Issuance of Import Permits for Zimbabwe Elephant Trophies Taken on or After January 21, 2016, and on or Before December 31, 2018, 54405-54408 [2017-24974]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 221 / Friday, November 17, 2017 / Notices Dated: November 13, 2017. Pamela H. Patenaude, Deputy Secretary. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Timothy J. Van Norman, (703) 358–2104 (telephone); (703) 358–2280 (fax); or DMAFR@fws.gov (email). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FR Doc. 2017–25024 Filed 11–16–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P Background DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–HQ–IA–2017–N116; FXIA16710900000–XXX–FF09A30000] Issuance of Import Permits for Zimbabwe Elephant Trophies Taken on or After January 21, 2016, and on or Before December 31, 2018 Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice. AGENCY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant. Applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met the enhancement requirement, unless we issue a new finding based on available information. The Service may replace this finding, without any notification in the Federal Register, at any time that this finding no longer reflects the available information consistent with the regulatory requirements. In reviewing each application received for import of such specimens, the Service evaluates the information provided in the application, as well as other information available to the Service on the status of the elephant population and the management program for elephants in the country to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species. Each application to import sport-hunted elephant trophies must also meet all other applicable permitting requirements before it may be authorized. This determination does not affect previous determinations by the Service regarding trophy animals taken before January 21, 2016. DATES: This finding is made November 17, 2017. ADDRESSES: Timothy J. Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Permits, Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: IA, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803; fax (703) 358–2280; or email DMAFR@ fws.gov. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:32 Nov 16, 2017 Jkt 244001 The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA or Act; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 17.11(h)). It is also regulated under the provisions of section 4(d) of the Act (known as a ‘‘section 4(d) rule’’) with a rule found at 50 CFR 17.40(e). The section 4(d) rule includes specific requirements for the import of sporthunted trophies. Under § 17.40(e)(6)(i)(B), in order for the Service to authorize the import of a sport-hunted elephant trophy, the Service must find that the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species in the wild (known as an ‘‘enhancement finding’’). The Zimbabwe elephant population, along with elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, are also included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the exclusive purpose of allowing certain trade subject to annotation, including trade in hunting trophies for noncommercial purposes. All specimens not included in the annotation are deemed Appendix I specimens, and trade in them is regulated accordingly. On August 22, 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule announcing decisions by the Conference of the Parties to CITES and seeking comment on whether the United States should enter a reservation for any of the species that had been listed on CITES Appendices I and II (62 FR 44627). We discussed how the populations of African elephants in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia had been downlisted from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II and noted that, because African elephants are listed under the ESA as threatened, the African elephant section 4(d) rule found at 50 CFR 17.40(e) would continue to apply. This rule required that we find that the killing of the animal whose trophy was intended for import would enhance the survival of the species before a sporthunted trophy could be imported. We also stated that, in making the required enhancement finding for the import of sport-hunted trophies, the Service must review the status of the elephant PO 00000 Frm 00090 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 54405 population and the total management program for the elephant in each country to ensure the program is promoting the conservation of the species. The preamble to the 1997 proposed rule noted that positive enhancement findings for the countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia had been made and would remain in effect until the Service found that the conditions of the section 4(d) rule are no longer met and published notice of a changed finding in the Federal Register. On May 18, 2001, we published a final rule again announcing decisions made at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, including the decision to downlist the South African population of African elephants from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II (66 FR 27601). We again discussed the import requirements for African elephant sport-hunted trophies and stated that the enhancement finding for South African elephants would remain in effect until the Service found that conditions of the rule are no longer met and published notice of a changed finding in the Federal Register. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in Safari Club International, et al. v. Jewell, et al., 213 F. Supp. 3d 48 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2016), has held that the Service created a binding duty on itself when it stated in the preamble of the 1997 proposed rule that it would publish notice in the Federal Register before making a change in its 1997 enhancement finding for Zimbabwe, and that the Service then violated this commitment when it published the Federal Register notice on May 12, 2014, several weeks after making an interim negative enhancement finding for Zimbabwe on April 4, 2014. As remedy, the Court ordered that the effective date of the 2014 enhancement finding is the date of the Federal Register notice, May 12, 2014, meaning that trophies taken on or before May 11, 2014 were allowed to meet the enhancement requirement. We did not intend to create a legal duty to publish changed enhancement findings through these Federal Register preamble statements. On June 6, 2016, the Service amended the African elephant section 4(d) rule (81 FR 36388). With this amendment, ESA permits are required to import all African elephant sport-hunted trophies, including those from the CITES Appendix II populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Because all imports will be accompanied by a threatened species permit evaluated through the ESA permit application process found at 50 CFR 17.32(a), we will no longer publish E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1 54406 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 221 / Friday, November 17, 2017 / Notices notice of changed enhancement findings for African elephant sport-hunted trophies in the Federal Register. In the future, when there are subsequent changes to the determination, the individual applicant will be