[Federal Register: April 14, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 73)]
[Page 20186-20192]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Comprehensive Conservation and 
Wilderness Management Plan and Associated Environmental Impact 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation and 
wilderness management plan and associated environmental impact 


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) is preparing a Comprehensive Conservation and 
Wilderness Management Plan (CCP) and associated Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) for Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Pima 
and Yuma Counties, Arizona. Following the release of the second Draft 
CCP and associated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI), in September 1998, the Regional Director 
determined that an EIS would be necessary due to the national 
significance of wilderness resources on the Cabeza Prieta NWR, and 
thus, the potential for significant impacts of proposed management 
actions on the resources. Therefore, the EA and FONSI associated with 
the draft CCP is hereby rescinded.
    The Service is furnishing this notice in compliance with Service 
CCP policy and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and 
implementing regulations. This notice describes the proposed plan and 
possible alternatives, invites public participation in the scoping 
process for preparing the CCP and EIS, and identifies the Service 
official to whom questions and comments concerning the proposed action 
may be directed. Three open houses, for the purpose of public scoping, 
will be held from 4 pm to 8 pm on the following dates at the indicated 

1. Tuesday, June 6, 2000; Yuma, AZ at the Shilo Inn, 1550 S. Castle 
2. Wednesday, June 7, 2000; Ajo, AZ at the Ajo Community Center at Bud 
Walker Park, 2090 E. 5th St.
3. Thursday, June 8, 2000; Tucson, AZ at the Holiday Inn Palo Verde, 
4550 S. Palo Verde Rd.

    The public is invited to drop by anytime from 4 pm to 7 pm to view 
materials, discuss issues and alternatives, and submit written and oral 
comments and questions. The purpose of this scoping is to verify if 
issues identified during the CCP/EA phase are still applicable, 
determine if there are any new major issues, and to receive comments on 
the range of proposed alternatives.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Tiller, Refuge Manager 520-387-
6483 or Thea Ulen, Planner/CCP Project Manager 520-743-2090.
    All comments received from individuals on Environmental Assessments 
and Environmental Impact Statements become part of the official public 
record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance with 
the Freedom of

[[Page 20187]]

Information Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA 
regulations (40 CFR 1506.6(f)), and other Service and Departmental 
policy and procedures.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of 
several methods by May 15, 2000. You may mail comments to CCP Project 
Coordinator, 1611 N. 2nd St., Ajo, AZ 85321. You may also comment via 
the Internet to R2RW__CP@fws.gov. Please submit Internet comments as an 
ASCII file avoiding the use of special characters and any form of 
encryption. Please also include: ``Attn: Cabeza Prieta CCP'' and your 
name and return address in your Internet message. If you do not receive 
confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet 
message, contact us directly at Cabeza Prieta NWR , Don Tiller, 520-
387-6483. Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which 
we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, 
as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or 
address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals, 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.

