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Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2014-15 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals and Requests for 2016 Spring and Summer Migratory Bird Subsistence Harvest Proposals in Alaska

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Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.


Proposed rule; availability of supplemental information.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter the Service or we) proposes to establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory game birds for the 2014-15 hunting season. We annually prescribe outside limits (frameworks) within which States may select hunting seasons. This proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, describes the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2014-15 duck hunting seasons, requests proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands, and requests proposals for the 2016 spring and summer migratory bird subsistence season in Alaska. Migratory game bird hunting seasons provide opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid Federal, State, and tribal governments in the management of migratory game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory game bird population status and habitat conditions.


You must submit comments on the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2014-15 duck hunting seasons on or before June 27, 2014. Following subsequent Federal Register notices, you will be given an opportunity to submit comments for proposed early-season frameworks by July 29, 2014, and for proposed late-season frameworks and subsistence migratory bird seasons in Alaska by August 29, 2014. Tribes must submit proposals and related comments on or before June 5, 2014. Proposals from the Co-management Council for the 2016 spring and summer migratory bird subsistence harvest season must be submitted to the Flyway Councils and the Service on or before June 13, 2014.


You may submit comments on the proposals by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2014-0017.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-HQ-MB-2014-0017; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We will not accept emailed or faxed comments. We will post all comments on This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).

Send your proposals for the 2016 spring and summer migratory bird subsistence season in Alaska to the Executive Director of the Co-management Council, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503; or fax to (907) 786-3306; or email to

Start Further Info


Ron W. Kokel, at: Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, MS MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240; (703) 358-1714. For information on the migratory bird subsistence season in Alaska, contact Donna Dewhurst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E. Tudor Road, Mail Stop 201, Anchorage, AK 99503; (907) 786-3499.

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Background and Overview

Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to determine when “hunting, taking, capture, killing, possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or export of any * * * bird, or any part, nest, or egg” of migratory game birds can take place, and to adopt regulations for this purpose. These regulations are written after giving due regard to “the zones of temperature and to the distribution, abundance, economic value, breeding habits, and times and lines of migratory flight of such birds” and are updated annually (16 U.S.C. 704(a)). This responsibility has been delegated to the Service as the lead Federal agency for managing and conserving migratory birds in the United States. However, migratory game bird management is a cooperative effort of State, Tribal, and Federal governments.

The Service develops migratory game bird hunting regulations by establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. Acknowledging regional differences in hunting conditions, the Service has administratively divided the Nation into four Flyways for the primary purpose of managing migratory game birds. Each Flyway (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) has a Flyway Council, a formal organization generally composed of one member from each State and Province in that Flyway. The Flyway Councils, established through the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA), also assist in researching and providing migratory game bird management information for Federal, State, and Provincial governments, as well as private conservation agencies and the general public.

The process for adopting migratory game bird hunting regulations, located at 50 CFR part 20, is constrained by three primary factors. Legal and administrative considerations dictate how long the rulemaking process will last. Most importantly, however, the biological cycle of migratory game birds controls the timing of data-gathering activities and thus the dates on which these results are available for consideration and deliberation.

The process includes two separate regulations-development schedules, based on early and late hunting season regulations. Early hunting seasons pertain to all migratory game bird species in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands; migratory game birds other than waterfowl (i.e., dove, woodcock, etc.); and special early waterfowl seasons, such as teal or resident Canada geese. Early hunting seasons generally begin before October 1. Late hunting seasons generally start on or after October 1 and include most waterfowl seasons not already established.

There are basically no differences in the processes for establishing either early or late hunting seasons. For each cycle, Service biologists gather, analyze, and interpret biological survey data and provide this information to all those involved in the process through a series of published status reports and presentations to Flyway Councils and other interested parties. Because the Service is required to take abundance of migratory game birds and other factors into consideration, the Service Start Printed Page 24513undertakes a number of surveys throughout the year in conjunction with Service Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and Provincial wildlife management agencies. To determine the appropriate frameworks for each species, we consider factors such as population size and trend, geographical distribution, annual breeding effort, the condition of breeding and wintering habitat, the number of hunters, and the anticipated harvest.

After frameworks are established for season lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting, States may select season dates, bag limits, and other regulatory options for the hunting seasons. States may always be more conservative in their selections than the Federal frameworks but never more liberal.

Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons

This document announces our intent to establish open hunting seasons and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated groups or species of migratory game birds for 2014-15 in the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, under §§ 20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K of 50 CFR part 20.

For the 2014-15 migratory game bird hunting season, we will propose regulations for certain designated members of the avian families Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and pigeons); Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens, and gallinules); and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these proposals under Proposed 2014-15 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) in this document. We published definitions of waterfowl flyways and mourning dove management units, and a description of the data used in and the factors affecting the regulatory process, in the March 14, 1990, Federal Register (55 FR 9618).

Regulatory Schedule for 2014-15

This document is the first in a series of proposed, supplemental, and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting regulations. We will publish additional supplemental proposals for public comment in the Federal Register as population, habitat, harvest, and other information become available. Because of the late dates when certain portions of these data become available, we anticipate abbreviated comment periods on some proposals. Special circumstances limit the amount of time we can allow for public comment on these regulations.

Specifically, two considerations compress the time for the rulemaking process: the need, on one hand, to establish final rules early enough in the summer to allow resource agencies to select and publish season dates and bag limits before the beginning of hunting seasons and, on the other hand, the lack of current status data on most migratory game birds until later in the summer. Because the regulatory process is strongly influenced by the times when information is available for consideration, we divide the regulatory process into two segments: early seasons and late seasons (further described and discussed above in the Background and Overview section).

Major steps in the 2014-15 regulatory cycle relating to open public meetings and Federal Register notifications are illustrated in the diagram at the end of this proposed rule. All publication dates of Federal Register documents are target dates.

All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining hunting frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered headings. These headings are:

1. Ducks

A. General Harvest Strategy

B. Regulatory Alternatives

C. Zones and Split Seasons

D. Special Seasons/Species Management

i. September Teal Seasons

ii. September Teal/Wood Duck Seasons

iii. Black Ducks

iv. Canvasbacks

v. Pintails

vi. Scaup

vii. Mottled Ducks

viii. Wood Ducks

ix. Youth Hunt

x. Mallard Management Units

xi. Other

2. Sea Ducks

3. Mergansers

4. Canada Geese

A. Special Seasons

B. Regular Seasons

C. Special Late Seasons

5. White-Fronted Geese

6. Brant

7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese

8. Swans

9. Sandhill Cranes

10. Coots

11. Moorhens and Gallinules

12. Rails

13. Snipe

14. Woodcock

15. Band-Tailed Pigeons

16. Mourning Doves

17. White-Winged and White-Tipped Doves

18. Alaska

19. Hawaii

20. Puerto Rico

21. Virgin Islands

22. Falconry

23. Other

Later sections of this and subsequent documents will refer only to numbered items requiring your attention. Therefore, it is important to note that we will omit those items requiring no attention, and remaining numbered items will be discontinuous and appear incomplete.

We will publish final regulatory alternatives for the 2014-15 duck hunting seasons in mid-July. We will publish proposed early season frameworks in mid-July and late season frameworks in mid-August. We will publish final regulatory frameworks for early seasons on or about August 15, 2014, and those for late seasons on or about September 19, 2014.

Request for 2016 Spring and Summer Migratory Bird Subsistence Harvest Proposals in Alaska


The 1916 Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) established a closed season for the taking of migratory birds between March 10 and September 1. Residents of northern Alaska and Canada traditionally harvested migratory birds for nutritional purposes during the spring and summer months. The 1916 Convention and the subsequent 1936 Mexico Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals provide for the legal subsistence harvest of migratory birds and their eggs in Alaska and Canada during the closed season by indigenous inhabitants.

On August 16, 2002, we published in the Federal Register (67 FR 53511) a final rule that established procedures for incorporating subsistence management into the continental migratory bird management program. These regulations, developed under a new co-management process involving the Service, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Alaska Native representatives, established an annual procedure to develop harvest guidelines for implementation of a spring and summer migratory bird subsistence harvest. Eligibility and inclusion requirements necessary to participate in the spring and summer migratory bird subsistence season in Alaska are outlined in 50 CFR part 92.