notified regarding whether his or her permit application was granted or denied, including a brief statement of the grounds for any denial. We may also post information on the import of African elephant hunting trophies on the Service’s Web page (www.fws.gov/ international), as appropriate and consistent with applicable laws and regulations. sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Import Suspension On April 4, 2014, the Service announced an interim suspension of imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe during the 2014 season. We revised this finding on April 17, 2014, primarily to clarify that the suspension applied only to elephants hunted on or after April 4, 2014. This determination was announced in the Federal Register on May 12, 2014 (79 FR 26986). Our decision to establish an interim suspension of imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe was due to having insufficient information on the status of elephants in Zimbabwe and on Zimbabwe’s current elephant management program to make an enhancement finding. On July 17, 2014, the Service found that the import of elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe in 2014 on or after April 4, 2014, would be suspended. We revised this finding on July 22, 2014, to make non-substantive corrections and announced this determination in the Federal Register on July 31, 2014 (79 FR 44459). The July 17, 2014, decision to uphold the April 4, 2014, suspension was due to the Service being unable to make an enhancement finding even after receiving additional materials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and others. On March 26, 2015, the Service made another determination to continue the suspension (80 FR 42524, July 17, 2015). This decision was again due to the Service being unable to make an enhancement finding even after receiving additional materials from ZPWMA and others. The suspension that resulted from the negative enhancement findings did not prohibit U.S. hunters from traveling to Zimbabwe and participating in an elephant hunt. The Act does not prohibit take (e.g., hunting) within a foreign country; it prohibits import of trophies taken during such hunts VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:32 Nov 16, 2017 Jkt 244001 without required authorization under the Act. Following the Service’s March 26, 2015, finding, the Service sent a letter on May 12, 2015, to the Honorable Saviour Kasukuwere, (formerly) Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, outlining the concerns the Service still had regarding elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe. The letter identified six areas of concern: the lack of a current management plan; the current population status of elephants in Zimbabwe; poaching levels and prevention; regulations and enforcement concerns; the sustainable utilization of elephants in Zimbabwe; and the utilization of hunting revenues. On July 20, 2015, ZPWMA responded to each of the questions outlined in the Service’s letter and included a draft version of the Action Plan for Elephant Conservation and Management in Zimbabwe (2015–2020). In January 2016, the Service received the final version of the action plan, the Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan (2015–2020), that had been approved and signed by the (then) Director-General of ZPWMA Edson Chidziya, on January 20, 2016, and the Honorable Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, on January 21, 2016. In September 2016, during the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, the Service met with representatives from Zimbabwe to further discuss the current status of the Service’s evaluation of the importation of elephant trophies. As a result of those conversations, the Service received a letter dated November 8, 2016, with supplemental information regarding Zimbabwe’s elephant management plan priorities. Further, on January 27, 2017, the Service received a letter from ZPWMA containing a report, ‘‘The Role of Trophy Hunting of Elephants in Support of the Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Program: December 2016’’ that more fully discussed the source and amount of revenue generated between 2010 and 2015 through the CAMPFIRE program, the current role of CAMPFIRE, and how revenue generated by elephant hunting has been utilized within communal areas over this 6-year period and into the future. Under 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6)(i)(B), the Service evaluates a number of factors to determine whether the killing of the trophy animal taken in a range country will enhance the survival of African elephants as well as taking into consideration the permit issuance PO 00000 Frm 00091 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 criteria outlined in 50 CFR 17.32(a)(2). In evaluating each of these criteria, the Service has considered the information currently available to the Service as of the date of this finding on elephant hunting in Zimbabwe in 2016, 2017, and 2018, including information provided by the Government of Zimbabwe, current applicants for permits to import sport-hunted elephant trophies, interested individuals and organizations, and other information available to the Service. Zimbabwe’s Conservation Efforts for Elephants On January 21, 2016, Zimbabwe adopted the Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan (2015–2020) (EMP) that replaced The Policy and Plan for Elephant Management in Zimbabwe (1997) and Elephant Management in Zimbabwe, third edition (July 1996), the former management plans. The EMP incorporates an adaptive management framework with higher level targets, with key components, strategic objectives, and outputs. Each key component has management actions that can be measured and verified through ‘‘Key Performance Indicators.’’ A set deadline for each action was identified. These measurable provisions allow ZPWMA to monitor the success of the new management plan and, through an adaptive management approach, address newly emerging concerns and long-term management needs. The EMP addresses the challenges identified by the 2014 workshop participants and concerns identified by the Service about the previous management plans. The EMP was developed as an outcome of several national and regional workshops that included government officials, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), rural community leaders, and safari outfitters and landowners. The 2014 Pan African Elephant Aerial Survey, also known as the Great Elephant Census (GEC), available in 2015, provided ZPWMA with a better elephant baseline population abundance estimate to assess future hunting quotas, management efforts, and anti-poaching activities. Confirmed results from the GEC reported an estimate for elephant abundance in Zimbabwe to be 82,304 individuals (73,715–90,893). The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s African Elephant Specialist Group (IUCN AfESG) African Elephant Status Report–2016 estimated Zimbabwe’s elephant population at 82,630 ± 8,589 across a range of 81,228 km2. The results of the 2014 GEC, and subsequent survey data reported in the 2016 AfESG report, are more reliable and provide a better basis for E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1 sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 221 / Friday, November 17, 2017 / Notices