Planning Updates

    A link to Planning Updates will be posted on the refuge website 
(www://southwest.fws.gov/refuges/arizona/cabeza.html) beginning mid-
April, 2000, or mailed to those on the mailing list.
    Address requests to be placed on the mailing list to: Planning 
Branch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
87103. Be sure to indicate the Cabeza Prieta NWR list on your request.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Service started the process of 
developing a Comprehensive Management Plan for Cabeza Prieta National 
Wildlife NWR in 1994 with three open houses and public meetings held in 
Yuma, Ajo, and Tucson. A focus group was assembled in February of 1995 
to provide further assistance to the Service in developing possible 
alternatives. Day-long workshops open to the public were held in August 
of 1995 to refine detailed management suggestions. The Draft CCP and 
Environmental Assessment was released in August of 1997 and a second 
draft CCP and final EA was released in September of 1998. During 
preparation of the final CCP, the Service determined that substantial 
changes were needed to comply with legal responsibilities under the 
Wilderness Act of 1964 and Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990. In 
January of 2000, the Regional Director determined to engage the 
development of an EIS for the CCP for Cabeza Prieta NWR because of the 
national significance of the refuge resources and wilderness.
    Persons and organizations involved in the scoping process include: 
the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service and Bureau of 
Land Management; U.S. Department of Defense, Luke Air Force Base and 
Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range (BMGR); Arizona Game and Fish 
Department (AGFD); leaders and members of the Tohono O'odham and Hia C-
ed O'odham Nations; members of the Ajo Chamber of Commerce; members of 
the International Sonoran Desert Alliance; scientific experts from 
universities, members of national, state and local conservation 
organizations; neighboring landowners; and other interested citizens. 
Comments and concerns received during the EA phase of developing the 
CCP have been used to identify issues and alternatives.
    Cabeza Prieta NWR was established by Executive Order in 1939 as the 
Cabeza Prieta Game Range ``for the conservation and development of 
natural wildlife resources, and for the protection and improvement of 
public grazing lands and natural forage resources * * * provided, 
however that all the forage resources in excess of that required to 
maintain a balanced wildlife population within this range or preserve 
shall be available * * *'' Its primary purpose was to assist in the 
recovery of desert bighorn sheep. The Range's grazing resources were 
jointly administered with the Bureau of Land Management. In 1975, the 
name was changed to Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service was given sole jurisdiction. Grazing was 
determined to conflict with the refuge's primary purpose of wildlife 
conservation and was phased out in the 1970s. A majority of the refuge 
has been included in a military withdrawal for flight training since 
World War II. Over the years, refuge responsibilities have expanded 
through additional legislation directly affecting the refuge such as 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Arizona Desert Wilderness 
Act of 1990, and through regulations and laws that affect the National 
Wildlife Refuge System. Cabeza Prieta provides important habitat for 
the last remaining herd of Sonoran pronghorn antelope in the U.S. and 
is the largest refuge wilderness outside of Alaska.

Refuge Goals

    The following four proposed refuge goals for management are 
consistent with the Refuge purpose, Ecoregion goals, the National 
Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) mission and goals, the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Service policy, the 
Wilderness Act of 1964, and the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990. 
Following each goal is a list of guiding management principles as 
developed from the Service's vision document Fulfilling the Promise.
    (1) Wildlife and Habitat: Protect, maintain, enhance, and restore 
the diversity and abundance of wildlife species and ecological 
communities of the Sonoran desert represented on the wilderness and 
non-wilderness land of the Cabeza Prieta NWR.
    <bullet> Wildlife comes first.
    <bullet> Healthy habitats are key to healthy wildlife populations.
    <bullet> The refuge must balance its responsibility for trust 
species and biodiversity to meet Refuge System and ecosystem goals.
    <bullet> Management should mimic, where possible, natural 
    <bullet> Refuges need baseline data in order to evaluate management 
options and prioritize activities.
    (2) Wilderness Management: Keep wildlife and plant resources wild, 
and their condition altered as little as possible by human influences, 
reduce the ``imprint of man'' on wilderness resources, and permit 
compatible wildlife-dependent recreation.
    <bullet> Wilderness is a reservoir of biodiversity and natural 
evolutionary processes.
    <bullet> The use of restraint is central to wilderness management-
limiting mechanical use to that which is necessary to manage these 
areas as wilderness.
    <bullet> Wilderness is a valued remnant of our American cultural 
heritage symbolizing national and natural values.
    <bullet> Wilderness provides outstanding opportunities for solitude 
or primitive and unconfined type of recreation leading to feelings of 
renewal, inspiration, and awe.

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    (3) Visitor Services Management: provide visitors with compatible, 
high quality, enjoyable wildlife-dependent recreational experiences 
that result in a better appreciation, understanding, and protection of 
plant, animal, and wilderness resources.
    <bullet> Compatible wildlife-dependent recreation and education are 
appropriate public uses.
    <bullet> Visitors find national wildlife refuges welcoming, safe, 
and accessible with a variety of opportunities to enjoy and appreciate 
America's legacy of wildlife.
    <bullet> The heritage and future of the System is intertwined with 
the will of concerned citizens.
    (4) Cultural Resource Management: Protect, maintain, and plan for 
cultural and historic resources on the Cabeza Prieta NWR, in 
cooperation with the Tohono O'odham Nation, Hia C-ed O'odham leaders, 
Yuman and other Native American interests, and the State Historic 
Preservation Officer for the benefit of present and future generations.

