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106th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
1st Session 106-271
ARCTIC TUNDRA HABITAT EMERGENCY CONSERVATION ACT
July 29, 1999.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 2454]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 2454) to assure the long-term conservation of mid-
continent light geese and the biological diversity of the
ecosystem upon which many North American migratory birds
depend, by directing the Secretary of the Interior to implement
rules to reduce the overabundant population of mid-continent
light geese, having considered the same, report favorably
thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill as
amended do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency
SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.
(a) Findings.--The Congress finds the following:
(1) The winter index population of mid-continent light geese
was 800,000 birds in 1969, while the total population of such
geese is more than 5,200,000 birds today.
(2) The population of mid-continent light geese is expanding
by over 5 percent each year, and in the absence of new wildlife
management actions it could grow to more than 6,800,000
breeding light geese in 3 years.
(3) The primary reasons for this unprecedented population
(A) the expansion of agricultural areas and the
resulting abundance of cereal grain crops in the United
(B) the establishment of sanctuaries along the United
States flyways of migrating light geese; and
(C) a decline in light geese harvest rates.
(4) As a direct result of this population explosion, the
Hudson Bay Lowlands Salt-Marsh ecosystem in Canada is being
systematically destroyed. This ecosystem contains approximately
135,000 acres of essential habitat for migrating light geese
and many other avian species. Biologists have testified that
\1/3\ of this habitat has been destroyed, \1/3\ is on the brink
of devastation, and the remaining \1/3\ is overgrazed.
(5) The destruction of the Arctic tundra is having a severe
negative impact on many avian species that breed or migrate
through this habitat, including the following:
(A) Canada Goose.
(B) American Wigeon.
(D) Hudsonian Godwit.
(E) Stilt Sandpiper.
(F) Northern Shoveler.
(G) Red-Breasted Merganser.
(I) Parasitic Jaeger.
(H) Yellow Rail.
(6) It is essential that the current population of mid-
continent light geese be reduced by 50 percent by the year 2005
to ensure that the fragile Arctic tundra is not irreversibly
(b) Purposes.--The purposes of this Act are the following:
(1) To reduce the population of mid-continent light geese.
(2) To assure the long-term conservation of mid-continent
light geese and the biological diversity of the ecosystem upon
which many North American migratory birds depend.
SEC. 3. FORCE AND EFFECT OF RULES TO CONTROL OVERABUNDANT MID-CONTINENT
LIGHT GEESE POPULATIONS.
(a) Force and Effect.--
(1) In general.--The rules published by the Service on
February 16, 1999, relating to use of additional hunting
methods to increase the harvest of mid-continent light geese
(64 Fed. Reg. 7507-7517) and the establishment of a
conservation order for the reduction of mid-continent light
goose populations (64 Fed. Reg. 7517-7528), shall have the
force and effect of law.
(2) Public notice.--The Secretary, acting through the
Director of the Service, shall take such action as is necessary
to appropriately notify the public of the force and effect of
the rules referred to in paragraph (1).
(b) Application.--Subsection (a) shall apply only during the period
(1) begins on the date of the enactment of this Act; and
(2) ends on the latest of--
(A) the effective date of rules issued by the Service
after such date of enactment to control overabundant
mid-continent light geese populations;
(B) the date of the publication of a final
environmental impact statement for such rules under
section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy
Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C)); and
(C) May 15, 2001.
(c) Rule of Construction.--This section shall not be construed to
limit the authority of the Secretary or the Service to issue rules,
under another law, to regulate the taking of mid-continent light geese.
SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) Mid-continent light geese.--The term ``mid-continent
light geese'' means Lesser snow geese (Anser caerulescens) and
Ross' geese (Anser rossii) that primarily migrate between
Canada and the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New
Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
(2) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of
(3) Service.--The term ``Service'' means the United States
Fish and Wildlife Service.
purpose of the bill
The purpose of H.R. 2454 is to assure the long-term
conservation of mid-continent light geese and the biological
diversity of the ecosystem upon which many North American
migratory birds depend, by directing the Secretary of the
Interior to implement rules to reduce the overabundant
population of mid-continent light geese.
background and need for the legislation
In 1916, the United States and Great Britain (for Canada)
signed a Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds. The
Convention established an international framework for the
protection and conservation of migratory birds. Migratory bird
includes all wild species of ducks, geese, brants, coots,
gallinules, rails, snipes, woodcocks, crows, and mourning and
white-winged doves. Under the Convention, unless permitted by
regulation, it is unlawful to ``pursue, hunt, take, capture,
kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to barter, barter,
offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship,
export, import * * * any migratory bird, any part, nest, or egg
of any such bird * * * included in the terms of the convention
between the United States and Great Britain for the protection
of migratory birds.'' The United States has signed similar
agreements with Mexico and the former Soviet Union.
In 1918, the Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
(codified at 16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.). This Act became our
domestic law implementing the Convention, and it committed this
Nation to the protection and management of migratory birds. In
addition, the Act gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
the authority to develop regulations on the harvest or ``take''
of migratory game birds. Both the Convention and the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act were designed to ensure proper utilization of
migratory bird resources.
