Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2021-22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals; Notification of Meetings, 64097-64105 [2020-22459]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 20 [Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2020–0032; FF09M21200–201–FXMB1231099BPP0] RIN 1018–BE34 Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2021–22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals; Notification of Meetings Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of supplemental information. AGENCY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) proposes to establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory game birds for the 2021–22 hunting season. We annually prescribe outside limits (frameworks) within which States may select hunting seasons. This proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, announces the Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee (SRC) and Flyway Council meetings, describes the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2021–22 general duck seasons and preliminary proposals that vary from the 2020–21 hunting season regulations, and requests proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. Migratory bird hunting seasons provide opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid Federal, State, and tribal governments in the management of migratory game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory game bird population status and habitat conditions. DATES: Comments: You may comment on the general duck season regulatory alternatives and other preliminary proposals for the 2021–22 season until November 9, 2020. Tribes must submit proposals and related comments on or before December 1, 2020. See Schedule of Biological Information Availability, Regulations Meetings and Federal Register Publications for the 2021–22 Hunting Season at the end of this proposed rule for further information. Meetings: The SRC will meet on October 20–21, 2020, to consider and develop proposed regulations for the 2021–22 migratory game bird hunting seasons. Meetings on both days will commence at approximately 11:00 a.m. (Eastern) and are open to the public. SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 Comments: You may submit comments on the proposals by one of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2020– 0032. • U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–HQ–MB–2020– 0032; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803. We will not accept emailed or faxed comments. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that your entire submission—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the website. See Public Comments, below, for more information. Meetings: The October 20–21, 2020, SRC meeting will be conducted telephonically with or without the aid of video technology. The meeting is open to the public. Meeting details and opportunities for the public to listen to and observe the meeting will be posted at https://www.fws.gov/birds when they become available. Accommodation requests: The Service is committed to providing access to the SRC meeting for all participants and observers. Please direct all requests for sign language interpreting services, closed captioning, or other accommodation needs to the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by close of business on October 1, 2020. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jerome Ford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, (202) 208–1050. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: ADDRESSES: DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Process for Establishing Annual Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations As part of the Department of the Interior’s 2015 retrospective regulatory review, we changed our process for developing migratory game bird hunting regulations with the goal of enabling the State agencies to select and publish their season dates earlier than was allowed under the prior process. We provided a detailed overview of this process in the August 6, 2015, Federal Register (80 FR 47388). This proposed rule is the first in a series of proposed and final rules that establish regulations for the 2021–22 migratory bird hunting season. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64097 Background and Overview Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703–712), the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to determine when ‘‘hunting, taking, capture, killing, possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or export of any such bird, or any part, nest, or egg’’ of migratory game birds can take place, and to adopt regulations for this purpose (16 U.S.C. 704(a)). These regulations are written after giving due regard to ‘‘the zones of temperature and to the distribution, abundance, economic value, breeding habits, and times and lines of migratory flight of such birds’’ (16 U.S.C. 704(a)), and are updated annually. This responsibility has been delegated to the Service as the lead Federal agency for managing and conserving migratory birds in the United States. However, migratory bird management is a cooperative effort of Federal, State, and tribal governments. The Service develops migratory game bird hunting regulations by establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. Acknowledging regional differences in hunting conditions, the Service has administratively divided the United States into four Flyways for the primary purpose of managing migratory game birds. Each Flyway (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) has a Flyway Council, a formal organization generally composed of one member from each State within the Flyway, as well as Provinces in Canada that share migratory bird populations with the Flyway. The Flyway Councils, established through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, also assist in researching and providing migratory game bird management information for Federal, State, and Provincial governments, as well as private conservation entities and the general public. The process for adopting migratory game bird hunting regulations (50 CFR part 20) is constrained by three primary factors. Legal and administrative considerations dictate how long the rulemaking process will last. Most importantly, however, the biological cycle of migratory game birds controls the timing of data-gathering activities and thus the dates on which these results are available for consideration and deliberation. E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 64098 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules For the regulatory cycle, Service biologists gather, analyze, and interpret biological survey data and provide this information to all those involved in the process through a series of published status reports and presentations to Flyway Councils and other interested parties. Because the Service is required to take abundance of migratory game birds and other factors into consideration, the Service undertakes a number of surveys throughout the year in conjunction with Service Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and Provincial wildlifemanagement agencies. To determine the appropriate frameworks for each species, we consider factors such as population size and trend, geographical distribution, annual breeding effort, condition of breeding and wintering habitat, number of hunters, and anticipated harvest. After frameworks are established for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting, States may select season dates, bag limits, and other regulatory options for the hunting seasons. States may always be more conservative in their selections than the Federal frameworks, but never more liberal. Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee Meetings The SRC conducted an open meeting on April 28, 2020, to discuss preliminary issues for the 2021–22 regulations, and will conduct another meeting on October 14–15, 2020, to review information on the current status of migratory game birds and develop 2021–22 migratory game bird regulations recommendations for these species. In accordance with Departmental policy, these meetings are open to public observation. You may submit written comments to the Service on the matters discussed. See DATES and ADDRESSES for information about these meetings. Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons This document announces our intent to establish open hunting seasons and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated groups or species of migratory game birds for 2021–22 in the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, under §§ 20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K of 50 CFR part 20. For the 2021–22 migratory game bird hunting season, we will propose regulations for certain designated members of the avian families Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and pigeons); Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 (rails, coots, moorhens, and gallinules); and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these proposals under Proposed 2021–22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) in this document. We annually publish definitions of flyways and management units, and a description of the data used in and the factors affecting the regulatory process in proposed and final rules later in the regulations development process (see March 19, 2020, Federal Register, 85 FR 15870, for the latest definitions and descriptions). Regulatory Schedule for 2021–22 This document is the first in a series of proposed, supplemental, and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting regulations. We will publish additional supplemental proposals for public comment in the Federal Register as population, habitat, harvest, and other information become available. Major steps in the 2021–22 regulatory cycle relating to open public meetings and Federal Register notifications are illustrated in the diagram at the end of this proposed rule. All publication dates of Federal Register documents are target dates. All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining hunting frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered headings. These headings are: 1. Ducks A. General Harvest Strategy B. Regulatory Alternatives C. Zones and Split Seasons D. Special Seasons/Species Management i. September Teal Seasons ii. September Teal/Wood Duck Seasons iii. Black Ducks iv. Canvasbacks v. Pintails vi. Scaup vii. Mottled Ducks viii. Wood Ducks ix. Youth and Veterans–Active Military Personnel Hunting Days x. Mallard Management Units xi. Other 2. Sea Ducks 3. Mergansers 4. Canada Geese A. Special Early Seasons B. Regular Seasons C. Special Late Seasons 5. White-fronted Geese 6. Brant 7. Snow and Ross’s (Light) Geese 8. Swans 9. Sandhill Cranes 10. Coots 11. Moorhens and Gallinules 12. Rails 13. Snipe 14. Woodcock 15. Band-tailed Pigeons 16. Doves PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 17. Alaska 18. Hawaii 19. Puerto Rico 20. Virgin Islands 21. Falconry 22. Other This and subsequent documents will refer only to numbered items requiring attention. We will omit those items not requiring attention, and remaining numbered items may be discontinuous and appear incomplete. The proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2021–22 duck hunting seasons are contained at the end of this document. We plan to publish final regulatory alternatives for duck seasons about mid-September 2020, proposed season frameworks about mid-December 2020, and final season frameworks about late February 2021. Review of Public Comments This proposed rulemaking contains the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2021–22 general duck hunting seasons. This proposed rulemaking also describes other recommended changes or specific preliminary proposals that vary from the 2020–21 regulations and issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or tribes. We will publish responses to all proposals and written comments when we develop final frameworks for the 2021–22 season. We seek additional information and comments on this proposed rule. Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents For administrative purposes, this document consolidates the notice of our intent to establish open migratory game bird hunting seasons and the request for tribal proposals with the preliminary proposals for the annual hunting regulations-development process. We will publish the remaining proposed and final rulemaking documents separately. For inquiries on tribal guidelines and proposals, tribes should contact: Tina Chouinard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 606 Browns Church Road, Jackson, TN 38305; 731–432– 0981; tina_chouinard@fws.gov. Requests for Tribal Proposals Background Beginning with the 1985–86 hunting season, we have employed guidelines described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 23467) to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. We developed these guidelines in response E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules to tribal requests for our recognition of their reserved hunting rights, and for some tribes, recognition of their authority to regulate hunting by both tribal and nontribal members throughout their reservations. The guidelines include possibilities for: (1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and nontribal members, with hunting by nontribal members on some reservations to take place within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected by the surrounding State(s); (2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual Federal frameworks for season dates, season length, and daily bag and possession limits; and (3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added flexibility in daily bag and possession limits. In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines must be consistent with the annual March 11 to August 31 closed season mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds, as amended by the Protocol Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America Amending the 1916 Convention Between the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada and the United States. The guidelines are applicable to those tribes that have reserved hunting rights on Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. They also may be applied to the establishment of migratory game bird hunting regulations for nontribal members on all lands within the exterior boundaries of reservations where tribes have full wildlife-management authority over such hunting, or where the tribes and affected States otherwise have reached agreement over hunting by nontribal members on non-Indian lands. Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory game bird hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our approval. The question of jurisdiction is more complex on reservations that include lands owned by non-Indians, especially when the surrounding States have established or intend to establish regulations governing migratory bird hunting by non-Indians on these lands. In such cases, we encourage the tribes and States to reach agreement on regulations that would apply throughout the reservations. When appropriate, we VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 will consult with a tribe and State with the aim of facilitating an accord. We also will consult jointly with tribal and State officials in the affected States where tribes may wish to establish special hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded lands. It is incumbent upon the tribe and/or the State to request consultation as a result of the proposal being published in the Federal Register. We will not presume to make a determination, without being advised by either a tribe or a State, that any issue is or is not worthy of formal consultation. One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of tribal members’ harvest of migratory game birds on reservations where such harvest is a customary practice. We are supportive of this harvest provided it does not take place during the closed season required by the Convention and it is not so large as to adversely affect the status of the migratory game bird resource. Since the inception of these guidelines, we have reached annual agreement with tribes for migratory game bird hunting by tribal members on their lands or on lands where they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to consult with tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting regulations for on-reservation hunting by tribal members. These guidelines provide appropriate opportunity to accommodate the reserved hunting rights and management authority of Indian tribes while also ensuring that the migratory game bird resource receives necessary protection. The conservation of this important international resource is paramount. Use of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes to observe the hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which the reservation is located. Details Needed in Tribal Proposals Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting regulations for the 2021–22 migratory game bird hunting season should submit a proposal that includes: (1) The requested migratory game bird hunting season dates and other details regarding the proposed regulations; (2) harvest anticipated under the proposed regulations; and (3) tribal capabilities to enforce migratory game bird hunting regulations. For those situations where limited capabilities to enforce regulations could result in harvest levels that significantly impact the migratory game bird resource, we also request information on the methods employed to monitor harvest and any potential measures to limit harvest level. PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64099 A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the migratory game bird season for nontribal members should specify this request in its proposal, rather than request a date that might not be within the final Federal frameworks. Similarly, unless a tribe wishes to set more restrictive regulations than Federal regulations will permit for nontribal members, the proposal should request the same daily bag limit, possession limit, and season length for migratory game birds that Federal regulations are likely to permit for the States in the Flyway in which the reservation is located. Tribal Proposal Procedures We will publish details of tribal proposals for public review in later Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for review by us and the public, Indian tribes that desire special migratory game bird hunting regulations for the 2021–22 hunting season should submit their proposals no later than December 1, 2020. Tribes should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and proposals to the person listed above under the caption Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents. Tribes that request special migratory game bird hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded lands should send a courtesy copy of the proposal to officials in the affected State(s). Public Comments The Department of the Interior’s policy is, whenever practicable, to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting regulations, we will take into consideration all comments we receive. Such comments, and any additional information we receive, may lead to final regulations that differ from these proposed rules. You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. Finally, we will not consider mailed comments that are not postmarked by the date specified in DATES. We will post all comments in their entirety— including your personal identifying information—on http:// www.regulations.gov. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 64100 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules 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. Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http:// www.regulations.gov. For each series of proposed rulemakings, we will establish specific comment periods. We will consider, but may not respond in detail to, each comment. As in the past, we will summarize all comments we receive during the comment period and respond to them after the closing date in any final rules. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Consideration The programmatic document, ‘‘Second Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (EIS 20130139),’’ filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 24, 2013, addresses NEPA compliance by the Service for issuance of the annual framework regulations for hunting of migratory game bird species. We published a notice of availability in the Federal Register on May 31, 2013 (78 FR 32686), and our Record of Decision on July 26, 2013 (78 FR 45376). We also address NEPA compliance for waterfowl hunting frameworks through the annual preparation of separate environmental assessments, the most recent being ‘‘Duck Hunting Regulations for 2020– 21,’’ with its corresponding June 2020 finding of no significant impact. In addition, an August 1985 environmental assessment entitled ‘‘Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations on Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands’’ is available from the person listed above under the caption Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents. Endangered Species Act Consideration Before issuance of the 2021–22 migratory game bird hunting regulations, we will comply with provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531–1543; hereinafter ‘‘the Act’’), to ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species designated as endangered or VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 threatened or adversely modify or destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with conservation programs for those species. Consultations under section 7 of the Act may cause us to change proposals in future supplemental proposed rulemaking documents. Regulatory Planning and Review— Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 provides that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. OIRA has reviewed this rule and has determined that this rule is significant because it will have an annual effect of $100 million or more on the economy. E.O. 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 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. E.O. 13563 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. E.O. 