establishing management priorities than previous surveys and guesses, and are now utilized in the EMP and quota setting. As identified in the 2015 finding, the Service explained that, if properly implemented, the ZPWMA regulatory mechanisms for managing elephants appear to be adequate. A key issue in the 2015 finding was whether an adequate mechanism is in place to reliably document the financial benefits that U.S. hunters provide for elephant conservation through participation in a hunting program that addresses management needs of the species and whether the funds were utilized in a meaningful manner. Since the 2015 finding, the Service has received information regarding the Tourism Receipts Accounting System (TRAS) and its web-based system (TRAS2) under which the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, can now track all revenue generated through hunting activities. Under this system, all authorized hunts are now being registered, allowing for the capture of hunting data, such as the origin of clients, value of trophies and hunts, and area hunted, so that officials can monitor hunting quota utilization and track hunted trophies. This system will provide data that was not previously easily obtained and greatly improve the ability to track hunting revenue. One concern expressed by the Service in its previous findings was whether ZPWMA was responding to the apparent poaching crisis facing Zimbabwe. Based on communication from ZPWMA, as well as information received from other sources, ZPWMA has stepped up its anti-poaching efforts nationally by adopting a number of ‘‘Urgent Measures.’’ As shown in their July 2015 response to Service questions, most of ZPWMA’s budget (77 percent) is allocated to staff costs and patrol provisions. These expenditures reportedly fund anti-poaching efforts throughout the elephant range. ZPWMA reportedly has a staff of 1,504 active field rangers and has stated that there is intent to increase this number. According to ‘‘The Zimbabwe National Elephant Supplementary Management Plan (2015–2020)’’, provided to the Service in late 2016, over 80 percent of spending under the new EMP has been on law enforcement (anti-poaching) and training, with law enforcement identified as the top priority going forward. With the adoption of the EMP on January 21, 2016, it appears that ZPWMA has the means to successfully implement these laws and regulations. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:32 Nov 16, 2017 Jkt 244001 Moreover, ZPWMA has a mechanism in place to monitor the effects of the EMP and adapt to changing environmental and social factors that would adversely affect elephant populations within Zimbabwe. According to the information provided to the Service in late 2014 and 2015, Zimbabwe had established hunting quotas for all areas of the country. However, it was not until late 2015 and early 2016 that the Service received more specific information on how these quotas are established, including how other forms of take, such as poaching and problem animal control, were taken into account. Further, it was not until the EMP was signed into effect on January 21, 2016, that the Service had confidence that ZWPMA had in place effective mechanisms to ensure long-term sustainability of its elephant population. According to ZPWMA, quotas that were established before the EMP were set to maximize the sustainable production of high-quality trophies without detriment to the population. With the establishment of the EMP, there is a more systematic, scientific approach to establish national quotas. While ZPWMA still currently starts with an annual quota of 500 elephants, the quota is not immediately divided among all of the hunting areas. Instead, ZPWMA takes into consideration the results of the 2014 survey and subsequent surveys, results from research efforts, the size of the hunting area in relation to elephant habitat requirements, illegal harvest and other forms of take, how the hunting areas are managed in relation to land use or fencing, human–wildlife conflicts that have occurred previously, and recommended sustainable harvest levels developed based on ecological assessments of the hunting area. This information is then further evaluated in consideration of other species within the hunting area, past elephant trophy quality, and community benefits of proposed harvests. Since our findings in 2014 and 2015, CAMPFIRE has provided more information on how their programs support the conservation of elephants and provide benefits to and promote greater tolerance of wildlife in rural communities, including new efforts to improve the effectiveness of CAMPFIRE and new revenue-sharing guidelines. An overarching analysis of CAMPFIRE, supported by a grant of 12 million Euros from the European Union, is currently being conducted and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017. Although this review is still under way, more information has been provided to the PO 00000 Frm 00092 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 54407 Service regarding how funds are utilized and the basis for hunting quotas. Since our 2014 and 2015 findings, there are strong indications that the efforts of private landowners and consortiums to manage elephants within their areas of control have received greater support from ZPWMA and the Zimbabwean Government. ZPWMA has devolved authority to manage and benefit from wildlife on communal and private lands to the landholders. There now appears to be a greater effort on the part of ZPWMA to work with NGOs, landowners, and safari area concessionaires to improve elephant management and anti-poaching efforts. According to their July 2015 response to the Service, and supported by the report on the implementation of the EMP, ZPWMA is engaging private players in co-management in some areas and entering into long-term lease agreements (10–25 years) to manage some protected areas. In certain areas, ZPWMA is reportedly collaborating with safari operators; in others, they collaborate with NGOs, such as the Tashinga Initiative in the Zambezi Valley and World Wildlife Fund in the HwangeSanyati Biological Corridor. There is increased support from the Central Government and Rural District Councils to expand and support local conservation efforts, and there is evidence that local conservation efforts are meeting management deficiencies that the Service identified previously. Current Finding Therefore, in accordance with the regulatory requirements, the Service is able to make a determination that the killing of trophy animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant. With the information currently available, applications to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met this requirement unless we issue a new finding based on available information. In accordance with the section 4(d) rule for the African elephant at 50 CFR 17.40(e), the Service will review each application received for import of such specimens on a case-by-case basis and each application also needs to meet all other applicable permitting requirements before it may be authorized. On an ongoing basis and as it evaluates each application, the Service will continue to monitor the status of the elephant population, the management program for elephants in the country to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation of the