October 8, 2012

Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2012–13 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations

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Additional details
Department of Interior
Regulatory Identification Number
Rule Publication Date
Comment Closing Date
Dollar Year
Not Reported by Agency
Time Horizon (Years)
Not Reported by Agency


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (hereinafter the Service or we) proposes to establish annual hunting regulations for certain migratory game birds for the 2012–13 hunting season. We annually prescribe outside limits(frameworks) within which States may select hunting seasons. This proposed rule provides the regulatory schedule, describes the proposed regulatory alternatives for the 2012–13 duck hunting seasons, requests proposals from Indian tribes that wish to establish special migratory game bird hunting regulations on Federal Indian reservations and ceded lands, and requests proposals for the 2014 spring and summer migratory bird subsistence season in Alaska. Migratory game bird hunting seasons provide opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid Federal, State, and tribal governments in the management of migratory game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory game bird population status and habitat conditions.



DOI has conducted a mostly pro-forma analysis of annual hunting constraints for certain migratory birds. The rule is odd in that it persists in using RIA data from a 2008 analysis. It focuses on expenditures, which sometimes reflect benefits and sometimes costs (e.g., transport costs). It only analyzes the duck population, despite this reflecting roughly half the affected bird population. The analysis estimates benefits, but not costs. This annual regulation is an excellent candidate for DOI to allocate more future resources for improving its RIA framework.


There are twelve criteria within our evaluation within three broad categories: Openness, Analysis and Use. For each criterion, the evaluators assign a score ranging from 0 (no useful content) to 5 (comprehensive analysis with potential best practices). Thus, each analysis has the opportunity to earn between 0 and 60 points.

Criterion Score


1. How easily were the RIA , the proposed rule, and any supplementary materials found online?
Search on regulations.gov easily finds NPRM and the RIA.
2. How verifiable are the data used in the analysis?
Most data sources are not linked but apparently can be found by reference citations. The biological cycle of migratory game birds places some impediment here.
3. How verifiable are the models and assumptions used in the analysis?
They are reasonably verifiable, since they are based on standard utilitarian decision theory. Models and assumptions are clearly discussed but not entirely clear about their origin; this is perhaps due to the fact that regulations are reviewed annually and previous years may have delved more deeply into citations.
4. Was the analysis comprehensible to an informed layperson?
Analysis requires understanding of economic concepts such as "consumer surplus," "producer surplus," and "utility maximization," that require familiarity with (at least) intermediate microeconomic theory. Otherwise, analysis is clearly written.


5. How well does the analysis identify the desired outcomes and demonstrate that the regulation will achieve them?
Does the analysis clearly identify ultimate outcomes that affect citizens’ quality of life?
Migratory game bird hunting seasons provide opportunities for recreation and sustenance; aid federal, state, and tribal governments in the management of migratory game birds; and permit harvests at levels compatible with migratory game bird population. More days hunting means higher consumer surplus.
Does the analysis identify how these outcomes are to be measured?
It suffers from conflating costs and benefits because of a focus on the expenditures of hunters. No clear idea of measurement, as RIA is aimed at season lengths. Analysis centers on changing daily bag limits, numbers of hunters, and season lengths. The RIA estimates consumer surplus, but not producer surplus.
Does the analysis provide a coherent and testable theory showing how the regulation will produce the desired outcomes?
The analysis estimates differences in bag limits and season lengths as changing numbers of hunters, how often they hunt, and the amount of consumer surplus. The analysis attempts to estimate changes in consumer surplus and expenditures by hunters.
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
There is relatively little attempt to justify it, beyond assuming that too much hunting arises without limits. There is no analysis of what is the optimal amount of hunting that would follow from an approach that maximizes the sum of producer and consumer surpluses.
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the outcomes?
It doesn't much; it instead seems to recognize that data are not always available. Analysis follows RIAs of recent years and thus retains data from the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, and the Waterfowl Harvest and Hunter Activity Administrative Reports for the 1979 through 2006 seasons. This does not lend itself to a good understanding of how the "problem" has changed over time.
6. How well does the analysis identify and demonstrate the existence of a market failure or other systemic problem the regulation is supposed to solve?
Does the analysis identify a market failure or other systemic problem?
Market failure stems from a common property resource problem whereby no one individual or group "owns" migratory birds. A bird not taken today may be taken by another hunter tomorrow. Therefore, all consumers have an incentive to take as much of the resource as they can capture, so all consumers together can overexploit the resource. This type of market failure is termed an externality in that the actions of one party impose costs on others that cannot be captured by a market transaction.
Does the analysis outline a coherent and testable theory that explains why the problem (associated with the outcome above) is systemic rather than anecdotal?
Government policies generate economic effects by changing the use of common property resources in the economy. Alternative resource allocations may increase the efficiency of the national economy and generate greater welfare for its citizens, or policies may redistribute resources from one region or industry to another. There is very little hard discussion of why regulation is needed.
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
There is discussion of how bird populations have experienced dramatic declines from over-hunting, but there is little hard evidence on the matter presented. There is very little empirical support for their theory.
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the existence or size of the problem?
DOI admits analysis for all migratory bird hunting is not possible because of data limitations, but can be inferred from the results of the duck hunting analysis presented here. Data to estimate producer surplus are not available, thus making it impossible to estimate how far from an efficient resource allocation the current "problem" is, given that maximization of total net benefit arises at the maximum sum of consumer and producer surpluses. The analysis does recognize that some activities would continue with fully closed seasons.
7. How well does the analysis assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches?
Does the analysis enumerate other alternatives to address the problem?
Analysis considers the same regulatory alternatives that were in effect the previous year. Alternatives are specified for each Flyway and are designated ‘‘RES’’ for the restrictive, ‘‘MOD’’ for the moderate, and ‘‘LIB’’ for the liberal alternative. These are used year after year, though.
Is the range of alternatives considered narrow (e.g., some exemptions to a regulation) or broad (e.g., performance-based regulation vs. command and control, market mechanisms, nonbinding guidance, information disclosure, addressing any government failures that caused the original problem)?
There is relatively little difference between the three alternatives on outcomes, suggesting little thought was put into examining a broad range of options.
Does the analysis evaluate how alternative approaches would affect the amount of the outcome achieved?
Consumer surpluses from each of three alternatives are examined, but there is no estimation of producer surplus.
Does the analysis adequately address the baseline? That is, what the state of the world is likely to be in the absence of federal intervention not just now but in the future?
The baseline is the most restrictive alternative, but it is probably of limited use, given that empirical analysis is dated and simply drawn from previous years.
8. How well does the analysis assess costs and benefits?
Does the analysis identify and quantify incremental costs of all alternatives considered?
The RIA does not quantify administrative and enforcement costs on states, but argues they are nominal.
Does the analysis identify all expenditures likely to arise as a result of the regulation?
Hunter expenditures and related expenditures are identified.
Does the analysis identify how the regulation would likely affect the prices of goods and services?
There is no mention of how prices might change
Does the analysis examine costs that stem from changes in human behavior as consumers and producers respond to the regulation?
Analysis focuses on benefits and ignores costs.
If costs are uncertain, does the analysis present a range of estimates and/or perform a sensitivity analysis?
There is no presentation of costs.
Does the analysis identify the alternative that maximizes net benefits?
Analysis identifies which of three alternatives has the largest rise in consumer surplus, but this is not really a net benefit analysis. There is qualitative analysis only.
Does the analysis identify the cost-effectiveness of each alternative considered?
There is no quantification.
Does the analysis identify all parties who would bear costs and assess the incidence of costs?
Administrative costs are assumed to be trivial, but there is little analysis to back up this claim. There is some identification of impacts on hunters and hotels, and other related costs.
Does the analysis identify all parties who would receive benefits and assess the incidence of benefits?
There were an estimated 979,000 active duck hunters in the US in 2006. Over 960,000 small businesses will share in associated sales. DOI believes the rule will have a significant beneficial economic effect on a substantial number of small entities, mostly in regions with high migratory bird hunting activity.


9. Does the proposed rule or the RIA present evidence that the agency used the analysis?
Analysis appears to be pro-forma rather than a fact-finding task, and thus appears to have little effect on decision-making at DOI. Repeated use of an aging RIA is odd.
10. Did the agency maximize net benefits or explain why it chose another alternative?
The largest change in consumer surplus from three alternatives is chosen, but without producer surplus, it is unclear how this matches with the true maximum total net benefit.
11. Does the proposed rule establish measures and goals that can be used to track the regulation's results in the future?
DOI mentions several times that it is following up with data collection and analysis, but there is no explicit commitment. However, the analysis has stayed constant for at least six years, suggesting DOI has little intention of actually following up.
12. Did the agency indicate what data it will use to assess the regulation's performance in the future and establish provisions for doing so?
DOI could undertake an analysis of the effectiveness of its regulations over time using fairly-easy-to-collect data. But there is no discussion of this issue and there has apparently been very little effort to assess past performance.
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