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. An economic analysis was prepared for the 2021–22 season. This analysis was based on data from the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (National Survey), the most recent year for which data are available (see discussion under Regulatory Flexibility Act, below). This analysis estimated consumer surplus for three alternatives for duck hunting regulations. As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in Circular A–4, consumers’ surplus is the difference between what a consumer pays for a unit of a good or service and the maximum amount the consumer would be willing to pay for that unit (U.S. Office of Management and Budget page 19, 2003). The duck hunting regulatory alternatives are (1) issue restrictive regulations allowing fewer days than those issued during the 2020–21 season, (2) issue moderate regulations allowing more days than those in alternative 1, and (3) issue liberal regulations similar to the regulations in the 2020–21 season. For the 2020–21 season, we chose Alternative 3, with an estimated PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 consumer surplus across all flyways of $263–$347 million with a mid-point estimate of $305 million. We also chose alternative 3 for the 2009–10 through 2020–21 seasons. The 2021–22 analysis is part of the record for this rule and is available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2020– 0032. Regulatory Flexibility Act The annual migratory bird hunting regulations have a significant economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the economic impacts of the annual hunting regulations on small business entities in detail as part of the 1981 costbenefit analysis. This analysis was revised annually from 1990 through 1995. In 1995, the Service issued a Small Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis), which was subsequently updated in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2008, 2013, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The primary source of information about hunter expenditures for migratory game bird hunting is the National Survey, which is generally conducted at 5-year intervals. The 2020 Analysis is based on the 2016 National Survey and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s County Business Patterns, from which it was estimated that migratory bird hunters would spend approximately $2.1 billion at small businesses in 2020. Copies of the analysis are available upon request from the Division of Migratory Bird Management (see ADDRESSES) or from http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS–HQ–MB–2020–0032. Clarity of the Rule We are required by E.O. 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 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 ADDRESSES. 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 are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc. E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act This proposed rule is a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. For the reasons outlined above, this rule would have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. However, because this rule would establish hunting seasons, which are time sensitive, we do not plan to defer the effective date under the exemption contained in 5 U.S.C. 808(1). Paperwork Reduction Act This rule does not contain any new collection of information that requires approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). OMB has previously approved the information collection requirements associated with migratory bird surveys and the procedures for establishing annual migratory bird hunting seasons under the following OMB control numbers: • 1018–0019, ‘‘North American Woodcock Singing Ground Survey’’ (expires 06/30/2021). • 1018–0023, ‘‘Migratory Bird Surveys, 50 CFR 20.20’’ (expires 04/30/ 2023). Includes Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys, Sandhill Crane Survey, and Parts Collection Survey. • 1018–0171, ‘‘Establishment of Annual Migratory Bird Hunting Seasons, 50 CFR part 20’’ (expires 06/ 30/2021). You may view the information collection request(s) at http:// www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act We have determined and certify, in compliance with the requirements of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq., that this proposed rulemaking would not impose a cost of $100 million or more in any given year on local or State government or private entities. Therefore, this rule is not a ‘‘significant regulatory action’’ under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Civil Justice Reform—Executive Order 12988 The Department, in promulgating this proposed rule, has determined that this proposed rule will not unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of E.O. 12988. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 Takings Implication Assessment In accordance with E.O. 12630, this proposed rule, authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, does not have significant takings implications and does not affect any constitutionally protected property rights. This rule would not result in the physical occupancy of property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory taking of any property. In fact, this rule would allow hunters to exercise otherwise unavailable privileges and, therefore, would reduce restrictions on the use of private and public property. Energy Effects—Executive Order 13211 E.O. 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. While this proposed rule is a significant regulatory action under E.O. 12866, it is not expected to adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement of Energy Effects is required. 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), E.O. 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and have determined that there are de minimis effects on Indian trust resources. However, in this proposed rule, we solicit proposals for special migratory bird hunting regulations for certain tribes on Federal Indian reservations, off-reservation trust lands, and ceded lands for the 2021–22 migratory bird hunting season. The resulting proposals will be contained in a separate proposed rule published in spring and final rule published in summer 2021. Through this process to establish annual hunting regulations, we regularly coordinate with tribes that would be affected by this rule. Federalism Effects Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the Federal Government has been given responsibility over these species by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We annually prescribe frameworks from which the States make selections regarding the hunting of migratory birds, and we employ guidelines to establish special regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. This process preserves the ability of the States and tribes to determine which PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64101 seasons meet their individual needs. Any State or Indian tribe may be more restrictive in its regulations than the Federal frameworks at any time. The frameworks are developed in a cooperative process with the States and the Flyway Councils. This process allows States to participate in the development of frameworks from which they will make selections, thereby having an influence on their own regulations. These rules do not have a substantial direct effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or responsibilities of Federal or State governments, or intrude on State policy or administration. Therefore, in accordance with E.O. 13132, these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism summary impact statement. Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs—Executive Order 13771 This proposed rule is not expected to be subject to the requirements of E.O. 13771 (82 FR 9339, February 3, 2017) because this proposed rule is expected to establish annual harvest limits related to routine hunting or fishing. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20 Exports, Hunting, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Transportation, Wildlife. Authority The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2021–22 hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703–711, 712, and 742 a–j. George Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Proposed 2021–22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway Councils, we may defer specific regulatory proposals. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, several annual monitoring activities that provide information used in developing regulatory recommendations have been temporarily cancelled or otherwise impacted. We intend to follow existing harvest management strategies to the extent possible, although some modifications will be necessary due to the absence of status information for 2020 for many species and populations of game birds. Service staff are in the process of developing adjustments to E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 64102 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules the strategies to accommodate this issue. Given the recent cancellations, we cannot provide specific changes at this time, but will detail the changes in subsequent rulemaking and notices published in the Federal Register. Issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or tribes are described below. 1. Ducks Categories used to discuss issues related to duck harvest management are: (A) General Harvest Strategy, (B) Regulatory Alternatives, (C) Zones and Split Seasons, and (D) Special Seasons/ Species Management. Only those categories containing substantial recommendations are discussed below. A. General Harvest Strategy We will continue to use adaptive harvest management (AHM) to help determine appropriate duck-hunting regulations for the 2021–22 season. AHM is a tool that permits sound resource decisions in the face of uncertain regulatory impacts and provides a mechanism for reducing that uncertainty over time. We use an AHM protocol (decision framework) to evaluate four regulatory alternatives, each with a different expected harvest level, and choose the optimal regulation for duck hunting based on the status and demographics of mallards for the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways, and based on the status and demographics of a suite of four species (eastern waterfowl) in the Atlantic Flyway. We have specific AHM protocols that guide appropriate bag limits and season lengths for species of special concern, including black ducks, scaup, and pintails, within the general duck season. These protocols use the same outside season dates and lengths as those regulatory alternatives for the 2021–22 general duck seasons. For the 2021–22 hunting season, we will continue to use independent optimizations to determine the appropriate regulatory alternative for mallard stocks in the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways and for eastern waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway. This means that we will develop regulations for mid-continent mallards, western mallards, and eastern waterfowl independently based on the breeding stock that contributes primarily to each Flyway. We detailed implementation of AHM protocols for mid-continent and western mallards in the July 24, 2008, Federal Register (73 FR 43290), and for eastern waterfowl in the September 21, 2018, Federal Register (83 FR 47868). VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 Due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated travel restrictions and human health concerns in the United States and Canada, certain migratory bird monitoring surveys have been cancelled in 2020. This includes the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, which provides status information for many species of waterfowl, including those used in our AHM protocols. Consequently, in some cases, we will need to deviate from our AHM protocols and other decision processes to address missing data from 2020. We will adjust our AHM protocols and decision tools for general duck seasons and species of concern, including pintails, scaup, black ducks, canvasbacks, and wood ducks only to the extent necessary to inform the regulatory decisions for the 2021–22 season. For existing AHM protocols, we propose to use the strategy for each flyway, but use the long-term data and models to predict 2020 spring abundances of ducks and habitat conditions in place of the spring 2020 data, which will not be available. The predicted 2020 breeding populations would be overlaid on the 2019 policies (i.e., the 2019–20 matrix of breeding population and pond counts) to develop recommendations for the 2021–22 hunting season. For other decision support tools such as those used for canvasback and blue-winged teal, similar to AHM protocols, we will develop statistical predictions of the 2020 spring abundance of these species to inform harvest regulation decisions for the 2021–22 hunting season. We will work cooperatively with the Flyway Councils as we develop a plan for addressing missing data in regulatory decision-making for the 2021–22 hunting season, and will post specific details about deviations from our AHM protocols and decision support tools on our website at https://www.fws.gov/ birds when they become available. B. Regulatory Alternatives The basic structure of the current regulatory alternatives for AHM was adopted in 1997. In 2002, based upon recommendations from the Flyway Councils, we extended framework dates in the ‘‘moderate’’ and ‘‘liberal’’ regulatory alternatives by changing the opening date from the Saturday nearest October 1 to the Saturday nearest September 24, and by changing the closing date from the Sunday nearest January 20 to the last Sunday in January. These extended dates were made available with no associated penalty in season length or bag limits. In 2018, we adopted a closing duck framework date of January 31 for the PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 ‘‘moderate’’ and ‘‘liberal’’ alternatives in the Atlantic Flyway as part of the Atlantic Flyway’s eastern waterfowl AHM protocol (83 FR 47868; September 21, 2018). We subsequently extended the framework closing date to January 31 across all four Flyways for the 2019– 20 hunting season (84 FR 16152; April 17, 2019). More recently, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 (Pub. L. 116–9) amended the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to establish that the closing framework date for duck seasons will be January 31, unless a flyway chooses an earlier closing date. Thus, in 2019, as directed by the Dingell Act, we adjusted the framework closing date under each regulatory alternative for all four Flyways to January 31 (84 FR 42996; August 19, 2019). In 2020, we agreed to move the opening framework date to one week earlier in the restrictive regulatory alternative for the Mississippi and Central Flyways beginning with the 2021–22 season based on their recommendations (85 FR 15870; March 19, 2020). For the 2021–22 general duck season, we propose to utilize the same regulatory alternatives that are in effect for the 2020–21 season, with the exceptions noted above (see table at the end of this proposed rule for specifics of the regulatory alternatives). Alternatives are specified for each Flyway and are designated as ‘‘RES’’ for the restrictive, ‘‘MOD’’ for the moderate, and ‘‘LIB’’ for the liberal alternative. We will finalize AHM regulatory alternatives for the 2021–22 season in the supplemental proposed rule, which we will publish about mid-September (see Schedule of Biological Information Availability, Regulations Meetings and Federal Register Publications for the 2021–22 Hunting Season at the end of this proposed rule for further information). We will propose a specific regulatory alternative in or around December 2020 for each of the Flyways to use for their 2021–22 seasons after status information and results from analytical adjustments to strategies become available in about late August 2020. D. Special Seasons/Species Management xi. Other For the Atlantic Flyway, under the eastern waterfowl AHM protocol for the Atlantic Flyway, the mallard bag limit is not prescribed by the regulatory alternative, but is instead based on a separate assessment of the harvest potential of eastern mallards. We will E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules propose a specific mallard bag limit for the Atlantic Flyway in or around December 2020. Also, although not part of any current harvest management strategy, we propose to allow South Dakota and Nebraska to conduct a pilot study during the 2021–22 duck season of a two-tier license system as described in the March 19, 2020, proposed rule (85 FR 15870). The intent of the two-tier license study is to evaluate whether regulations that relax hunters’ requirement to identify duck species can improve waterfowl hunter recruitment and retention. Declines in waterfowl hunter numbers have been of concern to the Service and the Flyway Councils, prompting the development of recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) efforts in the conservation community. The study would allow VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 Jkt 253001 each person to obtain one of two license types during the duck season. The first license type would allow a daily bag limit as specified in the current duck regulations (six birds), along with attendant species and sex restrictions. The second license type would allow a daily bag limit of only three ducks, but they could be of any species or sex. Additional years of study would be contingent on whether results from this first duck season warrant additional investigation. Memoranda of agreement between the Service and the two States are being developed to specify the purpose of the study and the roles and responsibilities of each party while conducting the pilot study. 14. Woodcock We propose to change the opening framework date for American woodcock PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 64103 in the Eastern and Central Management Regions to a fixed date of September 13. Framework dates currently are October 1–January 31 and the Saturday nearest September 22–January 31 for the Eastern and Central Management Regions, respectively. Results from an assessment conducted by Service staff suggest that total season harvest would not increase in either management region as a result of these changes. The assessment can be obtained by contacting the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. The American Woodcock Harvest Strategy is available on our website at https://www.fws.gov/birds/ surveys-and-data/webless-migratorygame-birds/american-woodcock.php. BILLING CODE 4333–15–P E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 64104 VerDate Sep<11>2014 Jkt 253001 PO 00000 ATLANTIC FLYWAY RES MOD I CENTRAL FLYWAY (al MISSISSIPPI FLYWAY LIB RES I MOD I LIB RES I MOD I PACIFIC FLYWAYlbllcl LIB RES I MOD I LIB Beginning Shooting Time 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise 1/2 hr. before sunrise Ending Shooting Time Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Sunset Opening Date Oct. 1 Sat. nearest Sept. 24 Sat. nearest Sept. 24 Closing Date Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Jan.31 Jan. 31 Jan. 31 Season LenQth (in days) 30 45 60 30 45 60 39 60 74 60 86 107 Daily Bag 3 6 6 3 6 6 3 6 6 4 7 7 (d) 2/1 4/1 4/2 3/1 5/1 5/2 3/1 5/2 7/2 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM 09OCP1 EP09OC20.008</GPH> I Sat. nearest Sat. nearest Sat. nearest Sept. 24 Sept. 24 Sept. 24 Sat. nearest Sat. nearest Sat. nearest Sept. 24 Sept. 24 Sept. 24 Sat. nearest Oct. 1 Sat. nearest Sat. nearest Sept. 24 Sept. 24 Species/Sex Limits within the Overall Daily Bag Limit Mallard (Total/Female) (d) (d) In the High Plains Mallard Management Unit, all regulations would be the same as the remainder of the Central Flyway, with the exception of season length. Additional days would be allowed under the various alternatives as follows: restrictive - 12, moderate and liberal - 23. Under all alternatives, additional days must be on or after the Saturday nearest December 10. (b) In the Columbia Basin Mallard Management Unit, all regulations would be the same as the remainder of the Pacific Flyway, with the exception of season length. Under all alternatives except the liberal alternative, an additional 7 days would be allowed. (c) In Alaska, framework dates, bag limits, and season length would be different from the remainder of the Pacific Flyway. The bag limit (depending on the area) would be 5-8 under the restrictive alternative, ana 1-1u unaer tne moaerate ana IIDeral alternatives. unaer an a1ternatIves, season Iengtn wouIa De 1u1 aays ana rrameworK aates wouIa De ::;ep. 1-Jan. :lt;. (a) (d) Under the proposed multi-stock AHM protocol for the Atlantic Flyway, the mallard bag limit would not be prescribed by the regulatory alternative. Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 PROPOSED REGULATORY ALTERNATIVES FOR THE 2021-22 GENERAL DUCK SEASONS SURVEY & ASSESSMENT SCHEDULE March-June, 2020 SPRING POPULATION SURVEYS Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 9990 August 20, 2020 AHM REPORT wOPTIMAL ALTERNATIVES, WEBLESS and CRANE STATUS INFORMATlON, DOVE and OOODCOCK REGULATORY ALTERNATlVES, and HUNTER ACTIVITY and HARVEST REPORT FEDERAL REGISTER SCHEDULE l I PO 00000 August 15, 2020 WATERFOlt\ll. STATUS REPORT MEETING SCHEDULE April 28, 2020 -Video-teleconference SRCMeeting I I I July 10, 2020 PROPOSED RULEM AK/NG (PRELIM /NARY) WITH STATUS INFORMATION and ISSUES I September 15, 2020 SUPPLEMENTAL PROPOSALS I E:\FR\FM\09OCP1.SGM I August 15 - September 30, 2020 Flvwav Tech And Council Meetings October 14-15, 2020 -Bloomington, MN SRC Reaulatorv Meetina I I December 10, 2020 PROPOSED SEASON FRAMEWORKS (30 Day Comment Period) December 15, 2020-January 31, 2021 FALL and WINTER SURVEY INFORMATION for CRANES and WA TERFOlt\ll. 09OCP1 I March 2021 (at North American Conference) Flvwav Council Mtas I February 25, 2021 FINAL SEASON FRAMEWORKS June 1, 2021 ALL HUNTING SEASONS SELECTIONS Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 197 / Friday, October 9, 2020 / Proposed Rules Jkt 253001 [FR Doc. 2020–22459 Filed 10–6–20; 4:15 pm] 16:53 Oct 08, 2020 BILLING CODE 4333–15–C VerDate Sep<11>2014 SCHEDULE OF BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION AVAILABILITY, REGULATIONS MEETINGS AND FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLICATIONS FOR THE 2021-22 HUNTING SEASON fSeason Selee1ions Due ADl'il 301 I September 1, 2021 and later ALL HUNTING SEASONS I 64105 EP09OC20.009</GPH>

