Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government


Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

[Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2012-0005; FF09M21200-123-FXMB1231099BPP0L2]

RIN 1018-AX97

Migratory Bird Hunting; Final Frameworks for Late-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or we) prescribes final late-season frameworks from which States may select season dates, limits, and other options for the 2012-13 migratory bird hunting seasons. These late seasons include most waterfowl seasons, the earliest of which commences on September 22, 2012. The effect of this final rule is to facilitate the States' selection of hunting seasons and to further the annual establishment of the late-season migratory bird hunting regulations.
DATES: This rule takes effect on September 20, 2012.
ADDRESSES: States should send their season selections to: Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ms MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. You may inspect comments received on the migratory bird hunting regulations during normal business hours at the Service's office in room 4107, Arlington Square Building, 4501 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA. You may obtain copies of referenced reports from the street address above, or from the Division of Migratory Bird Management's Web site at,or athttp://www.regulations.govat Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2012-0005.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron W. Kokel, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, MS MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240; (703) 358-1714.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Regulations Schedule for 2012

On April 17, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 23094) a proposal to amend 50 CFR part 20. The proposal provided a background and overview of the migratory bird hunting regulations process, and addressed the establishment of seasons, limits, and other regulations for hunting migratory game birds under §§ 20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K. Major steps in the 2012-13 regulatory cycle relating to open public meetings andFederal Registernotifications were also identified in the April 17 proposed rule. Further, we explained that all sections of subsequent documents outlining hunting frameworks and guidelines were organized under numbered headings.

On May 17, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 29516) a second document providing supplemental proposals for early- and late-season migratory bird hunting regulations. The May 17 supplement also provided detailed information on the 2012-13 regulatory schedule and announced the Service Regulations Committee (SRC) and Flyway Council meetings. On June 12, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 34931) a third document revising our previously announced dates of the June 2012 SRC meetings.

On June 19 and 20, 2012, we held open meetings with the Flyway Council Consultants where the participants reviewed information on the current status of migratory shore and upland game birds and developed recommendations for the 2012-13 regulations for these species plus regulations for migratory game birds in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, special September waterfowl seasons in designated States, special sea duck seasons in the Atlantic Flyway, and extended falconry seasons. In addition, we reviewed and discussed preliminary information on the status of waterfowl as it relates to the development and selection of the regulatory packages for the 2012-13 regular waterfowl seasons.

On July 20, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 42920) a fourth document specifically dealing with the proposed frameworks for early-season regulations. On August 30, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 53118) a final rule which contained final frameworks for early migratory bird hunting seasons from which wildlife conservation agency officials from the States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands selected early-season hunting dates, hours, areas, and limits. Subsequently, on August 31, 2012, we published a final rule in theFederal Register(77 FR 53752) amending subpart K of title 50 CFR part 20 to set hunting seasons, hours, areas, and limits for early seasons.

On July 25-26, 2012, we held open meetings with the Flyway Council Consultants, at which the participants reviewed the status of waterfowl and discussed proposed 2012-13 hunting regulations for these species. On August 17, 2012, we published in theFederal Register(77 FR 49868) the proposed frameworks for the 2012-13 late-season migratory bird hunting regulations. This document establishes final frameworks for late-season migratory bird hunting regulations for the 2012-13 season. There are no substantive changes from the August 17 proposed rule. We will publish State selections in theFederal Registeras amendments to §§ 20.101 through 20.107, and 20.109 of title 50 CFR part 20.

Population Status and Harvest

The following paragraphs provide preliminary information on the status of waterfowl and information on the status and harvest of migratory shore and upland game birds excerpted from various reports. For more detailed information on methodologies and results, you may obtain complete copies of the various reports at the address indicated underFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACTor from our Web site at

Review of Public Comments and Flyway Council Recommendations

The preliminary proposed rulemaking, which appeared in the April 17, 2012,Federal Register, opened the public comment period for migratory game bird hunting regulations. The supplemental proposed rule, which appeared in the May 17, 2012,Federal Register, discussed the regulatory alternatives for the 2012-13 duck hunting season. Late-season comments are summarized below and numbered in the order used in the April 17 and May 17Federal Registerdocuments. We have included only the numbered items pertaining to late-season issues for which we received written comments. Consequently, the issues do not follow in successive numerical or alphabetical order.

We received recommendations from all four Flyway Councils. Some recommendations supported continuation of last year's frameworks. Due to the comprehensive nature of the annual review of the frameworks performed by the Councils, support for continuation of last year's frameworks is assumed for items for which no recommendations were received. Council recommendations for changes in the frameworks are summarized below. Wherever possible, they are discussed under headings corresponding to the numbered items in the April 17 and May 17, 2012,Federal Registerdocuments.


Written Comments:An individual commenter provided several comments protesting the entire migratory bird hunting regulations process and the killing of all migratory birds.

Service Response:Our long-term objectives continue to include providing opportunities to harvest portions of certain migratory game bird populations and to limit harvests to levels compatible with each population's ability to maintain healthy, viable numbers. Having taken into account the zones of temperature and the distribution, abundance, economic value, breeding habits, and times and lines of flight of migratory birds, we believe that the hunting seasons provided for herein are compatible with the current status of migratory bird populations and long-term population goals. Additionally, we are obligated to, and do, give serious consideration to all information received as public comment. While there are problems inherent with any type of representative management of public-trust resources, we believe that the Flyway-Council system of migratory bird management has been a longstanding example of State-Federal cooperative management since its establishment in 1952. However, as always, we continue to seek new ways to streamline and improve the process.