This proposed rule calls for proposals for regulations that will expire on August 31, 2016, for the spring and summer subsistence harvest of migratory birds in Alaska. Each year, seasons will open on or after March 11 and close before September 1.Start Printed Page 24514

Alaska Spring and Summer Subsistence Harvest Proposal Procedures

We will publish details of the Alaska spring and summer subsistence harvest proposals in later Federal Register documents under 50 CFR part 92. The general relationship to the process for developing national hunting regulations for migratory game birds is as follows:

(a) Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council. The public may submit proposals to the Co-management Council during the period of November 1-December 15, 2014, to be acted upon for the 2016 migratory bird subsistence harvest season. Proposals should be submitted to the Executive Director of the Co-management Council, listed above under the caption ADDRESSES.

(b) Flyway Councils.

(1) The Co-management Council will submit proposed 2016 regulations to all Flyway Councils for review and comment. The Council's recommendations must be submitted before the Service Regulations Committee's last regular meeting of the calendar year in order to be approved for spring and summer harvest beginning April 2 of the following calendar year.

(2) Alaska Native representatives may be appointed by the Co-management Council to attend meetings of one or more of the four Flyway Councils to discuss recommended regulations or other proposed management actions.

(c) Service Regulations Committee. The Co-management Council will submit proposed annual regulations to the Service Regulations Committee (SRC) for their review and recommendation to the Service Director. Following the Service Director's review and recommendation, the proposals will be forwarded to the Department of the Interior for approval. Proposed annual regulations will then be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment, similar to the annual migratory game bird hunting regulations. Final spring and summer regulations for Alaska will be published in the Federal Register in the preceding winter after review and consideration of any public comments received.

Because of the time required for review by us and the public, proposals from the Co-management Council for the 2016 spring and summer migratory bird subsistence harvest season must be submitted to the Flyway Councils and the Service by June 15, 2015, for Council comments and Service action at the late-season SRC meeting.

Review of Public Comments

This proposed rulemaking contains the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2014-15 duck hunting seasons. This proposed rulemaking also describes other recommended changes or specific preliminary proposals that vary from the 2013-14 final frameworks (see August 23, 2013, Federal Register (78 FR 52658) for early seasons and September 20, 2013, Federal Register (78 FR 58124) for late seasons) and issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or tribes. We will publish responses to all proposals and written comments when we develop final frameworks for the 2014-15 season. We seek additional information and comments on this proposed rule.

Consolidation of Notices

For administrative purposes, this document consolidates the notice of intent to establish open migratory game bird hunting seasons, the request for tribal proposals, and the request for Alaska migratory bird subsistence seasons with the preliminary proposals for the annual hunting regulations-development process. We will publish the remaining proposed and final rulemaking documents separately. For inquiries on tribal guidelines and proposals, tribes should contact the following personnel:

Region 1 (Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands)—Nanette Seto, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232-4181; (503) 231-6164.

Region 2 (Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas)—Greg Hughes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103; (505) 248-7885.

Region 3 (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin)—Dave Scott, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Blvd. West, Suite 990, Bloomington, MN 55437-1458; (612) 713-5101.

Region 4 (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, South Carolina, and Tennessee)—E. J. Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Room 324, Atlanta, GA 30345; (404) 679-4000.

Region 5 (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia)—Chris Dwyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035-9589; (413) 253-8576.

Region 6 (Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming)—Casey Stemler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Building, Denver, CO 80225; (303) 236-8145.

Region 7 (Alaska)—Pete Probasco, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503; (907) 786-3423.

Region 8 (California and Nevada)—Marie Strassburger, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825-1846; (916) 414-6727.

Requests for Tribal Proposals


Beginning with the 1985-86 hunting season, we have employed guidelines described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 23467) to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. We developed these guidelines in response to tribal requests for our recognition of their reserved hunting rights, and for some tribes, recognition of their authority to regulate hunting by both tribal and nontribal members throughout their reservations. The guidelines include possibilities for:

(1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and nontribal members, with hunting by nontribal members on some reservations to take place within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected by the surrounding State(s);

(2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual Federal frameworks for season dates and length, and for daily bag and possession limits; and

(3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added flexibility in daily bag and possession limits.

In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines must be consistent with the annual March 10 to September 1 closed season mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds (Convention). The guidelines are applicable to those tribes that have reserved hunting rights on Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. They also may be applied to the establishment of migratory game bird hunting regulations for nontribal members on all lands within the exterior boundaries of reservations where tribes have full wildlife management authority over such hunting, or where the tribes and affected States otherwise have reached Start Printed Page 24515agreement over hunting by nontribal members on non-Indian lands.

Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory game bird hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our approval. The question of jurisdiction is more complex on reservations that include lands owned by non-Indians, especially when the surrounding States have established or intend to establish regulations governing migratory bird hunting by non-Indians on these lands. In such cases, we encourage the tribes and States to reach agreement on regulations that would apply throughout the reservations. When appropriate, we will consult with a tribe and State with the aim of facilitating an accord. We also will consult jointly with tribal and State officials in the affected States where tribes may wish to establish special hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded lands. It is incumbent upon the tribe and/or the State to request consultation as a result of the proposal being published in the Federal Register. We will not presume to make a determination, without being advised by either a tribe or a State, that any issue is or is not worthy of formal consultation.

One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of tribal members' harvest of migratory game birds on reservations where such harvest is a customary practice. We do not oppose this harvest, provided it does not take place during the closed season required by the Convention, and it is not so large as to adversely affect the status of the migratory game bird resource. Since the inception of these guidelines, we have reached annual agreement with tribes for migratory game bird hunting by tribal members on their lands or on lands where they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to consult with tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting regulations for on-reservation hunting by tribal members.

Tribes should not view the guidelines as inflexible. We believe that they provide appropriate opportunity to accommodate the reserved hunting rights and management authority of Indian tribes while also ensuring that the migratory game bird resource receives necessary protection. The conservation of this important international resource is paramount. Use of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes to observe the hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which the reservation is located.

Details Needed in Tribal Proposals

Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting regulations for the 2014-15 migratory game bird hunting season should submit a proposal that includes:

(1) The requested migratory game bird hunting season dates and other details regarding the proposed regulations;

(2) Harvest anticipated under the proposed regulations; and

(3) Tribal capabilities to enforce migratory game bird hunting regulations.

For those situations where it could be shown that failure to limit Tribal harvest could seriously impact the migratory game bird resource, we also request information on the methods employed to monitor harvest and any potential steps taken to limit level of harvest.

A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the migratory game bird season for nontribal members should specify this request in its proposal, rather than request a date that might not be within the final Federal frameworks. Similarly, unless a tribe wishes to set more restrictive regulations than Federal regulations will permit for nontribal members, the proposal should request the same daily bag and possession limits and season length for migratory game birds that Federal regulations are likely to permit the States in the Flyway in which the reservation is located.

Tribal Proposal Procedures

We will publish details of tribal proposals for public review in later Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for review by us and the public, Indian tribes that desire special migratory game bird hunting regulations for the 2014-15 hunting season should submit their proposals as soon as possible, but no later than June 5, 2014.

Tribes should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and proposals to the appropriate Service Regional Office listed above under the caption Consolidation of Notices. Tribes that request special migratory game bird hunting regulations for tribal members on ceded lands should send a courtesy copy of the proposal to officials in the affected State(s).

Public Comments

The Department of the Interior's policy is, whenever practicable, to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting regulations, we will take into consideration all comments we receive. Such comments, and any additional information we receive, may lead to final regulations that differ from these proposals.

You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We will not accept comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed in the ADDRESSES section. Finally, we will not consider hand-delivered comments that we do not receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the date specified in the DATES section.

We will post all comments in their entirety—including your personal identifying information—on 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.

Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management, Room 4107, 4501 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203.

For each series of proposed rulemakings, we will establish specific comment periods. We will consider, but may not respond in detail to, each comment. As in the past, we will summarize all comments we receive during the comment period and respond to them after the closing date in any final rules.

NEPA Consideration

The programmatic document, “Second Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (EIS 20130139),” filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 24, 2013, addresses NEPA compliance by the Service for issuance of the annual framework regulations for hunting of migratory game bird species. We Start Printed Page 24516published a notice of availability in the Federal Register on May 31, 2013 (78 FR 32686), and our Record of Decision on July 26, 2013 (78 FR 45376). We also address NEPA compliance for waterfowl hunting frameworks through the annual preparation of separate environmental assessments, the most recent being “Duck Hunting Regulations for 2013-14,” with its corresponding August 19, 2013, finding of no significant impact. In addition, an August 1985 environmental assessment entitled “Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations on Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands” is available from the address indicated under the caption FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

Before issuance of the 2014-15 migratory game bird hunting regulations, we will comply with provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; hereinafter the Act), to ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any species designated as endangered or threatened or modify or destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with conservation programs for those species. Consultations under section 7 of the Act may cause us to change proposals in this and future supplemental proposed rulemaking documents.

