[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 48 (Friday, March 11, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 13173-13227]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-05167]



[[Page 13173]]

Vol. 81

Friday,

No. 48

March 11, 2016

Part IV





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the Greater 
Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of Grizzly Bears From the Federal List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 81 , No. 48 / Friday, March 11, 2016 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2016-0042; FXES11130900000C6-156-FF09E42000]
RIN 1018-BA41


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing the 
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of Grizzly Bears From the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan 
Supplement: Revised Demographic Criteria and draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy, and announcement of public informational meetings and 
hearings.

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SUMMARY: The best available scientific and commercial data indicate 
that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) population of grizzly 
bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) has recovered and no longer meets the 
definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered 
Species Act, as amended (Act). The United States Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) is also proposing to identify the GYE grizzly bear 
population as a distinct population segment (DPS). Therefore, we, the 
Service propose to revise the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife, under the authority of the Act, by removing the GYE 
population. The Service has determined that the GYE grizzly bear 
population has increased in size and more than tripled its occupied 
range since being listed as threatened under the Act in 1975 and that 
threats to the population are sufficiently minimized. The participating 
States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming must adopt the necessary post-
delisting management objectives, which adequately ensure that the GYE 
population of grizzly bears remains recovered, into enforceable 
regulations before the Service will proceed with a final delisting 
rule.

DATES: 
    Written comments: We will accept comments received or postmarked on 
or before May 10, 2016. Comments submitted electronically using the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 
11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date.
    Public informational meetings and public hearings: We will hold two 
public informational meetings and public hearings on the following 
dates:
    [cir] On April 11, 2016, in Cody, Wyoming. The public informational 
meeting will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the public hearing will run 
from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    [cir] On April 12, 2016, in Bozeman, Montana. The public 
informational meeting will run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the public 
hearing will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

ADDRESSES: Written comments: You may submit written comments by any one 
of the following methods:
     Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: 
http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS-R6-
ES-2016-0042, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, 
click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel 
on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click 
on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a 
comment by clicking on the blue ``Comment Now!'' box. If your comments 
will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of http://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment review 
procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our 
preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple 
comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet 
in Microsoft Excel.
     By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: 
Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2016-0042, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 
VA 22041-3803.
     At a public informational meeting or public hearing. We 
will accept written comments at either of the public informational 
meetings or public hearings. See details on the dates of the public 
informational meetings and public hearings in DATES; the addresses are 
listed below.
    We request that you submit written comments only by the methods 
described above. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any 
personal information you provide us (see Information Requested, below, 
for more details).
    Public informational meetings and public hearings: We will hold two 
public informational meetings and public hearings at the following 
locations:
    [cir] Holiday Inn, 5 East Baxter Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715.
    [cir] Holiday Inn, 1701 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414.
    More information on the public informational meetings and public 
hearings is provided under Public Informational Meetings and Public 
Hearings, below.
    Document availability: This proposed rule and all supporting 
documents are available on http://www.regulations.gov. In addition, 
certain documents such as the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, the 
draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan Supplement: Revised Demographic 
Criteria, and all references cited are available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlyBear.php.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear 
Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University Hall, 
Room #309, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812; telephone 406-
243-4903; facsimile 406-243-3212. For Tribal inquiries, contact Ivy 
Allen, Native American Liaison, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 
telephone: 303-236-4575. Persons who use a telecommunications device 
for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service 
(FIRS) at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)
Previous Federal Actions
Information Requested
Peer Review
Public Informational Meetings and Public Hearings
Taxonomy and Species Description
Behavior and Life History
Nutritional Ecology
Habitat Management
Population Ecology--Background
Recovery Planning and Implementation
    --Background
    --Recovery Planning
    --Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria
    --Suitable Habitat
    --Population and Demographic Recovery Criteria
    [cir] Demographic Recovery Criterion 1
    [cir] Demographic Recovery Criterion 2
    [cir] Demographic Recovery Criterion 3
    --The Conservation Strategy
Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Policy Overview
Past Practice and History of Using DPSs
Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Analysis
    --Analysis of Discreteness in Relation to Remainder of Taxon
    --Analysis of Significance of Population Segment to Taxon
    [cir] Unusual or Unique Ecological Setting
    [cir] Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon
    [cir] Marked Genetic Differences
Summary of Distinct Population Segment Analysis
Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

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    --Factor A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, 
or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    [cir] Habitat Management Inside the Primary Conservation Area
    [ssquf] Motorized Access Management
    [ssquf] Developed Sites
    [ssquf] Livestock Allotments
    [ssquf] Mineral and Energy Development
    [ssquf] Recreation
    [ssquf] Snowmobiling
    [ssquf] Vegetation Management
    [ssquf] Climate Change
    [ssquf] Habitat Fragmentation
    [cir] Habitat Management Outside the Primary Conservation Area
    [cir] Summary of Factor A
    --Factor B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    [cir] Summary of Factor B
    --Factor C. Disease or Predation
    [cir] Disease
    [cir] Natural Predation
    [cir] Human-Caused Mortality
    [cir] Summary of Factor C
    --Factor D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    [cir] Forest Service
    [cir] National Park Service
    [cir] Tribal Lands
    [cir] State Regulatory Mechanisms
    [cir] Summary of Factor D
    --Factor E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    [cir] Genetic Health
    [cir] Changes in Food Resources
    [cir] Climate Change
    [cir] Public Support and Human Attitudes
    [cir] Summary of Factor E
    --Cumulative Effects of Factors A Through E
Summary of Factors Affecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem 
Grizzly Bear Population
Proposed Determination
Significant Portion of Its Range Analysis
    --Background
    --SPR Analysis for the GYE Grizzly Bear DPS
Effects of the Rule
Post-Delisting Monitoring
    --Monitoring
    --Triggers for a Biology and Monitoring Review by the IGSBT
    --Triggers for a Service Status Review
Required Determinations
    --Clarity of the Rule
    --National Environmental Policy Act
    --Government-to-Government Relationships With Tribes
Glossary
References Cited
Authors

Executive Summary

(1) Purpose of the Regulatory Action

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for revising the Federal Lists of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Rulemaking is required 
to remove a species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. Accordingly, we are issuing this proposed rule to 
identify the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzly bear DPS and 
revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The population 
is stable, threats are sufficiently minimized, and a post-delisting 
monitoring and management framework has been developed and will be 
incorporated into regulatory documents. The best scientific and 
commercial data available, including our detailed evaluation of 
information related to the population's trend and structure, indicate 
that the distinct population segment of grizzly bears in the GYE has 
recovered and threats have been reduced such that this DPS no longer 
meets the definition of threatened, or endangered, under the Act. To 
ensure consistency in management approaches regardless of listed 
status, concurrent with publication of this proposed rule, we are 
releasing a draft supplement to the 1993 Recovery Plan's demographic 
recovery criteria for this population of grizzly bears and a draft of 
the 2016 Conservation Strategy for public comment. If we finalize this 
proposal to identify the GYE DPS and remove that DPS from the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, there would be no change to the 
threatened status of the remaining grizzly bears in the lower 48 
States, which would remain protected by the Act.

(2) Major Provision of the Regulatory Action

    This proposed action is authorized by the Act. We are proposing to 
amend Sec.  17.11(h), subchapter B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code 
of Federal Regulations by revising the listing for ``Bear, grizzly'' 
under ``Mammals'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
remove the GYE grizzly bear DPS.

(3) Costs and Benefits

    We have not analyzed the costs or benefits of this rulemaking 
action because the Act precludes consideration of such impacts on 
listing and delisting determinations. Instead, listing and delisting 
decisions are based solely on the best scientific and commercial 
information available regarding the status of the subject species.

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)

    The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) refers to the larger 
ecological system containing and surrounding Yellowstone National Park. 
The GYE includes portions of five National Forests; Yellowstone 
National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and the John D. Rockefeller 
Memorial Parkway (administered by Grand Teton National Park); and 
State, Tribal, and private lands. While there is no distinct boundary 
to the GYE, it is generally defined as those lands surrounding 
Yellowstone National Park with elevations greater than 1,500 meters (m) 
(4,900 feet (ft)) (see USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 46; Schwartz et al. 
2006b, p. 9). While we consider the terms ``Greater Yellowstone Area'' 
and ``Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem'' to be interchangeable, we use GYE 
in this proposed rule to be consistent with the draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy.

Previous Federal Actions

    On July 28, 1975, we published a rule to designate the grizzly bear 
as threatened in the conterminous (lower 48) United States (40 FR 
31734). Accordingly, we developed a Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1982) and updated that plan as necessary (72 
FR 11376, March 13, 2007; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, 2007a, 
2007b). The designation of the grizzly bear as a threatened species in 
the conterminous United States and subsequent development of the 1982 
and 1993 Recovery Plans occurred before the publication of our DPS 
policy on February 7, 1996 (61 FR 4722). The 1993 Recovery Plan 
identifies distinct Recovery Zones and unique demographic parameters 
for six different grizzly bear populations with the intent that these 
individual populations would be delisted as they each achieve recovery 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. ii, 33-34). On November 17, 
2005, we proposed to designate the GYE population of grizzly bears as a 
DPS and to remove this DPS from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife (70 FR 69854). This proposal had a 120-day comment 
period (70 FR 69854, November 17, 2005; 71 FR 8251, February 16, 2006), 
during which we held two public hearings and four open houses (70 FR 
69854, November 17, 2005; 71 FR 4097, January 25, 2006). On March 29, 
2007, we finalized this proposed action, designating the GYE population 
as a DPS and removing grizzly bears in the GYE from the Federal List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (72 FR 14866). This final 
determination was vacated by the District Court of Montana on September 
21, 2009, in Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen, et al., 672 
F.Supp.2d 1105 (D. Mont. 2009). The District Court ruled against the 
Service on two of the four points brought against them, that the 
Service was arbitrary and capricious in its evaluation of whitebark 
pine and that

[[Page 13176]]

the identified regulatory mechanisms were inadequate because they were 
not legally enforceable. In compliance with this order, the GYE grizzly 
bear population was once again made a threatened population under the 
Act (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (see 75 FR 14496; March 26, 2010), and the 
Service withdrew the delisting rule. By vacating the Service's rule, 
the District Court mooted two other lawsuits challenging the rule. 
Neither of these lawsuits were decided on the merits. The United States 
appealed the District Court decision, on November 15, 2011, the Ninth 
Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming in part and 
reversing in part the district court's decision vacating the final rule 
delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Greater 
Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen, et al., 665 F.3d 105 (9th Cir. 
2011)). The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Service's final rule did have 
adequate regulatory mechanisms but did not adequately explain why the 
loss of whitebark pine was not a threat to the GYE grizzly bear 
population. In compliance with this order, the GYE population of 
grizzly bears remained federally listed as ``threatened'' under the 
Act, and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) initiated more 
thorough research into the potential impact of whitebark pine decline 
on GYE grizzly bears.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be based on the best available scientific and commercial data and will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, we invite 
Tribal and governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, 
and other interested parties to submit comments or recommendations 
concerning any aspect of this proposed rule, the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy, and the draft Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan 
Supplement: Revised Demographic Criteria for the Greater Yellowstone 
Ecosystem. Comments should be as specific as possible.
    To issue a final rule to implement this proposed action, we will 
take into consideration all comments and any additional information we 
receive. Such communications may lead to a final rule that differs from 
this proposal.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning the proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. Comments must be 
submitted to http://www.regulations.gov before 11:59 p.m. (Eastern 
Time) on the date specified in DATES. We will consider any and all 
comments received, or mailed comments that are postmarked, by the date 
specified in DATES.
    We will post your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. If you provide 
personal identifying information in your comment, you may request at 
the top of your document that we withhold this information from public 
review. However, 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 http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours at our Missoula office (see 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Peer Review

    In accordance with our policy, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative 
Policy for Peer Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' which 
was published on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinion of at least three appropriate specialists who are independent 
of the Service, the States, and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team 
(IGBST) regarding scientific data and interpretations contained in this 
proposed rule. Those experts will each submit separate opinions for the 
Service to consider. We will send copies of this proposed rule, the 
draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, and the draft Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Plan Supplement: Revised Demographic Criteria to the peer reviewers 
immediately following publication of this proposed rule in the Federal 
Register. The purpose of such review is to ensure that our decisions 
are based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analysis. 
Accordingly, the final rule and decision may differ from this proposal.

Public Informational Meetings and Public Hearings

    We are holding two public informational meetings and public 
hearings on the dates listed above in DATES at the locations listed 
above in ADDRESSES. We are holding the public hearings to provide 
interested parties an opportunity to present verbal testimony (formal, 
oral comments) or written comments regarding the proposed rule and its 
supporting documents. A formal public hearing is not, however, an 
opportunity for dialogue with the Service; it is only a forum for 
accepting formal verbal testimony. In contrast to the public hearings, 
the public informational meetings allow the public the opportunity to 
interact with Service staff, who will be available to provide 
information and address questions on the proposed rule and its 
supporting documents.
    We cannot accept verbal testimony at any of the public 
informational meetings; verbal testimony can only be accepted at the 
public hearings. Anyone wishing to make an oral statement at a public 
hearing for the record is encouraged to provide a written copy of their 
statement to us at the hearing. In the event there is a large 
attendance, the time allotted for oral statements may be limited. 
Speakers can sign up at a hearing if they desire to make an oral 
statement. Oral and written statements receive equal consideration. 
There are no limits on the length of written comments submitted to us.
    Persons with disabilities needing reasonable accommodations to 
participate in a public informational meeting or public hearing should 
contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. 
Reasonable accommodation requests should be received at least 3 
business days prior to the public informational meeting or public 
hearing to help ensure availability; American Sign Language or English 
as a second language interpreter needs should be received at least 2 
weeks prior to the public informational meeting or public hearing.

Taxonomy and Species Description

    Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are a member of the brown 
bear species (U. arctos) that occurs in North America, Europe, and 
Asia; the subspecies U. a. horribilis is limited to North America 
(Rausch 1963, p. 43; Servheen 1999, pp. 50-53).
    Grizzly bears are generally larger than other bears and average 200 
to 300 kilograms (kg) (400 to 600 pounds (lb)) for males and 110 to 160 
kg (250 to 350 lb) for females in the lower 48 States (Craighead and 
Mitchell 1982, pp. 517-520; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 558). Although 
their coloration can vary widely from light brown to nearly black 
(LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 17-18), they can be distinguished from black 
bears by longer, curved claws, humped shoulders, and a face that 
appears to be concave (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 517). Grizzly 
bears are long-lived mammals, generally living to be around 25 years 
old (LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 47, 51).

Behavior and Life History

    Adult grizzly bears are normally solitary except when females have 
dependent young (Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971), but they are not 
territorial and home ranges of adult bears

[[Page 13177]]

frequently overlap (Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 565-566). Home range 
size is affected by resource availability, sex, age, and reproductive 
status (LeFranc et al. 1987, p. 31; Blanchard and Knight 1991, pp. 48-
51; Mace and Waller 1997, p. 48). Generally, females with cubs-of-the-
year or yearlings have the smallest home range sizes (Aune and Kasworm 
1989; Blanchard and Knight 1991, pp. 48-49; Mace and Roberts 2011, pp. 
27-28). The annual home ranges of adult male grizzly bears in the GYE 
are approximately 800 square kilometers (sq km) (309 square miles (sq 
mi)), while female ranges are typically smaller, approximately 210 sq 
km (81 sq mi) (Bjornlie et al. 2014, p. 3). The large home ranges of 
grizzly bears, particularly males, enhance maintenance of genetic 
diversity in the population by enabling males to mate with numerous 
females (Blanchard and Knight 1991, pp. 46-51; Craighead et al. 1998, 
p. 326).
    Young, female grizzly bears establish home ranges within or 
overlapping their mother's (Waser and Jones 1983, p. 361; Schwartz et 
al. 2003b, p. 566). This pattern of home range establishment can make 
dispersal of females across landscapes a slow process. Radio-telemetry 
and genetic data suggest females establish home ranges an average of 
9.8 to 14.3 km (6.1 to 8.9 mi) away from the center of their mother's 
home range, whereas males generally disperse farther, establishing home 
ranges roughly 29.9 to 42.0 km (18.6 to 26.0 mi) away from the center 
of their mother's (McLellan and Hovey 2001, p. 842; Proctor et al. 
2004, p. 1108).
    Grizzly bears have a promiscuous mating system (Hornocker 1962, p. 
70; Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 522; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 
563). Mating occurs from May through July with a peak in mid-June 
(Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 522; Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971). 
Although females mate in spring and early summer, their fertilized 
embryos do not implant into the uterus for further development until 
late fall. Fat stores obtained by female grizzly bears at the end of 
fall are positively correlated with earlier birth dates and quicker 
growth rates of their cubs (Robbins et al. 2012, p. 543). Additionally, 
a body fat threshold may exist below which females may not produce 
cubs, even when bred (Robbins et al. 2012, p. 543). Female grizzly 
bears nurse cubs for 3 to 4 months inside the den. Age of first 
reproduction and litter size may be related to nutritional state 
(Stringham 1990, p. 433; McLellan 1994, p. 20; Hilderbrand et al. 1999, 
pp. 135-136). Average age of first reproduction in the GYE is 
approximately 6 years old but can vary from 3 to 8 years of age 
(Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 563; Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 19). Litter 
size in the GYE ranges from 1 to 4 cubs (Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 563) 
with a mean litter size of 2.04 cubs during 1983-2001 and 2.12 cubs 
during 2002-2011 (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 19; IGBST 2012, p. 34). 
Cubs are born in the den in late January or early February and remain 
with the female for 1.5 to 2.5 years, making the average time between 
litters in the GYE (i.e., the interbirth interval) 2.78 years (Schwartz 
et al. 2003b, p. 564; Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 20). Grizzly bears have 
one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, 
resulting primarily from the reproductive factors described above: Late 
age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long 
interval between litters (Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971; Schwartz et 
al. 2003b, p. 564). Given the above factors, it may take a female 
grizzly bear 10 or more years to replace herself in a population (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 4). Grizzly bear females cease 
reproducing some time in their mid-to-late 20s (Schwartz et al. 2003a, 
pp. 109-110).
    Grizzly bears usually dig dens on steep slopes where wind and 
topography cause an accumulation of deep snow and where the snow is 
unlikely to melt during warm periods. Grizzly bears in the lower 48 
States occupy dens for 4 to 6 months each year, beginning in October or 
November (Linnell et al. 2000, p. 401; Haroldson et al. 2002, p. 29). 
Most dens are located above 2,500 m (>8,000 ft) in elevation (Haroldson 
et al. 2002, p. 33) and on slopes ranging from 30 to 60 degrees (Judd 
et al. 1986, p. 115). Approximately 66 percent (1,684,220 acres (ac); 
6,815 sq km) of the GYE is potential denning habitat, and it is well 
distributed, so its availability is not considered a limiting factor 
for grizzly bears in the GYE (Podruzny et al. 2002, p. 22). Denning 
increases survival during periods of low food availability, deep snow, 
and low air temperature (Craighead and Craighead 1972, pp. 33-34). 
During this period, bears do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate (Folk 
et al. 1976, pp. 376-377; Nelson 1980, p. 2955). Hibernating grizzly 
bears exhibit a marked decline in heart and respiration rate, but only 
a slight drop in body temperature (Nowak and Paradiso 1983, p. 971). 
Due to their relatively constant body temperature in the den, 
hibernating grizzly bears may be easily aroused and have been known to 
exit or relocate dens when disturbed by seismic or mining activity 
(Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278) or other human activities (Swenson et 
al. 1997, p. 37). Dens are rarely used twice by an individual, although 
the same general area may be used multiple times (Schoen et al. 1987, 
p. 300; Miller 1990, p. 285; Linnell et al. 2000, p. 403). Females 
display stronger area fidelity than males and generally stay in their 
dens longer, depending on reproductive status (Judd et al. 1986, pp. 
113-114; Schoen et al. 1987, p. 300; Miller 1990, p. 283; Linnell et 
al. 2000, p. 403). In the GYE, females with new cubs typically emerge 
from their dens from early April to early May (Haroldson et al. 2002, 
p. 29).
    In preparation for hibernation, bears increase their food intake 
dramatically during a stage called hyperphagia (Craighead and Mitchell 
1982, p. 544). Hyperphagia occurs throughout the 2 to 4 months prior to 
den entry (i.e., August through November). During hyperphagia, excess 
food is converted into fat, and grizzly bears may gain as much as 1.65 
kg/day (3.64 lb/day) (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 544). Grizzly 
bears must consume foods rich in protein and carbohydrates in order to 
build up fat reserves to survive denning and post denning periods (Rode 
and Robbins 2000, pp. 1643-1644). Fat stores are crucial to the 
hibernating bear as they provide a source of energy and insulate the 
bear from cold temperatures, and are equally important in providing 
energy to the bear upon emergence from the den when food is still 
sparse relative to metabolic requirements (Craighead and Mitchell 1982, 
p. 544).

Nutritional Ecology

    The GYE is a highly diverse landscape containing a wide array of 
habitat types and bear foods. Plant communities vary from grasslands at 
lower elevations (<1,900 m (6,230 ft)) to conifer forests at mid-
elevations and subalpine and alpine meadows at higher elevations 
(>2,400 m (7,870 ft)). Grizzly bears are extremely omnivorous, display 
great diet plasticity--even within a population (Edwards et al. 2011, 
pp. 883-886)--and shift and switch food habits according to their 
availability (Servheen 1983, pp. 1029-1030; Mace and Jonkel 1986, p. 
108; LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 113-114; Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 63-
71; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 568-569; Gunther et al. 2014, p. 65). 
Gunther et al. (2014, p. 65) conducted an extensive literature review 
and documented over 260 species of foods consumed by grizzly bears in 
the GYE, representing 4 of the 5 kingdoms of life. The ability to use 
whatever food resources are available is one reason

[[Page 13178]]

grizzly bears are the most widely distributed bear species in the 
world, occupying habitats from deserts to alpine mountains and 
everything in between. This ability to live in a variety of habitats 
and eat a wide array of foods makes grizzly bears a generalist species. 
In contrast, specialist species eat only a few specific foods or live 
in only one or two specific habitat types (Krebs 2009, p. 100).
    Grizzly bear diets are highly variable among individuals, seasons, 
and years (Servheen 1983, pp. 1029-1030; Mattson et al. 1991a, pp. 
1625-1626; LeFranc et al. 1987, pp. 113-114; Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 
767; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 568-569; Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499; 
Fortin et al. 2013, p. 278; Costello et al. 2014, p. 2013; Gunther et 
al. 2014, p. 65). They opportunistically seek and consume whatever 
plant and animal foods are available to them. Grizzly bears are always 
sampling new foods so that they have alternative options in years when 
preferred foods are scarce (Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1625). In the GYE, 
Blanchard and Knight (1991, p. 61) noted that, ``After 10 years of food 
habits data collection, new feeding strategies continued to appear 
annually in this population.'' Grizzly bears in the GYE commonly 
consume ungulates (bison (Bison bison), elk (Cervus canadensis), moose 
(Alces alces), and deer (Odocoileus species)), cutthroat trout 
(Oncorhynchus clarki), roots and tubers, army cutworm moths (Euxoa 
auxiliaris), grasses, and whitebark pine seeds (Pinus albicaulis) 
(Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 568). Bears make seasonal movements within 
their home ranges to locations where these foods are abundant (e.g., 
ungulate winter ranges, calving areas, spawning streams, talus slopes) 
(Costello et al. 2014, p. 2013). These foods are subject to seasonal 
and annual variation in availability and therefore are not abundant or 
available during all seasons or every year (Craighead et al. 1995, p. 
265; Gunther et al. 2014, pp. 64-65). When high-calorie foods are not 
readily available, grizzly bears supplement their diet with items of 
lower caloric value that tend to be widely distributed across the 
landscape and readily available most years (Gunther et al. 2014, p. 
66). These widely distributed and abundant foods include a wide variety 
of plants (grasses, sedges, horsetail, and forbs), colonial insects 
(ants and wasps), fungi (false-truffles), berries (huckleberry, 
whortleberry, and gooseberry), and small mammals (voles, ground 
squirrels, and pocket gophers). Spatial and temporal abundance and 
annual predictability of these foods compensates for their lower 
caloric value, and, consequently, these foods can comprise a large 
proportion of grizzly bear annual diets (Craighead et al. 1995, p. 253; 
Gunther et al. 2014, p. 66). Grizzly bears also supplement their diet 
with many foods consumed opportunistically. Some opportunistic foods 
are consumed for only a short period each year (e.g., earthworms in 
meadows during spring snowmelt), others are available only in small 
localized areas (e.g., pondweed rhizomes from small ephemeral ponds 
within the Yellowstone caldera), and others are available only during 
sporadic periods of abundance (e.g., midges). Many opportunistic foods 
are eaten during periods with shortages of more preferred foods or when 
randomly encountered while foraging for other species (Gunther et al. 
2014, p. 66).
    Due to their high fat content, whitebark pine seeds can be an 
important fall food for bears in the GYE when they are available 
(Mattson and Jonkel 1990, p. 223; Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623). Bears 
that have whitebark pine in their home range may feed predominantly on 
whitebark pine seeds when production exceeds 20 cones per tree 
(Blanchard 1990, p. 362). Whitebark pine seed availability can 
influence the reproductive and survival rates of these grizzly bears on 
an annual basis because of an increased potential for human-caused 
mortality during years of low whitebark pine availability (Haroldson et 
al. 2006, p. 36; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 22, 36; IGBST 2013, p. 24). 
However, there has been no correlation between long-term survival of 
independent bears with a decline in whitebark pine availability (van 
Manen et al. 2015, p. 11). Nearly one third of grizzly bear home ranges 
in the GYE do not contain any whitebark pine (Costello et al. 2014, p. 
2013). Bears in these areas consume other foods even during years of 
good whitebark pine production.

Habitat Management

    Grizzly bears use a variety of habitats in the GYE (LeFranc et al. 
1987, p. 120). In general, a grizzly bear's individual habitat needs 
and daily movements are largely driven by the search for food, mates, 
cover, security, or den sites. The available habitat for bears is also 
influenced by people and their activities. Human activities are the 
primary factor impacting habitat security and the ability of bears to 
find and access foods, mates, cover, and den sites. Other factors 
influencing habitat use and function for grizzly bears include overall 
habitat productivity (e.g., food distribution and abundance), the 
availability of habitat components (e.g., denning areas, cover types), 
grizzly bear social dynamics, learned behavior and preferences of 
individual grizzly bears, grizzly bear population density, and random 
variation.
    The GYE is part of the Middle Rockies ecoregion (Omernik 1987, pp. 
120-121; Woods et al. 1999, entire; McGrath et al. 2002, entire; 
Chapman et al. 2004, entire) and provides the habitat heterogeneity 
necessary for adequate food, denning, and cover resources. Because 
there are limited opportunities to increase or control these habitat 
components, the objective for grizzly bear habitat management is to 
reduce or mitigate the risk of human-caused mortality. The most 
effective habitat management tool for reducing grizzly bear mortality 
risk is managing motorized access to ensure bears have secure areas 
away from humans (Nielsen et al. 2006, p. 225; Schwartz et al. 2010, p. 
661). We define secure habitat as areas more than 500 m (1,650 ft) from 
a motorized access route and greater than or equal to 4 hectares (ha) 
(10 acres (ac)) in size (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 
3)). Unmanaged motorized access: (1) Increases human interaction and 
potential grizzly bear mortality risk; (2) increases displacement from 
important habitat; (3) increases habituation to humans; and (4) 
decreases habitat where energetic requirements can be met with limited 
disturbance from humans (Mattson et al. 1987, pp. 269-271; McLellan and 
Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; McLellan 1989, pp. 1862-1864; Mace et al. 
1996, pp. 1402-1403; Schwartz et al. 2010, p. 661). Managing motorized 
access helps ameliorate these impacts. Other habitat management tools 
that minimize displacement and reduce grizzly bear mortality risk 
include regulating livestock allotments and developed sites on public 
lands. Implementing food storage orders on public lands also reduces 
mortality risk for both humans and grizzly bears. Requiring users and 
recreationists in grizzly bear habitat to store their food, garbage, 
and other bear attractants so that they are inaccessible to bears 
reduces encounters and grizzly bear-human conflicts.
    The primary factor affecting grizzly bears at both the individual 
and population level is excessive human-caused mortality. Regulating 
human-caused mortality through habitat management is an effective 
approach, as evidenced by increasing grizzly bear populations in the 
lower 48 States where motorized access standards exist (e.g., GYE and 
Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem). This requires

[[Page 13179]]

ongoing monitoring of the grizzly bear population to understand if it 
is sufficiently resilient to allow for a conservative level of human-
caused mortality without causing population decline.

Population Ecology--Background

    The scientific discipline that informs decisions about most 
wildlife population management is population ecology: the study of how 
populations change over time and space and interact with their 
environment (Vandermeer and Goldberg 2003, p. 2; Snider and Brimlow 
2013, p. 1). Ultimately, the goal of population ecology is to 
understand why and how populations change over time. Wildlife managers 
and population ecologists monitor a number of factors to gauge the 
status of a population and make scientifically informed decisions. 
These measures include population size, population trend, density, and 
occupied range.
    While population size is a well-known and easily understood metric, 
it only provides information about a population at a single point in 
time. Wildlife managers often want to know how a population is changing 
over time and why. Population trend is determined by births, deaths, 
and how many animals move into or out of the population (i.e., 
disperse) and is typically expressed as the population growth rate 
(represented by the symbol [lambda], the Greek letter ``lambda''). For 
grizzly bear populations, lambda estimates the average rate of annual 
growth, with a value of 1.0 indicating a stable population trend with 
no net growth or decline. A lambda value of 1.03 means the population 
size is increasing at 3 percent per year. Conversely, a lambda value of 
0.98 means the population size is decreasing at 2 percent per year.
    In its simplest form, population trend is driven by births and 
deaths. Survival and reproduction are the fundamental demographic vital 
rates driving whether the grizzly bear population increases, decreases, 
or remains stable. When wildlife biologists refer to demographic vital 
rates, they are referring to all of the different aspects of 
reproduction and survival that cumulatively determine a population's 
trend (i.e., lambda). Some of the demographic factors influencing 
population trend for grizzly bears are age-specific survival, sex-
specific survival, average number of cubs per litter, the time between 
litters (i.e., interbirth interval), age ratios, sex ratios, average 
age of first reproduction, lifespan, transition probabilities (see 
glossary), immigration, and emigration. These data are all used to 
determine if and why a population is increasing or decreasing (Anderson 
2002, p. 53; Mills 2007, p. 59; Mace et al. 2012, p. 124).
    No population can grow forever because the resources it requires 
are finite. This understanding led ecologists to develop the concept of 
carrying capacity (expressed as the symbol ``K''). This is the maximum 
number of individuals a particular environment can support over the 
long term without resulting in population declines caused by resource 
depletion (Vandermeer and Goldberg 2003, p. 261; Krebs 2009, p. 148). 
Classical studies of population growth occurred under controlled 
laboratory conditions where populations of a single organism, often an 
insect species or single-celled organism, were allowed to grow in a 
confined space with a constant supply of food (Vandermeer and Goldberg 
2003, pp. 14-17). Under these conditions, K is a constant value that is 
approached in a predictable way that can be described by a mathematical 
equation. However, few studies of wild populations have demonstrated 
the stability and constant population size suggested by this equation. 
Instead, many factors affect carrying capacity of animal populations in 
the wild, and populations usually fluctuate above and below carrying 
capacity, resulting in relative population stability over time (i.e., 
lambda value of approximately 1.0 over the long term) (Colinvaux 1986, 
pp. 138-139, 142; Krebs 2009, p. 148). For populations at or near 
carrying capacity, population size fluctuates just above and below 
carrying capacity, sometimes resulting in annual estimates of lambda 
showing a declining population (figure 1). However, to obtain a 
biologically meaningful estimate of average annual population growth 
rate for a long-lived species like the grizzly bear that reproduces 
only once every 3 years and does not start reproducing until at least 4 
years old, we must examine lambda over a longer period of time to see 
what the average trend is over that specified time. This is not an easy 
task; for grizzly bears, it takes at least 6 years of monitoring as 
many as 30 females with radio-collars to accurately estimate average 
annual population growth (Harris et al. 2011, p. 29).

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    When a population is at or near carrying capacity, mechanisms that 
regulate or control population size fall into two broad categories: 
density-dependent effects and density-independent effects. Generally, 
factors that limit population growth more strongly as population size 
increases are density-dependent effects, or intrinsic factors, usually 
expressed through individual behaviors, physiology, or genetic 
potential (McLellan 1994, p. 15). Extrinsic factors, such as drought or 
fire that kill individuals regardless of how many individuals are in a 
population, are considered density-independent effects (Colinvaux 1986, 
p. 172). These extrinsic factors may include changes in resources, 
predators, or human impacts. Population stability (i.e., fluctuation 
around carrying capacity or a long-term equilibrium) is often 
influenced by a combination of density-dependent and density-
independent effects. Among grizzly bears, indicators of density-
dependent population regulation can include: (1) Decreased yearling and 
cub survival due to increases in intraspecific killing (i.e., bears 
killing other bears), (2) decreases in home-range size, (3) increases 
in generation time, (4) increases in age of first reproduction, and (5) 
decreased reproduction (McLellan 1994, entire; Eberhardt 2002, pp. 
2851-2852; Kamath et al. 2015, p. 10; van Manen et al. 2015, pp.8-9). 
Indicators that density-independent effects are influencing population 
growth can include: (1) Larger home-range sizes (because bears are 
roaming more widely in search of foods) (McLoughlin et al. 2000, pp. 
49-51), (2) decreased cub and yearling survival due to starvation, (3) 
increases in age of first reproduction due to limited food resources, 
and (4) decreased reproduction due to limited food resources. As a 
result of these sometimes similar indicators, determining whether a 
population is affected more strongly by density-dependent or density-
independent effects can be a complex undertaking. For long-lived 
mammals such as grizzly bears, extensive data collected over decades 
are needed to understand if and how these factors are operating in a 
population. We have these data for the GYE grizzly bear population, and 
the IGBST has been able to tease apart some of these confounding 
effects to find that density-dependent effects are the likely cause of 
the recent slow in population growth (see Changes in Food Resources 
under Factor E, below, for more detailed information).
    Population viability analyses (PVAs) are another tool population 
ecologists often use to assess the status of a population by estimating 
its likelihood of persistence in the future. Boyce et al. (2001, pp. 1-
11) reviewed the existing published PVAs for GYE grizzly bears and 
updated these previous analyses using data collected since the original 
analyses were completed. They also conducted new PVAs using two 
software packages that had not been available to previous 
investigators. They found that the GYE grizzly bear population had a 1 
percent chance of

[[Page 13181]]

going extinct within the next 100 years and a 4 percent chance of going 
extinct in the next 500 years (Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 1, 10-11). The 
authors cautioned that their analyses were not entirely sufficient 
because they were not able to consider possible changes in habitat and 
how these may affect population vital rates (Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 31-
32). Based on this recommendation, Boyce worked with other researchers 
to develop a habitat-based framework for evaluating mortality risk of a 
grizzly bear population in Alberta, Canada (Nielsen et al. 2006, p. 
225). They concluded that secure habitat (low mortality risk) was the 
key to grizzly bear survival. Schwartz et al. (2010, p. 661) created a 
similar mortality risk model for the GYE with similar results. Both 
studies suggest that managing for secure habitat is one of the most 
effective management actions to ensure population persistence.

Recovery Planning and Implementation

Background

    Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the grizzly bear occurred 
throughout the western half of the contiguous United States, central 
Mexico, western Canada, and most of Alaska (Roosevelt 1907, pp. 27-28; 
Wright 1909, pp. vii, 3, 185-186; Merriam 1922, p. 1; Storer and Tevis 
1955, p. 18; Rausch 1963, p. 35; Herrero 1972, pp. 224-227; Schwartz et 
al. 2003b, pp. 557-558). Pre-settlement population levels for the 
western contiguous United States are believed to have been in the range 
of 50,000 animals (Servheen 1999, p. 50). With European settlement of 
the American West and government-funded bounty programs aimed at 
eradication, grizzly bears were shot, poisoned, and trapped wherever 
they were found, and the resulting range and population declines were 
dramatic (Roosevelt 1907, pp. 27-28; Wright 1909, p. vii; Storer and 
Tevis 1955, pp. 26-27; Leopold 1967, p. 30; Koford 1969, p. 95; 
Craighead and Mitchell 1982, p. 516; Servheen 1999, pp. 50-51). The 
range and numbers of grizzly bears were reduced to less than 2 percent 
of their former range and numbers by the 1930s, approximately 125 years 
after first contact (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 9; 
Servheen 1999, p. 51). Of 37 grizzly bear populations present within 
the lower 48 States in 1922, 31 were extirpated by 1975 (Servheen 1999, 
p. 51).
    By the 1950s, with little or no conservation effort or management 
directed at maintaining grizzly bears anywhere in their range, the GYE 
population had been reduced in numbers and was restricted largely to 
the confines of Yellowstone National Park and some surrounding areas 
(Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 41-42; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 575-579). 
High grizzly bear mortality in 1970 and 1971, following closure of the 
open-pit garbage dumps in Yellowstone National Park (Gunther 1994, p. 
550; Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 34-36), and concern about grizzly bear 
population status throughout its remaining range prompted the 1975 
listing of the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 
States under the Act (40 FR 31734; July 28, 1975). When the grizzly 
bear was listed in 1975, the population estimate in the GYE ranged from 
136 to 312 individuals (Cowan et al. 1974, pp. 32, 36; Craighead et al. 
1974, p. 16; McCullough 1981, p. 175).
    Grizzly bear recovery has required, and will continue to require, 
cooperation among numerous government agencies and the public for a 
unified management approach. To this end, there are three interagency 
groups that help guide grizzly bear management in the GYE. The 
Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), created in 1973, provides 
the scientific information necessary to make informed management 
decisions about grizzly bear habitat and conservation in the GYE. Since 
its formation in 1973, the published work of the IGBST has made the GYE 
grizzly bear population the most studied in the world. The wealth of 
biological information produced by the IGBST over the years includes 30 
annual reports, hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed journals, dozens 
of theses, and other technical reports (see: http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/science/igbst/detailedpubs). Members of the IGBST include scientists 
and wildlife managers from the Service, U.S. Geological Survey, 
National Park Service, Forest Service, academia, and each State 
wildlife agency involved in grizzly bear recovery.
    The second interagency group guiding grizzly bear conservation 
efforts is the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (hereafter referred 
to as the IGBC). Created in 1983, its members coordinate management 
efforts and research actions across multiple Federal lands and States 
to recover the grizzly bear in the lower 48 States (USDA and USDOI 
1983, entire). The objective of the IGBC is to change land management 
practices to more effectively provide security and maintain or improve 
habitat conditions for the grizzly bear (USDA and USDOI 1983, entire). 
IGBC members include upper level managers from all affected State and 
Federal agencies (USDA and USDOI 1983, entire).
    The third interagency group guiding management of the GYE grizzly 
bear population is a subcommittee of the IGBC: The Yellowstone 
Ecosystem Subcommittee. Formed in 1983 to coordinate recovery efforts 
specific to the GYE, the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee includes 
mid-level managers and representatives from the Service; the five GYE 
National Forests (the Shoshone, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, 
Custer-Gallatin, and Caribou-Targhee); Yellowstone National Park; Grand 
Teton National Park; the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD); the 
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MTFWP); the Idaho 
Department of Fish and Game (IDFG); the Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM); county governments from each affected State; the Northern 
Arapahoe Tribe; and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe (USDA and USDOI 1983). 
The IGBST is an advisor to the subcommittee providing all the 
scientific information on the GYE grizzly bear population and its 
habitat.

