Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, 887-897 [2016-22]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules the nine scheduled open houses or public hearings. Public testimony will be recorded and submitted for the record at the public hearings via a court reporter. We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally 887 means that we will post any personal information you provide us. Open Houses and Public Hearings: We will hold open houses and public hearings at the following locations: City Location information Kodiak, Alaska ..................... Bethel, Alaska ...................... Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, 402 Center Ave, Kodiak, Alaska; 907–487–2600. Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Conference Room, 807 Chief, Eddie Hoffman Highway, Bethel, Alaska; 907–543–3151. Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, 101 Dunkel St., Fairbanks, Alaska; 907–456–0440. Tok School, 249 Jon Summar Road, Tok, Alaska; 907–883–5312. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Ski Hill Road, Soldotna, Alaska; 907–260–2820. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office, Gordon Watson Conference Room, 1011 Tudor Rd., Anchorage, Alaska; 907–786–3872. Dillingham City Council Chambers, 141 Main Street, Dillingham, Alaska; 907–842–1063. Charlie Larsen Community Hall, Galena, Alaska; 907–656–1231. Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Conference Room at the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, 160 Second Avenue, Kotzebue, Alaska; 907–442–3799. Fairbanks, Alaska ................. Tok, Alaska .......................... Soldonta, Alaska .................. Anchorage, Alaska ............... Dillingham, Alaska ................ Galena, Alaska ..................... Kotzebue, Alaska ................. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Brady, Chief of Conservation Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, Alaska Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., Mail Stop 211, Anchorage, AK 99503; telephone (907) 306–7448. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Background We published a proposed rule elsewhere in today’s Federal Register to clarify how our existing mandates for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator control; prohibit several particularly effective methods and means for take of predators; and update our public participation and closure procedures. The proposed rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations or restrict the taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations. See the proposed rule and associated environmental assessment at http:// www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–R7–NWRS–2014–0005 for further details. Open Houses and Public Hearings We are holding nine open houses and public hearings on the dates listed above in the DATES section at the locations listed above in the ADDRESSES section. We are holding the public hearings to provide interested parties an opportunity to present verbal testimony (formal, oral comments) or written comments regarding the proposed rule and associated environmental assessment. A formal public hearing is not, however, an opportunity for dialogue with the Service; it is only a forum for accepting formal verbal testimony. In contrast to the public VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 hearings, the open houses allow the public the opportunity to interact with Service staff, who will be available to provide information and address questions on the proposed rule and the environmental assessment. We cannot accept verbal testimony at any of the open houses; verbal testimony can only be accepted at the public hearings. Anyone wishing to make an oral statement at a public hearing for the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their statement to us at the hearing. In the event there is a large attendance, the time allotted for oral statements may be limited. Speakers can sign up at a hearing if they desire to make an oral statement. Oral and written statements receive equal consideration. There are no limits on the length of written comments submitted to us. Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodations to participate in an open house or public hearing should contact Stephanie Brady, Chief of Conservation Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, Alaska (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Reasonable accommodation requests should be received at least 3 business days prior to the open house or public hearing to help ensure availability; American Sign Language or English as a second language interpreter needs should be received at least 2 weeks prior to the open house or public meeting. Authors The primary author of this document is Stephanie Brady, Chief of Conservation Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, Anchorage Regional Office. PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Authority The authority for this action is 5 U.S.C. 301; 16 U.S.C. 460k et seq., 664, 668dd–668ee, 715i, and 3101 et seq. Karen Hyun, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2016–21 Filed 1–7–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Parts 32 and 36 [Docket No. FWS–R7–NWRS–2014–0005; FF07R05000 145 FXRS12610700000] RIN 1018–BA31 Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), propose to amend our regulations for National Wildlife Refuges (refuges) in Alaska. This proposed rule clarifies how our existing mandates for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator control; prohibits several particularly effective methods and means for take of predators; and updates our public participation and closure procedures. This proposed rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations or restrict the taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 888 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules We must receive your comments on or before March 8, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any one of the following methods: (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS–R7–NWRS–2014–0005, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then click on the Search button. On the resulting page, you may submit a comment by clicking on ‘‘Comment Now!’’ (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R7–NWRS– 2014–0005; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. (3) In person: We will hold nine open houses and public hearings at which comments may be submitted. See the related document published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register with information about the dates, times, and locations of those open houses and hearings and the various ways in which oral and written comments will be accepted. We will post all comments on http:// www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us. For additional information, see the Public Participation and Public Availability of Comments sections, below. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Brady, Chief of Conservation Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, Alaska Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., Mail Stop 211, Anchorage, AK 99503; telephone (907) 306–7448. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DATES: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Background The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has various mandates it must adhere to in managing the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). There are three statutes in particular that provide direction and authority specific to the Alaska NWRS: The 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA; 16 U.S.C. 3111–3126); the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (Improvement Act; 16 U.S.C. 668dd–668ee, which amended the National Wildlife Administration Act of 1966 (Administration Act)); and the 1964 Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131–1136). The Improvement Act provides that ANILCA takes precedence if there is a conflict between the two, and thus ANILCA provides the primary direction VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 for management specific to refuges in Alaska. ANILCA added approximately 54 million acres of land to the NWRS in Alaska, managed by USFWS; established nine new refuges; and established or redesignated seven other already established refuges. ANILCA also designated 18.7 million acres in 13 wilderness areas on refuges in Alaska as units of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Under ANILCA, each refuge in Alaska has a nonexclusive list of purposes for which it was established, including to ‘‘conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity’’ followed by a list of representative species particular to each refuge. Under ANILCA, all other refuge establishment purposes for Alaska refuges (except international treaty obligations) must be managed consistently with the first purpose for the conservation of natural diversity. While ‘‘natural diversity’’ is not defined in ANILCA, its legislative history provides guidance. The Senate Report on H.R. 39 states that refuges represent ‘‘the opportunity to manage these areas on a planned ecosystemwide basis with all of their pristine ecological processes intact’’ (S. Rep. No. 96–413 at 174 (1979), reprinted in 1980 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5118). Nine days after ANILCA was signed into law on December 2, 1980, Congressman Udall, during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives described the source of the term ‘‘natural diversity.’’ He stated that the conservation of natural diversity refers not only to ‘‘protecting and managing all fish and wildlife populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in the natural ‘mix,’ not to emphasize management activities favoring one species to the detriment of another’’ (126 Cong. Rec. H12, 352–53 (daily ed. Dec. 11, 1980) (statement of Rep. Udall)). During this floor speech, Congressman Udall also stated that in managing for natural diversity it was the intent of Congress, ‘‘to direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the best of its ability, . . . to manage wildlife refuges to assure that habitat diversity is maintained through natural means, avoiding artificial developments and habitat manipulation programs . . . ; to assure that wildlife refuge management fully considers the fact that humans reside permanently within the boundaries of some areas and are dependent, . . . on wildlife refuge subsistence resources; and to allow management flexibility in developing new and innovative management programs different from lower 48 standards, but in the context of PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 maintaining natural diversity of fish and wildlife populations and their dependent habitats for the long term benefit of all citizens’’ (126 Cong. Rec. H12,352–53 (daily ed. Dec. 11, 1980) (statement of Rep. Udall). In its ANILCA Title VIII statement of policy, Congress stated, ‘‘nonwasteful subsistence uses of fish and wildlife and other renewable resources [by rural residents] shall be the priority consumptive uses of all such resources on the public lands of Alaska when it is necessary to restrict taking in order to assure the continued viability of a fish or wildlife population or the continuation of subsistence uses of such population, the taking of such population for nonwasteful subsistence uses shall be given preference on the public land over other consumptive uses’’ (16 U.S.C. 3112(2)). This subsistence preference includes all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. All refuges in Alaska (except the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge) have among their stated statutory purposes to provide the opportunity for continued subsistence use by local rural residents in a manner consistent with the conservation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity and fulfilling the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats. In a further statement of Title VIII policy, Congress stated that ‘‘consistent with sound management principles, and the conservation of healthy populations of fish and wildlife, the utilization of the public lands in Alaska is to cause the least adverse impact possible on rural residents who depend upon subsistence uses of the resources of such lands; consistent with management of fish and wildlife in accordance with recognized scientific principles and the purposes for each unit established . . . the purpose of this title [Title VIII] is to provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to do so’’ (16 U.S.C. 3112(1)). The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in its report on H.R. 39 stated that ‘‘the phrase ‘the conservation of healthy populations of fish and wildlife’ is to mean the maintenance of fish and wildlife resources in their habitats in a condition which assures stable and continuing natural populations and species mix of plants and animals in relation to their ecosystems, including recognition that local rural residents engaged in subsistence uses may be a natural part of that ecosystem . . . ’’ (S. Rep. No. 96– 413 at 233, reprinted in 1980 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5177). E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules The USFWS recognizes the importance of the fish, wildlife, and other natural resources in the lives and cultures of Alaska Native peoples, rural residents, and in the lives of all Alaskans, and we continue to recognize subsistence uses of fish and wildlife and other renewable resources as the priority consumptive use on Federal lands in Alaska, which includes all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. This proposed rule would not change existing or future Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations. The Improvement Act states that refuges must be managed to fulfill the mission of the NWRS and purposes of the individual refuge. The Improvement Act also clearly states the mission of the NWRS, which is to ‘‘administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.’’ Section 4(a)(4)(B) of the Improvement Act states that ‘‘In administering the System, the Secretary shall . . . ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health [BIDEH] of the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans . . .’’ (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)(4)(B)). The USFWS BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which provides guidance for implementation of the Improvement Act, defines biological integrity as ‘‘biotic composition, structure, and functioning at genetic, organism, and community levels comparable with historic conditions, including the natural biological processes that shape genomes, organisms, and communities.’’ In that policy, biological diversity is defined as ‘‘the variety of life and its processes, including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and communities and ecosystems in which they occur.’’ The policy defines environmental health as the ‘‘composition, structure, and functioning of soil, water, air, and other abiotic features comparable with historic conditions, including the natural abiotic processes that shape the environment.’’ Abiotic features are nonliving chemical and physical features of the environment (e.g., soil, air, water, temperature, etc.). The policy also defines ‘‘historic conditions’’ as the ‘‘composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we believe, VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to substantial human related changes to the landscape.’’ In implementing this policy on refuges, we favor ‘‘management that restores or mimics natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge purposes(s).’’ Additionally, under this policy, we ‘‘formulate refuge goals and objectives for population management by considering natural densities, social structures, and population dynamics at the refuge level’’ and manage populations for ‘‘natural densities and levels of variation.’’ The Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131–1136) states that wilderness ‘‘is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man . . . which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.’’ Our wilderness stewardship policy (610 FW 1) interprets ‘‘untrammeled’’ to be ‘‘the freedom of a landscape from the human intent to permanently intervene, alter, control, or manipulate natural conditions or processes.’’ The second chapter of the wilderness stewardship policy, which outlines administration and resource stewardship (610 FW 2), directs that USFWS will not manipulate ecosystem processes, specifically including predator/prey fluctuations, in wilderness areas unless ‘‘necessary to accomplish the purposes of the refuge, including Wilderness Act purposes, or in cases where these processes become unnatural’’ (i.e., disrupted predator/prey relationships, spread of invasive species, and so forth). Additionally, nothing in this proposed rule applies to or is inconsistent with our policy that outlines special provisions for Alaska wilderness (610 FW 5). The overarching goal of our wildlifedependent recreation policy is to enhance opportunities and access to quality visitor experiences on refuges and to manage the refuge to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats (605 FW 1.6). We recognize hunting as one of many priority uses of the Refuge System (when and where compatible with refuge purposes) that is a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in the American heritage (605 FW 2). As stated in part 36 of title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 36), the taking of fish and wildlife through public recreational activities, including sport hunting, is authorized on refuges in Alaska ‘‘as long as such activities are conducted in manner compatible with the purposes for which the areas were established’’ (50 CFR 36.31(a)). Sport hunting and trapping on refuges is generally regulated by the States, PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 889 unless further restricted by Federal law (see 50 CFR 32.2(d)) or closures to Federal public land, such as under Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242.26 or 50 CFR 100.26). In Alaska, sport hunting is commonly referred to as general hunting and trapping and includes State subsistence hunts and general permits open to both Alaska residents and nonresidents (see proposed definition under the Proposed Regulation Promulgation section, below). These activities remain subject to Federal law, including mandates under ANILCA; the Improvement Act; and, where applicable, the Wilderness Act. Applicable directives and guidance can also be found in policies in the USFWS Manual at 601 FW 3 (Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health), 610 FW 2 (Wilderness Administration and Resource Stewardship), and 605 FW 2 (Hunting). Additionally, the regulations at 50 CFR 36.32(a) state that the Refuge Manager ‘‘may designate areas where, and establish periods when, no taking of a particular population of fish or wildlife shall be permitted.’’ The State of Alaska’s (State) legal framework for managing wildlife in Alaska is based on sustained yield, which is defined by statute to mean ‘‘the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of the ability to support a high level of human harvest of game, subject to preferences among beneficial uses, on an annual or periodic basis’’ (Alaska Statute (AS) 16.05.255(j)(5)). Since 1994, Alaska State law (AS 16.05.255) has prioritized human consumptive use of ungulates— specifically moose, caribou, and deer. Known as the Intensive Management (IM) statute, the law requires the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) to designate populations of ungulates for which human consumptive use is the highest priority use and to set population and harvest objectives for those populations. To that end, the BOG must ‘‘adopt regulations to provide for intensive management programs to restore the abundance or productivity of identified big game prey populations as necessary to achieve human consumptive use goals’’ (AS 16.05.255(e)). Once designated as an IM population, if either populations or harvests fail to meet management objectives, nonresident hunting must first be eliminated, followed by reductions or eliminations of resident harvest opportunities. However, under the IM statute, the BOG may not significantly reduce the harvest opportunities of an identified IM ungulate population unless it has adopted or is considering the adoption E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 890 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules of regulations ‘‘to restore the abundance or productivity of the ungulate population through habitat enhancement, predation control, or other means’’ (AS 16.05.255(e)–(g) and (j)). The BOG has adopted regulations under the IM statute that require targeted reductions of wolf, black bear, brown bear, or a combination of these in designated ‘‘predation control areas’’ within game management units. These State regulations are implemented through IM plans that authorize activities including aerial shooting of wolves or bears or both by State agency personnel, trapping of wolves by paid contractors, allowance under permit for same-day airborne hunting of wolves and bears by the public, and allowance under permit for the take of any black or brown bear through baiting or snaring by the public (5 Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) 92). Thirteen of the 16 refuges in Alaska contain lands within game management units officially designated for IM. While predator control activities occurring under the authority of an IM plan have not been permitted by USFWS on any refuge in Alaska, some predator control programs and activities are being implemented in predation control areas immediately adjacent to refuges. Given the large home ranges of many species affected by IM actions, these control programs have the potential to impact wildlife resources, natural systems, and ecological processes, as well as conservation and management of these species on adjacent refuges. In recent years, concurrent with its adoption and implementation of IM plans for predation control areas, the BOG has also authorized measures under its general hunting and trapping regulations that have the potential to greatly increase effectiveness of the take of predators and to disrupt natural processes and wildlife interactions. Examples of these recently adopted measures, which apply beyond areas officially designated for IM, including many refuges in Alaska, are: • Harvesting brown bears over bait at registered black bear bait stations; • Taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season; • Expanding season lengths and increasing bag limits; • Classifying black bears as both furbearers and big game species (which could allow for trapping and snaring of bears and sale of their hides and skulls); and • Authorizing same-day airborne take of bears at registered bait stations (5 AAC 85). VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 Many of the recent actions by the BOG to liberalize the State’s regulatory frameworks for general hunting and trapping of wolves, bears, and coyotes reverse long-standing prohibitions and restrictions on take of these wildlife species under State law. Unlike the recent practice of taking brown bears over bait, black bear baiting has been an authorized practice in Alaska since 1982, including on refuges. Black bear baiting is authorized by the State pursuant to a permit and, in some instances, a special use permit (USFWS Form 3–1383–G) issued by refuges. Taking of brown bears at black bear baiting stations was recently authorized under State regulations in certain game management units within the State (several of which are within refuges) and is subject to the same restrictions as black bear baiting. The State regulations prohibit setting up a bait station within 1 mile of a home or other dwelling, business, or campground, or within 1⁄4 mile of a road or trail (5 AAC 85). Implementation of IM actions under the IM statute and many of the recent liberalizations of the general hunting and trapping regulations have direct implications for the management of refuges in Alaska. Predator-prey interactions represent a dynamic and foundational ecological process in Alaska’s arctic and subarctic ecosystems, and are a major driver of ecosystem function. Regulations or activities on refuges in Alaska that are inconsistent with the conservation of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats in their natural diversity, or the maintenance of biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health, are in direct conflict with our legal mandates for administering refuges in Alaska under ANILCA, the Improvement Act, and the Wilderness Act, as well as with several applicable agency policies (601 FW 3, 610 FW 2, and 605 FW 2). The USFWS is mandated to conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity and ensure that biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health are maintained on refuges in Alaska for the continuing benefit of present and future generations. In managing for natural diversity, the USFWS conserves, protects, and manages all fish and wildlife populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in the natural ‘mix,’ not to emphasize management activities favoring one species to the detriment of another. The USFWS assures that habitat diversity is maintained through natural means on refuges in Alaska, avoiding artificial developments and habitat manipulation programs, PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 whenever possible. The USFWS fully recognizes and considers that rural residents use, and are often dependent on, refuge resources for subsistence purposes, and the USFWS manages for this use consistent with the conservation of species and habitats in their natural diversity. The terms biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health are defined in the BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which directs the USFWS to maintain the variety of life and its processes; to maintain biotic and abiotic compositions, structure, and functioning; and to manage populations for natural densities and levels of variation throughout the NWRS. Proposal This proposed rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or otherwise restrict the taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence by federally qualified users under those regulations. This proposed rule would also not apply to take in Defense of Life and Property as defined under State regulations (see 5 AAC 92.410). Hunting and trapping are priority uses of refuges in Alaska. The proposed rule would not affect implementation of State hunting and trapping regulations that are consistent with Federal law and USFWS policies on refuges, nor would it restrict hunting or trapping activities outside USFWSmanaged refuge lands and waters. The proposed rule would make the following substantive changes: (1) We would prohibit predator control on refuges in Alaska, unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, Federal laws, or policy; is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health; and is based on sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control. A Refuge Manager could authorize predator control activities on a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska only if: (a) Alternatives to predator control have been evaluated, attempted, and exhausted as a practical means of achieving management objectives; (b) Proposed actions have been evaluated and found to be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); (c) A formal refuge compatibility determination has been completed, as required by law; and (d) The potential effects of predator control on subsistence uses and needs E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules have been evaluated through an ANILCA section 810 analysis. For clarity, we would define predator control as the intention to reduce the population of predators for the benefit of prey species. The USFWS in Alaska’s position for the last three decades has been that the need for predator control must be based on sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. This requirement is consistent with managing for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health under ANILCA and the Improvement Act. This proposed rule would ensure that take of wildlife under State regulations and implementation of predator control on refuges in Alaska are consistent with our legal mandates and policies for administration of those refuges. (2) We would also prohibit certain practices for the taking of wildlife on Alaska National Wildlife refuges (except for subsistence uses by federally qualified subsistence users in accordance with applicable Federal laws and regulations), including: • Taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs (exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15–April 30 in specific game management units in accordance with State law); • Taking brown bears over bait; • Taking of bears using traps or snares; • Taking wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 1–August 9); and • Taking bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred. The take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft or on the same day as air travel has occurred is already prohibited under current refuge regulations, and this would not change. The USFWS is seeking comment on the type of bait allowed to be used for the baiting of black or brown bears. Currently, State regulations, which are adopted on refuges, require the bait used at bear baiting stations to be biodegradable. People use a range of different types of bait for the baiting of bears, including parts of fish and game that are not required to be salvaged when these species are harvested, as well as human and pet food products. (3) We would update our regulations to reflect Federal assumption of management of subsistence hunting and fishing under Title VIII of ANILCA by the Federal Government from the State in the 1990s. (4) We would amend 50 CFR 32.2(h) to state that black bear baiting is authorized in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. This change would help ensure consistency in our regulations if the amendments to 50 CFR 36, as presented in this proposed rule, are adopted. (5) We would update procedures for implementing closures or restrictions on refuges, including the taking of fish and wildlife under sport hunting and trapping, to more effectively engage and inform the public and make the notice and durational provisions more consistent with procedures set forth in Federal subsistence closure policy and regulations at 36 CFR 242.19 and 50 CFR 100.19 for emergency special actions on Federal public lands in Alaska. Improved consistency between these Federal regulations and processes is intended to help minimize confusion and make it easier for the public to be involved in the process. Under the proposed rule, the Regional Director will compile a list, updated at least annually, of Alaska refuge closures and restrictions under Federal Alaska refuge regulations. Notice would be provided in accordance with the Current 891 procedures set forth at 50 CFR 36.42. This annual list would include contact information for the lead staff and a process for the public to provide input and review. The current regulations provide for emergency, temporary, and permanent restrictions. The proposed changes would outline emergency restrictions, limited to 60 days, and temporary restrictions, limited to the minimum time necessary, with review at least every 3 years. We would also update the closures and restrictions notification procedures for refuges in Alaska to reflect the availability of alternative communications technologies and approaches that have emerged or evolved over the last few decades. These changes recognize that the Internet has become one of the primary methods to communicate with the public and is an effective tool for engaging Alaskans and the broader American public and that there are other forms of broadcast media, beyond just the radio, that we may want to use. The proposed changes to the notification procedures are not intended to limit public involvement or reduce public notice; rather, we intend to engage in ways more likely to encourage public involvement and in a manner that is fiscally sustainable. We recognize that in-person public meetings will still be the most effective way to engage Alaskans, and we intend to continue that practice. We also recognize that many individuals in rural Alaska do not have access to high speed Internet, and for that reason, we will continue to use other methods of communication, such as newspapers and radio, where available to provide adequate notice. The following table summarizes the changes we propose to the existing procedures for public participation and closures at 50 CFR 36.42: Proposed update Authority Refuge Manager may close an area or restrict an activity on an emergency, temporary, or permanent basis. No updates being considered. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Criteria (50 CFR 36.42(b)) Criteria includes: Public health and safety, resource protection, protection of cultural or scientific values, subsistence uses, endangered or threatened species conservation, and other management considerations necessary to ensure that the activity or area is being managed in a manner compatible with refuge purposes. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4702 Add conservation of natural diversity, biological integrity, biological diversity, and environmental health to the current list of criteria. Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 892 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules Current Proposed update Emergency closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(c)) Emergency closure may not exceed 30 days .......................................... Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see below for details). Closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife will be accompanied by notice with a subsequent hearing. Increase the period from 30 to 60 days, with extensions beyond 60 days being subject to nonemergency closure procedures (i.e., temporary or permanent). Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see below for details). Temporary closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(d)) May extend only for as long as necessary to achieve the purpose of the closure or restriction, not to exceed or be extended beyond 12 months. Closure effective upon notice as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see below for details). Closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife effective upon notice and hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected by such closures or restriction, and other locations as appropriate. Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife may still only extend for so long as necessary to achieve the purpose of the closure or restriction. These closures or restrictions will be periodically re-evaluated at least every 3 years to determine whether the circumstances necessitating the original closure still exist and warrant continuation of the restriction. A formal finding will be made in writing that explains the reasoning for the decision. When a closure is no longer needed, action to remove it will be initiated as soon as practicable. The USFWS will maintain a list of all refuge closures and publish this list annually for public review. Closure subject to notice procedures as prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see below for details). Closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife would require consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native Corporations, as well as the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected. Permanent closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(e)) No time limit .............................................................................................. Closure effective after notice and public hearings in the affected vicinity and other locations as appropriate, and after publication in the Federal Register. No time limit. Closures related to the taking of fish and wildlife would require consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native Corporations, as well as the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected. Closures would continue to be published in the Federal Register. Notice (50 CFR 36.42(f)) asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Notice is to be provided through newspapers, signs, and radio .............. (6) We propose to codify definitions for several terms (see the Proposed Regulation Promulgation section, below). These terms include ‘‘Bait,’’ ‘‘Big game,’’ ‘‘Biological diversity,’’ ‘‘Biological integrity,’’ ‘‘Cub bear,’’ ‘‘Environmental health,’’ ‘‘Furbearer,’’ ‘‘Historic conditions,’’ ‘‘Natural diversity,’’ ‘‘Predator control,’’ ‘‘Regional Director,’’ ‘‘Sport hunting,’’ and ‘‘Trapping.’’ Most of these definitions, including bait, big game, cub bear, furbearer, and predator control, are based on existing definitions in Federal subsistence regulations or policy. During our scoping and tribal consultation efforts, we heard that the definitions for biological integrity, biological diversity, natural diversity, and environmental health and the origins of these definitions were of significant interest to people. As discussed earlier in the preamble, the USFWS is mandated under the Improvement Act to ‘‘ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 Add the use of the Internet, broadcast media, or other available methods, in addition to continuing to use the more traditional methods of newspapers, signs, and radio. environmental health [BIDEH] of the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans . . .’’ (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)(4)(B)). The USFWS BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which provides guidance for implementation of the Improvement Act, provides definitions for each of these terms, as well as the term ‘‘historic conditions,’’ and those definitions are included word-for-word in this proposed rule. As was also discussed earlier in the preamble, under ANILCA, each refuge in Alaska has an establishment purpose to ‘‘conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.’’ Our proposed definition for natural diversity is based on the discussion of the term in the legislative history of ANILCA. Required Determinations Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563) Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Management and Budget will review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is not significant. Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 12866 while calling for improvements in the nation’s regulatory system to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent with these requirements. E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules Regulatory Flexibility Act Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency must publish a notice of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the effects of the rule on small entities (small businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. SBREFA amended the RFA to require Federal agencies to provide a statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Thus, for a regulatory flexibility analysis to be required, impacts must exceed a threshold for ‘‘significant impact’’ and a threshold for a ‘‘substantial number of small entities.’’ See 5 U.S.C. 605(b). SBREFA amended the Regulatory Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to provide a statement of the factual basis for certifying that a rule would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The proposed rule would amend regulations for refuges in Alaska. The proposed rule would: (1) Codify how our existing mandates for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator control (50 CFR 36.1); (2) prohibit several particularly effective methods and means for take of predators (50 CFR 36.32); and (3) update our public participation and closure procedures (50 CFR 36.42). Predator control is prohibited on refuges in Alaska unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, Federal laws, or policy and is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health. The need for predator control must be based on sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife to harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control. This rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations. Codifying our existing VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 mandates on conservation of natural diversity, biological integrity, biological diversity, and environmental health would not have a significant impact because the USFWS is and has been required to manage refuges in Alaska consistent with these mandates for the last several decades since they were put into effect. Codifying previously and currently prohibited sport hunting and trapping practices would not have a significant impact because the few changes that have occurred have been relatively recent, occurring over the last several years, and this rule would actually constitute a change back to the status quo. State general hunting and trapping regulations currently apply to refuges in Alaska. Therefore, the prohibition of particular methods and means for the take of predators under State regulations on refuges in Alaska that may affect visitor use on those refuges include the take of brown bears over bait, take of wolves and coyotes during the denning season, and sameday airborne take of bears. The take of black bear sows with cubs is only allowed under State regulations in specific game management units for customary and traditional use; therefore it is not currently nor in the past has it been legal for the general public to participate in this activity outside of that framework. As a result, big game hunting may decrease if a hunter’s preferred hunting method is prohibited. Conversely, wildlife watching activities may increase if there are increased opportunities to view wildlife, including bears, wolves, and coyotes. From 2009 to 2013, big game hunting on refuges in Alaska averaged about 40,000 days annually and represented 2 percent of wildlife-related recreation on refuges. For Statewide hunting, big game hunting on refuges in Alaska represented only 4 percent of all big game hunting days (1.2 million days). Due to the past ban on these proposed prohibited methods and means for take of predators, we estimate that these hunting methods (take of brown bears over bait, take of wolves and coyotes during the denning season, and sameday airborne take of bears) represent a small fraction of all big game hunting on refuges. As a result, big game hunting on refuges would change minimally. This change in opportunity would most likely be offset by other sites (located outside of refuges) gaining participants. Therefore, there would be a substitute site for these hunting methods, and participation rates would not necessarily change. Hunters’ spending contributes income to the regional economy and benefits PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 893 local businesses. Due to the unavailability of site-specific expenditure data, we use the Alaska estimate from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation to identify expenditures for food and lodging, transportation, and other incidental expenses. Using the average trip-related expenditures for big game hunting ($139 per day) yields approximately $5.9 million annually in big game huntingrelated expenditures on refuges in Alaska. Since only a small fraction of big game hunters would choose not to hunt on refuges under the proposed rule, the impact would be minimal. The net loss to the local communities would be no more than $5.9 million annually, and most likely considerably less because few hunters use the prohibited methods and those hunters that do would likely choose a substitute site. Small businesses within the retail trade industry (such as hotels, gas stations, taxidermy shops, etc.) may be impacted from some decreased refuge visitation. A large percentage of these retail trade establishments in local communities around refuges qualify as small businesses. We expect that the incremental recreational changes will be scattered, and so we do not expect that the rule would have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities in Alaska. With the small change in overall spending anticipated from this proposed rule, it is unlikely that a substantial number of small entities would have more than a small impact from the spending change near the affected refuges. Therefore, we certify that this proposed rule would not have a significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities as defined under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) An initial regulatory flexibility analysis is not required. Accordingly, a small entity compliance guide is not required. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) This proposed rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the SBREFA. This rule: a. Would not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. b. Would not cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers; individual industries; Federal, State, or local government agencies; or geographic regions. c. Would not have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S. based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises. E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 894 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules Unfunded Mandates Reform Act This proposed rule would not impose an unfunded mandate on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 million per year. The rule would not have a significant or unique effect on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector. A statement containing the information required by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is not required. input in evaluating this proposed rule. In addition, we have evaluated this proposed rule in accordance with 512 DM 4 under Department of the Interior Policy on Consultation with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporations, August 10, 2012. We have been and will continue to consult with Alaska Native tribes and Alaska Native corporations regarding this proposed rule. Takings (Executive Order 12630) This proposed rule does not involve the taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630. This proposed rule, if adopted, would affect the public use and management of Federal lands managed by USFWS in Alaska. A takings implication assessment is not required. This proposed rule does not contain any new collections of information that require approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). The special use permit mentioned in this proposed rule, FWS Form 3–1383–G, is already approved by OMB under OMB control number 1018–0102, which expires on June 30, 2017. We 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. Federalism (Executive Order 13132) In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this proposed rule does not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism summary impact statement is not required. This proposed rule, if adopted, would affect the public use and management of Federal lands managed by USFWS in Alaska and would not have a substantial direct effect on State or local governments in Alaska. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Civil Justice Reform (Executive Order 12988) This proposed rule complies with the requirements of Executive Order 12988. Specifically, this rule: a. Meets the criteria of section 3(a) requiring that all regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity and be written to minimize litigation; and b. Meets the criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all regulations be written in clear language and contain clear legal standards. Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes In accordance with the President’s memorandum of April 29, 1994 (Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal Governments; 59 FR 22951 (May 4, 1994)), Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments; 65 FR 67249 (November 9, 2000)), and the Department of the Interior Manual, 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-government basis, and we are seeking the Tribes’ VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) National Environmental Policy Act (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible. If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section, above. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that you find unclear, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. Authors The primary authors of this proposed rule are Heather Abbey Tonneson and Stephanie Brady of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Regional Office, with considerable review and input from other USFWS Alaska refuge and Office of Subsistence Management managerial and biological staff. Public Participation We have analyzed this rule in accordance with the criteria of the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the Department of the Interior’s manual at 516 DM. An environmental assessment has been prepared and is available for public comment during the comment period for this proposed rule. A copy of the environmental assessment can be found at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R7–NWRS–2014– 0005. It is the policy of the Department of the Interior, whenever practicable, to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. Accordingly, interested persons may submit written comments regarding this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section, above. In addition, see the related document published elsewhere in today’s Federal Register with information on nine open houses and public hearings that will be held in various locations around the State and at which comments will be accepted. Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use (Executive Order 13211) Public Availability of Comments Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking actions that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, or use. We believe that the rule would not have any effect on energy supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is required. Clarity of This Rule We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must: (a) Be logically organized; (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly; (c) Use common, everyday words and clear language rather than jargon; PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. List of Subjects 50 CFR Part 32 Fishing, Hunting, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Wildlife, Wildlife refuges. 50 CFR Part 36 Alaska, Recreation and recreation areas, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Wildlife refuges. E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules Accordingly, we propose to amend title 50, chapter I, subchapter C, of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows: PART 32—HUNTING AND FISHING 1. The authority citation for part 32 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 16 U.S.C. 460k, 664, 668dd–668ee, and 715i. § 32.2 [Amended] 2. Amend § 32.2(h) by removing the words, ‘‘(Baiting is authorized in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife refuges in Alaska).’’ and adding in their place the words, ‘‘(Black bear baiting is authorized in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.)’’