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 197 (Friday, October 9, 2020)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 64097-64105]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-22459]



[[Page 64097]]

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

[Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0032; FF09M21200-201-FXMB1231099BPP0]
RIN 1018-BE34


Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2021-22 Migratory Game Bird 
Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal 
Proposals; Notification of Meetings

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of supplemental information.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) proposes to 
establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory game birds 
for the 2021-22 hunting season. We annually prescribe outside limits 
(frameworks) within which States may select hunting seasons. This 
proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, announces the Service 
Migratory Bird Regulations Committee (SRC) and Flyway Council meetings, 
describes the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2021-22 general 
duck seasons and preliminary proposals that vary from the 2020-21 
hunting season regulations, and requests proposals from Indian tribes 
that wish to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations 
on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. Migratory bird hunting 
seasons provide opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid 
Federal, State, and tribal governments in the management of migratory 
game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory 
game bird population status and habitat conditions.

DATES: Comments: You may comment on the general duck season regulatory 
alternatives and other preliminary proposals for the 2021-22 season 
until November 9, 2020. Tribes must submit proposals and related 
comments on or before December 1, 2020. See Schedule of Biological 
Information Availability, Regulations Meetings and Federal Register 
Publications for the 2021-22 Hunting Season at the end of this proposed 
rule for further information.
    Meetings: The SRC will meet on October 20-21, 2020, to consider and 
develop proposed regulations for the 2021-22 migratory game bird 
hunting seasons. Meetings on both days will commence at approximately 
11:00 a.m. (Eastern) and are open to the public.

ADDRESSES: Comments: You may submit comments on the proposals by one of 
the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-HQ-
MB-2020-0032.
     U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-HQ-MB-
2020-0032; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; MS: PRB/3W; 5275 Leesburg 
Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
    We will not accept emailed or faxed comments. We will post all 
comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. See Public Comments, below, for more 
information.
    Meetings: The October 20-21, 2020, SRC meeting will be conducted 
telephonically with or without the aid of video technology. The meeting 
is open to the public. Meeting details and opportunities for the public 
to listen to and observe the meeting will be posted at https://www.fws.gov/birds when they become available.
    Accommodation requests: The Service is committed to providing 
access to the SRC meeting for all participants and observers. Please 
direct all requests for sign language interpreting services, closed 
captioning, or other accommodation needs to the person listed under FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT by close of business on October 1, 2020. If 
you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jerome Ford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Department of the Interior, (202) 208-1050.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Process for Establishing Annual Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations

    As part of the Department of the Interior's 2015 retrospective 
regulatory review, we changed our process for developing migratory game 
bird hunting regulations with the goal of enabling the State agencies 
to select and publish their season dates earlier than was allowed under 
the prior process. We provided a detailed overview of this process in 
the August 6, 2015, Federal Register (80 FR 47388). This proposed rule 
is the first in a series of proposed and final rules that establish 
regulations for the 2021-22 migratory bird hunting season.

Background and Overview

    Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in 
conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for 
the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), the Secretary of the Interior is 
authorized to determine when ``hunting, taking, capture, killing, 
possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or 
export of any such bird, or any part, nest, or egg'' of migratory game 
birds can take place, and to adopt regulations for this purpose (16 
U.S.C. 704(a)). These regulations are written after giving due regard 
to ``the zones of temperature and to the distribution, abundance, 
economic value, breeding habits, and times and lines of migratory 
flight of such birds'' (16 U.S.C. 704(a)), and are updated annually. 
This responsibility has been delegated to the Service as the lead 
Federal agency for managing and conserving migratory birds in the 
United States. However, migratory bird management is a cooperative 
effort of Federal, State, and tribal governments.
    The Service develops migratory game bird hunting regulations by 
establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag 
limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. Acknowledging 
regional differences in hunting conditions, the Service has 
administratively divided the United States into four Flyways for the 
primary purpose of managing migratory game birds. Each Flyway 
(Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) has a Flyway Council, a 
formal organization generally composed of one member from each State 
within the Flyway, as well as Provinces in Canada that share migratory 
bird populations with the Flyway. The Flyway Councils, established 
through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, also assist in 
researching and providing migratory game bird management information 
for Federal, State, and Provincial governments, as well as private 
conservation entities and the general public.
    The process for adopting migratory game bird hunting regulations 
(50 CFR part 20) is constrained by three primary factors. Legal and 
administrative considerations dictate how long the rulemaking process 
will last. Most importantly, however, the biological cycle of migratory 
game birds controls the timing of data-gathering activities and thus 
the dates on which these results are available for consideration and 
deliberation.

[[Page 64098]]

    For the regulatory cycle, Service biologists gather, analyze, and 
interpret biological survey data and provide this information to all 
those involved in the process through a series of published status 
reports and presentations to Flyway Councils and other interested 
parties. Because the Service is required to take abundance of migratory 
game birds and other factors into consideration, the Service undertakes 
a number of surveys throughout the year in conjunction with Service 
Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and 
Provincial wildlife-management agencies. To determine the appropriate 
frameworks for each species, we consider factors such as population 
size and trend, geographical distribution, annual breeding effort, 
condition of breeding and wintering habitat, number of hunters, and 
anticipated harvest. After frameworks are established for season 
lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting, States 
may select season dates, bag limits, and other regulatory options for 
the hunting seasons. States may always be more conservative in their 
selections than the Federal frameworks, but never more liberal.

Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee Meetings

    The SRC conducted an open meeting on April 28, 2020, to discuss 
preliminary issues for the 2021-22 regulations, and will conduct 
another meeting on October 14-15, 2020, to review information on the 
current status of migratory game birds and develop 2021-22 migratory 
game bird regulations recommendations for these species. In accordance 
with Departmental policy, these meetings are open to public 
observation. You may submit written comments to the Service on the 
matters discussed. See DATES and ADDRESSES for information about these 
meetings.

Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons

    This document announces our intent to establish open hunting 
seasons and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated 
groups or species of migratory game birds for 2021-22 in the contiguous 
United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, 
under Sec. Sec.  20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K 
of 50 CFR part 20. For the 2021-22 migratory game bird hunting season, 
we will propose regulations for certain designated members of the avian 
families Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and 
pigeons); Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens, and 
gallinules); and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these 
proposals under Proposed 2021-22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting 
Regulations (Preliminary) in this document. We annually publish 
definitions of flyways and management units, and a description of the 
data used in and the factors affecting the regulatory process in 
proposed and final rules later in the regulations development process 
(see March 19, 2020, Federal Register, 85 FR 15870, for the latest 
definitions and descriptions).