1. Ducks

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

A. Harvest Strategy Considerations

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils and the Upper- and Lower-Region Regulations Committees of the Mississippi Flyway Council recommended the adoption of the “liberal” regulatory alternative.

Service Response:We continue to use adaptive harvest management (AHM) protocols that allow hunting regulations to vary among Flyways in a manner that recognizes each Flyway's unique breeding-ground derivation of mallards. In 2008, we described and adopted a protocol for regulatory decision-making for the newly defined stock of western mallards (73 FR 43290; July 24, 2008). For the 2012 hunting season, we continue to believe that the prescribed regulatory choice for the Pacific Flyway should be based on the status of this western mallard breeding stock, while the regulatory choice for the Mississippi and Central Flyways should depend on the status of the recently redefined mid-continent mallard stock. We also recommend that the regulatory choice for the Atlantic Flyway continue to depend on the status of eastern mallards.

For the 2012 hunting season, we are continuing to consider the same regulatory alternatives as those used last year. The nature of the “restrictive,” “moderate,” and “liberal” alternatives has remained essentially unchanged since 1997, except that extended framework dates have been offered in the “moderate” and “liberal” regulatory alternatives since 2002. Also, in 2003, we agreed to place a constraint on closed seasons in the Mississippi and Central Flyways whenever the mid-continent mallard breeding-population size (as defined prior to 2008; traditional survey area plus Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin) was ≥5.5 million.

Optimal AHM strategies for the 2012-13 hunting season were calculated using: (1) Harvest-management objectives specific to each mallard stock; (2) the 2012 regulatory alternatives; and (3) current population models and associated weights for midcontinent, western, and eastern mallards. Based on this year's survey results of 10.96 million mid-continent mallards (traditional survey area minus Alaska plus Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan), 3.89 million ponds in Prairie Canada, 983,842 western mallards (478,259 and 505,583 respectively in California-Oregon and Alaska) and 837,642 eastern mallards (strata 51—54, 56 and the northeastern United States), the prescribed regulatory choice for all four Flyways is the “liberal” alternative. Therefore, we concur with the recommendations of the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils regarding selection of the “liberal” regulatory alternative and will adopt the “liberal” regulatory alternative, as described in the May 17, 2012,Federal Register.

D. Special Seasons/Species Management i. Special Teal Seasons

Council Recommendations:The Mississippi Flyway Council recommends that if the teal harvest assessment concludes that teal populations can sustain harvests beyond the harvest incurred during regular duck seasons and the Service offers States special teal harvest opportunities outside the regular duck seasons, then Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin should be offered the same special teal harvest opportunities that are offered to other States in the Mississippi Flyway.

Service Response:We recognize the long-standing interest by production States for additional teal harvest opportunities. In 2009, the Service and Flyway Councils formed a working group to assess the harvest potential of each of the three teal species. A report from that working group is scheduled for completion in January 2013. We have previously decided not to entertain any changes to special September teal seasons and special September duck seasons until this assessment is completed (74 FR 43009; August 25, 2009). If the results of the working group analyses indicate additional harvest opportunity is warranted, we are willing to work with the Flyways to explore how that opportunity may be provided. However, we believe that substantial work will still need to be completed by the Flyways and the Service before such opportunities can be offered. Further, without the benefit of having the results of the teal assessment in hand, it is difficult at this time to determine what form additional harvest opportunity may take. We also note that any potential changes to special September teal seasons would undoubtedly require further technical evaluations beyond the working group's assessment currently underway. Foremost among such evaluations is how the issue of take of nontarget species is addressed. Because of the historical differences between northern and southern States regarding how teal harvest regulations have been provided, we expect that reaching broad-based agreement on issues such as management objectives, appropriate regulatory alternatives, and models to be used to predict the effects of the regulatory alternatives on the status of the impacted teal species will take a substantial amount of time and effort by both the Flyways and the Service. We have serious reservations whether this additional technical work can be completed in time for us to consider changes to September teal seasons in 2013. Regardless, upon completion and acceptance of the final report of the Working Group, we are willing to work with the Flyways Councils to collaboratively develop the evaluation framework.

iii. Black Ducks

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic and Mississippi Flyway Councils recommended that the Service adopt the International Black Duck AHM Strategy for implementation in 2013.

Service Response:In 2008, U.S. and Canadian waterfowl managers developed an interim harvest strategy to be employed by both countries until a formal strategy based on the principles of AHM is completed. We detailed this interim strategy in the July 24, 2008,Federal Register(73 FR 43290). The interim harvest strategy is prescriptive, in that it calls for no substantive changes in hunting regulations unless the black duck breeding population, averaged over the most recent 3 years, exceeds or falls below the long-term average breeding population by 15 percent or more. The strategy is designed to share the black duck harvest equally between the two countries; however, recognizing incomplete control of harvest through regulations, it will allow realized harvest in either country to vary between 40 and 60 percent.

