCA on USDA Forest Service lands, 74 
percent (12,860 sq km or 4,965 sq mi) is currently secure habitat, 68 
percent of which (8,737 sq km or 3,373 sq mi) is likely to remain 
secure. Areas outside the PCA contain 10 to 16 percent of GYA's females 
with cubs (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 64). Management of public land 
outside the PCA administered by State and Federal agencies also will 
continue to consider potential impacts of management decisions on 
grizzly bear habitat. Efforts by non-government organizations and State 
and county agencies will seek to minimize bear/human conflicts on 
private lands (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 54, 57-59). 
These and other conservation measures discussed in this final rule will 
allow for continued population expansion so that grizzly bears will 
likely occupy the remainder of the suitable habitat within the DPS 
within the foreseeable future.
    A total of 88 percent of all suitable habitat within the DPS 
boundaries (40,293 sq km (15,557 sq mi)) is

[[Page 14920]]

managed by the USDA Forest Service or National Park Service. These 
public lands are already managed, and will continue to be managed, such 
that adequate habitat for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is 
maintained (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 38-56; USDA Forest 
Service 2006b, pp. 4-7, 26). Significant areas of the suitable habitat 
outside the PCA are designated as wilderness where human development 
actions are prohibited. For example, 2,948 sq km (1,138 sq mi) of the 
Wind River Range including almost all of the high elevation whitebark 
pine stands are in designated Wilderness Areas. Habitat and population 
standards described in the Strategy have been incorporated into 
National Park Compendiums and National Forest Land Management Plans 
(Yellowstone National Park 2006, p. 12; Grand Teton National Park, p. 
1; USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. 4-7, 26) (see Factor D below). 
Collectively, these differential levels of management and protection 
(one standard inside the PCA and another standard for suitable habitat 
outside the PCA) guarantee appropriate protective measures for each 
part of the significant portion of range.
    Therefore, the lack of present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of the Yellowstone DPS's habitat and range 
ensures this species is not likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of its range. No 
current or foreseeable threats to habitat or range imperil the 
recovered status of the Yellowstone DPS. And all areas necessary for 
maintaining a recovered population are adequately safeguarded so that 
this population no longer requires the measures of the Act to protect 
habitat or range.

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

    No grizzly bears have been legally removed from the GYA in the last 
30 years for commercial, recreational, or educational purposes. The 
only commercial or recreational take anticipated post-delisting is a 
limited, controlled hunt. The States will manage grizzly bears as a 
game animal, potentially with a carefully regulated hunt (for a more 
detailed discussion, see the State Management Plans section under 
Factor D below). Should such a season be implemented, all hunting 
mortalities will be counted toward the ecosystem-wide mortality limits 
for the population and will be strictly controlled to assure that 
mortality limits are not exceeded and the Yellowstone DPS is not likely 
to become endangered in all or a significant portion of its range by 
this discretionary mortality source. Significant take for educational 
purposes is not anticipated. Mortality due to illegal poaching, defense 
of life and property, mistaken identity or other accidental take, and 
management removals are discussed under Factor C below.
    Between 1980 and 1982, three accidental trap mortalities were 
associated with scientific research (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). 
Since 1982, there has not been a single capture mortality associated 
with research trapping in the GYA spanning more than 468 grizzly bear 
captures (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Because of rigorous protocols 
dictating proper bear capture, handling, and drugging techniques used 
today, this type of scientific overutilization is not a threat to the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population. The Study Team, bear biologists, 
and researchers will continue implementing these protocols after 
delisting. Therefore, mortalities associated with scientific research 
are likely to remain an insignificant factor in population dynamics 
into the foreseeable future.

C. Disease or Predation

    Disease--Although grizzly bears have been documented with a variety 
of bacteria and other pathogens, parasites, and disease, fatalities are 
uncommon (LeFranc et al. 1987, p. 61) and do not appear to have 
population-level impacts on grizzly bears (Jonkel and Cowan 1971, pp. 
31-32; Mundy and Flook 1973, p. 13; Rogers and Rogers 1976, p. 423). 
Researchers have demonstrated that some grizzly bears have been 
documented with brucellosis (type 4), clostridium, toxoplasmosis, 
canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis, and rabies 
(LeFranc et al. 1987, p. 61; Zarnke and Evans 1989, p. 586; Marsilio et 
al. 1997, p. 304; Zarnke et al. 1997, p. 474). However, based on 30 
years of research by the Study Team, natural mortalities in the wild 
are rare (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, pp. 34-35) and it 
is likely that mortalities due to any of these bacteria or pathogens 
are negligible components of total mortality in the GYA. Disease is not 
common in grizzly bears, and has only very rarely been documented in 
Yellowstone grizzly bears (Craighead et al. 1988, p. 11). Disease is 
likely to remain an insignificant factor in population dynamics into 
the foreseeable future.
    Natural Predation--Grizzly bears are occasionally killed by other 
wildlife. Adult grizzly bears kill cubs, sub-adults, or other adults 
(Stringham 1980, p. 337; Dean et al. 1986, pp. 208-211; Hessing and 
Aumiller 1994, pp. 332-335; McLellan 1994, p. 15; Schwartz et al. 
2003b, pp. 571-572). This type of intraspecific killing seems to occur 
rarely (Stringham 1980, p. 337) and has only been observed among 
Yellowstone grizzly bears in the GYA 14 times between 1986 and 2004 
(Haroldson 2005). Wolves and grizzly bears often scavenge similar types 
of carrion and, sometimes, will interact with each other in an 
aggressive manner. From 1995 through 2003, Gunther and Smith (2004, pp. 
233-236) documented 96 wolf-grizzly bear interactions and 2 incidents 
in which wolf packs likely killed grizzly bear cubs. Overall, these 
types of aggressive interactions among grizzly bears or with other 
wildlife are rare and are likely to remain an insignificant factor in 
population dynamics into the foreseeable future.
    Human Predation--Humans have historically been the most effective 
predators of grizzly bears. Excessive human-caused mortality is one of 
the major contributing factors to grizzly bear decline during the 
nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Leopold 1967, p. 30; Koford 1969, 
p. 95; Servheen 1990, p. 1; Servheen 1999, pp. 50-52; Mattson and 
Merrill 2002, pp. 1129, 1132; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 571), 
eventually leading to their listing as a threatened species in 1975. 
Grizzlies were seen as a threat to livestock and to humans and, 
therefore, an impediment to westward expansion. The Federal government, 
as well as many of the early settlers in grizzly bear country, was 
dedicated to eradicating large predators. Grizzly bears were shot, 
poisoned, and killed wherever humans encountered them (Servheen 1999, 
p. 50). By the time grizzlies were listed under the Act in 1975, there 
were only a few hundred grizzly bears remaining in the lower 48 States 
in less than 2 percent of their former range (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1993, pp. 8-12).
    From 1973 to 2002, a total of 372 known grizzly bear deaths 
occurred in the GYA (Haroldson and Frey 2003, p. 27). Of these, 272 (73 
percent of total) were human-caused (Haroldson and Frey 2003, p. 27). 
Since 1975, levels of human-caused mortality have remained relatively 
constant (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 15). Although humans have been and 
remain the single greatest cause of mortality for grizzly bears 
(McLellan et al. 1999, pp. 914-916; Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21), rates 
of human-caused mortality have been low enough to allow Yellowstone 
bear population growth and range expansion (Harris et al. 2006, p. 48; 
Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Implementation of the revised 
mortality limits ensure that

[[Page 14921]]

mortality will continue to be managed at sustainable levels. Below we 
consider human predation impacts including illegal poaching, defense of 
life and property, accidental mortality, and management removals.
    We define vandal killing as poaching, which is malicious, illegal 
killing of a grizzly bears. People may kill grizzly bears for several 
reasons, including a general perception that grizzly bears in the area 
may be dangerous, frustration over depredations of livestock, or to 
protest land use and road use restrictions associated with grizzly bear 
habitat management (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Regardless of the 
reason, poaching continues to occur. We are aware of at least 27 vandal 
killings in the GYA between 1980 and 2002 (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 
21). Although this level of take occurred during a period where 
poaching was enforceable by Federal prosecution, we do not expect 
vandal killing to significantly increase after delisting.
    State and Federal law enforcement agents have cooperated to ensure 
consistent enforcement of laws protecting grizzly bears. Currently, 
State and Federal prosecutors and enforcement personnel from each State 
and Federal jurisdiction work together to make recommendations to all 
jurisdictions, counties, and States, on uniform enforcement, 
prosecution, and sentencing relating to illegal grizzly bear kills. 
Upon delisting, all three affected States will classify grizzly bears 
of the Yellowstone population as game animals, which cannot be taken 
without authorization by State wildlife agencies (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 72-75; Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 18-21; MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 2005, 
p. 20). In other words, it will still be illegal for private citizens 
to kill grizzly bears unless it is in self defense, they have a hunting 
license issued by State wildlife agencies, or in the Montana portion of 
the DPS, if a grizzly bear is caught in the act of attacking or killing 
livestock (87-3-130 MCA). States will continue to enforce, prosecute, 
and sentence poachers just as they do for any game animal such as elk, 
black bears, and cougars. Although it is widely recognized that 
poaching still occurs, this illegal source of mortality is not 
significant enough to hinder the continuing growth and range expansion 
of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population (Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-6; 
Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 203).
    One way to address vandal killing is to change human values, 
perceptions, and beliefs about grizzly bears and Federal regulation of 
public lands (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 27). To address the concerns of 
user groups who have objections to land use restrictions that 
accommodate grizzly bears, Federal and State agencies market the 
benefits of restricting motorized access to multiple species. For 
example, both Montana and Wyoming have recommendations for elk habitat 
security similar to those for grizzly bears (less than 1.6 km/2.6 sq km 
(1 mi/sq mi)) and this level of motorized access meets the needs of a 
variety of wildlife species, while maintaining reasonable opportunities 
for public access. To address the concerns of citizens who feel that 
grizzly bears are a threat to their safety or their lifestyle, I & E 
programs aim to change perspectives on the danger and behavior of 
grizzly bears (for a detailed discussion of I & E programs, see Factor 
E below).
    From 1980 to 2002, humans killed 49 grizzly bears in self-defense 
or defense of others. This constituted nearly 17 percent of known 
grizzly bear mortalities during this time period (Servheen et al. 2004, 
p. 21). These grizzly bear/human conflicts occurred primarily over 
livestock or hunter-killed carcasses, but also at camp and home sites. 
Federal and State agencies have many options to potentially reduce 
these conflicts (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 27). By promoting the use of 
pepper spray and continuing current I & E programs, many of these 
grizzly bear deaths may be avoided.
    Humans kill grizzly bears unintentionally with vehicles or by 
mistaking them for other species when hunting. From 1980 to 2002, the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population incurred 9 mortalities from 
roadkills and 13 mortalities associated with mistaken identification 
(totaling 9 percent of known mortality for this time period) (Servheen 
et al. 2004, p. 21). Measures to reduce vehicle collisions with grizzly 
bears include removing roadkill carcasses from the road so that grizzly 
bears are not attracted to the roadside (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 28). 
Cost-effective mitigation efforts to facilitate safe crossings by 
wildlife will be voluntarily incorporated in road construction or 
reconstruction projects on Federal lands within suitable grizzly bear 
habitat.
    Mistaken identification of grizzly bears by black bear hunters is a 
manageable source of mortality. The Strategy identifies I & E programs 
targeted at hunters that emphasize patience, awareness, and correct 
identification of targets to help reduce grizzly bear mortalities from 
inexperienced black bear and ungulate hunters (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, pp. 61-62). Beginning in license year 2002, the State of 
Montana required that all black bear hunters pass a Bear Identification 
Test before receiving a black bear hunting license (see http://fwp.state.mt.us/bearid/ for more information and details). In addition, 
Montana and Wyoming include grizzly bear encounter management as a core 
subject in basic hunter education courses (WGFD 2005, p. 34; MTFWP 
2002, p. 63).
    Big-game hunters in the GYA are another source of mortality for 
grizzly bears. Between 1980 and 2002, 71 percent (35 of 49) of grizzly 
bears killed in self defense were hunting-related (Servheen et al. 
2004, p. 21). These deaths occur during surprise encounters in heavy 
cover, at hunter-killed carcasses or gut piles, or when packing out 
carcasses. Elk hunters in Grand Teton National Park are required to 
carry pepper spray in an accessible location (WGFD 2006).
    The last source of human predation on grizzly bears is associated 
with management removal of nuisance bears following grizzly bear/human 
conflicts. Effective nuisance bear management benefits the conservation 
of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population by promoting tolerance of 
grizzly bears and minimizing illegal killing of bears by citizens. The 
Strategy and the State grizzly bear management plans will guide 
nuisance bear management post-delisting. The Strategy is consistent 
with current protocol as described in the Guidelines (USDA Forest 
Service 1986, pp. 53-54), emphasizing the individual's importance to 
the entire population, with females continuing to receive a higher 
level of protection than males. Location, cause of incident, severity 
of incident, history of the bear, health, age, and sex of the bear, and 
demographic characteristics are all considered in any relocation or 
removal action. Upon delisting, State and National Park Service bear 
managers would continue to consult with each other and other relevant 
Federal agencies (i.e., USDA Forest Service, BLM) before any nuisance 
bear management decision is made, but consultation with us will no 
longer be required. The Strategy emphasizes removal of the human cause 
of the conflict when possible, or management and education actions to 
limit such conflicts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007. pp. 57-60). 
In addition, an I & E team will continue to coordinate the development, 
implementation, and dissemination of programs and materials to aid in 
preventative management of human/bear conflicts. The Strategy 
recognizes that successful