Regulatory Schedule for 2021-22

    This document is the first in a series of proposed, supplemental, 
and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting 
regulations. We will publish additional supplemental proposals for 
public comment in the Federal Register as population, habitat, harvest, 
and other information become available. Major steps in the 2021-22 
regulatory cycle relating to open public meetings and Federal Register 
notifications are illustrated in the diagram at the end of this 
proposed rule. All publication dates of Federal Register documents are 
target dates. All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining 
hunting frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered 
headings. These headings are:

1. Ducks
    A. General Harvest Strategy
    B. Regulatory Alternatives
    C. Zones and Split Seasons
    D. Special Seasons/Species Management
    i. September Teal Seasons
    ii. September Teal/Wood Duck Seasons
    iii. Black Ducks
    iv. Canvasbacks
    v. Pintails
    vi. Scaup
    vii. Mottled Ducks
    viii. Wood Ducks
    ix. Youth and Veterans-Active Military Personnel Hunting Days
    x. Mallard Management Units
    xi. Other
2. Sea Ducks
3. Mergansers
4. Canada Geese
    A. Special Early Seasons
    B. Regular Seasons
    C. Special Late Seasons
5. White-fronted Geese
6. Brant
7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese
8. Swans
9. Sandhill Cranes
10. Coots
11. Moorhens and Gallinules
12. Rails
13. Snipe
14. Woodcock
15. Band-tailed Pigeons
16. Doves
17. Alaska
18. Hawaii
19. Puerto Rico
20. Virgin Islands
21. Falconry
22. Other

    This and subsequent documents will refer only to numbered items 
requiring attention. We will omit those items not requiring attention, 
and remaining numbered items may be discontinuous and appear 
incomplete.
    The proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2021-22 duck hunting 
seasons are contained at the end of this document. We plan to publish 
final regulatory alternatives for duck seasons about mid-September 
2020, proposed season frameworks about mid-December 2020, and final 
season frameworks about late February 2021.

Review of Public Comments

    This proposed rulemaking contains the proposed regulatory 
alternatives for the 2021-22 general duck hunting seasons. This 
proposed rulemaking also describes other recommended changes or 
specific preliminary proposals that vary from the 2020-21 regulations 
and issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the 
States or tribes. We will publish responses to all proposals and 
written comments when we develop final frameworks for the 2021-22 
season. We seek additional information and comments on this proposed 
rule.

Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents

    For administrative purposes, this document consolidates the notice 
of our intent to establish open migratory game bird hunting seasons and 
the request for tribal proposals with the preliminary proposals for the 
annual hunting regulations-development process. We will publish the 
remaining proposed and final rulemaking documents separately. For 
inquiries on tribal guidelines and proposals, tribes should contact:
    Tina Chouinard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 606 Browns Church 
Road, Jackson, TN 38305; 731-432-0981; [email protected].

Requests for Tribal Proposals

Background

    Beginning with the 1985-86 hunting season, we have employed 
guidelines described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 
23467) to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and 
ceded lands. We developed these guidelines in response

[[Page 64099]]

to tribal requests for our recognition of their reserved hunting 
rights, and for some tribes, recognition of their authority to regulate 
hunting by both tribal and nontribal members throughout their 
reservations. The guidelines include possibilities for:
    (1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and nontribal members, 
with hunting by nontribal members on some reservations to take place 
within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected 
by the surrounding State(s);
    (2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual 
Federal frameworks for season dates, season length, and daily bag and 
possession limits; and
    (3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, 
outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added 
flexibility in daily bag and possession limits.
    In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines 
must be consistent with the annual March 11 to August 31 closed season 
mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and Great 
Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds, as amended 
by the Protocol Between the Government of Canada and the Government of 
the United States of America Amending the 1916 Convention Between the 
United Kingdom and the United States of America for the Protection of 
Migratory Birds in Canada and the United States. The guidelines are 
applicable to those tribes that have reserved hunting rights on Federal 
Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded 
lands. They also may be applied to the establishment of migratory game 
bird hunting regulations for nontribal members on all lands within the 
exterior boundaries of reservations where tribes have full wildlife-
management authority over such hunting, or where the tribes and 
affected States otherwise have reached agreement over hunting by 
nontribal members on non-Indian lands.
    Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory game bird 
hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our 
approval. The question of jurisdiction is more complex on reservations 
that include lands owned by non-Indians, especially when the 
surrounding States have established or intend to establish regulations 
governing migratory bird hunting by non-Indians on these lands. In such 
cases, we encourage the tribes and States to reach agreement on 
regulations that would apply throughout the reservations. When 
appropriate, we will consult with a tribe and State with the aim of 
facilitating an accord. We also will consult jointly with tribal and 
State officials in the affected States where tribes may wish to 
establish special hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded 
lands. It is incumbent upon the tribe and/or the State to request 
consultation as a result of the proposal being published in the Federal 
Register. We will not presume to make a determination, without being 
advised by either a tribe or a State, that any issue is or is not 
worthy of formal consultation.
    One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of tribal 
members' harvest of migratory game birds on reservations where such 
harvest is a customary practice. We are supportive of this harvest 
provided it does not take place during the closed season required by 
the Convention and it is not so large as to adversely affect the status 
of the migratory game bird resource. Since the inception of these 
guidelines, we have reached annual agreement with tribes for migratory 
game bird hunting by tribal members on their lands or on lands where 
they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to consult with 
tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting regulations for 
on-reservation hunting by tribal members. These guidelines provide 
appropriate opportunity to accommodate the reserved hunting rights and 
management authority of Indian tribes while also ensuring that the 
migratory game bird resource receives necessary protection. The 
conservation of this important international resource is paramount. Use 
of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes to observe the 
hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which the 
reservation is located.

Details Needed in Tribal Proposals

    Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting 
regulations for the 2021-22 migratory game bird hunting season should 
submit a proposal that includes: (1) The requested migratory game bird 
hunting season dates and other details regarding the proposed 
regulations; (2) harvest anticipated under the proposed regulations; 
and (3) tribal capabilities to enforce migratory game bird hunting 
regulations. For those situations where limited capabilities to enforce 
regulations could result in harvest levels that significantly impact 
the migratory game bird resource, we also request information on the 
methods employed to monitor harvest and any potential measures to limit 
harvest level.
    A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the migratory 
game bird season for nontribal members should specify this request in 
its proposal, rather than request a date that might not be within the 
final Federal frameworks. Similarly, unless a tribe wishes to set more 
restrictive regulations than Federal regulations will permit for 
nontribal members, the proposal should request the same daily bag 
limit, possession limit, and season length for migratory game birds 
that Federal regulations are likely to permit for the States in the 
Flyway in which the reservation is located.

Tribal Proposal Procedures

    We will publish details of tribal proposals for public review in 
later Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for 
review by us and the public, Indian tribes that desire special 
migratory game bird hunting regulations for the 2021-22 hunting season 
should submit their proposals no later than December 1, 2020. Tribes 
should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and proposals to the 
person listed above under the caption Consolidation of Rulemaking 
Documents. Tribes that request special migratory game bird hunting 
regulations for tribal members on ceded lands should send a courtesy 
copy of the proposal to officials in the affected State(s).

Public Comments

    The Department of the Interior's policy is, whenever practicable, 
to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking 
process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written 
comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed 
regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will take into consideration all comments we receive. 
Such comments, and any additional information we receive, may lead to 
final regulations that differ from these proposed rules.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept 
comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. 
Finally, we will not consider mailed comments that are not postmarked 
by the date specified in DATES. We will post all comments in their 
entirety--including your personal identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. Before including your address, phone number, email 
address, or other personal identifying

[[Page 64100]]

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. Comments and materials 
we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing 
this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov.
    For each series of proposed rulemakings, we will establish specific 
comment periods. We will consider, but may not respond in detail to, 
each comment. As in the past, we will summarize all comments we receive 
during the comment period and respond to them after the closing date in 
any final rules.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Consideration

    The programmatic document, ``Second Final Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual Regulations 
Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (EIS 20130139),'' filed 
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 24, 2013, 
addresses NEPA compliance by the Service for issuance of the annual 
framework regulations for hunting of migratory game bird species. We 
published a notice of availability in the Federal Register on May 31, 
2013 (78 FR 32686), and our Record of Decision on July 26, 2013 (78 FR 
45376). We also address NEPA compliance for waterfowl hunting 
frameworks through the annual preparation of separate environmental 
assessments, the most recent being ``Duck Hunting Regulations for 2020-
21,'' with its corresponding June 2020 finding of no significant 
impact. In addition, an August 1985 environmental assessment entitled 
``Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations on Federal Indian 
Reservations and Ceded Lands'' is available from the person listed 
above under the caption Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Before issuance of the 2021-22 migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will comply with provisions of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; hereinafter ``the Act''), 
to ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of any species designated as endangered or threatened or 
adversely modify or destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with 
conservation programs for those species. Consultations under section 7 
of the Act may cause us to change proposals in future supplemental 
proposed rulemaking documents.