Each year in November, Canada publishes its proposed migratory bird hunting regulations for the upcoming hunting season. Thus, last fall the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) used the interim strategy to establish its proposed black duck regulations for the 2012-13 season, based on the most current data available at that time: breeding population estimates for 2009, 2010, and 2011, and an assessment of parity based on harvest estimates for the 2006-10 hunting seasons. Although updates of both breeding population estimates and harvest estimates are now available, the United States will base its 2012-13 black duck regulations on the same data the CWS used, to ensure comparable application of the strategy. The long-term (1998-2007) breeding population mean estimate is 932,146, and the 2009-11, 3-year running mean estimate is 851,667, only 9 percent less than the 1998-2007 average. From 2006-10, 44 percent of the black duck harvest occurred in Canada and 56 percent in the United States; this falls within the accepted parity bounds of 40 and 60 percent. Based on these estimates, no restriction or liberalization of black duck harvest is warranted this year.

As for the Councils' recommendations that we adopt the International Black Duck AHM Strategy for implementation in 2013, we concur. The formal strategy is the result of 14 years of technical and policy decisions developed and agreed upon by both Canadian and U. S. agencies and waterfowl managers. The strategy will clarify what harvest levels each country will manage for and will reduce conflicts over country-specific regulatory policies. Further, the strategy will allow for attainment of fundamental objectives of black duck management: resource conservation, perpetuating hunting traditions, and equitable access to the black duck resource between Canada and the United States while accommodating the fundamental sources of uncertainty, partial controllability and observability, structural uncertainty, and environmental variation. The underlying model performance will be assessed annually, with a comprehensive evaluation of the entire strategy (objectives and model set) in 6 years. A copy of the strategy is available at the address indicated underFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT, or on,or from our Web site at

iv. Canvasbacks

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils recommended a full season for canvasbacks with a 1-bird daily bag limit. Season lengths would be 60 days in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, 74 days in the Central Flyway, and 107 days in the Pacific Flyway.

Service Response:Since 1994, we have followed a canvasback harvest strategy that if canvasback population status and production are sufficient to permit a harvest of one canvasback per day nationwide for the entire length of the regular duck season, while still attaining a projected spring population objective of 500,000 birds, the season on canvasbacks should be opened. A partial season would be permitted if the estimated allowable harvest was within the projected harvest for a shortened season. If neither of these conditions can be met, the harvest strategy calls for a closed season on canvasbacks nationwide. In 2008 (73 FR 43290; July 24, 2008), we announced our decision to modify the canvasback harvest strategy to incorporate the option for a 2-bird daily bag limit for canvasbacks when the predicted breeding population the subsequent year exceeds 725,000 birds.

This year's spring survey resulted in an estimate of 760,000 canvasbacks. This was 10 percent above the 2011 estimate of 692,000 canvasbacks and 33 percent above the 1955-2011 average. The estimate of ponds in Prairie Canada was 3.89 million, which was 21 percent below last year and 13 percent above the long-term average. Based on updated harvest predictions using data from recent hunting seasons, the canvasback harvest strategy predicts a 2013 canvasback population of 771,033 birds under a liberal duck season with a 1-bird daily bag limit and 711,428 with a 2-bird daily bag limit. Because the predicted 2013 population under the 1-bird daily bag limit is greater than 500,000, while the prediction under the 2-bird daily bag limit is less than 725,000, the canvasback harvest strategy stipulates a full canvasback season with a 1-bird daily bag limit for the upcoming season.

v. Pintails

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils recommended a full season for pintails, consisting of a 2-bird daily bag limit and a 60-day season in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, a 74-day season in the Central Flyway, and a 107-day season in the Pacific Flyway.

Service Response:The current derived pintail harvest strategy was adopted by the Service and Flyway Councils in 2010 (75 FR 44856; July 29, 2010). For this year, optimal regulatory strategies were calculated with: (1) An objective of maximizing long-term cumulative harvest, including a closed-season constraint of 1.75 million birds; (2) the regulatory alternatives and associated predicted harvest; and (3) current population models and their relative weights. Based on this year's survey results of 3.47 million pintails observed, a mean latitude of 54.0 degrees N, and a latitude adjusted breeding population (BPOP) of 4.14 million birds, the optimal regulatory choice for all four Flyways is the “liberal” alternative with a 2-bird daily bag limit.

vi. Scaup

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils recommended use of the “liberal” regulation package, consisting of a 60-day season with a 4-bird daily bag in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways, a 74-day season with a 6-bird daily bag limit in the Central Flyway, and an 107-day season with a 7-bird daily bag limit in the Pacific Flyway.

Service Response:In 2008, we adopted and implemented a new scaup harvest strategy (73 FR 43290 on July 24, 2008, and 73 FR 51124 on August 29, 2008) with initial “restrictive,” “moderate,” and “liberal” regulatory packages adopted for each Flyway.Further opportunity to revise these packages was afforded prior to the 2009-10 season and modifications by the Mississippi and Central Flyway Councils were endorsed by the Service in July 2009 (74 FR 36870; July 24, 2009).

The 2012 breeding population estimate for scaup is 5.24 million, up 21 percent from the 2011 estimate of 4.32 million. Total estimated scaup harvest for the 2011-12 season was 287,000 birds. Based on updated model parameter estimates, the optimal regulatory choice for scaup is the “liberal” package in all four Flyways.

xii. Other

Council Recommendations:The Central and Mississippi Flyway Councils recommended that the daily and possession bag limits for redheads during the 2012-13 duck hunting season be 3 and 6, respectively.

