[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 199 (Tuesday, October 15, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 55120-55129]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-22151]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 20

[Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0004; FF09M21200-189-FXMB1231099BPP0]
RIN 1018-BD89

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2020-21 Migratory Game Bird 
Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal 
Proposals; Notice of Meetings

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; availability of supplemental information.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter the Service or 
we) proposes to establish annual hunting regulations for certain 
migratory game birds for the 2020-21 hunting season. We annually 
prescribe outside limits (frameworks) within which States may select 
hunting seasons. This proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, 
announces the Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee (SRC) 
meetings, describes the proposed regulatory

[[Page 55121]]

alternatives for the 2020-21 duck hunting seasons, and requests 
proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish special migratory 
game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded 
lands. Migratory bird hunting seasons provide opportunities for 
recreation and sustenance; aid Federal, State, and tribal governments 
in the management of migratory game birds; and permit harvests at 
levels compatible with migratory game bird population status and 
habitat conditions.

DATES: Comments: You may comment on the general harvest strategy and 
the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2020-21 season until 
November 15, 2019. Following subsequent Federal Register documents, you 
will be given an opportunity to submit comments on the proposed 
frameworks by January 15, 2020. Tribes must submit proposals and 
related comments on or before December 1, 2019.
    Meetings: The SRC will conduct a meeting on October 8-9, 2019, to 
consider and develop proposed regulations for the 2020-21 migratory 
game bird hunting seasons. Meetings on both days are open to the public 
and will commence at approximately 8:00 a.m.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on the proposals by one of the 
following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-HQ-
     U.S. Mail or Hand-Delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0004; Division of Policy, Performance, and 
Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.
    We will not accept emailed or faxed comments. We will post all 
comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that your 
entire submission--including any personal identifying information--will 
be posted on the website. See the Public Comments section, below, for 
more information.
    Meetings: The October 8-9, 2019, SRC meeting will be at the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 5600 American Boulevard, Bloomington, MN 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron W. Kokel at: Division of Migratory 
Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the 
Interior, MS: MB, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041; (703) 


Process for the Annual Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations

    Beginning in the summer of 2015, with the development of the 2016-
17 hunting seasons, we now make decisions for migratory bird harvest 
management based on predictions derived from long-term biological 
information and established harvest strategies. Under this process, we 
develop proposed hunting season frameworks for a given year in the fall 
of the prior year. We then finalize those frameworks a few months 
later, thereby enabling the State agencies to select and publish their 
season dates in early summer. This proposed rule is the first in a 
series of proposed and final rulemaking documents for the establishment 
of the 2020-21 hunting seasons.

Background and Overview

    Migratory game birds are those bird species so designated in 
conventions between the United States and several foreign nations for 
the protection and management of these birds. Under the Migratory Bird 
Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 703-712), the Secretary of the Interior is 
authorized to determine when ``hunting, taking, capture, killing, 
possession, sale, purchase, shipment, transportation, carriage, or 
export of any * * * bird, or any part, nest, or egg'' of migratory game 
birds can take place, and to adopt regulations for this purpose. These 
regulations are written after giving due regard to ``the zones of 
temperature and to the distribution, abundance, economic value, 
breeding habits, and times and lines of migratory flight of such 
birds'' and are updated annually (16 U.S.C. 704(a)). This 
responsibility has been delegated to the Service as the lead Federal 
agency for managing and conserving migratory birds in the United 
States. However, migratory game bird management is a cooperative effort 
of State, Tribal, and Federal governments.
    The Service develops migratory game bird hunting regulations by 
establishing the frameworks, or outside limits, for season lengths, bag 
limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting. Acknowledging 
regional differences in hunting conditions, the Service has 
administratively divided the Nation into four Flyways for the primary 
purpose of managing migratory game birds. Each Flyway (Atlantic, 
Mississippi, Central, and Pacific) has a Flyway Council, a formal 
organization generally composed of one member from each State and 
Province in that Flyway. The Flyway Councils, established through the 
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, also assist in researching 
and providing migratory game bird management information for Federal, 
State, and Provincial governments, as well as private conservation 
entities and the general public.
    The process for adopting migratory game bird hunting regulations, 
located in title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at part 
20, is constrained by three primary factors. Legal and administrative 
considerations dictate how long the rulemaking process will last. Most 
importantly, however, the biological cycle of migratory game birds 
controls the timing of data-gathering activities and thus the dates on 
which these results are available for consideration and deliberation. 
For the regulatory cycle, Service biologists gather, analyze, and 
interpret biological survey data and provide this information to all 
those involved in the process through a series of published status 
reports and presentations to Flyway Councils and other interested 
parties. Because the Service is required to take abundance of migratory 
game birds and other factors into consideration, the Service undertakes 
a number of surveys throughout the year in conjunction with Service 
Regional Offices, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and State and 
Provincial wildlife-management agencies. To determine the appropriate 
frameworks for each species, we consider factors such as population 
size and trend, geographical distribution, annual breeding effort, 
condition of breeding and wintering habitat, number of hunters, and 
anticipated harvest. After frameworks are established for season 
lengths, bag limits, and areas for migratory game bird hunting, States 
may select season dates, bag limits, and other regulatory options for 
the hunting seasons. States may always be more conservative in their 
selections than the Federal frameworks, but never more liberal.

