[Federal Register: May 31, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 105)]
[Page 38142-38144]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Stillwater National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Boundary 

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to Section 102(2) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) 
announces the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement 
for the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan and Boundary Revision (Final CCP EIS), Churchill and 
Washoe Counties, Nevada. Five alternatives for management of the 
Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex, including a no-action 
alternative, and four alternative boundaries were considered during the 
planning process.

DATES: A Record of Decision will be signed no sooner than July 1, 2002.

ADDRESSES: The Final CCP EIS is available on the internet via the Fish 
and Wildlife Service Region 1 Planning Home Page at http://
www.r1.fws.gov/planning/plnhome.html. Public reading copies of the 
Final CCP EIS may be inspected at the following locations: U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, Eastside Federal Complex, 
911 N.E. 11th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181; Stillwater NWR 
Complex, 1000 Auction Road, Fallon, NV 89406; Churchill County Library, 
553 South Main Street, Fallon, NV 89406; Carson City Library, 900 North 
Roop Street, Carson City, NV 89701; Downtown Reno Library, 301 S. 
Center Street, Reno, NV 89501. Printed copies have been sent to 
agencies, organizations, officials, and individuals who participated in 
the scoping process. A planning update

[[Page 38143]]

summarizing the CCP EIS and Alternative E has also been mailed to all 
individuals and organizations on the CCP mailing list (Planning Update 
#7, July 2001). Individuals wishing to receive a compact disk copy of 
the Final CCP EIS should immediately contact the Project Leader, 
Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 1000 Auction Road, Fallon, 
Nevada, 89406, phone (775) 423-5128.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Hanson, Project Leader, Stillwater 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, at the above address.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex currently includes Stillwater NWR, Stillwater Wildlife 
Management Area (WMA), Fallon NWR, which are located in west-central 
Nevada, about six miles northeast of Fallon, Churchill County, and 
Anaho Island NWR, located about 30 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, in 
Washoe County. Stillwater NWR encompasses about 79,570 acres of Federal 
land, Stillwater WMA about 65,603 acres, and Fallon NWR about 17,848 
acres, for a combined total of 163,021 acres of Federal land. Non-
Federal inholdings within the approved boundaries are about 59,708 
acres. Anaho Island NWR encompasses the entire island, which has 
fluctuated in size from 220 to 745 acres in recent history due to the 
fluctuating water levels of Pyramid Lake. During winter of 2001 it was 
estimated to be 523 acres.
    Anaho Island NWR was established in 1913 by Executive Order 1819 as 
a `` * * * preserve and breeding ground for native birds.'' Public Law 
101-618 (Sec. 210(b)(2)) more narrowly defined the purpose of Anaho 
Island NWR, stating that it was to be managed and administered `` * * * 
for the benefit and protection of colonial-nesting species and other 
migratory birds.'' The Public Law also recognized that Anaho Island NWR 
is part of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, but is to be managed 
and administered by the Service as a component of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System (Refuge System).
    Fallon NWR was established in 1931 by Executive Order 5606 ``as a 
refuge and breeding ground for birds and other wild animals.'' It is 
located at the terminus of the Carson River and encompasses the delta 
wetlands of the river.
    Stillwater WMA and Stillwater NWR were established through a 50-
year agreement (Tripartite Agreement) signed in 1948 by the Truckee-
Carson Irrigation District, Nevada State Board of Fish and Game 
Commissioners, and the Service. Although the Tripartite Agreement 
expired on November 26, 1998, the Service continues to cooperatively 
manage the Stillwater WMA with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation under 
most provisions of the Tripartite Agreement. Stillwater WMA, comprised 
mainly of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation withdrawn public lands, was 
established in 1948 for the purposes of conserving and managing 
wildlife and their habitat, and for public hunting. Stillwater NWR was 
established in 1949 as a wildlife sanctuary, closed to hunting, 
adjacent to the public hunting area.
    In 1990, the approved boundary of Stillwater NWR was expanded, 
under subsection 206(b)(1) of the Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water 
Rights Settlement Act (Title II of Public Law 101-618), to encompass 
Stillwater Marsh, most of which was previously in the Stillwater WMA. 
In addition to the boundary expansion, Public Law 101-618 also outlined 
four purposes for which the Service must manage Stillwater NWR: (1) 
Maintaining and restoring natural biological diversity within the 
refuge; (2) providing for the conservation and management of fish and 
wildlife and their habitats within the refuge; (3) fulfilling 
international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to 
fish and wildlife; and (4) providing opportunities for scientific 
research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife-oriented 
    Each alternative in the Final CCP EIS consists of two main parts: 
(1) A boundary revision for Stillwater NWR, and (2) the framework of a 
comprehensive conservation plan, including refuge goals, objectives, 
and strategies for achieving the purposes for which each refuge was 
established and for contributing toward the mission of the Refuge 