species, and whether the participation E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1 54408 Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 221 / Friday, November 17, 2017 / Notices of U.S. hunters in the program provides a clear benefit to the species. Accordingly, the Service may modify its determination based on available information consistent with the regulatory requirements. In addition, the Service will reevaluate the status of African elephants in Zimbabwe before the end of 2018 and make a new finding in the beginning of 2019 for, at least, the 2019 hunting season. Today’s enhancement finding has been posted at http://www.fws.gov/ international/pdf/enhancement-finding2017-elephant-Zimbabwe.PDF. In addition, a list of frequently asked questions regarding the importation of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe is available on the Service’s web page at https://www.fws.gov/ international/permits/by-activity/sporthunted-trophies-elephants.html. Brenda Tapia, Program Analyst/Data Administrator, Branch of Permits, Division of Management Authority. [FR Doc. 2017–24974 Filed 11–16–17; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4333–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [XXX.LLAZG02000.71220000.KD0000 .LVTFA0958340;AZA3116] Notice of Availability of the Draft Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, Arizona Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Gila District, Tucson Field Office has prepared a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment and by this Notice is announcing its availability and the opening of the comment period. DATES: To ensure comments will be considered, the BLM must receive written comments on the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment Draft Supplemental EIS within 90 days following the date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. The BLM will announce future meetings or hearings and any other public sradovich on DSK3GMQ082PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:32 Nov 16, 2017 Jkt 244001 involvement activities at least 15 days in advance through public notices, media releases, or mailings. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments related to the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment Draft Supplemental EIS by any of the following methods: • Web site: http://go.usa.gov/xn2FG. • Email: blm_az_raylandexchange@ blm.gov. • Fax: 602–417–9454. • Mail: BLM Arizona State Office, Attn: Ray Land Exchange, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004–4427. Copies of the Ray Land Exchange/ Plan Amendment Draft Supplemental EIS are available in the BLM Arizona State Office at the above address; the BLM Tucson Field Office at 3201 East Universal Way, Tucson, AZ 85756; the BLM Kingman Field Office at 2755 Mission Boulevard, Kingman, AZ 86401; and the Kearny Public Library at 912–A Tilbury Road, Kearny, AZ 85137. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Werner, Project Manager, telephone 602–417–9561; address: One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, AZ 85004–4427; email: mwerner@blm.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The BLM Gila District, Tucson Field Office, is issuing the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment Supplemental EIS to augment the environmental impact analysis in the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment Final EIS completed by the BLM in 1999. The BLM issued the Final EIS for the Ray Land Exchange/Plan Amendment in June 1999 and the Record of Decision in May 2000. The decision approved a land exchange between ASARCO LLC (ASARCO) and the BLM for approximately 10,976 acres of public lands and federally owned mineral estate for acquisition by ASARCO (the Selected Lands) in exchange for approximately 7,304 acres of private land owned by ASARCO and identified by the BLM as desirable for improving access for hunting and other recreation (the Offered Lands). The decision was challenged administratively and in Federal court, with the plaintiffs ultimately prevailing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2010. The court concluded that the BLM violated NEPA and FLPMA ‘‘in assuming without explanation that ASARCO would perform mining operations on the selected lands in the same manner regardless of the land exchange’’ (Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Department of Interior, 623 F.3d 633 [9th Cir. 2010]). The court recognized that ASARCO has the right to conduct PO 00000 Frm 00093 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 mining and related activities under the General Mining Law, based on ASARCO’s mining and mill site claims on the Selected Lands. But the court believed that the manner and extent of mining were likely to differ, depending on whether the Selected Lands are owned by the United States as public lands subject to the BLM’s surface use regulations at 43 CFR 3809 or by ASARCO as private lands in fee simple, in which case the BLM’s surface-use regulations would not apply. The Ninth Circuit Court stated that ASARCO is not required to prepare and submit a Mine Plan of Operations (MPO) for future activities on the Selected Lands to complete the exchange. Instead, ‘‘the BLM must make a meaningful comparison of the environmental consequences of ASARCO’s likely mining operations with and without the requirement that MPOs be prepared by ASARCO and approved by the BLM— that is, with and without the proposed exchange.’’ Because the BLM did not perform this ‘‘with and without’’ comparison, the court held that the BLM did not adequately consider the environmental impacts of the land exchange or Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendments. For the same reason, the court also held that the BLM did not properly analyze whether the public interest will be served by making the exchange under FLPMA, section 206(a). In accordance with the courts’ rulings and remand orders, the Draft Supplemental EIS for the Ray Land Exchange provides the ‘‘with and without’’ comparative analysis found lacking by the Ninth Circuit Court. The ‘‘with and without’’ analysis compares two scenarios of potential environmental impacts on the Selected Lands from mining operations. One scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities on the Selected Lands if they are not exchanged and remain under BLM jurisdiction (i.e., mining occurs with BLM regulations). The other scenario analyzes potential impacts that could occur as a result of mining activities if the Selected Lands are exchanged and become privately owned lands (i.e., mining occurs without BLM regulations). The Draft Supplemental EIS also addresses any substantial changes in the land exchange or plan amendments and any significant new information or circumstances that are relevant to analyzing the impacts of the land exchange or plan amendments (see 40 CFR 1502.9(c); BLM NEPA Handbook, Section 5.3 [January 2008]). The purpose of the proposed Ray Land Exchange would be to exchange E:\FR\FM\17NON1.SGM 17NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 221 (Friday, November 17, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 54405-54408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-24974]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-HQ-IA-2017-N116; FXIA16710900000-XXX-FF09A30000]


