[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 136 (Friday, July 16, 1999)]
[Pages 38464-38465]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-18137]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of Draft Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria for the 
Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) for Review and Comment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability for public review of draft habitat-based recovery criteria 
for the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) in the Yellowstone 
Ecosystem. Final habitat-based recovery criteria will be appended to 
the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. We solicit review and comment from the 
public on this draft information.

DATES: Comments on the draft habitat-based recovery criteria must be 
received on or before September 14, 1999 to ensure that they will be 
received in time for our consideration prior to finalization of the 

ADDRESSES: Persons wishing to review the draft habitat-based recovery 
criteria may obtain a copy by contacting the Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University Hall, Room 309, 
University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812. Written comments and 
materials regarding this information should be sent to the Recovery 
Coordinator at the address given above. Comments and materials received 
are available on request for public inspection, by appointment, during 
normal business hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear 
Recovery Coordinator (see ADDRESSES above), at telephone (406) 243-



    Restoring an endangered or threatened animal or plant to the point 
where it is again a secure, self-sustaining member of its ecosystem is 
a primary goal of the Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species 
program. To help guide the recovery effort, we prepare recovery plans 
for most of the listed species native to the United States. Recovery 
plans describe actions considered necessary for conservation of the 
species, establish criteria for recovery levels for reclassifying or 
delisting the species, and estimate time and cost for implementing the 
recovery measures needed.
    The grizzly bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act of 
1973 (Act) as amended as a threatened species in the 48 conterminous 
States on July 28, 1995 (40 FR 31734). Threats to grizzly bear 
populations come primarily from habitat modification caused by human 
activities and from direct bear/human conflicts resulting from 
recreational and resource use activities, highway and railroad 
corridors, and illegal mortality.
    In May 1994 The Fund For Animals, Inc., and 22 other organizations 
and individuals filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District 
of Columbia over the adequacy of the Plan approved in 1993. Later in 
May 1994 the National Audubon Society and 19 other organizations and 
individuals also filed suit in the same court. The two cases were 
eventually consolidated. In September 1995 the court issued an opinion. 
The motions for summary judgment of both the plaintiffs and the 
defendants were granted in part and denied in part. The court remanded 
five issues that might affect grizzly bear recovery for our 
reconsideration. Those issues were: disease and parasites; livestock 
interactions and mortality; the effects of genetic isolation; 
population monitoring methods; and our reliance

[[Page 38465]]

on Canada for recovery of the grizzly bear.
    On September 10, 1997, we published a Notice of Availability (62 FR 
47677, Sept. 10, 1997) for the draft supplemental information on the 
five remanded issues. We provided our final finding on the issues to 
the court on May 15, 1999, and a notice of availability of that 
document will be published in the Federal Register in the near future.
    Under the provisions of the Act we approved the revised Grizzly 
Bear Recovery Plan on September 10, 1993. Task 423 in the 1993 Grizzly 
Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1993) states: ``Establish a threshold of 
minimal habitat values to be maintained within each Cumulative Effects 
Analysis Unit in order to ensure that sufficient habitat is available 
to support a viable population.'' This task, developing habitat-based 
recovery criteria, is specific to each ecosystem, as the habitat 
necessary to support a viable grizzly bear population will vary between 
ecosystems due to differences in foods, vegetation, habitat, and human 
    As part of a 1997 court settlement on the Recovery Plan, all 
parties agreed that:
    1. Prior to our release of the draft habitat-based recovery 
criteria for the grizzly bear in Yellowstone, plaintiffs could submit 
comments to us and such comments would be considered as part of the 
administrative record. We would convene a workshop during the public 
comment period on the draft habitat-based recovery criteria where all 
interested parties could present their ideas on the habitat needs for 
grizzly bear recovery and discuss proposals for habitat-based recovery 
criteria. This workshop was held in Bozeman, Montana, on June 17, 1997.
    2. The information and views presented at the workshop, together 
with all other information submitted to us during the public comment 
period on the draft habitat criteria would be considered by us before 
the habitat-based recovery criteria are finalized. When we finalize the 
habitat-based recovery criteria, we will address significant public 
comments in writing, including those significant public comments 
offered at the workshop.
    We received 1,167 comments at or in response to the grizzly bear 
habitat workshop. Of these, 132 were letters, 3 were form letters, 923 
were postcards with preprinted form comments, 44 were postcards with 
preprinted form comments and written comments, and 65 were written 
remarks delivered at the workshop. Major issues identified in the 
comments included: using science and data to the best extent possible, 
using cumulative effects modeling, maintaining habitat security, 
identifying important seasonal foods and ensuring their monitoring and 
availability, the role of private lands and impacts of private land 
development, road densities and access management, maintaining roadless 
habitat and habitat security in such areas, ensuring effective road 
closures, minimizing human development and activities that result in 
human-bear conflicts, and minimizing actions that result in nuisance 
bears. The comments were carefully considered, reviewed, and discussed 
by a team of specialists from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological 
Survey, Forest Service, Park Service, the Idaho Department of Fish and 
Game, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the 
Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This group of agency specialists 
developed these draft habitat criteria using the information and ideas 
in the public comments from the workshop, as well as the best available 
scientific information on the grizzly bear habitat and population in 
the Yellowstone ecosystem.
    Section 4(f) of the Act, as amended in 1988, requires that public 
notice and an opportunity for public review and comment be provided 
during recovery plan development. We will consider all information 
presented during a public comment period prior to approval of each new 
or revised recovery plan. We and other Federal land management agencies 
also will take these comments into account in the course of 
implementing approved recovery plans.
    We now seek public comment on the draft habitat-based recovery 
criteria for the Yellowstone ecosystem to both address Task 423 in the 
Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and the lawsuit settlement agreement.

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit written comments on the information described above. All 
comments received by the date specified in the DATES section above will 
be considered prior to finalization of the habitat-based recovery 
criteria. Appropriate portions of these criteria will be appended to, 
and become part of, the Plan.

    Authority: The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the 
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: July 9, 1999.
Terry T. Terrell,
Deputy Regional Director, Denver, Colorado.
[FR Doc. 99-18137 Filed 7-15-99; 8:45 am]