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106th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                    106-271




 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:


  This Act may be cited as the ``Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency 
Conservation Act''.


  (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 
        growth are--
                  (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.
                  (C) Dowitcher.
                  (D) Hudsonian Godwit.
                  (E) Stilt Sandpiper.
                  (F) Northern Shoveler.
                  (G) Red-Breasted Merganser.
                  (H) Oldsquaw.
                  (I) Parasitic Jaeger.
                  (J) Whimbrel.
                  (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.

                    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.


  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 
        the Interior.
          (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 
        United States;
           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 
        the population;
           Hire professional sharpshooters to kill 
        light geese and donate the birds to food banks for the 
        poor; and
           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 
systematically consumed.
    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.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    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.


    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.


    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.


    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 

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               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 
are issued.
    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 
Budget Analysis.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.


    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 
                            A P P E N D I X