Notice of Intent To Amend the Billings Field Office 2015 Resource Management Plan and To Prepare an Associated Environmental Assessment, Montana, 18388-18390 [2022-06680]

Download as PDF 18388 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 61 / Wednesday, March 30, 2022 / Notices Average number of annual respondents Requirement Government .................................................................. Applications: Government .................................................................. Amendments: Government .................................................................. Financial Reports: Reporting ...................................................................... Recordkeeping .............................................................. Performance Reports: Reporting ...................................................................... Recordkeeping .............................................................. Final 15-month Reports: Reporting ...................................................................... Recordkeeping .............................................................. Totals ..................................................................... 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. The authority for this action is the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). Jeffrey Parrillo, Departmental Information Collection Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2022–06708 Filed 3–29–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4334–63–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [LLMTC01000–L10600000–MC0000MO# 4500155770] Notice of Intent To Amend the Billings Field Office 2015 Resource Management Plan and To Prepare an Associated Environmental Assessment, Montana Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: Notice of intent. AGENCY: In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (FLPMA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Billings Field Office, Billings, Montana, intends to prepare an amendment to the Billings Field Office Resource Management Plan (RMP) and an associated Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA will analyze a proposed change to the RMP’s Management Decision Wild Horse (MD WH–7) with respect to managing genetic diversity in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse herd. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:14 Mar 29, 2022 Jkt 256001 Average number of responses each Estimated annual burden hours 92 1 92 4 368 92 1 92 40 3,680 10 1 10 3 30 92 ........................ 1 ........................ 92 ........................ 6 2 552 184 92 ........................ 1 ........................ 92 ........................ 24 8 2,208 736 92 ........................ 1 ........................ 92 ........................ 24 8 2,208 736 470 ........................ 470 ........................ 10,702 This notice initiates the EA scoping process for the RMP amendment to solicit public comments and identify issues and announces the opportunity for public review of the planning criteria. DATES: In order to be included in the analysis, all comments must be received electronically or in writing no later than April 29, 2022. The BLM does not plan to hold any scoping meetings for this RMP amendment. We will provide additional opportunities for public participation as appropriate. ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted electronically through the BLM e-planning website at https:// eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/ project/1502632/510, or written comments may be sent to Wild Horse & Burro Coordinator, Billings Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave LeFevre, telephone 406–896–5349, or email dlefevre@blm.gov. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1–800–877–8339 to contact Mr. LeFevre during normal business hours. The FRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. Normal business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for Federal holidays. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This document provides notice that the BLM Billings Field Office, Billings, MT, intends to amend the Billings Field Office RMP and prepare an associated EA, announces the proposed plan amendment scoping process, and seeks public input on issues and planning criteria. Planning criteria help define PO 00000 Average completion time per response (hours) Average number of annual responses Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 decision space and are based upon applicable laws, Director and State Director guidance, and the results of public and governmental participation (43 CFR 1610.4–2). The draft planning criteria considered in the development of the proposed amendment include: (1) The proposed amendment will be completed in compliance with NEPA, FLPMA, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act, as amended, and the implementing regulations in 43 CFR 1700, BLM Wild Horses and Burros Management Handbook H–1700–1, and other applicable laws, regulations, and policy. (2) The proposed amendment is limited to MD WH–7 and would not change any other existing planning decisions in