In the 81 years since the enactment of the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act, FWS has issued numerous federal regulations on the
circumstances under which a hunter may take a migratory bird.
For instance, FWS annually issues regulations establishing the
length of hunting seasons and bag limits (number an individual
may kill) for each migratory bird species. These regulations
are issued only after an extensive biological review has been
conducted on population levels, reproduction rates, and habitat
availability for these species.
Snow or light geese are commonly known as ``white geese''
in the United States, where a person is likely to see Greater
snow geese, Lesser snow geese, or Ross' geese. A typical light
goose is about 29 inches long, has a wing span of 17 inches,
and weighs approximately 6 pounds. The Ross' goose is smaller
in size but is comparable in appearance.
The majority of light geese nest in the spring in Arctic
and sub-Arctic areas of Canada, including Quebec, Ontario,
Manitoba, and the Canadian Northwest Territories. The Hudson
Bay lowlands in Canada--one of the largest wetlands in the
world--is the primary nesting site. Evidence indicates that the
majority of light geese migrate, stage, or winter in the U.S.
portions of the central and Mississippi flyways. This 24-State
area includes Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North
Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The primary food supply and diet of a light goose includes
grasses and sedge species, as well as the underground parts,
roots and tubers of grasses, sedges, and other plants. A
typical light goose has a voracious appetite and engages
extensively in grubbing of below-ground biomass, especially
after the first snow melt, which can leave behind nothing but
bare mud when it is overgrazed.
Light geese share their nesting habitat in the Hudson Bay
lowlands with dozens of different species of birds. These
include several major populations of Canada geese, half of the
Atlantic brant population, significant numbers of other game
birds such as pintails, black ducks, green-winged teals, and
mallards, and songbirds including American wigeon, dowitcher,
Hudsonian godwit, stilt sandpiper, Northern shoveler, red-
breasted merganser, oldsquaw, parasitic jaeger, whimbrel, and
yellow rail. This habitat is essential to the survival of all
of these species.
FWS has been monitoring light geese populations since 1948.
Many species of Arctic breeding geese have increased over the
last 30 years. The number of light geese has dramatically
increased from 800,000 in 1969 to more than 5.2 million birds
today. Assuming a 5 percent growth rate in the breeding
population over the next three years, the population will grow
to more than 6 million in the absence of any new management
According to FWS biologists, there are primarily four
reasons why there has been such a population explosion. The
first is the expansion of agricultural areas in the United
States that provide light geese with abundant food resources.
There are 2.25 million acres of rice farms in Arkansas,
Louisiana, and Texas. In addition, there are millions of acres
of cereal grains crops being grown in the Midwest region of the
United States. Second is the establishment of sanctuaries along
the U.S. flyways, in particular a number of National Wildlife
Refuges visited by thousands of migrating light geese. Third,
there has been a significant decline in harvest rates. Light
geese, which travel in huge flocks, are difficult to
successfully hunt. This has not been a significant population
control method. Fourth, because of these factors, especially
the abundance of food, mortality rates have decreased, adult
geese are larger and healthier, and the number of breeding
adults returning to nesting areas has dramatically increased.
This huge population growth of light geese has reduced
thousands of acres of once thickly vegetated salt and
freshwater marsh to a virtual desert. The Hudson Bay lowlands
salt-marsh ecosystem is comprised of a 12,000-mile strip of
coastline along west Hudson and Jones Bays, Canada. This
ecosystem contains approximately 135,000 acres of coastal salt-
marsh habitat. According to biologists, grazing light geese
have destroyed one-third of this delicate habitat for the
foreseeable future. Another third is on the brink of
devastation, and light geese are currently eating their way
through the remaining third. In fact, there is a genuine fear
that we are beginning to see the collapse of this ecosystem
which is critical to many bird species. Scientists have
conducted enclosure experiments that indicate it may take at
least 15 years for vegetation to begin to regrow and that
wouldrequire a total absence of goose foraging. Since ecological
recovery of cold tundra habitat is extremely slow, it is essential that
some type of remedial action immediately be undertaken.
As a further illustration, 60 percent of the salt-marsh
vegetation in the La Prouse Bay in Canada, which is a critical
nesting site, is now either destroyed or damaged to the point
where it is unable to nourish birds. At some bird colonies,
habitat destruction has been so severe that young geese are
malnourished and, because of this, have smaller adult body
size, reduced growth rates, and lower gosling survival. The
population is shifting to older adults and there are fewer
young, strong light geese. If there is a population crash
brought on by avian diseases, there will be fewer young light
geese to begin the rebuilding process.
During the past few years, FWS has worked closely with the
Canadian Wildlife Service; Ducks Unlimited; the Louisiana,
North Dakota, Oregon and Virginia Departments of Fish and Game;
the National Audubon Society; and other nongovernmental
entities as members of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group.