Regulatory Planning and Review--Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 provides that the Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant 
rules. OIRA has reviewed this rule and has determined that this rule is 
significant because it will have an annual effect of $100 million or 
more on the economy.
    E.O. 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 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. 
E.O. 13563 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. E.O. 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.
    An economic analysis was prepared for the 2021-22 season. This 
analysis was based on data from the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, 
Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (National Survey), the most 
recent year for which data are available (see discussion under 
Regulatory Flexibility Act, below). This analysis estimated consumer 
surplus for three alternatives for duck hunting regulations. As defined 
by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in Circular A-4, consumers' 
surplus is the difference between what a consumer pays for a unit of a 
good or service and the maximum amount the consumer would be willing to 
pay for that unit (U.S. Office of Management and Budget page 19, 2003). 
The duck hunting regulatory alternatives are (1) issue restrictive 
regulations allowing fewer days than those issued during the 2020-21 
season, (2) issue moderate regulations allowing more days than those in 
alternative 1, and (3) issue liberal regulations similar to the 
regulations in the 2020-21 season. For the 2020-21 season, we chose 
Alternative 3, with an estimated consumer surplus across all flyways of 
$263-$347 million with a mid-point estimate of $305 million. We also 
chose alternative 3 for the 2009-10 through 2020-21 seasons. The 2021-
22 analysis is part of the record for this rule and is available at 
http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0032.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The annual migratory bird hunting regulations have a significant 
economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the 
economic impacts of the annual hunting regulations on small business 
entities in detail as part of the 1981 cost-benefit analysis. This 
analysis was revised annually from 1990 through 1995. In 1995, the 
Service issued a Small Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis), which 
was subsequently updated in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2008, 2013, 2018, 2019, 
and 2020. The primary source of information about hunter expenditures 
for migratory game bird hunting is the National Survey, which is 
generally conducted at 5-year intervals. The 2020 Analysis is based on 
the 2016 National Survey and the U.S. Department of Commerce's County 
Business Patterns, from which it was estimated that migratory bird 
hunters would spend approximately $2.1 billion at small businesses in 
2020. Copies of the analysis are available upon request from the 
Division of Migratory Bird Management (see ADDRESSES) or from http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2020-0032.

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by E.O. 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 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 ADDRESSES. 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 are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, 
the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

[[Page 64101]]

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This proposed rule is a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. For the reasons outlined 
above, this rule would have an annual effect on the economy of $100 
million or more. However, because this rule would establish hunting 
seasons, which are time sensitive, we do not plan to defer the 
effective date under the exemption contained in 5 U.S.C. 808(1).

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not contain any new collection of information that 
requires approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under 
the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). OMB has 
previously approved the information collection requirements associated 
with migratory bird surveys and the procedures for establishing annual 
migratory bird hunting seasons under the following OMB control numbers:
     1018-0019, ``North American Woodcock Singing Ground 
Survey'' (expires 06/30/2021).
     1018-0023, ``Migratory Bird Surveys, 50 CFR 20.20'' 
(expires 04/30/2023). Includes Migratory Bird Harvest Information 
Program, Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys, Sandhill Crane Survey, and 
Parts Collection Survey.
     1018-0171, ``Establishment of Annual Migratory Bird 
Hunting Seasons, 50 CFR part 20'' (expires 06/30/2021).
    You may view the information collection request(s) at http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAMain. An agency may not conduct or 
sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of 
information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    We have determined and certify, in compliance with the requirements 
of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, 2 U.S.C. 1502 et seq., that this 
proposed rulemaking would not impose a cost of $100 million or more in 
any given year on local or State government or private entities. 
Therefore, this rule is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

    The Department, in promulgating this proposed rule, has determined 
that this proposed rule will not unduly burden the judicial system and 
that it meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of E.O. 
12988.

Takings Implication Assessment

    In accordance with E.O. 12630, this proposed rule, authorized by 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, does not have significant takings 
implications and does not affect any constitutionally protected 
property rights. This rule would not result in the physical occupancy 
of property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory 
taking of any property. In fact, this rule would allow hunters to 
exercise otherwise unavailable privileges and, therefore, would reduce 
restrictions on the use of private and public property.

Energy Effects--Executive Order 13211

    E.O. 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy 
Effects when undertaking certain actions. While this proposed rule is a 
significant regulatory action under E.O. 12866, it is not expected to 
adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this 
action is not a significant energy action and no Statement of Energy 
Effects is required.

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), E.O. 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have 
evaluated possible effects on federally recognized Indian tribes and 
have determined that there are de minimis effects on Indian trust 
resources. However, in this proposed rule, we solicit proposals for 
special migratory bird hunting regulations for certain tribes on 
Federal Indian reservations, off-reservation trust lands, and ceded 
lands for the 2021-22 migratory bird hunting season. The resulting 
proposals will be contained in a separate proposed rule published in 
spring and final rule published in summer 2021. Through this process to 
establish annual hunting regulations, we regularly coordinate with 
tribes that would be affected by this rule.

Federalism Effects

    Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the 
Federal Government has been given responsibility over these species by 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We annually prescribe frameworks from 
which the States make selections regarding the hunting of migratory 
birds, and we employ guidelines to establish special regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. This process preserves the 
ability of the States and tribes to determine which seasons meet their 
individual needs. Any State or Indian tribe may be more restrictive in 
its regulations than the Federal frameworks at any time. The frameworks 
are developed in a cooperative process with the States and the Flyway 
Councils. This process allows States to participate in the development 
of frameworks from which they will make selections, thereby having an 
influence on their own regulations. These rules do not have a 
substantial direct effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or 
responsibilities of Federal or State governments, or intrude on State 
policy or administration. Therefore, in accordance with E.O. 13132, 
these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not 
have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
federalism summary impact statement.

Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs--Executive Order 
13771

    This proposed rule is not expected to be subject to the 
requirements of E.O. 13771 (82 FR 9339, February 3, 2017) because this 
proposed rule is expected to establish annual harvest limits related to 
routine hunting or fishing.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

    Exports, Hunting, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping 
requirements, Transportation, Wildlife.

Authority

    The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2021-22 
hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-711, 712, and 742 a-
j.

George Wallace,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Proposed 2021-22 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary)

    Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat 
conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway 
Councils, we may defer specific regulatory proposals. Due to the 
coronavirus pandemic, several annual monitoring activities that provide 
information used in developing regulatory recommendations have been 
temporarily cancelled or otherwise impacted. We intend to follow 
existing harvest management strategies to the extent possible, although 
some modifications will be necessary due to the absence of status 
information for 2020 for many species and populations of game birds. 
Service staff are in the process of developing adjustments to

[[Page 64102]]

the strategies to accommodate this issue. Given the recent 
cancellations, we cannot provide specific changes at this time, but 
will detail the changes in subsequent rulemaking and notices published 
in the Federal Register. Issues requiring early discussion, action, or 
the attention of the States or tribes are described below.