. ■ PART 36—ALASKA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES 3. The authority citation for part 36 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 460(k) et seq., 668dd– 668ee, 3101 et seq. Subpart A—Introduction and General Provisions 4. Amend § 36.1 by: a. Redesignating paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) as paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), respectively; and ■ b. Adding a new paragraph (a) to read as follows: ■ ■ § 36.1 How do the regulations in this part apply to me and what do they cover? (a) National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska are maintained to conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity and to ensure biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health for the continuing benefit of present and future generations. * * * * * ■ 5. Amend § 36.2 by adding, in alphabetical order, definitions for ‘‘Bait,’’ ‘‘Big game,’’ ‘‘Biological diversity,’’ ‘‘Biological integrity,’’ ‘‘Cub bear,’’ ‘‘Environmental health,’’ ‘‘Furbearer,’’ ‘‘Historic conditions,’’ ‘‘Natural diversity,’’ ‘‘Predator control,’’ ‘‘Regional Director,’’ ‘‘Sport hunting,’’ and ‘‘Trapping,’’ to read as follows: asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS § 36.2 What do these terms mean? * * * * * Bait means any material excluding a scent lure that is placed to attract an animal by its sense of smell or taste; however, those parts of legally taken animals that are not required to be salvaged and which are left at the kill site are not considered bait. Big game means black bear, brown bear, bison, caribou, Sitka black-tailed VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, muskox, Dall sheep, wolf, and wolverine. Biological diversity means the variety of life and its processes, including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and communities and ecosystems in which they occur. Biological integrity means the biotic compositions, structure, and functioning at genetic, organism, and community level comparable with historic conditions, including the natural biological processes that shape genomes, organisms, and communities. Cub bear means a brown (grizzly) bear in its first or second year of life, or a black bear (including the cinnamon and blue phases) in its first year of life. * * * * * Environmental health means the composition, structure, and functioning of soil, water, air, and other abiotic features comparable with historic conditions, including the natural abiotic processes that shape the environment. * * * * * Furbearer means a beaver, coyote, arctic fox, red fox, lynx, marten, mink, least weasel, short-tailed weasel, muskrat, river (land) otter, flying squirrel, ground squirrel, red squirrel, Alaskan marmot, hoary marmot, woodchuck, wolf, or wolverine. Historic conditions means the composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we believe, based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to substantial human related changes to the landscape. Natural diversity means the existence of all fish, wildlife, and plant populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in the natural mix and in a healthy condition for the long term benefit of current and future generations. Managing for natural diversity includes avoiding emphasis of management activities favoring some species to the detriment of others; assuring that habitat diversity is maintained through natural means, avoiding artificial developments and habitat manipulation programs whenever possible; and taking into consideration the fact that humans are dependent on wildlife refuge subsistence resources. * * * * * Predator control is the intention to reduce the population of predators for the benefit of prey species. * * * * * Regional Director means the Alaska Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 895 Wildlife Service, or an authorized representative. * * * * * Sport hunting means the taking of or attempting to take wildlife under State hunting or trapping regulations. In Alaska, this is commonly referred to as general hunting and trapping and includes State subsistence hunts and general permits open to both Alaska residents and nonresidents. * * * * * Trapping means taking furbearers under a trapping license. * * * * * Subpart B—Subsistence Uses § 36.11 [Amended] 6. Amend § 36.11 by removing paragraph (d) and by redesignating paragraph (e) as paragraph (d). ■ 7. Revise § 36.13 to read as follows: ■ § 36.13 Subsistence fishing. Fish may be taken by Federally qualified subsistence users, as defined at 50 CFR part 100.5, for subsistence uses on Alaska National Wildlife Refuges where subsistence uses are allowed in compliance with this subpart and 50 CFR part 100. ■ 8. Revise § 36.14 to read as follows: § 36.14 Subsistence hunting and trapping. Federally qualified subsistence users, as defined at 50 CFR part 100.5, may hunt and trap wildlife for subsistence uses on Alaska National Wildlife Refuges where subsistence uses are allowed in compliance with this subpart and 50 CFR part 100. Subpart D—Non-subsistence Uses 9. Revise the heading of subpart D to read as set forth above. ■ 10. Amend § 36.32 to read as follows: ■ § 36.32 Taking of fish and wildlife. (a) The taking of fish and wildlife for sport hunting and trapping and for sport fishing is authorized in accordance with applicable State and Federal law, and such laws are hereby adopted and made a part of these regulations, except as noted below and provided however, that the Refuge Manager, pursuant to § 36.42, may designate areas where, and establish periods when, no taking of a particular population of fish or wildlife will be allowed. (b) Predator control is prohibited on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, Federal laws, or policy; is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health; and is based on E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 896 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator control. A Refuge Manager will authorize predator control activities on a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska only if: (1) Alternatives to predator control have been evaluated, attempted, and exhausted as a practical means of achieving management objectives; (2) Proposed actions have been evaluated in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); (3) A formal refuge compatibility determination has been completed, as required by law; and (4) The potential effects of predator control on subsistence uses and needs have been evaluated through an ANILCA section 810 analysis. (c) The exercise of valid commercial fishing rights or privileges obtained pursuant to existing law, including any use of refuge areas for campsites, cabins, motorized vehicles, and aircraft landing directly incident to the exercise of such rights or privileges, is authorized; Provided, however, that the Refuge Manager may restrict or prohibit the exercise of these rights or privileges or uses of federally owned lands directly incident to such exercise if the Refuge Manager determines, after conducting a public hearing in the affected locality, that they are inconsistent with the purposes of the refuge and that they constitute a significant expansion of commercial fishing activities within such refuge beyond the level of such activities in 1979. (d) The following provisions apply to any person while engaged in the taking of fish and wildlife within an Alaska National Wildlife Refuge: (1) Trapping and sport hunting. (i) Each person must secure and possess all required State licenses and must comply with the applicable provisions of State law unless further restricted by Federal law; (ii) Each person must comply with the applicable provisions of Federal law; (iii) In addition to the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, each person must continue to secure a trapping permit from the appropriate Refuge Manager prior to trapping on the Kenai, Izembek, and Kodiak Refuges and the Aleutian Islands Unit of the Alaska Maritime Refuge. (iv) It is unlawful for a person having been airborne to use a firearm or any other weapon to take or assist in taking any species of bear, wolf, or wolverine until after 3 a.m. on the day following the day in which the flying occurred, except that a trapper may use a firearm or any other weapon to dispatch a legally caught wolf or wolverine in a trap or snare on the same day in which the flying occurred. This prohibition does not apply to flights on regularly scheduled commercial airlines between regularly maintained public airports. (v) The following methods and means for take of wildlife are prohibited: Prohibited acts Exceptions (A) Using snares, nets, or traps to take any species of bear .................. (B) Using bait ............................................................................................ None. (1) Bait may be used to trap furbearers. (2) Bait may be used to hunt black bears. None. In accordance with Alaska State law and regulation, resident hunters may take black bear cubs or sows with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site October 15—April 30 in game management units 19A, 19D, 21B, 21C, 21D, 24, and 25D. asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS (C) Taking wolves and coyotes from May 1 through August 9 ............... (D) Taking bear cubs or sows with cubs ................................................. (2) Sport and commercial fishing. (i) Each person must secure and possess all required State licenses and must comply with the applicable provisions of State law unless further restricted by Federal law; (ii) Each person must comply with the applicable provisions of Federal law. (e) Persons transporting fish or wildlife through Alaska National Wildlife Refuges must carry an Alaska State hunting or fishing license, or in cases where a person is transporting game for another person, they are required to carry an Alaska State ‘‘Transfer of Possession Form’’ on their person and make these available when requested by law enforcement personnel. (f) Nothing in this section applies to or restricts the taking or transporting of fish and wildlife by Federally qualified subsistence users under Federal subsistence regulations. (g) Animal control programs will only be conducted in accordance with a special use permit issued by the Refuge Manager. VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 11. Amend § 36.42 by revising paragraphs (a), (b), (c)(4), (d), (e), (f), (g), and (h) to read as follows: ■ § 36.42 Public participation and closure procedures. (a) Applicability and authority. The Refuge Manager may close an area or restrict an activity in an Alaska National Wildlife Refuge on an emergency, temporary, or permanent basis in accordance with this section. (b) Criteria. In determining whether to close an area or restrict an activity otherwise allowed, the Refuge Manager will be guided by factors such as public health and safety; resource protection; protection of cultural or scientific values; subsistence uses; conservation of endangered or threatened species; conservation of natural diversity, biological integrity, biological diversity, and environmental health; or other management considerations necessary to ensure that the activity or area is being managed in a manner compatible with the purposes for which the Refuge was established. (c) * * * PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 (4) Emergency closures or restrictions may not exceed a period of 60 days. Extensions beyond 60 days are subject to nonemergency closure procedures. (d) Temporary closures or restrictions. (1) Temporary closures or restrictions relating to the use of aircraft, snowmachines, motorboats, or nonmotorized surface transportation will be effective only after notice and hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected by such closures or restriction, and other locations as appropriate. (2) Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife will be effective only after allowing for the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected. Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife also require consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native Corporations. (3) Other temporary closures will be effective upon notice as set forth at § 36.42(f). (4) Temporary closures or restrictions, other than those relating to the taking of fish and wildlife, will extend only for as long as necessary to achieve the purpose E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 5 / Friday, January 8, 2016 / Proposed Rules of the closure or restriction, not to exceed 12 months. (5) Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife will extend only for as long as necessary to achieve the purpose of the closure or restriction. These temporary closures and restrictions will be periodically reevaluated as necessary, at least every 3 years, to determine whether the circumstances necessitating the original closure or restriction still exist and warrant continuation. A formal finding will be made in writing that explains the reasoning for the decision. When a closure is no longer needed, action to remove it will be initiated as soon as practicable. (6) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will maintain a list of all refuge closures and restrictions and will publish this list annually for public review. (e) Permanent closures or restrictions. Permanent closures or restrictions relating to the use of aircraft, snowmachines, motorboats, or nonmotorized surface transportation, or taking of fish and wildlife, will be effective only after allowing for the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected and publication in the Federal Register. Permanent closures or restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife would require consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native Corporations. (f) Notice. Emergency, temporary, or permanent closures or restrictions will be published on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Web site at http:// www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/ak_sp_hunt_ regs.htm. Additional means of notice reasonably likely to inform residents in the affected vicinity will also be provided where available, such as: (1) Publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the State and in local newspapers; (2) Use of electronic media, such as the Internet and email lists; (3) Broadcast media (radio, television, etc.); or (4) Posting of signs in the local vicinity or at the Refuge Manager’s office. (g) Openings. In determining whether to open an area to public use or activity otherwise prohibited, the Refuge Manager will provide notice in the Federal Register and will, upon request, hold a public meeting in the affected vicinity and other location, as appropriate, prior to making a final determination. (h) Except as otherwise specifically allowed under the provisions of this part, entry into closed areas or failure to VerDate Sep<11>2014 20:30 Jan 07, 2016 Jkt 238001 abide by restrictions established under this section is prohibited. Karen Hyun, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. [FR Doc. 2016–22 Filed 1–7–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 679 RIN 0648–BF25 Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bycatch Management in the Bering Sea Pollock Fishery National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Notice of availability of fishery management plan amendments; request for comments. AGENCY: The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) submitted Amendment 110 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area (FMP). If approved, Amendment 110 would improve the management of Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery by creating a comprehensive salmon bycatch avoidance program. This proposed action is necessary to minimize Chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery to the extent practicable while maintaining the potential for the full harvest of the pollock total allowable catch within specified prohibited species catch limits. Amendment 110 is intended to promote the goals and objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the FMP, and other applicable laws. DATES: Comments must be received no later than March 8, 2016. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2015–0081, by any of the following methods: • Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20150081, click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 897 • Mail: Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, Sustainable Fisheries Division, Alaska Region NMFS, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. Mail comments to P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802–1668. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NMFS. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NMFS will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). Electronic copies of Amendment 110 and the Environmental Assessment/ Regulatory Impact Review/Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis prepared for this action (collectively the ‘‘Analysis’’) may be obtained from www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gretchen Harrington, 907–586–7228. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act) requires that each regional fishery management council submit any fishery management plan amendment it prepares to NMFS for review and approval, disapproval, or partial approval by the Secretary of Commerce. The Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires that NMFS, upon receiving a fishery management plan amendment, immediately publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the amendment is available for public review and comment. This notice announces that proposed Amendment 110 to the FMP is available for public review and comment. NMFS manages the pollock fishery in the exclusive economic zone of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) under the FMP. The Council prepared this FMP under the authority of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. Regulations implementing the FMP appear at 50 CFR part 679. General regulations governing U.S. fisheries also appear at 50 CFR part 600. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Bering Sea Pollock Fishery Amendment 110 would apply to owners and operators of catcher vessels, catcher/processors, motherships, inshore processors, and the six Western Alaska Community Development Quota E:\FR\FM\08JAP1.SGM 08JAP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 5 (Friday, January 8, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 887-897]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-22]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Parts 32 and 36