the Billings Field Office RMP. (3) The proposed amendment would only apply to lands and resources managed by the BLM as described in the 2015 Billings Field Office RMP; it would not change management direction for other agencies. (4) Decisions are compatible with existing plans and policies of adjacent local, State, Federal, and Tribal agencies, so long as the decisions are consistent with the purposes, policies, and programs of Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is located in the Pryor Mountains in southeastern Carbon County, Montana, and northern Big Horn County, Wyoming, and encompasses approximately 38,000 acres of land. In 2009, the BLM approved the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range/Territory Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) that identified management objectives for the Pryor Mountain wild horses and horse range. The 2009 HMAP managed the Pryor Mountain wild horses for a E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 61 / Wednesday, March 30, 2022 / Notices phenotype animal reminiscent of a ‘‘Colonial Spanish Mustang’’ as described by ‘‘Sponenberg North American Colonial Spanish Horses’’ while balancing colors, sex ratios, and age structures. In 2015, the BLM approved a new RMP for the Billings Field Office. That RMP at MD WH–2 provides direction for the BLM to ‘‘Maintain a wild horse herd that exhibits a diverse age structure, genetic diversity, and any characteristics unique to the Pryor horses.’’ Additionally, MD WH–7 states that ‘‘Within an HMAP, herd structure will be managed for all representations in the herd, not allowing specific colors or bloodlines to dominate from management manipulation.’’ However, the 2015 RMP does not define ‘‘all representations’’ in the herd, and the wording is ambiguous. In the 2015 RMP, it is evident that the intent of MD WH–7 was to limit the loss of genetic diversity, consistent with Goal WH–2 (‘‘Maintain a wild horse herd that exhibits a diverse age structure, genetic diversity, and any characteristics unique to the Pryor horses.’’). However, maximizing genetic diversity at the expense of ecosystem sustainability is not a management goal or directive for the herd. An interpretation that every possible crossing of any given mare and any given stallion should leave a surviving foal (i.e., a ‘‘representation’’ of the bloodline from that particular crossing) is not practical to implement for several reasons. If foals from every possible pairing of any stallion and any mare are interpreted to be a ‘‘representation,’’ then that precludes removal of any animal unless it has full siblings. However, because individual stallions sire offspring with multiple mares, and individual mares may mate with multiple stallions, there would be an ever-increasing number of ‘‘representations’’ in the herd. Because the population recruitment rate far exceeds the death rate, not removing ‘‘representations’’ without full siblings would result in unsustainable population growth. Under this scenario, Appropriate Management Level would be mathematically impossible to achieve. Other impracticalities exist as well. The BLM cannot cause all patrilineal or matrilineal lines to be propagated. When considering patrilineal lines, not all stallions get to reproduce; breeding is often limited to the band stallion, and some horses may forever remain a bachelor stallion. There are also practical matters related to the wellbeing of animals that are removed from the wild. Wild horse adoption programs VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:14 Mar 29, 2022 Jkt 256001 tend to place animals into homes more readily with younger horses as they are more adoptable and transition more readily to domestic life compared to an older horse. However, when young horses are gathered and removed from the range, many of them will not have reached maturity and produced an offspring. The BLM proposes to amend MD WH–7 to make it consistent with RMP Goal WH2 to maintain genetic diversity and to align with management guidance in the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Handbook H–4700–1 for maintaining desirable genetic diversity (avoiding inbreeding depression). Specifically, the BLM proposes to amend the RMP to modify MD WH–7 as stated below: ‘‘MD WH–7 (Proposed Amendment): Maintain desirable levels of genetic diversity, as measured by Observed Heterozygosity (Ho). Observed heterozygosity is a measure of how much diversity is found, on average, within individual animals in the Herd Management Area (HMA). If Ho drops below thresholds identified in the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Handbook H–4700–1, then BLM would take one or any combination of the following actions to reduce the possible risks associated with inbreeding depression: (1) Maximize the number of fertile, breeding age wild horses (6–10 years) within the herd; (2) adjust the sex ratio in favor of males (but with not more than approximately 60 percent males); or (3) introduce mares or stallions from other wild horse HMAs. Prioritize introductions from herds with characteristics similar to the Pryor Mountain horses, such as the Sulfur herd in Utah, the Cerbat Mountain herd in Arizona, or others.’’ BLM Handbook H–4700–1 guidance notes that herds with observed heterozygosity values that are one standard deviation below the mean are considered at critical risk. Hair samples last collected from the Pryor Mountain herd in February 2013 indicated that values for observed heterozygosity were above the mean for feral horse herds at that time. The BLM would continue to collect genetic samples to monitor genetic diversity. The results of current and future genetic monitoring efforts, along with previous monitoring results, would indicate if loss of genetic diversity is a concern and if any of the management actions as noted in the proposed amendment would need to be taken. Maintaining desirable levels of genetic diversity would also assure a variety of colors are maintained in the Pryor Mountain horse herd. Pryor PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 18389 Mountain horses exhibit a variety of colors, with common colors including dun, grulla, bay, black, and roan. Less common colors that appear in the herd include red or apricot dun, chestnut, sorrel, palomino, and buckskin. Color is a phenotypic representation of dominant or recessive genes passed through generations. A horse that is a rare color may not produce offspring that are also a rare color. BLM is proposing to revise MD WH–7 to address genetic diversity in a manner that is consistent with the Wild Horse and Burro Handbook, but consideration of color would be addressed through MD WH–2 (characteristics unique to the Pryors) and Selective Removal Criteria. Supplemental information on the proposed plan amendment is available on BLM’s e-Planning website at the project link noted earlier in the ADDRESSES section. The BLM will prepare an EA to consider the proposed plan amendment as well as revisions to the 2009 HMAP including objectives for fertility control, gather criteria, and rangeland and riparian management (the public comment period for scoping the HMAP revisions is closed, and previously submitted comments regarding the HMAP revisions do not need to be re-submitted). The proposed plan amendment is limited to proposed changes to MD WH–7 that would replace direction to manage for ‘‘all representations in the herd’’ with direction to maintain desirable levels of genetic diversity to reduce the possible risks associated with inbreeding depression. You may submit comments electronically or in writing on the proposed amendment to the BLM as shown in the ADDRESSES section earlier. If you already submitted scoping comments on proposed revisions to the HMAP EA, including any comments related to the Appropriate Management Level, management objectives for the wild horse population, including fertility control and gather criteria, and management objectives for the Pryor Horse Range, during the comment period that ran from April 9, 2020, through May 15, 2020, you do not need to re-submit your comments. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1 18390 Federal Register / Vol. 87, No. 61 / Wednesday, March 30, 2022 / Notices The BLM will work collaboratively with interested parties to identify the management decisions that are best suited to local, regional, and national needs and concerns. (Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 43 CFR 1610.2) Theresa M. Hanley, Acting BLM Montana/Dakotas State Director. [FR Doc. 2022–06680 Filed 3–29–22; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–DN–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [LLCOG01200 L12200000.MA0000 223] Notice of Intent To Implement Camping Permit and Future Fee Program on Public Lands at Rabbit Valley in Mesa County, CO Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: Notice of intent. AGENCY: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is implementing a future expanded amenity fee program for camping at Rabbit Valley campgrounds, located within McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA) in Mesa County, Colorado. The fee program will allow the BLM to meet increasing demand for camping activities, protect resources, prevent further deterioration of the recreation setting, enforce existing rules and regulations, and provide for enhanced information and educational opportunities. DATES: Comments on the proposed fee changes must be received or postmarked by June 28, 2022 and must include the commenter’s legible full name and address. Starting on Friday, September 30, 2022, the BLM will have the option to initiate fee collection at Rabbit Valley campgrounds for overnight visitation, unless the BLM publishes a Federal Register notice to the contrary. Comments received after the close of the comment period or delivered to an address other than the one listed in this notice may not be considered or included in the administrative record for the proposed fee program. ADDRESSES: Please send comments to the BLM Grand Junction Field Office at 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506 or by email at blm_co_gj_public_ comments@blm.gov. Documents concerning this fee change may be reviewed at the Grand Junction Field Office. Phone: (970) 244–3000. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Collin Ewing, NCA Manager, email: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:14 Mar 29, 2022 Jkt 256001 cewing@blm.gov; telephone: (970) 244– 3000. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877–8339 to contact Mr. Ewing during normal business hours. The FRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) and BLM policy, the BLM may collect fees in conjunction with Recreation Use Permits to manage visitor use, protect natural and cultural resources, achieve the goals and objectives of the applicable management plan, and authorize specific types of recreational activities. Under Section 2(g) of the FLREA, certain campgrounds qualify as sites where visitors can be charged an ‘‘Expanded Amenity Recreation Fee.’’ Visitors wishing to use the expanded amenities can purchase a recreation use permit as described in the FLREA implementing regulations at 43 CFR part 2930. Pursuant to FLREA and the regulations at 43 CFR subpart 2933, the BLM may charge fees for overnight camping and group-use reservations where specific amenities and services are provided. The BLM is implementing fee collection in the Rabbit Valley campgrounds for overnight camping. Rabbit Valley is a popular recreation destination for off-highway vehicle riding, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking, located off Interstate 70, 2 miles east of the Colorado/Utah border. In accordance with a July 2019 decision, the BLM will be constructing new campgrounds in the Rabbit Valley area. Most campsites in the Rabbit Valley campgrounds will require a fee of $20 per night, except for group campsites, which will range from $20 to $50 per night, depending on the number of vehicles ($20 per night for the first two vehicles, additional vehicles are $10 per night up to a maximum of five vehicles). The BLM will identify and post specific visitor fees at each campground. Visitors holding an America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands ‘‘Senior Annual Pass,’’ ‘‘Senior Lifetime Pass,’’ or ‘‘Access Pass’’ would be entitled to a 50 percent discount on expanded amenity fees. Veterans and ‘‘Annual Interagency Pass,’’ ‘‘Fourth Grade Pass,’’ and ‘‘Gold Star Families Parks Pass’’ holders are not entitled to this discount. The BLM is also implementing a temporary, fee-free Individual Special Recreation Permit (ISRP) for camping in both undeveloped and developed PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 designated campsites. Within the footprint of planned future campground development, undeveloped campsites for ISRPs will be designated with a sign. Dispersed camping outside of developed and undeveloped designated campsites will be prohibited. The BLM will phase out the ISRP as the new campgrounds in the Rabbit Valley are constructed. In response to increasing visitor demand, the BLM issued a July 2019 Decision Record approving the development of additional campsites in the Rabbit Valley area as described in an Environmental Assessment (EA) (DOI– BLM–CO–S081–2018–0005–EA), and prepared a Business Plan for the project. The proposed action described in the EA, and approved in the Decision Record, included the option to charge a fee for overnight camping within the Rabbit Valley project area. The EA explained that the fee program would be developed through a separate process, which would include public involvement and consultation with the BLM Colorado Southwest District Resource Advisory Council (RAC). The BLM’s public outreach process and analysis of the fee program are detailed in the Business Plan. The Business Plan outlines the agency management direction, the need for fee collection, and how the BLM intends to use the fees to improve and maintain the amenities in the Rabbit Valley area. Information about the use of the fee revenues will be posted at one or more kiosks within the fee area annually. As discussed in the Business Plan, the camping fees are consistent with other established fee sites in the region, including other BLM-administered sites and those managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior—National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture—Forest Service, and the State of Colorado. In accordance with the FLREA and the Council of Environmental Quality regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, the BLM has notified and involved the public throughout this process. The BLM released its draft Business Plan and the Proposed Action for public scoping from June 24 through July 25, 2018. The BLM presented the proposed project and the results of this scoping to the BLM Colorado Southwest District RAC on March 8, 2019. The RAC passed a resolution to support fees in existing and new campgrounds in Rabbit Valley, with a separate resolution recommending that the BLM release the preliminary EA and an updated Business Plan for additional public comment. The public comment period ran from April 16 through May 17, 2019. E:\FR\FM\30MRN1.SGM 30MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 87, Number 61 (Wednesday, March 30, 2022)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18388-18390]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2022-06680]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