Alternatives Being Considered

    The following proposed alternatives are being considered including 
a no change from present management (no action) alternative. In the CCP 
and EIS, all alternatives will consider objectives and strategies to 
accomplish refuge goals, address issues identified in scoping, and the 
environmental effects will be discussed and compared.

I. No Change From Present Management (No Action)

    The No Change or status quo alternative is a required element in 
CCP planning. Like many refuges, Cabeza Prieta NWR is operating without 
an approved management plan. Taking no action would imply that the 
Refuge Goal Statements would not be adopted. Refuge management would 
continue to be based on general purposes of the refuge, Service's 
policy, and goal statements identified in 1986 during a nationwide 
refuge Planning Needs Assessment.
    No changes would be made to the biological program which includes 
aerial surveys and monitoring for bighorn sheep and pronghorn and 
maintaining water developments for both species. Radio telemetry 
studies for pronghorn would continue and requests for research from 
universities and other agencies would be granted if the Refuge Manager 
deems them worthy. Vehicular travel on administrative roads for 
research, law enforcement, and maintenance purposes would remain at the 
current level of approximately 700 miles per year. The bulk of those 
trips are to monitor and fill wildlife water developments (artificial 
waterholes, ponds, and guzzlers). Existing water developments would 
remain and would be repaired as necessary utilizing minimum tool. 
Biological monitoring would include studies already underway at the 
1998 levels and in the same manner: 3 bird surveys, remote photo 
surveys of waterholes, and rainfall gauge monitoring. There would be no 
population or habitat goal for bighorn sheep and no new pronghorn 
projects would be started.
    The abandoned administrative roads would not be rehabilitated and 
all 159 miles of administrative roads in existence would remain. 
Wilderness character would be diminished by remaining structures and 
considerable administrative traffic.
    Public use activities would remain the same with a permit required 
for entry and 4WD required for all access roads which are limited to El 
Camino del Diablo, the Christmas Pass (Tacna Road), and Charlie Bell 
Road. The permit would be available only at refuge headquarters which 
would operate on weekdays only. Bighorn sheep hunting would continue in 
cooperation with AGFD with permit levels established according to tri-
annual survey results.
    Visitor services would be limited to existing exhibits and the 
visitor center would not be staffed weekends. Without the 30 acres 
adjacent to the Visitor Center, only a very short nature trail could be 
developed there. There would be limited opportunity for visitors 
without a 4WD vehicle to experience the refuge. Educational efforts 
would continue with area schools and programs presented by the Cabeza 
Prieta Natural History Association. Tours would be provided to the 
summit of Childs Mountain by special arrangement. Backpacking, hiking, 
horseback riding, camping and campfires would continue under 
restrictions currently in place.
    There would be no change in procedures for cultural resource 
protection and no surveys begun unless the resource was in imminent 
danger. Law enforcement would be limited to a collateral duty for 3 
staff who have other primary job responsibilities. Most infractions 
will go undetected and there would be rare coverage on weekends.

II. Wilderness Management Balanced With Active Non-Wilderness 

    The refuge will maintain its wilderness character while providing 
for management of healthy ecosystems. Needed management actions will 
undergo a more rigorous minimum tool assessment and contribute to the 
greater understanding of the ecosystem. The refuge will continue 
working towards understanding population dynamics for desert bighorn 
sheep and Sonoran pronghorn and contribute to their protection and 
recovery within their historic range. The Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery 
Plan will be updated to include the herd in Mexico. The refuge could 
participate in a limited forage enhancement project in non-wilderness 
if the pilot project off refuge lands is successful and contributes to 
recovery and an EA or EIS proves favorable. Regional planning would be 
accomplished through existing cooperative organizations with greater 
emphasis on ecosystem/biosphere coordination. More emphasis will be 
placed on monitoring key species and developing baseline biological 
data to help understand and manage a healthy system. Water management 
will be made more natural and the refuge will understand the impact of 
artificial waters in desert ecosystems. Water hauling will stop except 
in emergencies and the results will be monitored. Non-essential 
guzzlers will be removed and charcos (man-made ponds) will not be 
cleared. Well sited water developments will continue to be maintained 
using minimum tool during this time frame while the role of water 
developments is being evaluated. Vehicular use in wilderness will be 
reduced to minimum levels necessary to maintain wilderness character by 
using stock animals and remote sensors for monitoring, elimination of 
unnecessary facilities and water hauling, and stringent application of 
minimum tool analysis. Over 140 miles of abandoned roads will be 
eliminated and their trailheads rehabilitated and the administrative 
road system will be reduced by 47 miles.
    Public access would continue to require permits but the refuge will 
work to simplify the system while still ensuring the ability to provide 
accurate information and obtain visitation data. Interpretive 
activities and opportunities will be increased with improved exhibits 
and signs and purchase or lease of 30 acres adjoining the Visitor 
Center and development of a nature trail there. The visitor center will 
be staffed weekends through the winter season. The refuge will explore 
the possibility of opening a tour loop in non-wilderness that will help 
reduce two-way traffic if there is not a significant impact to wildlife 
or cultural resources. The bighorn sheep hunt will remain a unique 
wilderness experience for hardy

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individuals. Additional law enforcement will increase wilderness 
compliance and cultural resource protection. The refuge will work with 
border law enforcement agencies to aggressively deter illegal 
undocumented alien traffic currently damaging resources.

III. Increase Active Wildlife Management and Recreational 

    Under this alternative, the refuge would maximize wildlife 
production through active management and increase public use 
opportunities. Water developments would continue to be viewed as 
essential elements in bighorn sheep and pronghorn management. While no 
new water developments would occur in wilderness, they could be 
developed in non-wilderness, and wilderness waters would not be 
permitted to go dry. Modifications to existing structures would reduce 
evaporation, improve storage capacity, and make them appear more 
natural. This alternative would call for increased use of remote 
sensing devices and reduce wilderness vehicular trips by using horses. 
The pronghorn charcos would be cleared of vegetation in hopes of 
attracting pronghorn use. Artificial water and forage proposals would 
be considered for non-wilderness and the refuge would participate with 
the Recovery Team to find ways of expanding pronghorn habitat and 
exchange among existing herds. Radio collaring and aerial surveys would 
be considered important tools used to assess the population and habitat 
needs for pronghorn. The refuge would remove all military training 
debris on an aggressive schedule and closely monitor crash site cleanup 
to minimize habitat impacts.
    The refuge would increase its monitoring effort to obtain baseline 
data for key resources. This would more than likely result in several 
monitoring sites that would not be within summer walking distance 
without extraordinary effort. Invasive species would be controlled 
through the use of herbicides using minimum tool methods. All 
administrative roads would remain for essential research, management, 
and law enforcement, but those needs would be more broadly defined than 
in Alternative 2. The refuge would work within existing coordinating 
committees to develop regional plans for natural resource protection.
    This alternative would impose permit levels immediately at 
designated campsites to reduce impacts. El Camino del Diablo would 
remain 4WD only, but Copper Canyon would be opened to provide a tour 
loop from Ajo. The refuge would work with the Ajo Chamber of Commerce 
to promote ecotourism for the area. The permit system would be 
simplified by using a self-issue permit at entry points. The bighorn 
sheep hunt would remain the same, but hunting would be open to small 
game and deer as well. The refuge would pursue acquisition or lease of 
the 30 acres adjacent to headquarters for a nature trail.
    Backpacking, camping, and horseback riding would be permitted 
throughout the refuge with restrictions to ensure compatibility. Wood 
campfires and collecting dead and down wood would be permitted.
    Cultural resources would receive increased protection with 
expansion of law enforcement coverage and increased messages in 
informational materials. The refuge would continue to work with Border 
Patrol and others to reduce impacts caused by illegal traffic and 

IV. Minimize Active Wildlife Management and Emphasize the Ecological 

    In this alternative, the refuge would provide maximum protection of 
resources with little active management in either wilderness or non-
wilderness portions of the refuge. Public Use management would be 
closely regulated to prevent resource impacts. This philosophy believes 
the best protection can be provided by leaving things in their natural 
state allowing processes to occur. The goal for bighorn sheep 
population would be to achieve a level appropriate for the ecosystem 
without water developments. All tanks and guzzlers would be removed and 
maintenance would stop on runoff tanks and charcos. Concrete structures 
would be gradually removed, returning canyons and washes to their 
natural state. All studies and monitoring would have to be done without 
motorized access and would be approved only if they were critical to 
understanding refuge resources. The vegetation around charcos would be 
left as removal would cause more disturbance. Additional protection of 
dry riparian habitats would be provided by prohibiting travel by 
horseback or camping in washes. Pronghorn recovery efforts would be 
aimed at protecting and restoring additional historic habitat to the 
east of their current range, reducing military activities, and imposing 
seasonal public use closures during fawning season. Radio collaring and 
aerial tracking would be curtailed because of the stress they cause. 
Additional effort would be placed on lesser-long nosed bats by 
installing bat gates on the mine shaft to their roost sites to prevent 
human disturbances. The summit of Child's Mountain would be reclaimed 
for wildlife use and tours would not be permitted. The refuge would 
aggressively control exotic species, but limit their actions to the use 
of hand tools and non-chemical or mechanized means in wilderness. 
Regional ecosystem planning would best be accomplished by a single 
administering agency as suggested by the Sonoran Desert National Park 
    This alternative calls for eliminating the administrative roadway 
system which could only be used in emergency situations. Of particular 
concern are the Mohawk Valley Rd. and Welton Rd. All obsolete roads 
would be closed and the trailheads obliterated and revegetated. Remote 
sensors, helicopters, and horses would preclude the need for vehicle 
use in the wilderness and additional funding would be needed for this 
purpose. Border Patrol, Customs, and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) 
would be encouraged to conduct all their activities by air.
    Permit levels would be established immediately and designated 
campsites established. Permits would be issued by the refuge only. All 
public roadways would require 4WD and access to Charlie Bell road would 
be closed seasonally. Bighorn sheep hunting would continue at reduced 
permit numbers and without horse or pack animals. There would be no 
expansion of hunting to other species. An additional alternative would 
recommend closing the refuge to all hunting. Educational efforts on and 
off refuge would be increased with the exception that guided tours to 
Child's Mountain would be discontinued.
    Backpacking and camping would be permitted, but campsites would be 
designated and only gas stoves would be permitted (no charcoal or wood 
fires). Leave No Trace materials and an orientation video would be 
required viewing and reading before permits are issued. Horseback 
riding and pack animals would not be permitted.
    In addition to cultural resource protection and education already 
proposed in alternative 2, this alternative would fund a refuge-wide 
inventory and survey for cultural sites.
    This alternative recognizes the impacts being caused by illegal 
alien traffic, but places heavier emphasis on curtailing Border Law 
Enforcement actions restricting their access to administrative roads.

[[Page 20190]]

Issue Resolution and Environmental Review

    A tentative list of primary issues to be included in the CCP/EIS 
evolved from the scoping and comments on the CCP and EA. There will be 
opportunity to comment on any unidentified issues during public scoping 
including open houses and written comments. The CCP and EIS will 
discuss the following issues by alternative and the potential 
environmental effects of each.

(1) Wildlife and Habitat Management Issues

(1.a) Bighorn Sheep Management
    Despite 60 years of bighorn sheep management, the refuge does not 
have a clear goal of what it would see as habitat or population goals 
for desert bighorn sheep at Cabeza Prieta NWR and the role the refuge 
plays in the larger ecosystem. Management has followed traditional 
lines of water development to increase herd size, and in early years, 
to keep bighorn sheep on the refuge where it was given protection.
    The issues with bighorn sheep management centers on vehicular use 
in the wilderness to maintain and monitor artificial water 
developments. The Wilderness Act prohibits vehicular use except to meet 
minimum requirements of managing for wilderness. In order to use 
vehicles the refuge must demonstrate that artificial water developments 
are essential to the purpose of the refuge or management of wilderness 
resources (which does include bighorn sheep).
    In February 2000, the refuge invited several bighorn sheep experts 
to offer their professional opinions regarding sheep management and 
water developments in arid environments. The results will be used to 
help develop management objectives.
    <bullet> What should be the population and habitat goals for 
bighorn sheep at Cabeza Prieta NWR, given legal restrictions wilderness 
designation imparts?
    <bullet> What role do artificial water developments for desert 
bighorn sheep play in the desert ecosystem? What would be the effect of 
removing guzzlers and stopping water hauling?
    <bullet> Are there other means of monitoring and maintaining water 
developments determined to be necessary (and in the interim) that would 
not require vehicular use?
    <bullet> Could needed structures be more ``natural'' in appearance?
(1.b) Managing Healthy Ecosystems
    One of the goals of the System is to manage for diversity of native 
flora and fauna and contribute to broader ecosystem goals. Many 
participants felt the refuge doesn't have enough information to manage 
as a system, others felt that a hands-off approach would best serve 
this area.
    <bullet> What inventories need to be conducted to have an 
understanding of refuge resources (at what frequency and in what manner 
to comply with wilderness guidelines)?
    <bullet> Should any current practices be altered to benefit a wider 
variety of native species at natural levels?
    <bullet> Should the refuge engage in aggressive elimination of non-
native plants and subsequently revegetate areas of the refuge?
    <bullet> To what degree can the refuge protect unique and rare 
habitats used by neotropical migrant avian species?
    <bullet> What research priorities could directly contribute to the 
refuge's purposes and goals?
    <bullet> What role should the refuge play in promoting a wider 
understanding and cooperative management of the Sonoran Desert 
(1.c) Endangered Species Management
    The refuge provides protection and habitat for several endangered 
species. The Sonoran pronghorn receive primary attention because the 
refuge is located in the heart of their range. Past management has 
included protection of habitat, removing grazing from the refuge, 
experimental waters, fencing parts of the boundary to prevent trespass 
cattle, and study of their movements and habitat use. Recently, 
additional experimental waters and forage plots have been proposed. 
These proposals and radio collaring are most controversial. Current 
refuge water developments targeted for this species appear to not be 
essential and are poorly located.
    <bullet> What strategies should the refuge use to protect and 
assist in recovery of populations of endangered Sonoran pronghorn?
    <bullet> What partnerships with Mexico could aid in the recovery of 
Sonoran pronghorn?
    <bullet> Should we discontinue hauling water and remove guzzlers 
that are now used by other wildlife?
    <bullet> Is radio collaring providing valuable information worth 
the risks of capture shock deaths?
    <bullet> What other T&E species need strategies leading to 
protection and better understanding?

(2) Wilderness Management Issues

    Cabeza Prieta is the largest refuge wilderness in the lower 48 
states. Its national prominence has implications for other wilderness 
management plans. In Fulfilling the Promise, the Service calls for 
elevating the status of its wilderness areas and calls for 
``acknowledging wilderness as a unique resource, the management of 
which is a specialized discipline.'' The plan needs to exemplify the 
best the Service can do for wilderness.
(2.a) Management Activities
    Refuge managers sometimes feel torn between perceived conflicting 
goals for wildlife and wilderness management. The Wilderness Act does 
not preclude essential wildlife management activities, but does place a 
heavier burden of proof of the essential character of activities, 
requires diligent application of the Minimum Tool Decision Process and 
its documentation, and calls for restraint in management.
    <bullet> What management activities are appropriate for Wilderness?
    <bullet> What rehabilitation projects are needed to restore 
wilderness resources or character?
    <bullet> What can the refuge do to improve its Minimum Tool 
(2.b) Administrative Trails Within Wilderness
    The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits any permanent roads within 
wilderness and temporary roads may be used only for the minimum 
requirements for the administration of the area as wilderness and for 
emergencies involving human health and safety. The refuge and its 
permittees (AGFD, researchers, volunteers working on projects) drive 
over 700 miles per year in wilderness (1998) for management purposes. 
Border Patrol, U.S. Customs, and DEA have legitimate needs and were 
given special provisions to accomplish their missions in the Arizona 
Desert Wilderness Act of 1990.
    <bullet> What roads can be eliminated and what degree of 
reclamation should occur?
    <bullet> How can the refuge reduce wilderness driving mileage?
(2.c) Recreation
    The Wilderness Act of 1964 provides for public recreation and 
education. Service policy recognizes sensitive areas may need to be 
protected from overuse, and allows for regulated use through permit or 
complete closure (6 RM 8.9A).
    <bullet> What levels of visitation and methods of controlling use 
should be employed?
    <bullet> What are the Limits of Acceptable Change for recreational 
use in the wilderness?
    <bullet> What visitation impacts monitoring is needed to determine 
if unacceptable

[[Page 20191]]

changes are occurring and help ascertain needed educational remedies or 
permit levels?

(3) Wildlife Dependent Visitor Services Issues

    The Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 identified hunting and fishing, 
wildlife observation and photography, and education and interpretation 
as priority uses on refuges when found to be compatible with refuge 
    The refuge is open to hunting, wildlife observation and 
photography, hiking, camping, environmental education, and 
interpretation. Its size, remoteness, wilderness character, and desert 
environment offer a unique experience for visitors. All visitors must 
obtain an entry permit, sign a release form for the military, and 
restrict vehicle travel to 4WD along two access corridors to the 
wilderness, and one non-wilderness road. The main travel corridor is 
along El Camino del Diablo, a state historic trail.
(3.a) Permitting and Access
    Permits were established in 1975 at the request of the military to 
inform the public of hazards they may encounter on areas covered by the 
military withdrawal. They also serve to establish contact with visitors 
and ensure that visitors are aware of refuge and wilderness 
regulations, provide the refuge with visitation data, and inform 
visitors of hazards that might be encountered in a primitive desert 
environment. Some participants felt that the process is too complex 
with different permits required for BMGR and refuge lands, and because 
the refuge office is not open on weekends when most visitation occurs. 
Some participants felt there are too many visitors already and feel 
that any relaxation in the permit system would result in increased 
resource impacts and limit the refuge's ability to set use limits and 
track visitation. The refuge and BMGR have since initiated an 
integrated permit system that has also drawn criticism. Opponents feel 
that access is not limited enough and the refuge has lost its ability 
to provide information about the refuge and consideration for its 
natural resources. Proponents like the convenience of obtaining only 
one permit for the entire year and the increase in their availability.
    <bullet> What permit system would facilitate visitor access, 
provide needed visitation data to the refuge, and educate and inform 
visitors as to refuge regulations and resources and methods to reduce 
their impacts?
    <bullet> What other strategies could help reduce visitor impacts?
(3.b) Motorized Access and Vehicle Restrictions in Non-Wilderness
    Visitors and local residents have expressed an interest in 
additional vehicular access to non-wilderness areas of the refuge which 
could enhance visitors enjoyment and local tourism.
    <bullet> What type of access should be provided?
    <bullet> Is there a non-wilderness route that does not require 4WD 
and would provide wildlife observation opportunities without negatively 
impacting bighorn sheep or pronghorn populations?
(3.c) Hunting
    The refuge is currently open to desert bighorn sheep hunting for 
which the State issues 1-7 permits each year. In addition to the actual 
hunt, the permittees usually take several trips in advance of the 
season to scout the area with friends. Hunting was established as a 
priority public use for refuges by the Refuge Improvement Act. This 
means that when found to be compatible and appropriate for a refuge, it 
is one of the six activities to be given priority consideration. Some 
participants would like to see hunting opportunities expanded to deer 
and small game, and others would like to see all hunting eliminated. 
Vehicle access is limited to the public corridors. The use of horse/
pack animals is permitted by Special Use Permit.
    <bullet> What type of hunting experience and for which species 
should be offered at Cabeza Prieta NWR?
(3.d) Environmental Education and Interpretation
    The refuge has a Visitor Center located within the town of Ajo, an 
orientation video program, modest exhibits, an Outdoor Recreation 
Planner and volunteers who conduct tours and staff the visitor center, 
cooperates in JUNTOS--a school educational program, and offers monthly 
natural history programs coordinated by the Cabeza Prieta Natural 
History Association during the winter season.
    <bullet> What projects and activities should the refuge initiate to 
increase understanding and protection of Sonoran Desert resources and 
the role the Service plays in support of the ecosystem?
(3.e) Other Public Uses: Backpacking, Campfires, Camping, Horseback 
Riding, Rock Climbing
    Other uses that are permitted because they are either related to 
participation in priority public uses or wilderness appreciation 
include hiking and backpacking (including camping), and commercial 
guided tours. The manner in which these activities are allowed was 
addressed in compatibility determinations completed System-wide in 
1994. Horseback riding was found to be compatible with restrictions 
provided for in a special use permit. Rock climbing was determined to 
be incompatible but was to be addressed in the CCP to determine if 
restrictions could make the activities compatible.
    <bullet> What recreational activities other than the priority uses 
should be permitted?
    <bullet> What restrictions should be used (if any) to ensure 
compatibility and what educational efforts could minimize the impact of 
these activities?
    <bullet> What impact monitoring efforts should be initiated?