[Docket No. FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005; FF07R05000 145 FXRS12610700000]
RIN 1018-BA31


Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and 
Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), propose to 
amend our regulations for National Wildlife Refuges (refuges) in 
Alaska. This proposed rule clarifies how our existing mandates for the 
conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, 
and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator 
control; prohibits several particularly effective methods and means for 
take of predators; and updates our public participation and closure 
procedures. This proposed rule would not change Federal subsistence 
regulations or restrict the taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence 
uses under Federal subsistence regulations.

[[Page 888]]


DATES: We must receive your comments on or before March 8, 2016.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any one of the following methods:
    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005, 
which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then click on the 
Search button. On the resulting page, you may submit a comment by 
clicking on ``Comment Now!''
    (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public 
Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005; Division of Policy, 
Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    (3) In person: We will hold nine open houses and public hearings at 
which comments may be submitted. See the related document published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register with information about the dates, 
times, and locations of those open houses and hearings and the various 
ways in which oral and written comments will be accepted.
    We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This 
generally means that we will post any personal information you provide 
us. For additional information, see the Public Participation and Public 
Availability of Comments sections, below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Brady, Chief of Conservation 
Planning and Policy, National Wildlife Refuge System, Alaska Regional 
Office, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., Mail Stop 211, Anchorage, AK 99503; 
telephone (907) 306-7448.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has various mandates it 
must adhere to in managing the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). 
There are three statutes in particular that provide direction and 
authority specific to the Alaska NWRS: The 1980 Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA; 16 U.S.C. 3111-3126); the 1997 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (Improvement Act; 16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee, which amended the National Wildlife Administration 
Act of 1966 (Administration Act)); and the 1964 Wilderness Act (16 
U.S.C. 1131-1136).
    The Improvement Act provides that ANILCA takes precedence if there 
is a conflict between the two, and thus ANILCA provides the primary 
direction for management specific to refuges in Alaska. ANILCA added 
approximately 54 million acres of land to the NWRS in Alaska, managed 
by USFWS; established nine new refuges; and established or redesignated 
seven other already established refuges. ANILCA also designated 18.7 
million acres in 13 wilderness areas on refuges in Alaska as units of 
the National Wilderness Preservation System.
    Under ANILCA, each refuge in Alaska has a nonexclusive list of 
purposes for which it was established, including to ``conserve fish and 
wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity'' followed 
by a list of representative species particular to each refuge. Under 
ANILCA, all other refuge establishment purposes for Alaska refuges 
(except international treaty obligations) must be managed consistently 
with the first purpose for the conservation of natural diversity. While 
``natural diversity'' is not defined in ANILCA, its legislative history 
provides guidance. The Senate Report on H.R. 39 states that refuges 
represent ``the opportunity to manage these areas on a planned 
ecosystem-wide basis with all of their pristine ecological processes 
intact'' (S. Rep. No. 96-413 at 174 (1979), reprinted in 1980 
U.S.C.C.A.N. 5118). Nine days after ANILCA was signed into law on 
December 2, 1980, Congressman Udall, during a speech on the floor of 
the House of Representatives described the source of the term ``natural 
diversity.'' He stated that the conservation of natural diversity 
refers not only to ``protecting and managing all fish and wildlife 
populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in the 
natural `mix,' not to emphasize management activities favoring one 
species to the detriment of another'' (126 Cong. Rec. H12, 352-53 
(daily ed. Dec. 11, 1980) (statement of Rep. Udall)). During this floor 
speech, Congressman Udall also stated that in managing for natural 
diversity it was the intent of Congress, ``to direct the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service to the best of its ability, . . . to manage wildlife 
refuges to assure that habitat diversity is maintained through natural 
means, avoiding artificial developments and habitat manipulation 
programs . . . ; to assure that wildlife refuge management fully 
considers the fact that humans reside permanently within the boundaries 
of some areas and are dependent, . . . on wildlife refuge subsistence 
resources; and to allow management flexibility in developing new and 
innovative management programs different from lower 48 standards, but 
in the context of maintaining natural diversity of fish and wildlife 
populations and their dependent habitats for the long term benefit of 
all citizens'' (126 Cong. Rec. H12,352-53 (daily ed. Dec. 11, 1980) 
(statement of Rep. Udall).
    In its ANILCA Title VIII statement of policy, Congress stated, 
``nonwasteful subsistence uses of fish and wildlife and other renewable 
resources [by rural residents] shall be the priority consumptive uses 
of all such resources on the public lands of Alaska when it is 
necessary to restrict taking in order to assure the continued viability 
of a fish or wildlife population or the continuation of subsistence 
uses of such population, the taking of such population for nonwasteful 
subsistence uses shall be given preference on the public land over 
other consumptive uses'' (16 U.S.C. 3112(2)). This subsistence 
preference includes all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.
    All refuges in Alaska (except the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge) 
have among their stated statutory purposes to provide the opportunity 
for continued subsistence use by local rural residents in a manner 
consistent with the conservation of fish and wildlife populations and 
habitats in their natural diversity and fulfilling the international 
treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and 
wildlife and their habitats. In a further statement of Title VIII 
policy, Congress stated that ``consistent with sound management 
principles, and the conservation of healthy populations of fish and 
wildlife, the utilization of the public lands in Alaska is to cause the 
least adverse impact possible on rural residents who depend upon 
subsistence uses of the resources of such lands; consistent with 
management of fish and wildlife in accordance with recognized 
scientific principles and the purposes for each unit established . . . 
the purpose of this title [Title VIII] is to provide the opportunity 
for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to do so'' (16 
U.S.C. 3112(1)). The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources 
in its report on H.R. 39 stated that ``the phrase `the conservation of 
healthy populations of fish and wildlife' is to mean the maintenance of 
fish and wildlife resources in their habitats in a condition which 
assures stable and continuing natural populations and species mix of 
plants and animals in relation to their ecosystems, including 
recognition that local rural residents engaged in subsistence uses may 
be a natural part of that ecosystem . . . '' (S. Rep. No. 96-413 at 
233, reprinted in 1980 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5177).

[[Page 889]]

    The USFWS recognizes the importance of the fish, wildlife, and 
other natural resources in the lives and cultures of Alaska Native 
peoples, rural residents, and in the lives of all Alaskans, and we 
continue to recognize subsistence uses of fish and wildlife and other 
renewable resources as the priority consumptive use on Federal lands in 
Alaska, which includes all National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. This 
proposed rule would not change existing or future Federal subsistence 
regulations (36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or 
wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations.
    The Improvement Act states that refuges must be managed to fulfill 
the mission of the NWRS and purposes of the individual refuge. The 
Improvement Act also clearly states the mission of the NWRS, which is 
to ``administer a national network of lands and waters for the 
conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, 
wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United 
States for the benefit of present and future generations of 
Americans.'' Section 4(a)(4)(B) of the Improvement Act states that ``In 
administering the System, the Secretary shall . . . ensure that the 
biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health [BIDEH] of 
the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future 
generations of Americans . . .'' (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)(4)(B)). The USFWS 
BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which provides guidance for implementation of 
the Improvement Act, defines biological integrity as ``biotic 
composition, structure, and functioning at genetic, organism, and 
community levels comparable with historic conditions, including the 
natural biological processes that shape genomes, organisms, and 
communities.'' In that policy, biological diversity is defined as ``the 
variety of life and its processes, including the variety of living 
organisms, the genetic differences among them, and communities and 
ecosystems in which they occur.'' The policy defines environmental 
health as the ``composition, structure, and functioning of soil, water, 
air, and other abiotic features comparable with historic conditions, 
including the natural abiotic processes that shape the environment.'' 
Abiotic features are nonliving chemical and physical features of the 
environment (e.g., soil, air, water, temperature, etc.). The policy 
also defines ``historic conditions'' as the ``composition, structure, 
and functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we 
believe, based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to 
substantial human related changes to the landscape.'' In implementing 
this policy on refuges, we favor ``management that restores or mimics 
natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge 
purposes(s).'' Additionally, under this policy, we ``formulate refuge 
goals and objectives for population management by considering natural 
densities, social structures, and population dynamics at the refuge 
level'' and manage populations for ``natural densities and levels of 
variation.''
    The Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136) states that 
wilderness ``is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its 
community of life are untrammeled by man . . . which is protected and 
managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.'' Our wilderness 
stewardship policy (610 FW 1) interprets ``untrammeled'' to be ``the 
freedom of a landscape from the human intent to permanently intervene, 
alter, control, or manipulate natural conditions or processes.'' The 
second chapter of the wilderness stewardship policy, which outlines 
administration and resource stewardship (610 FW 2), directs that USFWS 
will not manipulate ecosystem processes, specifically including 
predator/prey fluctuations, in wilderness areas unless ``necessary to 
accomplish the purposes of the refuge, including Wilderness Act 
purposes, or in cases where these processes become unnatural'' (i.e., 
disrupted predator/prey relationships, spread of invasive species, and 
so forth). Additionally, nothing in this proposed rule applies to or is 
inconsistent with our policy that outlines special provisions for 
Alaska wilderness (610 FW 5).
    The overarching goal of our wildlife-dependent recreation policy is 
to enhance opportunities and access to quality visitor experiences on 
refuges and to manage the refuge to conserve fish, wildlife, plants, 
and their habitats (605 FW 1.6). We recognize hunting as one of many 
priority uses of the Refuge System (when and where compatible with 
refuge purposes) that is a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply 
rooted in the American heritage (605 FW 2). As stated in part 36 of 
title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 36), the taking of 
fish and wildlife through public recreational activities, including 
sport hunting, is authorized on refuges in Alaska ``as long as such 
activities are conducted in manner compatible with the purposes for 
which the areas were established'' (50 CFR 36.31(a)).
    Sport hunting and trapping on refuges is generally regulated by the 
States, unless further restricted by Federal law (see 50 CFR 32.2(d)) 
or closures to Federal public land, such as under Federal subsistence 
regulations (36 CFR 242.26 or 50 CFR 100.26). In Alaska, sport hunting 
is commonly referred to as general hunting and trapping and includes 
State subsistence hunts and general permits open to both Alaska 
residents and nonresidents (see proposed definition under the Proposed 
Regulation Promulgation section, below). These activities remain 
subject to Federal law, including mandates under ANILCA; the 
Improvement Act; and, where applicable, the Wilderness Act. Applicable 
directives and guidance can also be found in policies in the USFWS 
Manual at 601 FW 3 (Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental 
Health), 610 FW 2 (Wilderness Administration and Resource Stewardship), 
and 605 FW 2 (Hunting). Additionally, the regulations at 50 CFR 
36.32(a) state that the Refuge Manager ``may designate areas where, and 
establish periods when, no taking of a particular population of fish or 
wildlife shall be permitted.''
    The State of Alaska's (State) legal framework for managing wildlife 
in Alaska is based on sustained yield, which is defined by statute to 
mean ``the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of the ability to 
support a high level of human harvest of game, subject to preferences 
among beneficial uses, on an annual or periodic basis'' (Alaska Statute 
(AS) 16.05.255(j)(5)). Since 1994, Alaska State law (AS 16.05.255) has 
prioritized human consumptive use of ungulates--specifically moose, 
caribou, and deer. Known as the Intensive Management (IM) statute, the 
law requires the Alaska Board of Game (BOG) to designate populations of 
ungulates for which human consumptive use is the highest priority use 
and to set population and harvest objectives for those populations. To 
that end, the BOG must ``adopt regulations to provide for intensive 
management programs to restore the abundance or productivity of 
identified big game prey populations as necessary to achieve human 
consumptive use goals'' (AS 16.05.255(e)). Once designated as an IM 
population, if either populations or harvests fail to meet management 
objectives, nonresident hunting must first be eliminated, followed by 
reductions or eliminations of resident harvest opportunities. However, 
under the IM statute, the BOG may not significantly reduce the harvest 
opportunities of an identified IM ungulate population unless it has 
adopted or is considering the adoption