[LLMTC01000-L10600000-MC0000MO# 4500155770]


Notice of Intent To Amend the Billings Field Office 2015 Resource 
Management Plan and To Prepare an Associated Environmental Assessment, 
Montana

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.

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

SUMMARY: In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act 
of 1976, as amended (FLPMA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 
Billings Field Office, Billings, Montana, intends to prepare an 
amendment to the Billings Field Office Resource Management Plan (RMP) 
and an associated Environmental Assessment (EA). The EA will analyze a 
proposed change to the RMP's Management Decision Wild Horse (MD WH-7) 
with respect to managing genetic diversity in the Pryor Mountain Wild 
Horse herd. This notice initiates the EA scoping process for the RMP 
amendment to solicit public comments and identify issues and announces 
the opportunity for public review of the planning criteria.

DATES: In order to be included in the analysis, all comments must be 
received electronically or in writing no later than April 29, 2022. The 
BLM does not plan to hold any scoping meetings for this RMP amendment. 
We will provide additional opportunities for public participation as 
appropriate.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted electronically through the BLM e-
planning website at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/1502632/510, or written comments may be sent to Wild Horse & Burro 
Coordinator, Billings Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 5001 
Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave LeFevre, telephone 406-896-5349, 
or email [email protected]. Persons who use a telecommunications device 
for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-
877-8339 to contact Mr. LeFevre during normal business hours. The FRS 
is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or 
question. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. Normal 
business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except for Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This document provides notice that the BLM 
Billings Field Office, Billings, MT, intends to amend the Billings 
Field Office RMP and prepare an associated EA, announces the proposed 
plan amendment scoping process, and seeks public input on issues and 
planning criteria. Planning criteria help define decision space and are 
based upon applicable laws, Director and State Director guidance, and 
the results of public and governmental participation (43 CFR 1610.4-2). 
The draft planning criteria considered in the development of the 
proposed amendment include:
    (1) The proposed amendment will be completed in compliance with 
NEPA, FLPMA, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act, as amended, 
and the implementing regulations in 43 CFR 1700, BLM Wild Horses and 
Burros Management Handbook H-1700-1, and other applicable laws, 
regulations, and policy.
    (2) The proposed amendment is limited to MD WH-7 and would not 
change any other existing planning decisions in the Billings Field 
Office RMP.
    (3) The proposed amendment would only apply to lands and resources 
managed by the BLM as described in the 2015 Billings Field Office RMP; 
it would not change management direction for other agencies.
    (4) Decisions are compatible with existing plans and policies of 
adjacent local, State, Federal, and Tribal agencies, so long as the 
decisions are consistent with the purposes, policies, and programs of 
Federal law and regulations applicable to public lands.
    The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is located in the Pryor 
Mountains in southeastern Carbon County, Montana, and northern Big Horn 
County, Wyoming, and encompasses approximately 38,000 acres of land.
    In 2009, the BLM approved the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range/
Territory Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) that identified management 
objectives for the Pryor Mountain wild horses and horse range. The 2009 
HMAP managed the Pryor Mountain wild horses for a

[[Page 18389]]

