[Federal Register: April 2, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 63)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Arid Lands Ecology
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan
and Associated Environmental Assessment for the Arid Lands Ecology
Reserve in the Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (Service) intends to gather information necessary to prepare a
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and an Environmental Assessment
(EA) for the Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) Reserve. The Service manages the
ALE Reserve pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding, and an
associated permit, with the Department of Energy (DOE). The Service is
furnishing this notice in compliance with Service CCP policy and the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing regulations
to accomplish the following: (1) advise other agencies and the public
of our intentions; (2) obtain suggestions and information on the scope
of issues to include in the plan and environmental document; and (3)
provide notice that the Service is proposing an administrative boundary
to incorporate lands it manages for DOE into the National Wildlife
DATES: Written comments should be received on or before May 3, 1999.
ADDRESSES: Address comments and requests for more information to: Dave
Goeke, Refuge Manager, Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex,
3250 Port of Benton Blvd., Richland, WA 99352.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Goeke, Refuge Manager, at (509) 371-
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The ALE Reserve, formally known as the
Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, is being managed by the
Service under agreement with DOE. The Service entered into a 25-year
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 20, 1997, for the protection
and management of the Hanford Site area known as the ALE Reserve.
Pursuant to the MOU, the FWS is to prepare a comprehensive plan to
govern management activities on the ALE Reserve. DOE is a cooperating
agency on the CCP/EA. The CCP/EA will be prepared by the Service, which
will consult with DOE during the process.
Concurrent with the planning process, the FWS will evaluate public
comments on the EA and determine whether to establish a refuge
boundary. The refuge boundary would permit the Service to administer
inclusive areas as part of the NWRS once acquired or when overlaying
management authority has been granted by permit from DOE. The refuge
boundary would include the ALE Reserve, but final delineation of a
boundary will depend on additional information and public involvement.
The Service started the comprehensive conservation planning process
for the ALE Reserve study area in June, 1998. Several internal Service
meetings were conducted to develop a timeline and strategy for
involving the public in the planning process. Since then, the Service
has met with the Benton County Commission and with the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss issues and concerns
regarding management of the ALE Reserve. Also, the Service conducted a
public meeting and open house in Richland, Washington, on January 14,
1999. Approximately 60 people attended the open house and approximately
120 participated in the public meeting. Information from those meetings
can be provided by Refuge staff at the address given above. A
newsletter has been distributed and approximately 80 people have
provided written comments in response.
The CCP guides management decisions and identifies refuge goals,
long-range objectives, and strategies for achieving wildlife and
habitat management purposes. Public input into the process is
encouraged. The CCP will provide other agencies and the public with a
clear understanding of the desired conditions for the ALE Reserve and
how the Service will implement management strategies.
The CCP will support the requirements of the MOU and will address
the following topics:
(A) Habitat management;
(B) Wildlife population management, including federally-listed
endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, and other native
(C) Public use management, including hunting, wildlife observation
and photography, and environmental education and interpretation
(D) Cultural resource identification and protection
The ALE Reserve is a 120 square-mile tract of land in the
southwestern portion of the Hanford Site. The Hanford Site was acquired
by the U.S. Government in 1943 as a national security area for the
production of weapons-grade plutonium. The ALE Reserve was managed for
many years for DOE by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The
ALE Reserve generally is inaccessible to the public, though limited
access is occasionally granted. Although part of the Hanford Site, the
ALE Reserve was established to preserve a vegetation type that once
covered great expanses in the West. The site is also designated as the
Rattlesnake Hills Research Natural Area.
Alternatives (and their effects) that address issues and management
strategies associated with the CCP topics will be included in the
environmental document. With the publication of this notice, the public
is encouraged to send written comments on these and other issues,
courses of action that the Service should consider, and potential
impacts that could result from implementation of the CCP on the ALE
Reserve. All comments received from individuals on environmental
documents become part of the official public record. Requests for such
comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information
Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations [40 CFR
1506.6(f)], and other Service and Departmental policy and procedures.
When requested, the Service generally will provide the names and
addresses of individuals who wrote comments. However, telephone numbers
will not be provided in response to such requests to the extent
permissible by law. Additionally, public comment letters are not
required to identify the author or the author's address. Such comments
may be submitted anonymously to the Service.
The environmental review of this project will be conducted in
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), NEPA Regulations (40
CFR 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, the
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and Service
policies and procedures for compliance with those regulations.
Dated: March 26, 1999.
Cynthia U. Barry,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1.
[FR Doc. 99-8135 Filed 4-1-99; 8:45 am]
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