Service Migratory Bird Regulations Committee Meetings

    The SRC conducted an open meeting on April 23, 2019, to discuss 
preliminary issues for the 2020-21 regulations, and will conduct 
another meeting on October 8-9, 2019 to review information on the 
current status of migratory game birds and develop 2020-21 migratory 
game bird regulations recommendations for these species. In accordance 
with Departmental policy, these meetings are open to public 
observation. You may submit written comments to the Service on the 
matters discussed. See DATES and ADDRESSES for information about these 

[[Page 55122]]

Notice of Intent To Establish Open Seasons

    This document announces our intent to establish open hunting 
seasons and daily bag and possession limits for certain designated 
groups or species of migratory game birds for 2020-21 in the contiguous 
United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, 
under Sec. Sec.  20.101 through 20.107, 20.109, and 20.110 of subpart K 
of 50 CFR part 20. For the 2020-21 migratory game bird hunting season, 
we will propose regulations for certain designated members of the avian 
families Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans); Columbidae (doves and 
pigeons); Gruidae (cranes); Rallidae (rails, coots, moorhens, and 
gallinules); and Scolopacidae (woodcock and snipe). We describe these 
proposals under Proposed 2020-21 Migratory Game Bird Hunting 
Regulations (Preliminary) in this document. We annually publish 
definitions of flyways and management units, and a description of the 
data used in and the factors affecting the regulatory process (see June 
4, 2018, Federal Register (83 FR 25738) for the latest definitions and 

Regulatory Schedule for 2020-21

    This document is the first in a series of proposed, supplemental, 
and final rulemaking documents for migratory game bird hunting 
regulations. We will publish additional supplemental proposals for 
public comment in the Federal Register as population, habitat, harvest, 
and other information become available. Major steps in the 2020-21 
regulatory cycle relating to open public meetings and Federal Register 
notifications are illustrated in the diagram at the end of this 
proposed rule. All publication dates of Federal Register documents are 
target dates. All sections of this and subsequent documents outlining 
hunting frameworks and guidelines are organized under numbered 
headings. These headings are:

1. Ducks
    A. General Harvest Strategy
    B. Regulatory Alternatives
    C. Zones and Split Seasons
    D. Special Seasons/Species Management
    i. September Teal Seasons
    ii. September Teal/Wood Duck Seasons
    iii. Eastern Mallards
    iv. Black Ducks
    v. Canvasbacks
    vi. Pintails
    vii. Scaup
    viii. Mottled Ducks
    ix. Wood Ducks
    x. Youth Hunt
    xi. Mallard Management Units
    xii. Other
2. Sea Ducks
3. Mergansers
4. Canada Geese
    A. Special Early Seasons
    B. Regular Seasons
    C. Special Late Seasons
5. White-fronted Geese
6. Brant
7. Snow and Ross's (Light) Geese
8. Swans
9. Sandhill Cranes
10. Coots
11. Moorhens and Gallinules
12. Rails
13. Snipe
14. Woodcock
15. Band-tailed Pigeons
16. Doves
17. Alaska
18. Hawaii
19. Puerto Rico
20. Virgin Islands
21. Falconry
22. Other

    Later sections of this and subsequent documents will refer only to 
numbered items requiring your attention. Therefore, it is important to 
note that we will omit those items requiring no attention, so remaining 
numbered items will be discontinuous, making the list appear 
    The proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2020-21 duck hunting 
seasons are contained at the end of this document. We plan to publish 
final duck regulatory alternatives and proposed season frameworks in 
mid-December 2019. We plan to publish final season frameworks in late 
February 2020.

Review of Public Comments

    This proposed rulemaking contains the proposed regulatory 
alternatives for the 2020-21 duck hunting seasons. This proposed 
rulemaking also describes other recommended changes or specific 
preliminary proposals that vary from the 2019-20 regulations and issues 
requiring early discussion, action, or the attention of the States or 
tribes. We will publish responses to all proposals and written comments 
when we develop final frameworks for the 2020-21 season. We seek 
additional information and comments on this proposed rule.

