Department of the Interior: Migratory Bird Hunting--Final Frameworks for Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations and Bag and Possession Limits for Certain Migratory Game Birds

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-09-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Office of the General Counsel

      B-277803; B-277873

      September 4, 1997

      The Honorable John H. Chafee
      The Honorable Max Baucus
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Environment and Public Works
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Don Young
      The Honorable George Miller
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Resources
      House of Representatives

      Subject:   Department of the Interior: Migratory Bird Hunting: (1) Final
                 Frameworks for Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations; (2)
                 Early Seasons and Bag and Possession Limits for Certain Migratory Game
                 Birds in the Contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and
                 the Virgin Islands

      Pursuant to section 801(a)(2)(A) of title 5, United States Code, this is our report on
      two major rules promulgated by Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife
      Service. One is entitled "Migratory Bird Hunting; Final Frameworks for Early-
      Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations" (RIN: 1018-AE14). We received the rule
      on August 15, 1997. It was published in the Federal Register as a final rule on
      August 20, 1997. 62 Fed. Reg. 44229. On August 26, 1997, we received the rule
      entitled "Migratory Bird Hunting; Early Seasons and Bag and Possession Limits for
      Certain Migratory Game Birds in the Contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii,
      Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands" (RIN: 1018-AE14). This latter rule was
      published in the Federal Register on August 29, 1997. 62 Fed. Reg 46152. Both
      rules were effective on their respective Federal Register publication dates pursuant
      to section 808(1) of title 5, United States Code.

These rules are part of a series of regulations dealing with the establishment of
seasons, limits, and other regulations for migratory game bird hunting under
amendments to 50 C.F.R. part 20.

The "final frameworks" rule establishes the early-season frameworks from which
states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands may select dates and other options
available to them for the 1997-98 migratory bird hunting seasons. After receiving
this information, the Fish and Wildlife Service will publish the selections as the final
regulations for the current hunting season. The "early seasons and bag and
possession limits" rule prescribes hunting seasons, hours, areas, and daily bag limits
and possession limits for specific game birds in the contiguous states, Alaska,
Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Enclosed is our assessment of the Department of the Interior's compliance with the
procedural steps required by sections 801(a)(1)(B)(i) through (iv) of title 5 with
respect to the rules. Our review indicates that the Department of the Interior's Fish
and Wildlife Service complied with the applicable requirements.

If you have any questions about this report, please contact Alan Zuckerman,
Assistant General Counsel, at (202) 512-4586. The official responsible for GAO
evaluation work relating to the Department of the Interior is Victor Rezendes,
Director for Energy, Resources, and Science Issues. Mr. Rezendes can be reached
at (202) 512-3841.

Robert P. Murphy
General Counsel


cc: The Honorable Donald J. Barry
    Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish
     and Wildlife and Parks
    Department of the Interior

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        ANALYSIS UNDER 5 U.S.C. §§ 801(a)(1)(B)(i)-(iv) OF MAJOR RULES
                                 ISSUED BY
                              (RIN: 1018-AE14)

(i) Cost-benefit analysis

According to the cost-benefit analysis contained in the filing, the migratory bird
hunting regulations (of which these regulations are a part) collectively have an
economic impact in excess of an estimated $400 million1 in direct expenditures.
For example, the analysis indicates that $118.1 million will be spent by duck hunters
on equipment, $127.2 million on food, $134.6 million on transportation and lodging,
plus $36.4 million "other" direct expenditures. Without these regulations, the
Service opines that the resources spent in duck hunting would, to some degree, be
spent on other recreational activities, so that the actual national economic
development effect of the regulations may be less than $100 million.

The analysis notes that the rules impose some costs of administration and
enforcement on the state, but as the states also derive revenue from licensing, the
net cost, if any, is not quantifiable.

(ii) Agency actions relevant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 603-605,
607 and 609

The Service's compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act consisted of a "Small
Entity Flexibility Analysis" issued in 1997 (and available from the Office of
Management and Budget upon request). It appears that the analysis was so limited
because the regulation's impact is primarily beneficial to a very substantial number
of small businesses. The Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Small Business
Administration was notified of the analysis.

 Based on hunter data from 1995 and per capital and per day expenditure data from
a 1991 survey.

The analysis provided by the Service indicates that the regulations are promulgated
annually to set frameworks for harvest levels and seasons for migratory bird
hunting; that the states then issue regulations within the established framework, and
that under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703 et seq., no legal migratory
bird hunting could take place without the regulations.

The objective noted by the analysis is to ensure that harvest levels are
commensurate with the current population of each species, based on surveys
conducted in the spring and early summer.

The analysis notes that as many as 738,000 small entities will share in the
estimated $254-$592 million spent by migratory bird hunters during the 1997-98
season. There are no new compliance requirements for small business resulting
from the regulations. In addition, since the regulations are largely beneficial to
small entities, the Service indicates that no special treatment was considered for

(iii) Agency actions relevant to sections 202-205 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform
Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. §§ 1532-1535

The Service has certified that the rulemaking will not impose a cost of $100 million
or more on local or state governments or private entities.

(iv) Other relevant information or requirements under acts and executive orders

The Service notes that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) considerations
are covered by its "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement: Issuance
of Annual Regulations Permitting the Sport Hunting of Migratory Birds," which was
filed with the Environmental Protection Agency on June 9, 1988. The Service also
asserts that pursuant to Endangered Species Act considerations, it designs hunting
regulations to "remove or alleviate chances of conflict between migratory game bird
hunting seasons and the protection and conservation of endangered and threatened
species." In addition, the Service declares that the Department of the Interior has
certified to OMB that the regulations meet the applicable standards of E.O. 12778,
and that the regulations do not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant
the preparation of a federalism assessment.

Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.

The rules were promulgated through the general notice of proposed rulemaking
procedures of the Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553. The Service afforded interested persons the
opportunity to comment on the proposed rule, and the final rule addresses the

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Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C. §§ 3501-3520

The Service states that it uses various information collection requirements to
develop future migratory game bird hunting regulations. The information
collection requirements of the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Programs have
been approved by OMB and have been assigned clearance number 1018-0015. The
Service notes, however, that the OMB approval for the Sandhill Crane Harvest
Questionnaire, 1018-0023, has expired and has been resubmitted to OMB for
reinstatement. The information required by this questionnaire will not be collected
until OMB approval has been obtained.

Statutory authorization for the rule

The rules concerning migratory waterfowl hunting are authorized by 16 U.S.C.
§§ 703-712 and 742 a-j.

Executive Order No. 12866

Our review indicates that the Service adhered to the requirements of Executive
Order 12866. Collectively, the rules for migratory bird hunting are reviewed by
OMB and are considered to be economically significant.

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