In 1997, the Group issued a report entitled ``Arctic Ecosystems
in Peril.'' The fundamental conclusion was that the light geese
population should be immediately reduced by at least 5 percent
a year and by 50 percent by 2005. In that report, there were a
number of suggestions on ways to alleviate the destruction of
the Arctic tundra including:
Reduce the availability of food along the
major migratory flyways of the light geese;
Expand hunting opportunities for individuals
to shoot light geese in various wildlife refuges in the
Allow year-round hunting of light geese with
unlimited daily bag limits;
Permit hunters to use electronic bird calls,
live decoys, and to ``bait'' light geese to help reduce
Hire professional sharpshooters to kill
light geese and donate the birds to food banks for the
Undertake some type of aggressive government
sanction program to reduce the number of light geese at
their nesting areas in the Hudson Bay lowlands.
On February 16, 1999, FWS issued two final rules that
authorize the use of additional hunting methods and established
a conservation order to reduce the population of mid-continent
light geese. These rules were crafted after reviewing over
1,100 comments from flyway councils, Alaska Native
Corporations, nongovernmental organizations, State wildlife
agencies, and private individuals. The comment period was open
from November 9, 1998, to January 15, 1999. Both rules became
effective on February 16, 1999.
Under the terms of the first rule, found at 64 Federal
Register 7507-7517, an individual could use an unplugged
shotgun and an electronic caller to hunt light geese during a
normal hunting season when all other waterfowl and crane
hunting seasons are closed. These methods are normally
prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The second rule,
which is a conservation order, found at 64 Federal Register
7517-7528, authorized certain States to implement actions to
harvest mid-continent light geese outside of the regular
hunting framework. Once again, this activity can only occur
when other waterfowl seasons are closed and it is limited to
the 24 affected States.
The goal of these two measures was to give affected States
a better opportunity to increase their light goose harvest. FWS
believes that removing adults is the most effective approach in
reducing the population.
On March 17, 1999, the U.S. District Court for the District
of Columbia rejected a motion by the Humane Society of the
United States for a preliminary injunction blocking further
implementation of the two final rules. In Humane Society of the
United States, et al. v. Jamie Clark, Director, United States
Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of the
Interior (Cv. No. 99-424), the court indicated that ``the
scientific evidence regarding the overpopulation of snow geese
strongly favors FWS. FWS's EA (environmental assessment)
represents a `hard look' at the proposed action that comports
with the spirit of NEPA [the National Environmental Policy
Act], though not its letter.''
In response to the court order, FWS withdrew its
regulations on June 17, 1999, and is currently in the process
of completing an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA to
address the various options to reduce the expanding population
of light geese. It is estimated that this process will take
between 12 to 18 months to finish. During that time, the
remaining fragile Arctic tundra habitat will continue to be
H.R. 2454 will reinstate the FWS rules in their identical
form. In addition, the legislation will sunset when FWS
completes its Environmental Impact Statement and issues a new
rule on the management of mid-continent light geese or by May
15, 2001. The Committee believes that this should provide FWS
sufficient time to complete its analysis and to issue new rules
to replace this temporary solution.
H.R. 2454 was introduced on July 1, 1999, by Congressman
Jim Saxton (R-NJ). The bill was referred to the Committee on
Resources. While the Full Committee did not hold a legislative
hearing on H.R. 2454, the Subcommittee on Fisheries
Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans did conduct an oversight
hearing on the FWS's two final rules on mid-continent light
geese on April 15, 1999. Testimony was heard from Congressman
Collin C. Peterson (D-MN); Congressman Chip Pickering (R-MS);
Dr. John Rogers, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service; Mr. Gary Taylor, International Association of Fish and
Wildlife Agencies; Dr. Vernon Thomas, Humane Society of the
United States; Mr. Tom Adams, National Audubon Society; Dr.
Bruce Batt, Ducks Unlimited, and apublic witness. Each witness,
except the Humane Society, strongly supported FWS's efforts to save the
fragile Arctic tundra habitat.
On July 21, 1999, the full Resources Committee met to
consider the bill. Congressman Saxton offered an amendment in
the nature of a substitute that made a number of clarifications
in the ``Findings'' section of the bill and established a
termination date of May 15, 2001. The amendment was adopted by
voice vote. The bill, as amended, was then ordered favorably
reported to the House of Representatives by voice vote.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations
are reflected in the body of this report.
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B)
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2)
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in
revenues or tax expenditures.
3. Government Reform Oversight Findings. Under clause
3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives, the Committee has received no report of
oversight findings and recommendations from the Committee on
Government Reform on this bill.
4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the rules of the House of
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, July 28, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 2454, the Arctic
Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
Barry B. Anderson
(For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
H.R. 2454--Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act
H.R. 2454 would codify two regulations that were
promulgated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to
the use of hunting to reduce the population of mid-continent
light geese. Those regulations were withdrawn pending
completion of an environmental impact statement. This provision
would effective until May 15, 2001, or until other regulations
CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2454 would have no impact
on the federal budget. The bill would not affect direct
spending or receipts; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would
not apply. H.R. 2454 contains no intergovernmental or private-
sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
and would have no significant impact on the budgets of state,
local, or tribal governments.
The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis. This estimate was
approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Assistance Director for
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW
This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing
A P P E N D I X