(4) Cultural Resource Management Issues

    <bullet> What actions need to be taken to better understand and 
protect cultural and historical resources on the Cabeza Prieta NWR?
    <bullet> What Native American interests need to be identified and 
what cooperative efforts need to be considered and set in place prior 
to taking action?

(5) Border Law Enforcement and Military Use Issues

    Border Patrol, Customs, and DEA were provided special provisions by 
the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 to permit continued 
enforcement activities. Both the illegal traffickers and the agents 
performing their duty produce impacts. This CCP will address ways to 
minimize those impacts.
    <bullet> To what degree are illegal drug trafficking and illegal 
immigration contributing to harmful impacts to habitat and wildlife?
    <bullet> What cooperative efforts can be implemented to reduce 
Border Patrol and Customs Service impacts on refuge resources?
    <bullet> What level of refuge law enforcement is needed?
    The Refuge was not included in the recent military withdrawal, but 
language in the act does stipulate continued military use. The act 
extends the current agreement and provides for amendments to revise 
low-level training routes, establish new or enlarged buffer zones 
closed to public use, and to accommodate maintenance, upgrade, 
replacement, or installation of existing or new ground instrumentation 
that does not create increased impacts already permitted under the 
Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990. (Note: since this legislation is 
newer than the

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EA process, this issue has not yet been addressed by a management 
    <bullet> What would be the effect of any decrease in flight-level 
    <bullet> What buffer zones are needed to assure public safety for 
critical training?
    <bullet> What changes to ground instrumentation are being proposed?
    The Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 includes a special 
provision for continued military operations at Cabeza Prieta NWR. The 
potential impacts from military activities include the following: 
visual and noise disturbance, disturbance to wildlife behavior, 
aircraft collisions with wildlife, and impacts caused by live fire and 
military debris.
    <bullet> How can the refuge reduce impacts caused by authorized 
military operations (tow dart and other debris removal, accident 
response protocol, entry without permit, expansion of low level 
    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. This 
notice is being furnished in accordance with Section 1501.7 of the 
National Environmental Policy Act, to obtain suggestions and 
information from other agencies, tribes, and the public on the scope of 
issues to be addressed in the plan and EIS. Comments and participation 
in this scoping process are solicited.
    We estimate that the draft CCP/Environmental Impact Statement will 
be available to the public in the winter of 2000.

    Dated: April 3, 2000.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 00-9048 Filed 4-13-00; 8:45 am]