Service Response:While we recognize the desire to provide additional hunting opportunity for redheads, at this time we do not support the Councils' recommendations to increase the daily bag limit of redheads from 2 to 3 birds. As we indicated last year (76 FR 58682; September 21, 2011), we believe that as we have done with other species (such as canvasbacks, pintails, etc.), changes to redhead daily bag limits should only be considered with guidance from an agreed-upon harvest strategy that is supported by all four Flyway Councils and the Service. Thus, the Flyways should work collaboratively to develop a redhead harvest strategy, which would include: (1) Clearly defined and agreed-upon management objectives; (2) clearly defined regulatory alternatives; and (3) a model that can be used to predict population responses to harvest mortality. We note that if the Flyway Councils wish to implement a redhead harvest strategy for the 2013-14 season, a draft strategy must be available for review and discussion by the February 2013 SRC meeting, finalized by the Flyways Councils at their March 2013 meetings, and forwarded as a recommendation for SRC consideration at the early season SRC meeting (June 2013).

4. Canada Geese B. Regular Seasons

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic Flyway Council recommended several changes to Canada goose season frameworks. More specifically, they recommended:

1. A 78-day season in Pennsylvania's Southern James Bay Population (SJBP) Canada goose zone between the first Saturday in October and February 15, with a daily bag limit of 3 geese, and two season segments;

2. Increasing the season length in all Atlantic Population (AP) Canada goose harvest zones from 45 days to 50 days;

3. An earlier framework opening date of October 10 (from October 20) in the Lake Champlain Zone and other AP harvest zones in New England (Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut);

4. A later framework closing date of February 5 (from January 31) in all AP harvest areas;

5. Framework opening and closing dates for the regular Canada goose hunting seasons in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and West Virginia of October 1 and March 10, respectively, with up to three season segments; and

6. Modifications to the criteria for delineation and subsequent monitoring of Atlantic Flyway Resident Population (AFRP) Canada goose hunting zones for the 2012-15 hunting seasons.

The Mississippi Flyway Council developed new framework regulations to replace most of the State-specific regulations used in the past. These new framework regulations were developed as part of the Flyway's efforts to move toward a more holistic and uniform approach to Canada goose harvest management across the Flyway and are consistent with the Flyway's harvest strategies for Mississippi Valley Population (MVP), SJBP, Eastern Prairie Population (EPP), and Giant Canada geese. The resulting recommendations are based on a comprehensive review of Canada goose population status that the Flyway conducted during February 2012. In general, the recommended new frameworks allow States to select Canada goose seasons of up to 92 days with a 2-bird daily bag limit, or up to 78 days with a 3-bird daily bag limit between the Saturday nearest September 24 and January 31 with some exceptions. More specifically, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio propose to adopt the new Flyway-wide frameworks for Canada geese this year. Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have proposed exceptions to the generalized Flyway-wide framework, and these exceptions represent minor changes from last year. Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Tennessee are considered exceptions to the proposed generalized Flyway-wide framework, but do not represent a change from last year.

The Central Flyway Council recommended increasing the Canada goose daily bag limit from 3 to 5 geese in the east-tier States.

The Pacific Flyway Council recommended several changes to dark goose season frameworks. More specifically, they recommended:

1. Allowing the season to be split into 3 segments in Washington's Area 4 and Oregon's Northwest Zone;

2. Extending the framework closing date to March 10 for dark geese in Oregon's Northwest General Zone; and

3. Increasing the daily bag limit for dark geese to 6 per day in Oregon's South Coast Zone after the last Sunday in January.

Written Comments:The Central Flyway Council expressed frustration with our decision to not support their recommendation to increase the daily bag limit from 3 to 5 geese in the east-tier States. The Council stated that populations of large Canada geese in the Central Flyway are overabundant and growing at extremely high rates and that established and agreed upon management objectives have been in place since 1985, as part of the Tall Grass Prairie (TGP) population management plan. The Council believes that any future change in this population objective would certainly not change the need for, or the appropriateness of, the requested bag limit increase. Further, TGP geese have exceeded population objectives every year since 1995 and have shown consistent long-term growth since 1970. The Council states that TGP geese are now 72 percent over the stated population objective (based solely on Central Flyway counts) and are causing depredation issues in wintering States.

Service Response:We agree with the Atlantic Flyway Council's recommendation concerning changes to the frameworks for Pennsylvania's SJBP zone. The Council's proposed change is consistent with the SJBP Canada Goose Management Plan and consistent with the current Mississippi Flyway Council's proposal to modify Canada goose frameworks (including former SJBP harvest zones). We also agree with the Council's recommendations concerning changes to AP goose frameworks. The Council notes that the 3-year mean (2010-12) AP breeding pair index of 190,500 is well above the threshold for “moderate” regulations (i.e., 150,000 pairs), which are intended not to exceed a mean harvest rate of 10 percent on adult AP geese. Since 2005, the estimated adult harvest rate for AP geese in the Atlantic Flyway (including Canada) with 45-day seasons in the United States has ranged from 5 to 9 percent and averaged 6.7 percent. Although 5 additional days of hunting provides a modest increase in harvest opportunity under “moderate”regulations, the Council predicts that the 5-day increase should result in a mean adult harvest rate of less than 8 percent, still below the AP harvest strategy allowance of a mean 10 percent adult harvest rate. Further, the change is consistent with the Council's newly revised AP goose harvest strategy. Regarding the earlier framework opening dates for AP geese in New England, AP goose harvest in these areas only account for a very small percentage of the total AP goose harvest rate. The Council notes that the recommended later closing date of February 5 may allow some major AP harvest States to time hunting season closing dates later, when migrant harvest is likely to be buffered by overabundant AFRP Canada geese that have been pushed out of Canada and northern States by extensive ice and snow cover.