Consolidation of Rulemaking Documents

    For administrative purposes, this document consolidates the notice 
of our intent to establish open migratory game bird hunting seasons and 
the request for tribal proposals with the preliminary proposals for the 
annual hunting regulations-development process. We will publish the 
remaining proposed and final rulemaking documents separately. For 
inquiries on tribal guidelines and proposals, tribes should contact: 
Tina Chouinard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 606 Browns Church Road, 
Jackson, TN 38305; 731-432-0981; [email protected].

Requests for Tribal Proposals


    Beginning with the 1985-86 hunting season, we have employed 
guidelines described in the June 4, 1985, Federal Register (50 FR 
23467) to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations (including off-reservation trust lands) and 
ceded lands. We developed these guidelines in response to tribal 
requests for our recognition of their reserved hunting rights, and for 
some tribes, recognition of their authority to regulate hunting by both 
tribal and nontribal members throughout their reservations. The 
guidelines include possibilities for:
    (1) On-reservation hunting by both tribal and nontribal members, 
with hunting by nontribal members on some reservations to take place 
within Federal frameworks, but on dates different from those selected 
by the surrounding State(s);
    (2) On-reservation hunting by tribal members only, outside of usual 
Federal frameworks for season dates, season length, and daily bag and 
possession limits; and
    (3) Off-reservation hunting by tribal members on ceded lands, 
outside of usual framework dates and season length, with some added 
flexibility in daily bag and possession limits.
    In all cases, tribal regulations established under the guidelines 
must be consistent with the annual March 11 to August 31 closed season 
mandated by the 1916 Convention Between the United States and Great 
Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds 
(Convention). The guidelines are applicable to those tribes that have 
reserved hunting rights on Federal Indian reservations (including off-
reservation trust lands) and ceded lands. They also may be applied to 
the establishment of migratory game bird hunting regulations for 
nontribal members on all lands within the exterior boundaries of 
reservations where tribes have full wildlife-management authority over 
such hunting, or where the tribes and affected States otherwise have 
reached agreement over hunting by nontribal members on non-Indian 
    Tribes usually have the authority to regulate migratory game bird 
hunting by nonmembers on Indian-owned reservation lands, subject to our 
approval. The question of jurisdiction is

[[Page 55123]]

more complex on reservations that include lands owned by non-Indians, 
especially when the surrounding States have established or intend to 
establish regulations governing migratory bird hunting by non-Indians 
on these lands. In such cases, we encourage the tribes and States to 
reach agreement on regulations that would apply throughout the 
reservations. When appropriate, we will consult with a tribe and State 
with the aim of facilitating an accord. We also will consult jointly 
with tribal and State officials in the affected States where tribes may 
wish to establish special hunting regulations for tribal members on 
ceded lands. It is incumbent upon the tribe and/or the State to request 
consultation as a result of the proposal being published in the Federal 
Register. We will not presume to make a determination, without being 
advised by either a tribe or a State, that any issue is or is not 
worthy of formal consultation.
    One of the guidelines provides for the continuation of tribal 
members' harvest of migratory game birds on reservations where such 
harvest is a customary practice. We do not oppose this harvest, 
provided it does not take place during the closed season required by 
the Convention, and it is not so large as to adversely affect the 
status of the migratory game bird resource. Since the inception of 
these guidelines, we have reached annual agreement with tribes for 
migratory game bird hunting by tribal members on their lands or on 
lands where they have reserved hunting rights. We will continue to 
consult with tribes that wish to reach a mutual agreement on hunting 
regulations for on-reservation hunting by tribal members. Tribes should 
not view the guidelines as inflexible. These guidelines provide 
appropriate opportunity to accommodate the reserved hunting rights and 
management authority of Indian tribes while also ensuring that the 
migratory game bird resource receives necessary protection. The 
conservation of this important international resource is paramount. Use 
of the guidelines is not required if a tribe wishes to observe the 
hunting regulations established by the State(s) in which the 
reservation is located.