Boundary Revision

    Public Law 101-618 authorized the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary), to recommend to Congress, boundary revisions to Stillwater 
NWR that may be appropriate to carry out the purposes of the refuge and 
to facilitate the protection and enhancement of Lahontan Valley wetland 
habitat. The law authorized the Secretary to submit to Congress 
recommendations to revise the boundaries of Stillwater NWR as may be 
appropriate to carry out the refuge purposes and to recommend the 
transfer of any Bureau of Reclamation withdrawn public lands within the 
existing wildlife use areas in the Lahontan Valley to the Service for 
addition to the Refuge System. Furthermore it authorized the 
identification of lands in the Lahontan Valley currently under the 
jurisdiction of the Service that no longer warrant continued status as 
units of the Refuge System.

Comprehensive Conservation Plan

    A comprehensive conservation plan is required by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 
6688dd et seq.). The purpose of developing a comprehensive conservation 
plan for the Stillwater NWR Complex is to provide managers with a 15-
year strategy for achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the 
mission of the Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of fish 
and wildlife conservation and legal mandates. In addition to outlining 
broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their habitat, 
the comprehensive conservation plan highlights wildlife-dependent 
recreation opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, environmental education and interpretation, 
and wildlife observation and photography.

Development of the Final CCP EIS

    Public involvement on the development of this CCP EIS has been by 
means of open houses, public meetings, work group meetings, agency and 
Tribal consultation, planning update mailings, and Federal Register 
notices. Four previous notices were published in the Federal Register 
concerning this CCP EIS (61 FR 65591, Dec. 13, 1996; 63 FR 39884, July 
24, 1998; 64 FR 24168, May 5, 1999; 64 FR 36712, July 7, 1999;).
    During the Draft CCP EIS comment period that occurred from April 12 
to August 12, 2000, the Service received a total of 56 communications 
(letters, faxes, postcards, email, visits, or telephone calls). All 
substantive issues raised in the comments to the Draft CCP EIS have 
been addressed through revisions to pertinent sections the Final CCP 
EIS text or in Volume III of the Final CCP EIS.
    The Final CCP EIS identifies and provides an evaluation of four 
alternative boundaries for Stillwater NWR and five alternative 
management approaches for managing the Stillwater NWR Complex for the 
next 15 years. The five alternatives considered in detail in the Final 
CCP EIS are described below. Under all Alternatives, Anaho Island NWR 
management would remain as it has been, and the Island would be closed 
to public use.
    Alternative A (No Action Alternative) would retain the existing 

[[Page 38144]]

and entails baseline management as outlined in the 1987 Management Plan 
for Stillwater WMA and modified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 
(Service's) water rights acquisition program. Water rights acquired for 
refuge wetlands would continue to be delivered to the refuge according 
to the traditional agricultural seasonal pattern of delivery in the 
irrigation district. Habitat management would emphasize breeding 
habitat for waterfowl and other waterbirds and would also provide for 
the needs of migrating and wintering waterfowl; livestock grazing and 
muskrat trapping would be managed commensurate with wildlife objectives 
on a large part of the area; and hunting would remain the priority 
public use and would continue to be a coequal purpose with wildlife 
    Alternative B would result in the lands within Stillwater WMA 
reverting back to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation or public land status, 
thus reducing the amount of Federal land managed primarily for wildlife 
conservation in the Lahontan Valley. This alternative would focus on 
providing fall and winter habitat for waterfowl on Stillwater NWR and 
would emphasize fall deliveries of acquired water rights, but would 
also provide habitat for breeding waterbirds. Livestock grazing and 
muskrat trapping would only be used as habitat management tools. 
Opportunities for waterfowl hunting on Stillwater NWR would continue to 
be emphasized, although opportunities for wildlife viewing and 
environmental education would be expanded. Providing breeding habitat 
for waterbirds would be emphasized on Fallon NWR.
    Under Alternative C, Stillwater NWR would be expanded to include 
most of Stillwater WMA and Fallon NWR, as well as additional riparian 
and dune habitat. A more thorough description of the boundary revision 
process for Alternative C is included in the Alternative E discussion 
(i.e., the proposed boundary for Alternatives C and E are identical). 
This alternative would emphasize the approximation of natural 
biological diversity, including breeding habitat for waterbirds. The 
natural seasonal pattern of water inflow would be approximated, with 
adjustments to minimize nest flooding and to enhance fall and winter 
habitat for waterfowl. Livestock grazing would have limited application 
in the habitat management program, and muskrat trapping would primarily 
be undertaken to prevent damage to water control structures. Waterfowl 
hunting would continue to be an integral part of the public use program 
under Alternative C, but environmental education and wildlife 
observation would receive considerably greater emphasis.
    Alternative D would expand the boundary of Stillwater NWR to 
include all of Stillwater WMA (except the Indian Lakes area) and Fallon 
NWR, as well as additional riparian and dune habitat. This alternative 
would focus on restoring natural hydrologic patterns and other 
ecological processes. Protection and restoration of riparian habitat 
would receive enhanced emphasis, and livestock grazing and muskrat 
trapping would not be used in the habitat management program and would 
be prohibited. Public use management would focus on providing 
opportunities for wildlife observation and environmental education, and 
hunting opportunities would diminish.
    Alternative E (the Service preferred Alternative) proposes that the 
revised boundary of Stillwater NWR exclude the western portions of the 
Stillwater WMA and the northern portions of Fallon NWR. In the 
Stillwater WMA this would be accomplished by recommending that Congress 
withdraw certain project lands giving FWS primary jurisdiction. To 
include the southern portion of Fallon NWR, The FWS would recommend 
that Congress revoke the E.O. that gave Bureau of Reclamation primary 
jurisdiction over portions of Fallon NWR and withdraw those lands 
giving FWS primary jurisdiction.
    Major habitats added to Stillwater NWR would include the lower 
Carson River and its delta marsh, the sand dunes along the southern 
edge of the Carson Sink, and the stabilized dunes and salt desert shrub 
habitat between the Carson River and Stillwater Marsh. In addition to 
lands currently in Stillwater WMA and Fallon NWR, the boundary would 
expand to include six sections of land along the lower Carson River and 
26 sections north of the existing Stillwater NWR. Although the size of 
Stillwater NWR would increase under this alternative, the acreage of 
Federal lands managed primarily for wildlife in the Lahontan Valley 
would decline by about 25,517 acres. The most important lands with 
respect to refuge purposes and wetlands protection would be retained. 
Under this proposal, the approved boundary of Stillwater NWR would be 
about 172,254 acres, of which about 137,504 acres would be Federal. The 
acreage of non-Federal inholdings within the boundaries of Federal 
wildlife areas in the Lahontan Valley would decline by about 40 
    This alternative would attempt to approximate natural biological 
diversity, including breeding habitat for waterbirds, but would also 
emphasize adaptive management to refine broad management strategies to 
meet the needs of key wetland dependent wildlife guilds and to provide 
additional fall and winter habitat for migratory waterbirds. Livestock 
grazing would have limited application in the habitat management 
program, and muskrat trapping would primarily be undertaken to prevent 
damage to the water management infrastructure. Waterfowl hunting would 
continue to be an integral part of the visitor services program under 
Alternative E, but a more balanced approach to managing other wildlife 
dependent recreational activities including environmental education and 
interpretation, and wildlife observation and photography, would receive 
considerably greater emphasis.

    Dated: May 23, 2002.
Steve Thompson,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 02-13631 Filed 5-30-02; 8:45 am]