Recovery Planning

    In accordance with section 4(f)(1) of the Act, the Service 
completed a Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (Recovery Plan) in 1982 (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1982, p. ii). Recovery plans serve as road 
maps for species recovery--they lay out where we need to go and how to 
get there through specific actions. Recovery plans are not regulatory 
documents and are instead intended to provide guidance to the Service, 
States, and other partners on methods of minimizing threats to listed 
species and on criteria that may be used to determine when recovery is 
achieved.
    The Recovery Plan identified six recovery ecosystems within the 
conterminous United States thought to support grizzly bears. Today, 
grizzly bear distribution is primarily within and around the areas 
identified as Recovery Zones (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 
10-13, 17-18), including: (1) The GYE in northwest Wyoming, eastern 
Idaho, and southwest Montana (24,000 sq km (9,200 sq mi)) at more than 
700 bears (Haroldson et al. 2014, p. 17); (2) the Northern Continental 
Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) of north-central Montana (25,000 sq km (9,600 
sq mi)) at more than 900 bears (Kendall et al. 2009, p. 9; Mace et al. 
2012, p. 124); (3) the North Cascades area of north-central Washington 
(25,000 sq km (9,500 sq mi)) at fewer than 20 bears (last documented 
sighting in 1996) (Almack et al. 1993, p. 4; National Park Service and 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2015, p. 3); (4) the Selkirk Mountains 
area of north Idaho, northeast

[[Page 13182]]

Washington, and southeast British Columbia (5,700 sq km (2,200 sq mi)) 
at approximately 88 bears (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011, p. 26); 
and (5) the Cabinet-Yaak area of northwest Montana and northern Idaho 
(6,700 sq km (2,600 sq mi)) at approximately 48 bears (Kendall et al. 
2015, p. 1). The Bitterroot Recovery Zone in the Bitterroot Mountains 
of central Idaho and western Montana (14,500 sq km (5,600 sq mi)) is 
not known to contain a population of grizzly bears at this time (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1996, p. 1; 65 FR 69624, November 17, 2000; 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000, p. 1-3). The San Juan Mountains of 
Colorado also were identified as an area of possible grizzly bear 
occurrence (40 FR 31734, July 28, 1975; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1982, p. 12; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 11), but no 
confirmed sightings of grizzly bears have occurred there since a 
grizzly bear mortality in 1979 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 
11).
    In 1993, the Service completed revisions to the Recovery Plan to 
include additional tasks and new information that increased the focus 
and effectiveness of recovery efforts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1993, pp. 41-58). In 1996 and 1997, we released supplemental chapters 
to the Recovery Plan to direct recovery in the Bitterroot and North 
Cascades Recovery Zones, respectively (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
1996; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1997). In the GYE, we updated both 
the habitat and demographic recovery criteria in 2007 (72 FR 11376, 
March 13, 2007). We proposed revisions to the demographic recovery 
criteria in 2013 (78 FR 17708, March 22, 2013) and are proposing 
additional revisions concurrent with this proposed rule to reflect the 
best available science. Below, we report the status of both the habitat 
and demographic recovery criteria in the GYE.
    In 1979, the IGBST developed the first comprehensive ``Guidelines 
for Management Involving Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone 
Area'' (hereafter referred to as the Guidelines) (Mealey 1979, pp. 1-
4). We determined in a biological opinion that implementation of the 
Guidelines by Federal land management agencies would promote 
conservation of the grizzly bear (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1979, 
p. 1). Beginning in 1979, the five affected National Forests 
(Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer-Gallatin, 
and Shoshone), Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and the BLM 
in the GYE began managing habitats for grizzly bears under direction 
specified in the Guidelines.
    In 1986, the IGBC modified the Guidelines to more effectively 
manage habitat by mapping and managing according to three different 
management situations (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 35-39). In areas 
governed by ``Management Situation One,'' grizzly bear habitat 
maintenance and improvement and grizzly bear-human conflict 
minimization received the highest management priority. In areas 
governed by ``Management Situation Two,'' grizzly bear use was 
important, but not the primary use of the area. In areas governed by 
``Management Situation Three,'' grizzly bear habitat maintenance and 
improvement were not management considerations.
    The National Forests and National Parks delineated 18 different 
bear management units (BMUs) within the GYE Recovery Zone to aid in 
managing habitat and monitoring population trends. Each BMU was further 
subdivided into subunits, resulting in a total of 40 subunits contained 
within the 18 BMUs (see map at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/species/mammals/grizzly/Yellowstone_Recovery_Zone_map.pdf). The BMUs 
are analysis areas that approximate the lifetime size of a female's 
home range, while subunits are analysis areas that approximate the 
annual home range size of adult females. Subunits provide the optimal 
scale for evaluation of seasonal feeding opportunities and landscape 
patterns of food availability for grizzly bears (Weaver et al. 1986, p. 
236). The BMUs and subunits were identified to provide enough quality 
habitat and to ensure that grizzly bears were well distributed across 
the GYE Recovery Zone as per the Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007c, pp. 20, 41, 44-46). Management improvements made as a 
result of these Guidelines are discussed under Factor A, below.

Habitat-Based Recovery Criteria

    On June 17, 1997, we held a public workshop in Bozeman, Montana, to 
develop and refine habitat-based recovery criteria for the grizzly 
bear, with an emphasis on the GYE. This workshop was held as part of 
the settlement agreement in Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 967 F.Supp.6 
(D. DC 1997). A Federal Register notice notified the public of this 
workshop and provided interested parties an opportunity to participate 
and submit comments (62 FR 19777; April 23, 1997). After considering 
1,167 written comments, we developed biologically-based habitat 
recovery criteria with the overall goal of maintaining or improving 
habitat conditions at levels that existed in 1998.
    There is no published method to deductively calculate minimum 
habitat values required for a healthy and recovered population. Grizzly 
bears are long-lived opportunistic omnivores whose food and space 
requirements vary depending on a multitude of environmental and 
behavioral factors and on variation in the experience and knowledge of 
each individual bear. Grizzly bear home ranges overlap and change 
seasonally, annually, and with reproductive status. While these factors 
make the development of threshold habitat criteria difficult, habitat 
criteria may be established by assessing what habitat factors in the 
past were compatible with a stable to increasing grizzly bear 
population, and then using these habitat conditions as threshold values 
to be maintained to ensure a healthy population (i.e., a ``no net 
loss'' approach), as suggested by Nielsen et al. (2006, p. 227). We 
selected 1998 levels as our baseline year because it was known that 
habitat values at this time were compatible with an increasing grizzly 
bear population throughout the 1990s (Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 362; 
Knight and Blanchard 1995, pp. 5, 9; Knight et al. 1995, p. 247; Boyce 
et al. 2001, pp. 10-11; Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48) and that the 
levels of both secure habitat and the number and capacity of developed 
sites had changed little from 1988 to 1998 (USDA Forest Service 2004, 
pp. 140-141, 159-162). The 1998 baseline is also described in detail in 
Factor A, below.
    The habitat-based recovery criteria established objective, 
measurable values for levels of motorized access, secure habitat, 
developed sites, and livestock allotments (i.e., ``the 1998 baseline'') 
for the GYE. The 1998 values will not change through time, unless 
improvements benefit bears. As each of these management objectives are 
central to potential present or threatened destruction, modification, 
or curtailment of habitat or range, each of these criteria are 
discussed in detail under Factor A, below. These habitat-based recovery 
criteria have been met since their incorporation into the Recovery Plan 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007b, entire).
    Additionally, we developed several monitoring items that may help 
inform management decisions or explain population trends: (1) Trends in 
the location and availability of whitebark pine, cutthroat trout, army 
cutworm moths, and winter-killed ungulate carcasses; and (2) grizzly 
bear mortality numbers, locations, and causes; grizzly bear-human 
conflicts; nuisance bear

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management actions; bear-hunter conflicts; and bear-livestock conflicts 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007c, pp. 25-60). Federal and State 
agencies monitor these items, and the IGBST produces an annual report 
with their results. This information is used to examine relationships 
between food availability, human activity, and demographic parameters 
of the population such as survival, population growth, or reproduction. 
The current habitat-based recovery criteria have been appended to the 
Recovery Plan and are included in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, 
which is the comprehensive post-delisting management plan for a 
recovered population as called for in the Recovery Plan.

Suitable Habitat

    Because we used easily recognized boundaries to delineate the 
boundaries of the proposed GYE grizzly bear DPS, it includes both 
suitable and unsuitable habitat (figure 2). For the purposes of this 
proposed rule, ``suitable habitat'' is considered the area within the 
DPS boundaries capable of supporting grizzly bear reproduction and 
survival now and in the foreseeable future. We have defined ``suitable 
habitat'' for grizzly bears as areas having three characteristics: (1) 
Being of adequate habitat quality and quantity to support grizzly bear 
reproduction and survival; (2) being contiguous with the current 
distribution of GYE grizzly bears such that natural recolonization is 
possible; and (3) having low mortality risk as indicated through 
reasonable and manageable levels of grizzly bear mortality.

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    Our definition and delineation of suitable habitat is built on the 
widely accepted conclusions of extensive research (Craighead 1980, pp. 
8-11; Knight 1980, pp. 1-3; Peek et al. 1987, pp. 160-161; Merrill et 
al. 1999, pp. 233-235; Schwartz et al. 2010, p. 661) that grizzly bear 
reproduction and survival is a function of both the biological needs of 
grizzly bears and remoteness from human activities, which minimizes 
mortality risk for grizzly bears. Mountainous areas provide hiding 
cover, the topographic variation necessary to ensure a wide

[[Page 13185]]

variety of seasonal foods, and the steep slopes used for denning (Judd 
et al. 1986, pp. 114-115; Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 29-58; Linnell et 
al. 2000, pp. 403-405). Higher elevation, mountainous regions in the 
GYE (Omernik 1987, pp. 118-125; Omernik 1995, pp. 49-62; Woods et al. 
1999, entire; McGrath et al. 2002, entire; Chapman et al. 2004, entire) 
contain high-energy foods such as whitebark pine seeds (Mattson and 
Jonkel 1990, p. 223; Mattson et al. 1991a, p. 1623) and army cutworm 
moths (Mattson et al. 1991b, 2434; French et al. 1994, p. 391).
    For our analysis of suitable habitat, we considered the Middle 
Rockies ecoregion, within which the GYE is contained (Omernik 1987, pp. 
120-121; Woods et al. 1999, entire; McGrath et al. 2002, entire; 
Chapman et al. 2004, entire) to meet grizzly bear biological needs 
providing food, seasonal foraging opportunities, cover, and denning 
areas (Mattson and Merrill 2002, p. 1125). Although grizzly bears 
historically occurred throughout the area of the proposed GYE grizzly 
bear DPS (Stebler 1972, pp. 297-298), many of these habitats are not, 
today, biologically suitable for grizzly bears. While there are records 
of grizzly bears in eastern Wyoming near present-day Sheridan, Casper, 
and Wheatland, even in the early 19th century, indirect evidence 
suggests that grizzly bears were less common in these eastern prairie 
habitats than in mountainous areas to the west (Rollins 1935, p. 191; 
Wade 1947, p. 444). Grizzly bear presence in these drier, grassland 
habitats was associated with rivers and streams where grizzly bears 
used bison carcasses as a major food source (Burroughs 1961, pp. 57-60; 
Herrero 1972, pp. 224-227; Stebler 1972, pp. 297-298; Mattson and 
Merrill 2002, pp. 1128-1129). Most of the short-grass prairie on the 
east side of the Rocky Mountains has been converted into agricultural 
land (Woods et al. 1999, entire), and high densities of traditional 
food sources are no longer available due to land conversion and human 
occupancy of urban and rural lands. Traditional food sources such as 
bison and elk have been dramatically reduced and replaced with domestic 
livestock attractants such as cattle, sheep, chickens, goats, pigs, and 
bee hives, which can become anthropogenic sources of prey for grizzly 
bears. While food sources such as grasses and berries are abundant in 
some years in the riparian zones within which the bears travel, these 
are not reliable every year and can only support a small number of 
bears. These nutritional constraints and the potential for human-bear 
conflicts limit the potential for a self-sustaining population of 
grizzly bears to develop in the prairies, although we expect some 
grizzly bears to live in these areas. Because wild bison herds no 
longer exist in these areas, they are no longer capable of contributing 
in a meaningful way to the overall status of the GYE grizzly bear DPS. 
Thus, we did not include drier sagebrush, prairie, or agricultural 
lands within our definition of suitable habitat because these land 
types no longer contain adequate food resources (i.e., bison) to 
support grizzly bears. Figure 2, above, illustrates suitable habitat 
within the GYE grizzly bear DPS.
    Human-caused mortality risk also can impact which habitat might be 
considered suitable. Some human-caused mortality is unavoidable in a 
dynamic system where hundreds of bears inhabit large areas of diverse 
habitat with several million human visitors and residents. The negative 
impacts of humans on grizzly bear survival and habitat use are well 
documented (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278; McLellan and Shackleton 
1988, pp. 458-459; Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 83-103; McLellan 1989, 
pp. 1862-1864; McLellan and Shackleton 1989, pp. 377-378; Mattson 1990, 
pp. 41-44; Mattson and Knight 1991, pp. 9-11; Mace et al. 1996, p. 
1403; McLellan et al. 1999, pp. 914-916; White et al. 1999, p. 150; 
Woodroffe 2000, pp. 166-168; Boyce et al. 2001, p. 34; Johnson et al. 
2004, p. 976; Schwartz et al. 2010, p. 661). These effects range from 
temporary displacement to actual mortality. Grizzly bear persistence in 
the contiguous United States between 1920 and 2000 was negatively 
associated with human and livestock densities (Mattson and Merrill 
2002, pp. 1129-1134). As human population densities increase, the 
frequency of encounters between humans and grizzly bears also 
increases, resulting in more human-caused grizzly bear mortalities due 
to a perceived or real threat to human life or property (Mattson et al. 
1996, pp. 1014-1015). Similarly, as livestock densities increase in 
habitat occupied by grizzly bears, depredations follow. Although 
grizzly bears frequently coexist with cattle without depredating them, 
when grizzly bears encounter domestic sheep, they usually are attracted 
to such flocks and depredate the sheep (Jonkel 1980, p. 12; Knight and 
Judd 1983, pp. 188-189; Orme and Williams 1986, pp. 199-202; Anderson 
et al. 2002, pp. 252-253). If repeated depredations occur, managers 
either relocate the bear or remove it from the population, resulting in 
such domestic sheep areas becoming population sinks (Knight et al. 
1988, pp. 122-123).
    Because urban sites and sheep allotments possess high mortality 
risks for grizzly bears, we did not include these areas as suitable 
habitat (Knight et al. 1988, pp. 122-123). Based on 2000 census data, 
we defined urban areas as census blocks with human population densities 
of more than 50 people per sq km (129 people per sq mi) (U.S. Census 
Bureau 2005, entire). Cities within the Middle Rockies ecoregion, such 
as West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Big Sky, and Cooke City, Montana, and 
Jackson, Wyoming, were not included as suitable habitat. There are 
large, contiguous blocks of sheep allotments in peripheral areas of the 
ecosystem in the Wyoming Mountain Range, the Salt River Mountain Range, 
and portions of the Wind River Mountain Range on the Bridger-Teton and 
the Targhee National Forests (see figure 2, above). This spatial 
distribution of sheep allotments on the periphery of suitable habitat 
results in areas of high mortality risk to bears within these 
allotments and a few small, isolated patches or strips of suitable 
habitat adjacent to or within sheep allotments. These strips and 
patches of land possess higher mortality risks for grizzly bears 
because of their enclosure by and proximity to areas of high mortality 
risk. This phenomenon in which the quantity and quality of suitable 
habitat is diminished because of interactions with surrounding less 
suitable habitat is known as an ``edge effect'' (Lande 1988, pp. 3-4; 
Yahner 1988, pp. 335-337; Mills 1995, p. 396). Edge effects are 
exacerbated in small habitat patches with high perimeter-to-area ratios 
(i.e., those that are longer and narrower) and in wide-ranging species 
such as grizzly bears because they are more likely to encounter 
surrounding, unsuitable habitat (Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998, p. 2126). 
Due to the negative edge effects of this distribution of sheep 
allotments on the periphery of grizzly bear range, our analysis did not 
classify linear strips and isolated patches of habitat as suitable 
habitat.
    Finally, dispersal capabilities of grizzly bears were considered in 
our determination of which potential habitat areas might be considered 
suitable. Although the Bighorn Mountains west of I-90 near Sheridan, 
Wyoming, are grouped within the Middle Rockies ecoregion, they are not 
connected to the current distribution of grizzly bears via suitable 
habitat or linkage zones, nor are there opportunities for such linkage. 
The Bighorn Mountains are comprised of 6,341 sq km (2,448 sq mi) of 
habitat that is classified as part of the Middle

[[Page 13186]]

Rockies ecoregion, but are separated from the current grizzly bear 
distribution by approximately 100 km (60 mi) of a mosaic of private and 
BLM lands primarily used for agriculture, livestock grazing, and oil 
and gas production (Chapman et al. 2004, entire). Although there is a 
possibility that individual bears may emigrate from the GYE to the 
Bighorn Mountains occasionally, this dispersal distance exceeds the 
average dispersal distance for both males (30 to 42 km (19 to 26 mi)) 
and females (10 to 14 km (6 to 9 mi)) (McLellan and Hovey 2001, p. 842; 
Proctor et al. 2004, p. 1108). Without constant emigrants from suitable 
habitat, the Bighorn Mountains will not support a self-sustaining 
grizzly bear population. Therefore, due to the fact that this mountain 
range is disjunct from other suitable habitat and current grizzly bear 
distribution, our analysis did not classify the Bighorn Mountains as 
suitable habitat within the GYE grizzly bear DPS boundaries.
    Some areas that do not meet our definition of suitable habitat may 
still be used by grizzly bears (4,635 sq km (1,787 sq mi)) (Schwartz et 
al. 2002, p. 209; Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 64-66). The records of 
grizzly bears in these unsuitable habitat areas are generally due to 
recorded grizzly bear-human conflicts or to transient animals. These 
areas are defined as unsuitable due to the high risk of mortality 
resulting from these grizzly bear-human conflicts. These unsuitable 
habitat areas do not support grizzly bear reproduction or survival 
because bears that repeatedly come into conflict with humans or 
livestock are usually either relocated or removed (i.e., euthanized or 
placed in an approved American Zoological Association facility) from 
these areas.
    According to the habitat suitability criteria described above, the 
GYE contains approximately 46,035 sq km (17,774 sq mi) of suitable 
grizzly bear habitat within the DPS boundaries; or roughly 24 percent 
of the total area within the DPS boundaries (see figure 2, above). This 
amount of suitable habitat is sufficient to meet all habitat needs of a 
recovered grizzly bear population and provide ecological resiliency to 
the population through the availability of widely distributed, high-
quality habitat that will allow the population to respond to 
environmental changes. Grizzly bears currently occupy about 90 percent 
of that suitable habitat (42,180 sq km (16,286 sq mi)) (Haroldson 2015, 
in litt.). It is important to note that the current grizzly bear 
occupancy does not mean that equal densities of grizzly bears are found 
throughout the region. Instead, most grizzly bears (approximately 75 
percent of females with cubs-of-the-year) are within the PCA for most 
or part of each year (Schwartz et al. 2006a, pp. 64-66; Haroldson 2014, 
in litt.). Grizzly bear use of suitable habitat may vary seasonally and 
annually with different areas being more important than others in some 
seasons or years (Aune and Kasworm 1989, pp. 48-62). We expect grizzly 
bears to naturally recolonize much, if not all, suitable habitat (Pyare 
et al. 2004, pp. 5-6).

Population and Demographic Recovery Criteria

    The 1993 Recovery Plan identified three demographic parameters that 
should be measured to assess recovery in the GYE. The first criterion 
established a minimum population size. The second criterion ensured 
reproductive females were distributed across the Recovery Zone, and the 
third criterion created total mortality limits that would allow the 
population to achieve recovery. Since the 1993 Recovery Plan was 
released, we have evaluated and updated how we assess those recovery 
criteria as newer, better science became available. These revisions 
include implementing new scientific methods to determine the status of 
the GYE grizzly bear demographic monitoring area (DMA) population, 
estimate population size, and determine what levels of mortality the 
population could withstand without causing population decline (i.e., 
the sustainable mortality rate). The DMA is the area within which the 
population is annually surveyed and estimated and within which the 
total mortality limits apply, and is based on the suitable habitat area 
(see figure 2, above). The Wildlife Monograph: ``Temporal, Spatial, and 
Environmental Influences on The Demographics of Grizzly Bears in The 
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem'' (Schwartz et al. 2006b, entire); the 
report: ``Reassessing Methods to Estimate Population Size and 
Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear'' (IGBST 
2005, entire); and the report: ``Reassessing Methods to Estimate 
Population Size and Sustainable Mortality Limits for the Yellowstone 
Grizzly Bear Workshop Document Supplement 19-21 June, 2006'' (IGBST 
2006, entire) provided the scientific basis for revising the 
demographic recovery criteria in the GYE in 2007 (72 FR 11376; March 
13, 2007). Similarly, the revisions we proposed to implement in 2013 
(78 FR 17708; March 22, 2013) are based on updated demographic analyses 
using the same methods as before (Schwartz et al. 2006b, pp. 9-16) and 
reported in the IGBST's 2012 report: ``Updating and Evaluating 
Approaches to Estimate Population Size and Sustainable Mortality Limits 
for Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem'' (hereafter 
referred to as the 2012 IGBST report). This 2012 IGBST report informed 
the scientific basis for the changes we proposed to the GYE demographic 
recovery criteria in 2013.
    In 2013, we proposed to change two of the recovery criteria for the 
Yellowstone Ecosystem in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (78 FR 17708; 
March 22, 2013). Changes were proposed for the demographic goal of 
maintaining a minimum population of 500 animals and at least 48 females 
with cubs, and to eliminate this criterion's dependence on a specific 
counting method; and to revise the area where the population would be 
counted and where total mortality limits would apply. We chose to 
revise the criteria because they no longer represented the best 
scientific data or the best technique to assess recovery of the GYE 
grizzly bear DMA population (78 FR 17708; March 22, 2013). 
Specifically, these criteria warrant revision because: (1) Updated 
demographic analyses for 2002-2011 indicate that the rate of growth 
seen during the 1983-2001 period has slowed and sex ratios have 
changed; (2) there is consensus among scientists and statisticians that 
the area within which we apply total mortality limits should be the 
same area we use to estimate population size; and (3) the population 
has basically stabilized inside the DMA since 2002, with an average 
population size between 2002-2014 of 674 using the model-averaged Chao2 
population estimation method (95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 600-747). 
This stabilization is evidence that the population is close to its 
carrying capacity as evidenced by density dependent regulation 
occurring inside the DMA (van Manen et al. 2015, entire). Also, there 
is a need to allow the IGBST to update the method used to measure 
population size demographic criteria so that they can incorporate 
results from new scientific methods based on peer-reviewed, scientific 
literature as they become available.
    We released these proposed revisions related to population size and 
total mortality limits for public comment in 2013 (78 FR 17708; March 
22, 2013) but did not finalize them so that we could consider another 
round of public comments on these revisions in association with the 
comments on this proposed rule. Further proposed revisions to the 
Recovery Plan Supplement: Revised Demographic Criteria and the draft 
2016 Conservation

[[Page 13187]]

Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the GYE are being made available for 
public review and comment concurrent with this proposed rule. After 
review and incorporation of appropriate public comments, we plan to 
release a final Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan Supplement: Revised 
Demographic Criteria (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 44) and 
the 2016 Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the Greater 
Yellowstone Ecosystem concurrent with release of a final determination 
on this proposed rule.
    Below, we summarize relevant portions of the demographic analyses 
contained in the IGBST's 2012 report (IGBST 2012, entire) and compare 
them with the previous results of Schwartz et al. (2006b, entire) to 
draw conclusions concerning the grizzly bear population in the GYE DMA 
using these collective results. These analyses inform the scientific 
basis for our proposed revisions. While Schwartz et al. (2006b, p. 11) 
used data from 1983 through 2001; the 2012 IGBST report examined a more 
recent time period, 2002 through 2011 (IGBST 2012, p. 33). The IGBST 
found that population growth had slowed since the previous time period, 
but was still stable to slightly increasing, meaning the population had 
not declined. Because the fates of some radio-collared bears are 
unknown, Schwartz et al. (2006b, p. 48) and the IGBST (2012, p. 34) 
calculated two separate estimates of population growth rate: one based 
on the assumption that every bear with an unknown fate had died (i.e., 
a conservative estimate); and the other simply removing bears with an 
unknown fate from the sample. The true population growth rate is 
assumed to be somewhere in between these two estimates because we know 
from 30 years of tracking grizzly bears with radio-collars that every 
lost collar does not indicate a dead bear. While Schwartz et al. 
(2006b, p. 48) found the GYE grizzly bear DMA population increased at a 
rate between 4.2 and 7.6 percent per year between 1983 and 2002, the 
IGBST (2012, p. 34) found this growth had slowed and leveled off and 
was between 0.3 percent and 2.2 percent per year during 2002-2011.
    Schwartz et al. (2006b, p. 29) analyzed survivorship of cubs, 
yearlings, and independent bears based on whether they lived inside 
Yellowstone National Park, outside the Park but inside the Recovery 
Zone or PCA, or outside the PCA entirely. The PCA boundaries 
(containing 23,853 sq km (9,210 sq mi) correspond to those of the 
Yellowstone Recovery Zone (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 41) 
and will replace the Recovery Zone boundary (see figure 2, above). They 
concluded that grizzly bears were approaching carrying capacity inside 
Yellowstone National Park. The IGBST (2012, p. 33) documented lower cub 
and yearling survival than in the previous time period, results 
consistent with the conclusion by Schwartz et al. (2006b). Importantly, 
annual survival of independent females (the most influential age-sex 
cohort on population trend) remained the same while independent male 
survival increased (IGBST 2012, p. 33). Collectively, these two studies 
indicate that the growth rate of the GYE grizzly bear DMA population 
has slowed as bear densities have approached carrying capacity, 
particularly in the core area of occupied range.
    Mortality reduction is a key part of any successful management 
effort for grizzly bears; however, some mortality, including most 
human-caused mortality, is unavoidable in a dynamic system where 
hundreds of bears inhabit large areas of diverse habitat with several 
million human visitors and residents. Adult female mortality influences 
the population trajectory more than mortality of males or dependent 
young (Eberhardt 1977, p. 210; Knight and Eberhardt 1985, p. 331; 
Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48). Low adult female survival was the 
critical factor that caused decline in the GYE population prior to the 
mid-1980s (Knight and Eberhardt 1985, p. 331). In the early 1980s, with 
the development of the first Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1982, pp. 21-24), agencies began to address mortality and 
increase adult female survivorship (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 1-2; 
Knight et al. 1999, pp. 56-57).
    The Recovery Plan and subsequent supplements to it (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 1982, pp. 33-34; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, 
pp. 20-21; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007b, p. 2) established 
three demographic criteria to objectively measure and monitor recovery 
of the GYE grizzly bear DMA population. The three parameters that are 
measured have remained the same since the 1993 plan: (1) Minimum 
population size for maintaining genetic integrity; (2) population 
distribution; and (3) total mortality limits that allow continued 
population health and occupancy of the recovery area. The most current 
demographic criteria were appended to the 1993 Recovery Plan in 2007, 
and proposed revisions to those were released for public comment in 
2013, though not finalized, as explained above. Further revisions to 
the demographic criteria are being released for public comment 
concurrent with this proposed rule. Below, we detail each recovery 
criterion currently proposed.
    Demographic Recovery Criterion 1--Maintain a population size of at 
least 500 bears and at least 48 females with cubs in the demographic 
monitoiring area (DMA) as indicated by methods established in 
published, peer-reviewed scientific literature and calculated by the 
IGBST using the most updated protocol as posted on their Web site. The 
current method (2016) used to estimate population size is the model-
averaged Chao2 method. If the estimate of total population size drops 
below 500 or counts of females with cubs go below 48 unduplicated 
females with cubs in 3 consecutive years, this criterion will not be 
met. The population estimate and counts of unduplicated females with 
cubs will be calculated by the IGBST using data obtained within the 
DMA.
    A minimum population size of at least 500 animals within the DMA 
will assure genetic health. Population size will be quantified by 
methods established in published, peer-reviewed scientific literature 
and calculated by the IGBST using the most updated protocol, as posted 
on their Web site. This number will ensure the short-term fitness of 
the population is not threatened by losses in genetic diversity in such 
an isolated population. Five hundred is a minimum population threshold. 
The goal is to maintain the population well above this threshold to 
ensure that genetic issues are not a detriment to the short-term 
genetic fitness of the GYE grizzly bear population. If the population 
declined to 500, more than one third of the suitable habitat in the DMA 
would be unoccupied (van Manen 2015, in litt.), and, therefore, the 
grizzly bear population could not be considered demographically 
recovered.
    The model-averaged Chao2 method is currently the best available 
science to estimate the total population size in the GYE. The IGBST has 
been calculating population size on an annual basis using the model-
averaged Chao2 (see glossary) estimate since 2002, and this method has 
been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. The model-
averaged Chao2 method is the population estimate method that has the 
lowest amount of annual variation, and it is the most sensitive method 
to detect increasing or decreasing population trends over time. As the 
grizzly bear population has increased, model-averaged Chao2 estimates 
have become increasingly conservative (i.e., prone to underestimation). 
As a conservative approach to population estimation, the model-averaged 
Chao2 method will

[[Page 13188]]

continue to be the method used to assess Criterion 1 (see U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Appendix C, for the application protocol for 
annual population estimation using the Chao2 method) until a new 
population estimator is approved. If new methods become available, 
these will be considered for application in the GYE as long as they 
represent the best available science. However, until possible new 
methods are developed, the model-averaged Chao2 method will continue to 
be used. Status: This recovery criterion has been met since 2003 (see 
IGBST annual reports available at http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/products/IGBST).
    Demographic Recovery Criterion 2--Sixteen of 18 bear management 
units within the PCA (see map at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlyBear.php) must be occupied by females with young, with no two 
adjacent bear management units unoccupied, during a 6-year sum of 
observations. This criterion is important as it ensures that 
reproductive females occupy the majority of the PCA and are not 
concentrated in one portion of the ecosystem. Status: This recovery 
criterion has been met since at least 2001.
    Demographic Recovery Criterion 3--Maintain the population around 
the 2002-2014 Chao2 modeled average (average = 674; 95% CI = 600-757; 
90% CI = 612-735) by maintaining annual mortality limits for 
independent females, independent males, and dependent young as shown in 
table 1 in this proposed rule. (These adjustable mortality rates were 
calculated as those necessary to manage the population to the modeled 
average of 674 bears which occurred during the time period that this 
population's growth stabilized.) If mortality limits are exceeded for 
any sex/age class for 3 consecutive years and any annual population 
estimate falls below 612 (the lower bound of the 90% confidence 
interval), the IGBST will produce a Biology and Monitoring Review to 
inform the appropriate management response. If any annual population 
estimate falls below 600 (the lower bound of the 95% confidence 
interval), this criterion will not be met and there will be no 
discretionary mortality, except as necessary for human safety.
    The population had stabilized 2002-2014 at a mean model-averaged 
Chao2 population size of 674 (95% CI = 600-757), which is very similar 
to the population size of 683 when the Yellowstone population was 
previously delisted in 2007 (72 FR 14866; March 29, 2007). The 
population has now naturally stabilized because of density-dependent 
population effects that resulted in reduced survival of subadults. The 
existence of lower subadult survival and occupancy by grizzly bears in 
almost all suitable habitat inside the DMA has been demonstrated by van 
Manen et al. (2015, entire). Status: This criterion has been met for 
all age and sex classes since 2004.

   Table 1--Total Mortality Rate Limits Inside the DMA. These Mortality Rates Were Calculated as Those Limits
Necessary To Manage Toward the Long-Term Average Population Size That Occurred From 2002 to 2014 Using the Model-
  Averaged Chao2 Population Estimate Method (674, 95% CI = 600 -747). If Population Size Is Estimated as Fewer
    Than or Equal to 600 in Any Year, No Discretionary Mortality Will Occur Unless Necessary for Human Safety
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      Total grizzly bear population estimate
                                                                 -----------------------------------------------
                                                                       <=674          675-747          >747
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mortality limit % for independent FEMALES (using model-averaged           <=7.6%              9%             10%
 Chao2 method)..................................................
Mortality limit % for independent MALES (using model-averaged                15%             20%             22%
 Chao2 method)..................................................
Mortality limit for % of DEPENDENT YOUNG (using model-averaged            <=7.6%              9%             10%
 Chao2 method)..................................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Consistent with USFWS Director Dan Ashe's letter of September 25, 2015, to the state directors, if the model-
 averaged Chao2 population estimate is less than 674, the total mortality rate for independent females and
 dependent young will be less than 7.6%.........................................................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total mortality: Documented known and probable grizzly bear mortalities from all causes including but are not
 limited to: management removals, illegal kills, mistaken identity kills, self-defense kills, vehicle kills,
 natural mortalities, undetermined-cause mortalities, grizzly bear hunting, and a statistical estimate of the
 number of unknown/unreported mortalities.......................................................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Conservation Strategy

    The Conservation Strategy is the management plan that 
institutionalizes the successful program that resulted in the recovery 
of the GYE population. The Conservation Strategy will guide post-
delisting management, just as it has guided management in the GYE since 
2007. Recovery of the GYE grizzly bear population is the result of 
ongoing partnerships between Federal, Tribal, and State agencies; the 
governors of these States; county and city governments; educational 
institutions; numerous nongovernmental organizations; private 
landowners; and the public who live, work, and recreate in the GYE. 
Just as recovery of the GYE grizzly bear population could not have 
occurred without these excellent working relationships, maintenance of 
a recovered grizzly bear population requires continued application of 
the management actions and partnerships that resulted in the recovery 
of the grizzly bears and their habitat, and this is what the 
Conservation Strategy does. Grizzly bears are a ``conservation-
reliant'' species because of their low resiliency to excessive human-
caused mortality and the manageable nature of this threat (Scott et al. 
2005, p. 384). This means that for grizzly bears in the GYE to remain 
recovered there will always need to be careful and cautious management 
of mortalities and habitat. Consequently, the 2016 Conservation 
Strategy will remain in effect indefinitely--beyond the 5-year post-
delisting monitoring period required by the Act--to facilitate and 
assure continued successful management of the population and its 
habitat across multiple land ownerships and jurisdictions.
    In order to document the regulatory mechanisms and coordinated 
management approach necessary to ensure the long-term maintenance of a 
recovered population, the Recovery Plan calls for the development of 
``a conservation strategy to outline habitat and population monitoring 
that will continue in force after recovery'' (Recovery Plan Task Y426) 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 55). To accomplish this goal, 
a Conservation Strategy Team was formed in 1993. This team included 
biologists and managers from the Service, National Park Service,

[[Page 13189]]

Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), IDFG, WGFD, and MTFWP.
    In March 2000, a draft Conservation Strategy for the GYE was 
released for public review and comment (65 FR 11340; March 2, 2000). 
Also in 2000, a Governors' Roundtable was organized to provide 
recommendations from the perspectives of the three States that would be 
involved with grizzly bear management after delisting. In 2003, the 
draft Final Conservation Strategy for the Grizzly Bear in the GYE was 
released, along with drafts of State grizzly bear management plans (all 
accessible at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlyBear.php). 
We responded to all public comments and peer reviews received on the 
Conservation Strategy and finalized the Conservation Strategy in 2007 
(72 FR 11376; March 13, 2007). Revisions have been made to the 
Conservation Strategy and a draft 2016 Conservation Strategy is 
presented for public comment concurrent with this proposed rule 
(accessible at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlyBear.php).
    The purposes of the Conservation Strategy and associated State and 
Federal implementation plans are to: (1) Describe, summarize, and 
implement the coordinated efforts to manage the grizzly bear population 
and its habitat to ensure continued conservation of the GYE grizzly 
bear population; (2) specify and implement the population/mortality 
management, habitat, and nuisance bear standards to maintain a 
recovered grizzly bear population for the future; (3) document specific 
State and Federal regulatory mechanisms and legal authorities, 
policies, management, and monitoring programs that exist to maintain 
the recovered grizzly bear population; and (4) document the actions 
that participating agencies have agreed to implement (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Executive Summary).
    Implementation of the Conservation Strategy by all agency partners 
will coordinate management and monitoring of the GYE grizzly bear 
population and its habitat after delisting. The draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy establishes and details a regulatory framework and authority 
for Federal and State agencies to take over management of the GYE 
grizzly bear population from the Service. The draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy also identifies, defines, and requires adequate post-delisting 
monitoring to maintain a healthy GYE grizzly bear population (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapters 2 and 3). The draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy has objective, measurable habitat and population 
standards, with clear State and Federal management responses if 
deviations occur (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 6). It 
represents 20 years of a collaborative, interagency effort among the 
members of the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee. State grizzly bear 
management plans were developed in all three affected States (Idaho, 
Montana, and Wyoming). Revised state plans will be incorporated into 
the final 2016 Conservation Strategy as appendices to ensure that the 
plans and the Conservation Strategy are consistent and complementary 
(accessible at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/grizzlyBear.php). 
If the State plans change from those available for comment appended to 
this draft Strategy, these revised State plans will be available for 
public comment and finalized prior to a final determination on this 
proposed rule. All the State and Federal agencies party to the draft 
2016 Conservation Strategy will need to sign a memorandum of 
understanding agreeing to implement the revised 2016 Conservation 
Strategy prior to a final rule.
    The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy identifies and provides a 
framework for managing habitat within the PCA and managing demographic 
parameters within the DMA (see figure 2, above). The PCA contains 
adequate seasonal habitat components for a portion of the recovered GYE 
grizzly bear population for the future and to allow bears to continue 
to expand outside the PCA. The PCA includes approximately 51 percent of 
suitable grizzly bear habitat within the GYE and approximately 75 
percent of the population of female grizzly bears with cubs (Haroldson 
2014, in litt.) (For more information about what constitutes ``suitable 
habitat,'' see the suitable habitat discussion under Factor A, below).
    The 2016 Conservation Strategy will be implemented and funded by 
Federal, Tribal, and State agencies within the GYE. The signatories to 
the final 2016 Conservation Strategy have a demonstrated track record 
of funding measures to ensure recovery of this grizzly bear population 
for more than 3 decades. The Service intends to continue contributing 
funding to the implementation of the 2016 Conservation Strategy. In 
general, the Forest Service and National Park Service will be 
responsible for habitat management to reduce the risk of human-caused 
mortality to grizzly bears while the National Park Service, and State 
and Tribal wildlife agencies, will be responsible for managing the 
population within specific total mortality limits. The Forest Service 
and National Park Service collectively manage approximately 98 percent 
of lands inside the PCA. Specifically, Yellowstone National Park; Grand 
Teton National Park; and the Shoshone, Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Bridger-
Teton, Caribou-Targhee, and Custer-Gallatin National Forests are the 
Federal entities responsible for implementing the 2016 Conservation 
Strategy. Affected National Forests and National Parks have 
incorporated, or will incorporate before a final rule is issued, the 
habitat standards and criteria into their Forest Plans and National 
Park management plans and/or Superintendent's Compendia via appropriate 
amendment processes so that they are legally applied to these public 
lands within the GYE (see Grand Teton National Park 2006, p. 1; USDA 
Forest Service 2006b, p. 4; Yellowstone National Park 2006, p. 12). 
Outside of the PCA, grizzly bear habitat is well protected via 
Wilderness Area designation (Wilderness or Wilderness Study Area) or 
Forest Plan direction, and demographic standards will protect the 
population throughout the DMA.
    If this proposed rule is made final, the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Coordinating Committee (hereafter referred to as the YGCC) will replace 
the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee as the interagency group 
coordinating implementation of the 2016 Conservation Strategy's habitat 
and population standards, and monitoring (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2016, Chapter 6). Similar to the Yellowstone Ecosystem 
Subcommittee, the YGCC members include representatives from Yellowstone 
and Grand Teton National Parks, the five affected National Forests, 
BLM, USGS, IDFG, MTFWP, WGFD, one member from local county governments 
within each State, and one member from the Shoshone Bannock, Northern 
Arapahoe, and Eastern Shoshone Tribes. All meetings will be open to the 
public. Besides coordinating management, research, and financial needs 
for successful conservation of the GYE grizzly bear population, the 
YGCC will review the IGBST Annual Reports and review and respond to any 
deviations from habitat or population standards. As per the 
implementation section of the 2016 Conservation Strategy, the YGCC will 
coordinate management and implementation of the 2016 Conservation 
Strategy and work together to rectify problems and to assure that the 
habitat and population standards and total mortality limits will be met 
and maintained.
    The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy is an adaptive, dynamic 
document that establishes a framework to incorporate new and better 
scientific information as

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it becomes available or as necessary in response to environmental 
changes. Any changes and updates to the 2016 Conservation Strategy must 
meet the following two criteria: (1) Be based on the best available 
science; and (2) be subject to public comment before being implemented 
by the YGCC (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 1).