We also support the Atlantic Flyway Council's proposed framework date changes in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Current Canada goose frameworks for these States do not provide opportunity for goose harvest or goose control activities during the month of October (except in West Virginia). In most southern States, agricultural operations (including planting) still occur in October, and providing October hunting opportunities could help reduce resident Canada goose impacts. The Council's proposed framework closing date of March 10 is the same for other regular resident Canada goose seasons in Atlantic Flyway States and would aid in simplifying Flyway harvest regulations. Lastly, we support modification of the AFRP delineation criteria. The Council's proposed modification is based on evaluations of AFRP seasons since 2002, and as band return data continue to accumulate, adjustments to existing AFRP zones and establishment of new zones will utilize these data to better address any migrant harvest concerns.

We support the Mississippi Flyway Council recommendations to move from State-specific frameworks to Flyway-wide Canada goose frameworks in the Flyway. In the past, the Mississippi Flyway has utilized State-specific frameworks to promulgate Canada goose hunting regulations. The Council's proposed Flyway-wide general framework is intended to allow the maximum allowable number of Canada goose hunting days for any Mississippi Flyway State utilizing standard 15-day or longer early Canada goose seasons. In addition, several exceptions to the basic 92-day framework are recognized and serve to accommodate special State- and population-specific management needs. For example, States and Provinces that share the harvest of EPP Canada geese recently revised regular season frameworks consistent with their management plan, and the Council's recommendation is intended to accommodate these regulations without imposing changes.

Management of Canada geese in the Mississippi Flyway is complicated by the need to balance potentially conflicting objectives for arctic, subarctic, and temperate (resident) breeding populations. Increased abundance of temperate-breeding Canada geese has caused conflicts with people and human activities, and regulations have been gradually liberalized to increase harvest of such birds to reduce those conflicts. Long-established management plans have been adopted for arctic and subarctic populations of Canada geese in the Mississippi Flyway to ensure that such populations remain within management goals. We believe that any increased harvest resulting from the proposed Flyway-wide frameworks (as well as exceptions to those frameworks) are compatible with those population management plans and the need to address increasing populations of temperate nesting Canada geese.

We do not support the Central Flyway Council's recommendation to increase the dark goose daily bag limit in the east-tier States from 3 to 5 geese. As we stated last year (76 FR 58682; September 21, 2011) and in 2010 (75 FR 58250; September 23, 2010), while we agree that the Flyway's proposed bag limit increase would likely result in an increased harvest of resident Canada geese, there are other Canada goose populations that would also be subjected to additional harvest pressure, in particular the Tall Grass Prairie (TGP) population. We recognize the continuing problems posed by increasing numbers of resident Canada geese and that migrant populations of Canada geese in the Central Flyway are above objective levels. We also understand the Flyway's desire to provide as much hunting opportunity on these geese as possible, and we share the philosophy that hunting, not control permits, should be the primary tool used to manage populations of game birds. Thus, last year, we provided guidance on the progress that the Central and Mississippi Flyways needed to accomplish for us to consider allowing the proposed increase from 3 to 5 Canada geese during the regular goose seasons in Central Flyway east-tier States. Specifically, we stated that progress needed to be made regarding revising the TGP management plan for this shared goose resource; at a minimum agreement between the two Flyways on management objectives must be reached. Based on the discussions at the recent July 25-26, 2012, SRC meetings, it is apparent that this dialogue just began, and progress on developing agreed-upon objectives and the plan revision is limited.

The issues raised in the Central Flyway Council's subsequent comments are not different than those discussed during the recent SRC meeting. We continue to believe that management of migrant geese, particularly the TGP, should be a collaborative effort between the Mississippi and Central Flyway. Given the changes in both landscapes and numbers of Canada geese since the last version of the management plan was approved in 1985, we believe the objectives should be revisited and agreed to by both Flyways before any potential changes to bag limits. Further, despite implications from the Council that the proposed bag limit increase would help solve the problems States currently face regarding overabundant resident Canada geese, we believe such a change would do very little to resolve those issues. Therefore, at this time, we do not support the Central Flyway's request to increase the bag limit. For our future support of this effort, the two Flyways must agree on objectives of the plan, including the desired size of the TGP population. We further note that the TGP management plan must be updated in the near future to deal with contemporary Canada goose issues. As the management plan is revised, we expect that other issues identified in the last 2 years will be addressed, including how plan actions might interact with measures to reduce conflicts with resident Canada geese and progress on monitoring migrant Canada goose populations in east-tier States.

We support all of the Pacific Flyway goose recommendations. The recommendations for 3-segment seasons in Washington and Oregon, and the recommendation to extend the framework date to March 10 in Oregon's Northwest Zone, are to simplify regulations and allow consistency throughout the areas. Additionally, the Council notes that extending the framework dates may alleviate some depredation concerns between areas and in agricultural areas close to the zones' boundaries. Decreased movement of geese between the zones may occur, which could decrease depredation concerns in some areas in northwest Oregon. Increased bag limits in Oregon's South Coast Zone are targeted at Aleutian Canada geese, which arecurrently estimated at 134,708, more than twice their population objective.

