FWS: Migratory Bird Hunting--Final Frameworks for Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations and Early Seasons and Bag and Possession Limits for Certain Migratory Game Birds

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-09-10.

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

United States General Accounting Office                              Office of the General Counsel
Washington, DC 20548

          B-283536; B-283537

          September 10, 1999

          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, Fish and Wildlife Service: Migratory Bird
                   Hunting; Final Frameworks for Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting
                   Regulations and 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

          Pursuant to section 801(a)(2)(A) of title 5, United States Code, this is our report on
          two major rules promulgated by the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife
          Service (Service), entitled “Migratory Bird Hunting; Final Frameworks for Early-
          Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations” and “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-AF24). We received the rules on August 24, 1999. They were published in the
          Federal Register as a final rules on August 27 and August 31, 1999, respectively. 64
          Fed. Reg. 47072 and 64 Fed. Reg. 47418.

          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-seasons frameworks from which
          states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands may select dates and other options

available to them for the 1999-2000 migratory bird hunting season. 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 Service’s compliance with the procedural steps
required by section 801(a)(1)(B)(i) through (iv) of title 5 with respect to the rules.
Our review indicates that the Service complied with the applicable requirements.

If you have any questions about this report, please contact James W. Vickers,
Assistant General Counsel, at (202) 512-8210. The official responsible for GAO
evaluation work relating to the subject matter of the rules is Jim Wells, Director,
Energy, Resources, and Science Issues. Mr. Wells can be reached at (202) 512-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Robert P. Murphy
General Counsel


cc: The Honorable Donald J. Barry
    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 TWO MAJOR RULES
                            ISSUED BY THE
                   DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
                     FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
                            (RIN: 1018-AF24)

(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 $600 million in direct expenditures. For
example, the analysis indicates that $293.3 million will be spent by duck hunters on
equipment, $144.3 million on food, $147.1 million on transportation and lodging, plus
$73.8 million "other" direct expenditures. Without these regulations, the Service
opines that the resources spent in game bird hunting would, to some degree, be
spent on other recreational activities.

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" updated with information from the 1996 National Hunting
and Fishing Survey issued in 1998 (and available from the Office of Migratory Bird
Management 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 of the Small Business Administration
was notified of the analysis.

The analysis provided by the Service indicates that (1) the regulations are
promulgated annually to set frameworks for harvest levels and seasons for migratory
bird hunting; (2) the states then issue regulations within the established framework;
and (3) 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 small entities will share in the estimated $429-$1,084 million
spent by migratory bird hunters during the 1999-2000 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 them.

(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 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

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 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and have been assigned
clearance number 1018-0015. The Service also notes, that the OMB approval for the
Sandhill Crane Harvest Questionnaire, 1018-0023, has been approved by OMB with
an expiration date of September 30, 2000.

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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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