[[Page 890]]

of regulations ``to restore the abundance or productivity of the 
ungulate population through habitat enhancement, predation control, or 
other means'' (AS 16.05.255(e)-(g) and (j)).
    The BOG has adopted regulations under the IM statute that require 
targeted reductions of wolf, black bear, brown bear, or a combination 
of these in designated ``predation control areas'' within game 
management units. These State regulations are implemented through IM 
plans that authorize activities including aerial shooting of wolves or 
bears or both by State agency personnel, trapping of wolves by paid 
contractors, allowance under permit for same-day airborne hunting of 
wolves and bears by the public, and allowance under permit for the take 
of any black or brown bear through baiting or snaring by the public (5 
Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) 92).
    Thirteen of the 16 refuges in Alaska contain lands within game 
management units officially designated for IM. While predator control 
activities occurring under the authority of an IM plan have not been 
permitted by USFWS on any refuge in Alaska, some predator control 
programs and activities are being implemented in predation control 
areas immediately adjacent to refuges. Given the large home ranges of 
many species affected by IM actions, these control programs have the 
potential to impact wildlife resources, natural systems, and ecological 
processes, as well as conservation and management of these species on 
adjacent refuges.
    In recent years, concurrent with its adoption and implementation of 
IM plans for predation control areas, the BOG has also authorized 
measures under its general hunting and trapping regulations that have 
the potential to greatly increase effectiveness of the take of 
predators and to disrupt natural processes and wildlife interactions. 
Examples of these recently adopted measures, which apply beyond areas 
officially designated for IM, including many refuges in Alaska, are:
     Harvesting brown bears over bait at registered black bear 
bait stations;
     Taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the 
denning season;
     Expanding season lengths and increasing bag limits;
     Classifying black bears as both furbearers and big game 
species (which could allow for trapping and snaring of bears and sale 
of their hides and skulls); and
     Authorizing same-day airborne take of bears at registered 
bait stations (5 AAC 85).
    Many of the recent actions by the BOG to liberalize the State's 
regulatory frameworks for general hunting and trapping of wolves, 
bears, and coyotes reverse long-standing prohibitions and restrictions 
on take of these wildlife species under State law. Unlike the recent 
practice of taking brown bears over bait, black bear baiting has been 
an authorized practice in Alaska since 1982, including on refuges. 
Black bear baiting is authorized by the State pursuant to a permit and, 
in some instances, a special use permit (USFWS Form 3-1383-G) issued by 
refuges. Taking of brown bears at black bear baiting stations was 
recently authorized under State regulations in certain game management 
units within the State (several of which are within refuges) and is 
subject to the same restrictions as black bear baiting. The State 
regulations prohibit setting up a bait station within 1 mile of a home 
or other dwelling, business, or campground, or within \1/4\ mile of a 
road or trail (5 AAC 85).
    Implementation of IM actions under the IM statute and many of the 
recent liberalizations of the general hunting and trapping regulations 
have direct implications for the management of refuges in Alaska. 
Predator-prey interactions represent a dynamic and foundational 
ecological process in Alaska's arctic and subarctic ecosystems, and are 
a major driver of ecosystem function. Regulations or activities on 
refuges in Alaska that are inconsistent with the conservation of fish 
and wildlife populations and their habitats in their natural diversity, 
or the maintenance of biological integrity, diversity, and 
environmental health, are in direct conflict with our legal mandates 
for administering refuges in Alaska under ANILCA, the Improvement Act, 
and the Wilderness Act, as well as with several applicable agency 
policies (601 FW 3, 610 FW 2, and 605 FW 2).
    The USFWS is mandated to conserve species and habitats in their 
natural diversity and ensure that biological integrity, diversity, and 
environmental health are maintained on refuges in Alaska for the 
continuing benefit of present and future generations. In managing for 
natural diversity, the USFWS conserves, protects, and manages all fish 
and wildlife populations within a particular wildlife refuge system 
unit in the natural `mix,' not to emphasize management activities 
favoring one species to the detriment of another. The USFWS assures 
that habitat diversity is maintained through natural means on refuges 
in Alaska, avoiding artificial developments and habitat manipulation 
programs, whenever possible. The USFWS fully recognizes and considers 
that rural residents use, and are often dependent on, refuge resources 
for subsistence purposes, and the USFWS manages for this use consistent 
with the conservation of species and habitats in their natural 
diversity. The terms biological integrity, diversity, and environmental 
health are defined in the BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which directs the 
USFWS to maintain the variety of life and its processes; to maintain 
biotic and abiotic compositions, structure, and functioning; and to 
manage populations for natural densities and levels of variation 
throughout the NWRS.

Proposal

    This proposed rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations 
(36 CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or otherwise restrict the taking of fish or 
wildlife for subsistence by federally qualified users under those 
regulations. This proposed rule would also not apply to take in Defense 
of Life and Property as defined under State regulations (see 5 AAC 
92.410). Hunting and trapping are priority uses of refuges in Alaska. 
The proposed rule would not affect implementation of State hunting and 
trapping regulations that are consistent with Federal law and USFWS 
policies on refuges, nor would it restrict hunting or trapping 
activities outside USFWS-managed refuge lands and waters.
    The proposed rule would make the following substantive changes:
    (1) We would prohibit predator control on refuges in Alaska, unless 
it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, Federal laws, or 
policy; is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and 
biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health; 
and is based on sound science in response to a significant conservation 
concern. Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole 
or primary basis for predator control. A Refuge Manager could authorize 
predator control activities on a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska 
only if:
    (a) Alternatives to predator control have been evaluated, 
attempted, and exhausted as a practical means of achieving management 
objectives;
    (b) Proposed actions have been evaluated and found to be in 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.);
    (c) A formal refuge compatibility determination has been completed, 
as required by law; and
    (d) The potential effects of predator control on subsistence uses 
and needs

[[Page 891]]

have been evaluated through an ANILCA section 810 analysis.
    For clarity, we would define predator control as the intention to 
reduce the population of predators for the benefit of prey species. The 
USFWS in Alaska's position for the last three decades has been that the 
need for predator control must be based on sound science in response to 
a significant conservation concern. This requirement is consistent with 
managing for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, 
biological integrity, and environmental health under ANILCA and the 
Improvement Act.
    This proposed rule would ensure that take of wildlife under State 
regulations and implementation of predator control on refuges in Alaska 
are consistent with our legal mandates and policies for administration 
of those refuges.
    (2) We would also prohibit certain practices for the taking of 
wildlife on Alaska National Wildlife refuges (except for subsistence 
uses by federally qualified subsistence users in accordance with 
applicable Federal laws and regulations), including:
     Taking black or brown bear cubs or sows with cubs 
(exception allowed for resident hunters to take black bear cubs or sows 
with cubs under customary and traditional use activities at a den site 
October 15-April 30 in specific game management units in accordance 
with State law);
     Taking brown bears over bait;
     Taking of bears using traps or snares;
     Taking wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 
1-August 9); and
     Taking bears from an aircraft or on the same day as air 
travel has occurred. The take of wolves or wolverines from an aircraft 
or on the same day as air travel has occurred is already prohibited 
under current refuge regulations, and this would not change.
    The USFWS is seeking comment on the type of bait allowed to be used 
for the baiting of black or brown bears. Currently, State regulations, 
which are adopted on refuges, require the bait used at bear baiting 
stations to be biodegradable. People use a range of different types of 
bait for the baiting of bears, including parts of fish and game that 
are not required to be salvaged when these species are harvested, as 
well as human and pet food products.
    (3) We would update our regulations to reflect Federal assumption 
of management of subsistence hunting and fishing under Title VIII of 
ANILCA by the Federal Government from the State in the 1990s.
    (4) We would amend 50 CFR 32.2(h) to state that black bear baiting 
is authorized in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife 
refuges in Alaska. This change would help ensure consistency in our 
regulations if the amendments to 50 CFR 36, as presented in this 
proposed rule, are adopted.
    (5) We would update procedures for implementing closures or 
restrictions on refuges, including the taking of fish and wildlife 
under sport hunting and trapping, to more effectively engage and inform 
the public and make the notice and durational provisions more 
consistent with procedures set forth in Federal subsistence closure 
policy and regulations at 36 CFR 242.19 and 50 CFR 100.19 for emergency 
special actions on Federal public lands in Alaska. Improved consistency 
between these Federal regulations and processes is intended to help 
minimize confusion and make it easier for the public to be involved in 
the process.
    Under the proposed rule, the Regional Director will compile a list, 
updated at least annually, of Alaska refuge closures and restrictions 
under Federal Alaska refuge regulations. Notice would be provided in 
accordance with the procedures set forth at 50 CFR 36.42. This annual 
list would include contact information for the lead staff and a process 
for the public to provide input and review.
    The current regulations provide for emergency, temporary, and 
permanent restrictions. The proposed changes would outline emergency 
restrictions, limited to 60 days, and temporary restrictions, limited 
to the minimum time necessary, with review at least every 3 years.
    We would also update the closures and restrictions notification 
procedures for refuges in Alaska to reflect the availability of 
alternative communications technologies and approaches that have 
emerged or evolved over the last few decades. These changes recognize 
that the Internet has become one of the primary methods to communicate 
with the public and is an effective tool for engaging Alaskans and the 
broader American public and that there are other forms of broadcast 
media, beyond just the radio, that we may want to use.
    The proposed changes to the notification procedures are not 
intended to limit public involvement or reduce public notice; rather, 
we intend to engage in ways more likely to encourage public involvement 
and in a manner that is fiscally sustainable. We recognize that in-
person public meetings will still be the most effective way to engage 
Alaskans, and we intend to continue that practice. We also recognize 
that many individuals in rural Alaska do not have access to high speed 
Internet, and for that reason, we will continue to use other methods of 
communication, such as newspapers and radio, where available to provide 
adequate notice.
    The following table summarizes the changes we propose to the 
existing procedures for public participation and closures at 50 CFR 
36.42:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Current                          Proposed update
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Authority
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Refuge Manager may close an area or      No updates being considered.
 restrict an activity on an emergency,
 temporary, or permanent basis.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                       Criteria (50 CFR 36.42(b))
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Criteria includes: Public health and     Add conservation of natural
 safety, resource protection,             diversity, biological
 protection of cultural or scientific     integrity, biological
 values, subsistence uses, endangered     diversity, and environmental
 or threatened species conservation,      health to the current list of
 and other management considerations      criteria.
 necessary to ensure that the activity
 or area is being managed in a manner
 compatible with refuge purposes.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 892]]

 
          Emergency closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(c))
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Emergency closure may not exceed 30      Increase the period from 30 to
 days.                                    60 days, with extensions
                                          beyond 60 days being subject
                                          to nonemergency closure
                                          procedures (i.e., temporary or
                                          permanent).
Closure effective upon notice as         Closure effective upon notice
 prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see       as prescribed in 50 CFR
 below for details). Closures related     36.42(f) (see below for
 to the taking of fish and wildlife       details).
 will be accompanied by notice with a
 subsequent hearing.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Temporary closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(d))
------------------------------------------------------------------------
May extend only for as long as           Temporary closures or
 necessary to achieve the purpose of      restrictions related to the
 the closure or restriction, not to       taking of fish and wildlife
 exceed or be extended beyond 12 months.  may still only extend for so
                                          long as necessary to achieve
                                          the purpose of the closure or
                                          restriction. These closures or
                                          restrictions will be
                                          periodically re-evaluated at
                                          least every 3 years to
                                          determine whether the
                                          circumstances necessitating
                                          the original closure still
                                          exist and warrant continuation
                                          of the restriction. A formal
                                          finding will be made in
                                          writing that explains the
                                          reasoning for the decision.
                                          When a closure is no longer
                                          needed, action to remove it
                                          will be initiated as soon as
                                          practicable. The USFWS will
                                          maintain a list of all refuge
                                          closures and publish this list
                                          annually for public review.
Closure effective upon notice as         Closure subject to notice
 prescribed in 50 CFR 36.42(f) (see       procedures as prescribed in 50
 below for details). Closures related     CFR 36.42(f) (see below for
 to the taking of fish and wildlife       details). Closures related to
 effective upon notice and hearing in     the taking of fish and
 the vicinity of the area(s) affected     wildlife would require
 by such closures or restriction, and     consultation with the State
 other locations as appropriate.          and affected Tribes and Native
                                          Corporations, as well as the
                                          opportunity for public comment
                                          and a public hearing in the
                                          vicinity of the area(s)
                                          affected.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Permanent closures or restrictions (50 CFR 36.42(e))
------------------------------------------------------------------------
No time limit..........................  No time limit.
Closure effective after notice and       Closures related to the taking
 public hearings in the affected          of fish and wildlife would
 vicinity and other locations as          require consultation with the
 appropriate, and after publication in    State and affected Tribes and
 the Federal Register.                    Native Corporations, as well
                                          as the opportunity for public
                                          comment and a public hearing
                                          in the vicinity of the area(s)
                                          affected. Closures would
                                          continue to be published in
                                          the Federal Register.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Notice (50 CFR 36.42(f))
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notice is to be provided through         Add the use of the Internet,
 newspapers, signs, and radio.            broadcast media, or other
                                          available methods, in addition
                                          to continuing to use the more
                                          traditional methods of
                                          newspapers, signs, and radio.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (6) We propose to codify definitions for several terms (see the 
Proposed Regulation Promulgation section, below). These terms include 
``Bait,'' ``Big game,'' ``Biological diversity,'' ``Biological 
integrity,'' ``Cub bear,'' ``Environmental health,'' ``Furbearer,'' 
``Historic conditions,'' ``Natural diversity,'' ``Predator control,'' 
``Regional Director,'' ``Sport hunting,'' and ``Trapping.'' Most of 
these definitions, including bait, big game, cub bear, furbearer, and 
predator control, are based on existing definitions in Federal 
subsistence regulations or policy.
    During our scoping and tribal consultation efforts, we heard that 
the definitions for biological integrity, biological diversity, natural 
diversity, and environmental health and the origins of these 
definitions were of significant interest to people. As discussed 
earlier in the preamble, the USFWS is mandated under the Improvement 
Act to ``ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and 
environmental health [BIDEH] of the System are maintained for the 
benefit of present and future generations of Americans . . .'' (16 
U.S.C. 668dd(a)(4)(B)). The USFWS BIDEH policy (601 FW 3), which 
provides guidance for implementation of the Improvement Act, provides 
definitions for each of these terms, as well as the term ``historic 
conditions,'' and those definitions are included word-for-word in this 
proposed rule. As was also discussed earlier in the preamble, under 
ANILCA, each refuge in Alaska has an establishment purpose to 
``conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural 
diversity.'' Our proposed definition for natural diversity is based on 
the discussion of the term in the legislative history of ANILCA.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Information and 
Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget will 
review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is not 
significant.
    Executive Order 13563 reaffirms the principles of Executive Order 
12866 while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system 
to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, 
most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory 
ends. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory 
approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of 
choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, 
and consistent with regulatory objectives. Executive Order 13563 
emphasizes further that regulations must be based on the best available 
science and that the rulemaking process must allow for public 
participation and an open exchange of ideas. We have developed this 
rule in a manner consistent with these requirements.