1. Ducks

    Categories used to discuss issues related to duck harvest 
management are: (A) General Harvest Strategy, (B) Regulatory 
Alternatives, (C) Zones and Split Seasons, and (D) Special Seasons/
Species Management. Only those categories containing substantial 
recommendations are discussed below.

A. General Harvest Strategy

    We will continue to use adaptive harvest management (AHM) to help 
determine appropriate duck-hunting regulations for the 2021-22 season. 
AHM is a tool that permits sound resource decisions in the face of 
uncertain regulatory impacts and provides a mechanism for reducing that 
uncertainty over time. We use an AHM protocol (decision framework) to 
evaluate four regulatory alternatives, each with a different expected 
harvest level, and choose the optimal regulation for duck hunting based 
on the status and demographics of mallards for the Mississippi, 
Central, and Pacific Flyways, and based on the status and demographics 
of a suite of four species (eastern waterfowl) in the Atlantic Flyway. 
We have specific AHM protocols that guide appropriate bag limits and 
season lengths for species of special concern, including black ducks, 
scaup, and pintails, within the general duck season. These protocols 
use the same outside season dates and lengths as those regulatory 
alternatives for the 2021-22 general duck seasons.
    For the 2021-22 hunting season, we will continue to use independent 
optimizations to determine the appropriate regulatory alternative for 
mallard stocks in the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways and for 
eastern waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway. This means that we will 
develop regulations for mid-continent mallards, western mallards, and 
eastern waterfowl independently based on the breeding stock that 
contributes primarily to each Flyway. We detailed implementation of AHM 
protocols for mid-continent and western mallards in the July 24, 2008, 
Federal Register (73 FR 43290), and for eastern waterfowl in the 
September 21, 2018, Federal Register (83 FR 47868).
    Due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated travel restrictions 
and human health concerns in the United States and Canada, certain 
migratory bird monitoring surveys have been cancelled in 2020. This 
includes the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, which 
provides status information for many species of waterfowl, including 
those used in our AHM protocols. Consequently, in some cases, we will 
need to deviate from our AHM protocols and other decision processes to 
address missing data from 2020. We will adjust our AHM protocols and 
decision tools for general duck seasons and species of concern, 
including pintails, scaup, black ducks, canvasbacks, and wood ducks 
only to the extent necessary to inform the regulatory decisions for the 
2021-22 season. For existing AHM protocols, we propose to use the 
strategy for each flyway, but use the long-term data and models to 
predict 2020 spring abundances of ducks and habitat conditions in place 
of the spring 2020 data, which will not be available. The predicted 
2020 breeding populations would be overlaid on the 2019 policies (i.e., 
the 2019-20 matrix of breeding population and pond counts) to develop 
recommendations for the 2021-22 hunting season. For other decision 
support tools such as those used for canvasback and blue-winged teal, 
similar to AHM protocols, we will develop statistical predictions of 
the 2020 spring abundance of these species to inform harvest regulation 
decisions for the 2021-22 hunting season. We will work cooperatively 
with the Flyway Councils as we develop a plan for addressing missing 
data in regulatory decision-making for the 2021-22 hunting season, and 
will post specific details about deviations from our AHM protocols and 
decision support tools on our website at https://www.fws.gov/birds when 
they become available.

B. Regulatory Alternatives

    The basic structure of the current regulatory alternatives for AHM 
was adopted in 1997. In 2002, based upon recommendations from the 
Flyway Councils, we extended framework dates in the ``moderate'' and 
``liberal'' regulatory alternatives by changing the opening date from 
the Saturday nearest October 1 to the Saturday nearest September 24, 
and by changing the closing date from the Sunday nearest January 20 to 
the last Sunday in January. These extended dates were made available 
with no associated penalty in season length or bag limits. In 2018, we 
adopted a closing duck framework date of January 31 for the 
``moderate'' and ``liberal'' alternatives in the Atlantic Flyway as 
part of the Atlantic Flyway's eastern waterfowl AHM protocol (83 FR 
47868; September 21, 2018). We subsequently extended the framework 
closing date to January 31 across all four Flyways for the 2019-20 
hunting season (84 FR 16152; April 17, 2019).
    More recently, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, 
and Recreation Act of 2019 (Pub. L. 116-9) amended the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act to establish that the closing framework date for duck 
seasons will be January 31, unless a flyway chooses an earlier closing 
date. Thus, in 2019, as directed by the Dingell Act, we adjusted the 
framework closing date under each regulatory alternative for all four 
Flyways to January 31 (84 FR 42996; August 19, 2019). In 2020, we 
agreed to move the opening framework date to one week earlier in the 
restrictive regulatory alternative for the Mississippi and Central 
Flyways beginning with the 2021-22 season based on their 
recommendations (85 FR 15870; March 19, 2020).
    For the 2021-22 general duck season, we propose to utilize the same 
regulatory alternatives that are in effect for the 2020-21 season, with 
the exceptions noted above (see table at the end of this proposed rule 
for specifics of the regulatory alternatives). Alternatives are 
specified for each Flyway and are designated as ``RES'' for the 
restrictive, ``MOD'' for the moderate, and ``LIB'' for the liberal 
alternative. We will finalize AHM regulatory alternatives for the 2021-
22 season in the supplemental proposed rule, which we will publish 
about mid-September (see Schedule of Biological Information 
Availability, Regulations Meetings and Federal Register Publications 
for the 2021-22 Hunting Season at the end of this proposed rule for 
further information). We will propose a specific regulatory alternative 
in or around December 2020 for each of the Flyways to use for their 
2021-22 seasons after status information and results from analytical 
adjustments to strategies become available in about late August 2020.

D. Special Seasons/Species Management

xi. Other
    For the Atlantic Flyway, under the eastern waterfowl AHM protocol 
for the Atlantic Flyway, the mallard bag limit is not prescribed by the 
regulatory alternative, but is instead based on a separate assessment 
of the harvest potential of eastern mallards. We will

[[Page 64103]]

propose a specific mallard bag limit for the Atlantic Flyway in or 
around December 2020.
    Also, although not part of any current harvest management strategy, 
we propose to allow South Dakota and Nebraska to conduct a pilot study 
during the 2021-22 duck season of a two-tier license system as 
described in the March 19, 2020, proposed rule (85 FR 15870). The 
intent of the two-tier license study is to evaluate whether regulations 
that relax hunters' requirement to identify duck species can improve 
waterfowl hunter recruitment and retention. Declines in waterfowl 
hunter numbers have been of concern to the Service and the Flyway 
Councils, prompting the development of recruitment, retention, and 
reactivation (R3) efforts in the conservation community. The study 
would allow each person to obtain one of two license types during the 
duck season. The first license type would allow a daily bag limit as 
specified in the current duck regulations (six birds), along with 
attendant species and sex restrictions. The second license type would 
allow a daily bag limit of only three ducks, but they could be of any 
species or sex. Additional years of study would be contingent on 
whether results from this first duck season warrant additional 
investigation. Memoranda of agreement between the Service and the two 
States are being developed to specify the purpose of the study and the 
roles and responsibilities of each party while conducting the pilot 
study.

14. Woodcock

    We propose to change the opening framework date for American 
woodcock in the Eastern and Central Management Regions to a fixed date 
of September 13. Framework dates currently are October 1-January 31 and 
the Saturday nearest September 22-January 31 for the Eastern and 
Central Management Regions, respectively. Results from an assessment 
conducted by Service staff suggest that total season harvest would not 
increase in either management region as a result of these changes. The 
assessment can be obtained by contacting the person listed under FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. The American Woodcock Harvest Strategy is 
available on our website at https://www.fws.gov/birds/surveys-and-data/webless-migratory-game-birds/american-woodcock.php.
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