Issuance of Import Permits for Zimbabwe Elephant Trophies Taken 
on or After January 21, 2016, and on or Before December 31, 2018

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

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

SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has made a 
finding that the killing of African elephant trophy animals in 
Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before December 31, 
2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant. Applications 
to import trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to 
have met the enhancement requirement, unless we issue a new finding 
based on available information. The Service may replace this finding, 
without any notification in the Federal Register, at any time that this 
finding no longer reflects the available information consistent with 
the regulatory requirements. In reviewing each application received for 
import of such specimens, the Service evaluates the information 
provided in the application, as well as other information available to 
the Service on the status of the elephant population and the management 
program for elephants in the country to ensure that the program is 
promoting the conservation of the species. Each application to import 
sport-hunted elephant trophies must also meet all other applicable 
permitting requirements before it may be authorized. This determination 
does not affect previous determinations by the Service regarding trophy 
animals taken before January 21, 2016.

DATES: This finding is made November 17, 2017.

ADDRESSES: Timothy J. Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Permits, Division of 
Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: IA, 5275 
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803; fax (703) 358-2280; or 
email DMAFR@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Timothy J. Van Norman, (703) 358-2104 
(telephone); (703) 358-2280 (fax); or DMAFR@fws.gov (email).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is listed as threatened 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA or Act; 16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife 
in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 17.11(h)). It is 
also regulated under the provisions of section 4(d) of the Act (known 
as a ``section 4(d) rule'') with a rule found at 50 CFR 17.40(e). The 
section 4(d) rule includes specific requirements for the import of 
sport-hunted trophies. Under Sec.  17.40(e)(6)(i)(B), in order for the 
Service to authorize the import of a sport-hunted elephant trophy, the 
Service must find that the killing of the trophy animal will enhance 
the survival of the species in the wild (known as an ``enhancement 
finding'').
    The Zimbabwe elephant population, along with elephant populations 
in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, are also included in Appendix 
II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of 
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) for the exclusive purpose of allowing 
certain trade subject to annotation, including trade in hunting 
trophies for noncommercial purposes. All specimens not included in the 
annotation are deemed Appendix I specimens, and trade in them is 
regulated accordingly. On August 22, 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) published a proposed rule announcing decisions by the 
Conference of the Parties to CITES and seeking comment on whether the 
United States should enter a reservation for any of the species that 
had been listed on CITES Appendices I and II (62 FR 44627). We 
discussed how the populations of African elephants in Zimbabwe, 
Botswana, and Namibia had been down-listed from CITES Appendix I to 
Appendix II and noted that, because African elephants are listed under 
the ESA as threatened, the African elephant section 4(d) rule found at 
50 CFR 17.40(e) would continue to apply. This rule required that we 
find that the killing of the animal whose trophy was intended for 
import would enhance the survival of the species before a sport-hunted 
trophy could be imported. We also stated that, in making the required 
enhancement finding for the import of sport-hunted trophies, the 
Service must review the status of the elephant population and the total 
management program for the elephant in each country to ensure the 
program is promoting the conservation of the species.
    The preamble to the 1997 proposed rule noted that positive 
enhancement findings for the countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and 
Namibia had been made and would remain in effect until the Service 
found that the conditions of the section 4(d) rule are no longer met 
and published notice of a changed finding in the Federal Register. On 
May 18, 2001, we published a final rule again announcing decisions made 
at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, including the 
decision to down-list the South African population of African elephants 
from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II (66 FR 27601). We again discussed 
the import requirements for African elephant sport-hunted trophies and 
stated that the enhancement finding for South African elephants would 
remain in effect until the Service found that conditions of the rule 
are no longer met and published notice of a changed finding in the 
Federal Register. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 
in Safari Club International, et al. v. Jewell, et al., 213 F. Supp. 3d 
48 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2016), has held that the Service created a binding 
duty on itself when it stated in the preamble of the 1997 proposed rule 
that it would publish notice in the Federal Register before making a 
change in its 1997 enhancement finding for Zimbabwe, and that the 
Service then violated this commitment when it published the Federal 
Register notice on May 12, 2014, several weeks after making an interim 
negative enhancement finding for Zimbabwe on April 4, 2014. As remedy, 
the Court ordered that the effective date of the 2014 enhancement 
finding is the date of the Federal Register notice, May 12, 2014, 
meaning that trophies taken on or before May 11, 2014 were allowed to 
meet the enhancement requirement. We did not intend to create a legal 
duty to publish changed enhancement findings through these Federal 
Register preamble statements.
    On June 6, 2016, the Service amended the African elephant section 
4(d) rule (81 FR 36388). With this amendment, ESA permits are required 
to import all African elephant sport-hunted trophies, including those 
from the CITES Appendix II populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, 
and South Africa. Because all imports will be accompanied by a 
threatened species permit evaluated through the ESA permit application 
process found at 50 CFR 17.32(a), we will no longer publish

[[Page 54406]]

notice of changed enhancement findings for African elephant sport-
hunted trophies in the Federal Register. In the future, when there are 
subsequent changes to the determination, the individual applicant will 
be notified regarding whether his or her permit application was granted 
or denied, including a brief statement of the grounds for any denial. 
We may also post information on the import of African elephant hunting 
trophies on the Service's Web page (www.fws.gov/international), as 
appropriate and consistent with applicable laws and regulations.

Import Suspension

    On April 4, 2014, the Service announced an interim suspension of 
imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe during the 
2014 season. We revised this finding on April 17, 2014, primarily to 
clarify that the suspension applied only to elephants hunted on or 
after April 4, 2014. This determination was announced in the Federal 
Register on May 12, 2014 (79 FR 26986). Our decision to establish an 
interim suspension of imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe was 
due to having insufficient information on the status of elephants in 
Zimbabwe and on Zimbabwe's current elephant management program to make 
an enhancement finding. On July 17, 2014, the Service found that the 
import of elephant trophies taken in Zimbabwe in 2014 on or after April 
4, 2014, would be suspended. We revised this finding on July 22, 2014, 
to make non-substantive corrections and announced this determination in 
the Federal Register on July 31, 2014 (79 FR 44459). The July 17, 2014, 
decision to uphold the April 4, 2014, suspension was due to the Service 
being unable to make an enhancement finding even after receiving 
additional materials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management 
Authority (ZPWMA) and others. On March 26, 2015, the Service made 
another determination to continue the suspension (80 FR 42524, July 17, 
2015). This decision was again due to the Service being unable to make 
an enhancement finding even after receiving additional materials from 
ZPWMA and others. The suspension that resulted from the negative 
enhancement findings did not prohibit U.S. hunters from traveling to 
Zimbabwe and participating in an elephant hunt. The Act does not 
prohibit take (e.g., hunting) within a foreign country; it prohibits 
import of trophies taken during such hunts without required 
authorization under the Act.
    Following the Service's March 26, 2015, finding, the Service sent a 
letter on May 12, 2015, to the Honorable Saviour Kasukuwere, (formerly) 
Zimbabwe's Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, outlining the 
concerns the Service still had regarding elephant trophy imports from 
Zimbabwe. The letter identified six areas of concern: the lack of a 
current management plan; the current population status of elephants in 
Zimbabwe; poaching levels and prevention; regulations and enforcement 
concerns; the sustainable utilization of elephants in Zimbabwe; and the 
utilization of hunting revenues.
    On July 20, 2015, ZPWMA responded to each of the questions outlined 
in the Service's letter and included a draft version of the Action Plan 
for Elephant Conservation and Management in Zimbabwe (2015-2020). In 
January 2016, the Service received the final version of the action 
plan, the Zimbabwe National Elephant Management Plan (2015-2020), that 
had been approved and signed by the (then) Director-General of ZPWMA 
Edson Chidziya, on January 20, 2016, and the Honorable Oppah 
Muchinguri-Kashiri, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, on 
January 21, 2016.
    In September 2016, during the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the 
Parties to CITES, the Service met with representatives from Zimbabwe to 
further discuss the current status of the Service's evaluation of the 
importation of elephant trophies. As a result of those conversations, 
the Service received a letter dated November 8, 2016, with supplemental 
information regarding Zimbabwe's elephant management plan priorities. 
Further, on January 27, 2017, the Service received a letter from ZPWMA 
containing a report, ``The Role of Trophy Hunting of Elephants in 
Support of the Zimbabwe's Communal Areas Management Programme for 
Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) Program: December 2016'' that more 
fully discussed the source and amount of revenue generated between 2010 
and 2015 through the CAMPFIRE program, the current role of CAMPFIRE, 
and how revenue generated by elephant hunting has been utilized within 
communal areas over this 6-year period and into the future.
    Under 50 CFR 17.40(e)(6)(i)(B), the Service evaluates a number of 
factors to determine whether the killing of the trophy animal taken in 
a range country will enhance the survival of African elephants as well 
as taking into consideration the permit issuance criteria outlined in 
50 CFR 17.32(a)(2). In evaluating each of these criteria, the Service 
has considered the information currently available to the Service as of 
the date of this finding on elephant hunting in Zimbabwe in 2016, 2017, 
and 2018, including information provided by the Government of Zimbabwe, 
current applicants for permits to import sport-hunted elephant 
trophies, interested individuals and organizations, and other 
information available to the Service.