[[Page 893]]

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA; 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency must publish a notice of 
rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effects of the rule on small entities (small businesses, 
small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). However, no 
regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of the agency 
certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. SBREFA amended the RFA to require 
Federal agencies to provide a statement of the factual basis for 
certifying that the rule will not have a significant economic impact on 
a substantial number of small entities. Thus, for a regulatory 
flexibility analysis to be required, impacts must exceed a threshold 
for ``significant impact'' and a threshold for a ``substantial number 
of small entities.'' See 5 U.S.C. 605(b). SBREFA amended the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to provide a statement of 
the factual basis for certifying that a rule would have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
    The proposed rule would amend regulations for refuges in Alaska. 
The proposed rule would: (1) Codify how our existing mandates for the 
conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, 
and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator 
control (50 CFR 36.1); (2) prohibit several particularly effective 
methods and means for take of predators (50 CFR 36.32); and (3) update 
our public participation and closure procedures (50 CFR 36.42). 
Predator control is prohibited on refuges in Alaska unless it is 
determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, Federal laws, or policy 
and is consistent with our mandates to manage for natural and 
biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health. 
The need for predator control must be based on sound science in 
response to a significant conservation concern. Demands for more 
wildlife to harvest cannot be the sole or primary basis for predator 
control. This rule would not change Federal subsistence regulations (36 
CFR 242 and 50 CFR 100) or restrict taking of fish or wildlife for 
subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations. Codifying our 
existing mandates on conservation of natural diversity, biological 
integrity, biological diversity, and environmental health would not 
have a significant impact because the USFWS is and has been required to 
manage refuges in Alaska consistent with these mandates for the last 
several decades since they were put into effect. Codifying previously 
and currently prohibited sport hunting and trapping practices would not 
have a significant impact because the few changes that have occurred 
have been relatively recent, occurring over the last several years, and 
this rule would actually constitute a change back to the status quo. 
State general hunting and trapping regulations currently apply to 
refuges in Alaska. Therefore, the prohibition of particular methods and 
means for the take of predators under State regulations on refuges in 
Alaska that may affect visitor use on those refuges include the take of 
brown bears over bait, take of wolves and coyotes during the denning 
season, and same-day airborne take of bears. The take of black bear 
sows with cubs is only allowed under State regulations in specific game 
management units for customary and traditional use; therefore it is not 
currently nor in the past has it been legal for the general public to 
participate in this activity outside of that framework. As a result, 
big game hunting may decrease if a hunter's preferred hunting method is 
prohibited. Conversely, wildlife watching activities may increase if 
there are increased opportunities to view wildlife, including bears, 
wolves, and coyotes. From 2009 to 2013, big game hunting on refuges in 
Alaska averaged about 40,000 days annually and represented 2 percent of 
wildlife-related recreation on refuges. For Statewide hunting, big game 
hunting on refuges in Alaska represented only 4 percent of all big game 
hunting days (1.2 million days). Due to the past ban on these proposed 
prohibited methods and means for take of predators, we estimate that 
these hunting methods (take of brown bears over bait, take of wolves 
and coyotes during the denning season, and same-day airborne take of 
bears) represent a small fraction of all big game hunting on refuges. 
As a result, big game hunting on refuges would change minimally. This 
change in opportunity would most likely be offset by other sites 
(located outside of refuges) gaining participants. Therefore, there 
would be a substitute site for these hunting methods, and participation 
rates would not necessarily change.
    Hunters' spending contributes income to the regional economy and 
benefits local businesses. Due to the unavailability of site-specific 
expenditure data, we use the Alaska estimate from the 2011 National 
Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation to 
identify expenditures for food and lodging, transportation, and other 
incidental expenses. Using the average trip-related expenditures for 
big game hunting ($139 per day) yields approximately $5.9 million 
annually in big game hunting-related expenditures on refuges in Alaska. 
Since only a small fraction of big game hunters would choose not to 
hunt on refuges under the proposed rule, the impact would be minimal. 
The net loss to the local communities would be no more than $5.9 
million annually, and most likely considerably less because few hunters 
use the prohibited methods and those hunters that do would likely 
choose a substitute site.
    Small businesses within the retail trade industry (such as hotels, 
gas stations, taxidermy shops, etc.) may be impacted from some 
decreased refuge visitation. A large percentage of these retail trade 
establishments in local communities around refuges qualify as small 
businesses. We expect that the incremental recreational changes will be 
scattered, and so we do not expect that the rule would have a 
significant economic effect on a substantial number of small entities 
in Alaska.
    With the small change in overall spending anticipated from this 
proposed rule, it is unlikely that a substantial number of small 
entities would have more than a small impact from the spending change 
near the affected refuges. Therefore, we certify that this proposed 
rule would not have a significant economic effect on a substantial 
number of small entities as defined under the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) An initial regulatory flexibility analysis 
is not required. Accordingly, a small entity compliance guide is not 
required.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

    This proposed rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the 
SBREFA. This rule:
    a. Would not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million 
or more.
    b. Would not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers; individual industries; Federal, State, or local government 
agencies; or geographic regions.
    c. Would not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S. based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

[[Page 894]]

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    This proposed rule would not impose an unfunded mandate on State, 
local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 
million per year. The rule would not have a significant or unique 
effect on State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector. A 
statement containing the information required by the Unfunded Mandates 
Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) is not required.

Takings (Executive Order 12630)

    This proposed rule does not involve the taking of private property 
or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630. This 
proposed rule, if adopted, would affect the public use and management 
of Federal lands managed by USFWS in Alaska. A takings implication 
assessment is not required.

Federalism (Executive Order 13132)

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this proposed rule does 
not have significant Federalism effects. A federalism summary impact 
statement is not required. This proposed rule, if adopted, would affect 
the public use and management of Federal lands managed by USFWS in 
Alaska and would not have a substantial direct effect on State or local 
governments in Alaska.

Civil Justice Reform (Executive Order 12988)

    This proposed rule complies with the requirements of Executive 
Order 12988. Specifically, this rule:
    a. Meets the criteria of section 3(a) requiring that all 
regulations be reviewed to eliminate errors and ambiguity and be 
written to minimize litigation; and
    b. Meets the criteria of section 3(b)(2) requiring that all 
regulations be written in clear language and contain clear legal 
standards.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994 
(Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments; 59 FR 22951 (May 4, 1994)), Executive Order 13175 
(Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments; 65 FR 
67249 (November 9, 2000)), and the Department of the Interior Manual, 
512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our responsibility to communicate 
meaningfully with recognized Federal Tribes on a government-to-
government basis, and we are seeking the Tribes' input in evaluating 
this proposed rule. In addition, we have evaluated this proposed rule 
in accordance with 512 DM 4 under Department of the Interior Policy on 
Consultation with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) 
Corporations, August 10, 2012. We have been and will continue to 
consult with Alaska Native tribes and Alaska Native corporations 
regarding this proposed rule.

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA)

    This proposed rule does not contain any new collections of 
information that require approval by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) under the PRA (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). The special use 
permit mentioned in this proposed rule, FWS Form 3-1383-G, is already 
approved by OMB under OMB control number 1018-0102, which expires on 
June 30, 2017. We 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.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have analyzed this rule in accordance with the criteria of the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the 
Department of the Interior's manual at 516 DM. An environmental 
assessment has been prepared and is available for public comment during 
the comment period for this proposed rule. A copy of the environmental 
assessment can be found at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. 
FWS-R7-NWRS-2014-0005.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use (Executive Order 13211)

    Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of 
Energy Effects when undertaking actions that significantly affect 
energy supply, distribution, or use. We believe that the rule would not 
have any effect on energy supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, 
this action is not a significant energy action, and no Statement of 
Energy Effects is required.

Clarity of This Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use common, everyday words and clear language rather than 
jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section, above. 
To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific 
as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the 
sections or paragraphs that you find unclear, which sections or 
sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables 
would be useful, etc.

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are Heather Abbey 
Tonneson and Stephanie Brady of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Alaska Regional Office, with considerable review and input from other 
USFWS Alaska refuge and Office of Subsistence Management managerial and 
biological staff.

Public Participation

    It is the policy of the Department of the Interior, whenever 
practicable, to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the 
rulemaking process. Accordingly, interested persons may submit written 
comments regarding this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in 
the ADDRESSES section, above. In addition, see the related document 
published elsewhere in today's Federal Register with information on 
nine open houses and public hearings that will be held in various 
locations around the State and at which comments will be accepted.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 32

    Fishing, Hunting, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, 
Wildlife, Wildlife refuges.

50 CFR Part 36

    Alaska, Recreation and recreation areas, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Wildlife refuges.


[[Page 895]]


    Accordingly, we propose to amend title 50, chapter I, subchapter C, 
of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:

PART 32--HUNTING AND FISHING

0
1. The authority citation for part 32 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 301; 16 U.S.C. 460k, 664, 668dd-668ee, and 
715i.


Sec.  32.2  [Amended]

0
2. Amend Sec.  32.2(h) by removing the words, ``(Baiting is authorized 
in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife refuges in 
Alaska).'' and adding in their place the words, ``(Black bear baiting 
is authorized in accordance with State regulations on national wildlife 
refuges in Alaska.)''.

PART 36--ALASKA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES

0
3. The authority citation for part 36 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 460(k) et seq., 668dd-668ee, 3101 et seq.

Subpart A--Introduction and General Provisions

0
4. Amend Sec.  36.1 by:
0
a. Redesignating paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) as paragraphs (b), (c), 
and (d), respectively; and
0
b. Adding a new paragraph (a) to read as follows:


Sec.  36.1  How do the regulations in this part apply to me and what do 
they cover?

    (a) National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska are maintained to conserve 
species and habitats in their natural diversity and to ensure 
biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health for the 
continuing benefit of present and future generations.
* * * * *
0
5. Amend Sec.  36.2 by adding, in alphabetical order, definitions for 
``Bait,'' ``Big game,'' ``Biological diversity,'' ``Biological 
integrity,'' ``Cub bear,'' ``Environmental health,'' ``Furbearer,'' 
``Historic conditions,'' ``Natural diversity,'' ``Predator control,'' 
``Regional Director,'' ``Sport hunting,'' and ``Trapping,'' to read as 
follows:


Sec.  36.2  What do these terms mean?

* * * * *
    Bait means any material excluding a scent lure that is placed to 
attract an animal by its sense of smell or taste; however, those parts 
of legally taken animals that are not required to be salvaged and which 
are left at the kill site are not considered bait.
    Big game means black bear, brown bear, bison, caribou, Sitka black-
tailed deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, muskox, Dall sheep, wolf, and 
wolverine.
    Biological diversity means the variety of life and its processes, 
including the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences 
among them, and communities and ecosystems in which they occur.
    Biological integrity means the biotic compositions, structure, and 
functioning at genetic, organism, and community level comparable with 
historic conditions, including the natural biological processes that 
shape genomes, organisms, and communities.
    Cub bear means a brown (grizzly) bear in its first or second year 
of life, or a black bear (including the cinnamon and blue phases) in 
its first year of life.
* * * * *
    Environmental health means the composition, structure, and 
functioning of soil, water, air, and other abiotic features comparable 
with historic conditions, including the natural abiotic processes that 
shape the environment.
* * * * *
    Furbearer means a beaver, coyote, arctic fox, red fox, lynx, 
marten, mink, least weasel, short-tailed weasel, muskrat, river (land) 
otter, flying squirrel, ground squirrel, red squirrel, Alaskan marmot, 
hoary marmot, woodchuck, wolf, or wolverine.
    Historic conditions means the composition, structure, and 
functioning of ecosystems resulting from natural processes that we 
believe, based on sound professional judgment, were present prior to 
substantial human related changes to the landscape.
    Natural diversity means the existence of all fish, wildlife, and 
plant populations within a particular wildlife refuge system unit in 
the natural mix and in a healthy condition for the long term benefit of 
current and future generations. Managing for natural diversity includes 
avoiding emphasis of management activities favoring some species to the 
detriment of others; assuring that habitat diversity is maintained 
through natural means, avoiding artificial developments and habitat 
manipulation programs whenever possible; and taking into consideration 
the fact that humans are dependent on wildlife refuge subsistence 
resources.
* * * * *
    Predator control is the intention to reduce the population of 
predators for the benefit of prey species.
* * * * *
    Regional Director means the Alaska Regional Director of the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, or an authorized representative.
* * * * *
    Sport hunting means the taking of or attempting to take wildlife 
under State hunting or trapping regulations. In Alaska, this is 
commonly referred to as general hunting and trapping and includes State 
subsistence hunts and general permits open to both Alaska residents and 
nonresidents.
* * * * *
    Trapping means taking furbearers under a trapping license.
* * * * *

Subpart B--Subsistence Uses


Sec.  36.11  [Amended]

0
6. Amend Sec.  36.11 by removing paragraph (d) and by redesignating 
paragraph (e) as paragraph (d).
0
7. Revise Sec.  36.13 to read as follows:


Sec.  36.13  Subsistence fishing.

    Fish may be taken by Federally qualified subsistence users, as 
defined at 50 CFR part 100.5, for subsistence uses on Alaska National 
Wildlife Refuges where subsistence uses are allowed in compliance with 
this subpart and 50 CFR part 100.
0
8. Revise Sec.  36.14 to read as follows:


Sec.  36.14  Subsistence hunting and trapping.

    Federally qualified subsistence users, as defined at 50 CFR part 
100.5, may hunt and trap wildlife for subsistence uses on Alaska 
National Wildlife Refuges where subsistence uses are allowed in 
compliance with this subpart and 50 CFR part 100.

Subpart D--Non-subsistence Uses

0
9. Revise the heading of subpart D to read as set forth above.
0
10. Amend Sec.  36.32 to read as follows:


Sec.  36.32  Taking of fish and wildlife.

    (a) The taking of fish and wildlife for sport hunting and trapping 
and for sport fishing is authorized in accordance with applicable State 
and Federal law, and such laws are hereby adopted and made a part of 
these regulations, except as noted below and provided however, that the 
Refuge Manager, pursuant to Sec.  36.42, may designate areas where, and 
establish periods when, no taking of a particular population of fish or 
wildlife will be allowed.
    (b) Predator control is prohibited on National Wildlife Refuges in 
Alaska, unless it is determined necessary to meet refuge purposes, 
Federal laws, or policy; is consistent with our mandates to manage for 
natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and 
environmental health; and is based on

[[Page 896]]

sound science in response to a significant conservation concern. 
Demands for more wildlife for human harvest cannot be the sole or 
primary basis for predator control. A Refuge Manager will authorize 
predator control activities on a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska 
only if:
    (1) Alternatives to predator control have been evaluated, 
attempted, and exhausted as a practical means of achieving management 
objectives;
    (2) Proposed actions have been evaluated in compliance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.);
    (3) A formal refuge compatibility determination has been completed, 
as required by law; and
    (4) The potential effects of predator control on subsistence uses 
and needs have been evaluated through an ANILCA section 810 analysis.
    (c) The exercise of valid commercial fishing rights or privileges 
obtained pursuant to existing law, including any use of refuge areas 
for campsites, cabins, motorized vehicles, and aircraft landing 
directly incident to the exercise of such rights or privileges, is 
authorized; Provided, however, that the Refuge Manager may restrict or 
prohibit the exercise of these rights or privileges or uses of 
federally owned lands directly incident to such exercise if the Refuge 
Manager determines, after conducting a public hearing in the affected 
locality, that they are inconsistent with the purposes of the refuge 
and that they constitute a significant expansion of commercial fishing 
activities within such refuge beyond the level of such activities in 
1979.
    (d) The following provisions apply to any person while engaged in 
the taking of fish and wildlife within an Alaska National Wildlife 
Refuge:
    (1) Trapping and sport hunting. (i) Each person must secure and 
possess all required State licenses and must comply with the applicable 
provisions of State law unless further restricted by Federal law;
    (ii) Each person must comply with the applicable provisions of 
Federal law;
    (iii) In addition to the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b) of 
this section, each person must continue to secure a trapping permit 
from the appropriate Refuge Manager prior to trapping on the Kenai, 
Izembek, and Kodiak Refuges and the Aleutian Islands Unit of the Alaska 
Maritime Refuge.
    (iv) It is unlawful for a person having been airborne to use a 
firearm or any other weapon to take or assist in taking any species of 
bear, wolf, or wolverine until after 3 a.m. on the day following the 
day in which the flying occurred, except that a trapper may use a 
firearm or any other weapon to dispatch a legally caught wolf or 
wolverine in a trap or snare on the same day in which the flying 
occurred. This prohibition does not apply to flights on regularly 
scheduled commercial airlines between regularly maintained public 
airports.
    (v) The following methods and means for take of wildlife are 
prohibited:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Prohibited acts                         Exceptions
------------------------------------------------------------------------
(A) Using snares, nets, or traps to      None.
 take any species of bear.
(B) Using bait.........................  (1) Bait may be used to trap
                                          furbearers.
                                         (2) Bait may be used to hunt
                                          black bears.
(C) Taking wolves and coyotes from May   None.
 1 through August 9.
(D) Taking bear cubs or sows with cubs.  In accordance with Alaska State
                                          law and regulation, resident
                                          hunters may take black bear
                                          cubs or sows with cubs under
                                          customary and traditional use
                                          activities at a den site
                                          October 15--April 30 in game
                                          management units 19A, 19D,
                                          21B, 21C, 21D, 24, and 25D.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    (2) Sport and commercial fishing. (i) Each person must secure and 
possess all required State licenses and must comply with the applicable 
provisions of State law unless further restricted by Federal law;
    (ii) Each person must comply with the applicable provisions of 
Federal law.
    (e) Persons transporting fish or wildlife through Alaska National 
Wildlife Refuges must carry an Alaska State hunting or fishing license, 
or in cases where a person is transporting game for another person, 
they are required to carry an Alaska State ``Transfer of Possession 
Form'' on their person and make these available when requested by law 
enforcement personnel.
    (f) Nothing in this section applies to or restricts the taking or 
transporting of fish and wildlife by Federally qualified subsistence 
users under Federal subsistence regulations.
    (g) Animal control programs will only be conducted in accordance 
with a special use permit issued by the Refuge Manager.
0
11. Amend Sec.  36.42 by revising paragraphs (a), (b), (c)(4), (d), 
(e), (f), (g), and (h) to read as follows:


Sec.  36.42  Public participation and closure procedures.

    (a) Applicability and authority. The Refuge Manager may close an 
area or restrict an activity in an Alaska National Wildlife Refuge on 
an emergency, temporary, or permanent basis in accordance with this 
section.
    (b) Criteria. In determining whether to close an area or restrict 
an activity otherwise allowed, the Refuge Manager will be guided by 
factors such as public health and safety; resource protection; 
protection of cultural or scientific values; subsistence uses; 
conservation of endangered or threatened species; conservation of 
natural diversity, biological integrity, biological diversity, and 
environmental health; or other management considerations necessary to 
ensure that the activity or area is being managed in a manner 
compatible with the purposes for which the Refuge was established.
    (c) * * *
    (4) Emergency closures or restrictions may not exceed a period of 
60 days. Extensions beyond 60 days are subject to nonemergency closure 
procedures.
    (d) Temporary closures or restrictions. (1) Temporary closures or 
restrictions relating to the use of aircraft, snowmachines, motorboats, 
or nonmotorized surface transportation will be effective only after 
notice and hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected by such 
closures or restriction, and other locations as appropriate.
    (2) Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of 
fish and wildlife will be effective only after allowing for the 
opportunity for public comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of 
the area(s) affected. Temporary closures or restrictions related to the 
taking of fish and wildlife also require consultation with the State 
and affected Tribes and Native Corporations.
    (3) Other temporary closures will be effective upon notice as set 
forth at Sec.  36.42(f).
    (4) Temporary closures or restrictions, other than those relating 
to the taking of fish and wildlife, will extend only for as long as 
necessary to achieve the purpose

[[Page 897]]

of the closure or restriction, not to exceed 12 months.
    (5) Temporary closures or restrictions related to the taking of 
fish and wildlife will extend only for as long as necessary to achieve 
the purpose of the closure or restriction. These temporary closures and 
restrictions will be periodically re-evaluated as necessary, at least 
every 3 years, to determine whether the circumstances necessitating the 
original closure or restriction still exist and warrant continuation. A 
formal finding will be made in writing that explains the reasoning for 
the decision. When a closure is no longer needed, action to remove it 
will be initiated as soon as practicable.
    (6) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will maintain a list of all 
refuge closures and restrictions and will publish this list annually 
for public review.
    (e) Permanent closures or restrictions. Permanent closures or 
restrictions relating to the use of aircraft, snowmachines, motorboats, 
or nonmotorized surface transportation, or taking of fish and wildlife, 
will be effective only after allowing for the opportunity for public 
comment and a public hearing in the vicinity of the area(s) affected 
and publication in the Federal Register. Permanent closures or 
restrictions related to the taking of fish and wildlife would require 
consultation with the State and affected Tribes and Native 
Corporations.
    (f) Notice. Emergency, temporary, or permanent closures or 
restrictions will be published on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 
Web site at http://www.fws.gov/alaska/nwr/ak_sp_hunt_regs.htm. 
Additional means of notice reasonably likely to inform residents in the 
affected vicinity will also be provided where available, such as:
    (1) Publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the State 
and in local newspapers;
    (2) Use of electronic media, such as the Internet and email lists;
    (3) Broadcast media (radio, television, etc.); or
    (4) Posting of signs in the local vicinity or at the Refuge 
Manager's office.
    (g) Openings. In determining whether to open an area to public use 
or activity otherwise prohibited, the Refuge Manager will provide 
notice in the Federal Register and will, upon request, hold a public 
meeting in the affected vicinity and other location, as appropriate, 
prior to making a final determination.
    (h) Except as otherwise specifically allowed under the provisions 
of this part, entry into closed areas or failure to abide by 
restrictions established under this section is prohibited.

Karen Hyun,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 2016-22 Filed 1-7-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P