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Migratory Bird Hunting; Early Seasons and Bag and Possession Limits for Certain Migratory Game Birds in the Contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands

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Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.


Final rule.


This rule prescribes the hunting seasons, hours, areas, and daily bag and possession limits of mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped doves; band-tailed pigeons; rails; moorhens and gallinules; woodcock; common snipe; sandhill cranes; sea ducks; early (September) waterfowl seasons; migratory game birds in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; and some extended falconry seasons. Taking of migratory birds is prohibited unless specifically provided for by annual regulations. This rule permits taking of designated species during the 2003-04 season.


This rule is effective on September 1, 2003.

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Brian Millsap, Chief, or Ron W. Kokel, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (703) 358-1714.

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Regulations Schedule for 2003

On May 6, 2003, we published in the Federal Register (68 FR 24324) a proposal to amend 50 CFR part 20. The proposal provided a background and overview of the migratory bird hunting regulations process, and dealt with the establishment of seasons, limits, the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2002-03 duck hunting season, and other regulations for migratory game birds under §§ 20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K. On June 23, 2003, we published in the Federal Register (68 FR 37362) a second document providing supplemental proposals for early- and late-season migratory bird hunting regulations frameworks and the regulatory alternatives for the 2003-04 duck hunting season. The June 23 supplement also provided detailed information on the 2003-04 regulatory schedule and announced the Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee (SRC) meetings.

On June 18 and 19, 2003, we held open meetings with the Flyway Council Consultants at which the participants reviewed information on the current status of migratory shore and upland game birds and developed recommendations for the 2003-04 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 2003-04 regular waterfowl seasons. On July 17, 2003, we published in the Federal Register (68 FR 42546) a third document specifically dealing with the proposed frameworks for early-season regulations.

On July 30-31, 2003, we held open meetings with the Flyway Council Consultants at which the participants reviewed the status of waterfowl and developed recommendations for the 2003-04 regulations for these species. Proposed hunting regulations were discussed for late seasons. We published proposed frameworks for the 2003-04 late-season migratory bird hunting regulations on August 19, 2003, in the Federal Register (68 FR 50016). On August 27, 2003, we published a fifth document in the Federal Register 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.

The final rule described here is the sixth in the series of proposed, supplemental, and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting regulations and deals specifically with amending subpart K of 50 CFR part 20. It sets hunting seasons, hours, areas, and limits for mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped doves; band-tailed pigeons; rails; moorhens and gallinules; woodcock; common snipe; sandhill cranes; sea ducks; early (September) waterfowl seasons; mourning doves in Hawaii; migratory game birds in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; youth waterfowl hunting day; and some extended falconry 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 the Federal Register on June 16, 1988 (53 FR 22582) and our Record of Decision on August 18, 1988 (53 FR 31341). Copies are available from the address indicated under ADDRESSES. Additionally, in a proposed rule published in the April 30, 2001, Federal Register (66 FR 21298), we expressed our intent to begin the process of developing a new EIS for the migratory bird hunting program. We plan to begin the public scoping process in 2005.

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 adversely affect 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 under ADDRESSES.

Executive Order 12866

The migratory bird hunting regulations are economically significant and were reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Executive Order 12866. As such, a cost/benefit analysis was initially prepared in 1981. This analysis was subsequently revised annually from 1990-96, and then updated in 1998. We will update again in 2004. It is further discussed below under the heading Regulatory Start Printed Page 51833Flexibility Act. Results from the 1998 analysis indicate that the expected welfare benefit of the annual migratory bird hunting frameworks is on the order of $50 to $192 million. Copies of the cost/benefit analysis are available upon request from the address indicated under ADDRESSES.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

These regulations have a significant economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the economic impacts of the annual hunting regulations on small business entities in detail as part of the 1981 cost-benefit analysis discussed under Executive Order 12866. 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 and 1998 and will be updated again in 2004. 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 1998 Analysis was based on the 1996 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 between $429 million and $1.084 billion at small businesses in 2003. Copies of the Analysis are available upon request from the address indicated under ADDRESSES.

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 has an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more. However, because this rule establishes hunting seasons, we do not plan to defer the effective date required by 5 U.S.C. 801 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. We utilize the various recordkeeping and reporting requirements imposed under regulations established in 50 CFR part 20, subpart K, in the formulation of migratory game bird hunting regulations. Specifically, OMB has approved the information collection requirements of the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program and assigned clearance number 1018-0015 (expires 10/31/2004). 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 Sandhill Crane Harvest Questionnaire and assigned clearance number 1018-0023 (expires 10/31/2004). The information from this survey is used to estimate the magnitude and the geographical and temporal distribution of harvest, and the portion it constitutes of the total population.

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. 1502 et seq., that this rulemaking will not “significantly or uniquely” affect small governments, and will not produce a Federal mandate 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 it 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.

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.

Energy Effects—Executive Order 13211

On May 18, 2001, the President issued Executive Order 13211 on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and use. 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. Thus, this action is not a significant energy action and no Statement of Energy Effects is required.

Takings Implication Assessment

In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this rule, authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 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 will allow hunters to exercise otherwise unavailable privileges, and, therefore, it will reduce restrictions on the use of private and public property.

Federalism Effects

Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the Federal Government has been given responsibility over these species by the MBTA. Annually, we prescribe frameworks from which the States make selections and employ guidelines to establish special regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. We develop the frameworks 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 ultimately make season selections, thereby having an influence on their own regulations. This process preserves the ability of the States and Tribes to determine which seasons meet their individual needs. Further, any State or Tribe may be more restrictive than the Federal frameworks at any time. 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 Assessment.

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 on the regulations. 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 was a delay in the effective date Start Printed Page 51834of these regulations after this final rulemaking, the States would have insufficient time to implement their selected season dates and limits and start their seasons in a timely manner. 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 regulations will, therefore, take effect immediately upon publication. Accordingly, with each conservation agency having had an opportunity to participate in selecting the hunting seasons desired for its State or Territory on those species of migratory birds for which open seasons are now prescribed, and consideration having been given to all other relevant matters presented, certain sections of title 50, chapter I, subchapter B, part 20, subpart K, are hereby amended as set forth below.

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List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

  • Exports
  • Hunting
  • Imports
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
  • Transportation
  • Wildlife
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Dated: August 8, 2003.

Craig Manson,

Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

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For the reasons set out in the preamble, title 50, chapter I, subchapter B, Part 20, subpart K of the Code of Federal Regulations is amended as follows:

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1. The authority citation for Part 20 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 16 U.S.C. 703-712 and 16 U.S.C. 742 a-j, Pub. L. 106-108.

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[FR Doc. 03-21759 Filed 8-27-03; 8:45 am]