Details Needed in Tribal Proposals

    Tribes that wish to use the guidelines to establish special hunting 
regulations for the 2020-21 migratory game bird hunting season should 
submit a proposal that includes: (1) The requested migratory game bird 
hunting season dates and other details regarding the proposed 
regulations; (2) harvest anticipated under the proposed regulations; 
and (3) tribal capabilities to enforce migratory game bird hunting 
regulations. For those situations where it could be shown that failure 
to limit tribal harvest could seriously impact the migratory game bird 
resource, we also request information on the methods employed to 
monitor harvest and any potential steps taken to limit level of 
harvest. A tribe that desires the earliest possible opening of the 
migratory game bird season for nontribal members should specify this 
request in its proposal, rather than request a date that might not be 
within the final Federal frameworks. Similarly, unless a tribe wishes 
to set more restrictive regulations than Federal regulations will 
permit for nontribal members, the proposal should request the same 
daily bag and possession limits and season length for migratory game 
birds that Federal regulations are likely to permit the States in the 
Flyway in which the reservation is located.

Tribal Proposal Procedures

    We will publish details of tribal proposals for public review in 
later Federal Register documents. Because of the time required for 
review by us and the public, Indian tribes that desire special 
migratory game bird hunting regulations for the 2020-21 hunting season 
should submit their proposals no later than December 1, 2019. Tribes 
should direct inquiries regarding the guidelines and proposals to the 
person listed above under the caption Consolidation of Rulemaking 
Documents. Tribes that request special migratory game bird hunting 
regulations for tribal members on ceded lands should send a courtesy 
copy of the proposal to officials in the affected State(s).

Public Comments

    The Department of the Interior's policy is, whenever practicable, 
to afford the public an opportunity to participate in the rulemaking 
process. Accordingly, we invite interested persons to submit written 
comments, suggestions, or recommendations regarding the proposed 
regulations. Before promulgation of final migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will take into consideration all comments we receive. 
Such comments, and any additional information we receive, may lead to 
final regulations that differ from these proposals.
    You may submit your comments and materials concerning this proposed 
rule by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. We will not accept 
comments sent by email or fax or to an address not listed in ADDRESSES. 
Finally, we will not consider hand-delivered comments that we do not 
receive, or mailed comments that are not postmarked, by the date 
specified in DATES. We will post all comments in their entirety--
including your personal identifying information--on http://www.regulations.gov. Before including your address, phone number, email 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you 
should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--may be made publicly available at any time. 
While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal 
identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we 
will be able to do so. Comments and materials we receive, as well as 
supporting documentation we used in preparing this proposed rule, will 
be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by 
appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management, 5275 Leesburg 
Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.
    For each series of proposed rulemakings, we will establish specific 
comment periods. We will consider, but may not respond in detail to, 
each comment. As in the past, we will summarize all comments we receive 
during the comment period and respond to them after the closing date in 
any final rules.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Consideration

    The programmatic document, ``Second Final Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance of Annual Regulations 
Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds (EIS 20130139),'' filed 
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 24, 2013, 
addresses NEPA compliance by the Service for issuance of the annual 
framework regulations for hunting of migratory game bird species. We 
published a notice of availability in the Federal Register on May 31, 
2013 (78 FR 32686), and our Record of Decision on July 26, 2013 (78 FR 
45376). We also address NEPA compliance for waterfowl hunting 
frameworks through the annual preparation of separate environmental 
assessments, the most recent being ``Duck Hunting Regulations for 2019-
20,'' with its corresponding April 2019 finding of no significant 
impact. In addition, an August 1985 environmental assessment entitled 
``Guidelines for Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations on

[[Page 55124]]

Federal Indian Reservations and Ceded Lands'' is available from the 
address indicated under the caption FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Endangered Species Act Consideration

    Before issuance of the 2020-21 migratory game bird hunting 
regulations, we will comply with provisions of the Endangered Species 
Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; hereinafter the Act), to 
ensure that hunting is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of any species designated as endangered or threatened or modify or 
destroy its critical habitat and is consistent with conservation 
programs for those species. Consultations under section 7 of the Act 
may cause us to change proposals in future supplemental proposed 
rulemaking documents.

Regulatory Planning and Review (Executive Orders 12866 and 13563)

    Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 provides that the Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB) will review all significant rules. OIRA has reviewed 
this rule and has determined that this rule is significant because it 
would have an annual effect of $100 million or more on the economy.
    E.O. 13563 reaffirms the principles of E.O. 12866 while calling for 
improvements in the nation's regulatory system to promote 
predictability, to reduce uncertainty, and to use the best, most 
innovative, and least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends. 
The executive order directs agencies to consider regulatory approaches 
that reduce burdens and maintain flexibility and freedom of choice for 
the public where these approaches are relevant, feasible, and 
consistent with regulatory objectives. E.O. 13563 emphasizes further 
that regulations must be based on the best available science and that 
the rulemaking process must allow for public participation and an open 
exchange of ideas. We have developed this rule in a manner consistent 
with these requirements.
    An economic analysis was prepared for the 2019-20 season. This 
analysis was based on data from the 2011 and 2016 National Hunting and 
Fishing Survey, the most recent years for which data are available (see 
discussion in Regulatory Flexibility Act section below). This analysis 
estimated consumer surplus for three alternatives for duck hunting 
(estimates for other species are not quantified due to lack of data). 
The alternatives are (1) issue restrictive regulations allowing fewer 
days than those issued during the 2018-19 season, (2) issue moderate 
regulations allowing more days than those in alternative 1, and (3) 
issue liberal regulations identical to the regulations in the 2018-19 
season. For the 2019-20 season, we chose Alternative 3, with an 
estimated consumer surplus across all flyways of $263-$347 million with 
a mid-point estimate of $305 million. We also chose alternative 3 for 
the 2009-10 through 2018-19 seasons. We will select regulations for the 
2020-21 season in December. The analysis is part of the record for this 
rule and is available at http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The annual migratory bird hunting regulations have a significant 
economic impact on substantial numbers of small entities under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). We analyzed the 
economic impacts of the annual hunting regulations on small business 
entities in detail as part of the 1981 cost-benefit analysis. This 
analysis was revised annually from 1990 through 1995. In 1995, the 
Service issued a Small Entity Flexibility Analysis (Analysis), which 
was subsequently updated in 1996, 1998, 2004, 2008, 2013, 2018, and 
2019. The primary source of information about hunter expenditures for 
migratory game bird hunting is the National Hunting and Fishing Survey, 
which is generally conducted at 5-year intervals. The 2019 Analysis is 
based on the 2011 and 2016 National Hunting and Fishing Survey and the 
U.S. Department of Commerce's County Business Patterns, from which it 
was estimated that migratory bird hunters would spend approximately 
$1.6 billion at small businesses in 2019. Copies of the Analysis are 
available upon request from the Division of Migratory Bird Management 
(see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) or from http://www.regulations.gov at Docket No. FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0004.

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by E.O. 12866 and 12988 and by the Presidential 
Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain language. This 
means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in ADDRESSES. To better help us 
revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as possible. For 
example, you should tell us the numbers of the sections or paragraphs 
that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are too long, 
the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, etc.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

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

Paperwork Reduction Act

    An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required 
to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a 
currently valid OMB control number. This rule does not contain any new 
collection of information that require approval by OMB under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). OMB has 
previously approved the information collection requirements associated 
with migratory bird surveys and the procedures for establishing annual 
migratory bird hunting seasons under the following OMB control numbers:
     1018-0019, ``North American Woodcock Singing Ground 
Survey'' (expires 6/30/2021, and in accordance with 5 CFR 1320.10, an 
agency may continue to conduct or sponsor this collection of 
information while the submission is pending at OMB).
     1018-0023, ``Migratory Bird Surveys, 50 CFR 20.20'' 
(expires 8/31/2020). Includes Migratory Bird Harvest Information 
Program, Migratory Bird Hunter Surveys, Sandhill Crane Survey, and 
Parts Collection Survey.
     1018-0171, ``Establishment of Annual Migratory Bird 
Hunting Seasons, 50 CFR part 20'' (expires 06/30/2021).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

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

[[Page 55125]]

entities. Therefore, this rule is not a ``significant regulatory 
action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

Civil Justice Reform--Executive Order 12988

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

Takings Implication Assessment

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

Energy Effects--Executive Order 13211

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

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), E.O. 13175, and 512 DM 2, we have 
evaluated possible effects on Federally recognized Indian tribes and 
have determined that there are no effects on Indian trust resources. 
However, in this proposed rule, we solicit proposals for special 
migratory bird hunting regulations for certain tribes on Federal Indian 
reservations, off-reservation trust lands, and ceded lands for the 
2020-21 migratory bird hunting season. The resulting proposals will be 
contained in a separate proposed rule. By virtue of these actions, we 
have consulted with tribes affected by this rule.

Federalism Effects

    Due to the migratory nature of certain species of birds, the 
Federal Government has been given responsibility over these species by 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We annually prescribe frameworks from 
which the States make selections regarding the hunting of migratory 
birds, and we employ guidelines to establish special regulations on 
Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands. This process preserves the 
ability of the States and tribes to determine which seasons meet their 
individual needs. Any State or Indian tribe may be more restrictive 
than the Federal frameworks at any time. The frameworks are developed 
in a cooperative process with the States and the Flyway Councils. This 
process allows States to participate in the development of frameworks 
from which they will make selections, thereby having an influence on 
their own regulations. These rules do not have a substantial direct 
effect on fiscal capacity, change the roles or responsibilities of 
Federal or State governments, or intrude on State policy or 
administration. Therefore, in accordance with E.O. 13132, these 
regulations do not have significant federalism effects and do not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
federalism summary impact statement.

Executive Order 13771--Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory 

    This action is not subject to Executive Order 13771 (82 FR 9339, 
February 3, 2017) because it is issued with respect to routine hunting 
and fishing activities.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 20

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


    The rules that eventually will be promulgated for the 2020-21 
hunting season are authorized under 16 U.S.C. 703-711, 712, and 742 a-

    Dated: October 1, 2019.
Rob Wallace,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

Proposed 2020-21 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary)

    Pending current information on populations, harvest, and habitat 
conditions, and receipt of recommendations from the four Flyway 
Councils, we may defer specific regulatory proposals. No changes from 
the 2019-20 frameworks in the Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways 
are being proposed at this time. Other issues requiring early 
discussion, action, or the attention of the States or tribes are 
contained below:

1. Ducks

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

A. General Harvest Strategy

    We propose to continue using adaptive harvest management (AHM) to 
help determine appropriate duck-hunting regulations for the 2020-21 
season. AHM permits sound resource decisions in the face of uncertain 
regulatory impacts and provides a mechanism for reducing that 
uncertainty over time. We use AHM to evaluate four alternative 
regulatory levels for duck hunting in the Mississippi, Central, and 
Pacific Flyways based on the population status of mallards. We use AHM 
based on the population status of a suite of four species in the 
Atlantic Flyway (see below). We have specific hunting strategies for 
species of special concern, such as black ducks, scaup, and pintails. 
For additional information of AHM, see https://www.fws.gov/birds/management/adaptive-harvest-management.php.
Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways
    The prescribed regulatory alternative for the Mississippi, Central, 
and Pacific Flyways is based on the status of mallard populations that 
contribute primarily to each Flyway. In the Central and Mississippi 
Flyways, we set hunting regulations based on the status and dynamics of 
mid-continent mallards. Mid-continent mallards are those breeding in 
central North America (Federal survey strata 13-18, 20-50, and 75-77, 
and State surveys in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). In the 
Pacific Flyway, we set hunting regulations based on the status and 
dynamics of western mallards. Western mallards are those breeding in 
Alaska and the northern Yukon Territory (as based on Federal surveys in 
strata 1-12), and in California, Oregon, Washington, and British 
Columbia (as based on State- or Province-conducted surveys).
    For the 2020-21 season, we recommend continuing to use independent 
optimization to determine the optimal regulatory choice for each 
mallard stock. This means that we would develop regulations for mid-
continent mallards and western mallards independently, based upon the 
breeding stock that contributes

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primarily to each Flyway. We detailed implementation of this AHM 
decision framework for western and mid-continent mallards in the July 
24, 2008, Federal Register (73 FR 43290).
Atlantic Flyway
    Last year, we implemented a multi-stock protocol for the Atlantic 
Flyway. The protocol is based on a suite of four species that 
represents the dynamics of duck harvest in the Atlantic Flyway and the 
various habitat types used by waterfowl throughout the Atlantic Flyway: 
Green-winged teal (Anas crecca), common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), 
ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), and wood duck (Aix sponsa). These 
species comprise more than 40 percent of the Atlantic Flyway's total 
duck harvest, and they reflect regional variation in harvest 
composition. The selected species represent upland nesters in boreal 
and southern Canada (green-winged teal), over-water nesters in boreal 
Canada (ring-necked duck), cavity nesters in the United States and 
southern Canada (wood duck), and cavity nesters in boreal Canada 
(goldeneye). The most important winter waterfowl habitats in the 
Atlantic Flyway (salt marsh, freshwater marsh, tidal waters, freshwater 
ponds and lakes, rivers and streams) are important to at least one of 
these four species.
    Species selection was also influenced by our need for sufficient 
time series of estimates of annual abundance and estimates of harvest 
rate or annual harvest. The protocol has a harvest objective of no more 
than 98 percent of maximum sustainable long-term yield for any of the 
four species. Regulatory alternatives are the same as those used in the 
past (under eastern mallard AHM), except that the mallard bag limit is 
not prescribed by the optimal regulatory alternative as determined by 
the multi-stock AHM protocol. Further details on biological models used 
in the protocol, data sources, optimization methods, and simulation 
results are available at http://www.regulations.gov and on our website 
at https://www.fws.gov/birds/index.php.
    Although season length in the Atlantic Flyway is determined by the 
proposed multi-stock protocol, the daily bag limit for black ducks will 
still be determined by the international black duck AHM harvest 
strategy. The mallard bag limit in the Atlantic Flyway will be based on 
a separate assessment of the harvest potential of eastern mallards (see 
section D.iii. Eastern Mallards below for further information).
Final 2020-21 AHM Protocol
    We will detail the final AHM protocol for the 2020-21 season in the 
supplemental proposed rule, which we will publish in late-September 
(see Schedule of Biological Information Availability, Regulations 
Meetings and Federal Register Publications for the 2020-21 Seasons at 
the end of this proposed rule for further information). We will propose 
a specific regulatory alternative in December for each of the Flyways 
to use for their 2020-21 seasons after status information becomes 
available in late August 2019.