[[Page 14922]]

management of grizzly bear/human conflicts requires an integrated, 
multiple-agency approach to continue to keep human-caused grizzly bear 
mortality within sustainable levels.
    The largest increase in grizzly bear mortalities since 1994 is 
related to grizzly bear/human conflicts at or near developed sites 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). In fact, 20 percent (59 of 290) of known 
mortalities between 1980 and 2002 were related to site conflicts 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). These conflicts involved food-
conditioned bears actively seeking out human sources of food or bears 
that are habituated to human presence seeking natural sources of food 
in areas that are near human structures or roads. The increase in site 
conflicts during the last decade is likely due to a combination of 
encroaching human presence coinciding with an increasing and expanding 
grizzly bear population. These conflicts usually involve attractants 
such as garbage, human foods, pet/livestock/wildlife foods, livestock 
carcasses, and wildlife carcasses, but also are related to attitudes 
and personal levels of knowledge and tolerance toward grizzly bears. 
Both State and Federal I & E programs are aimed primarily at reducing 
grizzly bear/human conflicts proactively by educating the public about 
potential grizzly bear attractants. Accordingly, roughly 68 percent of 
the total budgets of the agencies responsible for implementing the 
Strategy and managing the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS post-delisting 
is for grizzly bear/human conflict management, outreach, and education 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, Appendix H, p. 154). To address 
public attitudes and knowledge levels, I & E programs will present 
grizzly bears as a valuable public resource while acknowledging the 
potential dangers associated with them (for a detailed discussion of I 
& E programs, see Factor E below).
    Management removals due to grizzly bear conflicts with livestock 
accounted for nearly 4 percent of known mortalities between 1980 and 
2002 (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Several steps to reduce livestock 
conflicts are currently underway. The USDA Forest Service and National 
Park Service are phasing out sheep allotments within the PCA as 
opportunities arise and, currently, only 2 active sheep allotments 
inside the PCA remain (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 167). The USDA 
Forest Service also has closed sheep allotments outside the PCA to 
resolve conflicts with species such as bighorn sheep as well as grizzly 
bears. Additionally, the alternative chosen by the USDA Forest Service 
during their Environmental Impact Statement process to amend the six 
national forest plans for grizzly bear habitat conservation includes 
direction to resolve recurring conflicts on livestock allotments 
through retirement of those allotments with willing permittees (USDA 
Forest Service 2006b, pp. 16-17). Livestock grazing permits include 
special provisions regarding reporting of conflicts, proper food and 
attractant storage procedures, and carcass removal. The USDA Forest 
Service monitors compliance to these special provisions associated with 
livestock allotments annually (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 28). Upon 
delisting, the USDA Forest Service will continue to implement these 
measures that minimize grizzly bear conflicts with livestock. The 
Strategy also recognizes that active management of individual nuisance 
bears is required. Removal of repeat depredators of livestock has been 
an effective tool for managing grizzly bear/livestock conflicts as most 
depredations are done by a few individuals (Jonkel 1980, p. 12; Knight 
and Judd 1983, p.188; Anderson et al. 2002, pp. 252-253).
    The Study Team coordinates an annual analysis of the causes of 
conflicts, known and probable mortalities, and proposed management 
solutions (Servheen et al. 2004, pp. 1-29). The Yellowstone Ecosystem 
Subcommittee reviews these reports and initiates appropriate action if 
improvements in Federal or State management actions can minimize 
conflicts. As directed by the Strategy, upon delisting, the Study Team 
will continue to summarize nuisance bear control actions in their 
Annual Reports and the Coordinating Committee will continue with their 
review (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 60). The Study Team 
also would continue preparing annual spatial distribution maps of 
conflicts so that managers can identify where problems occur and 
compare trends in locations, sources, land ownership, and types of 
conflicts. This will facilitate proactive management of grizzly/human 
conflicts.
    Summary of Factor C--Overall, from 1980 to 2002, the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population incurred an average of 12.6 human-caused 
grizzly bear mortalities per year (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). 
Despite these mortalities, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has 
continued to increase in size and expand its distribution in the last 2 
decades (Eberhardt et al. 1994, pp. 361-362; Knight and Blanchard 1995, 
pp. 2-11; Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 1-11; Harris et al. 2006, p.48; Pyare 
et al. 2004, pp. 5-6; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Disease and 
natural predation are not currently a threat, nor are they likely to 
become a threat to the Yellowstone DPS in the foreseeable future in all 
or a significant portion of its range. Although humans are still 
directly or indirectly responsible for the majority of grizzly bear 
deaths in suitable habitat within the DPS boundaries, we have learned 
that this source of mortality can be effectively controlled through 
management and I & E.
    We have institutionalized careful management and monitoring of 
human-caused mortality in the Strategy, Forest Plans, National Park 
management plans, and State grizzly bear management plans (see Factor D 
below). In addition, we revised our methodology for calculating the 
total allowable mortality limits (see the Recovery; Population and 
Demographic Management section above) to include natural mortalities 
and estimates of unreported/undetected deaths, so that mortality in the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population can be managed at sustainable 
levels. Because of these actions, human sources of mortality are not 
currently a threat, nor are they likely to become a threat in the 
foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of the Yellowstone 
DPS's range. All significant areas are adequately protected.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    The lack of regulatory mechanisms to control take and protect 
habitat was a contributing factor to grizzly bear population declines 
(40 FR 31734-31736, July 28, 1975). Upon listing under the Act, the 
grizzly bear immediately benefited from a Federal regulatory framework 
that included prohibition of take (defined under the Act to include 
harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 
collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct); prohibition of 
habitat destruction or degradation if such activities harm individuals 
of the species; the requirement that Federal agencies ensure their 
actions will not likely jeopardize the continued existence of the 
species; and the requirement to develop and implement a recovery plan 
for the species. These protective measures have improved the status of 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear population to the point where delisting is 
now appropriate.
    The management of grizzly bears and their habitat draws from the 
laws and regulations of the Federal and State agencies in the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 
68-78). Forty Federal laws, rules, guidelines, strategies, and

[[Page 14923]]

reports and 33 State laws, statutes, and regulations are in place that 
apply to management of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 157-160, Appendix J). These laws 
and regulations provide the legal authority for controlling mortality, 
providing secure habitats, managing grizzly bear/human conflicts, 
controlling hunters, limiting access where necessary, controlling 
livestock grazing, maintaining I & E programs to control conflicts, 
monitoring populations and habitats, and requesting management and 
petitions for relisting if necessary.
    Recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is the result 
of ongoing partnerships between Federal and State agencies, the 
governors of these States, county and city governments, educational 
institutions, numerous non-government organizations, private 
landowners, and the public who live, work, and recreate in the GYA. 
Just as recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population could not 
have occurred without these excellent working relationships, 
maintenance of a recovered grizzly population will be the result of the 
continuation of these partnerships.
    The Strategy is the plan which will guide the management and 
monitoring of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and its habitat 
after delisting. It establishes a regulatory framework and authority 
for Federal and State agencies to take over management of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population from the Service. The Strategy also 
identifies, defines, and requires adequate post-delisting monitoring to 
maintain a healthy Yellowstone grizzly bear population (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 25-56). The Strategy is an adaptive and 
dynamic document that allows for continuous updating based on new 
scientific information (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 14). 
The Strategy also has a clear response protocol that requires the 
agencies to respond with active management changes to deviations from 
the habitat and population standards in a timely and publicly 
accessible manner (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 63-67). It 
represents a decade-long collaborative effort between us and the USDA 
Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM, U.S. Geological Survey, the 
Study Team, IDFG, MTFWP, and WGFD. State grizzly bear management plans 
were developed, reviewed, opened for public comment, revised, and 
completed in all three affected States (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) 
(Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002; MTFWP 
2002; WGFD 2005). These State plans were then incorporated into the 
Strategy to ensure that the plans and the Strategy are consistent and 
complementary (accessible at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm). The Strategy then went through a 
separate public comment process (65 FR 11340, March 2, 2000) before 
being revised and finalized. All the State and Federal agencies which 
are party to the agreement have signed a memorandum of understanding in 
which they have agreed to implement the Strategy.
    The Strategy and the State plans describe and summarize the 
coordinated efforts required to manage the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population and its habitat such that its continued conservation is 
ensured. The Strategy will direct management of grizzly bears inside 
the PCA, the most significant portion of range, whereas the State plans 
will cover all suitable habitat outside of the PCA. These documents 
specify the population, habitat, and nuisance bear standards to 
maintain a recovered grizzly bear population. The plans also document 
the regulatory mechanisms and legal authorities, policies, management, 
and post-delisting monitoring plans that exist to maintain the 
recovered grizzly bear population. Overall, the measures committed to 
in the Strategy and the State grizzly bear management plans provide 
assurances to us that adequate regulatory mechanisms exist to maintain 
a recovered grizzly bear population in the Yellowstone DPS after 
delisting (i.e., they ensure that the species is not likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range).
    In areas of suitable habitat outside of the PCA (areas considered 
``significant'' to the extent that they allow for continued population 
expansion into adjacent areas of public land in the GYA, and therefore, 
provide additional ecological resiliency to respond to environmental 
change), individual National Forest Plans and State grizzly bear 
management plans apply. Upon delisting, the USDA Forest Service will 
place grizzly bears on its Sensitive Wildlife Species list (USDA Forest 
Service 2006b, p. 26). This requires the USDA Forest Service to conduct 
a biological evaluation for any project which may ``result in loss of 
species viability or create significant trends toward Federal listing'' 
(USDA Forest Service Manual 2006). Under the revised Forest Planning 
Regulations (70 FR 1023, January 5, 2005), Yellowstone grizzly bears 
will be classified as a ``species of concern'' (USDA Forest Service 
2006b, p. 26). This designation provides protections similar to those 
received when classified as a sensitive species and requires that 
Forest Plans include additional provisions to accommodate these species 
and provide adequate ecological conditions (i.e., habitats) to continue 
to provide for the needs of a recovered population.
    The USDA Forest Service conducted a NEPA analysis and produced a 
Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the potential options 
available, and the effects of implementing the Strategy (USDA Forest 
Service 2004, p. iii). This analysis was undertaken by all six affected 
National Forests (Beaverhead, Bridger-Teton, Custer, Gallatin, 
Shoshone, and Targhee) in suitable habitat and was completed in July 
2004 (accessible at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm). The overall purpose of the Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement was to analyze the impacts of 
incorporating the habitat standards outlined in the Strategy and other 
relevant provisions into the Forest Plans of the six affected forests, 
to ensure conservation of habitat to sustain the recovered Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population. The USDA Forest Service Final Environmental 
Impact Statement and Record of Decision were released in April 2006 
(USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 1; USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 36). 
The chosen alternative from the Final Environmental Impact Statement 
was Alternative 2-Modified to amend the Forest Plans to include all the 
habitat standards described in the Strategy (USDA Forest Service 2006b, 
p. iii). This alternative amends current Forest Plans in the GYA with 
the habitat standards required in the Strategy. In addition, 
Alternative 2-Modified includes guidance and direction for managing 
suitable habitat, as described in the State plans, outside of the PCA. 
This guidance and direction includes: a goal for accommodating grizzly 
bears outside the PCA; direction on managing livestock allotments with 
recurring conflicts through retirement of such allotments with willing 
permittees; direction emphasizing the use of food storage orders to 
minimize grizzly bear/human conflicts; a guideline to maintain, to the 
extent feasible, important grizzly bear food resources; and several 
monitoring items that will enhance habitat management outside of the 
PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 34-37). These amendments to the GYA 
National Forest Land Management Plans, completed within the framework

[[Page 14924]]

established by the 1982 planning regulations, become effective upon 
delisting.
    Under the revised Forest Planning Regulation (70 FR 1023, January 
5, 2005), future revisions to Forest Plans will be based upon a ``need 
for change'' approach. Under this approach, ``it is highly unlikely 
that any changes relating to the Yellowstone grizzly bear amendments * 
* * will be identified during the revision process'' (Aus 2005). ``This 
means that the management direction developed in the amendment(s) will 
be transferred to the new planning format and will not change. The 
bottom line is that any potential changes to management direction in 
either the current plans or during the revision effort will be guided 
by the agreements reached in the Strategy and its adaptive provisions'' 
(Aus 2005). In addition, we received written assurance from the Chief 
of the USDA Forest Service (Bosworth 2006) stating, ``It is Forest 
Service policy under the new 2005 planning regulations * * * to provide 
for both ecosystem diversity and species diversity, including providing 
appropriate ecological conditions if needed to help avoid the need to 
list under the Act. In our judgment, this management framework provides 
adequate regulatory mechanisms to redeem our federal agency 
responsibilities under the Act. This is fundamental to our mission and 
specifically to our commitment to grizzly bear conservation.'' Finally, 
``the National Forest Management Act, requires that all projects 
carried out on a forest be consistent with the plans adopted under the 
regulations, regardless of whether they are 1982 or 2005 planning 
regulations'' (Bosworth 2006).
    Roughly 30 percent of all suitable habitat outside of the PCA is 
within a designated Wilderness Area (6,799 of 22,783 sq km (2,625 of 
8,797 sq mi) while another 27 percent is within an Inventoried Roadless 
Area (6,179 of 22,783 sq km (2,386 of 8,797 sq mi)). Another three 
percent of all suitable habitat outside the PCA is considered 
Wilderness Study Area. The Wilderness Act of 1964 does not allow road 
construction, new livestock allotments, or new oil, gas, and mining 
developments in designated Wilderness Areas; therefore, about 6,799 sq 
km (2,625 sq mi) of secure habitat outside of the PCA will remain 
secure habitat protected by adequate regulatory mechanisms. This secure 
suitable habitat is biologically significant to the Yellowstone DPS 
because it will allow population expansion into these areas that are 
minimally affected by humans.
    The State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area Management Rule 
(70 FR 25653-25662, May 13, 2005) which replaced the Roadless Area 
Conservation Rule (``Roadless Rule'') (66 FR 3244-3273, Jan. 12, 2001) 
was overturned on September 19, 2006 (People Of The State Of California 
Ex Rel. Bill Lockyer, et al. v. United States Department of 
Agriculture; The Wilderness Society, California Wilderness Coalition, 
et al. v. United States Forest Service, Dale Bosworth, et al., C05-
03508 EDL). The State Petitions for Inventoried Roadless Area 
Management Rule was set aside and the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, 
including the Tongass Amendment, was reinstated. The USDA Forest 
Service was enjoined from taking any further action contrary to the 
Roadless Area Conservation Rule without undertaking environmental 
analysis consistent with the court opinion.
    Even if this rule had remained in effect, the affected National 
Forest would have used the NEPA process and public involvement to 
consider the impacts any changes in Roadless Area management may have 
had on other resources and management goals. The USDA Forest Service 
would have monitored any impacts these changes may have had on habitat 
effectiveness, while the Study Team would have monitored any increases 
in grizzly bear mortality these changes may have caused. Before the 
2006 court decision, the USDA Forest Service Interim Directive 1920-
2004-1 regulated activities in Inventoried Roadless Areas (69 FR 42648-
42649, July 16, 2004). Under this directive, little road building or 
timber harvest could be done in Inventoried Roadless Areas until Forest 
Plans were revised or amended to specifically address activities in 
roadless areas. The Targhee National Forest was exempt from this 
interim directive because it operates under a Revised Forest Plan, 
which addresses the management of roadless areas. Motorized access and 
other management activities are addressed by specific Management 
Prescription direction in the Revised Forest Plan. In general, this 
Management Prescription directs that roadless areas in the Targhee 
National Forest remain roadless. Similarly, a 1994 amendment to the 
Shoshone National Forest Plan implemented a standard for no net 
increase in roads (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 73).
    The National Park Service has incorporated the habitat, population, 
monitoring, and nuisance bear standards described in the Strategy into 
their Superintendent's Compendium for each affected National Park. This 
was completed prior to the publication of this final rule (Grand Teton 
National Park 2006, p. 1; Yellowstone National Park 2006, p. 12). 
Because the BLM manages less than 2 percent of all suitable habitats, 
they are not modifying existing management plans. Instead, the BLM 
expressed their commitment to the long-term conservation of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population by signing the memorandum of 
understanding in the Strategy.
    The three State grizzly bear management plans direct State land 
management agencies to maintain or improve habitats that are important 
to grizzly bears and to monitor population criteria outside the PCA. 
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have developed management plans for areas 
outside the PCA to--(1) assure that the measures of the Act continue to 
be unnecessary for the grizzly bears in the Yellowstone DPS; (2) 
support expansion of grizzly bears beyond the PCA, into areas of 
biologically and socially acceptable suitable habitat; and (3) manage 
grizzly bears as a game animal, including allowing regulated hunting 
when and where appropriate. The plans for all three States were 
completed in 2002, and grizzly bears within the Yellowstone DPS will be 
incorporated into existing game species management plans after 
delisting.
    Together, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe 
manage wildlife within the boundaries of the Wind River Reservation 
(see Figure 1 above). The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes 
have participated in Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meetings. At 
the 2002 Annual Tribal Consultation, organized by Yellowstone National 
Park, we formally briefed the Tribe about the Strategy, but the Tribe 
did not provide input or feedback about the Strategy, nor did they sign 
the memorandum of understanding in the Strategy. The Eastern Shoshone 
Tribe is currently working with the Service's Lander, Wyoming office to 
develop its own Grizzly Bear Management Plan. We anticipate that the 
Tribal management plan will allow for grizzly bear occupancy of 
suitable habitat on Tribal land and cooperation on managing and 
monitoring population parameters. Less than 3 percent of all suitable 
habitats (1,360 sq km (525 sq mi)) are potentially affected by Tribal 
decisions, so their management would never constitute a threat to the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Their management plan will 
facilitate grizzly bear occupancy in areas of suitable habitat on the 
Wind River

[[Page 14925]]

Reservation and would allow grizzly bears greater access to high-
elevation whitebark pine and army cutworm moths, thus allowing for 
additional resiliency of the Yellowstone DPS in response to changing 
environmental conditions.
    Once this final rule becomes effective, the Strategy will be 
implemented, and the Coordinating Committee will replace the 
Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee as the lead entity coordinating 
implementation of the habitat and population standards, and monitoring 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 63). Similar to the 
Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee, the Coordinating Committee members 
include representatives from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National 
Parks, the six affected National Forests, BLM, U.S. Geological Survey, 
IDFG, MTFWP, WGFD, one member from local county governments within each 
State, and one member from each Native American Tribe within suitable 
habitat. All meetings will be open to the public. Besides coordinating 
management, research, and financial needs for successful conservation 
of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, the Coordinating Committee 
will review the Study Team's Annual Reports and review and respond to 
any deviations from habitat or population standards. The Coordinating 
Committee will decide on management recommendations to be implemented 
by appropriate member agencies to rectify problems and to assure that 
the habitat and population standards will be met and maintained.
    The Strategy's habitat standards are the 1998 levels of secure 
habitat, developed sites, livestock allotments, and habitat 
effectiveness (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 38). The 
Strategy signatories have agreed that if there are deviations from any 
population or habitat standard, the Coordinating Committee will 
implement a Biology and Monitoring Review to be carried out by the 
Study Team. A Biology and Monitoring Review will be triggered by any of 
the following causes--(1) a total population estimate of less than 500, 
as indicated by a Chao2 estimate (Keating et al. 2002, pp. 
167-170) of less than 48 females with cubs-of-the-year, for 2 
consecutive years; (2) exceedance of the 9 percent total mortality 
limit for independent females for 2 consecutive years; (3) exceedance 
of the total mortality limits for independent males or dependent young 
for 3 consecutive years; (4) failure to meet any of the habitat 
standards described in the Strategy pertaining to levels of secure 
habitat, new developed sites, and number of livestock allotments in any 
given year; or (5) failure to receive adequate funding to fully 
implement the monitoring and management requirements of the Strategy in 
any given year.
    A Biology and Monitoring Review is led by the Study Team and will 
examine habitat management, population management, or monitoring 
efforts of participating agencies with an objective of identifying the 
source or cause of failing to meet a habitat or demographic goal. This 
review also will provide management recommendations to correct any such 
deviations. If the Biology and Monitoring Review is triggered by 
inadequate funding, the Review would focus on whether this fiscal 
short-coming was a threat to the implementation of the Strategy to such 
an extent that it required that the measures of the Act would be 
necessary to assure the recovered status of the Yellowstone DPS. If the 
Review is triggered by failure to meet a population goal, the Review 
would involve a comprehensive review of vital rates including survival 
rates, litter size, litter interval, grizzly bear/human conflicts, and 
mortalities. The Study Team will attempt to identify the reason behind 
any variation in vital rates such as habitat conditions, vandal 
killings, excessive roadkill, etc., and determine if the reasons that 
the measures of the Act are necessary to assure the recovered status of 
the population. Similarly, if the Review was triggered by failure to 
meet a habitat standard, the Review would examine what caused the 
failure, whether this requires that the measures of the Act are 
necessary to assure the recovered status of the population, and what 
actions may be taken to correct the problem. This Review will be 
completed and made available to the public within 6 months of 
initiation.
    The Coordinating Committee is to respond to a Biology and 
Monitoring Review with actions to address deviations from habitat 
standards or, if the desired population and habitat standards specified 
in the Strategy cannot be met in the opinion of the Coordinating 
Committee, then the Coordinating Committee will petition us for 
relisting (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 66). Although anyone 
can petition us for relisting, the Coordinating Committee's petition is 
important because it is requested by the actual management agencies in 
charge of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. Additionally, the 
Coordinating Committee possesses the resources, data, and experience to 
provide us with a strong argument for the petition. Once a potential 
petition is received, we determine if the petition presents substantial 
information. If so, we conduct a full status review to determine if 
relisting is warranted, warranted-but-precluded by higher priority 
actions, or not warranted. We also could consider emergency listing, in 
accordance with section 4(b)(7) of the Act, if the threat were severe 
and immediate (16 U.S.C. 1533(g)). Such an emergency relisting would be 
effective the day the regulation is published in the Federal Register 
and would be effective for 240 days. During this time, a conventional 
rule regarding the listing of the species based on the five factors of 
section 4(a)(1) of the Act could be drafted and take effect after the 
240-day limit on the emergency relisting has expired. Both emergency 
listing and the normal listing process also could be undertaken by the 
Service independent of the petition process.
    The management of nuisance bears within the Yellowstone DPS 
boundaries will be based upon existing laws and authorities of State 
wildlife agencies and Federal land management agencies, and guided by 
protocols established in the Strategy and State management plans. 
Inside the National Parks, Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park 
grizzly bear biologists will continue to respond to grizzly bear/human 
conflicts. In all areas outside of the National Parks, State wildlife 
agencies will coordinate and carry out any management actions in 
response to grizzly bear/human conflicts. In areas within the 
Yellowstone DPS boundaries that are outside of the PCA, State grizzly 
bear management plans will apply and State wildlife agencies will 
respond to and manage all grizzly bear/human conflicts. The focus and 
intent of nuisance grizzly bear management inside and outside the PCA 
will be predicated on strategies and actions to prevent grizzly bear/
human conflicts. Active management aimed at individual nuisance bears 
will be required in both areas.
    The Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming plans recognize that measures to 
reduce grizzly bear/human conflicts are paramount to successfully and 
completely addressing this issue. The State of Idaho Yellowstone 
Grizzly Bear Management Plan states that such measures must be given 
priority, as they are more effective than simply responding to problems 
as they occur (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 
2002, p. 15). Similarly, the Grizzly Bear Management Plan for 
Southwestern Montana maintains that the key to dealing with all 
nuisance situations is prevention rather than responding after damage 
has

[[Page 14926]]

occurred (MTFWP 2002, p. 48). The Wyoming Grizzly Bear Management Plan 
also mandates the WGFD to emphasize long-term, non-lethal solutions, 
but relocation and lethal removal may occur to resolve some conflicts 
(WGFD 2005, pp. 25-25). All three State management plans are accessible 
at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm. The ways in which the Strategy and the State plans 
intend to address preventative measures are described in detail in the 
Factor E-Human Attitudes Toward Grizzly Bear Recovery and Information & 
Education Efforts to Improve these Attitudes section below. All three 
State plans allow for preemptive relocation of grizzly bears out of 
areas that have a high probability of conflicting with humans or their 
property, including livestock. The States are committed to responding 
to grizzly bear/human conflicts in an efficient, timely manner.
    The killing of grizzly bears in self-defense by humans will 
continue to be allowed under both Federal and State management plans. 
State management plans do not allow for legal take of grizzly bears by 
humans unless it is within the designated seasons and limits for 
grizzly mortality or, in the Montana portion of the DPS, if a grizzly 
bear is caught ``in the act'' of attacking or killing livestock (87-3-
130 MCA). This would have to be verified by a law enforcement 
investigation. Any mortality due to hunting will be within the 
sustainable mortality limits, as described in the Strategy (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 126). The goal of such a hunting season 
is to reduce grizzly density in areas of high grizzly bear/human 
conflicts, in order to achieve management objectives so that future 
management actions would be reduced. A hunt would only occur if annual 
mortality limits specified for the Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
are not exceeded.
    State management plans provide the necessary regulatory framework 
and guidelines to State wildlife agencies for managing and maintaining 
a recovered Yellowstone grizzly bear population in significant portions 
of the range outside of the PCA. By identifying the agencies 
responsible for nuisance bear management and responding to grizzly 
bear/human conflicts using a clearly orchestrated protocol, these State 
plans create a framework within which grizzly bears and people can both 
flourish. Effective nuisance bear management benefits the conservation 
of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population and State management plans 
adequately address this issue.
    Summary of Factor D--In addition to the Strategy, National Park 
Superintendent's Plans, USDA Forest Service Amendment for Grizzly Bear 
Habitat Conservation for the GYA National Forests, and State grizzly 
bear management plans, more than 70 State and Federal laws, 
regulations, rules, and guidelines are currently in place. We are 
confident that these mechanisms provide an adequate regulatory 
framework within which the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will 
continue to experience population stability and be appropriately 
distributed throughout significant portions of the range for the 
foreseeable future. These mechanisms also provide detailed protocols 
for future management, I & E programs, and monitoring for the 
foreseeable future. In summary, these mechanisms provide reasonable 
assurance to us and regulatory certainty that potential future threats 
to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will not jeopardize this 
recovered population and ensure that the Yellowstone DPS is not likely 
to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Three other considerations warrant discussion as to whether or not 
they are likely to appreciably impact the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS 
including--(1) genetic concerns; (2) invasive species, disease, and 
other impacts to food supply; and (3) human attitudes toward grizzly 
bear recovery and I & E efforts to improve these attitudes.
    Genetic Management--Levels of genetic diversity in Yellowstone 
grizzly bears have been a concern in the past because of small 
population size and lack of genetic exchange with other grizzly bear 
populations. However, levels of genetic diversity in the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population are not as low as previously feared, and the 
need for novel genetic material is not urgent (Miller and Waits 2003, 
p. 4338). Because the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is an 
isolated population, declines in genetic diversity over time are 
expected (Allendorf et al. 1991, p. 651; Burgman et al. 1993, p. 220), 
but will occur gradually over decades (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). 
Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338) state, ``In our opinion, it is 
unlikely that genetic factors will have substantial effect on the 
viability of the Yellowstone grizzly over the next several decades.'' 
Therefore, we do not view genetic diversity as a current threat to the 
Yellowstone DPS. However, low levels of gene flow, as seen 
historically, may be necessary in the future to maintain genetic 
diversity within the Yellowstone DPS. In order to assure the long-term 
genetic health of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS, we have considered 
genetic issues for the period beyond the next several decades.
    Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338) recommend that in order to avoid 
negative, short-term genetic effects associated with small population 
size, the effective population size (i.e., the number of breeding 
individuals in an idealized population that would show the same amount 
of change in allele frequencies due to random genetic drift or the same 
amount of inbreeding as the population under consideration) of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS should remain above 100 animals, and this 
will likely be achieved by maintaining a total population size above 
400 animals. In response to this recommendation, the Strategy states 
that it is the goal of the implementing agencies to maintain the total 
population size at or above 500 animals to assure that the effective 
population size does not decline to less than 100 (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2007, p. 26).
    Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338) state that the genetic diversity 
necessary for the long-term genetic health of the population can only 
be maintained through gene flow from other grizzly bear populations, 
either through translocation or natural connectivity. Our DPS policy 
does not require complete geographic or reproductive isolation among 
populations, and allows for some limited interchange among population 
segments considered to be discrete (61 FR 4722). Although movement of 
just a few individuals between populations may be sufficient to prevent 
loss of genetic diversity, movement of a few individuals would not be 
sufficient to create or maintain significant demographic connectivity 
between grizzly bear populations. We believe that there is currently no 
connectivity between the Yellowstone DPS and other grizzly bear 
populations. Future efforts to maintain genetic diversity, either 
through translocation or natural connectivity, may provide for genetic 
exchange among grizzly bear populations but is unlikely to result in 
the Yellowstone DPS becoming no longer markedly separate from other 
grizzly bear populations. Natural connectivity will continue to be 
monitored after delisting. To document natural connectivity, Federal 
and State agencies will continue to monitor bear movements on the 
northern periphery of the Yellowstone DPS boundaries and

[[Page 14927]]

the southern edges of the NCDE using radio-telemetry and will collect 
genetic samples from all captured or dead bears to document gene flow 
between these two ecosystems. Such movement will be detected by using 
an ``assignment test'' which identifies the area from which individuals 
are most likely to have originated based on their unique genetic 
signature (Paetkau et al. 1995, p. 348; Waser and Strobeck 1998, p. 43; 
Paetkau et al. 2004, p. 56; Proctor et al. 2005, pp. 2410-2412). This 
technique also has the ability to identify bears that may be the 
product of reproduction between Yellowstone and NCDE bears (Dixon et 
al. 2006, p. 158). In addition to monitoring for gene flow and 
movements, we will continue interagency efforts to complete the linkage 
zone task in the Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, 
pp. 24-26) to provide and maintain movement opportunities for grizzly 
bears, and reestablish natural connectivity and gene flow between the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS and other grizzly bear populations.
    Experimental and theoretical data suggest that one to two effective 
migrants per generation is an appropriate level of gene flow to 
maintain or increase the level of genetic diversity in isolated 
populations (Mills and Allendorf 1996, pp. 1510, 1516; Newman and 
Tallmon 2001, pp. 1059-1061; Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). We have 
defined an effective migrant as an individual that emigrates into an 
isolated population from an outside area, survives, breeds, and whose 
offspring survive (we further discuss this issue in Issue 8 under 
subheading R in the Summary of Public Comments section above). Based on 
Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338), the Strategy recommends that if no 
movement or successful genetic interchange is detected by 2020, two 
effective migrants from the NCDE be translocated into the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population every 10 years (i.e., one generation) to 
maintain current levels of genetic diversity (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, p. 37). Based on previous attempts in other grizzly bear 
recovery ecosystems to augment the grizzly bear population (Kasworm et 
al. in press, pp. 6-7), the Service recognizes that it may take several 
re-located bears to equal one or two effective migrants. Each bear that 
would be relocated from the NCDE into the GYA would be radio-collared 
and monitored to determine if additional translocations were necessary. 
In this way, we can be certain that genetic impoverishment will not 
become a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS.
    Adequate measures to address genetic concerns will continue and, 
thus, genetic concerns will not adversely impact the long-term 
conservation of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population or its 
expansion into suitable habitat. The Study Team will carefully monitor 
movements and the presence of alleles from grizzly populations outside 
the Yellowstone DPS boundaries (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 
37) so that reduction of genetic diversity due to the geographic 
isolation of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population will not become a 
threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in all or a significant 
portion of its range in the foreseeable future.
    Invasive Species, Disease, and Other Impacts to Food Supply--Four 
food items have been identified as major components of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population's diet (Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623). These 
are seeds of the whitebark pine, army cutworm moths, ungulates, and 
spawning cutthroat trout. These food sources may exert a positive 
influence on grizzly bear fecundity and survival (Mattson et al. 2002, 
p. 2) and are some of the highest sources of digestible energy 
available to grizzly bears in the GYA (Mealey 1975, pp. 84-86; 
Pritchard and Robbins 1990, p. 1647; Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; 
Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 247-252). Each of these food sources is 
limited in distribution and subject to natural annual fluctuations in 
abundance and availability. Because of this natural variability, 
threshold values of abundance for each food have not been established. 
However, whitebark pine, ungulates, cutthroat trout, and army cutworm 
moths are all monitored either directly or indirectly on an annual 
basis (see Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan section below). Monitoring 
these important foods provides managers with some ability to predict 
annual seasonal bear habitat use, and estimate, prepare for, and avoid 
grizzly bear/human conflicts due to a shortage of one or more foods. 
For instance, the Coordinating Committee issues press releases annually 
about the abundance of fall foods, particularly whitebark pine. In poor 
whitebark pine years, these press releases warn people that bears might 
be found in lower elevation areas and that encounters with bears will 
likely be more common. In Yellowstone National Park, similar warnings 
are issued to people during poor food years when they obtain their 
backcountry permits and, in some years, warning signs are posted at 
trailheads.
    While there is much debate about the rates at which carbon dioxide 
levels, atmospheric temperatures, and ocean temperatures will rise, the 
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of leading 
climate scientists commissioned by the United Nations, concluded there 
is a general consensus among the world's best scientists that climate 
change is occurring (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001, 
pp. 2-3; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, p. 4). The 
twentieth century was the warmest in the last 1,000 years (Inkley et 
al. 2004, pp. 2-3) with global mean surface temperature increasing by 
0.4 to 0.8 degrees Celsius (0.7 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit). These 
increases in temperature were more pronounced over land masses as 
evidenced by the 1.5 to 1.7 degrees Celsius (2.7 to 3.0 degrees 
Fahrenheit) increase in North America since the 1940s (Vincent et al. 
1999, p.96; Cayan et al. 2001, p. 411). According to the IPCC, warmer 
temperatures increase 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius (2.0 to 11.5 degrees 
Fahrenheit) by 2100 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007, 
pp. 10-11). The magnitude of warming in the northern Rocky Mountains 
has been particularly great, as indicated by an 8-day advance in the 
appearance of spring phenological indicators in Edmonton, Alberta, 
since the 1930s (Cayan et al. 2001, p. 400). The hydrologic regime in 
the northern Rockies also has changed with global climate change, and 
is projected to change further (Bartlein et al. 1997, p. 786; Cayan et 
al. 2001, p. 411; Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 223-224). Under global 
climate change scenarios, the GYA may eventually experience milder, 
wetter winters and warmer, drier summers (Bartlein et al. 1997, p. 
786). Additionally, the pattern of snowmelt runoff also may change, 
with a reduction in spring snowmelt (Cayan et al. 2001, p. 411) and an 
earlier peak (Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 223-224), so that a lower 
proportion of the annual discharge will occur during spring and summer.
    Changing climate conditions have the potential to impact several of 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear's food sources, including whitebark pine 
seeds, winter-killed ungulates, and army cutworm moths. However, the 
extent and rate to which each of these food sources will be impacted is 
difficult to foresee with any level of confidence. The specific ways in 
which climate change may affect each major grizzly bear food in the GYA 
is discussed within each of their respective sections that follow.
    In response to normal changes in food supplies due to plant 
phenology and responses to weather (e. g., frost,

[[Page 14928]]

rainfall), grizzly bear annual home ranges may change in size and 
extent (Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 48-62). By expanding the 
distribution and range of bears into currently unoccupied suitable 
habitat within the DPS boundaries, as per the State plans, additional 
areas with additional food resources will be available. These 
additional habitats will provide habitat flexibility for bears to 
respond to changes in annual food supplies and distribution.
    Regarding impacts to cutthroat trout, several factors have the 
potential to play significant roles on the abundance of this food 
source. In 1994, nonnative lake trout (Salvelinus naymaycush) were 
discovered in Yellowstone Lake (Reinhart et al. 2001, pp. 281-282). 
Lake trout are efficient predators of juvenile cutthroat trout and, on 
average, consume 41 cutthroat trout per year (Ruzycki et al. 2003, p. 
23). In 1998, Myxobolus cerebralis, the parasite that causes whirling 
disease, was found in juvenile and adult cutthroat trout collected from 
Yellowstone Lake. The Intermountain West has experienced drought 
conditions for the past 6 years, which has resulted in increased water 
temperatures, lowered lake levels, and a reduction in peak stream 
flows; all of which negatively affect cutthroat trout spawning success 
(Koel et al. 2005, p. 10). This combination of lake trout, whirling 
disease, and drought conditions has resulted in declines in the 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout population, with subsequent decreases in 
grizzly bear fishing activity (Koel et al. 2005, pp. 10-11). In fact, 
both black and grizzly bear activity at spawning streams decreased 87 
percent between 1989 and 2004 (Koel et al. 2005, p. 14).
    Efforts to reduce introduced lake trout populations have been 
somewhat successful. The Yellowstone National Park managers have 
removed more than 100,000 lake trout since 1994, and the average size 
of lake trout caught has decreased, indicating that gillnetting efforts 
may be effective. The Yellowstone National Park managers will continue 
to monitor the Yellowstone Lake cutthroat trout population using fish 
weirs, spawning stream surveys, and hydroacoustic techniques and 
continue attempts to suppress nonnative lake trout in Yellowstone Lake 
through gillnetting, capturing on spawning grounds, and fishing 
regulations which target lake trout (Yellowstone National Park 2003, p. 
33). The Yellowstone National Park biologists will continue to assess 
the impacts of nonnative lake trout on cutthroat trout populations and 
will provide an annual summary to the Study Team regarding the 
abundance of both cutthroat and lake trout.
    According to Stewart et al. (2004, p. 223), cutthroat trout in the 
Yellowstone Lake drainage (a small portion of the overall range of 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout) may be affected by climate change and its 
effects on the hydrologic regime potentially causing spring runoff to 
occur as much as 30 to 40 days earlier and perhaps reduced scouring of 
streambeds. Should this scenario be realized, that would require 
cutthroat trout to migrate to the tributaries to spawn earlier in the 
spring to match their preferred streamflows, and it also would require 
them to return to Yellowstone Lake earlier in the summer to avoid low 
flows in the tributaries. Such a hypothetical change in the spawning 
schedule of cutthroat trout also would require a change in the time 
during which grizzly bears frequent the spawning streams. Young (2001) 
speculated that warmer water temperatures may be harmful to cutthroat 
trout, as evidenced by the failure of some warmer river reaches, such 
as the lower Tongue River, to support cutthroat populations. While some 
species may shift north in response to climate change, there is no 
evidence the introduced lake trout will be hampered by such climatic 
range restrictions. Despite these potential factors impacting 
Yellowstone cutthroat trout, a 2006 status review concluded that 
listing this salmonid was not warranted (71 FR 8818-8831, February 21, 
2006). This status review noted that although some Yellowstone 
cutthroat trout populations face severe threats, overall, populations 
are abundant and well distributed, and that land and water management 
practices have significantly reduced habitat degradation.
    Although the decrease in bear use of cutthroat trout corresponds 
temporally with cutthroat trout declines, this may not have a 
significant effect on the grizzly bear population because adult 
grizzlies that fish in spawning streams only consume, on average, 
between 8 and 55 trout per year (Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499). The 
results of Felicetti et al. (2004, p. 499) indicate a lower dependence 
on this food source than previously believed (Reinhart and Mattson 
1990, pp. 345-349; Mattson and Reinhart 1995, pp. 2078-2079). Of 
particular importance is the finding that male grizzly bear consumption 
of spawning cutthroat trout was five times more than average female 
consumption of this food (Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499) and there was 
minimal use of cutthroat trout by female grizzly bears. Haroldson et 
al. (2005, p. 175) found that a small proportion of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population was using cutthroat trout. The number of bears 
using trout varied from 15 to 33 per year from 1997 to 2000 (Haroldson 
et al. 2005, p. 175). This low reliance on cutthroat trout by the 
grizzly bear population in general, and female bears specifically, has 
implications for population dynamics, and means that potential declines 
in this food resource are not currently, nor are they likely to become, 
a threat in the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of 
the Yellowstone DPS's range, even if changing climate conditions cause 
a reduction in Yellowstone cutthroat trout abundance.
    Regarding Whitebark Pine, two noteworthy factors in North America 
warrant consideration here, including mountain pine beetle infestation 
and the introduction of exotic species (Tomback et al. 2001, p. 13). 
Fire suppression and exclusion throughout most of the western United 
States during the twentieth century has allowed shade tolerant tree 
species to dominate some whitebark pine communities, thereby inhibiting 
natural regeneration by whitebark pine (Arno 1986, p. 93; Tomback et 
al. 2001, p. 5). These later successional whitebark pine communities 
are more susceptible to infestations of the native mountain pine beetle 
(Dendroctonus ponderosae) (Tomback et al. 2001, pp. 14-15). Their 
larvae feed on the inner bark, which can eventually girdle and kill 
trees on a landscape scale (Amman and Cole 1983, p. 12).
    During the last 2 to 4 years, there has been an epidemic of 
mountain pine beetles in whitebark pine in the GYA (Gibson 2006, p. 1). 
Using aerial detection survey data, Gibson (2006, pp. 1, 3) estimated 
that 16 percent of the total area of whitebark pine found in the GYA 
(693 sq km / 4,308 sq km (268 sq mi / 1663 sq mi)) has experienced some 
level of mortality due to mountain pine beetles. Similarly, the Greater 
Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group (2006, p. 77) 
reported that 22 percent of their transects showed presence of mountain 
pine beetles. Between 2004 and 2005 they surveyed a total of 3,889 
trees and found 1.4 percent of the trees (56 trees) sampled showed 
signs of mountain pine beetle attack (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark 
Pine Monitoring Working Group 2006, p. 77).
    The introduction of white pine blister rust from Europe in the 
early 1900s also contributes to whitebark pine declines (Kendall and 
Arno 1990, pp. 269-270; Tomback et al. 2001, pp. 15-16). While there is 
evidence of blister rust in whitebark pines in the GYA, the blister

[[Page 14929]]

rust has been present for more than 50 years (McDonald and Hoff 2001, 
p. 210), and infection rates are still relatively low when compared to 
whitebark pine communities further north. The Greater Yellowstone 
Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group (2006, p. 76) estimated that 
after more than 50 years of presence of the pathogen in the ecosystem, 
roughly 25 percent of all whitebark pine trees in the GYA are currently 
infected to some level with the blister rust. Evidence of infection 
does not necessarily mean immediate mortality. Eighty percent of the 
rust cankers on 2,425 infected live trees were on branches as opposed 
to the bole of the tree. Trees with branch cankers only are less 
impacted than trees with bole cankers (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark 
Pine Monitoring Working Group 2006, p. 76) and usually produce normal 
cone crops. This proportion of infected trees in the Yellowstone 
ecosystem is much lower than in whitebark pine communities found in the 
nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness (83 percent) or in communities of other 
5-needled pines in Colorado, in which 50 percent of pines exposed to 
the fungus are infected (McDonald and Hoff 2001, p. 211).
    Climate change is predicted to affect several aspects of the 
ecology of whitebark pine, including an increase in the length of the 
growing season (Cayan et al. 2001, p. 410-411), an increase in fire 
frequency and severity (McKenzie et al. 2004, p. 893; Westerling et al. 
2006, pp. 942-943), spatial shifts in the distribution of suitable 
growing sites (Bartlein et al. 1997, p. 788), and an increase in both 
mountain pine beetle (Logan and Powell 2001, pp. 165-170; Williams and 
Liebhold 2002, p. 95 ) and white pine blister rust (Koteen 2002, pp. 
352-364) outbreaks. However, the ultimate impacts of climate change on 
whitebark pine communities, and therefore impact to the GYA bears' use 
of whitebark pine seeds as a primary food source, are uncertain 
(Kendall and Keane 2001, p. 236).
    While an increased growing season may result in increased cone 
crops for several decades, accelerated growth of competitive species 
such as Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir) could eventually lead to them 
out competing and replacing whitebark pine (Mattson et al. 2001, pp. 
132-133). Additionally, a changing climate may shift the overall 
distribution of whitebark pine north and higher in elevation, resulting 
in local extinction and reduced overall distribution in the GYA (Romme 
and Turner 1991, p. 382). Fire frequency and severity may increase with 
late summer droughts predicted under climate change scenarios for the 
GYA. These fires may be advantageous to whitebark pine through 
elimination of smaller, shade-tolerant competitive tree species such as 
subalpine fir and the creation of open sites that will be used by 
Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) for seed caches, the primary 
dispersal agent for whitebark pine (Tomback et al. 2001, p. 17). 
However, the intensity of the fire is a key factor. Low intensity fires 
may eliminate smaller, shade-tolerant competitive tree species such as 
subalpine fir, while high intensity fires may result in direct 
mortality of many mature whitebark pine trees (Mattson et al. 2001, pp. 
131-132; Koteen 2002, pp. 390-396).
    The most substantial way in which changing climate conditions may 
affect whitebark pine is through outbreaks of native mountain pine 
beetles that might not continue to be regulated by extremely cold 
winters, and an increased prevalence of white pine blister rust. As 
recently as 2001, Kendall and Keane (2001, p. 136), addressing 
primarily the effects of white pine blister rust, concluded that ``the 
impact of climate change on whitebark pine is inconclusive,'' even 
though they felt it unlikely that any whitebark pine stand would be 
safe from damage by blister rust under projected climate conditions. 
Subsequent research (Logan and Powell in review, p. 13) suggests that 
recent ``unprecedented outbreaks'' of bark beetles in high elevation 
pines have been made possible by global climate change, and other 
investigators have predicted that mortality caused by blister rust also 
will increase with warmer, wetter conditions as predicted by global 
climate models (Koteen 2002, pp. 379-384). The current outbreak (Gibson 
2006, pp. 1-3) and past outbreaks (Logan and Powell in review, p. 4) 
have been associated with unusually warm temperatures which allow 
mountain pine beetles to complete their life cycles in one season 
(Logan and Powell 2001, p. 161), suggesting that predicted milder 
winters will result in increased loss of whitebark pine to beetle-
caused mortality.
    Both Gibson (2006, p. 5) and Logan et al. (2003, p. 136) temper 
their comments about the speed of spread of mountain pine beetle 
infestations. Logan et al. (2003, p. 136) caution that reporting bias 
(the tendency to report massive outbreaks and to disregard minor or 
receding infestations) may affect perceptions of the problem. Gibson 
(2006, p. 5) cites Furniss and Renkin (2003, p. 207), quoting from a 
National Park Service report on the mountain pine beetle outbreak in 
Yellowstone in the 1930s. The report, issued 70 years ago, stated that 
``practically every stand of whitebark pine is heavily infested'' and 
that ``it seems inevitable that much of the park will be denuded.'' 
This 1930s prediction was incorrect, demonstrating the uncertainty of 
predicting the impacts of such pine beetle infestations.
    It is not anticipated that whitebark pine will disappear entirely 
from the GYA in the foreseeable future. Modeling efforts have predicted 
that whitebark pine will remain at lower risk for mountain pine beetle 
attack in many high elevation habitats in the eastern portion of the 
GYA (Logan 2006, p. 3). Many of these high elevation mountain areas 
where whitebark is expected to persist (Logan 2006, p. 3) are 
designated Wilderness Areas where human developments are prohibited. 
For example, the Wind River mountain range (see Figure 1), where 
mountain pine beetle impacts are expected to be minimal (Logan 2006, p. 
3), is within the Bridger, Popo Agie, and Fitzpatrick Wilderness Areas. 
This area includes of 2,948 sq km (1,138 sq mi) of protected habitat. 
Similarly, the eastern half of the PCA consists of the North Absaroka, 
Teton, and Washakie Wilderness Areas, where whitebark pine is 
anticipated to be at lower risk of mountain pine beetle attack in the 
foreseeable future (Logan 2006, p. 3). These areas should provide a 
large reserve area that will be minimally impacted by mountain pine 
beetle infestation and have only negligible human impacts for the 
foreseeable future.
    While we remain concerned that there will be future changes in 
whitebark pine abundance, we believe that the specific amount of 
decline in whitebark pine distribution and the rate of this decline are 
difficult to predict with certainty. The specific response of grizzly 
bears to declines in whitebark cone production is even more uncertain 
due to the fact that bears are used to feeding on alternative foods 
during the regularly occurring years when whitebark cone production is 
minimal (Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1626; Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 767). 
We believe any changes in whitebark pine production (positive or 
negative), either individually or in combination with other factors, 
are not likely to impact the Yellowstone DPS to the point where the DPS 
is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. While studies suggest a 
decrease in whitebark pine can change both grizzly bear spatial 
distribution and the number of bear/human conflicts (Mattson et al. 
1992, p. 436; Knight and Blanchard 1995, p. 23; Gunther et al. 1997, 
pp. 9-

[[Page 14930]]

11; Gunther et al. 2004, p. 18), grizzly bears are opportunistic 
omnivores that will make behavioral adaptations regarding food 
acquisition (Weaver et al. 1996, p. 970). The wide current and 
projected (Logan 2006, p. 3) distribution of whitebark pine, primarily 
in high-elevation Wilderness Areas in the eastern part of the GYA where 
human development actions are prohibited, provides biologically 
significant habitat to grizzly bears throughout suitable habitat and 
increases the resiliency of the Yellowstone DPS to future changes in 
whitebark pine availability.
    In contrast to annually available coastal salmon runs used by other 
grizzly bear populations, whitebark pine nut production is not an 
annually predictable food source. Yellowstone DPS bears commonly have 
high diet diversity (Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1626) and use alternate 
foods in years of low whitebark pine nut production. During years of 
poor pine nut availability, 72 percent of GYA grizzly bears make 
minimal use of pine nuts while consuming more ungulate meat (Felicetti 
et al. 2003, p. 767) and other natural foods. Grizzly bears in the GYA 
are accustomed to successfully finding alternative natural foods in 
years when whitebark pine nuts are not available. However, because pine 
nuts are an important food and because they vary naturally from year to 
year as well as in response to insect and disease, the Study Team has 
been monitoring cone abundance throughout the GYA since 1980. This cone 
monitoring in combination with monitoring tree mortality and beetle and 
disease infestation rates will continue under the Strategy (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007, p 43-56, 60). We believe that this 
intensive, annual monitoring of foods, grizzly bear/human conflicts, 
survival rates for young, reproductive rates, and the causes and 
locations of grizzly bear mortality, as detailed in the Strategy (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 43-56, 60), will provide the 
Strategy's signatory agencies with a strong, and biologically 
defensible, foundation from which to implement the adaptive management 
(Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) actions necessary to respond to ecological 
changes that may impact the future of the GYA grizzly bear DPS. These 
management changes may involve increased habitat management and/or 
protection, increased mortality management, and/or a status review and 
emergency relisting of the population if management is unable to 
successfully address the problems.
    In response to concerns about threats to whitebark pine in the GYA, 
the Coordinating Committee, a group of managers from the USDA Forest 
Service, National Park Service, and the Service, formed the Whitebark 
Pine Subcommittee in 1998 (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 148). The 
Whitebark Pine Subcommittee coordinates the implementation of 
restoration techniques, management responses, and the gathering of 
information on the status of this tree. Current work on whitebark pine 
includes planting in several areas, cone collection from healthy trees, 
silvicultural treatments to improve growth and establishment, 
prescribed burning to encourage natural whitebark pine seedling 
establishment, and surveys for healthy trees that may possess blister 
rust resistant genes.
    In 2003 and 2004, the Whitebark Pine Subcommittee formed the 
Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group. This is an 
interagency team of resource managers, statisticians, and researchers 
established to assess the status of whitebark pine, its threats, and 
restoration options in the GYA. The Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working 
Group monitors transects throughout the GYA annually for white pine 
blister rust infection, mountain pine beetle infestation, and whitebark 
pine survival.
    Currently, there are 19 whitebark pine cone production transects 
within the PCA, 9 of which the Study Team has monitored on an annual 
basis since 1980 (Haroldson and Podruzny 2006, pp. 44-45). 
Additionally, the Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group has 
established more than 70 transects outside the PCA and works closely 
with statisticians to ensure a representative sample and strong 
inference (Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring Working Group 
2006, p. 76). Under the Strategy, the Study Team will continue 
monitoring whitebark pine cone production, the prevalence of white pine 
blister rust, and whitebark pine mortality using current methods.
    Regarding impacts to ungulates, potential impacts to elk and bison 
(the most important ungulates to grizzlies) warrant consideration here. 
Grizzlies primarily consume ungulates as winter-killed carrion in the 
early spring, but also kill elk and bison calves opportunistically and 
sometimes prey upon adults weakened during the fall breeding season. 
Potential threats to the availability of these ungulates include 
brucellosis (Brucella abortus) and resulting management practices, 
chronic wasting disease (CWD), competition with other top predators for 
ungulates, and decreasing winter severity.
    Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that causes abortion during the 
first pregnancy after infection in many species of mammals, including 
elk, bison, domestic cattle (Berger and Cain 1999, pp. 358-359), and 
humans (Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team 2005, p. 8). The disease 
is usually fatal to the fetus, but usually causes no lasting harm to 
adults, who are thereafter immune to its effects and capable of 
reproducing successfully. Animals are infected by eating material 
contaminated with the bacteria in aborted fetuses or vaginal discharges 
(Smith 2005, p. 7). Brucellosis is not known to negatively affect 
grizzly bears or any other carnivore (Reinhart et al. 2001, pp. 280-
281). Existing vaccines were developed specifically for domestic 
cattle, and are not effective in preventing infection or abortion in 
bison or elk. Brucellosis was most likely introduced to North America 
in domestic cattle imported from Europe (Meagher and Meyer 1994, p. 
650).
    The effect of the disease itself on bison and elk populations is 
minimal, but the possibility of transmission from infected wildlife to 
domestic cattle causes economic concern for livestock producers. 
Removal of bison, but not elk, to control the spread of the disease to 
domestic cattle is currently practiced north of Yellowstone near 
Gardiner, Montana, and west of Yellowstone near West Yellowstone, 
Montana. While these removals have the potential to deprive grizzly 
bears of a carrion source in the spring, since many of the bison 
removed would have died over winter (Meagher 1973, p. 73), brucellosis 
is not a population-level issue for wild ungulates. The presence of 
brucellosis in wild populations of ungulates does not threaten this 
food source of grizzly bears. The potential threat to grizzly bears is 
created by the removal of wild bison that wander outside of Yellowstone 
National Park. The purpose of the Interagency Bison Management Plan, 
under which bison that wander outside the boundaries of Yellowstone 
National Park into Montana are managed, is to ``maintain a wild, free-
ranging population of bison and address the risk of brucellosis 
transmission to protect the economic interest and viability of the 
livestock industry in the State of Montana'' (U.S. Department of the 
Interior's National Park Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service 2000, p. 22). In light of this goal, we do not 
foresee management of Yellowstone bison as a threat to the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS in all or a significant portion of its range in the 
foreseeable future.
    CWD is a member of a group of diseases called transmissible 
spongiform encephalopathies, caused by non-living proteins called 
prions (Peterson 2005, p. 1). The disease is

[[Page 14931]]

known to occur in only 4 species within the deer family including 
white-tailed and mule deer, elk, and moose. CWD is invariably fatal in 
deer and elk once they develop clinical signs, but the period between 
contracting the disease and death of the animal is usually 2 to 4 years 
(Peterson 2005, p. 3). There is no immune response and no immunization 
for CWD. The disease-causing prions are shed in feces and the 
decomposing carcasses of infected deer and elk. Prions persist in the 
ground for at least 2 years and infect deer and elk that eat them while 
foraging on low-growing vegetation or human-provided hay or hay 
pellets. As is the case for brucellosis, CWD transmission is 
facilitated by locally high densities of animals, such as those 
occurring at winter feed grounds (Smith 2005, p. 16). CWD has not been 
detected in the GYA, but recent cases have been confirmed in mule deer 
from Worland and Thermopolis, Wyoming, on the eastern edge of the GYA.
    The prospective threat that CWD poses to grizzly bears is the 
potential reduction or elimination of deer and elk in the GYA. Unlike 
brucellosis, CWD is an emerging disease, so little empirical data exist 
concerning the magnitude of its effects on wild populations. In the 
absence of such data, modeling of the effects of the disease can 
generate predictions about future population sizes of deer and elk. The 
two modeling exercises that have been conducted so far have arrived at 
very different predictions. Gross and Miller (2001, p. 213) created 
their model assuming that transmission of CWD was frequency dependent 
(i.e., that the transmission rate is constant and independent of 
density) and predicted that the disease would drive infected 
populations to local extinction. Schauber and Woolf (2003, pp. 611-612) 
noted that all frequency dependent models, as a consequence of their 
assumptions, inevitably drive their populations to extinction. They 
felt that modeling transmission as density dependent instead (i.e., 
transmission rates are low when population density is low and high when 
density is high) was a more realistic assumption. We concur with this 
assumption. Under the assumption of density dependent transmission, CWD 
would not result in local extinction of deer or elk populations.
    Overall, we do not anticipate that either of these diseases will 
significantly impact the availability of ungulate carcasses to grizzly 
bears or impact the Yellowstone DPS such that it is likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future in all or a significant 
portion of its range. The Strategy requires that all signatories 
cooperate to monitor historic ungulate carcass transects each spring. 
In this way, the Study Team can compare current counts of ungulate 
carcasses to previous years. Through monitoring of habitat features and 
grizzly bear population statistics, our adaptive management (Holling 
1978, pp. 11-16) approach will respond to significant shortages in 
spring ungulate carrion, should they occur in the future.
    Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were reintroduced to the GYA in 1995 and, 
since then, have flourished. Competition between grizzlies and wolves 
for carrion, particularly elk carcasses, in late winter and spring 
occurs occasionally. Servheen and Knight (1993, p. 136) reviewed the 
literature on wolf/grizzly competition and interviewed biologists and 
managers familiar with wolf/grizzly interactions in North America and 
Eurasia. They concluded that there was no documentation of negative 
influence of grizzlies on wolves or of wolves on grizzlies at the 
population level. However, they also concluded that the most severe 
competition would be likely to occur in the spring, when bears began to 
compete with wolves for carrion. Several investigators (Hornbeck and 
Horejsi 1986, p. 259; Kuzyk et al. 2001, pp. 75-76; Gunther and Smith 
2004, pp. 233-236) have reported grizzly bears displacing wolves from 
carcasses and wolves displacing grizzlies from carcasses. In all but a 
few cases, those interactions did not result in any injury to either 
bears or wolves.
    Wilmers and his colleagues, in a series of papers (Wilmers et al. 
2003a pp. 914-915; Wilmers et al. 2003b, pp. 999-1002; Wilmers and Getz 
2004, pp. 205-205; Wilmers and Getz 2005, p. 574; Wilmers and Post 
2006, pp. 405-409) presented the results of modeling exercises 
examining the effects of wolf reintroduction on winter carrion 
availability to several scavenger species, including grizzly bears. The 
models predicted that the effect of wolves on carrion availability 
would be to spread carrion availability over the winter. The expected 
distribution of carrion in the absence of wolves would be concentrated 
in the months of March and April, when it was of most value to 
grizzlies.
    One potential consequence of climate change could be a reduction in 
the number of elk and bison dying over-winter, thus decreasing the 
amount of carrion available to bears when they emerge from hibernation. 
Wilmers and Getz (2005, p. 574) and Wilmers and Post (2006, p. 405) 
predicted that impending global climate change could reduce the 
availability of carrion by decreasing winter severity and length. 
However, in ecosystems such as Yellowstone, where wolves are present, 
these top predators may buffer climatic change impacts to scavengers. 
This may occur because the remains of wolf-killed ungulates would 
provide a food resource to scavengers. Furthermore, increased over-
winter survival would likely result in overall increases in ungulate 
populations, thereby providing an alternative food source to grizzly 
bears during poor whitebark pine years (Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 767).
    The northern Yellowstone elk herd occupies the northern reaches of 
Yellowstone National Park and some adjacent USDA Forest Service and 
private lands in the Yellowstone River and Lamar River valleys. The 
size of the northern elk herd has declined from about 17,000 elk in 
1995 to about 8,000 in 2004 (Vucetich et al. 2005, p. 261). The onset 
of the decline was coincident with the reintroduction of wolves, but a 
modeling exercise conducted by Vucetich et al. (2005, p. 260) 
attributed the decline to weather and hunting harvests, rather than 
wolf predation. However, Tom Lemke, a wildlife biologist for MTFWP (as 
cited by McMillion 2005, p. 1), felt that the existing age distribution 
within the herd, in which very few young animals and many old ones are 
present, indicated that predation on elk calves was responsible for the 
decline. He pointed to the decline in hunting permits for the Gardiner 
winter hunt, from 2,880 permits in 2000 to 100 permits in 2006, as 
providing a test of the hypothesis that hunting harvests were 
responsible for the decline of the northern herd. Radio-telemetry 
studies of calf mortality suggest that grizzly bears and black bears 
are the major predators of elk calves, rather than wolves (Barber et 
al. 2005, pp. 41-43). Whatever the cause of the decline, reduced elk 
numbers may have led to minor reductions in the availability of carrion 
to grizzly bears.
    In contrast to the northern Yellowstone elk herd, some other elk 
herds in the GYA where wolves exist are stable to increasing. For 
instance, the Jackson elk herd has remained around 15,000 animals since 
the early 1990s (Lubow and Smith 2004, pp. 826-828) and several herds 
to the west of the northern Yellowstone elk herd in the Gallatin and 
Madison River drainages are stable to increasing (Garrott et al. 2005). 
With managers and scientists collaborating to determine the source of 
the potential population fluctuations and appropriate management 
responses, we feel confident that, although

[[Page 14932]]

different herds may experience differing population dynamics, the GYA 
will continue to support large populations of ungulates and that the 
Yellowstone DPS is not likely to become endangered in all or a 
significant portion of its range within the foreseeable future due to a 
decrease in ungulate numbers.
    The fourth important food source considered here is army cutworm 
moths. Army cutworm moths range from Alberta to New Mexico and from 
California to Kansas. Moths begin mating at high elevations, like the 
GYA, and then deposit their eggs at low elevations, such as the 
agricultural areas where they are exposed to pesticides. The magnitude 
of future pesticide use to control moths and the potential effects of 
pesticides on moth populations cannot be predicted, but the potential 
effects of pesticides on grizzly bears are better documented. Robison 
et al. (2006, pp. 1708-1710) screened samples of army cutworm moths for 
32 pesticides and found either trace concentrations or undetectable 
concentrations that would not be harmful to grizzly bears consuming 
them. The populations Robison (2006, p. 86) examined were panmictic 
(randomly mating), which indicates that army cutworm moth populations 
are more likely to persist through time than similarly-sized 
populations that are locally genetically more distinct (Robison 2006, 
p. 86). Robison et al. (2006, p. 86) predicted that this type of 
genetic structure will act to maintain army cutworm moth migration 
patterns into the future by increasing population resiliency to local 
weather patterns, pesticide use, and habitat alteration.
    Grizzly bears foraging at army cutworm moth aggregation sites are 
potentially vulnerable to disturbance by backcountry visitors. Moth 
aggregations are located on remote, high-elevation talus slopes, where 
the predominant human visitors are rock climbers and hikers. In a study 
of Glacier National Park grizzly bears, White et al. (1999, p. 150) 
reported that foraging bears that were disturbed by climbers spent 53 
percent less time foraging on moths during observation periods. They 
recommended that these northern Montana climbing routes be moved to 
avoid displacing foraging bears. The Study Team and the WGFD will 
cooperate to monitor currently known moth sites, identify new moth 
feeding sites so that their location is known to land managers, and 
take appropriate management actions as necessary.
    Climate change may affect army cutworm moths by changing the 
distribution of plants that the moths feed on or the flowering times of 
those plants due to an increased growing season (Woiwod 1997, pp. 152-
153). Food plant distribution could be affected by shifting the range 
and distribution of alpine plant communities, upon which army cutworm 
moths feed. There is a possibility that high elevation alpine plant 
communities might disappear entirely in the GYA, as they have been 
predicted to do in Britain (Thomas and Morris 1994, pp. 50-51). 
However, plant communities in the GYA have a much greater elevational 
range in which to move than do alpine plants in Britain. Romme and 
Turner (1991, p. 382) predicted that alpine vegetation communities in 
the GYA would be reduced in overall area but not disappear entirely. 
Changes in the distribution of alpine plants may not affect army 
cutworm moths adversely since they display foraging plasticity (Burton 
et al. 1980, pp. 12-13). During years of high snow pack when talus 
slopes (where moths are normally found) are covered with snow all 
summer, the moths must be feeding on flowers in alternative lower 
elevation, snow-free areas. Because moths have a one year life cycle, 
they must be feeding and reproducing in habitats other than alpine 
areas in high snow pack years because they are observed in alpine areas 
in subsequent years when snow pack is not a limiting factor. Even under 
climate change scenarios in which alpine plants disappear entirely, it 
is likely that the lower elevation plants that support moths in high 
snow pack years would still be present.
    Some have suggested potentially warmer temperatures and increased 
winter precipitation that may result from climate change could 
positively affect lepidopteran (i.e., the moth and butterfly order) 
populations (Roy et al. 2001, p. 214). Migratory generalist species, 
such as army cutworm moths, are more likely to respond positively to 
climate warming than sedentary habitat specialists (Warren et al. 2001, 
p. 66). However, a study of lepidopteran species in Britain, which may 
be similar to the highly mobile army cutworm moths in the GYA, found 
that human caused habitat loss (unrelated to climate change) outweighed 
the positive responses to longer and more productive growing seasons 
(Warren et al. 2001, p. 67).
    In summary, the best scientific and commercial data available 
regarding grizzly bear responses to food losses suggest this issue is 
not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in all or a 
significant portion of its range, nor is it likely to become one in the 
foreseeable future. Grizzly bears are notoriously resourceful omnivores 
that will make behavioral adaptations regarding food acquisition 
(Weaver et al. 1996, p. 970). Diets of grizzly bears vary among 
individuals, seasons, and years (Mattson et al. 1991a, pp. 1625-1626; 
Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 767; Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499; Koel et 
al. 2005, p. 14), reflecting their flexibility in finding adequate food 
resources as necessary. Mattson et al. (1991a, p. 1625) hypothesized 
that grizzly bears are always sampling new foods in small quantities so 
that they have alternative options in years when preferred foods are 
scarce. In other areas such as the NCDE, where grizzly bears 
historically relied heavily on whitebark pine seeds, distributions and 
sighting records on the periphery of this ecosystem indicate that the 
population, at least in those areas, has continued to increase and 
thrive since the 1980s despite severe declines in whitebark pine 
communities in the last 50 years (Kendall and Keane 2001, p. 30). 
Similarly, although whitebark pine seed production and grizzly bear use 
of cutthroat trout varied dramatically in the GYA over the last three 
decades due to both natural and human-introduced causes (Reinhart and 
Mattson 1990, pp. 345-349; Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499; Haroldson and 
Podruzny 2006, p. 45), the Yellowstone grizzly bear population has 
continued to increase and expand during this time period (Schwartz et 
al. 2006b, p. 66).
    Because of the life history strategy of whitebark pine, which 
naturally exhibits extreme annual variability in cone production, 
grizzly bears have always had to cope with a high degree of uncertainty 
regarding this food resource. The potential threat from decreases in 
whitebark pine cone production to grizzly bears is not one of 
starvation, but one of larger home range size and movements in years of 
low or no whitebark cone production. These movement patterns may result 
in increased conflicts with humans and increased mortality, as well as 
lower reproductive success the following year as females produce 
smaller litters. Bear/human conflicts can be reduced through management 
responses and intensified I & E efforts. Possible lowered reproductive 
success will be detected through monitoring and mitigated in the short 
term by reduced mortality limits and efforts to reduce nuisance bear 
removals, and in the long-term by continued whitebark pine restoration 
and habitat management enhancing secure habitat availability in 
specific areas outside the PCA where healthy whitebark pine may be 
available.
    Although numerous alternative foods are available to GYA grizzly 
bears such

[[Page 14933]]

as corms, insects, fungi, and forbs; in terms of calories or nutrition, 
these are inferior to the four major foods discussed above and 
previously in the ``Behavior'' section. In light of the potential 
threats to several of these important, high-energy grizzly bear foods, 
especially whitebark pine which has been linked to grizzly bear 
survival and reproduction (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; Gunther et al. 
1997, p. 38; Gunther et al. 2004, p. 15; Mattson 2000, p. 120), we 
believe the best approach is one of adaptive management (Holling 1978, 
pp. 11-16). The Study Team, working with the USDA Forest Service and 
National Park Service will continue to monitor the abundance and 
distribution of major grizzly bear foods such that any decline in the 
grizzly bear population as a result of these declines is detected in a 
sufficient time and addressed through adaptive management (Holling 
1978, pp. 11-16) actions by the Coordinating Committee. Because of this 
flexible and responsive management framework, we do not anticipate that 
the Yellowstone DPS is likely to become endangered in all or a 
significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future due to 
changes in its food sources.
    The Study Team monitors grizzly bear mortality in relation to the 
abundance and distribution of all four of the major foods using 
measurable criteria. For instance, increases in mortality rates of 
radio-collared independent females are measurable criteria that could 
reflect decreases in food availability. Because there were no known 
natural mortalities of independent adult females from 1983 to 2001 
(Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2005, p. 35), any change in this 
value will be noteworthy and will be investigated thoroughly by the 
Study Team to determine whether it is reflective of a landscape-scale 
trend or simply an isolated event. Significant declines in important 
foods also could result in reductions in cub production and increases 
in cub mortality over current rates of 0.362. The Study Team not only 
monitors survival but also reproductive population parameters such as 
litter size and cub survival that are more sensitive to decreases in 
food quality and quantity. Because human-caused mortality, natural 
mortality of radio-collared bears, and numbers of cubs, and cub 
survival rates are all measurable criteria monitored annually by the 
Study Team, any biologically significant decline in important foods 
also would be reflected in changes in these measurable population 
parameters. When combined with data collected annually about the 
quantity and distribution of the four major foods, the Study Team will 
have adequate information to determine if declining food sources are 
affecting population trajectory.
    If declines in any of the four major foods occur and, using the 
best available scientific data and techniques, the Study Team concludes 
these are related to significant increases in known and probable bear 
mortalities, and that such increases could threaten the grizzly 
population, the Study Team would recommend appropriate management 
responses to the Coordinating Committee, or submission of a relisting 
petition to us (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 63-67). 
Although we believe such an outcome is unlikely, we can also relist the 
Yellowstone DPS independent of the petition process. This final rule 
and the Conservation Strategy describe a comprehensive monitoring and 
management system that will be in place for the Yellowstone grizzly 
bear DPS upon delisting. The dynamic nature of the Conservation 
Strategy and its regulatory framework provide us with reasonable 
assurance that the Yellowstone DPS is not likely to become endangered 
in all or a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future.
    Human Attitudes Toward Grizzly Bear Recovery and I & E Efforts to 
Improve these Attitudes--Public support is paramount to any successful 
large carnivore conservation program (Servheen 1998, p. 67). 
Historically, human attitudes played a primary role in grizzly bear 
population declines through excessive human-caused mortality. Through 
government-endorsed eradication programs and perceived threats to human 
life and economic livelihood, humans settling the West were able to 
effectively eliminate most known grizzly populations after only 100 
years of westward expansion.
    We have seen a change in public perceptions and attitudes toward 
the grizzly bear in the last several decades. The same government that 
once financially supported active extermination of the bear now uses 
its resources to protect the great symbol of American wildness. This 
change in government policy and practice is a product of changing 
public attitudes about the grizzly bear. Although attitudes about 
grizzlies vary geographically and demographically, there has been a 
revival of positive attitudes toward the grizzly bear and its 
conservation (Kellert et al. 1996, pp. 983-986).
    Public outreach presents a unique opportunity to effectively 
integrate human and ecological concerns into comprehensive programs 
that can modify societal beliefs about, perceptions of, and behaviors 
toward grizzly bears. Attitudes toward wildlife are shaped by numerous 
factors including basic wildlife values, biological and ecological 
understanding of species, perceptions of individual species, and 
specific interactions or experiences with species (Kellert 1994, pp. 
44-48; Kellert et al. 1996, pp. 983-986). I & E programs teach visitors 
and residents about grizzly bear biology, ecology, and behavior enhance 
appreciation for this large predator while dispelling myths about its 
temperament and feeding habits. Effective I & E programs have been an 
essential factor contributing to the recovery of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear population since its listing in 1975. Being aware of 
specific values common to certain user groups will allow the I & E 
working group to disseminate appropriate materials and provide 
workshops that address particular values and concerns most adequately. 
By providing general information to visitors and targeting specific 
user groups about living and working in grizzly country, we believe 
continued coexistence between grizzly bears and humans will be 
accomplished.
    Traditionally, residents of the GYA involved in resource extraction 
industries such as loggers, miners, livestock operators, and hunting 
guides, are the largest opponents to land-use restrictions which place 
the needs of the grizzly bear above human needs (Kellert 1994, p. 48; 
Kellert et al. 1996, p. 984). Surveys of these user groups have shown 
that they tolerate large predators when they are not seen as direct 
threats to their economic stability or personal freedoms (Kellert et 
al. 1996, p. 985). Delisting could increase acceptance of grizzly bears 
by giving local government and private citizens more discretion in 
decisions which affect them. Increased flexibility regarding 
depredating bears in areas outside of the PCA may increase tolerance 
for the grizzly bear by landowners and livestock operators.
    Ultimately, the future of the grizzly bear will be based on the 
people who live, work, and recreate in grizzly habitat and the 
willingness and ability of these people to learn to coexist with the 
grizzly and to accept this animal as a cohabitant of the land. Other 
management strategies are unlikely to succeed without useful and 
innovative public I & E programs. The primary objective of the expanded 
public outreach program will be to proactively address grizzly/human 
conflicts by educating the public as to the root

[[Page 14934]]

causes of these conflicts and providing suggestions on how to prevent 
them. By increasing awareness of grizzly bear behavior and biology, we 
hope to enhance public involvement and appreciation of the grizzly 
bear.
    Although many human-caused grizzly bear mortalities are 
unintentional (e.g., vehicle collisions, trap mortality), intentional 
deaths in response to grizzly bear/human conflicts are responsible for 
the majority of known and probable human-caused mortalities. 
Fortunately, this source of mortality can be reduced significantly if 
adequate I & E is provided to people who live, work, and recreate in 
occupied grizzly bear habitat. The current I & E working group has been 
a major component contributing to the successful recovery of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population over the last 30 years. Both 
Federal and State management agencies are committed to continuing to 
work with citizens, landowners, and visitors within the Yellowstone DPS 
boundaries to address the human sources of conflicts.
    From 1980 through 2002, at least 36 percent (72 out of 196) of 
human-caused mortalities could have been avoided if adequate I & E 
materials had been presented, understood, and used by involved parties 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 15). Educating back-country and front-country 
users about the importance of securing potential attractants can 
prevent bears from becoming food conditioned and displaying subsequent 
unnaturally aggressive behavior. Similarly, adhering to hiking 
recommendations, such as making noise, hiking with other people, and 
hiking during daylight hours, can further reduce back-country grizzly 
bear mortalities by decreasing the likelihood that hikers will 
encounter bears.
    Hunter-related mortalities may involve hunters defending their life 
or property because of carcasses that are left unattended or stored 
improperly. Grizzly bear mortalities also occur when hunters mistake 
grizzly bears for black bears. All of these circumstances can be 
further reduced with enhanced I & E programs.
    Outside the PCA, State wildlife agencies recognize that the key to 
preventing grizzly bear/human conflicts is providing I & E to the 
public. State grizzly bear management plans also acknowledge that this 
is the most effective long-term solution to grizzly bear/human 
conflicts and that adequate public outreach programs are paramount to 
ongoing grizzly bear survival and successful coexistence with humans in 
the GYA so that the measures of the Act continue to not be necessary. 
All three States have been actively involved in I & E outreach for over 
a decade and their respective management plans contain chapters 
detailing efforts to continue current programs and expand them when 
possible. For example, WGFD created a formal human/grizzly bear 
conflict management program in July 1990 and has coordinated an 
extensive I & E program since then. Similarly, since 1993, the MTFWP 
has implemented countless public outreach efforts to minimize bear/
human conflicts, and the IDFG has organized and implemented education 
programs and workshops focused on private and public lands on the 
western edge of grizzly bear habitat.
    Compensating ranchers for losses caused by grizzly bears is another 
approach to build support for coexistence between livestock operators 
and grizzly bears. In cases of grizzly bear livestock depredation that 
have been verified by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 
Wildlife Services, IDFG, MTFWP, or WGFD, affected livestock owners are 
compensated. Since 1997, compensation in Montana and Idaho has been 
provided primarily by private organizations, principally Defenders of 
Wildlife. The Defenders of Wildlife's Grizzly Bear Compensation Trust 
has paid over $140,721 to livestock operators within the Yellowstone 
DPS boundaries and in the northern Rockies for confirmed and probable 
livestock losses to grizzly bears (Johnson 2006). In Wyoming, 
compensation has always been paid directly by the State. Upon delisting 
both Idaho and Wyoming's grizzly bear management plans provide for 
State funding of compensation programs (Idaho's Grizzly Bear Delisting 
Advisory Team 2002, p. 16; WGFD 2005, p. 30). In Idaho, compensation 
funds will come from the secondary depredation account, and the program 
will be administered by the appropriate IDFG Regional Landowner 
Sportsman Coordinators and Regional Supervisors (Idaho's Grizzly Bear 
Delisting Advisory Team 2002, p. 16). In Wyoming, the WGFD will pay for 
all compensable damage to agricultural products as provided by State 
law and regulation (WGFD 2005, p. 30). The WGFD will continue efforts 
to establish a long-term funding mechanism to compensate property 
owners for livestock and apiary losses caused by grizzly bears. The 
Montana State management plan does not include a funding mechanism to 
compensate confirmed grizzly bear livestock losses, so MTFWP will 
continue to rely on Defenders of Wildlife and other private groups to 
compensate livestock operators for losses due to grizzly bears while 
MTFWP focuses on preventing such conflicts. However, when Defenders of 
Wildlife expanded their compensation program to include the GYA, they 
agreed to do so while the grizzly bear was listed under the Act. 
Internal discussions within Defenders of Wildlife have begun to 
determine whether their compensation program will continue in the 
Montana portion of the GYA after delisting occurs (Clark 2006).
    Summary of Factor E--Overall, these natural and manmade factors 
(genetic concerns; invasive species, disease, and other potential 
impacts to food supply; and human attitudes toward grizzly bear 
recovery and I & E efforts to improve these attitudes), have the 
potential to be a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS in all or 
a significant portion of its range in the foreseeable future. Through 
careful monitoring and adaptive management (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) 
practices, the Study Team and the States will be able to identify and 
address these concerns before they become problems for the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear at a population level. All of these issues have been 
scientifically researched and considered so that an adequate management 
framework is in place to respond to future concerns as they arise. Due 
to the large amount and wide distribution of quality suitable habitat 
(46,035 sq km (17,774 sq mi)), the protected status of large areas of 
high elevation whitebark pine stands not projected to be substantially 
impacted by future mountain pine beetle infestations, the maintenance 
of grizzly bears within the PCA as a source population for peripheral 
areas and potential dispersers to other grizzly bear populations, the 
secure nature of the PCA for potential immigrants to the GYA from other 
grizzly bear populations, and the commitment by the responsible 
agencies to the maintenance of a recovered Yellowstone grizzly bear 
DPS, we do not anticipate that genetic isolation, decreases in major 
foods, or human attitudes toward grizzly bears will substantially 
adversely impact the Yellowstone DPS. Therefore, these issues will not 
impact the Yellowstone DPS such that it is likely to become endangered 
within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion 
of its range.

Conclusion of the 5-Factor Analysis

    As demonstrated in our 5-factor analysis, threats to this 
population have been sufficiently minimized over the entire current and 
foreseeable range of the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS

[[Page 14935]]

including all ``suitable habitat'' within the DPS boundaries, and there 
is no significant portion of the range where the DPS remains threatened 
or endangered.
    Regarding Factor A, the habitat-based recovery criteria have been 
maintained inside the PCA since 1998 and they will continue to be 
maintained in perpetuity through implementation of the Strategy. The 
PCA will continue to serve as a source area for grizzly bears to expand 
into peripheral areas and unoccupied suitable habitat. The PCA will 
also be important in achieving connectivity with other grizzly bear 
populations as it provides potential dispersers to other ecosystems 
outside the DPS boundaries and functions as secure habitat for 
immigrants from other grizzly bear populations. Threats to suitable 
habitat outside the PCA also have been sufficiently minimized by the 
commitment of the USDA Forest Service to manage National Forest lands 
in the GYA such that a recovered Yellowstone grizzly bear population 
will be maintained (USDA Forest Service 2006b; pp. 4, 26). Outside of 
the PCA, grizzly bears will be allowed to expand into suitable habitat, 
as per direction in the State management plans. High-quality, suitable 
habitat is widely distributed throughout the GYA, providing ecological 
resilience for the Yellowstone DPS to respond to environmental changes. 
Therefore, sufficient habitat exists to ensure that the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS is not likely to become endangered within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range.
    Regarding Factor B and C, all demographic criteria relating to 
sustainable mortality have been, and will continue to be, met 
(Schwartz, in press). The threat of overutilization due to commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or education purposes has been removed 
through cooperation among management agencies that ensures a consistent 
approach to mortality management. Sustainable mortality limits, 
coordinated conflict management protocols, and conflict prevention 
programs ensure that the Yellowstone DPS is not likely to become 
endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    Regarding Factor D, the USDA Forest Service finalized the Forest 
Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYA 
National Forests and has incorporated this Amendment into the affected 
National Forests' Land Management Plans (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 
4). Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks appended the habitat 
standards to their Park Superintendent's Compendiums, thereby assuring 
that these National Parks would manage habitat in accordance with the 
habitat standards (Grand Teton National Park 2006, p. 1; Yellowstone 
National Park 2006, p. 44). The State and Federal agencies' agreement 
to implement the Strategy's extensive guidelines inside the PCA, the 
USDA Forest Service's decision to classify the grizzly bear in the GYA 
as a species of concern, and the State management plans ensure that 
adequate regulatory mechanisms remain in place in all significant 
portions of the Yellowstone DPS' range and that it is not likely to 
become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range.
    Regarding Factor E, the Service concludes other natural and manmade 
factors are not a current threat nor will they be in the foreseeable 
future due to widely distributed, high-quality suitable habitat that is 
protected by regulatory mechanisms. Intensive annual monitoring of 
multiple indices combined with the adaptive management approach will 
assure that isolation (i.e., genetic diversity or a lack of gene flow), 
threats to foods, and human attitudes will not impact the Yellowstone 
DPS such that it is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
    Our current knowledge of the health and condition of the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS illustrates that it is now a recovered 
population. Counts of unduplicated females with cubs-of-the-year have 
increased (Knight et al. 1995, p. 247; Haroldson and Schwartz 2002, p. 
16; Haroldson 2006a), and counts of cubs have increased (Knight and 
Blanchard 1995, p. 9; Knight and Blanchard 1996, p. 8; Knight et al. 
1997, p. 2; Haroldson et al. 1998, p. 8; Haroldson 1999, p. 10; 
Haroldson 2000, p. 11; Haroldson 2001, p. 14; Haroldson and Schwartz 
2002, p. 16; Haroldson 2003, p. 16; Haroldson 2004, p. 11; Haroldson 
2006b, p. 12). Grizzly range and distribution has expanded (Basile 
1982, pp. 3-10; Blanchard et al. 1992, p. 92; Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 
203; Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-6; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). 
Calculations of population trajectory derived from radio-monitored 
female bears demonstrate an increasing population trend at a rate of 4 
to 7 percent per year between 1983 and 2002 (Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 
362; Knight and Blanchard 1995, pp. 18-19; Harris et al. 2006, p. 48), 
due in large part to control of female mortality. In total, this 
population has increased from estimates ranging from 229 (Craighead et 
al. 1974, p. 16) to 234 (Cowan et al. 1974, pp. 32, 36) to 312 
(McCullough 1981, p. 175) individuals when listed in 1975 to more than 
500 animals as of 2005 (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 2006, p. 
15).
    At the end of 2006, the number of unduplicated females with cubs-
of-the-year over a 6-year average both inside the Recovery Zone and 
within a 16-km (10-mi) area immediately surrounding the Recovery Zone 
was 41, more than 2.7 times the Recovery Plan target of 15. The 
Recovery Plan target for the number of unduplicated females with cubs-
of-the-year (15) has been exceeded since 1988. In 2006, the 1-year 
total of unduplicated females with cubs-of-the-year within the entire 
GYA was 47 (Haroldson 2006a).
    Within the Recovery Zone, the distribution of females with young, 
based on the most recent six years of observations in the ecosystem, 
was 18 out of 18 bear management units at the end of 2004. The range of 
this population also has increased dramatically, as evidenced by the 48 
percent increase in occupied habitat since the 1970s (Schwartz et al. 
2002, p. 203; Pyare et al. 2004, p. 5-6; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-
66). Furthermore, the Yellowstone grizzly bear population continues to 
expand its range and distribution today. Currently, roughly 84 to 90 
percent of the sightings of females with cubs are within the PCA and 
about 10 to 16 percent of females with cubs have expanded out beyond 
the PCA within the DPS (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). Grizzly 
bears now occupy 68 percent of suitable habitat within the DPS and will 
likely occupy the remainder of the suitable habitat within the DPS 
within the foreseeable future. The Yellowstone DPS now has sufficient 
numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals to ensure that it 
is not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
    Applying the current mortality limits (Interagency Grizzly Bear 
Study Team 2005, pp. 6-9) to the 1999 to 2006 period, the sustainable 
mortality limits have not been exceeded for 3 consecutive years for 
males, for 3 consecutive years for dependent young, or for 2 
consecutive years for independent females (Schwartz, in press). The 
main threat of human predation has been addressed through carefully 
monitored and controlled mortality limits established in the Strategy 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, p. 126) and annually monitored 
and reported by the Study Team (Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 
2005, pp. 6-9). In addition, I & E is a

[[Page 14936]]

main component of the program to reduce grizzly bear/human conflicts. 
The Yellowstone DPS now has sufficient control of mortality to ensure 
that it is not likely to become endangered within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
    The Act defines a threatened species as one that is likely to 
become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. The Act defines an endangered species 
as one that is likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future 
throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Based on the best 
scientific and commercial information available, we have determined 
that the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS is recovered and no longer meets 
the Act's definition of threatened or endangered. Therefore, we are 
hereby delisting the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS.

Petition Finding

    Additionally, we announce a 90-day finding on a petition (submitted 
during the public comment period for the proposed rule) to list the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear population as endangered on the Federal List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Act and to designate 
critical habitat. We reviewed the petition to list the Yellowstone DPS 
of grizzly bears and the literature cited in the petition, and 
evaluated that information in relation to other pertinent literature 
and information available to us. All assertions of this petition are 
addressed either in the Summary of Public Comments and in the 5-factor 
analysis sections of this final rule, or in the Reassessing Methods 
Document's issues and responses summary. After this review and 
evaluation, we find that the petition and additional information in our 
files did not present substantial information indicating that listing 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear population as endangered may be warranted. 
Therefore, we are not initiating a status review in response to this 
petition.

Effects of the Rule

    Promulgation of this final rule will affect the protections 
afforded to the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS under the Act. Taking, 
interstate commerce, import, and export of grizzly bears from the 
Yellowstone DPS are no longer prohibited under the Act. Other State and 
Federal laws will still regulate take. In addition, with the removal of 
the Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS from the List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife, Federal agencies are no longer required to consult 
with us under section 7 of the Act to ensure that any action 
authorized, funded, or carried out by them is not likely to jeopardize 
the species' continued existence. However, actions within the PCA will 
still be regulated by over 70 State and Federal laws, regulations, and 
policies ensuring enforcement of the Strategy. Delisting the 
Yellowstone grizzly bear DPS is expected to have positive effects in 
terms of management flexibility to the States and local governments.
    However, the full protections of the Act will still continue to 
apply to grizzly bear in other portions of the lower 48-States outside 
the Yellowstone DPS. Those grizzly bears will remain fully protected by 
the Act. There is no designated critical habitat for this species.

Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us, in cooperation with the 
States, to implement a monitoring program for not less than 5 years for 
all species that have been recovered and delisted. The purpose of this 
requirement is to develop a program that detects the failure of any 
delisted species to sustain itself without the protective measures 
provided by the Act. If, at any time during the monitoring period, data 
indicate that protective status under the Act should be reinstated, we 
can initiate listing procedures, including, if appropriate, emergency 
listing.
    To further ensure the long-term conservation of adequate grizzly 
bear habitat and continued recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population, several monitoring programs and protocols have been 
developed and integrated into land management agency planning 
documents. The Strategy and appended State grizzly bear management 
plans effectively satisfy the requirements for having a Post-Delisting 
Monitoring Plan for the Yellowstone DPS. Monitoring programs, which we 
anticipate will be continued in perpetuity, will focus on assessing 
whether demographic standards and habitat criteria described in the 
Strategy are being achieved. A suite of indices will be monitored 
simultaneously to provide a highly sensitive system to monitor the 
health of the population and its habitat and to provide a sound 
scientific basis to respond to any changes or needs with adaptive 
management actions (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16). More specifically, 
monitoring efforts will document population trends, distribution, 
survival and birth rates, and the presence of alleles from grizzly 
populations outside the Yellowstone DPS boundaries to document gene 
flow into the population. Throughout the DPS boundaries, locations of 
grizzly bear mortalities on private lands will be provided to the Study 
Team for incorporation into their Annual Report. Full implementation of 
the Strategy by State and Federal agencies will allow for a sustainable 
population by managing all suitable habitat.
    Within the Primary Conservation Area--As discussed in previous 
sections, habitat criteria established for the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population will be monitored carefully and any deviations from these 
will be reported annually. The number and levels of secure habitat, 
developed sites, and livestock allotments will not be allowed to 
deviate from 1998 baseline measures in accordance with the 
implementation protocols in the Strategy.
    The Study Team will prepare Annual Reports summarizing the habitat 
criteria and population statistics. The Study Team will be responsible 
for counting the number of unduplicated females with cubs-of-the-year 
and monitoring mortality, distribution, and the presence of alleles 
from grizzly populations outside the Yellowstone DPS boundaries to 
document gene flow into the population (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2007, pp. 155-156, Appendix I). To examine reproductive rates, survival 
rates, causes of death, and overall population trends, the Study Team 
will strive to radio collar and monitor a minimum of 25 adult female 
grizzly bears at all times. These bears will be spatially distributed 
throughout the ecosystem as determined by the Study Team.
    The Study Team, with participation from Yellowstone National Park, 
the USDA Forest Service, and State wildlife agencies, also will monitor 
grizzly bear habitats, foods, and impacts of humans. Documenting the 
abundance and distribution of the major foods will be an integral 
component of monitoring within the PCA as it allows managers some 
degree of predictive power to anticipate and avoid grizzly bear/human 
conflicts related to a shortage of one or more foods. Major foods, 
habitat value, and habitat effectiveness will be monitored according to 
Appendices E and I in the Strategy, and as described in Factor A of 
this final rule.
    Outside of the Primary Conservation Area--Although State management 
plans are the guiding documents for management of the Yellowstone 
grizzly bear DPS outside of the PCA upon delisting, habitat management 
will primarily be the responsibility of the GYA National Forests. State 
wildlife agencies will be responsible for monitoring population 
parameters in areas outside of the PCA. The GYA

[[Page 14937]]

National Forests will be responsible for monitoring agreed-upon habitat 
parameters in suitable habitat outside the PCA, as defined by State 
management plans, and will calculate secure habitat values outside of 
the PCA every two years and submit these data for inclusion in the 
Study Team's annual report (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 6). The GYA 
National Forests also will monitor and evaluate livestock allotments 
for recurring conflicts with grizzly bears in suitable habitat outside 
the PCA as defined in the State plans (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 
6). The GYA National Forests will be responsible for monitoring 
whitebark pine occurrence, productivity, and health in suitable habitat 
outside the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 7). All three States 
will document sightings of females with cubs and provide this 
information to the Study Team. Finally, State wildlife agencies will 
provide known mortality information to the Study Team, which will 
annually summarize this data with respect to location, type, date of 
incident, and the sex and age of the bear for the DPS area.
    In Idaho, the IDFG will be responsible for monitoring population 
trends and habitat parameters. Outside of the PCA, the IDFG will 
establish data analysis units to facilitate monitoring of grizzly bear 
distribution, abundance, and mortality. Habitat criteria will be 
monitored within each unit but will not be established strictly for 
grizzly bears. Instead, habitat standards will be incorporated into 
current management plans for other game species. However, the IDFG will 
monitor food sources for grizzly bears including elk, deer, moose, 
Kokanee salmon, and cutthroat trout. The IDFG also will encourage and 
work with other land management agencies on public lands to monitor 
wetland and riparian habitats, whitebark pine production, important 
berry-producing plants, and changes in motorized access route density. 
On private lands, the IDFG will work with citizens, counties, and other 
agencies to monitor development activities and identify important 
spring habitat for grizzly bears, then work with landowners to minimize 
impacts to bears.
    In Montana, the MTFWP will monitor populations using data from 
research, distribution changes, DNA samples, confirmed sightings, and 
known mortalities. The MTFWP will collect and analyze habitat data and 
monitor habitat changes pertaining to key grizzly bear foods, road 
densities, road construction and improvements, and coal bed methane 
activities. In addition, the MTFWP will continue to use statewide 
habitat programs to conserve key wildlife habitats in southwestern 
Montana, working closely with private landowners to conserve private 
lands via lease, conservation easements, or fee title acquisition.
    In Wyoming, the WGFD will establish grizzly bear management units 
to collect and analyze demographic and distributional data. Habitat 
standards will be monitored in a manner consistent with those already 
in place for other wildlife and will not focus specifically on the 
habitat needs of grizzly bears. The WGFD will evaluate the effects of 
existing and proposed human activities in important wildlife habitat 
and work with land management and transportation agencies to ensure 
that projects do not adversely affect the grizzly bear population. 
Specifically, the WGFD will--(1) identify and evaluate the site-
specific and cumulative effects of proposed projects; (2) monitor and 
recommend changes, if justified, in human activities on seasonally 
important wildlife habitats; (3) minimize road and site construction 
impacts on wildlife habitat; (4) encourage the use of native vegetation 
in rehabilitation projects; (5) encourage land management agencies to 
manage for open road densities of no more than 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/
sq mi) which benefit a suite of wildlife species; (6) recommend 
seasonal road closures when warranted; (7) encourage the USDA Forest 
Service and BLM to enforce off road/trail motorized use restrictions; 
and (8) focus on improving habitat quality in areas of habitually high 
human-caused grizzly bear mortality (WGFD 2005, pp. 22-25). In 
addition, the WGFD will work with the USDA Forest Service to monitor 
bear use of army cutworm moths and the overall status and health of 
whitebark pine (WGFD 2005, p. 22).
    Monitoring systems in the Strategy allow for adaptive management 
(Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) as environmental issues change. The agencies 
have committed in the Strategy to be responsive to the needs of the 
grizzly bear through adaptive management (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) 
actions based on the results of detailed annual population and habitat 
monitoring. These monitoring efforts would reflect the best scientific 
and commercial data and any new information that has become available 
since this delisting determination. The entire process would be dynamic 
so that when new science becomes available it will be incorporated into 
the management planning and monitoring systems outlined in the Strategy 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007, pp. 5-6). The results of this 
extensive monitoring would allow wildlife and land managers to identify 
and address potential threats preemptively thereby, allowing those 
managers and us to be certain that the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population remains a recovered population.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information other 
than those already approved under the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.) and assigned Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
control number 1018-0094, which expires on September 30, 2007. An 
agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently 
valid OMB control number. For additional information concerning permit 
and associated requirements for endangered species, see 50 CFR 17.21 
and 17.22.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that Environmental Assessments and Environmental 
Impact Statements, as defined under the authority of the NEPA, need not 
be prepared in connection with actions adopted pursuant to section 4(a) 
of the Act. A notice outlining our reasons for this determination was 
published in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on 
regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and 
use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. As this final rule is 
not expected to significantly affect energy supplies, distribution, or 
use, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement of 
Energy Effects is required.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request from the Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator (see ADDRESSES 
above).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

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

Regulation Promulgation

0
Accordingly, we amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of 
the Code of Federal Regulations as set forth below:

[[Page 14938]]

PART 17--[AMENDED]

0
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.


0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the listing for ``Bear, grizzly'' 
under ``MAMMALS'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Species                                                 Vertebrate
------------------------------------------------------                      population where                                                   Special
                                                         Historic range       endangered or        Status     When listed  Critical habitat     rules
           Common name              Scientific name                            threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             MAMMALS
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Bear, grizzly...................  Ursus arctos         North America.....  U.S.A.,             T                1, 2D, 9,  NA                   17.40(b)
                                   horribilis.                              conterminous                              759
                                                                            (lower 48)
                                                                            States, except--
                                                                            (1) where listed
                                                                            as an
                                                                            experimental
                                                                            population; and
                                                                            (2) that portion
                                                                            of Idaho that is
                                                                            east of
                                                                            Interstate
                                                                            Highway 15 and
                                                                            north of U.S.
                                                                            Highway 30; that
                                                                            portion of
                                                                            Montana that is
                                                                            east of
                                                                            Interstate
                                                                            Highway 15 and
                                                                            south of
                                                                            Interstate
                                                                            Highway 90; that
                                                                            portion of
                                                                            Wyoming south of
                                                                            Interstate
                                                                            Highway 90, west
                                                                            of Interstate
                                                                            Highway 25,
                                                                            Wyoming State
                                                                            Highway 220, and
                                                                            U.S. Highway 287
                                                                            south of Three
                                                                            Forks (at the 220
                                                                            and 287
                                                                            intersection),
                                                                            and north of
                                                                            Interstate
                                                                            Highway 80 and
                                                                            U.S. Highway 30.
 Do.............................  ......do...........  ......do..........  U.S.A. (portions    XN                     706  NA                   17.84(l)
                                                                            of ID and MT, see
                                                                            17.84(l)).
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Dated: March 20, 2007.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 07-1474 Filed 3-23-07; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P