C. Special Late Seasons

Council Recommendations:The Mississippi Flyway Council recommended changing Indiana's experimental late Canada goose season status to operational.

Service Response:At this time, we do not agree with the Council's recommendation to change the status of Indiana's late Canada goose season from experimental to operational. In 2007, Indiana initiated an experimental late Canada goose season in 30 counties to address increasing resident Canada goose populations. An evaluation report was submitted to the Flyway and Service in 2010. Although Statewide harvest of migrant Canada geese was within the allowed 20 percent criteria, take of migrant geese in the six-county Terre Haute region exceeded the criteria for special late Canada goose seasons. Consequently, 24 counties were granted operational status in 2010 while the six-county Terre Haute region was allowed to continue in an experimental status to allow for additional data collection on the proportion of migrant Canada geese taken there during the experimental late Canada goose season. Indiana has recently provided a report on that assessment, and we are reviewing those results in concert with our review of the appropriateness of the existing criteria that govern late Canada goose seasons. Therefore, the experimental late season will remain experimental for an additional year without any further data collection requirements.

7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese

Council Recommendations:The Central Flyway Council recommended allowing an unlimited daily bag limit for light geese.

The Pacific Flyway Council recommended that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) continue trumpeter swan monitoring efforts once every 3 years during the late winter light goose season around American Falls Reservoir.

Service Response:We are not prepared to support a regulation allowing an unlimited daily bag limit for light geese at this time. Further, we do not believe that recreational hunting will solve the problems associated with overabundant light geese, and do not want to provide the impression that further liberalizations of hunting regulations will solve these problems. Therefore, we do not support the Central Flyway Council's request to have a light goose season with no daily bag limit. Rather, we believe that technical and policy discussions should be held within appropriate forums to develop potential management options, and then make the decisions on the next steps to address issues identified in the recent Arctic Goose Joint Venture report. We believe there are existing bodies available to have these discussions.

Regarding the Pacific Flyway Council's recommendation to monitor trumpeter swans during the late winter light goose season around American Falls reservoir in Idaho, we support the continuation of monitoring efforts on a reduced basis. Since the inception of the late winter light goose hunt in 2010, Idaho has conducted annual ground surveys to evaluate the effects of light goose hunting on trumpeter swans. To date, no obvious negative trends in trumpeter swan use, distribution, or abundance have been documented. Further, Idaho has committed to continue monitoring and assessment efforts in the context of swan use of the American Falls Reservoir/Fort Hall Bottoms and the surrounding area. We note that this program was designed to identify annual changes in swan distribution and swan field-feeding during the late winter light goose hunt in order to help assess if changes in that hunt were warranted. Thus, given no compelling concerns or issues associated with trumpeter swans wintering in eastern Idaho, and no negative impacts associated with the current late winter light goose hunt, we see no reason to repeat monitoring efforts annually, but rather believe they should be conducted every 3 years (i.e., 2015, 2018, etc.).

23. Other

Council Recommendations:The Atlantic, Central, and Pacific Flyway Councils recommended that the Service increase the possession limit from 2 times to 3 times the daily bag limit for all migratory game bird species and seasons except for those species that currently have possession limits of less than 2 times the daily bag limit (e.g., rails), permit hunts (e.g., cranes and swans), and for overabundant species for which no current possession limits are assigned (e.g., light geese), beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Service Response:In the September 23, 2010,Federal Register(75 FR 58250), we stated that we were generally supportive of the Flyways' interest in increasing the possession limits for migratory game birds and appreciated the discussions to frame this important issue. At that time, we also stated that we believed there were many unanswered questions regarding how this interest can be fully articulated in a proposal that satisfies the harvest management community, while fostering the support of the law enforcement community and informing the general hunting public. Thus, we proposed the creation of a cross-agency Working Group, chaired by the Service, and comprised of staff from the Service's Migratory Bird Program, State Wildlife Agency representatives, and Federal and State law enforcement staff, to begin to frame a recommendation that fully articulates a potential change in possession limits. This effort would include a description of the current status and use of possession limits, which populations and/or species/species groups should not be included in any proposed modification of possession limits, potential law enforcement issues, and a reasonable timeline for the implementation of any such proposed changes. The recommendations from the three Councils are one such outgrowth of the efforts started in 2010, and we look forward to additional input from the Mississippi Flyway Council. We plan to fully discuss these recommendations with the Working Group and present preliminary recommendations at the February 2013 SRC meeting for further discussion. We would present any resulting proposal next spring, with proposed implementation during the 2013-14 hunting seasons.

NEPA Consideration

NEPA considerations are covered by the programmatic document “Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (FSES 88-14),” filed with the Environmental Protection Agency on June 9, 1988. We published a notice of availability in theFederal Registeron June 16, 1988 (53 FR 22582). We published our Record of Decision on August 18, 1988 (53 FR 31341). 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 address indicated under the captionFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

In a notice published in the September 8, 2005,Federal Register(70 FR 53376), we announced our intent to develop a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the migratory bird hunting program. Public scoping meetings were held in the spring of 2006, as detailed in a March 9, 2006,Federal Register(71 FR 12216). We released the draft SEIS onJuly 9, 2010 (75 FR 39577). The draft SEIS is available either by writing to the address indicated underFOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACTor by viewing our Web site at

Endangered Species Act Consideration

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; 87 Stat. 884), provides that, “The Secretary shall review other programs administered by him and utilize such programs in furtherance of the purposes of this Act” (and) shall “insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out * * * is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical] habitat. * * *.” Consequently, we conducted formal consultations to ensure that actions resulting from these regulations would not likely jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their critical habitat. Findings from these consultations are included in a biological opinion, which concluded that the regulations are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species. Additionally, these findings may have caused modification of some regulatory measures previously proposed, and the final frameworks reflect any such modifications. Our biological opinions resulting from this section 7 consultation are public documents available for public inspection at the address indicated underADDRESSES.