B. Regulatory Alternatives

    The basic structure of the current regulatory alternatives for AHM 
was adopted in 1997. In 2002, based upon recommendations from the 
Flyway Councils, we extended framework dates in the ``moderate'' and 
``liberal'' regulatory alternatives by changing the opening date from 
the Saturday nearest October 1 to the Saturday nearest September 24, 
and by changing the closing date from the Sunday nearest January 20 to 
the last Sunday in January. These extended dates were made available 
with no associated penalty in season length or bag limits. Last year, 
we adopted a closing duck framework date of January 31 for the 
``moderate'' and ``liberal'' alternatives in the Atlantic Flyway as 
part of the Atlantic Flyway's new multi-stock AHM protocol (83 FR 
47868; September 21, 2018). We subsequently further extended the 
framework closing date to January 31 across all four Flyways for the 
2019-20 hunting season (84 FR 16152; April 17, 2019).
    More recently, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, 
and Recreation Act (Act), signed into law on March 12, 2019 (Pub. L. 
116-9), amended the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to specify that the 
framework closing date for hunting ducks, mergansers, and coots ``shall 
be no later than January 31 of each year.'' The Act also states that, 
with regard to these species, the Secretary shall ``adopt the 
recommendation of each respective flyway council (as defined in section 
20.152 of title 50, Code of Federal Regulations) for the Federal 
framework if the Secretary determines that the recommendation is 
consistent with science-based and sustainable harvest management.'' 
Thus, as directed by the law, we have adjusted the framework closing 
date under each regulatory alternative for all four Flyways to January 
    For 2020-21, we propose to utilize the same regulatory alternatives 
that are in effect for the 2019-20 season, with the exceptions noted 
above (see table below for specifics of the regulatory alternatives). 
Alternatives are specified for each Flyway and are designated as 
``RES'' for the restrictive, ``MOD'' for the moderate, and ``LIB'' for 
the liberal alternative. We will finalize the regulatory alternatives 
for each of the Flyways for the 2020-21 seasons in early-December 2019.

C. Zones and Split Seasons

    Zones and split seasons are ``special regulations'' designed to 
distribute hunting opportunities and harvests according to temporal, 
geographic, and demographic variability in waterfowl and other 
migratory game bird populations. For ducks, States have been allowed 
the option of dividing their allotted hunting days into two (or in some 
cases three) segments (splits) to take advantage of species-specific 
peaks of abundance or to satisfy hunters in different areas who want to 
hunt during the peak of waterfowl abundance in their area. However, the 
split-season option does not fully satisfy many States who wish to 
provide a more equitable distribution of harvest opportunities. 
Therefore, we also have allowed the establishment of independent 
seasons in up to four zones within States for the purpose of providing 
more equitable distribution of harvest opportunity for hunters 
throughout the State.
    In 1978, we prepared an environmental assessment (EA) on the use of 
zones to set duck hunting regulations. A primary tenet of the 1978 EA 
was that zoning would be for the primary purpose of providing equitable 
distribution of duck hunting opportunities within a State or region and 
not for the purpose of increasing total annual waterfowl harvest in the 
zoned areas. In fact, target harvest levels were to be adjusted 
downward if they exceeded traditional levels as a result of zoning. 
Subsequent to the 1978 EA, we conducted a review of the use of zones 
and split seasons in 1990. In 2011, we prepared a new EA analyzing some 
specific proposed changes to the zone and split-season guidelines. The 
current guidelines were then finalized in 2011 (76 FR 53536; August 26, 
    Currently, every 5 years, States are afforded the opportunity to 
change the zoning and split-season configuration within which they set 
their annual duck hunting regulations. The next regularly scheduled 
open season for changes to zone and split-season configurations will be 
in 2020, for use during the 2021-25 period. For those States wishing to 
change zone and split-season configurations in time for the 2021-25

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seasons, we will need to receive new configuration and zone 
descriptions by May 1, 2020.
    For the 2021-25 open season, the guidelines for duck zone and 
split-season configurations are as follows:
Guidelines for Duck Zones and Split Seasons
    The following zone and split-season guidelines apply only for the 
regular duck season:
    (1) A zone is a geographic area or portion of a State, with a 
contiguous boundary, for which independent dates may be selected for 
the regular duck season.
    (2) Consideration of changes for management-unit boundaries is not 
subject to the guidelines and provisions governing the use of zones and 
split seasons for ducks.
    (3) Only minor (less than a county in size) boundary changes will 
be allowed for any grandfathered arrangement, and changes are limited 
to the open season.
    (4) Once a zone and split option is selected during an open season, 
it must remain in place for the following 5 years.
    Any State may continue the configuration used in the previous 5-
year period. If changes are made, the zone and split-season 
configuration must conform to one of the following options:
    (1) No more than four zones with no splits;
    (2) Split seasons (no more than three segments) with no zones; or
    (3) No more than three zones with the option for two-way (two-
segment) split seasons in one, two, or all zones.
Grandfathered Zone and Split Arrangements
    When we first implemented the zone and split guidelines in 1991, 
several States had completed experiments with zone and split 
arrangements different from our original options. We offered those 
States a one-time opportunity to continue (``grandfather'') those 
arrangements, with the stipulation that only minor changes could be 
made to zone boundaries. If any of those States now wish to change 
their zone and split arrangement:
    (1) The new arrangement must conform to one of the three options 
identified above; and
    (2) The State cannot go back to the grandfathered arrangement that 
it previously had in place.
Management Units
    We will continue to utilize the specific limitations previously 
established regarding the use of zones and split seasons in special 
management units, including the High Plains Mallard Management Unit. We 
note that the original justification and objectives established for the 
High Plains Mallard Management Unit provided for additional days of 
hunting opportunity at the end of the regular duck season. In order to 
maintain the integrity of the management unit, current guidelines 
prohibit simultaneous zoning and/or three-way split seasons within a 
management unit and the remainder of the State. Removal of this 
limitation would allow additional proliferation of zone and split 
configurations and compromise the original objectives of the management 

D. Special Seasons/Species Management

iii. Eastern Mallards
    For the Atlantic Flyway, under the proposed multi-stock AHM 
protocol for the Atlantic Flyway, the mallard bag limit is not 
prescribed by the regulatory alternative, but is instead based on a 
separate assessment of the harvest potential of eastern mallards. We 
will propose a specific mallard bag limit for the Atlantic Flyway in 

16. Doves

    In 2006 (see July 28, 2006, Federal Register, 71 FR 43008), we 
approved guidelines for the use of zones and split seasons for doves 
with implementation beginning in the 2007-08 season. While the initial 
period was for 4 years (2007-10), we further stated that, beginning in 
2011, zoning would conform to a 5-year period.
    The next open season for changes to dove zone and split 
configurations will be in 2020, for use during the 2021-25 period. For 
those States wishing to change zone and split-season configurations in 
time for the 2021-25 seasons, we will need to receive new configuration 
and zone descriptions by May 1, 2020.
    The guidelines are as follows:
Guidelines for Dove Zones and Split Seasons in the Eastern and Central 
Mourning Dove Management Units
    (1) A zone is a geographic area or portion of a State, with a 
contiguous boundary, for which independent seasons may be selected for 
dove hunting.
    (2) States may select a zone and split option during an open 
season. The option must remain in place for the following 5 years 
except that States may make a one-time change and revert to their 
previous zone and split configuration in any year of the 5-year period. 
Formal approval will not be required, but States must notify the 
Service before making the change.
    (3) Zoning periods for dove hunting will conform to those years 
used for ducks, e.g., 2021-25.
    (4) The zone and split configuration consists of two zones with the 
option for three-way (three-segment) split seasons in one or both 
zones. As a grandfathered arrangement, Texas will have three zones with 
the option for two-way (two-segment) split seasons in one, two, or all 
three zones.
    (5) States that do not wish to zone for dove hunting may split 
their seasons into no more than three segments.
    For the 2021-25 period, any State may continue the configuration 
used in 2016-20. If changes are made, the zone and split-season 
configuration must conform to one of the options listed above. If Texas 
uses a new configuration for the entirety of the 5-year period, it 
cannot go back to the grandfathered arrangement that it previously had 
in place.

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[FR Doc. 2019-22151 Filed 10-11-19; 8:45 am]