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

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

E.O. 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while calling for improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 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 2013-14 season. This analysis was based on data from the 2011 National Hunting and Fishing Survey, the most recent year for which data are available (see discussion in Regulatory Flexibility Act section below). We will use this analysis again for the 2014-15 season. 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 2012-13 season, (2) issue moderate regulations allowing more days than those in alternative 1, and (3) issue liberal regulations identical to the regulations in the 2012-13 season. For the 2013-14 season, we chose Alternative 3, with an estimated consumer surplus across all flyways of $317.8-$416.8 million. We also chose alternative 3 for the 2009-10, the 2010-11, the 2011-12, and the 2012-13 seasons. The 2013-14 analysis is part of the record for this rule and is available at at Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2014-0017.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The annual migratory bird hunting regulations have a significant economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the economic impacts of the annual hunting regulations on small business entities in detail as part of the 1981 cost-benefit analysis. This analysis was revised annually from 1990-95. In 1995, the Service issued a Small Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis), which was subsequently updated in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2008, and 2013. 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 2013 Analysis was based on the 2011 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 $1.5 billion at small businesses in 2013. Copies of the Analysis are available upon request from the Division of Migratory Bird Management (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or from our Web site at​migratorybirds/​NewReportsPublications/​SpecialTopics/​SpecialTopics.html#HuntingRegs or at at Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2014-0017.

Clarity of the Rule

We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This means that each rule we publish must:

(a) Be logically organized;

(b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;

(c) Use clear language rather than jargon;

(d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and

(e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.

If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

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

Paperwork Reduction Act

This proposed rule does not contain any new information collection that requires approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). We may not conduct or sponsor and you are not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. OMB has reviewed and approved the information collection requirements associated with migratory bird surveys and assigned the following OMB control numbers:

  • 1018-0010—Mourning Dove Call Count Survey (expires 4/30/2015).
  • 1018-0019—North American Woodcock Singing Ground Survey (expires 4/30/2015).
  • 1018-0023—Migratory Bird Surveys (expires 4/30/2014). Includes Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys, Sandhill Crane Survey, and Parts Collection Survey.Start Printed Page 24517
  • 1018-0124—Alaska Migratory Bird Subsistence Harvest Household Survey (expires 6/30/2016).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

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

Civil Justice Reform—Executive Order 12988

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

Takings Implication Assessment

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

Energy Effects—Executive Order 13211

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

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, “Government-to-Government Relations With Native American Tribal Governments” (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have evaluated possible effects on Federally-recognized Indian tribes and have determined that there are no effects on Indian trust resources. However, in this proposed rule, we solicit proposals for special migratory bird hunting regulations for certain Tribes on Federal Indian reservations, off-reservation trust lands, and ceded lands for the 2014-15 migratory bird hunting season. The resulting proposals will be contained in a separate proposed rule. 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 E.O. 13132, these regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism summary impact statement.

Start List of Subjects

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

  • Exports
  • Hunting
  • Imports
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
  • Transportation
  • Wildlife
End List of Subjects Start Authority

Authority: The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2014-15 hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-711, 16 U.S.C. 712, and 16 U.S.C. 742 a-j.

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Dated: April 16, 2014.

Michael J. Bean,

Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

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Proposed 2014-15 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary)

Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway Councils, we may defer specific regulatory proposals. No changes from the final 2013-14 frameworks established on August 23 and September 20, 2013 (78 FR 52658 and 78 FR 58124) are being proposed at this time. Other issues requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or tribes are contained below:

1. Ducks

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

A. General Harvest Strategy

We propose to continue using adaptive harvest management (AHM) to help determine appropriate duck-hunting regulations for the 2014-15 season. AHM permits sound resource decisions in the face of uncertain regulatory impacts and provides a mechanism for reducing that uncertainty over time. We use AHM to evaluate four alternative regulatory levels for duck hunting based on the population status of mallards. (We enact special hunting restrictions for species of special concern, such as canvasbacks, scaup, and pintails).

Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways

The prescribed regulatory alternative for the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi Flyways is based on the status of mallards that contributes primarily to each Flyway. In the Pacific Flyway, we set hunting regulations based on the status and dynamics of western mallards. Western mallards are those breeding in Alaska and the northern Yukon Territory (as based on Federal surveys in strata 1-12), and in California and Oregon (as based on State-conducted surveys). In the Central and Mississippi Flyways, we set hunting regulations based on the status and dynamics of mid-continent mallards. Mid-continent mallards are those breeding in central North America (Federal survey strata 13-18, 20-50, and 75-77, and State surveys in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan).

For the 2014-15 season, we recommend continuing to use independent optimization to determine the optimal regulatory choice for each mallard stock. This means that we would develop regulations for mid-continent mallards and western mallards independently, based upon the breeding stock that contributes primarily to each Flyway. We detailed implementation of this new AHM decision framework in the July 24, 2008, Federal Register (73 FR 43290).Start Printed Page 24518

Atlantic Flyway

The prescribed regulatory alternative for the Atlantic Flyway is determined annually based on the population status of mallards breeding in eastern North America (Federal survey strata 51-54 and 56, and State surveys in New England and the mid-Atlantic region). In 2012, we proposed and subsequently implemented several changes related to the population models used in the eastern mallard AHM protocol (77 FR 42920; July 20, 2012). We propose continuation of the AHM process for the 2014-15 season using the revised model set to inform eastern mallard harvest regulations until a fully revised AHM protocol is finalized. Further details on the revised models and results of simulations of this interim harvest policy are available on our Web site at​migratorybirds, or at

Final 2014-15 AHM Protocol

We will detail the final AHM protocol for the 2014-15 season in the early-season proposed rule, which we will publish in mid-July (see 2014 Schedule of Regulations Meetings and Federal Register Publications at the end of this proposed rule for further information). We will propose a specific regulatory alternative for each of the Flyways during the 2014-15 season after survey information becomes available in late summer. More information on AHM is located at​migratorybirds/​CurrentBirdIssues/​Management/​AHM/​AHM-intro.htm.

B. Regulatory Alternatives

The basic structure of the current regulatory alternatives for AHM was adopted in 1997. In 2002, based upon recommendations from the Flyway Councils, we extended framework dates in the “moderate” and “liberal” regulatory alternatives by changing the opening date from the Saturday nearest October 1 to the Saturday nearest September 24, and by changing the closing date from the Sunday nearest January 20 to the last Sunday in January. These extended dates were made available with no associated penalty in season length or bag limits. At that time we stated our desire to keep these changes in place for 3 years to allow for a reasonable opportunity to monitor the impacts of framework-date extensions on harvest distribution and rates of harvest before considering any subsequent use (67 FR 12501; March 19, 2002).

For 2014-15, we are proposing to maintain the same regulatory alternatives that were in effect last year (see accompanying table for specifics of the proposed regulatory alternatives). Alternatives are specified for each Flyway and are designated as “RES” for the restrictive, “MOD” for the moderate, and “LIB” for the liberal alternative. We will announce final regulatory alternatives in mid-July. We will accept public comments until June 27, 2014, and you should send your comments to an address listed under the caption ADDRESSES.

D. Special Seasons/Species Management

i. September Teal Seasons

We realize and appreciate the long-standing interest by the Flyway Councils to pursue additional teal harvest opportunity. With this interest in mind, in 2009, the Flyways and Service began to assess the collective results of all teal harvest, including harvest during special September seasons. The Teal Harvest Potential Working Group conducted this assessment work, which included a thorough assessment of the harvest potential for both blue-winged and green-winged teal, as well as an assessment of the impacts of current special September seasons on these two species. Cinnamon teal were subsequently included in this assessment.

In the April 9, 2013, Federal Register (78 FR 21200), we stated that the final report of the Teal Harvest Potential Working Group indicated that additional opportunity could be provided for blue-winged teal and green-winged teal. Therefore, last year, we supported recommendations from the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central Flyway Councils to increase the daily bag limit from 4 to 6 teal in the aggregate during the special September teal season (78 FR 52658; August 23, 2013). However, we also stated that we did not support additional changes to the structure of the September teal season until specific management objectives for teal have been articulated and a comprehensive, cross-flyway approach to developing and evaluating other potential avenues by which additional teal harvest opportunity can be provided has been completed. Further, we recognized that this comprehensive approach could potentially include the addition of new hunting seasons (e.g., September teal seasons in northern States), as well as expanded hunting opportunities (e.g., season lengths, bag limits) in States with existing teal seasons. In order to assess the overall effects of these potential changes, we reiterated the need for an evaluation plan that includes specific objectives and is tailored to appropriately address concerns about potential impacts resulting from the type of opportunity offered. Lastly, we noted that detailed guidance for conducting special season evaluations is provided in Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) 88 (Controlled Use of Special Regulations, pp. 82-83), and reaffirmed in SEIS 2013 (Special Regulations, pp. 239-241).

At that time, we recognized that additional technical and coordination work would need to be accomplished to complete this task, and as such, a small technical group comprised of members from the Flyway Councils and Service should be convened. Further, in the interest of guiding State and Federal workloads and facilitating a timely process for providing additional teal harvest opportunity, we provided the Flyway Councils with initial considerations. In summary, we stated that any proposal to increase teal harvest, in order to be consistent with the intent of special regulations, should direct harvest primarily at blue-winged teal, and further that if Flyway Councils wish to pursue past regulatory approaches such as bonus teal, special September duck seasons, and Special September teal/wood duck seasons to provide additional teal harvest opportunity, we requested that they provide compelling information as to why such policies and approaches should be reinstated (i.e., bonus teal) or expanded/modified (i.e., September duck seasons or September teal/wood duck seasons). A more detailed discussion of this guidance and considerations is contained in the August 23, 2013, Federal Register (78 FR 52658).

Progress on such work was discussed at the February 2014 SRC meeting. During that meeting, the SRC provided further general guidance on preferred approaches to providing additional teal harvest opportunity. The SRC indicated they were willing to consider proposals to conduct experimental September teal seasons in production States if fully evaluated for impacts to teal and non-target species. Further, the SRC indicated a willingness to provide technical assistance to Flyway Councils to develop an evaluation plan to assess the impact to teal as well as non-target species. However, the SRC indicated they likely would not consider proposals to reinstate bonus teal, expand September duck seasons, or modify September teal/wood duck seasons. The SRC reiterated that they prefer a consistent approach toward providing additional teal opportunities Start Printed Page 24519in northern States, and instead support exploring September teal seasons in those States. While the SRC realizes that there are inherent problems with such an approach, they believe that a consistent approach across Flyways provides the best opportunity for an adequate evaluation of impacts to both teal and non-target species. Such an evaluation is necessary for any revision of the teal harvest strategy in the future and for meeting the Service's statutory responsibilities for the long-term conservation of the resource. The SRC also was concerned that reinstatement of bonus teal regulations could result in requests extending bonus bag limits to other species/stocks that are above objective levels and that potential changes to the regular season structure could become more difficult to implement if bonus bag limits were reinstated.

We look forward to receiving the Flyway Councils' recommendations and discussing the issues further at the June 2014 meeting.

15. Band-Tailed Pigeons

The Interior population of band-tailed pigeons north of Mexico occurs primarily in the States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Last year, the Pacific Flyway Council recommended reducing the daily bag limit for Interior population of band-tailed pigeons from 5 birds to 2 (season length was unchanged at about 30 days), and the Central Flyway Council recommended no change. The Pacific Flyway Council also expressed concern about the status of the population and what an appropriate framework may be, and expressed concern about the inequity between frameworks between the Pacific Coast and Interior populations given similar population trajectories.

While we did not change the federal frameworks, we did reiterate our long-standing practice of giving considerable deference to harvest strategies developed in cooperative Flyway management plans. We further stated that a harvest strategy does not exist for the Interior Population of band-tailed pigeons even though the development of one was identified as a high priority when the management plan was adopted in 2001. Thus, we recommended that the two Flyway Councils discuss this issue and advise us of the results of these deliberations at our June 2014 regulatory meeting. It is our desire to see adoption of a mutually acceptable harvest strategy for this population as soon as possible.

We also note that both Arizona and Utah opted for more restrictive regulations last year than the Federal frameworks allow. While we recognize the pro-active nature of these voluntary State restrictions in part of the species' range, the actions do not fully address population-wide concerns expressed by the Pacific Flyway Council. We look forward to hearing from the Flyway Councils and discussing the issue further at the June 2014 meeting.

16. Mourning Doves

In 2003, all four Flyway Councils approved the Mourning Dove National Strategic Harvest Plan (Plan). The Plan represented a new, more informed means of decision-making for dove harvest management besides relying solely on traditional roadside counts of mourning doves as indicators of population trend. However, recognizing that a more comprehensive, national approach would take time to develop, we requested the development of interim harvest strategies, by management unit, until the elements of the Plan could be fully implemented. In 2004, each management unit submitted its respective strategy, but the strategies used different datasets and different approaches or methods. After initial submittal and review in 2006, we requested that the strategies be revised, using similar, existing datasets among the management units along with similar decision-making criteria. In 2008, we accepted and endorsed the interim mourning dove harvest strategies for the Central, Eastern, and Western Management Units (73 FR 50678; August 27, 2008). In 2009, the interim harvest strategies were successfully employed and implemented in all three Management Units (74 FR 36870; July 24, 2009). Last year, we approved implementation of the national mourning dove harvest strategy, as developed by the Mourning Dove Task Force, in the 2014-15 hunting season (78 FR 52658; August 23, 2013). This strategy replaces the interim harvest strategies that have been in place since 2009. A copy of the new strategy is available at available on our Web site at​migratorybirds/​NewReportsPublications/​Dove/​MODO%20Harvest%20Strategy%202014.pdf, or at

23. Other

In a July 26, 2013, Federal Register (78 FR 45376), the Service issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for the migratory bird hunting program, prepared pursuant to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) regulations at 40 CFR 1505.2. An integral component of that ROD was the decision to promulgate annual migratory bird hunting regulations using a single process for early and late seasons based on predictions derived from long-term biological information and established harvest strategies. We believe this single process is the most effective alternative for addressing key issues identified during the planning process and will best achieve the purposes and goals of the Service and States. At that time, we stated that implementation of the new process was targeted for the 2015-16 regulations cycle.

Under this new process, the current early and late season regulatory actions (illustrated in the diagram at the end of this proposed rule) will be combined into a new single process. Regulatory proposals will be developed using biological data from the preceding year(s), model predictions, or most recently accumulated data that are available at the time the proposals are being formulated. Individual harvest strategies will be modified using either data from the previous year(s) or model predictions because the current year's data would not be available for many of the strategies. Considerable technical work will be necessary over a period of years to adjust the underlying biological models to the new regulatory time scale. During this transition period, harvest strategies and prescriptions will be modified to fit into the new regulatory schedule. These adjustments could be accomplished immediately upon adoption of the new process. Many existing regulatory prescriptions used for Canada geese, sandhill cranes, mourning doves, and American woodcock currently work on this basis. The process will be somewhat less precise in some instances because population projections would be used instead of current-year status information. The use of population projections rather than current-year population estimates would add variability to the population estimate from which the regulations are based. However, the uncertainty associated with these status predictions will be accounted for and incorporated into the process. This uncertainty will not result in a disproportionately higher harvest rate for any stock, nor substantially diminish harvest opportunities, either annually or on a cumulative basis. Reducing the number of meetings could lower administrative costs by 40 percent per year and substantially lower the Service's carbon footprint due to a decrease in travel and a reduction in the costs associated with the additional meetings.Start Printed Page 24520

Obviously, under this new process, the administrative, meeting, and Federal Register schedule will all change significantly. In the ROD, we described a meeting schedule consisting of SRC regulatory meetings in March or April. At the latest, proposed frameworks would be available for public review by early June and final frameworks published by mid-August. The new schedule also allows 30-60 days for public input and comments (currently, the comment period can be as short as 10 days). Further, the ROD stated that the four Flyway Councils may need to meet only once instead of twice per year, and the SRC would meet twice a year, once sometime during fall or early winter (September through January) and once thereafter, instead of the three times they currently convene.

At this time, we do not anticipate implementation of the new process until the 2016-17 season at the earliest. As we previously stated, there is considerable technical work necessary over a period of years to adjust the underlying biological models to the new regulatory time scale. We are currently working with the Flyway Councils on a number of administrative, meeting, and Federal Register schedule timing options to implement the new regulatory process. This ultimately may involve a regulatory schedule that begins earlier than was envisioned in the ROD. Over the course of the next year, we look forward to working with the Councils to find a mutually agreeable process.

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[FR Doc. 2014-09572 Filed 4-29-14; 8:45 am]