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Policy Overview

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying 
species, or removing species from listed status. ``Species'' is defined 
by the Act as including any species or subspecies of fish or wildlife 
or plants, and any distinct vertebrate population segment of fish or 
wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). We, along 
with the National Marine Fisheries Service (now the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration--Fisheries), developed the Policy 
Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Vertebrate Population Segments 
(DPS policy) (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996), to help us in determining 
what constitutes a distinct population segment (DPS). Under this 
policy, the Service considers two factors to determine whether the 
population segment is a valid DPS: (1) Discreteness of the population 
segment in relation to the remainder of the taxon to which it belongs; 
and (2) the significance of the population segment to the taxon to 
which it belongs. If a population meets both tests, it is a DPS, and 
the Service then evaluates the population segment's conservation status 
according to the standards in section 4 of the Act for listing, 
delisting, or reclassification (i.e., is the DPS endangered or 
threatened). Our policy further recognizes it may be appropriate to 
assign different classifications (i.e., endangered or threatened) to 
different DPSs of the same vertebrate taxon (61 FR 4725; February 7, 
1996).

Past Practice and History of Using DPSs

    As of February 9, 2016, of the 436 native vertebrate listings, 89 
are listed as less than an entire taxonomic species or subspecies 
(henceforth referred to in this discussion as populations) under one of 
several authorities, including the ``distinct population segment'' 
language in the Act's definition of species (section 3(16)). Twenty-
three of these 89 populations, which span 5 different taxa, predate the 
1996 DPS Policy; as such, the final listing determinations for these 
populations did not include formal policy-based analyses or expressly 
designate the listed entity as a DPS. In several instances, however, 
the Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have 
established a DPS and revised the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife in a single action, as shown in the following examples.
    In February 1985, the Service delisted the brown pelican (Pelecanus 
occidentalis) in the southeastern United States and continued to 
identify it as endangered throughout the remainder of its range (50 FR 
4938; February 4, 1985). The Service later went on to delist the brown 
pelican in the remainder of its range (74 FR 59444; November 17, 2009). 
In June 1994, NMFS revised the entry for the gray whale (Eschrichtius 
robustus) to remove the eastern North Pacific population from the List 
of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife while retaining the western North 
Pacific population as endangered (59 FR 31094; June 16, 1994). In May 
1997, NMFS identified the western and eastern DPSs of the Steller sea 
lion (Eumetopias jubatus), which had been listed as threatened, and 
listed the western DPS as endangered (62 FR 24345; May 5, 1997). In 
July 2003, the Service established two DPSs of the Columbian white-
tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus leucurus)--the Douglas County DPS 
and the Columbia River DPS--and delisted only the Douglas County DPS, 
while retaining listed status for the Columbia River DPS (68 FR 43647; 
July 24, 2003). The Columbia River DPS was recently proposed for 
reclassification to threatened (October 8, 2015; 80 FR 60850). In March 
2007, the Service identified the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) 
in Florida as a DPS within the existing endangered listing of the 
American crocodile and reclassified the Florida DPS from endangered to 
threatened (72 FR 13027; March 20, 2007). In September 2011, the 
Service and NMFS jointly determined the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta 
caretta) is composed of nine DPSs and replaced the species-wide listing 
with four DPSs as threatened and five DPSs as endangered (76 FR 58868; 
September 22, 2011). The Service and NMFS have jointly proposed to make 
similar revisions to the species-wide listing for the green sea turtle 
(Chelonia mydas), and NMFS has also recently proposed to revise the 
global listing for humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) (80 FR 
15272; March 23, 2015, and 80 FR 22304; April 21, 2015, respectively). 
Revising the lower 48 State listing for grizzly bear by removing the 
GYE DPS is consistent with the Service's past and practice.
    Our authority to make these determinations and to revise the list 
accordingly is a reasonable interpretation of the language of the Act, 
and our ability to do so is an important component of the Service's 
program for the conservation of endangered and threatened species. Our 
authority to revise the existing listing of a species (the grizzly bear 
in the lower 48 States) to identify a GYE DPS and determine that it is 
healthy enough that it no longer needs the Act's protections is found 
in the precise language of the Act. Moreover, even if that authority 
were not clear, our interpretation of this authority to make 
determinations under section 4(a)(1) of the Act and to revise the 
endangered and threatened species list to reflect those determinations 
under section 4(c)(1) of the Act is reasonable and fully consistent 
with the Act's text, structure, legislative history, relevant judicial 
interpretations, and policy objectives.
    On December 12, 2008, a formal opinion was issued by the Solicitor, 
``U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Authority Under Section 4(c)(1) of the 
Endangered Species Act to Revise Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Species to `Reflect Recent Determinations' '' (U.S. DOI 2008). The 
Service fully agrees with the analysis and conclusions set out in the 
Solicitor's opinion. This proposed action is consistent with the 
opinion. The complete text of the Solicitor's opinion can be found at 
https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.opengov.ibmcloud.com/files/uploads/M-37018.pdf.
    We recognize that our interpretation and use of the DPS policy to 
revise and delist distinct population segments has been challenged in 
Humane Society of the United States v. Jewell, 76 F.Supp.3d 69 (D. D.C. 
2014). Partly at issue in that case was our application of the DPS 
policy to Western Great Lakes wolves in a delisting rule (76 FR 81666; 
December 28, 2011). Our rule was vacated by the district court's 
decision. We respectfully disagree with the district court's 
interpretation of the DPS policy, and the United States has appealed 
that decision.
    In the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan, the Service identifies six 
grizzly bear Recovery Zones and identifies unique demographic recovery 
criteria for each one. The 1993 Recovery Plan states that it is the 
intent of the Service to delist individual populations as they achieve 
recovery (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. ii). The Service has 
proceeded in a manner consistent with the Recovery Plan with respect to

[[Page 13191]]

individual population treatment. For example, grizzly bears in the 
Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk, and North Cascades Recovery Zones, all included 
in the original threatened grizzly bear listing, were petitioned for 
reclassification from threatened to endangered. Although already listed 
as threatened, we determined that reclassifying those grizzly bears to 
endangered was warranted but precluded by higher priorities. After 
2014, the Service determined that the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk 
populations had recovered to the point that they were no longer 
warranted but precluded from listing as endangered; they remain listed 
as threatened. Grizzly bears in the North Cascades Recovery Zone are 
still warranted but precluded for reclassification from threatened to 
endangered. The Bitterroot Recovery Zone now has status under section 
10(j) of the Act, which authorizes the Service to release an 
experimental population of grizzly bears in that Recovery Zone.

Distinct Vertebrate Population Segment Analysis

Analysis of Discreteness in Relation to Remainder of Taxon

    Under our DPS Policy, a population of a vertebrate taxon may be 
considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following 
conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the 
same taxon (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis) as a consequence of 
physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors 
(quantitative measures of genetic or morphological discontinuity may 
provide evidence of this separation); or (2) it is delimited by 
international governmental boundaries within which differences in 
control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or 
regulatory mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 
4(a)(1)(D) (``the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms'') of 
the Act. The DPS Policy does not require complete separation of one DPS 
from another, and occasional interchange does not undermine the 
discreteness of potential DPSs. If complete separation is required, the 
loss of the population has little significance to other populations (61 
FR 4722, 4724). The DPS policy only requires that populations be 
``markedly separated'' from each other. Thus, if occasional individual 
grizzly bears move between populations, the population could still 
display the required level of discreteness per the DPS Policy. The 
standard adopted allows for some limited interchange among population 
segments considered to be discrete, so that loss of an interstitial 
population could well have consequences for gene flow and demographic 
suitability of a species as a whole.
    Although the DPS Policy does not allow State or other intra-
national governmental boundaries to be used as the basis for 
determining the discreteness of a potential DPS, an artificial or 
human-made boundary may be used to clearly identify the geographic area 
included within a DPS designation. Easily identified human-made 
objects, such as the center line of interstate highways, Federal 
highways, and State highways are useful for delimiting DPS boundaries. 
Thus, the proposed GYE grizzly bear DPS consists of: That portion of 
Idaho that is east of Interstate Highway 15 and north of U.S. Highway 
30; that portion of Montana that is east of Interstate Highway 15 and 
south of Interstate Highway 90; and that portion of Wyoming that is 
south of Interstate Highway 90, west of Interstate Highway 25, west of 
Wyoming State Highway 220, and west of U.S. Highway 287 south of Three 
Forks (at the 220 and 287 intersection, and north of Interstate Highway 
80 and U.S. Highway 30) (see DPS boundary in figure 2, above). Due to 
the use of highways as easily described boundaries, large areas of 
unsuitable habitat are included in the proposed DPS boundaries.
    The core of the proposed GYE grizzly bear DPS is the Yellowstone 
PCA (24,000 sq km (9,200 sq mi)) (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, 
p. 39). The Yellowstone PCA includes Yellowstone National Park; a 
portion of Grand Teton National Park; John D. Rockefeller Memorial 
Parkway; sizable contiguous portions of the Shoshone, Bridger-Teton, 
Caribou-Targhee, Custer-Gallatin, and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National 
Forests; BLM lands; and surrounding State and private lands (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 39). As grizzly bear populations have 
rebounded and densities have increased, bears have expanded their range 
beyond the PCA, into other suitable habitat in the DMA. Grizzly bears 
now occupy about 44,624 sq km (17,229 sq mi) or 89 percent of the GYE 
DMA (Haroldson 2015, in litt.), with occasional occurrences well beyond 
this estimate of occupied range. No grizzly bears originating from the 
Yellowstone PCA have been suspected or confirmed beyond the borders of 
the GYE grizzly bear DPS described above. Similarly, no grizzly bears 
originating from other Recovery Zones have been detected inside the 
borders of the GYE grizzly bear DPS (Wildlife Genetics International 
2015, in litt.).
    The GYE grizzly bear population is the southernmost population 
remaining in the conterminous United States and has been physically 
separated from other areas where grizzly bears occur for at least 100 
years (Merriam 1922, pp. 1-2; Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4334). The 
nearest population of grizzly bears is found in the NCDE approximately 
160 km (100 mi) to the north. Although their range continues to expand 
north (Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 185), grizzly bears from the GYE have 
not been documented north of Interstate 90 outside the proposed DPS 
boundaries (Frey 2014, in litt.). Over the last few decades, the NCDE 
grizzly bear population has been slowly expanding to the south, and 
there have been several confirmed grizzly bears from the NCDE within 32 
to 80 km (20 to 50 mi) of the GYE grizzly bear DPS boundaries near 
Butte, Deerlodge, and Anaconda, Montana (Jonkel 2014, in litt.). 
However, there is currently no known connectivity between these two 
grizzly bear populations.
    Genetic data also support the conclusion that grizzly bears from 
the GYE are separated from other grizzly bears. Genetic studies 
estimating heterozygosity (which provides a measure of genetic 
diversity) show 60 percent heterozygosity in the GYE grizzly bears 
compared to 67 percent in the NCDE grizzly bears (Haroldson et al. 
2010, p. 7). Heterozygosity is a useful measure of genetic diversity, 
with higher values indicative of greater genetic variation and 
evolutionary potential. High levels of genetic variation are indicative 
of high levels of connectivity among populations or high numbers of 
breeding animals. By comparing heterozygosity of extant bears to 
samples from Yellowstone grizzly bears of the early 1900s, Miller and 
Waits (2003, p. 4338) concluded that gene flow and, therefore, 
population connectivity between the GYE grizzly population and 
populations to the north was low even 100 years ago. The reasons for 
this historic limitation of gene flow are unclear, but we do know 
increasing levels of human activity and settlement in this intervening 
area over the last century further limited grizzly bear movements into 
and out of the GYE, likely resulting in the current lack of 
connectivity (Proctor et al. 2012, p. 35).
    Based on the best available scientific data about grizzly bear 
locations and movements, we find that the GYE grizzly bear population 
and other remaining grizzly bear populations are markedly, physically 
separated from each other. Therefore, the GYE grizzly bear population 
meets the criterion of discreteness under our DPS Policy. Occasional 
movement of bears from

[[Page 13192]]

other grizzly bear populations into the GYE grizzly bear population 
would be beneficial to its long-term persistence (Boyce et al. 2001, 
pp. 25, 26). While future connectivity is desirable and will be 
actively managed for, this would not undermine discreteness, as all 
that is required is ``marked separation,'' not absolute separation. 
Even if occasional individual grizzly bears disperse among populations, 
the GYE grizzly bear population would still display the required level 
of discreteness per the DPS Policy. And, as stated in the 1993 Recovery 
Plan, we recognize that natural connectivity is important to long-term 
grizzly bear conservation, and we will continue efforts to work toward 
this goal independent of the delisting of the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 53). This issue is discussed 
further under Factor E below.

Analysis of Significance of Population Segment to Taxon

    If we determine a population segment is discrete under one or more 
of the conditions described in the Service's DPS policy, its biological 
and ecological significance will then be considered in light of 
Congressional guidance that the authority to list DPS's be used 
``sparingly'' while encouraging the conservation of genetic diversity 
(see Senate Report 151, 96th Congress, 1st Session). In carrying out 
this examination, we consider available scientific evidence of the 
population's importance to the taxon (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis) to 
which it belongs. Since precise circumstances are likely to vary 
considerably from case to case, the DPS policy does not describe all 
the classes of information that might be used in determining the 
biological and ecological importance of a discrete population. However, 
the DPS policy describes four possible classes of information that 
provide evidence of a population segment's biological and ecological 
importance to the taxon to which it belongs. As specified in the DPS 
policy (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996), this consideration of the 
population segment's significance may include, but is not limited to, 
the following: (1) Persistence of the discrete population segment in an 
ecological setting unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) Evidence that 
loss of the discrete population segment would result in a significant 
gap in the range of the taxon; (3) Evidence that the discrete 
population segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of 
a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population 
outside its historic range; or (4) Evidence that the discrete 
population segment differs markedly from other populations of the 
species in its genetic characteristics. To be considered significant, a 
population segment needs to satisfy only one of these conditions, or 
other classes of information that might bear on the biological and 
ecological importance of a discrete population segment, as described in 
the DPS policy (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996). Below we address Factors 
1, 2, and 4. Factor 3 does not apply to the GYE grizzly bear population 
because there are several other extant populations of grizzly bears in 
North America.
Unusual or Unique Ecological Setting
    New information since the publication of the March 29, 2007, final 
rule (72 FR 14866) and the 2011 status review (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2011) calls into question whether the GYE is truly a unique 
ecological setting. Previously, we concluded that the GYE was a unique 
ecological setting because grizzly bears were more carnivorous there 
than in other ecosystems in the lower 48 States and that they still 
used whitebark pine seeds extensively while other populations no longer 
did.
    Based on previous research, we found that meat constitutes 45 
percent and 79 percent of the annual diet for females and males in the 
GYE, respectively (Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). These high percentages 
of meat in GYE grizzly bears' diet appeared to be in contrast with the 
0 to 33 percent of meat in the diet of bears in the NCDE and 0 to 17 
percent of meat in the diet of bears from the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem 
(Jacoby et al. 1999, p. 925). However, these analyses were recently 
revisited and supplemented with larger sample sizes with very different 
results. First, Schwartz et al. (2014, p. 75) found that meat 
constitutes 44 percent of the annual diet among grizzly bears in the 
GYE, with no statistical difference among sex and age groups. For the 
Yellowstone Lake area, Fortin et al. (2013, p. 275) found that meat 
constitutes 38 percent and 45 percent of the annual diet for females 
and males in the GYE, respectively. These levels are very similar to 
those in the NCDE, where meat constitutes 38 percent and 56 percent of 
the annual diet for females and males, respectively (Teisberg et al. 
2014, p. 7). Previous information also indicated that bison, a species 
endemic to North America, accounted for up to 24 percent of ungulate 
meat in GYE grizzly bear diets (Mattson 1997, p. 167). However, Fortin 
et al. (2013, p. 275) found bison comprise only about 9 percent of 
grizzly bear diets around the Yellowstone Lake area, possibly 
indicating grizzly bears do not use this endemic food source as much as 
previously thought in the GYE.
    We also previously concluded the GYE grizzly bear population exists 
in a unique ecological setting because it is able to use whitebark pine 
seeds as a major food source (see 72 FR 14866; March 29, 2007). We 
considered the use of whitebark pine seeds by GYE grizzly bears unique 
because in most areas of its range, whitebark pine has been 
significantly reduced in numbers and distribution due to the introduced 
pathogen white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) (Kendall and 
Keane 2001, pp. 228-232). New information indicates that whitebark pine 
has also been reduced in the GYE since 2002 due to a mountain pine 
beetle epidemic. Since this time, bears have been documented using 
whitebark pine less frequently. A recent study using GPS data indicated 
nearly one third of sampled grizzly bears in the GYE did not even have 
whitebark pine within their home ranges (Costello et al. 2014, p. 
2009). Grizzly bears in the GYE do not seek out whitebark pine in years 
of poor seed production but make use of other foods within their home 
ranges instead (Costello et al. 2014, p. 2013). Additionally, methods 
used by Felicetti et al. (2003, entire) to assess whitebark pine use in 
the GYE may not be as reliable as previously thought because other 
foods in the GYE could be mistakenly identified as whitebark pine, 
indicating more use than is actually occurring (Schwartz et al. 2014, 
p. 6).
    In light of these new data indicating grizzly bears in the GYE do 
not consume more meat than other populations in the lower 48 States and 
their use of whitebark pine has waned, we no longer consider the GYE 
grizzly bear population to meet the DPS policy standard for 
significance based on its persistence in an ecological setting unusual 
or unique for the taxon.
Significant Gap in the Range of the Taxon
    Given the grizzly bear's historic occupancy of the conterminous 
United States and the portion of the historic range the conterminous 
United States represent, recovery in the lower 48 States where the 
grizzly bear existed in 1975 when it was listed has long been viewed as 
important to the taxon (40 FR 31734; July 28, 1975). The GYE grizzly 
bear population is significant in achieving this objective, as it is 
one of only five known occupied areas and one unoccupied area and 
constitutes approximately half of the estimated number of grizzly bears 
remaining in the conterminous 48 States. As noted above,

[[Page 13193]]

grizzly bears once lived throughout the North American Rockies from 
Alaska and Canada, and south into central Mexico. Grizzly bears have 
been extirpated from most of the southern portions of their historic 
range. Today, the GYE grizzly bear population represents the 
southernmost reach of the taxon. The loss of this population would 
significantly impact representation of the species because it would 
substantially curtail the range of the grizzly bear in North America by 
moving the range approximately 3 degrees of latitude or 200 mi (350 km) 
to the north. Therefore, we find that the GYE population of grizzly 
bears meets the significance criterion under our DPS policy because its 
loss would represent a significant gap in the range of the taxon.
Marked Genetic Differences
    Several studies have documented some level of genetic differences 
between grizzly bears in the GYE and other populations in North America 
(Paetkau et al. 1998, pp. 421-424; Waits et al. 1998, p. 310; Proctor 
et al. 2012, p. 12). The GYE population has been isolated from other 
grizzly bear populations for 100 years or more (Miller and Waits 2003, 
p. 4334). However, Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4334) could only 
speculate as to the reasons behind this historical separation or how 
long it had been occurring. Proctor et al. (2012, p. 35) concluded that 
observed differences in heterozygosity among grizzly bear populations 
in southern Canada and the United States were an artifact of human-
caused habitat fragmentation, not the result of different evolutionary 
pressures selecting for specific traits. We do not know whether these 
differences in heterozygosity levels are biologically meaningful, and 
we have no data indicating they are. Because we do not know the 
biological significance (if any) of the observed differences, we cannot 
say with certainty that the GYE grizzly bear population's genetics 
differ ``markedly'' from other grizzly bear populations. Therefore, we 
do not consider these genetic differences to meet the DPS policy's 
standard for significance.
    In summary, while we no longer consider the GYE grizzly bear 
population to be significant due to unique ecological conditions or 
marked genetic differences, we still conclude that the GYE grizzly bear 
population is significant because the loss of this population would 
result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon.

Summary of Distinct Population Segment Analysis

    Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, as 
described above, we find that the GYE grizzly bear population is 
discrete from other grizzly bear populations and significant to the 
remainder of the taxon (i.e., Ursus arctos horribilis). Because the GYE 
grizzly bear population is discrete and significant, it meets the 
definition of a DPS under the Act. Therefore, the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
is a listable entity under the Act, and we now assess this DPS's 
conservation status in relation to the Act's standards for listing, 
delisting, or reclassification (i.e., whether this DPS meets the 
definition of an endangered or threatened species under the Act).

Summary of Factors Affecting the Species

    Section 4 of the Act and its implementing regulations (50 CFR part 
424) set forth the procedures for listing species, reclassifying 
species, or removing species from listed status. ``Species'' is defined 
by the Act as including any species or subspecies of fish or wildlife 
or plants, and any distinct vertebrate population segment of fish or 
wildlife that interbreeds when mature (16 U.S.C. 1532(16)). A species 
may be determined to be an endangered or threatened species due to one 
or more of the five factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act: 
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or 
predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) 
other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. We 
must consider these same five factors in delisting a species. We may 
delist a species according to 50 CFR 424.11(d) if the best available 
scientific and commercial data indicate that the species is neither 
endangered nor threatened for the following reasons: (1) The species is 
extinct; (2) the species has recovered and is no longer endangered or 
threatened; and/or (3) the original scientific data used at the time 
the species was classified were in error.
    A recovered species is one that no longer meets the Act's 
definition of endangered or threatened. A species is endangered for 
purposes of the Act if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or 
a significant portion of its range (SPR) and is threatened if it is 
likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout 
all or a significant portion of its range. The word ``range'' in these 
definitions refers to the range in which the species currently exists. 
Determining whether a species is recovered requires consideration of 
the same five categories of threats specified in section 4(a)(1) of the 
Act. For species that are already listed as endangered or threatened, 
this analysis of threats is an evaluation of both the threats currently 
facing the species and the threats that are reasonably likely to affect 
the species in the foreseeable future following the removal of the 
Act's protections.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the exposure of the species to a particular factor to evaluate 
whether the species may respond to the factor in a way that causes 
actual impacts to the species. If there is exposure to a factor and the 
species responds negatively, the factor may be a threat, and during the 
five-factor threats analysis, we attempt to determine how significant a 
threat it is. The threat is significant if it drives or contributes to 
the risk of extinction of the species such that the species warrants 
listing as endangered or threatened as those terms are defined by the 
Act. However, the identification of factors that could affect a species 
negatively may not be sufficient to justify a finding that the species 
warrants listing. The information must include evidence sufficient to 
suggest that the potential threat is likely to materialize and that it 
has the capacity (i.e., it should be of sufficient magnitude and 
extent) to affect the species' status such that it meets the definition 
of endangered or threatened under the Act. The following analysis 
examines the five factors affecting, or likely to affect, the GYE 
grizzly bear population within the foreseeable future. We previously 
concluded GYE grizzly bears are recovered and warranted delisting (72 
FR 14866; March 29, 2007). In this proposed rule, we make a 
determination as to whether the distinct population segment of GYE 
grizzly bears is an endangered or threatened species, based on the best 
scientific and commercial information available. In so doing, we 
address the issues raised by the Ninth Circuit in Greater Yellowstone 
Coalition v. Servheen, 665 F.3d 1015 (9th Cir. 2011), which were 
briefly discussed above.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Factor A requires the Service to consider present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of grizzly bear habitat or 
its range. Here, the following

[[Page 13194]]

considerations warrant discussion regarding the GYE grizzly bear 
population: (1) Motorized access management, (2) developed sites, (3) 
livestock allotments, (4) mineral and energy development, (5) 
recreation, (6) snowmobiling, (7) vegetation management, (8) climate 
change, and (9) habitat fragmentation.
    Habitat destruction and modification were contributing factors 
leading to the listing of the grizzly bear as a threatened species 
under the Act in 1975 (40 FR 31734; July 28, 1975). Both the dramatic 
decreases in historical range and land management practices in formerly 
secure grizzly bear habitat led to the 1975 listing (40 FR 31734; July 
28, 1975). For consideration under the Act, the word range applies to 
where the species currently exists. To address this source of 
population decline, the IGBST was created in 1973, to collect, manage, 
analyze, and distribute science-based information regarding habitat and 
demographic parameters upon which to base management and recovery. 
Then, in 1983, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) was 
created to coordinate management efforts across multiple Federal lands 
and different States within the various Recovery Zones ultimately 
working to achieve recovery of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 States. 
Its objective was to change land management practices on Federal lands 
that supported grizzly bear populations at the time of listing to 
provide security and maintain or improve habitat conditions for the 
grizzly bear. Since 1986, National Forest and National Park plans have 
incorporated the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines (USDA Forest 
Service 1986, pp. 1-2) to manage grizzly bear habitat in the 
Yellowstone PCA.
    Management improvements made as a result of the Interagency Grizzly 
Bear Guidelines include, but are not limited to: (1) Federal and State 
agency coordination to produce nuisance bear guidelines that allow a 
quick response to resolve and minimize grizzly bear-human 
confrontations; (2) reduced motorized access route densities through 
restrictions, decommissioning, and closures; (3) highway design 
considerations to facilitate population connectivity; (4) seasonal 
closure of some areas to all human access in National Parks that are 
particularly important to grizzly bears; (5) closure of many areas in 
the GYE to oil and gas leasing, or implementing restrictions such as no 
surface occupancy; (6) elimination of six active and four vacant sheep 
allotments on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest since 1998, resulting 
in an 86 percent decrease in total sheep animal months inside the 
Yellowstone PCA; and (7) expanded information and education programs in 
the Yellowstone PCA to help reduce the number of grizzly bear 
mortalities caused by big-game hunters (outside National Parks). 
Overall, adherence to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines has 
changed land management practices on Federal lands to provide security 
and to maintain or improve habitat conditions for the grizzly bear. 
Implementation of these guidelines has led to the successful rebound of 
the GYE grizzly bear population, allowing it to significantly increase 
in size and distribution since its listing in 1975.
    Concurrent with this proposed rule, an interagency group 
representing pertinent State and Federal parties is releasing a draft 
2016 Conservation Strategy for the grizzly bear in the GYE to guide 
management and monitoring of the habitat and population of GYE grizzly 
bears after delisting. The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy will be the 
most recent iteration of the Conservation Strategy, which was first 
published in final form in 2007 (see our notice of availability 
published on March 13, 2007, at 72 FR 11376). The draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy incorporates the explicit and measurable habitat 
criteria established in the ``Recovery Plan Supplement: Habitat-based 
Recovery Criteria for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem'' (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007b). Whereas the Interagency Grizzly Bear 
Guidelines helped to guide successful recovery efforts, the 2016 
Conservation Strategy will help guide the recovered GYE population 
post-delisting. The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy identifies and 
provides a framework for managing two areas, the PCA and adjacent areas 
of the DMA, where occupancy by grizzly bears is anticipated in the 
foreseeable future. What follows is an assessment of present or 
threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the grizzly 
bear's habitat within the PCA and adjacent areas of the DMA.
Habitat Management Inside the Primary Conservation Area
    As per the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and the habitat-based 
recovery criteria discussed above, the PCA will be a core secure area 
for grizzly bears where human impacts on habitat conditions will be 
maintained at or below levels that existed in 1998 (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 3). Specifically, the amount of secure 
habitat will not decrease below 1998 levels while the number of 
developed sites and livestock allotments will not increase above 1998 
levels. The 1998 baseline for habitat standards was chosen because the 
levels of secure habitat and developed sites on public lands remained 
relatively constant in the 10 years preceding 1998 (USDA Forest Service 
2004, pp. 140-141), and the selection of 1998 assured that habitat 
conditions existing at a time when the population was increasing at a 
rate of 4 to 7 percent per year (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48) would be 
maintained. For each of the 40 bear management subunits, the 1998 
baseline was determined through a GIS analysis of the amount of secure 
habitat, open and closed road densities, the number and capacity of 
livestock allotments, and the number of developed sites on public 
lands.
    Motorized Access Management: When we listed the grizzly bear in 
1975, we identified land management practices that create new ways for 
humans to access formerly secure grizzly bear habitat as the mechanism 
that resulted in bears being more susceptible to the threat of human-
caused mortality and human-bear conflicts (40 FR 31734; July 28, 1975). 
We recognized early on that managing this human access to grizzly bears 
would be the key to effective habitat management and an extensive body 
of literature supports this approach. Specifically, unmanaged motorized 
access impacts grizzly bears by: (1) Increasing human interaction and 
potential grizzly bear mortality risk; (2) increasing displacement from 
important habitat; (3) increasing habituation to humans; and (4) 
decreasing habitat where energetic requirements can be met with limited 
disturbance from humans (Mattson et al. 1987, pp. 269-271; McLellan and 
Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; McLellan 1989, pp. 1862-1864; Mace et al. 
1996, pp. 1402-1403; Schwartz et al. 2010, p.661).
    Motorized access affects grizzly bears primarily through increased 
human-caused mortality risk (Schwartz et al. 2010, p. 661). 
Secondarily, motorized access may affect grizzly bears through 
temporary or permanent habitat loss due to human disturbance. Managing 
motorized access by providing large proportions of secure habitat helps 
ameliorate the impacts of displacement and increased human-caused 
mortality risk in grizzly bear habitat. Secure habitat refers to those 
areas with no motorized access that are at least 4 ha (10 ac) in size 
and more than 500 m (1,650 ft) from a motorized access route or 
recurring helicopter flight line (USDA Forest Service 2004, pp. 160-
161). In the 1998 baseline, secure habitat comprised 45.4 to 100 
percent of the total area within a given subunit with an

[[Page 13195]]

average of 85.6 percent throughout the entire PCA (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Appendix E). These levels of secure habitat have 
been successfully maintained and will continue to be maintained or 
improved, as directed by the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and the 
memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by all State and Federal 
partner agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, MOU). Three 
subunits were identified as in need of improvement from 1998 levels. 
These subunits have shown on average a 7.5 percent increase in secure 
habitat and these improved levels will serve as the new baseline for 
these three subunits with the implementation of the 2006 Gallatin 
National Forest Travel Management Plan (in prep.). Because of the 
positive effect that secure habitat has on grizzly bear survival and 
reproduction, one of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy objectives is 
no net decrease in these levels of secure habitat inside the PCA so 
that the PCA can continue to function as a source area for grizzly 
bears in the GYE. Therefore, we do not foresee that decreases in secure 
habitat inside the PCA will pose a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
now, or in the future.
    Developed Sites: The National Parks and National Forests within the 
PCA will manage developed sites at 1998 levels within each bear 
management subunit, with some exceptions for administrative and 
maintenance needs (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). 
``Developed sites'' refer to those sites or facilities on public land 
with features intended to accommodate public use or recreation. Such 
sites are typically identified or advertised via visitor maps or 
information displays as identifiable destination sites promoted by the 
agency. Examples of developed sites include, but are not limited to, 
campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, boat launches, rental cabins, 
summer homes, lodges, service stations, restaurants, visitor centers, 
administrative sites, and permitted resource exploration or extraction 
sites such as oil and gas exploratory wells, production wells, plans of 
operation for mining activities, and work camps. ``Administrative 
sites'' are those sites or facilities constructed for use primarily by 
government employees to facilitate the administration and management of 
public lands. Administrative sites are counted toward developed sites, 
and examples include headquarters, ranger stations, patrol cabins, park 
entrances, federal employee housing, and other facilities supporting 
government operations. In contrast to developed or administrative 
sites, ``dispersed sites'' are those not associated with a developed 
site, such as a front-country campground. These sites are typically 
characterized as having no permanent agency-constructed features, are 
temporary in nature, have minimal to no site modifications, have 
informal spacing, and possibly include primitive road access. Dispersed 
sites are not counted toward developed sites. Developed sites on public 
lands are currently inventoried and tracked in GIS databases. As of 
1998, there were 593 developed sites on public land within the PCA 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Appendix E). As of 2014, the 
number of developed sites on public lands had decreased to 578 (Greater 
Yellowstone Area Grizzly Bear Habitat Modeling Team 2015, p. 90).
    The primary concern related to developed sites is direct mortality 
from bear-human encounters and unsecured attractants. Secondary 
concerns include temporary or permanent habitat loss and displacement 
due to increased length of time of human use and increased human 
disturbance to surrounding areas. In areas of suitable habitat inside 
the PCA, the National Park Service and the Forest Service enforce food 
storage rules aimed at decreasing grizzly bear access to human foods 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 1). These regulations 
will continue to be enforced and are in effect for nearly all currently 
occupied grizzly bear habitat within the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
boundaries (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 1). In 
conclusion, because the National Parks and National Forests within the 
PCA will continue to manage developed sites at 1998 levels within each 
bear management subunit and because food storage rules will be enforced 
on these public lands, we do not foresee that the existing number of, 
nor an increase in the number of, developed sites inside the PCA will 
pose a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
    Livestock Allotments: When grizzly bears were listed in 1975, the 
Service identified ``. . . livestock use of surrounding national 
forests'' as detrimental to grizzly bears ``. . . unless management 
measures favoring the species are enacted'' (40 FR 31734; July 28, 
1975). Impacts to grizzly bears from livestock operations potentially 
include: (1) Direct mortality from control actions resulting from 
livestock depredation; (2) direct mortality due to control actions 
resulting from grizzly bear habituation and/or learned use of bear 
attractants such as livestock carcasses and feed; (3) increased chances 
of a grizzly bear livestock conflict; (4) displacement due to livestock 
or related management activity; and (5) direct competition for 
preferred forage species.
    Approximately 14 percent (45/311) of all human-caused grizzly bear 
mortalities in the GYE between 2002 and 2014 were due to management 
removal actions associated with livestock depredations. This human-
caused mortality is the main impact to grizzly bears in the GYE 
associated with livestock. Increased chances of grizzly bear conflict 
related to livestock have been minimized through requirements to 
securely store and/or promptly remove attractants associated with 
livestock operations (e.g., livestock carcasses, livestock feed, etc.). 
The effects of displacement and direct competition with livestock for 
forage are considered negligible to grizzly bear population dynamics 
because even with direct grizzly bear mortality, current levels of 
livestock allotments have not precluded grizzly bear population growth 
and expansion.
    The 2007 Conservation Strategy and Forest Service Record of 
Decision implementing their forest plan amendments (USDA Forest Service 
2006b, entire) established habitat standards regarding livestock 
allotments. The number of active livestock allotments, total acres 
affected, and permitted sheep animal months within the PCA will not 
increase above 1998 levels (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 5; U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). Due to the higher prevalence of 
grizzly bear conflicts associated with sheep grazing, existing sheep 
allotments will be phased out as the opportunity arises with willing 
permittees (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 6; U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2016, Chapter 3).
    A total of 106 livestock allotments existed inside the PCA in 1998. 
Of these allotments, there were 72 active and 13 vacant cattle 
allotments and 11 active and 10 vacant sheep allotments, with a total 
of 23,090 animal months (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Appendix 
E). Sheep animal months are calculated by multiplying the permitted 
number of animals by the permitted number of months. Any use of vacant 
allotments will only be permitted if the number and net acreage of 
allotments inside the PCA does not increase above the 1998 baseline. 
Since 1998, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest has closed six sheep 
allotments within the PCA, while the Shoshone National Forest has 
closed two sheep allotments and the Gallatin National Forest has closed 
four (Greater Yellowstone Area Grizzly Bear Habitat Modeling Team, p. 
86). This has resulted in a reduction of 21,120 sheep animal months, a 
91 percent reduction,

[[Page 13196]]

from the total calculated for 1998 within the PCA, and is a testament 
to the commitment land management agencies have to the ongoing success 
of the grizzly bear population in the GYE. As of 2014, there is only 
one active sheep allotment within the PCA, on the Caribou-Targhee 
National Forest. The mandatory restriction on creating new livestock 
allotments and the voluntary phasing out of livestock allotments with 
recurring conflicts further ensure that the PCA will continue to 
function as source habitat. Because there will continue to be no net 
increase in cattle or sheep allotments allowed on public lands inside 
the PCA, we do not expect that livestock allotments inside the PCA will 
constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
    Mineral and Energy Development: Management of oil, gas, and mining 
are tracked as part of the developed site standard (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). There were no active oil and gas 
leases inside the PCA as of 1998 (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 209). 
Based on Forest Plan direction, there are approximately 243 sq km (94 
sq mi) of secure habitat that could allow surface occupancy for oil and 
gas projects within the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006a, figures 48 and 
96). This comprises less than 4 percent of all suitable habitat within 
the PCA. Additionally, 1,354 preexisting mining claims were located in 
10 of the subunits inside the PCA (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, 
Appendix E), but only 28 of these mining claims had operating plans. 
These operating plans are included in the 1998 developed site baseline. 
Under the conditions of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, any new 
oil, gas or mineral project will be approved only if it conforms to 
secure habitat and developed site standards (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 1993, p. 5-6; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). 
For instance, any oil, gas or mineral project that reduces the amount 
of secure habitat permanently will have to provide replacement secure 
habitat of similar habitat quality (based on our scientific 
understanding of grizzly bear habitat), and any change in developed 
sites will require mitigation equivalent to the type and extent of the 
impact, and such mitigation must be in place before project initiation 
or be provided concurrently with project development as an integral 
part of the project plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 
3). For projects that temporarily change the amount of secure habitat, 
only one project is allowed in any subunit at any time (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 3). Mitigation of any project will occur 
within the same subunit and will be proportional to the type and extent 
of the project (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 3). In 
conclusion, because any new mineral or energy development will continue 
to be approved only if it conforms to the secure habitat and developed 
site standards set forth in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, we do 
not expect that such development inside the PCA will constitute a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
    Recreation: At least 3 million people visit and recreate in the 
National Parks and National Forests of the GYE annually (USDA Forest 
Service 2006a, pp. 176, 184; Cain 2014, p. 46; Gunther 2014, p. 47). 
Based on past trends, visitation and recreation are expected to 
increase in the future. For instance, Yellowstone National Park has 
shown an approximate 15 percent increase in the number of people 
visiting each decade since the 1930s (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 
183); however, the number of people recreating in the backcountry there 
has remained relatively constant from the 1970s through 2010s (Gunther 
2014, p. 47). The concern related to increased recreation is that it 
may increase the probability of grizzly bear-human encounters, with 
subsequent increases in human-caused mortality (Mattson et al. 1996, p. 
1014).
    Recreation in the GYE can be divided into six basic categories 
based on season of use (winter or all other seasons), mode of access 
(motorized or non-motorized), and level of development (developed or 
dispersed) (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 187). Inside the PCA, the 
vast majority of lands available for recreation are accessible through 
non-motorized travel only (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 179). 
Motorized recreation during the summer, spring, and fall inside the PCA 
will be limited to existing roads as per the standards in the draft 
2016 Conservation Strategy that restrict increases in roads or 
motorized trails. Similarly, recreation at developed sites such as 
lodges, downhill ski areas, and campgrounds will be limited by the 
developed sites habitat standard described in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy. The number and capacity of existing developed 
sites on public lands will not increase once delisting occurs. For a 
more complete discussion of projected increases in recreation in the 
GYE National Forests, see the Final Environmental Impact Statement for 
the Forest Plan Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the 
GYE National Forests (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 176-189).
    This potential stressor on the GYE grizzly bear population would 
exist regardless of listed status and will be addressed in the same way 
whether this population is listed or delisted, through ongoing 
information and education campaigns. These outreach efforts are an 
important contributing factor to successful grizzly bear conservation 
and would continue under the 2016 Conservation Strategy. In conclusion, 
because the few motorized access routes inside the PCA will not 
increase, because the number and capacity of developed sites on public 
lands within the PCA will not increase, and because the National Parks 
and National Forests within the PCA will continue to educate visitors 
on its lands about how to recreate safely in bear country and avoid 
grizzly bear-human conflicts, we do not expect that the current level 
of recreation, nor increases in recreation, will constitute a threat to 
the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
    Snowmobiling: Snowmobiling has the potential to disturb bears while 
in their dens and after emergence from their dens in the spring. 
Because grizzly bears are easily awakened in the den (Schwartz et al. 
2003b, p. 567) and have been documented abandoning den sites after 
seismic disturbance (Reynolds et al. 1986, p. 174), the potential 
impact from snowmobiling should be considered. We found no studies in 
the peer-reviewed literature documenting the effects of snowmobile use 
on any denning bear species, and the information that is available is 
anecdotal in nature (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2002, entire; Hegg 
et al. 2010, entire).
    Disturbance in the den could result in increased energetic costs 
(increased activity and heart rate inside the den) and possibly den 
abandonment, which, in theory, could ultimately lead to a decline in 
physical condition of the individual or even cub mortality (Swenson et 
al. 1997, p. 37; Graves and Reams 2001, p. 41). Although the potential 
for this type of disturbance while in the den certainly exists, 
Reynolds et al. (1986, p. 174) found that grizzly bears denning within 
1.4 to 1.6 km (0.9 to 1.0 mi) of active seismic exploration and 
detonations moved around inside their dens but did not leave them. 
Harding and Nagy (1980, p. 278) documented two instances of den 
abandonment during fossil fuel extraction operations. One bear 
abandoned its den when a seismic vehicle drove directly over the den 
(Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 278). The other bear abandoned its den when 
a

[[Page 13197]]

gravel mining operation literally destroyed the den (Harding and Nagy 
1980, p. 278). Reynolds et al. (1986, entire) also examined the effects 
of tracked vehicles and tractors pulling sledges. In 1978, there was a 
route for tractors and tracked vehicles within 100 m (328 ft) of a den 
inhabited by a female with three yearlings. This family group did not 
abandon their den at any point (Reynolds et al. 1986, p. 174). Reynolds 
et al. (1986, p. 174) documented one instance of possible den 
abandonment due to detonations for seismic testing within 200 m of a 
den (Reynolds et al. 1986, p. 174). This bear was not marked, but an 
empty den was reported by seismic crews.
    Swenson et al. (1997, entire) monitored 13 different grizzly bears 
for at least 5 winters each and documented 18 instances of den 
abandonment, 12 of which were related to human activities. Four of 
these instances were hunting related (i.e., gunshots fired within 100 m 
(328 ft) of the den), two occurred after ``forestry activity at the den 
site,'' one had moose and dog tracks within 10 m (33 ft) of a den, one 
had dog tracks at the den site, one had ski tracks within 80 to 90 m 
(262 to 295 ft) from a den, one had an excavation machine working 
within 75 m (246 ft) of a den, and two were categorized as ``human 
related'' without further details (Swenson et al. 1997, p. 37). Swenson 
et al. (1997) found that most den abandonment (72 percent) occurred 
early in the season before pregnant females give birth. However, there 
still may be a reproductive cost of these early den abandonments: 60 
percent (sample size of 5) of female bears that abandoned a den site 
before giving birth lost at least one cub whereas only 6 percent 
(sample size of 36) of pregnant females that did not abandon their dens 
lost a cub in or near their den (Swenson et al. 1997, p. 37). In the 
GYE, the one documented observation of snowmobile use at a known den 
site found the bear did not abandon its den, even though snowmobiles 
were operating directly on top of it (Hegg et al. 2010, p. 26). This, 
however, is only an anecdotal observation because it is based on a 
sample size of one. We found no records of litter abandonment by 
grizzly bears in the lower 48 States due to snowmobiling activity. 
Additionally, monitoring of den occupancy for 3 years on the Gallatin 
National Forest in Montana did not document any den abandonment 
(Gallatin National Forest 2006, entire).
    In summary, the available data about the potential for disturbance 
while denning and den abandonment from nearby snowmobile use are 
extrapolated from studies examining the impacts of other human 
activities and are identified as ``anecdotal'' in nature (Swenson et 
al. 1997, p. 37) with sample sizes so small they cannot be legitimately 
applied to assess population-level impacts (in their entirety: Harding 
and Nagy 1980; Reynolds et al. 1986; Hegg et al. 2010). Because there 
are no data or information suggesting snowmobile use in the GYE is 
negatively affecting grizzly bear population, or even individual bears, 
we determine that snowmobiling does not constitute a threat to the GYE 
grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future. Yet, because the potential for 
disturbance and impacts to reproductive success exists, monitoring will 
continue to support adaptive management decisions about snowmobile use 
in areas where disturbance is documented or likely to occur.
    Vegetation Management: Vegetation management occurs throughout the 
GYE on lands managed by the Forest Service and National Park Service. 
Vegetation management projects typically include timber harvest, 
thinning, prescribed fire, and salvage of burned, diseased, or insect-
infested stands. If not implemented properly, vegetation management 
programs can negatively affect grizzly bears by: (1) Removing hiding 
cover; (2) disturbing or displacing bears from habitat during the 
logging period; (3) increasing grizzly bear-human conflicts or 
mortalities as a result of unsecured attractants; and (4) increasing 
mortality risk or displacement due to new roads into previously 
roadless areas and/or increased vehicular use on existing restricted 
roads, especially if roads remain open to the public after vegetation 
management is complete.
    Conversely, vegetation management may result in positive effects on 
grizzly bear habitat once the project is complete, provided key 
habitats such as riparian areas and known food production areas are 
maintained or enhanced. For instance, tree removal for thinning or 
timber harvest and prescribed burning can result in localized increases 
in bear foods through increased growth of grasses, forbs, and berry-
producing shrubs (Zager et al. 1983, p. 124; Kerns et al. 2004, p. 
675). Vegetation management may also benefit grizzly bear habitat by 
controlling undesirable invasive species, improving riparian 
management, and limiting livestock grazing in important food production 
areas.
    Changes in the distribution, quantity, and quality of cover are not 
necessarily detrimental to grizzly bears as long as they are 
coordinated on a BMU or subunit scale to ensure that grizzly bear needs 
are addressed throughout the various projects occurring on multiple 
jurisdictions at any given time. Although there are known, usually 
temporary, impacts to individual bears from timber management 
activities, these impacts have been adequately mitigated using the 
Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines in place since 1986, and will 
continue to be managed at levels acceptable to the grizzly bear 
population under the 2016 Conservation Strategy. Therefore, we do not 
expect that vegetation management inside the PCA will constitute a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
    Climate Change: The effects of climate change may result in a 
number of changes to grizzly bear habitat, including a reduction in 
snowpack levels, shifts in denning times, shifts in the abundance and 
distribution of some natural food sources, and changes in fire regimes. 
Most grizzly bear biologists in the United States and Canada do not 
expect habitat changes predicted under climate change scenarios to 
directly threaten grizzly bears (Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4). These 
effects may even make habitat more suitable and food sources more 
abundant. However, these ecological changes may also affect the timing 
and frequency of grizzly bear-human interactions and conflicts 
(Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4) and are discussed below under Factor E 
(Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence).
    Habitat Fragmentation: The GYE grizzly bear population is currently 
a contiguous population across its range, and there are no data to 
indicate habitat fragmentation within this population is occurring. 
Although currently not occurring, habitat fragmentation can cause loss 
of connectivity and increase human-caused mortalities, and thus is a 
potential threat to grizzly bears. To prevent habitat fragmentation and 
degradation, the evaluation of all road construction projects in 
suitable habitat on Federal lands throughout the GYE DMA will continue 
to include the impacts of the project on grizzly bear habitat 
connectivity. This evaluation would go through an open and public 
planning process (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007a, pp. 38-41; U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). By identifying areas used 
by grizzly bears, officials can mitigate potential impacts from road 
construction both during and after a project. Federal agencies will 
continue to identify important crossing areas by collecting information 
about known bear crossings, bear sightings, ungulate road

[[Page 13198]]

mortality data, bear home range analyses, and locations of game trails. 
Potential advantages of this data collection requirement include 
reduction of grizzly bear mortality due to vehicle collisions, access 
to seasonal habitats, maintenance of traditional dispersal routes, and 
decreased risk of fragmentation of individual home ranges. For example, 
work crews will place temporary work camps in areas with lower risk of 
displacing grizzly bears, and food and garbage will be kept in bear-
resistant containers. Highway planners will incorporate warning signs 
and crossing structures such as culverts or underpasses into projects 
when possible to facilitate safe highway crossings by wildlife. 
Additionally, the conflict prevention, response, and outreach elements 
of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy play an important role in 
preventing habitat fragmentation by keeping valleys that are mostly 
privately owned from becoming mortality sinks to grizzly bears 
attracted to human sources of foods. In conclusion, because these 
activities that combat habitat fragmentation will continue to occur 
under the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, we do not expect that 
fragmentation within the GYE grizzly bear DPS boundaries will 
constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
Habitat Management Outside the Primary Conservation Area
    In suitable habitat outside of the PCA within the DPS boundaries, 
the Forest Service, BLM, and State wildlife agencies will monitor 
habitat and population criteria to prevent potential threats to 
habitat, ensuring that the measures of the Act continue to be 
unnecessary (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 
2002, pp. 2-3; MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 2005, p. 1; USDA Forest Service 
2006a, pp. 44-45; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Executive 
Summary). Factors impacting suitable habitat outside of the PCA in the 
future are similar to those inside the PCA and may include projects 
that involve road construction, livestock allotments, developed sites, 
and increased human-caused grizzly bear mortality risk.
    Of the 22,783 sq km (8,797 sq mi or 5.6 million acres) of suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA within the DPS boundaries, the Forest 
Service manages 17,292 sq km (6,676 sq mi), or 76 percent. Of the 76 
percent of suitable habitat outside of the PCA that the Forest Service 
manages, nearly 80 percent (13,685 sq km (5,284 sq mi)) is Designated 
Wilderness Area (6,799 sq km (2,625 sq mi)), Wilderness Study Area (708 
sq km (273 sq mi)), or Inventoried Roadless Area (6,179 sq km (2,386 sq 
mi)). These designations provide regulatory mechanisms outside of the 
Act and the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy that protect grizzly bear 
habitat from increases in motorized use, oil and gas development, 
livestock allotments, and timber harvest. These designations are 
further described in Factor D. This large area of widely distributed 
habitat allows for continued population expansion and provides 
additional resiliency to environmental change.
    Wilderness areas outside of the PCA are protected from new road 
construction, livestock allotments, developed sites, and mining claims 
by the Wilderness Act of 1964, 16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq. If pre-existing 
mining claims are pursued, the plans of operation are subject to 
Wilderness Act restrictions on road construction, permanent human 
habitation, and developed sites. The protections provided by the 
Wilderness Act are further described in Factor D.
    Wilderness study areas are designated by Federal land management 
agencies (e.g., Forest Service) as those having wilderness 
characteristics and being worthy of congressional designation as a 
wilderness area. Individual National Forests that designate wilderness 
study areas manage these areas to maintain their wilderness 
characteristics until Congress decides whether to designate them as 
permanent wilderness areas. This means that individual wilderness study 
areas are protected from new road construction by Forest Plans, and 
activities such as timber harvest, mining, and oil and gas development 
and are much less likely to occur because the road networks required 
for these activities do not presently exist and are not likely to be 
approved in the future. Wilderness Study Areas are further described in 
Factor D.
    Inventoried Roadless Areas currently provide 4,891 sq km (1,888 sq 
mi) of secure habitat for grizzly bears outside of the PCA within the 
DPS boundaries. This amount of secure habitat is less than the total 
area contained within Inventoried Roadless Areas (6,179 sq km (2,386 sq 
mi)) because some motorized use is allowed due to roads that existed 
before the area was designated as roadless. Thus, a certain amount of 
road use is grandfathered in to the designation of Inventoried Roadless 
Areas. The 2001 Roadless Areas Conservation Rule (66 FR 3244, January 
12, 2001; hereafter referred to as the ``Roadless Rule'') prohibits new 
road construction, road re-construction, and timber harvest in 
Inventoried Roadless Areas. Additional information about the Roadless 
Rule is provided in Factor D. This restriction on road building makes 
mining activities and oil and gas production much less likely because 
access to these resources becomes cost-prohibitive or impossible 
without new roads. Potential changes in the management of these areas 
are not anticipated because the Roadless Rule was upheld by the Tenth 
Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011. (See Wyoming v. USDA, 661 F.3d 1209 
(10th Cir. 2011).)
    Based on the amount of Wilderness, Wilderness Study Area, and 
Inventoried Roadless Area, an estimated 71 percent (12,396 of 17,291 sq 
km (4,786 of 6,676 sq mi)) of suitable habitat outside the PCA on 
Forest Service lands within the DPS is currently secure habitat and is 
likely to remain secure habitat. Because grizzly bears would remain on 
the Forest Service Sensitive Species list after delisting (USDA Forest 
Service 2006b, p. 26), any increases in roads on National Forests would 
have to comply with the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 
U.S.C. 1600 et seq.) and would be subject to the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) process and analysis of 
potential impacts to grizzly bears. This management designation--
``sensitive species'' under the 1982 Forest Service Planning 
Regulations (47 FR 43037; September 30, 1982) or ``species of 
conservation concern'' under the 2012 Forest Service Planning 
Regulations (77 FR 21162; April 9, 2012)--ensures that components of 
land management plans will provide appropriate ecological conditions 
(i.e., habitats) necessary to continue to provide for a recovered 
population (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26).
    Both Federal and State agencies are committed to managing habitat 
so that the GYE grizzly bear DPS remains recovered and is not likely to 
become endangered in all or a significant portion of its range in the 
foreseeable future (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, entire; 
Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 2-3; 
MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 2005, p. 1) (see Factor D discussion, below). In 
suitable habitat outside of the PCA, restrictions on human activities 
are more flexible, but the Forest Service, BLM, and State wildlife 
agencies will still carefully manage these lands, monitor bear-human 
conflicts in these areas, and respond with management as necessary to 
reduce such conflicts to account for the complex needs of both grizzly 
bears and humans (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 4; 
Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting

[[Page 13199]]

Advisory Team 2002, pp. 16-17; MTFWP 2002, pp. 55-56; WGFD 2005, pp. 
25-26; USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. A1-A27).
    By and large, habitat management on Federal public lands is 
directed by Federal land management plans, not State management plans. 
However, the three State grizzly bear management plans recognize the 
importance of areas that provide security for grizzly bears in suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA within the DPS boundaries on Federal lands. 
For example, the Montana and Wyoming plans recommend limiting average 
road densities to 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi) or less in these areas 
(MTFWP 2002, pp. 32-34; WGFD 2005, pp. 22-25). Both States have similar 
standards for elk habitat on State lands and note that these levels of 
motorized access benefit a variety of wildlife species while 
maintaining reasonable public access. Similarly, the Idaho State plan 
recognizes that management of motorized access outside the PCA should 
focus on areas that have road densities of 1.6 km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq 
mi) or less. The area most likely to be occupied by grizzly bears 
outside the PCA in Idaho is on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The 
1997 Targhee Forest Plan includes motorized access standards and 
management prescriptions outside the PCA that provide for long-term 
security in 59 percent of existing secure habitat outside of the PCA 
(USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 78, 109).
    In 2004, there were roughly 150 active cattle allotments and 12 
active sheep allotments in suitable habitat outside the PCA within the 
DPS boundaries (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 129). The Targhee Forest 
closed two of these sheep allotments in 2004, and there have not been 
any new allotments created since then (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 
168; Landenburger 2014, in litt.). The Forest Service is committed to 
working with willing permittees to retire allotments with recurring 
conflicts that cannot be resolved by modifying grazing practices (USDA 
Forest Service 2006b, p. 6). Although conflicts with livestock have the 
potential to result in mortality for grizzly bears, the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy's specific total mortality limits will preclude 
population-level impacts. The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy directs 
the IGBST to monitor and spatially map all grizzly bear mortalities 
(both inside and outside the PCA), causes of death, the source of the 
problem, and alter management to maintain a recovered population and 
prevent the need to relist the population under the Act (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 2).
    There are over 500 developed sites on the five National Forests in 
the areas identified as suitable habitat outside the PCA within the DPS 
boundaries (USDA Forest Service 2004, p. 138). While grizzly bear-human 
conflicts at developed sites on public lands do occur, the most 
frequent reason for management removals are conflicts on private lands 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Existing Forest Service food storage 
regulations for these areas will continue to minimize the potential for 
grizzly bear-human conflicts through food storage requirements, 
outreach, and education. The number and capacity of developed sites 
will be subject to management direction established in Forest Plans. 
Should the IGBST determine developed sites on public lands are related 
to increases in mortality beyond the sustainable limits discussed 
above, managers may choose to close specific developed sites or 
otherwise alter management in the area in order to maintain a recovered 
population and prevent the need to relist the population under the Act. 
Due to the Forest Service's commitment to manage National Forest lands 
in the GYE to maintain a recovered population (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2016, chapter 3; USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. iii, A-6), we 
do not expect livestock allotments or developed sites in suitable 
habitat outside of the PCA to reach densities that are likely to be a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS in the future.
    According to current Forest Plan direction, less than 19 percent 
(3,213 sq km (1,240 sq mi)) of suitable habitat outside the PCA within 
the DPS boundaries on Forest Service land allows surface occupancy for 
oil and gas development, and 11 percent (1,926 sq km (744 sq mi)) has 
both suitable timber and a management prescription that allows 
scheduled timber harvest. The primary impacts to grizzly bears 
associated with timber harvest and oil and gas development are 
increases in road densities, with subsequent increases in human access, 
grizzly bear-human encounters, and human-caused grizzly bear 
mortalities (McLellan and Shackleton 1988, pp. 458-459; McLellan and 
Shackleton 1989, pp. 377-379; Mace et al. 1996, pp. 1402-1403). 
Although seismic exploration associated with oil and gas development or 
mining may disturb denning grizzly bears (Harding and Nagy 1980, p. 
278; Reynolds et al. 1986, pp. 174-175), actual den abandonment is 
rarely observed, and there has been no documentation of such 
abandonment by grizzly bears in the GYE. Additionally, only a small 
portion of this total land area will contain active projects at any 
given time, if at all. For example, among the roughly 1,926 sq km (744 
sq mi) identified as having both suitable timber and a management 
prescription that allows timber harvest, from 2000 to 2002, an average 
of only 5 sq km (2 sq mi) was actually logged annually (USDA Forest 
Service 2004, p. 118). Similarly, although nearly 3,213 sq km (1,240 sq 
mi) of suitable habitat on National Forest lands inside the DPS 
boundaries allow surface occupancy for oil and gas development, there 
currently are no active wells inside these areas (USDA Forest Service 
2004, pp. 170-171).
    Ultimately, the five affected National Forests (the Beaverhead-
Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer-Gallatin, and 
Shoshone) will manage the number of roads, livestock allotments, 
developed sites, timber harvest projects, and oil and gas wells outside 
of the PCA in the DMA to allow for a recovered grizzly bear population. 
The National Forest plans that provide for this management are further 
described below in the discussion of Factor D, below. Because the 
grizzly bear will be classified as a ``species of conservation 
concern''--or the equivalent management designation--on Forest Service 
lands if this proposal is made final, components of land management 
plans and individual projects must provide appropriate ecological 
conditions and habitats necessary to continue to provide for a 
recovered population (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). Under the 
National Forest Management Act of 1976, the Forest Service will 
consider all potential impacts of projects to the GYE grizzly bear 
population in the NEPA planning process and then ensure that activities 
will provide appropriate habitat to maintain the population's recovered 
status.
    Rapidly accelerating growth of human populations in some areas 
outside of the PCA continues to define the limits of grizzly bear 
range, and will likely limit the expansion of the GYE grizzly bear 
population onto private lands in some areas outside the PCA. Urban and 
rural sprawl (low-density housing and associated businesses) has 
resulted in increasing numbers of grizzly bear-human conflicts with 
subsequent increases in grizzly bear mortality rates. Private lands 
account for a disproportionate number of bear deaths and conflicts 
(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007c, figures 15 and 16). Nearly 9 
percent of all suitable habitat outside of the PCA is privately owned. 
As private lands are developed and as secure habitat on private lands 
declines,

[[Page 13200]]

State and Federal agencies will work together to balance impacts from 
private land development (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007c, p. 54). 
Outside the PCA, State agencies will assist nongovernmental 
organizations and other entities to identify and prioritize potential 
lands suitable for permanent conservation through easements and other 
means as much as possible (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2007c, p. 
54). Due to the large areas of widely distributed suitable habitat on 
public lands that are protected by Federal legislation and managed by 
agencies committed to the maintenance of a recovered grizzly bear 
population, we do not consider human population growth on private lands 
to constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now or, in the 
future.
Summary of Factor A
    In summary, the following factors warranted consideration as 
possible threats to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear DPS 
under Factor A: (1) Motorized access management, (2) developed sites, 
(3) livestock allotments, (4) mineral and energy development, (5) 
recreation, (6) snowmobiling, (7) vegetation management, (8) climate 
change, and (9) habitat fragmentation. Restrictions on motorized 
access, developed sites, and livestock allotments ensure that they will 
be maintained at or below 1998 levels, a time when the population was 
increasing at a rate of 4 to 7 percent per year (Schwartz et al. 2006b, 
p. 48). Additionally, secure habitat will be maintained at or above 
1998 levels. The primary factors related to past habitat destruction 
and modification have been reduced through changes in management 
practices that have already or will be formally incorporated into 
regulatory documents.
    Within suitable habitat, different levels of management and 
protection are applied to areas based on their level of importance. 
Within the PCA, the portion of the range where 75 percent of the 
females with cubs live (Schwartz et al. 2006a, p. 66), habitat 
protections are in place specifically for grizzly bear conservation. 
For this area, the Service developed objective and measurable habitat-
based recovery criteria to limit habitat degradation and human-caused 
mortality risk related to motorized access, developed sites, and 
livestock allotments (i.e., the 1998 baseline). If and when delisting 
occurs, the GYE National Forests and National Parks will continue their 
15-year history of implementation by legally implementing the 
appropriate planning documents that incorporate the 1998 baseline 
values as habitat standards (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). 
Together, these two Federal agencies manage 98 percent of lands within 
the PCA and 88 percent of all suitable habitat within the DPS 
boundaries. As it has done for the last decade, the IGSBT will continue 
to monitor compliance with the 1998 baseline values and will also 
continue to monitor grizzly bear body condition, fat levels, and diet 
composition. Accordingly, the PCA, which comprises 51 percent of the 
suitable habitat within the DPS boundaries and contains 75 percent of 
all females with cubs (Schwartz et al. 2006a, p. 64; Haroldson 2014, in 
litt.), will remain a highly secure area for grizzly bears, with 
habitat conditions maintained at or above levels documented in 1998. 
Maintenance of the 1998 baseline values inside the PCA will continue to 
adequately ameliorate the multitude of stressors on grizzly bear 
habitat such that they do not become threats to the GYE grizzly bear 
DPS in the future.
    Suitable habitat outside the PCA provides additional ecological 
resiliency and habitat redundancy to allow the population to respond to 
environmental changes. Habitat protections specifically for grizzly 
bear conservation are not necessary here because other binding 
regulatory mechanisms are in place for nearly 60 percent of the area 
outside the PCA. In these areas, the Wilderness Act, the Roadless Areas 
Conservation Rule, and National Forest Land Management Plans limit 
development and motorized use, as is further described in Factor D. 
Management of individual projects on public land outside the PCA will 
continue to consider and minimize impacts on grizzly bear habitat. 
Efforts by nongovernmental organizations and State and county agencies 
will seek to minimize bear-human conflicts on private lands (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 4). These and other conservation 
measures discussed in the ``Forest Service's Forest plan amendment for 
grizzly bear habitat conservation for the Greater Yellowstone Area 
National Forests final environmental impact statement, Record of 
Decision'' (USDA Forest Service 2006b) ensure threats to the GYE 
grizzly bear population's suitable habitat outside the PCA will 
continue to be ameliorated and will not be a threat to this 
population's long-term persistence.
    Other management practices on Federal lands have been changed to 
provide security and to maintain or improve habitat conditions for 
grizzly bears. All operating plans for oil and gas leases must conform 
to secure habitat and developed site standards, which require 
mitigation for any change in secure habitat. Recreation inside the GYE 
is limited through existing road and developed site standards. 
Additionally, information and education campaigns educate visitors 
about how to recreate safely in bear country and avoid bear-human 
conflicts. There are no data available on the impacts of snowmobiling 
on grizzly bears to suggest an effect on grizzly bear survival or 
recovery of the population. Although vegetation management may 
temporarily impact individual grizzly bears, these activities are 
coordinated on a BMU or subunit scale according to the Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Guidelines to mitigate for any potentially negative 
effect. As a result of vegetation management, there may also be 
positive effects on grizzly bears where key habitats are maintained or 
enhanced. The habitat changes that are predicted under climate change 
scenarios are not expected by most grizzly bear biologists to directly 
threaten grizzly bears. The potential for changes in the frequency and 
timing of grizzly bear-human interactions is discussed below under 
Factor E. Finally, there are no data to indicate that habitat 
fragmentation is occurring within the GYE.
    In summary, the factors discussed under Factor A continue to occur 
across the range of the GYE grizzly bear population but are 
sufficiently ameliorated so they only affect a small proportion of the 
population. Despite these factors related to habitat, the population 
has increased and stabilized while its range has expanded. Therefore, 
based on the best available information and on continuation of current 
regulatory commitment, we do not consider the present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range to 
constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

    When grizzly bears were listed in 1975, we identified 
``indiscriminate illegal killing'' and management removals as primary 
threats to the population. We now consider mortalities including 
management removals and illegal killings under Factor C, under the 
``Human-Caused Mortality'' section. This section evaluates legal 
grizzly bear hunting for commercial and recreational purposes in the 
GYE if this population were no longer protected from this type of take 
by the Act. No grizzly bears have been removed from the GYE since 1975 
for

[[Page 13201]]

commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes. While 
there have been some mortalities related to research trapping since 
1975, these were accidental and they are also discussed under Factor C, 
below. The only commercial or recreational take anticipated post-
delisting is a limited, controlled hunt. Mortality due to illegal 
poaching, defense of life and property, mistaken identity or other 
accidental take, and management removals are discussed in the ``Human-
Caused Mortality'' section under Factor C. In this section, we describe 
expected conditions that would be compatible with a recovered GYE 
grizzly bear population.
    To achieve mortality management in the area appropriate to the 
long-term conservation of the GYE population and to assure that the 
area of mortality management was the same as the area where the 
population estimates are made, the Service, based on recommendations in 
an IGBST report (2012), has proposed to modify the area where 
mortalities are counted against the total mortality limits to be the 
same area that is monitored to annually estimate population size. The 
basis for this area, called the demographic monitoring area (DMA), was 
the boundary developed in 2007 by the Service (2007b) for what was 
termed ``suitable habitat.'' This suitable habitat boundary (enclosing 
a total area of 46,035 sq km (17,774 sq mi)) is sufficiently large to 
support a viable population in the long term, so that mortalities 
outside of it and inside the DPS could be excluded from consideration. 
Importantly, the area closely resembles the area in which unique adult 
female grizzly bears with cubs-of-the-year (less than 1 year old) (see 
glossary) are surveyed and counted and for which population size is 
estimated. This DMA area is thus most appropriate for applying total 
mortality limits. The IGBST's 2012 report noted, however, that because 
the suitable habitat boundary was drawn using mountainous ecoregions, 
there were narrow, linear areas along valley floors that did not meet 
the definition of suitable habitat and where population sinks may be 
created. This phenomenon, in which the quantity and quality of suitable 
habitat is diminished because of interactions with surrounding, less 
suitable habitat, is known as an ``edge effect'' (in their entirety: 
Lande 1998; Yahner 1988; Mills 1995). Edge effects are exacerbated in 
small habitat patches with high perimeter-to-area ratios (i.e., those 
that are long and narrow) and in wide-ranging species such as grizzly 
bears because they are more likely to encounter surrounding, unsuitable 
habitat (Woodroffe and Ginsberg 1998, p. 2126). Mortalities in these 
areas would be outside suitable habitat but could have disproportionate 
effects on the population generally contained within the suitable 
habitat zone, potentially acting as mortality sinks. The Service 
accepted the recommendation of the IGBST in the 2012 report for an 
alternative boundary that includes these narrow areas outside suitable 
habitat, but is largely bounded by it (see figure 2). The final 
designation of the DMA includes suitable habitat plus the potential 
sink areas for a total area of approximately 49,928 sq km (19,279 sq 
mi) (see figure 2). The DMA contains 100 percent of the PCA and 100 
percent of the suitable habitat, as shown in figure 2.
    The population has basically stabilized inside the DMA since 2002, 
with the model-averaged Chao2 population estimate for 2002-2014 being 
674 (95% CI = 600-747). This stabilization over 13 years is strong 
evidence that the population is exhibiting density-dependent population 
regulation inside the DMA, and this has recently been documented (van 
Manen et al. 2015, entire). The fact that the population inside the DMA 
has stabilized due to density-dependent effects is strong support that, 
at this population size, the population has achieved recovery within 
the DMA.
    Accordingly, the agencies implementing the draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy have decided that the population in the DMA will be managed 
around the long-term average population size for 2002-2014 of 674 (95% 
CI = 600-747)(using the model-averaged Chao2 estimate). The population 
inside the DMA has stabilized itself at this population size through 
density-dependent regulation. The model-averaged Chao2 method will be 
used by the IGBST to annually estimate population size inside the DMA 
(in their entirety: Keating et al. 2002; Cherry et al. 2007), as this 
currently represents the best available science. To achieve a 
population in the DMA around the long-term average of 674, the total 
mortality limits for independent females will be set at 7.6 percent 
when the population is at 674, less than 7.6 percent when the 
population is lower, and more than 7.6 percent when the population is 
higher (as per table 1, above, and tables 2 and 3, below). A total 
mortality limit of 7.6 percent for independent females is the mortality 
level that the best available science shows results in population 
stability (IGBST 2012, entire). Annual estimates of population size in 
the DMA will be made each fall by the IGBST using the model-averaged 
Chao2 method. These annual estimates will normally vary as in any wild 
animal population. The annual model-averaged Chao2 population estimate 
for a given year within the DMA will be used to set the total mortality 
limits from all causes for the DMA for the following year as per table 
1, above, and tables 2 and 3, below. Mortalities will be managed on a 
sliding scale within the DMA as follows (see table 1, above, for more 
information):
     Below 600: No discretionary mortality would be allowed 
unless necessary to address human safety issues.
     Between 600 and 673: Total mortality limits would be less 
than 7.6 percent for independent females (>2 years old), 15 percent for 
independent males (>2 years old), and less than 7.6 percent for 
dependent young.
     At 674: Total mortality limits would be 7.6 percent for 
independent females, 15 percent for independent males, and 7.6 percent 
for dependent young.
     Between 675 and 747: Total mortality limits would not 
exceed 9 percent for independent females, 20 percent for independent 
males, and 9 percent for dependent young.
     Greater than 747: Total mortality limits would not exceed 
10 percent for independent females, 22 percent for independent males, 
and 10 percent for dependent young.
    If this proposed rule is made final, grizzly bears will be 
classified as a game species throughout the GYE DPS boundaries outside 
National Parks and the Wind River Indian Reservation in the States of 
Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. While we anticipate the States will desire 
to institute a carefully regulated hunt with ecosystem-wide coordinated 
total mortality limits, we do not expect grizzly bear trapping to occur 
due to public safety considerations and the precedent that there has 
never been public grizzly bear trapping in the modern era. The States 
of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming do not permit public trapping of any 
bears currently, and there is no information to indicate they will 
begin. Public trapping is not identified as a possible management tool 
in any of their State management plans. Hunting on the Wind River 
Reservation will be at the discretion of the Tribes and only be 
available to Tribal members (Title XVI Fish and Game Code, Eastern 
Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes 2009, p. 9). The National Park 
Service will not allow grizzly bear hunting within

[[Page 13202]]

National Park boundaries. Within the DMA (see figure 2, above), the 
National Park Service, the MFWP, the WGFD, the IDFG, and the Tribes of 
the Wind River Reservation (WRR) will manage total mortality to ensure 
all recovery criteria continue to be met.

   Table 2--Framework To Manage Inside the DMA for the Population Goal of the Average Population for 2002-2014
  Using the Model-Averaged Chao2 Method. These Total Mortality Rates Will Result in Population Stability Around
   the Long-Term Average Population Size of 674 (95% CI = 600-747) That Existed During 2002-2014 as Calculated
    Using the Model-Averaged Chao2 Population Estimate Method. If the Population Is Fewer Than 674, the Total
 Mortality Rate for Independent Females and Dependent Young Must Be Less Than 7.6 Percent. If Population Size Is
 Fewer Than or Equal to 600 in Any Year, No Discretionary Mortality Will Occur Unless Necessary for Human Safety
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Management framework                                     Background and application protocol
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Area within which mortality       49,928 sq km (19,279 sq mi) demographic monitoring area (DMA)
 limits apply.                        (see figure 2, above).
2. Goal of the draft 2016            To maintain the population around the average population estimate for 2002-
 Conservation Strategy.                 2014 of 674 (95% CI = 600-757) during a period of population stability
                                      using the model-averaged Chao2 methodology (Keating et al. 2002; Cherry et
                                         al. 2007; Harris et al. 2007). This will ensure the continuation of a
                                      recovered grizzly bear population in accordance with the three demographic
                                        recovery criteria as described in the Recovery Plan and the draft 2016
                                                                Conservation Strategy.
3. Population estimator............       The model-averaged Chao2 population estimator will be used as the
                                        population measurement tool unless another scientifically sound method
                                       becomes available. The model-averaged Chao2 population estimate for 2002-
                                                           2014 was 674 (95% CI = 600-747).
4. Mortality limit setting protocol       Each fall, the IGBST will annually produce a model-averaged Chao2
                                       population estimate for the DMA. That population estimate will be used to
                                      establish the total mortality limit percentages for each age/sex class for
                                                  the following year as per #8, #9, and #10 (below).
5. Allocation process for managed     The States will meet annually in the month of January to review population
 mortalities.                         monitoring data supplied by IGBST and collectively establish discretionary
                                        mortality within the total mortality limits per age/sex class available
                                        for regulated harvest for each jurisdiction (MT, ID, WY) in the DMA so
                                      that DMA thresholds are not exceeded. If requested, the WRR will receive a
                                        portion of the available mortality limit based on the percentage of the
                                        WRR geographic area within the DMA. Mortalities outside the DMA are the
                                         responsibility of each State and do not count against total mortality
                                                                        limits.
6. Management of hunting               Per State regulations and MOA, hunting seasons will be closed within 24
 mortalities.                          hours of meeting total mortality limits for any age/sex class as per this
                                       table. Any mortality exceeding total mortality limits in any year will be
                                      subtracted from that age/sex class total mortality limit for the following
                                                                         year.
7. Management review by the IGBST..   A management review will be conducted by the IGBST every 5 to 10 years at
                                         the direction of the YGCC. This management review will assess if the
                                        management system is achieving the desired goal of ensuring a recovered
                                           grizzly bear population in accordance with recovery criteria. The
                                      management review is a science-based process that will be led by the IGBST
                                       (which includes all State and Federal agencies and the WRR Tribes) using
                                         all recent available scientific data to assess population numbers and
                                        trend against the management objective and recovery criteria. Age/sex-
                                        specific survival and reproductive rates will also be reevaluated using
                                          the most recent data to adjust total mortality levels as necessary.
                                    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
8. Mortality limit % for all causes  Pop. size..................           <=674         675-747            >747
 for independent FEMALES based on    Mort. %....................          <=7.6%              9%             10%
 the results of the model-averaged
 Chao2 method.
9. Mortality limit % for all causes  Pop. size..................           <=674         675-747            >747
 for independent MALES based on the  Mort. %....................             15%             20%             22%
 results of the model-averaged
 Chao2 method.
10. Mortality limit for % for all    Pop. Size..................           <=674         675-747            >747
 causes for dependent young based    Mort. %....................          <=7.6%              9%             10%
 on the results of the model-
 averaged Chao2 method.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Consistent with USFWS Director Dan Ashe's letter of September 25, 2015, to the state directors, if the model-
 averaged Chao2 population estimate is less than 674, the total mortality rate for independent females and
 dependent young will be less than 7.6%.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    If State agencies decide to establish hunting seasons, the 
following regulatory mechanisms must be in place by law and regulation 
for delisting to occur. The States will enact specific regulations that 
will serve as adequate

[[Page 13203]]

regulatory mechanisms over human-caused mortality, including mortality 
from sport hunting. These regulations must include:
     Suspending all discretionary mortality inside the DMA, 
except if required for human safety, if the model-averaged Chao2 
population estimate falls below 600;
     Suspending grizzly bear hunting inside the DMA if total 
mortality limits for any sex/age class (as per tables 1 and 2, above, 
and table 3, below) are met at any time during the year;
     Female grizzly bear with young will not be available for 
recreational harvest; and
     In a given year, discretionary mortality will only be 
allowed if non-discretionary mortality (see Factor C discussion, below) 
does not meet or exceed total mortality limits for that year.
     Any mortality that exceeds total mortality limits in any 
year will be subtracted from that age/sex class total mortality limit 
for the following year to assure that long-term mortality levels remain 
within prescribed limits inside the DMA.
    In addition to the regulatory mechanism above, if total mortality 
limits for independent females, or independent males, or dependent 
young are exceeded for 3 consecutive years, and the model-averaged 
population estimate falls below 612 (the lower limit of the 90% CI), 
the IGBST will complete a biology and monitoring review to evaluate the 
impacts of these total mortality levels on the population and present 
it to the YGCC and the public. The States will coordinate via a signed 
MOU to manage total mortalities within the DMA to be within the age/sex 
mortality limits as per tables 1 and 2, above, and table 3, below.

 Table 3--Allowable Number of Total Mortalities From All Causes Inside the DMA Under the Total Mortality Limits
                   for Independent Females and Independent Males at Different Population Sizes
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                  Population size
                                 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      600 to 673              674             675 to 747             >747
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Total annual mortality limit   At <7.6% mortality  At 7.6% mortality   At 9% mortality =   At 10% mortality =
 from all causes for independent   = 16 to 17.         = 18..              21 to 23.           >26.
 FEMALES (>=2 years).
2. Total annual mortality limit   At 15% mortality =  At 15% mortality =  At 20% mortality =  At 22% mortality =
 from all causes for independent   31 to 34.           35..                47 to 52.           >57.
 MALES (>=2 years).
Total mortality: Documented
 known and probable grizzly bear
 mortalities from all causes
 including but are not limited
 to: Management removals,
 illegal kills, mistaken
 identity kills, self-defense
 kills, vehicle kills, natural
 mortalities, undetermined-cause
 mortalities, grizzly bear
 hunting, and a statistical
 estimate of the number of
 unknown/unreported mortalities.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The mortalities in table 3 are the total number of allowable 
mortalities inside the DMA from all causes for different population 
sizes. Total mortality limits in table 3 for each sex/age class are 
based on the size of each sex/age cohort, which changes with population 
size.
    There are mortalities that occur every year due to multiple sources 
including management removals, illegal kills, self-defense, calculated 
unknown/unreported mortalities, natural mortalities, and other causes 
such as vehicle collisions. These are considered background levels of 
mortality and must be taken into account in any calculation and 
allocation of additional mortality available for hunting in order to 
remain within the total mortality limits. The expected numbers of 
background mortalities inside the DMA are calculated by taking the 
average number of mortalities from the most recent 4-year period from 
all sources, other than grizzly bear hunting, including calculated 
unknown/unreported numbers. Because background mortality levels vary 
from year to year, averaging these over several years is a reasonable 
predictor of these numbers. This average number of expected background 
mortalities for independent females and males is then subtracted from 
the total number of allowable mortalities for the most recent 
population estimate as per table 3. The resulting number is the 
expected number of independent female and male bears available for 
hunting allocation.
    As an example, the average background mortality from 2012 to 2015 
was 37 (15 females and 22 males) independent bear deaths/year due to 
management removals, illegal kills, calculated unknown/unreported, 
natural causes, and other deaths. These are from inside the DMA only. 
In this example, with an average background mortality of 37 (15 females 
and 22 males), if the DMA population in a given year was at 674 bears 
as calculated by the modeled-averaged Chao 2 method, using table 3 
there would be 3 female bears and 13 male bears available for 
discretionary hunting mortality (18-15 = 3 independent females and 35-
22 = 13 independent males). Once either one of these mortality limits 
was met in any year, the state regulatory mechanisms closing hunting 
seasons would apply. For the 2015 DMA population estimate of 717, the 
total allowable mortality for independent females is 22 and for 
independent males is 50. Applying the average background mortality of 
15 and 22 for independent females and independent males, respectively, 
that would allow for a discretionary mortality inside the DMA of 22-15 
= 7 independent females and 50-;22 = 28 independent males. If the 
average background mortality was higher than the 2012-2015 average of 
37, there may not be any discretionary mortality in a given year. 
Concurrently, if the average background mortality declined, there may 
be additional discretionary mortality available.
    These examples serve to explain the process that will be used to 
determine discretionary mortality. Within these mortality limits, state 
fish and wildlife agencies have discretion to determine whether they 
intend to propose a grizzly bear hunting season and/or how much 
discretionary mortality (within allowable limits) to allocate to 
hunting.
    This proposed rule is based on these anticipated changes to 
Wyoming,

[[Page 13204]]

Montana, and Idaho State laws and regulations necessary to implement 
mortality management inside the GYE DMA described in this section and 
in tables 1, 2, and 3. It is our expectation that these adequate 
regulatory mechanisms as described above will be finalized prior to the 
publication of any final rule resulting from this proposal.
    Other regulations, such as timing and location of hunting seasons, 
should seasons be implemented, would be devised by the States to 
minimize the possibility that total mortality limits of independent 
females are exceeded within the DMA (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Delisting Advisory Team 2002, p. 20; WGFD 2004, p. 20; MFWP 2013, p. 
61).
    To assure that the distribution criterion (16 of 18 bear management 
units within the Recovery Zone must be occupied by females with young, 
with no 2 adjacent bear management units unoccupied, during a 6-year 
sum of observations) is maintained, the IGBST will annually monitor and 
report the distribution of reproducing females. If the necessary 
distribution of reproducing females is not met for three consecutive 
years, the IGBST will complete a biology and monitoring review to 
evaluate the impacts of reduced distribution of reproducing females on 
the population and present it to the YGCC. This biology and monitoring 
review will consider the significance of the reduced distribution of 
reproducing females and make recommendations to increase their 
distribution as necessary.
    If this proposed rule is made final, the Service may initiate a 
formal status review and could emergency relist the GYE grizzly 
population until the formal status review is complete under the 
following conditions: (1) If there are any changes in Federal, State, 
or Tribal laws, rules, regulations, or management plans that depart 
significantly from the specifics of population or habitat management 
detailed in this proposed rule and significantly increase the threat to 
the population; or (2) if the population falls below 500 in any year 
using the model-averaged Chao2 method, or counts of females with cubs 
fall below 48 for 3 consecutive years; or (3) if independent female 
total mortality limits as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, are exceeded 
for 3 consecutive years and the population is fewer than 600; or (4) if 
fewer than 16 of 18 bear management units are occupied by females with 
young for 3 consecutive 6-year sums of observations. Such a status 
review would be necessary for relisting the grizzly population should 
that be warranted.
    In areas of the GYE grizzly bear DPS outside the DMA boundaries, 
respective States and Tribes may establish hunting seasons independent 
of the total mortality limits inside the DMA. Hunting mortality outside 
the DMA boundary would not threaten the GYE grizzly bear DPS because 
total mortality limits are in place as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, 
for the source population within the DMA boundary.
    To increase the likelihood of occasional genetic interchange 
between the GYE grizzly bear population and the NCDE grizzly bear 
population, the State of Montana has indicated they will manage 
discretionary mortality in this area in order to retain the opportunity 
for natural movements of bears between ecosystems. Maintaining the 
presence of non-conflict grizzly bears in areas between the NCDE 
management area and the DMA of the GYE, such as the Tobacco Root and 
Highland Mountains, would likely facilitate periodic grizzly bear 
movements between the NCDE and GYE.
    To ensure total mortality rates remain consistent with population 
objectives after delisting, the IGBST will conduct a demographic review 
of population vital rates (table 2, item #7) at least every 5 to 10 
years in perpetuity. The results of these reviews will be used to make 
appropriate adjustments to assure adherence to the population objective 
to maintain the average population from 2002-2014 inside the DMA and to 
maintain a recovered population in accordance with the recovery 
criteria. The 5- to 10-year time interval was selected based on life-
history characteristics of bears and methodologies in order to obtain 
estimates with acceptable levels of uncertainty and statistical rigor 
(Harris et al. 2011, p. 29).
Summary of Factor B
    In summary, commercial and recreational hunting warranted 
consideration as possible threats to the GYE grizzly bear DPS under 
Factor B. These three regulatory commitments will need to be in place 
exist prior to issuance of a final rule:
    (1) The States will ensure the application of the details in tables 
1, 2, and 3, above, regarding annual total mortality levels for each 
age/sex class are based on annual IGBST model-averaged Chao2 population 
estimates; and
    (2) The States will implement and maintain by law and regulation, 
as detailed above and in tables 1, 2, and 3, management responses to 
any departures from total mortality limits for independent females, 
independent males, and dependent young to maintain the population 
inside the DMA around the average population size from 2002-2014; and
    (3) The State of Montana will manage discretionary mortality in the 
area between the GYE and the NCDE in order to retain the opportunity 
for natural movements of bears between ecosystems.
    In addition, the Service may initiate a status review with possible 
emergency relisting act if: (1) There are any changes in Federal, 
State, or Tribal laws, rules, regulations, or management plans that 
depart significantly from the specifics of population or habitat 
management detailed in this proposed rule and significantly increase 
the threat to the population; or (2) the population falls below 500 in 
any year using the model-averaged Chao2 method or counts of females 
with cubs fall below 48 for 3 consecutive years; or (3) independent 
female total mortality limits as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, are 
exceeded for 3 consecutive years and the population is fewer than 600; 
or (4) fewer than 16 of 18 bear management units are occupied by 
females with young for 3 consecutive 6-year sums of observations.
    If these commitments are implemented into regulations, they would 
ameliorate impacts related to commercial and recreational hunting such 
that hunting would not threatehn the the GYE grizzly bear DPS in the 
future. Should Wyoming, Montana, and/or Idaho fail to make the changes 
necessary detailed above to support a recovered grizzly bear 
population, or deviate significantly from the changes in law and 
regulation described above and in tables 1, 2, and 3, above, delisting 
could not occur. In addition to State laws and regulations, the IGBST 
will conduct a demographic review of the population vital rates every 5 
to 10 years on which allowable total mortality limits are based to 
assure adherence to the population objective. We consider the 
regulatory commitment outlined in this section by State and Federal 
agencies to reasonably ensure conservation of the GYE grizzly bear DPS. 
Because of these detailed State and Federal regulatory commitments, we 
conclude that commercial and recreational hunting will not constitute a 
substantial threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.

C. Disease or Predation

    Factor C requires the Service to consider disease or predation 
affecting the continued existence of a species. In addition to natural 
disease and predation, we consider here human-

[[Page 13205]]

caused mortality other than legal hunting to include illegal poaching, 
defense of life and property mortality, accidental mortality, and 
management removals.
Disease
    Although grizzly bears have been documented with a variety of 
bacteria and other pathogens, parasites, and disease, fatalities are 
uncommon (LeFranc et al. 1987, p. 61) and do not appear to have 
population-level impacts on grizzly bears (Jonkel and Cowan 1971, pp. 
31-32; Mundy and Flook 1973, p. 13; Rogers and Rogers 1976, p. 423). 
Researchers have demonstrated grizzly bears with brucellosis (type 4), 
clostridium, toxoplasmosis, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine 
hepatitis, and rabies (LeFranc et al. 1987, p. 61; Zarnke and Evans 
1989, p. 586; Marsilio et al. 1997, p. 304; Zarnke et al. 1997, p. 
474). However, based on nearly 40 years of research by the IGBST, 
natural mortalities in the wild due to disease have never been 
documented (IGBST 2005, pp. 34-35; Craighead et al. 1988, pp. 24-84). 
Based on this absence in more than 50 years of data, we conclude 
mortalities due to bacteria, pathogens, or disease are negligible 
components of total mortality in the GYE and are likely to remain an 
insignificant factor in population dynamics into the future. Therefore, 
we conclude this source of mortality does not constitute a threat to 
the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
Natural Predation
    Grizzly bears are occasionally killed by other wildlife. Adult 
grizzly bears kill cubs, sub-adults, or other adults (Stringham 1980, 
p. 337; Dean et al. 1986, pp. 208-211; Hessing and Aumiller 1994, pp. 
332-335; McLellan 1994, p. 15; Schwartz et al. 2003b, pp. 571-572). 
This type of intraspecific killing seems to occur rarely (Stringham 
1980, p. 337) and has only been observed among grizzly bears in the GYE 
28 times between 1986 and 2012 (Haroldson 2014, in litt.). Wolves and 
grizzly bears often scavenge similar types of carrion and, sometimes, 
will interact with each other in an aggressive manner. Since wolves 
were reintroduced into the GYE in 1995, we know of 339 wolf-grizzly 
bear interactions with 6 incidents in which wolf packs likely killed 
grizzly bear cubs and 2 incidents in which wolves likely killed adult 
female grizzly bears (Gunther and Smith 2004, pp. 233-236; Gunther 
2014, in litt.). Overall, these types of aggressive interactions among 
grizzly bears or with other wildlife are rare and are likely to remain 
an insignificant factor in population dynamics into the future. 
Therefore, we conclude this source of mortality does not constitute a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
Human-Caused Mortality
    This section discusses all sources of human-caused mortality except 
legal hunting, which is discussed above under Factor B. Excessive 
human-caused mortality was the primary factor contributing to grizzly 
bear decline during the 19th and 20th centuries (Leopold 1967, p. 30; 
Koford 1969, p. 95; Servheen 1990, p. 1; Servheen 1999, pp. 50-52; 
Mattson and Merrill 2002, pp. 1129, 1132; Schwartz et al. 2003b, p. 
571), eventually leading to their listing as a threatened species in 
1975 (40 FR 31734; July 28, 1975). Grizzly bears were seen as a threat 
to livestock and to human safety and, therefore, an impediment to 
westward expansion. Both the Federal government and most early settlers 
were dedicated to eradicating large predators. Grizzly bears were shot, 
poisoned, trapped, and killed wherever humans encountered them 
(Servheen 1999, p. 50). By the time grizzly bears were listed under the 
Act in 1975, there were only a few hundred grizzly bears remaining in 
the lower 48 States in less than 2 percent of their former range (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, pp. 8-12).
    From 1980 to 2002, 66 percent (191) of the 290 known grizzly bear 
mortalities were human-caused (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). The main 
causes of human-caused mortality were human site conflicts, self-
defense, vandal killings, and hunting-related, all of which can be 
partially mitigated for through management actions (Servheen et al. 
2004, p. 21). In our March 29, 2007, final rule (72 FR 14866), we 
report that despite these mortalities, this time period corresponds to 
one during which the Yellowstone grizzly bear population saw population 
growth and range expansion. Since then, the IGBST has updated these 
demographic analyses using data from 2002-2011 (IGBST 2012, entire). 
Below, we evaluate human-caused grizzly bear mortality for 2002-2014, 
as it represents the most recent and best available information on this 
subject. For more information on the demographic vital rates for 2002-
2011, please see Population and Demographic Recovery Criteria in the 
Recovery Planning and Implementation section, above. From 2002-2014, 76 
percent of known or probable grizzly bear mortalities in the GYE DMA 
(311/410) were human-caused (Haroldson 2014, in litt.; Haroldson et al. 
2015, p. 26). While the number of independent female grizzly bears 
killed by humans each year has increased gradually, human-caused 
mortality occurring in the fall, when bears are at an increased risk of 
conflicts involving hunters, as a proportion of the estimated 
population size has remained relatively constant, particularly for 
females (Haroldson 2015, in litt.). Overall, human-caused mortality 
rates have been low enough to allow the GYE grizzly bear population to 
increase in numbers and range (Schwartz et al. 2006a, pp. 64-66; 
Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48; Bjornlie et al. 2014, p. 184). Total 
mortality limits and anticipated State regulations to manage within 
agreed-upon morality limits as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, will 
ensure that mortality will continue to be managed at levels that do not 
result in long-term population decline. In this section, we discuss 
impacts from human-caused mortality, including illegal poaching, 
defense of life and property, accidental mortality, and management 
removals.
    We define poaching as intentional, illegal killing of grizzly 
bears. People may kill grizzly bears for several reasons, including a 
general perception that grizzly bears in the area may be dangerous, 
frustration over depredations of livestock, or to protest land-use and 
road-use restrictions associated with grizzly bear habitat management 
(Servheen et al. 2004, p. 21). Regardless of the reason, poaching 
continues to occur. We are aware of at least 22 such killings in the 
GYE between 2002 and 2014 (Haroldson 2014, in litt.; Haroldson et al. 
2015, p. 26). This constituted 7 percent of known grizzly bear 
mortalities from 2002 to 2014. This level of take occurred during a 
period when poaching was enforceable by Federal prosecution. We do not 
expect poaching to significantly increase if this proposed action is 
finalized because State and Tribal designation as a game animal means 
poaching will remain illegal and prosecutable. Please see Factor D for 
discussion about State and Tribal designation of grizzly bears as a 
game animal. If anything, authorized hunting through designating the 
grizzly bear as a game animal may reduce the amount of illegal 
poaching.
    State and Federal law enforcement agents have cooperated to ensure 
consistent enforcement of laws protecting grizzly bears. Currently, 
State and Federal prosecutors and enforcement personnel from each State 
and Federal jurisdiction work together to make recommendations to all 
jurisdictions, counties, and States, on uniform enforcement, 
prosecution, and sentencing relating to illegal grizzly bear kills. 
This cooperation means illegal

[[Page 13206]]

grizzly bear mortalities are often prosecuted under State statutes 
instead of the Act. We have a long record of this enforcement approach 
being effective, and no reason to doubt its effectiveness in the 
absence of the Act's additional layer of Federal protections.
    If we delist the GYE DPS, all three affected States and the Eastern 
Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Reservation will 
classify grizzly bears in the GYE as game animals, which cannot be 
taken without authorization by State or Tribal wildlife agencies (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 7; Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly 
Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, pp. 18-21; MTFWP 2002, p. 2; WGFD 
2005, p. 20; Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes 2009, p. 9). 
In other words, it will still be illegal for private citizens to kill 
grizzly bears unless it is in self-defense (as is currently allowed 
under the Act's protections), or if they have a hunting license issued 
by State or Tribal wildlife agencies, or in the Montana portion of the 
DPS, if a grizzly bear is caught in the act of attacking or killing 
livestock (87-6-106 MCA). With respect to the last exception, there 
must be injured or dead livestock associated with any grizzly bear 
killed in defense of livestock in Montana. There are no documented 
cases of livestock owners or herders actually observing a grizzly bear 
depredating on livestock since records began being kept in 1975. Before 
that time, it would have been legal for a livestock operator to kill a 
grizzly bear just for being present. Details surrounding these 
mortalities are scant. States will continue to enforce, prosecute, and 
sentence poachers just as they do for any game animal such as elk, 
black bears, and cougars. Although it is widely recognized that 
poaching still occurs, this illegal source of mortality is not 
significant enough to hinder population stability for the GYE grizzly 
bear population (IGBST 2012, p. 34) or range expansion (Pyare et al. 
2004, pp. 5-6; Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 184).
    Information and education programs, (which are described in detail 
in Factor E), with a long record of implementation and will continue 
under the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy continue after delisting, 
have helped minimize the potential threat of poaching. More 
specifically, these programs address illegal killing by working to 
change human values, perceptions, and beliefs about grizzly bears and 
Federal regulation of public lands (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 27). To 
address the concerns of user groups who have objections to land use 
restrictions that accommodate grizzly bears, Federal and State agencies 
market the benefits of restricting motorized access to multiple 
species. For example, both Montana and Wyoming have recommendations for 
elk habitat security similar to those for grizzly bears (less than 1.6 
km/2.6 sq km (1 mi/sq mi)). This level of motorized access meets the 
needs of a variety of wildlife species, while maintaining reasonable 
opportunities for public access. Information and education programs 
also reduce the threat of poaching by teaching people about bear 
behavior and ecology so that they can avoid encounters and conflicts or 
respond appropriately if encounters do occur. In this way, we can 
correct common misconceptions and lessen the perceived threat grizzly 
bears pose. Additionally, information and education programs foster 
relationships and build trust between the general public and the 
government agencies implementing them by initiating communication and 
dialogue.
    From 2002 to 2014, humans killed 97 grizzly bears in self-defense 
or defense of others in the GYE. This constituted nearly 31 percent of 
known grizzly bear mortalities during this time period (Haroldson 2014, 
in litt.; Haroldson et al. 2015, p. 26). This type of grizzly bear 
mortality is currently allowed under the provisions of the Act through 
a 4(d) rule (50 CFR 17.40(b)). These grizzly bear mortalities occurred 
primarily with elk hunters on public lands during the fall, but also at 
other times and locations (IGBST 2009, p. 18). These self-defense 
situations with elk hunters occur during surprise encounters, at 
hunter-killed carcasses or gut piles, or when packing out carcasses. 
Federal and State agencies have many options to potentially reduce 
conflicts with hunters (IGBST 2009, pp. 21-31), but self-defense 
mortalities will always be a reality when conserving a species that is 
capable of killing humans. By promoting the use of bear spray and 
continuing information and education programs pertaining to food and 
carcass storage and retrieval, many of these grizzly bear deaths can be 
avoided. Through its enabling legislation, the National Park Service 
authorizes an elk reduction program in both Grand Teton National Park 
and the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Elk hunters in Grand 
Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway are 
required to carry bear spray in an accessible location, thus reducing 
the potential for an encounter that results in grizzly bear mortality. 
Outside of these National Parks, carrying bear spray is strongly 
encouraged through hunter education programs and other information and 
education materials.
    Another primary source of human-caused mortality is agency removal 
of nuisance bears following grizzly bear-human conflicts. Between 2002 
and 2014, agency removals resulted in 135 mortalities, accounting for 
43 percent of human-caused mortalities. This type of grizzly bear 
mortality is allowed under the Act through a 4(d) rule (50 CFR 
17.40(b)). While lethal to the individual grizzly bears involved, these 
removals promote conservation of the GYE grizzly bear population by 
minimizing illegal killing of bears, providing an opportunity to 
educate the public about how to avoid conflicts, and promoting 
tolerance of grizzly bears by responding promptly and effectively when 
bears pose a threat to public safety.
    Conflicts at developed sites (on either public or private lands) 
were responsible for 90 of the 135 agency removals between 2002 and 
2014. These conflicts usually involve attractants such as garbage, 
human foods, pet/livestock/wildlife foods, livestock carcasses, and 
wildlife carcasses, but also are related to attitudes, understanding, 
and tolerance toward grizzly bears. Mandatory food storage orders on 
public lands decrease the chances of conflicts while State and Federal 
information and education programs reduce grizzly bear-human conflicts 
on both private and public lands by educating the public about 
potential grizzly bear attractants and how to store them properly. 
Accordingly, roughly 68 percent of the total budgets of the agencies 
responsible for implementing the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and 
managing the GYE grizzly bear population post-delisting is for grizzly 
bear-human conflict management, outreach, and education (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Appendix F). To address public attitudes and 
knowledge levels, information and education programs present grizzly 
bears as a valuable public resource while acknowledging the potential 
dangers associated with them and ways to avoid conflicts (for a 
detailed discussion of information and education programs, see Factor E 
discussion, below). These outreach programs have been successful, as 
evidenced by a stable to increasing grizzly bear population despite 
large increases in people living and recreating in the GYE over the 
last 3 decades. Information and education programs are an integral 
component of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and will continue to 
be implemented by all partners whether the GYE grizzly bear is listed 
or not.

[[Page 13207]]

    Agency removals due to grizzly bear conflicts with livestock 
accounted for nearly 15 percent (45 out of 311) of known mortalities 
between 2002 and 2014, and 33 percent of management removals (45 out of 
135) (Haroldson 2014, in litt.; Haroldson et al. 2015, p. 26). Several 
measures to reduce livestock conflicts are in place inside the PCA, and 
only one of these 45 mortalities occurred inside the PCA. The Forest 
Service phases out sheep allotments within the PCA as opportunities 
arise and, currently, only one active sheep allotment remains inside 
the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006a, p. 167; Landenburger 2014, in 
litt.). The Forest Service also has closed sheep allotments outside the 
PCA to resolve conflicts with species such as bighorn sheep as well as 
grizzly bears. Additionally, the alternative chosen by the Forest 
Service during its NEPA process to amend the five national forest plans 
for grizzly bear habitat conservation includes direction to resolve 
recurring conflicts on livestock allotments through retirement of those 
allotments with willing permittees (USDA Forest Service 2006b, pp. 16-
17; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 3). Livestock grazing 
permits include special provisions regarding reporting of conflicts, 
proper food and attractant storage procedures, and carcass removal. The 
Forest Service monitors compliance with these special provisions 
associated with livestock allotments annually (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 
28). We consider these measures effective at reducing this threat, as 
evidenced by the rarity of livestock depredation removals inside the 
PCA. Upon delisting, the Forest Service will continue to implement 
these measures that minimize grizzly bear conflicts with livestock. The 
draft 2016 Conservation Strategy also recognizes that removal of 
individual nuisance bears is sometimes required, as most depredations 
are done by a few individuals (Jonkel 1980, p. 12; Knight and Judd 
1983, p.188; Anderson et al. 2002, pp. 252-253).
    The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and State grizzly bear 
management plans will guide decisions about agency removals of nuisance 
bears post-delisting and keep this source of human-caused mortality 
within the total mortality limits for each age/sex class as per table 
2, above. The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy is consistent with 
current protocols (USDA Forest Service 1986, pp. 53-54), emphasizing 
the individual's importance to the entire population. Females will 
continue to receive a higher level of protection than males. Location, 
cause of incident, severity of incident, history of the bear, health, 
age, and sex of the bear, and demographic characteristics are all 
considered in any relocation or removal action. Upon delisting, State, 
Tribal, and National Park Service bear managers would continue to 
coordinate and consult with each other and other relevant Federal 
agencies (i.e., Forest Service, BLM) about nuisance bear relocation and 
removal decisions, but coordination with the Service during each 
incident would no longer be required (50 CFR 17.40). The draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy emphasizes removal of the human cause of the 
conflict when possible, or management and education actions to limit 
such conflicts (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 4). In 
addition, an information and education team will continue to coordinate 
the development, implementation, and dissemination of programs and 
materials to aid in preventative management of bear-human conflicts. 
The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy recognizes that successful 
management of grizzly bear-human conflicts requires an integrated, 
multiple-agency approach to continue to keep human-caused grizzly bear 
mortality within sustainable levels.
    Overall, we consider agency management removals a necessary 
component of grizzly bear conservation. Nuisance bears can become a 
threat to human safety and erode public support if they are not 
addressed. Without the support of the people that live, work, and 
recreate in grizzly bear country, conservation will not be successful. 
Therefore, we do not consider management removals a threat to the GYE 
grizzly bear population now, or in the future. However, we recognize 
the importance of managing these sanctioned removals within sustainable 
levels, and Federal, Tribal, State management agencies are committed to 
working with citizens, landowners, and visitors to address unsecured 
attractants to reduce the need for grizzly bear removals.
    Humans kill grizzly bears unintentionally in a number of ways. From 
2002 to 2014, there were 34 accidental mortalities and 23 mortalities 
associated with mistaken identification (totaling 18 percent of known 
mortality for this time period) (Haroldson 2014, in litt.; Haroldson et 
al. 2015, p. 26). Accidental sources of mortality during this time 
included roadkills, electrocution, and mortalities associated with 
research trapping by the IGBST. For the first time since 1982, there 
were grizzly bear mortalities possibly associated with scientific 
research capture and handling in 2006. That year, four different bears 
died within 4 days of being captured, most likely from clostridium 
infections but the degraded nature of the carcasses made the exact 
cause of death impossible to determine. Then in 2008, two more grizzly 
bear mortalities suspected of being related to research capture and 
handling occurred. A necropsy was able to confirm the cause of death 
for one of these bears as a clostridial infection at the anesthesia 
injection site. Once the cause of death was confirmed, the IGBST 
changed its handling protocol to include antibiotics for each capture 
(Haroldson and Frey 2009, p. 21). There has not been a research-related 
capture mortality since. Because of the IGBST's rigorous protocols and 
adaptive approach dictating proper bear capture, handling, and drugging 
techniques, this type of human-caused mortality is not a threat to the 
GYE grizzly bear population. Measures to reduce vehicle collisions with 
grizzly bears include removing roadkill carcasses from the road so that 
grizzly bears are not attracted to the roadside (Servheen et al. 2004, 
p. 28). Cost-effective mitigation efforts to facilitate safe crossings 
by wildlife will be voluntarily incorporated in road construction or 
reconstruction projects on Federal lands within suitable grizzly bear 
habitat.
    Mistaken identification of grizzly bears by black bear hunters is a 
manageable source of mortality. The draft 2016 Conservation Strategy 
identifies information and education programs targeted at hunters that 
emphasize patience, awareness, and correct identification of targets to 
help reduce grizzly bear mortalities from inexperienced black bear and 
ungulate hunters (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 5). 
Beginning in license year 2002, the State of Montana required that all 
black bear hunters pass a Bear Identification Test before receiving a 
black bear hunting license (see http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/bearID/ for more information and details). Idaho and Wyoming provide a 
voluntary bear identification test online (WGFD 2005, p. 34; MTFWP 
2002, p. 63). In addition, all three States include grizzly bear 
encounter management as a core subject in basic hunter education 
courses.
    The IGBST prepares annual reports analyzing the causes of 
conflicts, known and probable mortalities, and proposed management 
solutions (Servheen et al. 2004, pp. 1-29). The IGBST would continue to 
use these data to identify where problems occur and compare trends in 
locations, sources, land ownership, and types of conflicts to inform 
proactive management of grizzly

[[Page 13208]]

bear-human conflicts. As directed by the draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, chapter 4), upon 
delisting, the IGBST would continue to summarize nuisance bear control 
actions in annual reports and the YGCC would continue the Yellowstone 
Ecosystem Subcommittee's role reviewing and implementing management 
responses (in their entirety: IGBST 2009; YGCC 2009). The IGBST and 
YGCC implemented this adaptive management approach when the GYE grizzly 
bear population was delisted between 2007 and 2009. After high levels 
of mortality in 2008, the IGBST provided management options to the YGCC 
about ways to reduce human-caused mortality. In fall 2009, the YGCC 
provided updates on what measures they had implemented since the report 
was released the previous spring. These efforts included: Increased 
outreach on the value of bear spray; development of a comprehensive 
encounter, conflict, and mortality database; and increased agency 
presence on Forest Service lands during hunting season. For a complete 
summary of agency responses to the IGBST's recommendations, see pages 
9-18 of the fall 2009 meeting minutes (YGCC 2009). Because human-caused 
mortality has been reduced through information and education programs 
(e.g., bear identification to reduce mistaken identity kills by black 
bear hunters) and management of bear removals (e.g., reduction in 
livestock predation), we conclude this source of mortality does not 
constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.
Summary of Factor C
    In summary, the following factors warranted consideration as 
possible threats to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear DPS 
under Factor C: (1) Natural disease, (2) natural predation, and (3) 
human-caused mortality, other than legal hunting. Both natural disease 
and natural predation are rare occurrences and therefore not considered 
a threat to the GYE grizzly bear population. Human-caused mortality, 
other than legal hunting, includes illegal poaching, defense of life 
and property mortality, accidental mortality, and management removals. 
Information and education programs reduce human-caused mortality by: 
(1) Changing human perceptions and beliefs about grizzly bears; (2) 
educating recreationists and hunters on how to avoid encounters and 
conflicts, how to react during a bear encounter, use of bear spray, and 
proper food storage; and (3) education of black bear hunters on bear 
identification.
    When grizzly bears were listed in 1975, we identified 
``indiscriminate illegal killing,'' and management removals as threats 
to the population. By defining a recovered population as one that ``can 
sustain the existing level of known and estimated unknown, unreported 
human-caused mortality that exists within the ecosystem,'' the 1993 
Recovery Plan recognized that eliminating all human-caused mortality 
was not possible or necessary (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993, p. 
41). Documentation of a stable to increasing population trend (Schwartz 
et al. 2006b, p. 48; IGBST 2012, p. 34) indicates mortality levels have 
allowed the GYE grizzly bear population to meet this definition of 
recovered.
    Overall, from 2002 to 2014, the GYE grizzly bear population 
incurred an average of 23.9 human-caused grizzly bear mortalities per 
year (Haroldson 2014, in litt.; Haroldson et al. 2015, p. 26). Despite 
these mortalities, the GYE grizzly bear population has continued to 
increase in size and expand its distribution (Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-
6; Schwartz et al. 2006a, pp. 64-66; Schwartz et al. 2006b, p.48; IGBST 
2012, p. 34; Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 184). Although humans are still 
directly or indirectly responsible for the majority of grizzly bear 
deaths, this source of mortality is effectively mitigated through 
science-based management, monitoring, and outreach efforts. It is the 
intent of the agencies to institutionalize the careful management and 
monitoring of human-caused mortality through the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy, National Forest and National Park management 
plans, State grizzly bear management plans, and State wildlife 
commission rules and regulations (see Factor D, below). Because a 4(d) 
rule currently allows grizzly bears to be killed in self-defense, 
defense of others, or by agency removal of nuisance bears, management 
of human-caused mortality post-delisting would not differ significantly 
if the protections of the Act were no longer in place. Although grizzly 
bear hunting is anticipated to occur, it would be within the total 
mortality limits for independent females and males noted in tables 1, 
2, and 3, above, that will ensure the population remains recovered 
within the DMA as measured by adherence to total mortality limits and 
annual population estimates (see tables 2 and 3 and Factor B, above). 
Hunting would not occur if other sources of mortality exceeded the 
total mortality limits (see tables 2 and 3 and Factor B, above). 
Therefore, based on the best available scientific and commercial 
information, application of mortality management detailed in this 
proposed rule and the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy, and the 
expectation that these bear management practices will continue into the 
future, we conclude that disease and predation do not constitute 
threats to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now and are not anticipated to 
constitute threats in the future.

D. The Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    Grizzly bear populations declined in part because there were 
inadequate regulatory mechanisms in place to protect habitat (40 FR 
31734; July 28, 1975). Once grizzly bears were listed under the Act, 
they immediately benefited from its regulatory framework that included 
prohibition of take--broadly defined under the Act to include harass, 
harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or 
to attempt to engage in any such conduct--and that requires Federal 
agencies to consult with the Service to ensure any project funded, 
authorized, or carried out by them does not jeopardize the continuing 
existence of a listed species. Grizzly bears benefitted from the 
requirement that Federal agencies ensure their actions will not likely 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species. They also benefitted 
from the development and implementation of recovery plans. The 
regulatory framework and tools provided by the Act have improved the 
status of the GYE grizzly bear population to the point where the 
population has recovered and delisting is now appropriate. Below, we 
consider the adequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms that would 
remain in place if this grizzly bear population is delisted and the Act 
no longer applies.
    Laws and regulations of the Federal, Tribal, and State governments 
provide the legal authority for grizzly bear population and habitat 
management, monitoring, information and education programs, and 
conflict response. Grizzly bear habitat management is accomplished 
primarily by the Forest Service and NPS. Ninety-eight percent of lands 
within the PCA and 88 percent of lands within all suitable habitat are 
managed by one of these agencies. While the Forest Service and NPS are 
responsible for habitat management, the NPS, States, and Tribes share 
responsibility for population management (i.e., monitoring, mortality 
management, conflict response, and hunting regulations). The States are 
generally responsible for managing resident wildlife but not habitat on

[[Page 13209]]

Federal public lands such as Forest Service or Bureau of Land 
Management. National Park lands are an exception, as they are managed 
by the National Park Service.
    The management of grizzly bears and their habitat draws from the 
laws and regulations of the Federal, State, and Tribal agencies in the 
proposed GYE DPS boundaries (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, 
chapter 7). These laws and regulations provide the legal authority for 
controlling mortality, providing secure habitats, managing grizzly 
bear-human conflicts, controlling hunters, limiting access where 
necessary, controlling livestock grazing, maintaining information and 
education programs to control conflicts, monitoring populations and 
habitats, and requesting management and petitions for relisting if 
necessary. Recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population is the 
result of ongoing partnerships between Federal and State agencies, the 
governors of these States, county and city governments, educational 
institutions, numerous nongovernmental organizations, private 
landowners, and the public who live, work, and recreate in the GYE. 
Just as recovery of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population could not 
have occurred without these excellent working relationships, 
maintenance of a recovered grizzly population will be the result of the 
continuation of these partnerships. The State plans and the State 
regulations describe and summarize the coordinated efforts required to 
manage the GYE grizzly bear population and its habitat such that its 
recovery is ensured. These State-based documents specify the general 
population, habitat, and nuisance bear management protocols necessary 
to manage human-caused mortality risk and maintain a recovered grizzly 
bear population. The State plans do not currently include detailed laws 
or regulations in reference to hunting management as described above 
under Factor B. The Federal and State plans and regulations document 
the existing Federal and State regulatory mechanisms and legal 
authorities, policies, management, and post-delisting monitoring plans 
that exist to maintain the recovered grizzly bear population. The 
primary components of habitat and population management committed to in 
the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy have been (or will be) 
incorporated into legally binding frameworks such as National Forest 
Land Resource Management Plans, National Park Superintendent 
Compendiums, Tribal ordinances, and State Fish and Game Commission 
management regulations. The 2016 Conservation Strategy will remain in 
effect in perpetuity, beyond delisting and the 5-year monitoring period 
required by the Act as grizzly bears, like many other species, will 
always be ``conservation-reliant'' (Scott et al. 2005, p. 384) because 
of their low resiliency to excessive human-caused mortality. The need 
to carefully manage human-caused bear mortality and to coordinate 
management of the population across multiple land ownerships and 
jurisdictions will always remain.
U.S. Forest Service
    The Forest Service manages nearly 68 percent (31,234 of 46,035 sq 
km (12,060 of 17,774 sq mi)) of suitable grizzly bear habitat within 
the GYE. Because the Forest Service does not manage direct take of 
grizzly bears, they amended their Land Management Plans in 2006 to 
include legally binding habitat standards. These amendments required 
levels of secure habitat, developed sites, and livestock allotments 
inside the PCA to be maintained at or improved upon 1998 levels to 
minimize human-caused mortality risk (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 
iii). In addition to the habitat standards inside the PCA, these 
amendments provide guidance and direction for habitat management 
outside the PCA, including but not limited to: a goal for accommodating 
grizzly bears outside the PCA; direction on managing livestock 
allotments with recurring conflicts through retirement of such 
allotments with willing permittees; direction emphasizing the use of 
food storage orders to minimize grizzly bear-human conflicts; a 
guideline to maintain, to the extent feasible, important grizzly bear 
food resources; and several monitoring items that will enhance habitat 
management outside of the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006a, pp. 34-37). 
These amendments to the GYE National Forest Land Management Plans would 
become effective if, and when, delisting is finalized. They were in 
effect for 2.5 years when GYE grizzly bears were delisted between March 
2007 and September 2009, but they were technically not applicable after 
the March 29, 2007, final rule (72 FR 14866) was vacated by the 
District Court of Montana. Importantly, even after the Montana District 
Court's decision, the Forest Service continued to manage according to 
the agreements reached in the 2007 Conservation Strategy and its Forest 
Plan amendments even though the delisting rule was vacated and the 
Forest Service was not legally required to manage under those 
standards. Because of this commitment and the fact that the plans have 
been successfully implemented by the Forest Service, there is a 7-year 
demonstrated track record of implementation by the signatories of the 
2007 Conservation Strategy.
    While the habitat standards in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy 
that were incorporated into Forest Plans assure secure habitat and 
minimal human-caused mortality risk inside the PCA, other regulatory 
mechanisms ensure sufficient habitat protections outside the PCA. Of 
the 22,783 sq km (8,797 sq mi) of suitable habitat outside the PCA, the 
Forest Service manages 17,292 sq km (6,676 sq mi), or 76 percent. Of 
this 76 percent of suitable habitat outside of the PCA but within the 
DMA that the Forest Service manages, 39 percent is Designated 
Wilderness Area, 4 percent is Wilderness Study Area, and 36 percent is 
Inventoried Roadless Area. These designations provide regulatory 
mechanisms that protect grizzly bear habitat from increases in 
motorized use, oil and gas development, livestock allotments, and 
timber harvest.
    Specifically, the Wilderness Act of 1964 does not allow road 
construction, new livestock allotments, or new oil, gas, and mining 
developments in designated Wilderness Areas. This means the 6,799 sq km 
(2,625 sq mi) of secure habitat outside of the PCA in Wilderness Areas 
is protected by an existing regulatory mechanism. This secure suitable 
habitat is biologically significant to the GYE grizzly bear DPS because 
it will allow population expansion into these areas that are minimally 
affected by humans. Wilderness study areas are designated by Federal 
land management agencies (e.g., Forest Service) as those having 
wilderness characteristics and being worthy of congressional 
designation as a wilderness area. Individual National Forests that 
designate wilderness study areas manage these areas to maintain their 
wilderness characteristics until Congress decides whether to designate 
them as permanent wilderness areas. This means that individual 
wilderness study areas are protected from new road construction by 
Forest Plans and activities such as timber harvest, mining, and oil and 
gas development. These development activities are much less likely to 
occur because the road networks required for these activities either do 
not exist or are unlikely to be approved in the future.
    Inventoried Roadless Areas currently provide 4,891 sq km (1,888 sq 
mi) of secure habitat for grizzly bears outside of the PCA within the 
DPS boundaries. The 2001 Roadless Rule prohibits road

[[Page 13210]]

construction, road reconstruction, and timber harvest in Inventoried 
Roadless Areas (66 FR 3244; January 12, 2001). This restriction on road 
building makes mining activities and oil and gas production much less 
likely because access to these resources becomes cost-prohibitive or 
impossible without new roads.
    If delisting occurs, the Forest Service will classify grizzly bears 
in the GYE as a ``species of conservation concern''--or the equivalent 
management designation--and will manage activities to provide for the 
needs of a recovered population (USDA Forest Service 2006b, p. 26). 
This classification means the Forest Service will consider all 
potential impacts to the GYE grizzly bear population from proposed 
activities as part of its NEPA compliance obligations. Then, under the 
National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.), the 
Forest Service will ensure that land management activities provide for 
the needs of a recovered population and maintain viable populations of 
species of conservation concern.
National Park Service
    The National Park Service manages 20 percent (9,407 of 46,035 sq km 
(3,632 of 17,774 sq mi)) of suitable habitat within the DPS boundaries, 
all of which is in the PCA. Yellowstone National Park incorporated the 
habitat, population, monitoring, and nuisance bear standards described 
in the 2007 Conservation Strategy into their Superintendent's 
Compendium in 2014 (Yellowstone National Park 2014, p. 18) and Grand 
Teton National Park will do the same in their 2016 Compendium, before 
this proposed action is finalized. Grizzly bear hunting is not allowed 
in Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park. Within the 
John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the Secretary of the Interior 
is required to permit hunting in accordance with applicable Federal and 
State law, with exceptions for public safety, administration, or public 
use and enjoyment.
Tribal Lands
    Together, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe 
manage wildlife and its habitat within the boundaries of the Wind River 
Reservation (see figure 2, above). Less than 3 percent of suitable 
habitat (1,360 sq km (525 sq mi)) is potentially affected by Tribal 
decisions, so their habitat management would never constitute a threat 
to the GYE grizzly bear population. No Tribal managed land occurs 
within the PCA. The Tribes' Grizzly Bear Management Plan (2009) will 
facilitate grizzly bear occupancy in areas of suitable habitat on the 
Wind River Reservation and allows grizzly bears access to high-
elevation whitebark pine and army cutworm moth aggregation sites, thus 
allowing for additional resiliency of the GYE grizzly bear DPS in 
response to changing environmental conditions. The Wind River 
Reservation Forest Management Plan calls for no net increase in roads 
in the Wind River Roadless Area and the Monument Peak area of the Owl 
Creek Mountains. In the remaining portion of Tribal lands occupied by 
grizzly bears, open road densities of 1.6 km/sq km (1 mi/sq mi) or less 
will be maintained (Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes 2009, 
p. 11). These Tribes do not allow hunting by non-Tribal members. If a 
limited hunt is approved by applicable Tribal mechanisms, it must be 
consistent with the demographic standards described under Factor B of 
this proposed rule and in the Tribal Grizzly Bear Management Plan 
(Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes 2009, pp. 2, 9).
State Regulatory Mechanisms
    The three State grizzly bear management plans direct State land 
management agencies to maintain or improve habitats that are important 
to grizzly bears and to monitor population criteria outside the PCA. 
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have developed management plans for areas 
outside the PCA to: (1) Assure that the measures of the Act continue to 
be unnecessary for the grizzly bears in the GYE DPS; (2) support 
expansion of grizzly bears beyond the PCA, into areas of biologically 
and socially acceptable suitable habitat; and (3) manage grizzly bears 
as a game animal, including allowing regulated hunting when and where 
appropriate (in their entirety: Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear 
Delisting Advisory Team 2002; MTFWP 2002, 2013; WGFD 2005). The plans 
for all three States were completed in 2002, with Wyoming's plan 
amedned in 2005 and Montana's plan updated in 2013, and grizzly bears 
within the GYE DPS will be incorporated into existing game species 
management plans should we delist them.
    If delisting is made final, the States of Wyoming, Montana, and 
Idaho will classify grizzly bears as game animals throughout the DPS 
boundaries. This status provides legal protection to grizzly bears by 
prohibiting unlimited or unwarranted killing of grizzly bears by the 
public. The regulatory mechanism proposed by States discussed under 
Factor B and in tables 1, 2, and 3, above, that would govern potential 
hunting seasons must be in place by law and regulation in each State 
for delisting to occur. We expect that these State statutory and 
regulatory changes will be made within the next several months.
    Other regulations, such as timing and location of seasons, seasonal 
closure procedures, and licenses and fees would be devised by the 
States to minimize the possibility that total mortality limits of 
independent females are exceeded within the DMA (Idaho's Yellowstone 
Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, p. 20; WGFD 2004, p. 20; 
MFWP 2013, p. 61).
    Any grizzly bear hunting within the DMA would only occur if total 
annual mortality limits specified for the GYE grizzly bear DMA 
population are not exceeded as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above. Hunting 
limits would be regulated by State regulations as described above. The 
killing of grizzly bears in self-defense or defense of others by humans 
will continue to be allowed under both Federal (e.g., laws that would 
apply on Forest Service and National Park Service lands) and State law. 
State management plans do not allow for legal take of grizzly bears by 
humans unless it is within the designated seasons and limits for 
grizzly bear mortality (Idaho's Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting 
Advisory Team 2002; MTFWP 2002; WGFD 2005) or, in the Montana portion 
of the DPS, if a grizzly bear is caught ``in the act'' of attacking or 
killing livestock (87-3-130 MCA). A State law enforcement investigation 
would have to verify an injured or dead livestock animal.
    The management of nuisance bears within the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
boundaries would be based upon existing laws and authorities of State 
wildlife agencies and Federal land management agencies, and directed by 
protocols established in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and State 
management plans. Inside the National Parks, Yellowstone or Grand Teton 
National Park grizzly bear biologists will continue to respond to 
grizzly bear-human conflicts. In all areas outside of the National 
Parks, State and Tribal wildlife agencies will continue responding to 
grizzly bear-human conflicts. The focus and intent of nuisance grizzly 
bear management inside and outside the PCA will be predicated on 
strategies and actions to prevent grizzly bear-human conflicts. State 
and Tribal management plans and State regulations provide the necessary 
regulatory framework and guidelines to State wildlife agencies for 
managing and maintaining a recovered GYE grizzly bear DPS inside of the 
DMA. Any

[[Page 13211]]

mortalities due to nuisance bear management or removal will count 
against the total mortality limit inside the DMA. By identifying the 
agencies responsible for nuisance bear management and responding to 
grizzly bear-human conflicts using a clearly orchestrated protocol, 
these State and Tribal plans and regulations create a framework within 
which the needs of grizzly bears and humans can be balanced.
    It is anticipated that take of grizzly bears would therefore would 
likely be strictly limited by hunting seasons and quotas and legally 
enforceable through laws and regulations concerning grizzly bears and 
other game animals in each State. We expect that State wildlife 
commissions would also promulgate regulations with commitments to 
coordinate hunting limits within the DMA among jurisdictions and within 
the total mortality limits calculated annually by the IGBST (see tables 
1, 2, and 3, above, for details on these mortality limits) as described 
under Factor B. These regulations would constitute legally enforceable 
regulatory mechanisms and these regulations must be adopted and in 
place before the Service goes forward with a final delisting rule.
Summary of Factor D
    In summary, when the listing of the grizzly bear population was 
finalized in 1975, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms was 
identified under Factor D as one of the threats to the population. 
Legally enforceable regulatory mechanisms that would be in place if 
this proposed rule is finalized and the GYE grizzly bear DPS is 
delisted include National Park Superintendent's Compendiums, the Forest 
Service Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for the GYE 
National Forests, the Wind River Reservation regulations, and State 
Fish and Game Commission laws and regulations as per tables 1, 2, and 3 
and as described under Factor B, above.
    In addition to these regulatory mechanisms, after delisting, the 
Service will initiate a status review with possible emergency listing 
if changes in Federal, State, or Tribal laws, rules, regulations, or 
management plans depart significantly from the management details 
described in this section, thereby compromising implementation of the 
draft 2016 Conservation Strategy. In total, these mechanisms would 
provide an adequate regulatory framework within which the GYE grizzly 
bear population would continue to experience long-term population 
health within the DMA.
    Based on this information, it is reasonable to conclude existing 
regulatory mechanisms, and those that would be enacted before this 
proposed rule is made final, are adequate to protect the GYE grizzly 
bear population if the protections of the Act were no longer in place. 
Therefore, based on the best available information, we conclude that 
the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms will not constitute a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now or in the future if the 
appropriate regulatory mechanisms are adopted and maintained by the 
States in enforceable regulations before this proposed rule becomes 
final.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence

    Factor E requires the Service to consider other natural or manmade 
factors affecting the continued existence of a species. Here, four 
other considerations warrant additional discussion regarding the GYE 
grizzly bear DPS: (1) Genetic health; (2) changes in food resources; 
(3) climate change; and (4) human attitudes toward grizzly bear 
conservation.
Genetic Health
    The isolated nature of the GYE grizzly bear population was 
identified as a potential threat when listed in 1975. Declines in 
genetic diversity are expected in isolated populations (Allendorf et 
al. 1991, p. 651; Burgman et al. 1993, p. 220). For the GYE grizzly 
bear population, decreases in genetic diversity would occur gradually 
over decades due to long generational time and relatively large 
population size (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338). Indicators of fitness 
in the GYE grizzly bear population demonstrate that the current levels 
of genetic diversity are capable of supporting healthy reproductive and 
survival rates, as evidenced by normal litter size, no evidence of 
disease, high survivorship, an equal sex ratio, normal body size and 
physical characteristics, and a stable to increasing population 
(Schwartz et al. 2006b, entire; IGBST 2012, entire). These indicators 
of fitness will be monitored annually, in perpetuity. Because current 
levels of genetic diversity are adequate and heterozygosity values have 
increased slightly over the last few decades from 0.55 (Paetkau et al. 
1998, p. 421), to 0.56 (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4337), to 0.60 using 
more recent data and larger sample sizes (Haroldson et al. 2010, p. 7), 
we know there is no immediate need for new genetic material (Miller and 
Waits 2003, p. 4338).
    Effective population size is a metric used by geneticists to 
distinguish between total population size and the actual number of 
individuals available to reproduce at any given time. For example, many 
individuals in a population may be too young to reproduce and, 
therefore, are not part of the ``effective population size.'' Short-
term fitness (i.e., survival and reproduction rates) can be attained by 
maintaining an effective population size of at least 50 individuals 
(Frankel and Soul[eacute] 1981, p. 74). For long-term fitness (i.e., 
evolutionary response), the effective population size of the GYE 
grizzly bear population should remain above 100 animals (Miller and 
Waits 2003, p. 4338). In grizzly bears, effective population size is 
approximately 25 to 27 percent of total population size (Allendorf et 
al. 1991, p. 650; Miller and Waits 2003; Groom et al. 2006, p. 405), so 
an effective population size of 100 corresponds to a total population 
size of about 400 animals. To further ensure this minimum number of 
animals in the population necessary for genetic health is always 
maintained, the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy established a standard 
to maintain the total population size above 500 animals (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 2). Recent work (Kamath et al. 2015, p. 
6) demonstrates that the effective population size (Ne) of 
the GYE population has increased from 102 (95% CI = 64-207) in 1982, to 
469 (95% CI = 284-772) in 2010. The current effective population is 
more than four times the minimum effective population size suggested in 
the literature (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338).
    While this current effective population size of approximately 469 
animals is adequate to maintain genetic health in this population, 1 to 
2 effective migrants from other grizzly bear populations every 10 years 
would maintain or enhance this level of genetic diversity and therefore 
assure genetic health in the long term (Mills and Allendorf 1996, pp. 
1510, 1516; Newman and Tallmon 2001, pp. 1059-1061; Miller and Waits 
2003, p. 4338) and benefit its long-term persistence (Boyce et al. 
2001, pp. 25, 26; Kamath et al. 2015, p. 11). We have defined an 
effective migrant as an individual that immigrates into an isolated 
population from a separate area, survives, breeds, and whose offspring 
survive. Based on Miller and Waits (2003, p. 4338), the 2007 
Conservation Strategy recommended that if no movement or successful 
genetic interchange was detected by 2020, two effective migrants from 
the NCDE would be translocated

[[Page 13212]]

into the GYE grizzly bear population every 10 years (i.e., one 
generation) to maintain current levels of genetic diversity (U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service 2007c, p. 37). In light of new information in 
Kamath et al. (2015) documenting stable levels of heterozygosity and a 
current effective population size of 469 animals (Kamath et al. 2015, 
p. 6), we have removed the deadline of 2020 for translocation from the 
draft 2016 Conservation Strategy. As stated by Kamath et al. (2015, p. 
11), the current effective population size is sufficiently large to 
avoid substantial accumulation of inbreeding depression, thereby 
reducing concerns regarding genetic factors affecting the viability of 
GYE grizzly bears. However, the Service recognizes that the long-term 
viability of the GYE grizzly bear population will benefit from 
occasional gene flow from nearby grizzly bear populations like that in 
the NCDE. Thus, efforts will continue to facilitate occasional movement 
of male bears between the NCDE and Yellowstone in the intervening areas 
between the GYE and the NCDE. To increase the likelihood of occasional 
genetic interchange between the GYE grizzly bear population and the 
NCDE grizzly bear population, the State of Montana has indicated they 
will manage discretionary mortality in this area in order to retain the 
opportunity for natural movements of bears between ecosystems. 
Translocation of bears between these ecosystems will be a last resort 
and will only be implemented if there are demonstrated effects of 
lowered heterozygosity among GYE grizzly bears or other genetic 
measures that indicate a decrease in genetic diversity.
    To document natural connectivity between the GYE and the NCDE, 
Federal and State agencies will continue to monitor bear movements on 
the northern periphery of the GYE grizzly bear DPS boundaries and the 
southern edges of the NCDE using radio-telemetry and will collect 
genetic samples from all captured or dead bears to document possible 
gene flow between these two ecosystems (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2016, Chapter 2). These genetic samples will detect migrants using an 
``assignment test'' to identify the area from which individuals are 
most likely to have originated based on their unique genetic signature 
(Paetkau et al. 1995, p. 348; Waser and Strobeck 1998, p. 43; Paetkau 
et al. 2004, p. 56; Proctor et al. 2005, pp. 2410-2412). This technique 
also identifies bears that may be the product of reproduction between 
GYE and NCDE grizzly bears (Dixon et al. 2006, p. 158). In addition to 
monitoring for gene flow and movements, we will continue interagency 
efforts to provide and maintain movement opportunities for grizzly 
bears, and reestablish natural connectivity and gene flow between the 
GYE grizzly bear DPS and other grizzly bear populations. To promote 
natural connectivity, there are attractant storage rules on public 
lands between the GYE and other grizzly bear recovery zones in the NCDE 
and Bitterroot. We do not consider connectivity to the east, west, or 
south a relevant issue to the GYE grizzly bear population's long-term 
persistence because there are no extant populations in these directions 
to enhance the genetic diversity of the GYE population. However, we 
recognize the GYE grizzly bear population could be a possible source 
population to re-colonize the Bitterroot Ecosystem to the west.
    Genetic concerns are not currently a threat to the GYE grizzly bear 
population (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338; Kamath et al. 2015, 
entire). Attractant storage orders on public lands, through a reduction 
in conflict situations, and careful regulation of hunting in certain 
areas provide adequate measures to promote natural connectivity and 
prevent reductions in genetic diversity. The IGBST will carefully 
monitor movements and the presence of alleles from grizzly bear 
populations outside the GYE grizzly bear DPS boundaries (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 2). The IGBST will continue to monitor 
genetic diversity of the GYE grizzly bear population so that a possible 
reduction in genetic diversity due to the geographic isolation of the 
GYE grizzly bear population will be detected and responded to 
accordingly with translocation of outside grizzly bears into the GYE. 
This approach ensures that long-term genetic diversity does warrant a 
continued threatened listing for the GYE DPS. Therefore, based on the 
best available scientific information, we conclude that genetic 
diversity does not constitute a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, 
nor is it anticipated to in the future.
Changes in Food Resources
    The IGBST currently monitors the productivity of four common 
grizzly bear foods in the GYE: whitebark pine seeds, army cutworm 
moths, winter-killed ungulates, and spawning cutthroat trout. While 
these are some of the highest calorie food sources available to grizzly 
bears in the GYE (Mealey 1975, pp. 84-86; Pritchard and Robbins 1990, 
p. 1647; Craighead et al. 1995, pp. 247-252), only whitebark pine seeds 
are known to have an influence on grizzly bear mortality risk and 
reproduction. There is no known relationship between grizzly bear 
mortality risk or reproduction and any other individual food (Schwartz 
et al. 2010, p. 662).
    Grizzly bears primarily consume elk and bison as winter-killed 
carrion in the early spring, but also kill calves opportunistically and 
prey upon adults weakened during the fall breeding season. The 
availability of these ungulates is threatened by brucellosis (Brucella 
abortus) and resulting management practices resulting in bison removal, 
chronic wasting disease (CWD), competition with other top predators for 
ungulates, and decreasing winter severity. Brucellosis does not affect 
bison as a food source for grizzly bears, and the subsequent removal 
program is managed to ``maintain a wild, free-ranging population of 
bison'' (USDOI National Park Service and USDA Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service 2000, p. 22). CWD is fatal to deer and elk but has 
not been detected in the GYE and as transmission is density-dependent 
(Schauber and Woolf 2003, pp. 611-612); CWD would not result in local 
extinction of deer or elk populations. The availability of ungulate 
carcasses is not anticipated to be impacted by either of these diseases 
such that they are a threat to the GYE grizzly bear population now, or 
in the future. The reintroduction of gray wolves (Canis lupus) to the 
GYE in 1995 has created competition between grizzly bears and wolves 
for carrion; however, there has been no documentation of negative 
influence on the GYE grizzly bear population (Servheen and Knight 1993, 
p. 36). Decreasing winter severity and length as a result of climate 
change could reduce spring carrion availability (Wilmers and Getz 2005, 
p. 574; Wilmers and Post 2006, p. 405). A reduction of winter-killed 
ungulates may be buffered by an increase of availability of meat to 
adult grizzly bears during the active season as a result of grizzly 
bears usually prevailing in usurping wolf-killed ungulate carcasses 
(Ballard et al. 2003, p. 262). Therefore, fluctuations in the 
availability of ungulates are not a threat to the GYE grizzly bear 
population now, or in future.
    A decline in the Yellowstone cutthroat trout population has 
resulted from a combination of factors: the introduction of nonnative 
lake trout (Salvelinus naymaycush), a parasite that causes whirling 
disease (Myxobolus cerebralis), and several years of drought conditions 
in the Intermountain West (Koel et al. 2005, p. 10). Although there has 
been a corresponding decrease in

[[Page 13213]]

grizzly bear use of cutthroat trout, only a small portion of the GYE 
grizzly bear population uses cutthroat trout (Haroldson et al. 2005, p. 
175), and grizzly bears that fish in spawning streams only consume, on 
average, between 8 and 55 trout per year (Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 
499). Therefore, potential declines in cutthroat trout are not 
currently, nor are they likely, to become a threat in future to the GYE 
grizzly bear population.
    Army cutworm moths aggregate on remote, high-elevation talus slopes 
where grizzly bears forage on them from mid-summer to late summer. 
Grizzly bears could potentially be disturbed by backcountry visitors 
(White et al. 1999, p. 150), but this has not been documented in the 
GYE. The situation is monitored by the IGBST and the WGFD, who will 
take appropriate management action as necessary. Climate change may 
affect army cutworm moths by changing the distribution of plants that 
the moths feed on or the flowering times of the plants (Woiwod 1997, 
pp. 152-153). However, they GYE plant communities have a wide 
elevational range that would allow for distributional changes (Romme 
and Turner 1991, p. 382), and army cutworm moths display foraging 
plasticity (Burton et al. 1980, pp. 12-13). Therefore, potential 
changes to army cutworm moth availability are not likely to threaten 
the GYE grizzly bear population in the future.
    More details on the specific ways in which changes in ungulates, 
cutthroat trout, and army cutworm moths could affect the GYE grizzly 
bear population are discussed in detail in the 2007 final rule (72 FR 
14866, March 29, 2007, pp. 14,928-14,933). Our analysis focuses on the 
potential impacts that the loss of whitebark pine could have on the GYE 
grizzly bear population. While we discussed notable declines in 
whitebark pine due to mountain pine beetle in the 2007 final rule, the 
data used to estimate population growth only went through 2002. The 
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals questioned our conclusions about future 
population viability based on data gathered before the sharp decline in 
whitebark pine began (Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Inc. v. Servheen, 
et al., 665 F.3d 1015, (9th Cir. 2011)). To assess the population's 
vital rates since 2002, the IGBST completed a comprehensive demographic 
review using data from 2002-2011 (IGBST 2012, p. 7) and extensive 
analyses to determine if the decline in whitebark pine is driving 
observed changes in population vital rates (IGBST 2013, entire).
    Whitebark pine still faces the same threats reported in our 2007 
final rule and reiterated in our 12-month finding for whitebark pine 
(76 FR 42631; July 19, 2011). Whitebark pine is currently warranted for 
protected status under the Act but that action is precluded by higher 
priority actions. This status is primarily the result of direct 
mortality due to white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetles but 
also less obvious impacts from climate change and fire suppression. For 
more details on the status of whitebark pine, please see the 2013 
candidate notice of review (78 FR 70104; November 22, 2013).
    During years of low whitebark pine seed availability, we know 
grizzly bear-human conflicts may increase as bears use lower elevation, 
less secure habitat within their home ranges (Gunther et al. 2004, pp. 
13-15; Schwartz et al. 2010, pp. 661-662). Approximately six more 
independent females and six more independent males die across the 
ecosystem in poor whitebark pine years (IGBST 2013, p. 25, figure 5). 
These mortalities are primarily due to defense of life encounters and 
wildlife management agency removals of conflict bears (Gunther et al. 
2004, pp. 13-14; IGBST 2009, p. 4). Additionally, both litter size and 
the likelihood of producing a litter may decrease in years following 
poor whitebark pine years (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 21). Despite these 
effects on survival and reproduction, using data from 2002 to 2011, the 
IGBST documented an average annual population growth rate for the GYE 
grizzly bear population between 0.3 and 2.2 percent (IGBST 2012, p. 
34). Although the population was still increasing in this more recent 
time period, it was increasing at a slower rate than in the previous 
time period (1983-2001). Therefore, the IGBST examined the potential 
influence whitebark pine was having on this population growth rate. 
Because extrinsic, density-independent factors (e.g., whitebark pine 
availability) and intrinsic, density-dependent factors (i.e., a 
population at or near carrying capacity) can produce similar changes in 
population vital rates, the IGBST conducted several analyses to clarify 
and tease apart these two similar effects. The results of these 
analyses were summarized in a single report titled ``Response of 
Yellowstone grizzly bears to changes in food resources: a synthesis'' 
(hereafter referred to as ``the Food Synthesis Report'') (IGBST 2013). 
Regardless of whether these changes are being driven by declines in 
whitebark pine or are simply an indication of the population reaching 
carrying capacity, our management response would be the same: to 
carefully manage human-caused mortality based on scientific monitoring 
of the population.
    For the Food Synthesis Report, the IGBST developed a comprehensive 
set of research questions and hypotheses to evaluate grizzly bear 
responses to changes in food resources. Specifically, the IGBST asked 
eight questions: (1) How diverse is the diet of GYE grizzly bears? (2) 
Has grizzly bear selection of whitebark pine habitat decreased as tree 
mortality increased? (3) Has grizzly bear body condition decreased as 
whitebark pine declined? (4) Has animal matter provided grizzly bears 
with an alternative food resource to declining whitebark pine? (5) Have 
grizzly bear movements increased during the period of whitebark pine 
decline (2000-2011)? (6) Has home range size increased as grizzly bears 
sought alterative foods, or has home range size decreased as grizzly 
bear density increased? (7) Has the number of human-caused grizzly bear 
mortalities increased as whitebark pine decreased? (8) Are changes in 
vital rates during the last decade associated more with decline in 
whitebark pine resources than increases in grizzly bear density? The 
preliminary answers to these questions are contained in the Synthesis 
Report and the final results have been (or will be) published in peer-
reviewed journals (in their entirety: Schwartz et al. 2013; Bjornlie et 
al. 2013; Costello et al. 2014; Gunther et al. 2014; Schwartz et al. 
2014; van Manen et al. 2015; Ebinger et al. in review; Haroldson et al. 
in prep.)
    Key findings of the Synthesis Report are summarized below. To 
address the first question about how diverse GYE grizzly bear diets 
are, Gunther et al. (2014, entire) conducted an extensive literature 
review and documented over 260 species of foods consumed by grizzly 
bears in the GYE, representing four of the five kingdoms of life (for 
more information, please see Nutritional Ecology, above). Regarding the 
second research question, if whitebark pine was a preferred food or if 
individual grizzly bears were dependent on this food source, we would 
expect movement rates and grizzly bear selection of whitebark pine to 
increase as its availability decreased and bears had to search further 
and longer to find this food source. However, Costello et al. (2014, p. 
2013) found that grizzly bear selection of whitebark pine habitat had 
actually decreased between 2000 and 2011. They also found that movement 
rates had not changed over the study period, further supporting the 
notion that grizzly bears were simply finding alternative foods within 
their home

[[Page 13214]]

ranges as whitebark pine seeds became less available over the past 
decade (Costello et al. 2014, p. 2013). Regarding the third research 
question, if grizzly bears were dependent on whitebark pine to meet 
their nutritional requirements, we would expect body condition to have 
decreased since 2002. Instead, Schwartz et al. (2013, p. 75) and the 
IGBST (2013, p. 18) found body mass and percent body fat in the fall 
had not changed significantly from 2000 to 2010. When they examined 
trends in females only, the data seemed to show a slightly declining 
trend in female body fat during the fall, starting around 2006 
(Schwartz et al. 2014, p. 72). However, they suggested it could be the 
result of very small sample sizes (n = 2.6 bears/year) and noted the 
data for 2011 (not included in their published paper) showed an 
increase in fall body fat for females, ultimately cautioning that more 
data were needed before it could be determined if there was truly a 
trend (Schwartz et al. 2014, p. 76). In the Food Synthesis Report, the 
IGBST revisited the previous analysis with information since 2010, and 
found ``body condition is not different between poor and good years of 
whitebark pine production'' (IGBST 2013, p. 18). In response to the 
fourth research question, the IGBST found that ungulate carcass use had 
increased since 2002, and that bears used more meat in years with poor 
whitebark pine seed production (Schwartz et al. 2013, p. 68). These 
results were expected and are consistent with previous findings 
(Mattson 1997, p. 169). To answer the fifth and sixth research 
questions identified in the previous paragraph, the IGBST examined 
movement rates and home range sizes. They found daily and fall bear 
movements had not increased from 2000 to 2011 (Costello et al. 2014, 
pp. 2011, 2013). Additionally, they documented that home ranges 
actually decreased significantly for females and that this decrease was 
greater in areas with higher grizzly bear densities (Bjornlie et al. 
2014, p. 4-6). The IGBST compared pre- (1989-1999) and post-whitebark 
pine impact (2007-2012) periods and did not find a relationship between 
home range size and amount of live whitebark pine in the home range 
(Bjornlie et al. 2014, p. 4-6). Because we would expect daily and fall 
movements and home range size to increase if food resources were 
declining and bears were roaming more widely in search of foods, these 
findings offer strong support that changes in population vital rates 
since the early 2000s are more indicative of the population approaching 
carrying capacity than a shortage of resources (van Manen et al. 2015, 
p. 21).
    In response to the seventh question, while land managers have 
little influence on how calories are spread across the landscape, we 
have much more influence on human-caused mortality risk. Consistent 
with findings from earlier studies, Haroldson et al. (in prep.) found 
that grizzly bear mortalities increase in poor compared to good 
whitebark pine years. Assuming the poorest observed whitebark pine cone 
production, Haroldson et al. (in prep.) predicted an increase of 10 
annual mortalities ecosystem-wide of independent females comparing 2000 
with 2012, encompassing the period that coincided with whitebark pine 
decline (IGBST 2013, p. 25). The greatest increase in predicted 
mortality occurred outside the PCA, which may be partially attributable 
to range expansion and continued population increase (Haroldson et al. 
in prep.). However, increased mortality numbers have not led to a 
declining population trend (IGBST 2012, p. 34).
    In response to the eight question, the IGBST found that while 
whitebark pine seed production can influence reproductive rates the 
following year, the overall fecundity rates during the last decade 
(2002-2011) did not decline when compared with data from 1983-2001 
(IGBST 2013, p. 32). This is important because fecundity rates are a 
function of both litter size and the likelihood of producing a litter, 
the two ways in which whitebark pine seed production may affect 
reproduction. Although Schwartz et al. (2006, p. 21) found one-cub 
litters were more common in years following poor whitebark pine seed 
production, one-cub litters are still adequate for population growth. 
Furthermore, one-cub litters are still relatively uncommon following 
poor whitebark pine years, as evidenced by a very consistent average 
litter size around two since the IGBST began reporting this metric. 
Fecundity and mean litter size did not change between the two 
monitoring periods (1983-2001 vs. 2002-2011) examined by the IGBST even 
though the availability of whitebark pine seeds declined (IGBST 2013, 
pp. 33-34).
    In contrast to previous studies that concluded increased mortality 
in poor whitebark pine years led to population decline in those years 
(Pease and Mattson 1999, p. 964), the IGBST found the population did 
not decline despite increased mortality in poor whitebark pine years. 
The conclusions of Pease and Mattson (1999, p. 964) are flawed. First 
and foremost, estimating population growth for individual, non-
consecutive years, as Pease and Mattson (1999, p. 962) did, is ``not 
legitimate'' and results in an ``incorrect estimate'' (Eberhardt and 
Cherry 2000, p. 3257). Even assuming their methods of separating out 
individual, non-consecutive years of data for a species whose 
reproduction and survival are inextricably linked to multiple, 
consecutive years (e.g., reproductive status in 1 year affects status 
in the following year), many other aspects of their analysis do not 
reflect the best available science. An important difference between 
Pease and Mattson (1999, p. 964) and other population growth rate 
estimates (Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 362; Boyce 1995, entire; Schwartz 
et al. 2006b, p. 48; IGBST 2012, p. 34) is related to their treatment 
of conflict bears. Pease and Mattson (1999, p. 967) assumed that 
grizzly bears with any history of conflict would experience lower 
survival rates associated with conflict bears for the rest of their 
lives. The findings of Schwartz et al. (2006, p.42) challenge this 
assumption, finding that while survival of conflict bears decreases 
during the year of the conflict and the next year, survival returns to 
approximately normal within 2 years. In other words, management-trapped 
bears often return to foraging on naturally occurring food sources, 
away from human developments. Another assumption made by Pease and 
Mattson (1999, p. 967) was that 73 percent of the GYE grizzly bear 
population were conflict bears, with correspondingly lower survival 
rates. However, Schwartz et al. (2006, p. 39) found only about 28 
percent of the GYE grizzly bear population were ever involved in 
conflicts. Together, these two erroneous assumptions by Pease and 
Mattson (1996, p. 967) resulted in a gross underestimation of 
population trend. As a result, we do not consider Pease and Mattson 
(1996) to be the best available science.
    Earlier studies suggested that increased grizzly bear mortalities 
in poor whitebark pine years are a result of bears roaming more widely 
in search of foods and exposing themselves to higher mortality risk in 
roaded habitats at lower elevations. However, Costello et al. (2014, p. 
2014) showed that grizzly bears did not roam over larger areas or 
canvass more area within their fall ranges as whitebark pine declined 
rapidly starting in the early 2000s, and suggested bears found 
alternative foods within their fall ranges. Furthermore, Bjornlie et 
al. (2014, p. 4) found that home range size has not increased after 
whitebark pine declined, and Schwartz

[[Page 13215]]

et al. (2010, p. 662) found that when bears use lower elevations in 
poor whitebark pine seed production years, it is the amount of secure 
habitat that determines mortality risk. Meaning, in both good and poor 
whitebark pine seed years, survival is determined primarily by levels 
of secure habitat. Therefore, our approach of maintaining these levels 
of secure habitat on 98 percent of lands within the PCA and 60 percent 
of suitable habitat outside the PCA provides strong mitigation against 
any impacts the decline of whitebark pine may have on this grizzly bear 
population because the mechanism driving the increased mortality risk 
is secure habitat, not the presence or absence of whitebark pine.
    We recognize that changes in food resources can have some influence 
on population vital rates. These research questions and results do not 
refute that possibility, but the preponderance of evidence supports the 
conclusion that bears are finding sufficient alternative food resources 
to maintain body condition (Schwartz et al. 2013, p. 75; IGBST 2013, p. 
20). Evidence suggests that observed changes in population vital rates 
since the rapid decline of whitebark pine that began in the early 2000s 
are being driven by density-dependent effects and have resulted in a 
stable to slightly increasing population trend. Van Manen et al. (2015, 
entire) found cub survival, yearling survival, and reproductive 
transition from no offspring to cubs all changed from 1983 to 2012, 
with lower rates evident during the last 10-15 years. Cub survival and 
reproductive transition were negatively associated with an index of 
grizzly bear density, indicating greater declines where bear densities 
were higher. Their analysis did not support a similar relationship for 
the index of whitebark pine mortality. The results of van Manen et al. 
(2015) support the interpretation that slowing population growth during 
the last decade was associated more with increasing grizzly bear 
density than the decline in whitebark pine. In other words, the 
population is approaching carrying capacity (van Manen et al. 2015, 
entire). This evidence further supports the recovered status of the GYE 
grizzly bear population. Despite significant changes in food resources 
in the GYE in the last 15 years, grizzly bear population growth 
increased or stabilized.
    While there was some concern that the rapid loss of whitebark pine 
could result in mortality rates similar to those experienced after the 
open-pit garbage dumps were closed in the early 1970s (Schwartz et al. 
2006b, p. 42), we now know this has not been the case. This is most 
likely due to the fact that whitebark pine has never been a spatially 
or temporally predictable food source on the landscape like the open-
pit garbage dumps were. The dumps were open year round and provided 
high-calorie foods the entire time. They were in the exact same 
location every year and for the entire season. Grizzly bears 
congregated at these known locations in large numbers and in very close 
proximity to each other and to people. None of these circumstances are 
true for grizzly bears foraging on whitebark pine seeds.
    Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears have high diet 
diversity (Gunther et al. 2014, p. 65) and use alternate foods in years 
of low whitebark pine seed production (Schwartz et al. 2013, pp. 75-
76). Nearly one third of grizzly bears in the GYE do not have whitebark 
pine in their home range, so they do not use this food (Costello et al. 
2014, p. 2013). Grizzly bears in the GYE that do use whitebark pine are 
accustomed to successfully finding alternative natural foods in years 
when whitebark pine seeds are not available, and body mass and body fat 
are not different between good and poor whitebark pine seed years 
(Schwartz et al. 2014, pp. 72-73, 75).
    The IGBST will continue to monitor annual production of common 
foods, grizzly bear-human conflicts, survival rates, reproductive 
rates, and the causes and locations of grizzly bear mortality, as 
detailed in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy (U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service 2016, Chapters 3 and 4). These data provide the 2016 
Conservation Strategy's signatory agencies with the scientific 
information necessary to inform and implement adaptive management 
(Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) actions in response to ecological changes 
that may impact the future of the GYE grizzly bear population. These 
management responses may involve increased habitat protection, 
increased mortality management, or a status review and emergency 
relisting of the population if management actions are unable to address 
the problems.
    Grizzly bears are resourceful omnivores that will make behavioral 
adaptations regarding food acquisition (Schwartz et al. 201, p. 75). 
Diets of grizzly bears vary among individuals, seasons, years, and 
where they reside within the GYE (Mealey 1980, pp. 284-287; Mattson et 
al. 1991a, pp. 1625-1626; Felicetti et al. 2003, p. 767; Felicetti et 
al. 2004, p. 499; Koel et al. 2005, p. 14; Costello et al. 2014, p. 
2013; Gunther et al. 2014, pp. 66-67), reflecting their ability to find 
adequate food resources across a diverse and changing landscape. In 
other nearby areas such as the NCDE (100 miles north of the GYE) 
whitebark pine has been functionally extinct as a bear food for at 
least 40 years (Kendall and Keane 2001, pp. 228-232), yet the NCDE 
grizzly bear population has continued to increase and thrive with an 
estimated 765 bears in 2004, and a subsequent average 3 percent annual 
rate of growth (Kendall et al. 2009, p. 9; Mace et al. 2012, p. 124). 
Similarly, although whitebark pine seed production and availability of 
cutthroat trout in the Yellowstone Lake area varied dramatically over 
the last 3 decades due to both natural and human-introduced causes 
(Reinhart and Mattson 1990, pp. 345-349; Podruzny et al. 1999, pp. 134-
137; Felicetti et al. 2004, p. 499; Haroldson et al. 2005, pp. 175-178; 
Haroldson 2014, p. 45; Teisberg et al. 2014, pp. 375-376), the GYE 
grizzly bear population has continued to increase and expand during 
this time period despite these changes in foods (Schwartz et al. 2006a, 
p. 66; IGBST 2012, p. 34; Bjornlie et al. 2014, p. 184). The GYE 
grizzly bear population has been coping with the unpredictable nature 
of whitebark pine seed production for millennia. Grizzly bears are not 
dependent upon whitebark pine seeds for survival, nor do they have a 
diet that is specialized on consumption of these seeds. While we know 
whitebark pine seed production can influence reproductive and survival 
rates, it has not caused a negative population trend, as evidenced by 
stable to slightly increasing trend between 2002 and 2011 (IGBST 2012, 
p. 34). As articulated in the Food Synthesis Report by the IGBST (IGBST 
2013, pp. 32-35) and supporting studies (in their entirety: Bjornlie et 
al. 2014; Costello et al. 2014; Gunther et al. 2014), the demonstrated 
resiliency to declines in whitebark pine seed production and other 
high-calorie foods such as cutthroat trout shows that changes in food 
resources are not likely to become substantial impediments to the long-
term persistence of the GYE grizzly bear population.
    In Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Servheen, 665 F.3d 1015 (9th 
Cir. 2011), the Ninth Circuit faulted the Service's conclusion that 
whitebark pine losses did not pose a threat. First, the Ninth Circuit 
noted that grizzly bears' adaptability and resourcefulness increased 
the threat from whitebark pine loss because it raised the risk of 
conflicts with humans as bears looked for other food sources. The 
Service acknowledges this component of the threat from whitebark pine 
loss, but despite increased mortality during poor whitebark years, the 
population trend

[[Page 13216]]

has remained stable to increasing (IGBST 2012, p. 34). Additionally, 
during years of poor whitebark pine seed availability, grizzly bears 
did not roam over larger areas (Costello et al. 2014, p. 2014); rather, 
the increased risk of mortality was related to the use of lower 
elevations and less secure habitat within their home range (Schwartz et 
al. 2010, p. 662). Second, the court noted that the Service's data on 
long-term population growth came from 2002, before the pine beetle 
epidemic began. New data show that although population growth has 
slowed from the 4 to 7 percent that occurred from 1983 to 2001 
(Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 362; Knight and Blanchard 1995, pp. 18-19; 
Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48), it continued to grow at a rate of 0.3 to 
2.2 percent from 2002 to 2011 (IGBST 2012, p. 34). Third, the court 
faulted the Service for using a study of NCDE bears to prove GYE 
grizzly bears continued to increase despite whitebark pine losses, even 
though GYE bears were reported to be unique because of their reliance 
on whitebark pine seeds. Current data show that the GYE bear population 
has stabilized or increased despite the loss of whitebark pine seeds 
(IGBST 2012, p. 34). As explained in the DPS analysis, the Service no 
longer considers the GYE bear population to be significant due to 
unique ecological conditions, including reliance on whitebark pine 
seeds. A recent study found that nearly one third of collared grizzly 
bears in the GYE did not even have whitebark pine within their home 
ranges and those that did made use of other foods within their home 
ranges during poor whitebark pine years (Costello et al. 2014, pp. 
2009, 2013). Fourth, the Ninth Circuit observed that the Service 
contradicted itself by stating that the entire PCA was necessary to 
support a recovered population, yet acknowledged that whitebark pine 
would persist in only a small part of the PCA. New data show that 
despite the decline in whitebark pine, the GYE population is stable at 
close to carrying capacity and is exhibiting density-dependent 
regulation inside the DMA (van Manen et al. 2015, entire). Fifth, the 
court determined it was arbitrary and capricious for the Service to 
rely on scientific uncertainty about whitebark pine loss in a delisting 
decision. Any uncertainty about the loss of whitebark pine has been 
conclusively resolved by GYE population numbers that show stable or 
increasing populations despite loss of whitebark pine seeds (IGBST 
2012, p. 34) and no long-term changes in vital rates (IGBST 2012, pp. 
32-34). Furthermore, whitebark pine tree mortality has significantly 
slowed since 2009, suggesting that the current beetle outbreak may have 
run its course (Haroldson 2015, p. 47). Finally, the Ninth Circuit 
faulted the Service for relying on adaptive management and monitoring 
without describing management responses and specific triggering 
criteria. The population objectives that will be incorporated into 
regulations provide specific triggers for management action (see Factor 
B discussion, above). The Service continues to believe that adaptive 
management will play a role in future management decisions because new 
data and new information will require appropriate management responses.
    In summary, the best scientific and commercial data available 
regarding grizzly bear responses to food losses suggest this issue is 
not a threat to the GYE grizzly bear population and is not an 
impediment to long-term population persistence. Therefore, we conclude 
that changes in food resources do not constitute a threat to the GYE 
grizzly bear DPS now, nor is it anticipated to in the future.
Climate Change
    Our analyses under the Act include consideration of observed or 
likely environmental changes resulting from ongoing and projected 
changes in climate. As defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC), the term ``climate'' refers to the mean and 
variability of different types of weather conditions over time, with 30 
years being a typical period for such measurements, although shorter or 
longer periods also may be used (IPCC 2013a, p. 1450). The term 
``climate change'' thus refers to a change in the state of the climate 
that can be identified by changes in the mean or the variability of 
relevant properties, which persists for an extended period, typically 
decades or longer, due to natural conditions (e.g., solar cycles), or 
human-caused changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land 
use (IPCC 2013a, p. 1450).
    Scientific measurements spanning several decades demonstrate that 
changes in climate are occurring. In particular, warming of the climate 
system is unequivocal, and many of the observed changes in the last 60 
years are unprecedented over decades to millennia (IPCC 2013b, p. 4). 
The current rate of climate change may be as fast as any extended 
warming period over the past 65 million years and is projected to 
accelerate in the next 30 to 80 years (National Research Council 2013, 
p. 5). Thus, rapid climate change is adding to other sources of 
extinction pressures, such as land use and human-caused mortality, 
which will likely place extinction rates in this era among just a 
handful of the severe biodiversity crises observed in Earth's 
geological record (American Association for the Advancement of Sciences 
2014, p. 17).
    Examples of various other observed and projected changes in climate 
and associated effects and risks, and the bases for them, are provided 
for global and regional scales in recent reports issued by the IPCC (in 
their entirety: 2013c, 2014), and similar types of information for the 
United States and regions within it are available via the National 
Climate Assessment (Melillo et al. 2014, entire). Results of scientific 
analyses presented by the IPCC show that most of the observed increase 
in global average temperature since the mid-20th century cannot be 
explained by natural variability in climate and is ``extremely likely'' 
(defined by the IPCC as 95-100 percent likelihood) due to the observed 
increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere as a result 
of human activities, particularly carbon dioxide emissions from fossil 
fuel use (IPCC 2013b, p. 17).
    Scientists use a variety of climate models, which include 
consideration of natural processes and variability, as well as various 
scenarios of potential levels and timing of greenhouse gas emissions, 
to evaluate the causes of changes already observed and to project 
future changes in temperature and other climate conditions. Model 
results yield very similar projections of average global warming until 
about 2030, and thereafter the magnitude and rate of warming vary 
through the end of the century depending on the assumptions about 
population levels, emissions of greenhouse gases, and other factors 
that influence climate change. Thus, absent extremely rapid 
stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions at a global level, there is 
strong scientific support for projections that warming will continue 
through the 21st century, and that the magnitude and rate of change 
will be influenced substantially by human actions regarding greenhouse 
gas emissions (IPCC 2013b, p. 19; IPCC 2014, entire).
    Global climate projections are informative, and, in some cases, the 
only or the best scientific information available for us to use. 
However, projected changes in climate and related impacts can vary 
substantially across and within different regions of the world (in 
their entirety: IPCC 2013c, 2014), and within the US (Melillo et al. 
2014, entire). Therefore, we use ``downscaled'' projections when they 
are available and have been developed

[[Page 13217]]

through appropriate scientific procedures, because such projections 
provide higher resolution information that is more relevant to spatial 
scales used for analyses of a given species (see Glick et al. 2011, pp. 
58-61, for a discussion of downscaling).
    The hydrologic regime in the Rocky Mountains has changed and is 
projected to change further (Bartlein et al. 1997, p. 786; Cayan et al. 
2001, p. 411; Leung et al. 2004, p. 75; Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 223-
224; Pederson et al. 2011, p. 1666). The western United States may 
experience milder, wetter winters with warmer, drier summers and an 
overall decrease in snowpack (Leung et al. 2004, pp. 93-94). While some 
climate models do not demonstrate significant changes in total annual 
precipitation for the western United States (Duffy et al. 2006, p. 
893), an increase in ``rain on snow'' events is expected (Leung et al. 
2004, p. 93; McWethy et al. 2010, p. 55). The amount of snowpack and 
the timing of snowmelt may also change, with an earlier peak stream 
flow each spring (Cayan et al. 2001, p. 410; Leung et al. 2004, p. 75; 
Stewart et al. 2004, pp. 223-224). Although there is some disagreement 
about changes in the water content of snow under varying climate 
scenarios (Duffy et al. 2006, p. 893), reduced runoff from decreased 
snowpack could translate into decreased soil moisture in the summer 
(Leung et al. 2004, p. 75). However, Pederson et al. (2011, p. 1682) 
found that increased spring precipitation in the northern Rocky 
Mountains is offsetting these impacts to total annual stream flow from 
expected declines in snowpack thus far.
    The effects related to climate change may result in a number of 
changes to grizzly bear habitat, including a reduction in snowpack 
levels, shifts in denning times, shifts in the abundance and 
distribution of some natural food sources, and changes in fire regimes. 
Most grizzly bear biologists in the United States and Canada do not 
expect habitat changes predicted under climate change scenarios to 
directly threaten grizzly bears (Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4). These 
changes may even make habitat more suitable and food sources more 
abundant. However, these ecological changes may also affect the timing 
and frequency of grizzly bear-human interactions and conflicts 
(Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4).
    Because timing of den entry and emergence is at least partially 
influenced by food availability and weather (Craighead and Craighead 
1972, pp. 33-34; Van Daele et al. 1990, p. 264), less snowpack would 
likely shorten the denning season as foods become available later in 
the fall and earlier in the spring. In the GYE, Haroldson et al. (2002, 
pp. 34-35) reported later den entry dates for male grizzly bears, 
corresponding with increasing November temperatures from 1975 to 1999. 
This increased time outside of the den could increase the potential for 
conflicts with humans (Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4).
    The effects related to climate change could create temporal and 
spatial shifts in grizzly bear food sources (Rodriguez et al. 2007, pp. 
41-42). Changes in plant communities have already been documented, with 
species' ranges shifting farther north and higher in elevation due to 
environmental constraints (Walther et al. 2002, pp. 390-391; Walther 
2003, pp. 172-175; Walther et al. 2005, p. 1428) and increases in 
outbreaks of insects that reduce survival (Bentz et al. 2010, entire). 
Decreased snowpack could lead to fewer avalanches thereby reducing 
avalanche chutes, an important habitat component to grizzly bears, 
across the landscape. However, increases in ``rain on snow'' events may 
decrease the stability of snowpack resulting in increases in 
avalanches. Changes in vegetative food distributions also may influence 
other mammal distributions, including potential prey species like 
ungulates. While the extent and rate to which individual plant species 
will be impacted is difficult to foresee with any level of confidence 
(in their entirety: Walther et al. 2002; Fagre et al. 2003), there is 
general consensus that grizzly bears are flexible enough in their 
dietary needs that they will not be impacted directly by ecological 
constraints such as shifts in food distributions and abundance 
(Servheen and Cross 2010, p. 4; IGBST 2013, p. 35).
    Fire regimes can affect the abundance and distribution of some 
vegetative bear foods (e.g., grasses, berry-producing shrubs) (LeFranc 
et al. 1987, p. 150). For instance, fires can reduce canopy cover, 
which usually increases berry production. However, on steep south or 
west slopes, excessive canopy removal due to fires or vegetation 
management may decrease berry production through subsequent moisture 
stress and exposure to sun, wind, and frost (Simonin 2000, entire). 
Fire frequency and severity may increase with late summer droughts 
predicted under climate change scenarios (Nitschke and Innes 2008, p. 
853; McWethy et al. 2010, p. 55). Increased fire frequency has the 
potential to improve grizzly bear habitat, with low to moderate 
severity fires being the best. For example, fire treatment most 
beneficial to huckleberry shrubs is that which results in damage to 
stems, but does little damage to rhizomes (Simonin 2000, entire). High-
intensity fires may reduce grizzly bear habitat quality immediately 
afterwards by decreasing hiding cover and delaying regrowth of 
vegetation, although Blanchard and Knight (1996, p. 121) found that 
increased production of forbs and root crops in the years following the 
high-intensity, widespread Yellowstone fires of 1988 benefited grizzly 
bears. Because grizzly bears have shown resiliency to changes in 
vegetation resulting from fires, we do not anticipate altered fire 
regimes predicted under most climate change scenarios will have 
significant negative impacts on grizzly bear survival or reproduction, 
despite its potential effects on vegetation. Therefore, we conclude 
that the effects of climate change do not constitute a threat to the 
GYE grizzly bear DPS now, nor are they anticipated to in the future.
Public Support and Human Attitudes
    Public support is paramount to any successful large carnivore 
conservation program (Servheen 1998, p. 67). Historically, human 
attitudes played a primary role in grizzly bear population declines by 
promoting a culture and government framework that encouraged excessive, 
unregulated, human-caused mortality. Through government-endorsed 
eradication programs and perceived threats to human life and economic 
livelihood, humans settling the West were able to effectively eliminate 
most known grizzly bear populations after only 100 years of westward 
expansion.
    We have seen a change in public perceptions and attitudes toward 
the grizzly bear in the last several decades. The same government that 
once financially supported active extermination of the bear now uses 
its resources to protect the great symbol of American wildness. This 
change in government policy and practice is a product of changing 
public attitudes about the grizzly bear. Although attitudes about 
grizzly bears vary geographically and demographically, there has been a 
revival of positive attitudes toward the grizzly bear and its 
conservation (Kellert et al. 1996, pp. 983-986).
    Public outreach presents a unique opportunity to effectively 
integrate human and ecological concerns into comprehensive programs 
that can modify societal beliefs about, perceptions of, and behaviors 
toward grizzly bears. Attitudes toward wildlife are shaped by numerous 
factors including basic wildlife values, biological and ecological 
understanding of species, perceptions about individual

[[Page 13218]]

species, and specific interactions or experiences with species (Kellert 
1994, pp. 44-48; Kellert et al. 1996, pp. 983-986). Information and 
education programs teach visitors and residents about grizzly bear 
biology, ecology, and behavior, and enhance appreciation for this large 
predator while dispelling myths about its temperament and feeding 
habits. Effective information and education programs have been an 
essential factor contributing to the recovery of the GYE grizzly bear 
population since its listing in 1975. By identifying values common to 
certain user groups, the information and education working group can 
disseminate appropriate materials and provide workshops catered to 
these values. By providing general information to visitors and 
targeting specific user groups about living and working in grizzly bear 
country, we believe continued coexistence between grizzly bears and 
humans will be accomplished.
    Traditionally, residents of the GYE involved in resource extraction 
industries, such as loggers, miners, livestock operators, and hunting 
guides, are opposed to land-use restrictions that place the needs of 
the grizzly bear above human needs (Kellert 1994, p. 48; Kellert et al. 
1996, p. 984). Surveys of these user groups have shown that they 
tolerate large predators when they are not seen as direct threats to 
their economic stability or personal freedoms (Kellert et al. 1996, p. 
985). Delisting could increase acceptance of grizzly bears by giving 
local government and private citizens more discretion in decisions that 
affect them. Increased flexibility regarding depredating bears in areas 
outside of the PCA may increase tolerance for the grizzly bear by 
landowners and livestock operators by potentially reducing the number 
of conflict situations.
    Ultimately, the future of the grizzly bear will be based on the 
people who live, work, and recreate in grizzly bear habitat and the 
willingness and ability of these people to learn to coexist with the 
grizzly bear and to accept this animal as a cohabitant of the land. 
Other management strategies are unlikely to succeed without effective 
and innovative public information and education programs. The objective 
of the public outreach program is to proactively address grizzly bear-
human conflicts by informing the public about the root causes of these 
conflicts and providing suggestions on how to prevent them. By 
increasing awareness of grizzly bear behavior and biology, we hope to 
enhance public involvement and appreciation of the grizzly bear. In 
addition to public outreach programs, the States have implemented other 
programs to help reduce conflicts with the people that are directly 
affected by grizzly bears. These efforts include livestock carcass 
removal programs, electric fencing subsidies for apiaries and orchards, 
and sharing costs of bear-resistant garbage bins where appropriate.
    Although some human-caused grizzly bear mortalities are 
unintentional (e.g., vehicle collisions, trap mortality), intentional 
deaths in response to grizzly bear-human conflicts are responsible for 
the majority of known and probable human-caused mortalities. 
Fortunately, this source of mortality can be reduced significantly if 
adequate information and education are provided to people who live, 
work, and recreate in occupied grizzly bear habitat and proper 
management infrastructure is in place (Linnell et al. 2001, p. 345). 
For example, even though more than 3 million people visit the National 
Parks and National Forests of the GYE each year, (USDA Forest Service 
2006a, pp. 176, 183, 184; Cain 2014, p. 46; Gunther 2014, p. 47), the 
average number of conflicts per year between 1992 and 2010 was only 150 
(Gunther et al. 2012, p. 51). The current information and education 
working group has been a major component contributing to the successful 
recovery of the GYE grizzly bear population over the last 30 years. 
Both Federal and State management agencies are committed to continuing 
to work with citizens, landowners, and visitors within the GYE grizzly 
bear DPS boundaries to address the human sources of conflicts.
    From 1980 through 2002, at least 36 percent (72 out of 196) of 
human-caused mortalities may have been avoided if relevant information 
and education materials had been presented, understood, and used by 
involved parties (Servheen et al. 2004, p. 15). Educating back- and 
front-country users about the importance of securing potential bear 
attractants can reduce grizzly bear mortality risk. Similarly, adhering 
to hiking recommendations, such as making noise, hiking with other 
people, and hiking during daylight hours, can further reduce grizzly 
bear mortalities by decreasing the likelihood that hikers will 
encounter bears. Hunter-related mortalities may involve hunters 
defending their life because of carcasses that are left unattended or 
stored improperly. Grizzly bear mortalities also occur when hunters 
mistake grizzly bears for black bears. All of these circumstances can 
be further reduced through information and education programs.
    Outside the PCA, State wildlife agencies recognize that the key to 
preventing grizzly bear-human conflicts is providing information and 
education to the public. State grizzly bear management plans also 
acknowledge that this is the most effective long-term solution to 
grizzly bear-human conflicts and that adequate public outreach programs 
are paramount to ongoing grizzly bear survival and successful 
coexistence with humans in the GYE so that the measures of the Act 
continue to not be necessary. All three States have been actively 
involved in information and education outreach for over a decade and 
their respective management plans contain chapters detailing efforts to 
continue current programs and expand them when possible. For example, 
the WGFD created a formal grizzly bear-human conflict management 
program in July 1990, and has coordinated an extensive information and 
education program since then. Similarly, since 1993, MTFWP has 
implemented countless public outreach efforts to minimize bear-human 
conflicts, and the IDFG has organized and implemented education 
programs and workshops focused on private and public lands on the 
western periphery of the grizzly bear's range.
    Compensating ranchers for losses caused by grizzly bears is another 
approach to build support for coexistence between livestock operators 
and grizzly bears. In cases of grizzly bear livestock depredation that 
have been verified by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's 
Wildlife Services, IDFG, MTFWP, or WGFD, affected livestock owners are 
compensated. Since 1997, compensation in Montana and Idaho has been 
provided primarily by private organizations, principally Defenders of 
Wildlife. Since the program's inception in 1997, the Defenders of 
Wildlife Grizzly Bear Compensation Trust paid over $400,000 to 
livestock operators in the northern Rockies for confirmed and probable 
livestock losses to grizzly bears (Edge 2013, entire). In 2013, the 
State of Montana passed legislation establishing a compensation program 
for direct livestock losses caused by grizzly bears (MCA 2-15-3113). In 
light of this legislation, Defenders of Wildlife stopped their 
compensation program in Montana and redirected funds to other conflict 
prevention programs. Defenders of Wildlife continues to compensate 
livestock producers in Idaho. In Wyoming, compensation has always been 
paid directly by the State. Upon delisting, both Idaho and Wyoming's 
grizzly bear management plans call for

[[Page 13219]]

State funding of compensation programs (Idaho's Grizzly Bear Delisting 
Advisory Team 2002, p. 16; WGFD 2005, p. 30). In Idaho, compensation 
funds would come from the secondary depredation account, and the 
program would be administered by the appropriate IDFG Regional 
Landowner Sportsman Coordinators and Regional Supervisors (Idaho's 
Grizzly Bear Delisting Advisory Team 2002, p. 16). In Wyoming, the WGFD 
will pay for all compensable damage to agricultural products as 
provided by State law and regulation (WGFD 2005, p. 30). The WGFD will 
continue efforts to establish a long-term funding mechanism to 
compensate property owners for livestock and apiary losses caused by 
grizzly bears. In Montana, long-term funding to compensate livestock 
owners for direct kills has been secured through the general fund. A 
long-term funding source has not been identified for conflict 
prevention projects but is being actively pursued. Therefore, we 
conclude that through the positive influence of the information and 
education program, public support and attitude does not constitute a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, nor is it anticipated to in the 
future.
Summary of Factor E
    Factor E requires the Service to consider other natural or man-made 
factors affecting a species' continued existence. The following factors 
warranted consideration as possible threats to the GYE grizzly bear 
population: (1) Genetic health, (2) potential changes in food 
resources, (3) climate change, and (4) human attitudes toward grizzly 
bear recovery. We do not consider genetic concerns to be a threat for 
the following reasons: we have an effective population size more than 
four times that recommended by the best available science; we know 
levels of genetic diversity have not declined in the last century; we 
know current levels of genetic diversity are sufficient to support 
healthy reproduction and survival; and we know that genetic 
contribution from individual bears outside of the GYE will not be 
necessary for the next several decades (Miller and Waits 2003, p. 4338; 
Kamath et al., entire). We do not anticipate that genetic issues will 
affect grizzly bears in the future because of ongoing efforts to 
restore natural connectivity and a commitment to translocate animals in 
the future, if needed, as provided in the draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy. Changing climate conditions have the potential to affect 
grizzly bear habitat with subsequent implications for grizzly bear-
human conflicts. While we do not consider the effects of climate change 
a direct threat to grizzly bear habitat in the GYE, it could influence 
the timing and frequency of some grizzly bear-human conflicts with 
possible increases in grizzly bear mortality. This possible increase in 
grizzly bear mortality risk should not be a threat because of 
coordinated total mortality limits within the DMA (see table 2 and 
Factor B discussion, above). Because the GYE grizzly bear population 
has increased or remained stable during declines in whitebark pine seed 
production and other high-calorie foods since the early 1990s, there is 
no evidence that changes in food resources will become substantial 
impediments to the long-term persistence of the GYE grizzly bear 
population. Finally, we do not anticipate human attitudes becoming a 
threat to the GYE grizzly bear population because of effective outreach 
programs and established regulatory frameworks. Essentially, the 
management response to all of these potential threats would be to limit 
human-caused mortality through conflict prevention and management to 
limit discretionary mortality (see table 2 and Factor B discussion, 
above). Because of the manageable nature of these potential threats 
through conflict prevention and response efforts and the large area of 
suitable, secure habitat within the GYE, we do not consider them to be 
a threat to the GYE grizzly bear DPS now, or in the future.

Cumulative Effects of Factors A Through E

    Many of the threats faced by grizzly bears are interrelated and 
could be synergistic. Principal threats discussed above include habitat 
loss through road building and the resulting increased human access to 
grizzly bear habitat, human-caused mortality of grizzly bears, and the 
legal mechanisms that direct habitat and population management. The 
principal threats assessed in previous sections may cumulatively impact 
the GYE grizzly bear population beyond the scope of each individual 
threat. For example, the loss of whitebark pine could lead to lower 
survival rates at the same time of the year when grizzly bears are 
vulnerable to human-caused mortality from elk hunting. Alternatively, 
expected increases in human populations across the West and climate 
change both have the potential to increase grizzly bear conflicts and 
human-caused mortality. Historically, each of these factors impacted 
grizzly bears in the GYE and cumulatively acted to reduce their range 
and abundance over time. Today, these stressors have been adequately 
mitigated and do not impact the GYE grizzly bear population with the 
same intensity.
    While these numerous stressors on grizzly bear persistence are 
challenging to conservation, our experience demonstrates that it is 
possible for large carnivore conservation to be compatible with them 
(Linnell et al. 2001, p. 48). Despite these risks, the best available 
information indicates the GYE grizzly bear population's trend and range 
has been increasing. We consider estimates of population trend (i.e., 
``lambda'') to be the ultimate metric to assess cumulative impacts to 
the population. It reflects all of the various stressors on the 
population and provides a scientific basis to correct a negative trend. 
This calculation reflects total mortality, changes in habitat quality, 
changes in population density, change in range, displacement effects, 
and so forth. In other words, there will always be threats to the GYE 
grizzly bear population that lead to human-caused mortality or 
displacement, but if these are not causing the population to decline, 
we cannot consider them substantial.

Summary of Factors Affecting the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly 
Bear Population

    The primary factors related to past habitat destruction and 
modification have been reduced through changes in management practices 
that have been or will be formally incorporated into regulatory 
documents. Maintenance of the 1998 baseline values for secure habitat, 
developed sites on public lands, and livestock allotments inside the 
PCA will adequately ameliorate the multitude of stressors on grizzly 
bear habitat such that they do not become threats to the GYE grizzly 
bear population in the future. We expect many of the threats discussed 
under Factor A to continue to occur at some level, but they are 
sufficiently ameliorated so they only affect a small proportion of the 
population. If and when delisting occurs, the GYE National Forests and 
National Parks will continue to implement and maintain the 1998 
baseline. Together, these two Federal agencies manage 98 percent of 
lands within the PCA and 88 percent of all suitable habitat within the 
DPS boundaries. Suitable habitat outside the PCA provides additional 
ecological resiliency and habitat redundancy to allow the population to 
respond to environmental changes. Habitat protections specifically for 
grizzly bear conservation are not necessary here because other binding 
regulatory mechanisms that limit development and

[[Page 13220]]

motorized use are already in place for nearly 60 percent of the area 
outside the PCA. These and other conservation measures discussed in the 
Forest Service's Record of Decision (2006b) ensure threats to the GYE 
grizzly bear population's habitat outside the PCA will not become 
substantial enough to threaten this population's long-term persistence. 
Therefore, based on the best available information and expectation that 
current management practices will continue into the future, we conclude 
that the present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range does not constitute a threat to the 
GYE grizzly bear DPS and is not expected to in the future.
    The resumption of legal grizzly bear hunting for commercial and 
recreational purposes in the GYE was the primary post-delisting threat 
to the population under Factor B. Since 1975, no grizzly bears have 
been removed from the GYE for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
education purposes. Inside the DMA, the population has stabilized since 
2002 and is exhibiting density dependent population regulation (van 
Manen et al. 2015, entire). Therefore, mortalities from all causes 
including hunting inside the DMA will be managed by all Federal, State, 
and Tribal agencies to ensure recovery consistent with the Service's 
recovery criteria. Annual population estimates will be made by the 
IGBST each fall and used to set the total mortality limits for the DMA 
the following year (Tables 1, 2, and 3, above).
    When grizzly bears were listed in 1975, we identified 
``indiscriminate illegal killing,'' and management removals as threats 
to the population under Factor C. In response, we implemented 
demographic recovery criteria to maintain a minimum population size, a 
well-distributed population, and establish total mortality limits based 
on scientific data and direct monitoring of the population. Since 
implementing these criteria, the GYE grizzly bear population has 
tripled in size and range (Eberhardt et al. 1994, pp. 361-362; Knight 
and Blanchard 1995, pp. 2-11; Boyce et al. 2001, pp. 1-11; Schwartz et 
al. 2006b, p. 48; Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-6; Schwartz et al. 2006a, 
pp. 64-66; IGBST 2012, p. 34; Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 184). Although 
humans are still directly or indirectly responsible for the majority of 
grizzly bear deaths, this source of mortality is effectively mitigated 
through science-based management, State regulations, careful population 
monitoring, and outreach efforts. Although grizzly bear hunting is 
anticipated to occur outside of the national parks, it would be within 
scientifically determined sustainable levels to maintain the population 
in the long term and would not occur if other sources of human-caused 
mortality were excessive. Therefore, based on the best available 
information and expectation that State regulatory mechanisms (as 
described under Factor B, above) will limit total mortality levels 
within the levels detailed in tables 1, 2, and 3, above, and that these 
regulatory mechanisms will continue into the future, we conclude that 
disease, human-caused mortality, and hunting do not constitute threats 
now or in the future.
    The importance of regulatory mechanisms and effective wildlife 
management infrastructure to large carnivore conservation cannot be 
understated, as stated under Factor D (see Linnell et al. 2001, p. 
348). Before delisting could occur, the regulatory mechanisms that 
would be in place include National Park Superintendent's Compendiums, 
the Forest Service Amendment for Grizzly Bear Habitat Conservation for 
the GYE National Forests, and State and Tribal commission regulations 
controlling mortality as described under Factor D. The management 
infrastructure is already in place and described in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy. Because the signatory agencies to the 2016 
Conservation Strategy are the same agencies that have been managing 
grizzly bear habitat, population, and monitoring for the last 30 years, 
the management transition would be minimal. Existing regulatory 
mechanisms, and additional State regulations that would be in place 
before this proposed rule is made final, would ensure the GYE grizzly 
bear population continues to recovery goals. Therefore, we conclude 
that the existing and anticipated regulatory mechanism are adequate to 
maintain a healthy and recovered population of grizzly bears into the 
future and do not pose a threat now, or in the future.
    Other factors, under Factor E, we considered that could become 
threats to the GYE grizzly bear population included: (1) Genetic 
health, (2) potential changes in food resources, (3) climate change, 
and (4) human attitudes toward grizzly bear recovery. Essentially, the 
management response to all of these potential threats would be to limit 
human-caused mortality through conflict prevention and management as 
well as managing discretionary mortality. Because of the manageable 
nature of these potential threats through conflict prevention and 
response efforts and the large amount of suitable, secure habitat 
within the GYE we do not expect other natural or manmade factors to 
become threats to the GYE grizzly bear population.
    Many of the threats faced by grizzly bears are interrelated and 
could cumulatively impact the GYE grizzly bear population through 
excessive grizzly bear mortality. While these numerous stressors on 
grizzly bear persistence are challenging to conservation, our 
experience demonstrates it is possible for large carnivore conservation 
to be compatible with them (Linnell et al. 2001, p. 48), particularly 
given the rigorous scientific monitoring protocols established for the 
GYE grizzly bear population. There will always be threats to the GYE 
grizzly bear population but if these are not causing the population to 
decline, we do not consider them to threaten the long-term persistence 
of the population.