Zimbabwe's Conservation Efforts for Elephants

    On January 21, 2016, Zimbabwe adopted the Zimbabwe National 
Elephant Management Plan (2015-2020) (EMP) that replaced The Policy and 
Plan for Elephant Management in Zimbabwe (1997) and Elephant Management 
in Zimbabwe, third edition (July 1996), the former management plans. 
The EMP incorporates an adaptive management framework with higher level 
targets, with key components, strategic objectives, and outputs. Each 
key component has management actions that can be measured and verified 
through ``Key Performance Indicators.'' A set deadline for each action 
was identified. These measurable provisions allow ZPWMA to monitor the 
success of the new management plan and, through an adaptive management 
approach, address newly emerging concerns and long-term management 
needs. The EMP addresses the challenges identified by the 2014 workshop 
participants and concerns identified by the Service about the previous 
management plans. The EMP was developed as an outcome of several 
national and regional workshops that included government officials, 
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), rural community leaders, and 
safari outfitters and landowners.
    The 2014 Pan African Elephant Aerial Survey, also known as the 
Great Elephant Census (GEC), available in 2015, provided ZPWMA with a 
better elephant baseline population abundance estimate to assess future 
hunting quotas, management efforts, and anti-poaching activities. 
Confirmed results from the GEC reported an estimate for elephant 
abundance in Zimbabwe to be 82,304 individuals (73,715-90,893). The 
International Union for Conservation of Nature's African Elephant 
Specialist Group (IUCN AfESG) African Elephant Status Report-2016 
estimated Zimbabwe's elephant population at 82,630  8,589 
across a range of 81,228 km\2\. The results of the 2014 GEC, and 
subsequent survey data reported in the 2016 AfESG report, are more 
reliable and provide a better basis for

[[Page 54407]]