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

Executive Order 12866 provides that the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review all significant rules. OIRA has determined that this rule is significant because it will have an annual effect of $100 million or more on the economy.

Executive Order 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. The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and consistent with regulatory objectives. 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 2008-09 season. This analysis was based on data from the 2006 National Hunting and Fishing Survey, the most recent year for which data are available (see discussion in Regulatory Flexibility Act section below). This analysis estimated consumer surplus for three alternatives for duck hunting (estimates for other species are not quantified due to lack of data). The alternatives are (1) Issue restrictive regulations allowing fewer days than those issued during the 2007-08 season, (2) Issue moderate regulations allowing more days than those in alternative 1, and (3) Issue liberal regulations identical to the regulations in the 2007-08 season. For the 2008-09 season, we chose alternative 3, with an estimated consumer surplus across all flyways of $205-$270 million. We also chose alternative 3 for the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 seasons. For the 2012-13 season, we are again selecting alternative 3. For these reasons, we have not conducted a new economic analysis, but the 2008-09 analysis is part of the record for this rule and is available athttp://www.regulations.govat Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2012-0005.

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. 601et 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 1990-95. In 1995, the Service issued a Small Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis), which was subsequently updated in 1996, 1998, 2004, and 2008. The primary source of information about hunter expenditures for migratory game bird hunting is the National Hunting and Fishing Survey, which is conducted at 5-year intervals. The 2008 Analysis was based on the 2006 National Hunting and Fishing Survey and the U.S. Department of Commerce's County Business Patterns, from which it was estimated that migratory bird hunters would spend approximately $1.2 billion at small businesses in 2008. Copies of the Analysis are available upon request from the Division of Migratory Bird Management (seeADDRESSES) or athttp://www.regulations.govat Docket No. FWS-R9-MB-2012-0005.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

This 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 will have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. However, because this rule establishes hunting seasons, we are not deferring the effective date under the exemption contained in 5 U.S.C. 808(1).

Paperwork Reduction Act

We examined these regulations under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501et seq.). The various recordkeeping and reporting requirements imposed under regulations established in 50 CFR part 20, subpart K, are utilized in the formulation of migratory game bird hunting regulations. Specifically, OMB has approved the information collection requirements of our Migratory Bird Surveys and assigned control number 1018-0023 (expires 4/30/2014). This information is used to provide a sampling frame for voluntary national surveys to improve our harvest estimates for all migratory game birds in order to better manage these populations. OMB has also approved the information collection requirements of the Alaska Subsistence Household Survey, an associated voluntary annual household survey used to determine levels of subsistence take in Alaska, and assigned control number 1018-0124 (expires 4/30/2013). A Federal 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. 1502et seq.,that this rulemaking will 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 rule, has determined that this rule will not unduly burden the judicial system and that it meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.

Takings Implication Assessment

In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this 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 will not result in the physical occupancy of property, the physical invasion of property, or the regulatory taking of any property. In fact, this rule allows hunters to exercise otherwise unavailable privileges and, therefore, reduces restrictions on the use of private and public property.

Energy Effects—Executive Order 13211

Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. While this rule is a significant regulatory action under Executive Order 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), Executive Order 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible effects on Federally recognized Indian tribes and have determined that there are no effects on Indian trust resources. However, in the April 17Federal Register, we solicited proposals for special migratory bird hunting regulations for certain Tribes on Federal Indian reservations, off-reservation trust lands, and ceded lands for the 2012-13 migratory bird hunting season. The resulting proposals were contained in an August 16, 2012, proposed rule (77 FR 49680). By virtue of these actions, we have consulted with Tribes 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 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 Executive Order 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.

Regulations Promulgation

The rulemaking process for migratory game bird hunting must, by its nature, operate under severe time constraints. However, we intend that the public be given the greatest possible opportunity to comment. Thus, when the preliminary proposed rulemaking was published, we established what we believed were the longest periods possible for public comment. In doing this, we recognized that when the comment period closed, time would be of the essence. That is, if there were a delay in the effective date of these regulations after this final rulemaking, States would have insufficient time to select season dates and limits; to communicate those selections to us; and to establish and publicize the necessary regulations and procedures to implement their decisions. We therefore find that “good cause” exists, within the terms of 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) of the Administrative Procedure Act, and these frameworks will, therefore, take effect immediately upon publication.

Therefore, under authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (July 3, 1918), as amended (16 U.S.C. 703-711), we prescribe final frameworks setting forth the species to be hunted, the daily bag and possession limits, the shooting hours, the season lengths, the earliest opening and latest closing season dates, and hunting areas, from which State conservation agency officials will select hunting season dates and other options. Upon receipt of season selections from these officials, we will publish a final rulemaking amending 50 CFR part 20 to reflect seasons, limits, and shooting hours for the conterminous United States for the 2012-13 season.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

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

The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2012-13 hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-712 and 16 U.S.C. 742 a-j.