Proposed Determination

    An assessment of the need for a species' protection under the Act 
is based on whether a species is in danger of extinction or likely to 
become so because of any of five factors: (A) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence. As required by section 4(a)(1) of 
the Act, we conducted a review of the status of this species and 
assessed the five factors to evaluate whether the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
is endangered or threatened throughout all of its range. We examined 
the best scientific and commercial information available regarding the 
past, present, and future threats faced by the species.
    In considering what factors might constitute threats, we must look 
beyond the mere exposure of the species to the factor to determine 
whether the exposure causes actual impacts to the species. If there is 
exposure to a factor and the species responds negatively, the factor 
may be a threat and we then attempt to determine how significant the 
threat is. If the threat is significant, it may drive, or contribute 
to, the risk of extinction of the species such that the species 
warrants listing as endangered or threatened as those terms are defined 
by the Act. Alternatively, some threats may be significant enough to 
contribute to the risk of extinction but are adequately ameliorated 
through active conservation and management efforts so that the risk is 
low enough that it does

[[Page 13221]]

not mean the species is in danger of extinction or likely to become so 
in the future.
    As demonstrated in our five-factor analysis, threats to this 
population and its habitat have been sufficiently minimized and the GYE 
grizzly bear DPS is a biologically recovered population. Multiple, 
independent lines of evidence support this interpretation. Counts of 
females with cubs-of-the-year have increased. Since at least 2001, the 
demographic recovery criterion that requires 16 of the 18 BMUs to be 
occupied with females with young has been met. The Recovery Plan target 
for a minimum population size of 500 animals inside the DMA to assure 
genetic health has been met since at least 2007, using the conservative 
model-averaged Chao2 estimate. Calculations of population trajectory 
derived from radio-monitored female bears show an increasing population 
trend at a rate of 4 to 7 percent per year from 1983 through 2001 
(Eberhardt et al. 1994, p. 362; Knight and Blanchard 1995, pp. 18-19; 
Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 48), and 0.3 to 2.2 percent from 2002 to 2011 
(IGBST 2012, p. 34). Occupied grizzly bear range has more than doubled 
since 1975 (Basile 1982, pp. 3-10; Blanchard et al. 1992, p. 92; 
Schwartz et al. 2002, p. 203; Pyare et al. 2004, pp. 5-6; Schwartz et 
al. 2006a, pp. 64-66; Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 184). Independent female 
survival rates, the single most important cohort to population 
trajectory, are high and have remained unchanged for 3 decades (IGBST 
2012, p. 33). In total, this population has increased from estimates 
ranging between 136 and 312 bears when listed in 1975 (Cowan et al. 
1974, pp. 32, 36; Craighead et al. 1974, p. 16; McCullough 1981, p. 
175), to an average population size between 2002-2014 of 674 using the 
model-averaged Chao2 population estimation method.
    Grizzly bears occupied 84 percent of suitable habitat within the 
DPS boundaries as of 2014 (Haroldson 2014, in litt.) and will likely 
occupy the remainder of the suitable habitat in the future. The GYE 
grizzly bear population has sufficient numbers and distribution of 
reproductive individuals to maintain its recovered status. The main 
threat of human-caused mortality has been addressed through carefully 
monitored and controlled total mortality limits established in the 
Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan and carried over into the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 2) 
and into State regulations as per table 2 and Factor B, above. These 
total mortality limits are calculated to ensure long-term population 
stability around the average population size for 2002-2014.
    During our analysis, we did not identify any factors alone or in 
combination that are likely to reach a magnitude that would threaten 
the continued existence of the species. Significant threats identified 
at the time of listing that could have resulted in the extirpation of 
the population have been eliminated or reduced since listing. We 
conclude that known impacts to the GYE grizzly bear population from the 
loss of secure habitat and development on public lands (Factor A); 
unregulated, excessive human-caused mortality (Factors B and C); a lack 
of regulatory mechanisms to manage habitat and population (Factor D); 
and genetic isolation, changes to food resources, climate change, or 
negative public attitudes (Factor E), do not rise to a level of 
significance, such that the population is in danger of extinction now 
or in the future. Thus, based on our assessment of the best scientific 
and commercial information available and on our expectation that 
current management practices will continue into the future, and that 
State regulations will be in place prior to delisting to regulate total 
mortality as per table 2 and Factor B, above, we therefore determine 
that the GYE grizzly bear DPS has recovered to the point at which 
protection under the Act is no longer required. The best scientific and 
commercial data available indicate that the GYE grizzly bear DPS is no 
longer endangered or threatened should appropriate regulatory 
mechanisms be developed by the States, as described in this proposed 
rule.

Significant Portion of Range Analysis

Background

    Having determined that the GYE grizzly bear DPS is not in danger of 
extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future throughout 
all of its range, we next consider whether there are any significant 
portions of its range in which the GYE grizzly bear DPS is in danger of 
extinction or likely to become so. Under the Act and our implementing 
regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is in danger of 
extinction or likely to become so throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. The Act defines ``endangered species'' as any 
species, which is ``in danger of extinction throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range,'' and ``threatened species'' as any 
species which is ``likely to become an endangered species within the 
foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range.'' The term ``species'' includes ``any subspecies of fish or 
wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment [DPS] of any 
species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' 
We published a final policy interpreting the phrase ``significant 
portion of its range'' (SPR) (79 FR 37578; July 1, 2014). The final 
policy states that (1) if a species is found to be endangered or 
threatened throughout a significant portion of its range, the entire 
species is listed as endangered or threatened, respectively, and the 
Act's protections apply to all individuals of the species wherever 
found; (2) a portion of the range of a species is ``significant'' if 
the species is not currently endangered or threatened throughout all of 
its range, but the portion's contribution to the viability of the 
species is so important that, without the members in that portion, the 
species would be in danger of extinction, or likely to become so in the 
foreseeable future, throughout all of its range; (3) the range of a 
species is considered to be the general geographical area within which 
that species can be found at the time the Service or the National 
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) makes any particular status 
determination; and (4) if a vertebrate species is endangered or 
threatened throughout an SPR, and the population in that significant 
portion is a valid DPS, we will list the DPS rather than the entire 
taxonomic species or subspecies.
    The SPR policy is applied to all status determinations, including 
analyses for the purposes of making listing, delisting, and 
reclassification determinations. The procedure for analyzing whether 
any portion is an SPR is similar, regardless of the type of status 
determination we are making. The first step in our analysis of the 
status of a species is to determine its status throughout all of its 
range. If we determine that the species is in danger of extinction, or 
likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its 
range, we list the species as an endangered species (or threatened 
species) and no SPR analysis will be required. If the species is 
neither in danger of extinction nor likely to become so throughout all 
of its range, we next determine whether the species is in danger of 
extinction or likely to become so throughout a significant portion of 
its range. If it is, we list the species as an endangered species or 
threatened species, respectively; if it is not, we conclude that 
listing the species is not warranted.
    When we conduct an SPR analysis, we first identify any portions of 
the species' range that warrant further consideration. The range of a 
species can theoretically be divided into

[[Page 13222]]

portions in an infinite number of ways. However, there is no purpose to 
analyzing portions of the range that are not reasonably likely to be 
both significant and contain populations that are endangered or 
threatened. To identify only those portions that warrant further 
consideration, we determine whether there is substantial information 
indicating that (1) the portions may be significant and (2) the species 
may be in danger of extinction in those portions or likely to become so 
within the foreseeable future. We emphasize that answering these 
questions in the affirmative is not a determination that the species is 
endangered or threatened throughout a significant portion of its 
range--rather, it is a step in determining whether a more detailed 
analysis of the issue is required. In practice, a key part of this 
analysis is whether the threats are geographically concentrated in some 
way. If the threats to the species are affecting it uniformly 
throughout its range, no portion is likely to have a greater risk of 
extinction, and thus would not warrant further consideration. Moreover, 
if any concentration of threats apply only to portions of the range 
that clearly do not meet the biologically based definition of 
``significant'' (i.e., the loss of that portion clearly would not be 
expected to increase the vulnerability to extinction of the entire 
species), those portions will not warrant further consideration.
    If we identify any portions or a range that may both (1) be 
significant and (2) contain populations that are in danger of 
extinction or likely to become so, we engage in a more detailed 
analysis to determine whether these standards are indeed met. As 
discussed above, to determine whether a portion of the range of a 
species is significant, we consider whether, under a hypothetical 
scenario, the portion's contribution to the viability of the species is 
so important that, without the members in that portion, the species 
would be in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the 
foreseeable future throughout all of its range. This analysis will 
consider the contribution of that portion to the viability of the 
species based on principles of conservation biology. Contribution would 
be evaluated using the concepts of redundancy, resiliency, and 
representation. (These concepts can similarly be expressed in terms of 
abundance, spatial distribution, productivity, and diversity.) The 
identification of an SPR does not create a presumption, prejudgment, or 
other determination as to whether the species in that identified SPR is 
endangered or threatened. We must go through a separate analysis to 
determine whether the species is in danger of extinction or likely to 
become so in the SPR. To determine whether a species is endangered or 
threatened throughout an SPR, we will use the same standards and 
methodology that we use to determine if a species is endangered or 
threatened throughout its range.
    Depending on the biology of the species, its range, and the threats 
it faces, it may be more efficient to address the ``significant'' 
question first, or the status question first. Thus, if we determine 
that a portion of the range is not ``significant,'' we do not need to 
determine whether the species is endangered or threatened there; if we 
determine that the species is not endangered or threatened in a portion 
of its range, we do not need to determine if that portion is 
``significant.''

SPR Analysis for the GYE Grizzly Bear DPS

    Applying the process described above, we evaluated the range of the 
GYE grizzly bear population to determine if any area could be 
considered a significant portion of its 50,280 sq km (19,413 sq mi) 
range (Bjornlie et al. 2013, p. 184). As mentioned above, one way to 
identify portions for further analyses is to identify portions that 
might be of biological or conservation importance, such as any natural, 
biological divisions within the range that may, for example, provide 
population redundancy or have unique ecological, genetic, or other 
characteristics. Based on examination of the best available science 
(Schwartz et al. 2006b, entire; IGBST 2012, entire), we determined the 
GYE grizzly bear population is a single, contiguous population within 
the DPS boundaries and that there are no separate areas of the range 
that are significantly different from others or that are likely to be 
of greater biological or conservation importance than any other areas 
due to natural biological reasons alone. Therefore, there is not 
substantial information that logical, biological divisions exist within 
the GYE grizzly bear population's range.
    After determining there are no natural divisions delineating 
separate portions of the GYE grizzly bear population, we next examined 
whether any threats are geographically concentrated in some way that 
would indicate the species could be in danger of extinction, or likely 
to become so, in that area. Through our review of potential threats, we 
identified greater mortality risk in the areas on the periphery of the 
population's range. More grizzly bear mortality occurs toward the 
periphery of its range, as evidenced by lower population growth rates 
in these areas (Schwartz et al. 2006b, p. 58; IGBST 2012, p. 34) and 
higher concentrations of conflicts (Gunther et al. 2012, p. 50). These 
areas where greater mortality is likely to occur are outside the DMA 
boundaries. We do not anticipate declines in relative population size 
or geographically concentrated threats inside the DMA boundaries due to 
conservative population objectives, enforceable mortality limits, vast 
amounts of wilderness and roadless areas, and additional habitat 
protections specifically in place for grizzly bears on public lands in 
nearly half of occupied range (i.e., the PCA). With these measures 
evaluated by a meticulous monitoring program, we are reasonably assured 
grizzly bears inside the DMA boundaries will continue to flourish. 
Because it is also reasonable to expect that GYE grizzly bears may not 
be managed as conservatively outside the DMA boundaries where they 
could be exposed to more intensive hunting and management pressure, we 
considered these peripheral areas where known grizzly bear range 
extends outside the DMA boundaries to warrant further consideration to 
determine if they are a significant portion of this population's range.
    Because we identified areas on the periphery of the range as 
warranting further consideration due to the geographic concentration of 
mortality risk there, we then evaluated whether these areas are 
significant to the GYE grizzly bear population such that, without the 
members in that portion, the entire population would be in danger of 
extinction, or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, 
throughout all of its range.
    These peripheral areas do not support grizzly bear reproduction or 
survival because bears that repeatedly come into conflict with humans 
or livestock are usually either relocated or removed from these areas. 
Bears in these peripheral areas will not establish self-sustaining, 
year-round populations due to a lack of suitable habitat, land 
ownership patterns, and the lack of traditional, natural grizzly bear 
foods (i.e., bison). Instead, bears in these peripheral areas will 
likely always rely on the GYE grizzly bear population inside the DMA as 
a source population. Grizzly bears in these peripheral areas are not 
biologically necessary to the GYE grizzly bear population and a lack of 
occupancy outside the DMA boundaries in peripheral areas will not 
impact whether the GYE population is likely to become endangered or 
threatened in the foreseeable future

[[Page 13223]]

throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
    The core population inside the DMA is resilient, and its 
distribution provides the necessary redundancy to offset loss of 
individual bears in peripheral areas. The areas that may experience 
higher mortality rates represent a very small proportion of the range, 
and an even smaller proportion of the total number of animals in the 
GYE grizzly bear population. Moreover, if bears in these peripheral 
areas were in fact lost, that would not appreciably reduce the long-
term viability of the GYE grizzly bear population, much less cause the 
population in the remainder of its range to be in danger of extinction 
or likely to become so. Therefore, there is not substantial information 
that the peripheral portions of the GYE grizzly bear population's range 
are significant to the rest of the population.
    After careful examination of the GYE grizzly bear population in the 
context of our definition of ``significant portion of its range,'' we 
determined areas on the periphery of the range warranted further 
consideration because human-caused mortality risk threats are 
geographically concentrated there. After identifying these areas, we 
evaluated whether they were significant and determined they were not 
significant because, even without the grizzly bears in these areas, the 
GYE grizzly bear DPS would not be in danger of extinction, or likely to 
become so in the foreseeable future. These areas will likely never 
contribute meaningfully to the GYE grizzly bear population because of 
lack of suitable habitat and loss of traditional grizzly bear foods 
(i.e., bison). Therefore, we did not need to determine if grizzly bears 
were in danger of extinction or likely to become so in these peripheral 
areas. We have carefully assessed the best scientific and commercial 
data available and determined that the GYE grizzly bear population is 
no longer in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range, nor is it likely to become so in the future. As a 
result of this determination, we are proposing to remove this 
population from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

Effects of the Rule

    This proposal, if made final, would revise 50 CFR 17.11(h) to 
remove the GYE grizzly bear DPS from the Federal List of Endangered and 
Threatened Wildlife. The prohibitions and conservation measures 
provided by the Act, particularly through sections 7 and 9, would no 
longer apply to this DPS. Federal agencies would no longer be required 
to consult with the Service under section 7 of the Act in the event 
that activities they authorize, fund, or carry out may affect the GYE 
grizzly bear population. However, actions within the DPS would still be 
managed by State, Tribal, and Federal laws, regulations, policies, and 
management plans ensuring enforcement of the draft 2016 Conservation 
Strategy. Delisting the GYE grizzly bear DPS is expected to have 
positive effects in terms of management flexibility to the States and 
local governments. The full protections of the Act, including section 
4(d)(50 CFR 17.40) would still continue to apply to grizzly bears in 
other portions of the lower 48-States outside the GYE grizzly bear DPS' 
boundaries. Those grizzly bears outside the GYE DPS will remain fully 
protected by the Act.

Post-Delisting Monitoring

    Section 4(g)(1) of the Act requires us to implement a system, in 
cooperation with the States, to monitor for at least 5 years all 
delisted and recovered species. The primary purpose of this requirement 
is to ensure that the recovered species does not deteriorate, and if an 
unanticipated decline is detected, to take measures to halt the decline 
to avoid relisting. If data indicate that protective status under the 
Act should be reinstated, we will initiate listing procedures, 
including, if appropriate, emergency listing. For the GYE grizzly bear 
population, the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy serves as the post-
delisting monitoring plan. The 2016 Conservation Strategy will remain 
in effect beyond the 5-year monitoring period required by the Act 
because grizzly bears are a ``conservation-reliant'' species (Scott et 
al. 2005, p. 384) because of their low resiliency to excessive human-
caused mortality and the manageable nature of this threat. 
Conservation-reliant species can maintain recovered, self-sustaining 
wild populations with ongoing management actions (Scott et al. 2005, p. 
383). These management actions are detailed in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy and will be informed and updated as necessary by 
all the habitat and population parameters that will be annually 
monitored by the IGBST.

Monitoring

    To ensure the long-term conservation of grizzly bear habitat and 
continued recovery of the GYE grizzly bear population, several 
monitoring programs and protocols have been developed and integrated 
into land management agency planning documents. The draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy and appended State grizzly bear management plans 
satisfy the requirements for having a post-delisting monitoring plan 
for the GYE grizzly bear population. Monitoring programs and a 
coordinated approach to management would continue in perpetuity. 
Monitoring programs will focus on assessing whether demographic and 
habitat standards described in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy are 
being achieved and maintained.
    Within the PCA, the IGBST will continue to monitor habitat 
standards and adherence to the 1998 baseline. The IGBST will report on 
levels of secure habitat, developed sites, and livestock allotments 
annually and these will not be allowed to deviate from 1998 baseline 
values unless changes were to be beneficial to grizzly bears (USDA 
Forest Service 2006b, entire; Yellowstone National Park 2014, p. 18). 
The IGBST, with participation from Yellowstone National Park, the 
Forest Service, and State and Tribal wildlife agencies, also will 
continue to monitor the abundance and distribution of common grizzly 
bear foods. This allows managers some degree of predictive power to 
anticipate and avoid grizzly bear-human conflicts related to a shortage 
of one or more foods in a given season.
    Within the DMA, the IGBST will continue to document population 
trends, distribution, survival and birth rates, and the presence of 
alleles from grizzly bear populations outside the GYE grizzly bear DPS 
boundaries to document gene flow into the population. Throughout the 
DPS boundaries, locations of grizzly bear mortalities on private lands 
will be provided to the IGBST for incorporation into their annual 
report. To examine reproductive rates, survival rates, causes of death, 
and overall population trends, the IGBST will radio collar and monitor 
a minimum of 25 adult female grizzly bears every year. These bears will 
be spatially distributed throughout the ecosystem so they provide a 
representative sample of the entire population inside the DMA. 
Mortalities will be monitored and reported annually and maintained in 
accordance with the total mortality limits and population objectives in 
table 2, above.
    Outside of the PCA, the GYE National Forests will monitor agreed-
upon habitat parameters in suitable habitat and will calculate secure 
habitat values outside of the PCA every 2 years and submit these data 
for inclusion in the IGBST's annual report (USDA Forest Service 2006b, 
p. 6). The GYE National Forests also will monitor and evaluate 
livestock allotments for recurring conflicts with grizzly bears in 
suitable habitat outside the PCA (USDA Forest

[[Page 13224]]

Service 2006b, p. 6). The Greater Yellowstone Whitebark Pine Monitoring 
Group will continue to monitor whitebark pine occurrence, productivity, 
and health both inside and outside the PCA (USDA Forest Service 2006b, 
p. 7). Members of the IGBST will monitor grizzly bear vital rates and 
population parameters within the entire DMA. Finally, State wildlife 
agencies will provide known mortality information to the IGBST, which 
will annually summarize these data with respect to location, type, date 
of incident, and the sex and age of the bear for the entire DPS area.
    In the 2007 final rule (72 FR 14866; March 29, 2007), we reported 
habitat quality and effectiveness values for 1998 using the Cumulative 
Effects Model and associated 1998 habitat data (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2007, appendix F). Since 1998, the value of the Cumulative 
Effects Model has been questioned (Boyce et al. 2001, p. 32). 
Specifically, the validity of all the coefficients cannot be verified 
or ground-truthed, calling into question all of the model outputs. 
Without scientific and statistical defensibility the Cumulative Effects 
Model will not produce credible results and it cannot be used (Boyce et 
al. 2001, p. 32; Brocowski 2006, pp. 85-87). While the Cumulative 
Effects Model provided an index of relative change in habitat quality 
over time, it was never able to predict grizzly bear habitat use or 
preference or relate habitat to changes in population parameters. 
Because we no longer consider the Cumulative Effects Model to represent 
the best available science, we are no longer relying on or reporting 
measures of habitat quality or effectiveness using it. Instead, the 
IGBST will assess and report human-caused changes to grizzly bear 
habitat through maintenance of the 1998 baseline values for developed 
sites, grazing allotments, and secure habitat (U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service 2016, appendix E).
    While the inverse relationship between whitebark pine cone 
production and grizzly bear conflicts in the Yellowstone Ecosystem has 
been documented (Mattson et al. 1992, p. 436; Gunther et al. 1997, p. 
38; Gunther et al. 2004, pp. 13-14), there are no data relating other 
foods such as spring ungulate carcasses, army cutworm moths, and 
cutthroat trout to the number of grizzly bear-human conflicts. 
Additionally, Schwartz et al. (2010, p. 662) found no relationship 
between the spatial distribution of whitebark pine, cutthroat trout, 
army cutworm moths, or ungulates and grizzly bear survival. Therefore, 
while it is important to continue to monitor food abundance, there is 
no scientific evidence that habitat quality is a limiting factor for 
grizzly bear survival in the GYE. The IGBST will continue coordinating 
with the National Forests and National Parks within the PCA to monitor 
food abundance but will focus management recommendations on regulating 
the risk of human-caused mortality through the 1998 baseline (i.e., 
factors the agencies have the authority and ability to regulate). 
Private land development and the numbers, causes, and spatial 
distribution of human-bear conflicts will continue to be monitored and 
reported annually, because this is where habitat quality intersects 
with grizzly bear mortality risk.
    To address the possible ``lag effect'' associated with slow habitat 
degradation taking a decade or more to translate into detectable 
changes in population size (see Doak 1995), the IGBST will monitor a 
suite of indices simultaneously to provide a highly sensitive system to 
monitor the health of the population and its habitat and to provide a 
sound scientific basis to respond to any changes or needs with adaptive 
management actions (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16). This ``lag effect'' is 
only a concern if the sole method to detect changes in habitat is 
monitoring changes in total population size (see Doak 1995, p. 1376). 
The monitoring systems in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy (U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, Chapter 2) are far more detailed and 
sophisticated and would detect changes in vital rates in response to 
habitat changes sooner than the system described by Doak (1995, pp. 
1371-1372). The IGBST will be monitoring a suite of vital rates 
including survival of radio-collared bears, mortality of all bears, 
reproductive success, litter size, litter interval, number of females 
with cubs, distribution of females with cubs, and overall population 
trajectory, in addition to the physical condition of bears by 
monitoring body mass and body fat levels of each bear handled. Because 
of the scope of monitoring, we feel confident that we will be able to 
detect the consequences of significant changes in habitat.
    Monitoring systems in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy allow 
for adaptive management (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) as environmental 
issues change. The agencies have committed in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy to be responsive to the needs of the grizzly bear 
through adaptive management (Holling 1978, pp. 11-16) actions based on 
the results of detailed annual population and habitat monitoring. These 
monitoring efforts would reflect the best scientific and commercial 
data and any new information that has become available since the 
delisting determination. The entire process would be dynamic so that 
when new science becomes available it will be incorporated into the 
management planning and monitoring systems outlined in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016, chapters 2, 
3, and 4). The results of this extensive monitoring would allow 
wildlife and land managers to identify and address potential threats 
preemptively, allowing those managers and the Service to ensure that 
the GYE grizzly bear population remains a recovered population.

Triggers for a Biology and Monitoring Review by the IGBST

    The YGCC will use the IGBST's monitoring results and annual reports 
to determine if the population and habitat standards are being adhered 
to. The States, Tribes, and National Parks will use the IGBST's 
annually produced model-averaged Chao2 population estimates to set and 
establish total mortality limits within the DMA as per tables 1, 2, and 
3, above. The 2016 Conservation Strategy signatories have agreed that 
if there are deviations from certain population or habitat standards, 
the IGBST will conduct a Biology and Monitoring Review as described 
under Factor B, above. A Biology and Monitoring Review would be 
initiated if any of the following scenarios occur (as further described 
under Factor B, above): (1) Exceeding the total mortality limit for 
independent females for 3 consecutive years; (2) exceeding the total 
mortality limits for independent males for 3 consecutive years; (3) 
exceeding the total mortality limit for dependent young for 3 
consecutive years; (4) failure to meet the distribution criterion 
requiring sightings of females with offspring in at least 16 of 18 BMUs 
in 2 consecutive years. In addition to the scenarios described under 
Factor B, a Biology and Monitoring Review by the IGBST would be 
initiated if there were a failure to meet any of the habitat standards 
described in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy pertaining to levels 
of secure habitat, developed sites, and livestock allotments. These 
IGBST reviews were established to detect deviations that may occur due 
to normal variability or chance events and do not necessarily mean the 
GYE grizzly bear's status is deteriorating. As such, they are more 
easily activated than those that trigger a Service status review under 
the Act. These triggers could indicate the need to adjust management 
approaches and are intended to provide the YGCC with ample time to 
respond with

[[Page 13225]]

management actions before involving the Service.
    An IGBST Biology and Monitoring Review examines habitat management, 
population management, or monitoring efforts of participating agencies 
with an objective of identifying the source or cause of failing to meet 
a habitat or demographic goal. This review also will provide management 
recommendations to correct any such deviations. A Biology and 
Monitoring Review could occur if funding becomes inadequate to the 
implementation of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy to such an 
extent that it compromised the recovered status of the GYE grizzly bear 
population. If the review is triggered by failure to meet a population 
goal, the review would involve a comprehensive review of vital rates 
including survival rates, litter size, litter interval, grizzly bear-
human conflicts, and mortalities. The IGBST will attempt to identify 
the reason behind any variation in vital rates such as habitat 
conditions, poaching, excessive roadkill, etc., and determine if these 
compromise the recovered status of the population. Similarly, if the 
review was triggered by failure to meet a habitat standard, the review 
would examine what caused the failure, whether this requires that the 
measures of the Act are necessary to assure the recovered status of the 
population, and what actions may be taken to correct the problem. The 
IGBST would complete this review and release it to the public within 6 
months of initiation and make it available to the YGCC and the public.
    The YGCC responds to a Biology and Monitoring Review with actions 
to address deviations from habitat standards or, if the desired 
population and habitat standards specified in the draft 2016 
Conservation Strategy cannot be met in the opinion of the YGCC, the 
YGCC could petition us for relisting (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
2016, Chapter 6). Because the YGCC possesses substantial information 
about the population's status, the Service would respond by conducting 
a status review to determine if relisting is warranted.
    The Service can also initiate a status review independent of the 
IGBST or the YGCC should the total mortality limits be exceeded by a 
significant margin or routinely violated or if substantial management 
changes occur significant enough to raise concerns about population 
level impacts. Emergency relisting of the population is an option we 
can and will use, if necessary, in accordance with section 4(g)(2) of 
the Act, if the threat(s) were severe and immediate (16 U.S.C. 
1533(g)). Such an emergency relisting would be effective the day the 
rule is published in the Federal Register and would be effective for 
240 days. During this time, we would conduct our normal notice-and-
comment rulemaking regarding the listing of the species based on the 
five factors of section 4(a)(1) of the Act to take effect when the 240-
day limit on the emergency relisting expires.

Triggers for a Service Status Review

    Should we finalize this proposal and delist the GYE grizzly bear 
population, we will use the information in IGBST annual reports and 
adherence to total mortality limits as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, 
to determine if a formal status review is necessary. Because we 
anticipate the YGCC and IGBST are fully committed to maintaining GYE 
grizzly bear population management and habitat management through 
implantation of the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and State and 
Federal management plans, and to correct any problems through the 
process established in the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy and 
described in the preceding section, we created a higher threshold for 
criteria that would trigger a formal Service status review. 
Specifically, the following scenarios would result in a formal status 
review by the Service: (1) Any changes in Federal, State, or Tribal 
laws, rules, regulations, or management plans that depart significantly 
from the specifics of population or habitat management detailed in this 
proposed rule and significantly increase the threat to the population; 
or (2) if the population falls below 500 in any year using the model-
averaged Chao2 method, or counts of females with cubs fall below 48 for 
3 consecutive years; or (3) if independent female total mortality 
limits as per tables 1, 2, and 3, above, are exceeded for 3 consecutive 
years and the population is fewer than 600; or (4) if fewer than 16 of 
18 bear management units are occupied by females with young for 3 
consecutive 6-year sums of observations. For example, if independent 
female total mortality limits were exceeded in 3 of 4 years, but they 
were not 3 consecutive years, the Service would conduct a status 
review.
    Status reviews and relisting decisions would be based on the best 
available scientific and commercial data available. If a status review 
is triggered, the Service would evaluate the status of the GYE grizzly 
bear population to determine if relisting is warranted. We would make 
prompt use of the Act's emergency listing provisions if necessary to 
prevent a significant risk to the well-being of the GYE grizzly bear 
population. We have the authority to emergency relist at any time, and 
a completed status review is not necessary to exercise this emergency 
relisting authority.

Required Determinations

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:
     Be logically organized;
     Use the active voice to address readers directly;
     Use clear language rather than jargon;
     Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
     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 ADDRESSES. To better help us 
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For 
example, you should tell us the names 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.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be 
prepared in connection with regulations pursuant to section 4(a) of the 
Act. We published a notice outlining our reasons for this determination 
in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

Government-to-Government Relationships 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 the Department of the 
Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. In accordance with 
Secretarial Order 3206 of June 5, 1997 (American Indian Tribal Rights, 
Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act), 
we readily acknowledge our responsibilities to work directly with 
Tribes in developing programs for

[[Page 13226]]

healthy ecosystems, to acknowledge that Tribal lands are not subject to 
the same controls as Federal public lands, to remain sensitive to 
Indian culture, and to make information available to Tribes.
    Beginning in April 2014, the Grizzly Bear Recovery Program sent via 
registered mail consultation invitation letters to the four Tribes 
having treaty interests in the proposed GYE grizzly bear delisting 
area: Northern Arapaho, Eastern Shoshone, Northwestern Band of the 
Shoshone Nation, and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Over the next year, the 
Service was made aware of many more Tribes having an interest in the 
GYE grizzly bear and expanded our efforts in explaining the status of 
the bear and offering government-to-government consultation to Tribes. 
On February 17, 2015, the Service sent letters offering government-to-
government consultation to 26 Tribes. On June 15, 2015, the Service 
sent out a second round of letters to 48 Tribes, offering another 
opportunity for consultation, followed by personal phone calls or 
emails from Service leadership to the 48 Tribes, personally inviting 
them to engage in government-to-government consultation. On August 13, 
2015, the Service met with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council in 
Billings, Montana, and invited Tribal representative to engage in 
consultation concerning the bear. On October 29, 2015, the Service sent 
letters to 53 Tribes, which included all Tribes, Tribal Councils, and 
First Nations in Canada that have contacted the Service regarding the 
GYE grizzly bear population. The letters invited Federal Tribes to 
engage in government-to-government consultation, and invited all Tribes 
to participate in a Tribal webinar and conference call. To date, the 
Service has conducted five Tribal consultations. The Service will 
conduct two additional Tribal consultation meetings with federally 
recognized Tribes. The locations for these meetings are not yet 
available; we will post them on our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/ea/tribal-grizzly.php as soon as possible. Government-
to-Government consultation is not open to the public or media. This is 
consultation with Tribes speaking on behalf of their Tribe and as a 
representative of their Tribe (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT 
above, for more information).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2016-
0042, or is available upon request from the Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Coordinator (see ADDRESSES).

Glossary

    1998 baseline: The 1998 baseline represents the best available 
habitat measures representing ground conditions inside the Primary 
Conservation Area (PCA) as of 1998. Habitat standards identified in the 
draft 2016 Conservation Strategy pertain to secure habitat, developed 
sites, and livestock grazing allotments. The standards demand that all 
three of these habitat parameters are to be maintained at or improved 
upon conditions that existed in 1998. The 1998 baseline represents the 
best estimate of what was known to be on the ground at that time and 
establishes a benchmark against which future improvements and/or 
impacts can be assessed. It also provides a clear standard for agency 
managers to follow when considering project effect analysis.
    Chao2: The Chao2 estimator is a bias-corrected estimator of the 
total number of female grizzly bears with cubs-of-the-year, derived 
from the frequency of single sightings or double sightings of unique 
females with cubs-of-the-year as identified based on a rule set by 
Knight et al. (1995).
    Demographic monitoring area (DMA): The area of suitable habitat 
plus the potential sink areas within which the Yellowstone grizzly bear 
population is annually surveyed and estimated and within which the 
total mortality limits apply. The DMA is 49,928 sq km (19,279 sq mi). 
See figure 2, above, for a map showing the DMA.
    Dependent young: Young grizzly bears less than 2 years old. 
Dependent young are with their mothers and are dependent upon them for 
survival.
    Discretionary mortality: Mortalities that are the result of hunting 
or management removals.
    Distinct population segment (DPS): The Service defined a DPS in the 
DPS policy (61 FR 4722; February 7, 1996) that considers two factors to 
determine whether the population segment is a valid DPS: (1) 
Discreteness of the population segment in relation to the remainder of 
the taxon to which it belongs; and (2) the significance of the 
population segment to the taxon to which it belongs. If a population 
meets both tests, it is a DPS, and the Service then evaluates the 
population segment's conservation status according to the standards in 
section 4 of the Act for listing, delisting, or reclassification.
    Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE): Yellowstone National Park and 
Grand Teton National Park form the core of the Greater Yellowstone 
Ecosystem, which includes portions of three States: Wyoming, Montana, 
and Idaho. At more than 90,000 sq km (34,750 sq mi), it is one of the 
largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.
    Independent females: Grizzly bear females more than 2 years old.
    Independent males: Grizzly bear males more than 2 years old.
    Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST): The Interagency 
Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) is an interdisciplinary group of 
scientists and biologists responsible for long-term monitoring and 
research efforts on grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem 
(GYE). The main objectives of the team are to: (1) Monitor the status 
and trend of the grizzly bear population in the GYE; and (2) determine 
patterns of habitat use by bears and the relationship of land 
management activities to the welfare of the bear population. The IGBST 
is led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). IGBST members are 
representatives from the USGS, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Shoshone and 
Northern Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game Department, and the States of 
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
    Primary Conservation Area (PCA): The name of the recovery zone area 
post-delisting. The habitat-based recovery criteria apply within the 
PCA.
    Recovery Zone: The area defined in the 1993 Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Plan within which the recovery efforts would be focused in the 
Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Recovery Zone is not designed to contain all 
grizzly bears.
    Significant portion of the range (SPR): The Service's SPR policy 
(79 FR 37578; July 1, 2014) defines a portion of the range of a species 
as ``significant'' if the species is not currently endangered or 
threatened throughout all of its range, but the portion's contribution 
to the viability of the species is so important that, without the 
members in that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction, 
or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all of its 
range.
    Suitable habitat: We define suitable habitat for grizzly bears as 
areas having three characteristics: (1) Being of adequate habitat 
quality and quantity to support grizzly bear reproduction and survival; 
(2) being contiguous with the current distribution of GYE grizzly bears 
such that natural recolonization is possible; and (3) having low 
mortality risk as indicated through reasonable and manageable levels of 
grizzly bear mortality. Suitable habitat is made up of the Middle 
Rockies ecoregion, within which the Greater Yellowstone

[[Page 13227]]

Ecosystem is contained. This area meets grizzly bear biological needs 
providing food, seasonal foraging opportunities, cover, and denning 
areas. See the Suitable Habitat section of this proposed rule for a 
more complete explanation.
    Total mortality: Documented known and probable grizzly bear 
mortalities from all causes including but are not limited to: 
Management removals, illegal kills, mistaken identity kills, self-
defense kills, vehicle kills, natural mortalities, undetermined-cause 
mortalities, grizzly bear hunting, and a statistical estimate of the 
number of unknown/unreported mortalities.
    Transition probability: The probability of a transition for an 
adult female (greater than 3-years old) among reproductive states. The 
possible reproductive states are: No young, with cubs, with yearlings, 
or with 2-year-olds. Ten potential reproductive transitions are 
biologically feasible.
    Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Coordinating Committee (YGCC): The 
committee of State, Federal, Tribal, and county agencies charged with 
implementing the draft 2016 Conservation Strategy post-delisting. They 
will coordinate management and promote the exchange of information 
about the GYE grizzly bear population. Members include: Yellowstone and 
Grand Teton National Parks; Five National forests: Beaverhead-
Deerlodge, Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Custer-Gallatin, and 
Shoshone; One Bureau of Land Management representative; the Biological 
Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey; one representative 
each from Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming; and one representative from each 
native American Tribe with sovereign powers over reservation lands 
within the ecosystem.

Authors

    The primary authors of this proposed rule are staff members of the 
Service's Grizzly Bear Recovery Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT).

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
record keeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we hereby propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of 
chapter I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations as set forth 
below:

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, 
unless otherwise noted.

0
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by revising the first entry for ``Bear, 
grizzly'' under ``Mammals'' in the List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        Species                                                    Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------------                        population where                                  Critical     Special
                                                            Historic range       endangered or         Status      When listed    habitat       rules
           Common name                Scientific name                              threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Mammals
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Bear, grizzly....................  Ursus arctos          North America......  U.S.A.,              T                 1, 2D, 9,           NA     17.40(b)
                                    horribilis.                                conterminous                                759
                                                                               (lower 48) States,
                                                                               except: (1) where
                                                                               listed as an
                                                                               experimental
                                                                               population; and
                                                                               (2) that portion
                                                                               of Idaho that is
                                                                               east of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 15 and
                                                                               north of U.S.
                                                                               Highway 30; that
                                                                               portion of Montana
                                                                               that is east of
                                                                               Interstate Highway
                                                                               15 and south of
                                                                               Interstate Highway
                                                                               90; that portion
                                                                               of Wyoming south
                                                                               of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 90, west
                                                                               of Interstate
                                                                               Highway 25,
                                                                               Wyoming State
                                                                               Highway 220, and
                                                                               U.S. Highway 287
                                                                               south of Three
                                                                               Forks (at the 220
                                                                               and 287
                                                                               intersection), and
                                                                               north of
                                                                               Interstate Highway
                                                                               80 and U.S.
                                                                               Highway 30.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* * * * *

    Dated: March 2, 2016.
James W. Kurth,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2016-05167 Filed 3-10-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4333-15-P