establishing management priorities than previous surveys and guesses, 
and are now utilized in the EMP and quota setting.
    As identified in the 2015 finding, the Service explained that, if 
properly implemented, the ZPWMA regulatory mechanisms for managing 
elephants appear to be adequate. A key issue in the 2015 finding was 
whether an adequate mechanism is in place to reliably document the 
financial benefits that U.S. hunters provide for elephant conservation 
through participation in a hunting program that addresses management 
needs of the species and whether the funds were utilized in a 
meaningful manner. Since the 2015 finding, the Service has received 
information regarding the Tourism Receipts Accounting System (TRAS) and 
its web-based system (TRAS2) under which the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, 
in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, can now track all revenue 
generated through hunting activities. Under this system, all authorized 
hunts are now being registered, allowing for the capture of hunting 
data, such as the origin of clients, value of trophies and hunts, and 
area hunted, so that officials can monitor hunting quota utilization 
and track hunted trophies. This system will provide data that was not 
previously easily obtained and greatly improve the ability to track 
hunting revenue.
    One concern expressed by the Service in its previous findings was 
whether ZPWMA was responding to the apparent poaching crisis facing 
Zimbabwe. Based on communication from ZPWMA, as well as information 
received from other sources, ZPWMA has stepped up its anti-poaching 
efforts nationally by adopting a number of ``Urgent Measures.'' As 
shown in their July 2015 response to Service questions, most of ZPWMA's 
budget (77 percent) is allocated to staff costs and patrol provisions. 
These expenditures reportedly fund anti-poaching efforts throughout the 
elephant range. ZPWMA reportedly has a staff of 1,504 active field 
rangers and has stated that there is intent to increase this number. 
According to ``The Zimbabwe National Elephant Supplementary Management 
Plan (2015-2020)'', provided to the Service in late 2016, over 80 
percent of spending under the new EMP has been on law enforcement 
(anti-poaching) and training, with law enforcement identified as the 
top priority going forward.
    With the adoption of the EMP on January 21, 2016, it appears that 
ZPWMA has the means to successfully implement these laws and 
regulations. Moreover, ZPWMA has a mechanism in place to monitor the 
effects of the EMP and adapt to changing environmental and social 
factors that would adversely affect elephant populations within 
Zimbabwe.
    According to the information provided to the Service in late 2014 
and 2015, Zimbabwe had established hunting quotas for all areas of the 
country. However, it was not until late 2015 and early 2016 that the 
Service received more specific information on how these quotas are 
established, including how other forms of take, such as poaching and 
problem animal control, were taken into account. Further, it was not 
until the EMP was signed into effect on January 21, 2016, that the 
Service had confidence that ZWPMA had in place effective mechanisms to 
ensure long-term sustainability of its elephant population.
    According to ZPWMA, quotas that were established before the EMP 
were set to maximize the sustainable production of high-quality 
trophies without detriment to the population. With the establishment of 
the EMP, there is a more systematic, scientific approach to establish 
national quotas. While ZPWMA still currently starts with an annual 
quota of 500 elephants, the quota is not immediately divided among all 
of the hunting areas. Instead, ZPWMA takes into consideration the 
results of the 2014 survey and subsequent surveys, results from 
research efforts, the size of the hunting area in relation to elephant 
habitat requirements, illegal harvest and other forms of take, how the 
hunting areas are managed in relation to land use or fencing, human-
wildlife conflicts that have occurred previously, and recommended 
sustainable harvest levels developed based on ecological assessments of 
the hunting area. This information is then further evaluated in 
consideration of other species within the hunting area, past elephant 
trophy quality, and community benefits of proposed harvests.
    Since our findings in 2014 and 2015, CAMPFIRE has provided more 
information on how their programs support the conservation of elephants 
and provide benefits to and promote greater tolerance of wildlife in 
rural communities, including new efforts to improve the effectiveness 
of CAMPFIRE and new revenue-sharing guidelines. An overarching analysis 
of CAMPFIRE, supported by a grant of 12 million Euros from the European 
Union, is currently being conducted and is scheduled to be completed by 
the end of 2017. Although this review is still under way, more 
information has been provided to the Service regarding how funds are 
utilized and the basis for hunting quotas.
    Since our 2014 and 2015 findings, there are strong indications that 
the efforts of private landowners and consortiums to manage elephants 
within their areas of control have received greater support from ZPWMA 
and the Zimbabwean Government. ZPWMA has devolved authority to manage 
and benefit from wildlife on communal and private lands to the 
landholders. There now appears to be a greater effort on the part of 
ZPWMA to work with NGOs, landowners, and safari area concessionaires to 
improve elephant management and anti-poaching efforts. According to 
their July 2015 response to the Service, and supported by the report on 
the implementation of the EMP, ZPWMA is engaging private players in co-
management in some areas and entering into long-term lease agreements 
(10-25 years) to manage some protected areas. In certain areas, ZPWMA 
is reportedly collaborating with safari operators; in others, they 
collaborate with NGOs, such as the Tashinga Initiative in the Zambezi 
Valley and World Wildlife Fund in the Hwange-Sanyati Biological 
Corridor. There is increased support from the Central Government and 
Rural District Councils to expand and support local conservation 
efforts, and there is evidence that local conservation efforts are 
meeting management deficiencies that the Service identified previously.

Current Finding

    Therefore, in accordance with the regulatory requirements, the 
Service is able to make a determination that the killing of trophy 
animals in Zimbabwe, on or after January 21, 2016, and on or before 
December 31, 2018, will enhance the survival of the African elephant. 
With the information currently available, applications to import 
trophies hunted during this time period will be considered to have met 
this requirement unless we issue a new finding based on available 
information. In accordance with the section 4(d) rule for the African 
elephant at 50 CFR 17.40(e), the Service will review each application 
received for import of such specimens on a case-by-case basis and each 
application also needs to meet all other applicable permitting 
requirements before it may be authorized. On an ongoing basis and as it 
evaluates each application, the Service will continue to monitor the 
status of the elephant population, the management program for elephants 
in the country to ensure that the program is promoting the conservation 
of the species, and whether the participation

[[Page 54408]]

of U.S. hunters in the program provides a clear benefit to the species. 
Accordingly, the Service may modify its determination based on 
available information consistent with the regulatory requirements. In 
addition, the Service will reevaluate the status of African elephants 
in Zimbabwe before the end of 2018 and make a new finding in the 
beginning of 2019 for, at least, the 2019 hunting season.
    Today's enhancement finding has been posted at http://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/enhancement-finding-2017-elephant-Zimbabwe.PDF. In 
addition, a list of frequently asked questions regarding the 
importation of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe is 
available on the Service's web page at https://www.fws.gov/international/permits/by-activity/sport-hunted-trophies-elephants.html.

Brenda Tapia,
Program Analyst/Data Administrator, Branch of Permits, Division of 
Management Authority.
[FR Doc. 2017-24974 Filed 11-16-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P