Dated: September 7, 2012. Rachel Jacobson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. Final Regulations Frameworks for 2012-13 Late Hunting Seasons on Certain Migratory Game Birds

Pursuant to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and delegated authorities, the Department of the Interior approved the following proposals for season lengths, shooting hours, bag and possession limits, and outside dates within which States may select seasons for hunting waterfowl and coots between the dates of September 1, 2012, and March 10, 2013. These frameworks are summarized below.


Dates: All outside dates noted below are inclusive.

Shooting and Hawking (taking by falconry) Hours: Unless otherwise specified, from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset daily.

Possession Limits: Unless otherwise specified, possession limits are twice the daily bag limit.

Permits: For some species of migratory birds, the Service authorizes the use of permits to regulate harvest or monitor their take by sport hunters, or both. In many cases (e.g., tundra swans, some sandhill crane populations), the Service determines the amount of harvest that may be taken during hunting seasons during its formal regulations-setting process, and the States then issue permits to hunters at levels predicted to result in the amount of take authorized by the Service. Thus, although issued by States, the permits would not be valid unless the Service approved such take in its regulations.

These Federally authorized, State-issued permits are issued to individuals, and only the individual whose name and address appears on the permit at the time of issuance is authorized to take migratory birds at levels specified in the permit, in accordance with provisions of both Federal and State regulations governing the hunting season. The permit must be carried by the permittee when exercising its provisions and must be presented to any law enforcement officer upon request. The permit is not transferrable or assignable to another individual, and may not be sold, bartered, traded, or otherwise provided to another person. If the permit is altered or defaced in any way, the permit becomes invalid.

Flyways and Management Units Waterfowl Flyways

Atlantic Flyway—includes Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Mississippi Flyway—includes Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Central Flyway—includes Colorado (east of the Continental Divide), Kansas, Montana (Counties of Blaine, Carbon, Fergus, Judith Basin, Stillwater, Sweetgrass, Wheatland, and all counties east thereof), Nebraska, New Mexico (east of the Continental Divide except the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming (east of the Continental Divide).

Pacific Flyway—includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and those portions of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming not included in the Central Flyway.

Management Units

High Plains Mallard Management Unit—roughly defined as that portion of the Central Flyway that lies west of the 100th meridian.


For the purpose of hunting regulations listed below, the collective terms “dark” and “light” geese include the following species:

Dark geese:Canada geese, white-fronted geese, brant (except in California, Oregon, Washington, and the Atlantic Flyway), and all other goose species except light geese.

Light geese:Snow (including blue) geese and Ross's geese.

Area, Zone, and Unit Descriptions: Geographic descriptions related to late-season regulations are contained in a later portion of this document.

Area-Specific Provisions: Frameworks for open seasons, season lengths, bag and possession limits, and other special provisions are listed below by Flyway.

Waterfowl Seasons in the Atlantic Flyway

In the Atlantic Flyway States of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, where Sunday hunting is prohibited Statewide by State law, all Sundays are closed to all take of migratory waterfowl (including mergansers and coots).

Special Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days

Outside Dates: States may select 2 days per duck-hunting zone, designated as “Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days,” in addition to their regular duck seasons. The days must be held outside any regular duck season on a weekend, holidays, or other non-school days when youth hunters would have the maximum opportunity to participate. The days may be held up to 14 days before or after any regular duck-season frameworks or within any split of a regular duck season, or within any other open season on migratory birds.

Daily Bag Limits: The daily bag limits may include ducks, geese, tundra swans, mergansers, coots, moorhens, and gallinules and would be the same as those allowed in the regular season. Flyway species and area restrictions would remain in effect.

Shooting Hours: One-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Participation Restrictions: Youth hunters must be 15 years of age or younger. In addition, an adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter into the field. This adult may not duck hunt but may participate in other seasons that are open on the special youth day. Tundra swans may only be taken by participants possessing applicable tundra swan permits.

Atlantic Flyway Ducks, Mergansers, and Coots

Outside Dates: Between the Saturday nearest September 24 (September 22) and the last Sunday in January (January 27).

Hunting Seasons and Duck Limits: 60 days. The daily bag limit is 6 ducks, including no more than 4 mallards (2 hens), 1 black duck, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 4 scaup, 1 canvasback, and 4 scoters.

Closures: The season on harlequin ducks is closed.

Sea Ducks: Within the special sea duck areas, during the regular duck season in the Atlantic Flyway, States may choose to allow the above sea duck limits in addition to the limits applying to other ducks during the regular duck season. In all other areas, sea ducks may be taken only during the regular open season for ducks and are part of the regular duck season daily bag (not to exceed 4 scoters) and possession limits.

Merganser Limits: The daily bag limit of mergansers is 5, only 2 of which may be hooded mergansers. In States that include mergansers in the duck bag limit, the daily limit is the same as the duck bag limit, only two of which may be hooded mergansers.

Coot Limits: The daily bag limit is 15 coots.

Lake Champlain Zone, New York: The waterfowl seasons, limits, and shooting hours should be the same as those selected for the Lake Champlain Zone of Vermont.

Connecticut River Zone, Vermont: The waterfowl seasons, limits, and shooting hours should be the same as those selected for the Inland Zone of New Hampshire.

Zoning and Split Seasons: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolin