FWS announces non-essential experimental whooping crane population in Louisiana,
76 Fed.Reg. 6066 / Vol. 76, No. 23 / Thursday, February 3, 2011 / Rules and Regulations
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17 / Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2010–0057; 92220–1113–0000–C3 / RIN 1018–AX23
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Endangered Whooping Cranes in Southwestern Louisiana
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), will reintroduce whooping cranes (Grus americana) into historic habitat in southwestern Louisiana with the intent to establish a nonmigratory flock. We are designating this reintroduced population as a nonessential experimental population (NEP) under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), as amended. The geographic boundary of the NEP includes the entire State of Louisiana. The objectives of the reintroduction are: to advance recovery of the endangered whooping crane; to implement a primary recovery action; to further assess the suitability of Louisiana as whooping crane habitat; and to evaluate the merit of releasing captive-reared whooping cranes, conditioned for wild release, as a technique for establishing a self-sustaining, nonmigratory population. The only natural wild population of whooping cranes remains vulnerable to extirpation through a natural catastrophe or contaminant spill, due primarily to its limited wintering distribution along the Texas gulf coast. If successful, this action will result in the establishment of an additional self-sustaining population, and contribute toward the recovery of the species. No conflicts are envisioned between the whooping crane’s reintroduction and any existing or anticipated Federal, State, Tribal, local government, or private actions such as agriculture-aquaculture-livestock practices, oil/gas exploration and extraction, pesticide application, water management, construction, recreation, trapping, or hunting. DATES: This rule is effective February 3, 2011.
The whooping crane once occurred from the Arctic Sea to the high plateau of central Mexico, and from Utah east to New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida. By 1941, the migratory population contained only 16 individuals. The whooping crane population decline between these two estimates was a consequence of hunting and specimen collection, human disturbance, and conversion of the primary nesting habitat to hay, pastureland, and grain production. Photo from International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin. www.savingcranes.org
WHAT IS AN NON-ESSENTIAL EXPERIMENTAL POPULATION? EXCERPT: NEPs provide additional flexibility because Federal agencies are not required to consult with us under section 7(a)(2). Section 7(a)(4) requires Federal agencies to confer (rather than consult) with the Service on actions that are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a species proposed to be listed. The results of a conference are in the form of conservation recommendations that are optional as the agencies carry out, fund, or authorize activities. However, since an NEP is not essential to the continued existence of the species, it is very unlikely that we would ever determine jeopardy for a project impacting a species within an NEP. Regulations for NEPs may be developed to be more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area.