phenotype animal reminiscent of a ``Colonial Spanish Mustang'' as 
described by ``Sponenberg North American Colonial Spanish Horses'' 
while balancing colors, sex ratios, and age structures.
    In 2015, the BLM approved a new RMP for the Billings Field Office. 
That RMP at MD WH-2 provides direction for the BLM to ``Maintain a wild 
horse herd that exhibits a diverse age structure, genetic diversity, 
and any characteristics unique to the Pryor horses.'' Additionally, MD 
WH-7 states that ``Within an HMAP, herd structure will be managed for 
all representations in the herd, not allowing specific colors or 
bloodlines to dominate from management manipulation.'' However, the 
2015 RMP does not define ``all representations'' in the herd, and the 
wording is ambiguous.
    In the 2015 RMP, it is evident that the intent of MD WH-7 was to 
limit the loss of genetic diversity, consistent with Goal WH-2 
(``Maintain a wild horse herd that exhibits a diverse age structure, 
genetic diversity, and any characteristics unique to the Pryor 
horses.''). However, maximizing genetic diversity at the expense of 
ecosystem sustainability is not a management goal or directive for the 
herd.
    An interpretation that every possible crossing of any given mare 
and any given stallion should leave a surviving foal (i.e., a 
``representation'' of the bloodline from that particular crossing) is 
not practical to implement for several reasons. If foals from every 
possible pairing of any stallion and any mare are interpreted to be a 
``representation,'' then that precludes removal of any animal unless it 
has full siblings. However, because individual stallions sire offspring 
with multiple mares, and individual mares may mate with multiple 
stallions, there would be an ever-increasing number of 
``representations'' in the herd. Because the population recruitment 
rate far exceeds the death rate, not removing ``representations'' 
without full siblings would result in unsustainable population growth. 
Under this scenario, Appropriate Management Level would be 
mathematically impossible to achieve.
    Other impracticalities exist as well. The BLM cannot cause all 
patrilineal or matrilineal lines to be propagated. When considering 
patrilineal lines, not all stallions get to reproduce; breeding is 
often limited to the band stallion, and some horses may forever remain 
a bachelor stallion. There are also practical matters related to the 
well-being of animals that are removed from the wild. Wild horse 
adoption programs tend to place animals into homes more readily with 
younger horses as they are more adoptable and transition more readily 
to domestic life compared to an older horse. However, when young horses 
are gathered and removed from the range, many of them will not have 
reached maturity and produced an offspring.
    The BLM proposes to amend MD WH-7 to make it consistent with RMP 
Goal WH2 to maintain genetic diversity and to align with management 
guidance in the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Handbook H-4700-1 for 
maintaining desirable genetic diversity (avoiding inbreeding 
depression). Specifically, the BLM proposes to amend the RMP to modify 
MD WH-7 as stated below:
    ``MD WH-7 (Proposed Amendment): Maintain desirable levels of 
genetic diversity, as measured by Observed Heterozygosity (Ho). 
Observed heterozygosity is a measure of how much diversity is found, on 
average, within individual animals in the Herd Management Area (HMA). 
If Ho drops below thresholds identified in the BLM Wild Horse and Burro 
Handbook H-4700-1, then BLM would take one or any combination of the 
following actions to reduce the possible risks associated with 
inbreeding depression:
    (1) Maximize the number of fertile, breeding age wild horses (6-10 
years) within the herd;
    (2) adjust the sex ratio in favor of males (but with not more than 
approximately 60 percent males); or
    (3) introduce mares or stallions from other wild horse HMAs. 
Prioritize introductions from herds with characteristics similar to the 
Pryor Mountain horses, such as the Sulfur herd in Utah, the Cerbat 
Mountain herd in Arizona, or others.''
    BLM Handbook H-4700-1 guidance notes that herds with observed 
heterozygosity values that are one standard deviation below the mean 
are considered at critical risk. Hair samples last collected from the 
Pryor Mountain herd in February 2013 indicated that values for observed 
heterozygosity were above the mean for feral horse herds at that time. 
The BLM would continue to collect genetic samples to monitor genetic 
diversity. The results of current and future genetic monitoring 
efforts, along with previous monitoring results, would indicate if loss 
of genetic diversity is a concern and if any of the management actions 
as noted in the proposed amendment would need to be taken.
    Maintaining desirable levels of genetic diversity would also assure 
a variety of colors are maintained in the Pryor Mountain horse herd. 
Pryor Mountain horses exhibit a variety of colors, with common colors 
including dun, grulla, bay, black, and roan. Less common colors that 
appear in the herd include red or apricot dun, chestnut, sorrel, 
palomino, and buckskin. Color is a phenotypic representation of 
dominant or recessive genes passed through generations. A horse that is 
a rare color may not produce offspring that are also a rare color. BLM 
is proposing to revise MD WH-7 to address genetic diversity in a manner 
that is consistent with the Wild Horse and Burro Handbook, but 
consideration of color would be addressed through MD WH-2 
(characteristics unique to the Pryors) and Selective Removal Criteria.
    Supplemental information on the proposed plan amendment is 
available on BLM's e-Planning website at the project link noted earlier 
in the ADDRESSES section. The BLM will prepare an EA to consider the 
proposed plan amendment as well as revisions to the 2009 HMAP including 
objectives for fertility control, gather criteria, and rangeland and 
riparian management (the public comment period for scoping the HMAP 
revisions is closed, and previously submitted comments regarding the 
HMAP revisions do not need to be re-submitted). The proposed plan 
amendment is limited to proposed changes to MD WH-7 that would replace 
direction to manage for ``all representations in the herd'' with 
direction to maintain desirable levels of genetic diversity to reduce 
the possible risks associated with inbreeding depression.
    You may submit comments electronically or in writing on the 
proposed amendment to the BLM as shown in the ADDRESSES section 
earlier. If you already submitted scoping comments on proposed 
revisions to the HMAP EA, including any comments related to the 
Appropriate Management Level, management objectives for the wild horse 
population, including fertility control and gather criteria, and 
management objectives for the Pryor Horse Range, during the comment 
period that ran from April 9, 2020, through May 15, 2020, you do not 
need to re-submit your comments.
    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying 
information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

[[Page 18390]]

    The BLM will work collaboratively with interested parties to 
identify the management decisions that are best suited to local, 
regional, and national needs and concerns.

(Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 43 CFR 1610.2)

Theresa M. Hanley,
Acting BLM Montana/Dakotas State Director.
[FR Doc. 2022-06680 Filed 3-29-22; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-DN-P