[Federal Register: June 25, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 122)]
[Page 35662-35663]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Kern and Pixley National Wildlife 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that a 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment 
(Draft CCP/EA) for Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges (Refuges) 
is available for review and comment. This Draft CCP/EA, prepared 
pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as 
amended, and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, describes 
the Service's proposal for managing the Refuges for the next 15 years. 
The draft compatibility determinations for several public uses are also 
available for review with the Draft CCP/EA.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the address below by July 
30, 2004.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the Draft CCP/EA should be addressed to: David 
Hardt, Project Leader, Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges, P.O. 
Box 670, Delano, California 93216. Comments may also be submitted at 
the public meetings or via electronic mail to 
FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Please type ``Kern CCP'' in the subject 

    FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David Hardt, Project Leader, Kern and 
Pixley National Wildlife Refuges, P.O. Box 670, Delano, CA 93216, 
phone: (661) 725-2767 or Mark Pelz, Planning Team Leader, CA/NV Refuge 
Planning Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-1916, Sacramento, CA, 95825, phone 
(916) 414-6504.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Copies of the Draft CCP/EA may be obtained 
by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Mark Pelz, CA/
NV Refuge Planning Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-1916, Sacramento, CA 
95825. Copies of the Draft CCP/EA may be viewed at this address or at 
Kern National Wildlife Refuge, 10811 Corcoran Road, Delano, California 
93215. The Draft CCP/EA will also be available for viewing and 
downloading online at http://pacific.fws.gov/planning. Printed 

documents will also be available for review at the following libraries: 
Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, California, 
and the Kern County Library, Delano Branch, 925 10th Avenue, Delano, 


    Kern National Wildlife Refuge is located in the southern portion of 
California's San Joaquin Valley, in Kern County. It was established in 
1960 to provide wintering habitat for waterfowl in the southern San 
Joaquin Valley. Kern Refuge consists of a single, 10,618-acre unit 
owned by the Service. Kern Refuge's seasonal wetlands are an important 
wintering area for Pacific Flyway waterfowl and other waterbirds, and a 
popular destination for southern California hunters. The Refuge's 
grassland, alkali scrub, and riparian communities support four 
endangered species and several other special status species.
    Pixley National Wildlife Refuge is located northeast of Kern Refuge 
in Tulare County. Pixley Refuge was set aside in 1959 to provide 
wintering habitat for waterfowl. Later, it was expanded to protect the 
habitat for the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard and Tipton 
kangaroo rat. The Pixley Refuge acquisition boundary contains about 
10,300 acres, of which about 62 percent is owned by the Federal 
government. Pixley Refuge protects mostly grassland and smaller amounts 
of alkali playa, saltbush scrub, vernal pools, and riparian habitat. 
Pixley Refuge also has 756 acres of moist soil wetlands that are 
managed for wintering waterfowl and sandhill cranes.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of the CCP is to provide a coherent, integrated set of 
management actions to help attain the Refuges' establishing purposes, 
and vision, goals, and objectives. The CCP identifies the Refuges' role 
in support of the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, 
describes the Service's management actions, and provides a basis for 
the Refuges' budget requests.


    The Draft CCP/EA identifies and evaluates four alternatives for 
managing Kern and Pixley Refuges for the next 15 years. The proposed 
action is to implement Alternative C as described in the EA. 
Alternative C best achieves Kern and Pixley Refuges' purposes, vision, 
and goals; contributes to the Refuge System mission; addresses the 
significant issues and relevant mandates; and is consistent with 
principles of sound fish and wildlife management.
    Under Alternative A: No Action, the Kern and Pixley Refuges would 
continue to be managed as they have in the recent past. In general, 
management of the Refuges would be guided by Master Plans completed in 
1986. Existing habitat management practices would continue and no new 
habitat restoration projects would occur. The existing hunting, 
wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and 
interpretation programs would remain unchanged.
    Under Alternative B, improvements at Kern Refuge would focus on 
improving habitat for migratory waterfowl and increasing waterfowl 
hunting opportunities. Under this alternative, the Service would 
rehabilitate 1,150

[[Page 35663]]

acres of seasonal marsh and restore seven acres of riparian vegetation. 
In addition, the Service would open an additional 187 acres to free-
roam hunting, 1,330 acres to hunting from 18 new designated blinds, and 
open the Refuge to hunting on Sundays (in addition to Wednesday and 
Saturday). Alternative B would also expand Kern Refuge's environmental 
education and interpretation programs and an outdoor recreation planner 
would be hired. Changes at Pixley Refuge under Alternative B would 
focus on improving and expanding the Refuge's existing threatened and 
endangered species management and environmental education and 
interpretation programs. The Service would pursue acquisition of the 
remaining natural lands within the Refuge's approved acquisition 
boundary and expand surveying and monitoring for special status 
species. The Service would also expand aerial surveys for waterfowl and 
restore five acres of riparian vegetation.
    Under Alternative C (the proposed action), the management focus for 
Kern Refuge would change to providing wintering habitat for a variety 
of migratory birds and contributing to the recovery of targeted special 
status species. Under this alternative, the Service would rehabilitate 
1,330 acres of seasonal marsh; expand aerial surveys of waterfowl and 
ground surveys of shorebirds, waterbirds, raptors, and special status 
species; strengthen levees to protect upland units from flooding; 
eradicate 90 percent of the salt cedar on the Refuge within 10 years; 
restore 440 acres of saltbush scrub; restore 15 acres of riparian 
vegetation; prepare a comprehensive surveying and monitoring plan for 
special status species; and prepare a grassland management plan. The 
Service would also expand Kern Refuge's hunt area and add nine new 
spaced blinds, expand the environmental education and interpretation 
programs substantially, construct a new tour route, and build two new 
photo blinds. Changes at Pixley Refuge under Alternative C would be 
similar to those under Alternative B. In addition, the Service would 
substantially expand its surveying, monitoring, and research program 
for threatened and endangered species and prepare a grassland 
management plan. The Refuge would also seek approval to prepare a land 
protection plan that explores options for providing linkages between 
Pixley Refuge units and State-owned habitat to the south. Alternative C 
would also include developing a 272-acre grain unit to provide foraging 
habitat for sandhill cranes, restoring 10 acres of riparian habitat, 
and expanding surveys for waterbirds and raptors. Pixley Refuge's 
environmental education and interpretation programs would be expanded 
and a new pullout and interpretive displays would be developed.
    Changes under Alternative D at Kern and Pixley Refuges are similar 
to those described under Alternative C, with the following exceptions. 
The Service would substantially modify management of moist soil units 
at both Refuges to encourage native waterfowl food plants and improve 
habitat for shorebirds. In addition, the size of the hunt area at Kern 
Refuge would be reduced by about 38 percent and two new tour routes 
would be constructed. The Service would also restore more riparian 
habitat under Alternative D-30 acres at Kern Refuge and 20 acres at 
Pixley Refuge.

Public Comments

    After the review and comment period ends for this Draft CCP/EA, 
comments will be analyzed by the Service and addressed in the Final 
CCP. All comments received from individuals, including names and 
addresses, become part of the official public record and may be 
released. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance with 
the Freedom of Information Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's 
NEPA regulations and other Service and Departmental policies and 

    Dated: June 21, 2004.
David G. Paullin,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 04-14528 Filed 6-24-04; 8:45 am]