[Federal Register: July 19, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 137)]
[Page 43007-43008]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Eastern Shore of 
Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that 
the final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) is available for 
Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island National Wildlife 
Refuges (NWRs). This CCP is prepared pursuant to 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. 668dd et 
seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and describes 
how the Service intends to manage these refuges over the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: Copies of this CCP are available on compact diskette or in 
hard copy, and may be obtained by writing: Nancy McGarigal, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 
01035, or by e-mailing northeastplanning@fws.gov. This document may 
also be accessed at the Web site address http://northeast.fws.gov/planning

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy McGarigal, Refuge Planner, (413) 
253-8562, e-mail Nancy_McGarigal@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: A CCP is required by the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. The purpose of 
developing a CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy 
for achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the mission of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles 
of fish and wildlife science, conservation, legal mandates, and Service 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and habitats, a CCP identifies wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. The CCP 
will be reviewed and updated at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
    Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR was created in 1984 when 180 acres 
were transferred to the Service from the U.S. Air Force through the 
General Services Administration. The refuge was established 
administratively under the general legislative authority of the 
Transfer of Certain Real Property for Wildlife Conservation Purposes 
Act (16 U.S.C. 667b-667d), the Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. 460k-
460k-4), and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 715-715d, 
715e, 715f-715r). It presently consists of 1,122 acres of various 
habitats including maritime forest, myrtle and bayberry thickets, 
grassland, fresh and brackish ponds, tidal salt marsh, and beach. The 
refuge and its adjoining woodlands at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula 
are regarded as one of the most important migratory bird concentration 
points along the East Coast. This importance stems from the fact that 
the Delmarva Peninsula acts as a geographic funnel for migratory birds 
in the fall, bringing millions of migratory birds to rest and feed at 
the tip until favorable winds assist them in crossing the Chesapeake 
    Fisherman Island NWR was first established in 1969, but it was not 
until 1973 that sole ownership rights were transferred to the Service 
by the Department of the Navy. The refuge was established 
administratively under the Transfer of Real Property for Wildlife 
Conservation Purposes Act and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. As 
Virginia's southernmost barrier island, Fisherman Island NWR is 
currently estimated to be 1,850 acres in size, but continues to expand 
due to accretion. It is administered in conjunction with the Eastern 
Shore of Virginia NWR. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which links 
mainland Virginia to its eastern shore, cuts through the western part 
of the island. Habitat succession on the island has formed a variety of 
vegetative communities, which, combined with its geographic location, 
accessibility of food plants, protective shrub and thicket cover, and 
minimal human disturbance, make this refuge a hemispherically important 
stopover location for migratory birds.
    Our final CCP includes management direction for both refuges. Our 
highest priority biological goals and objectives include habitat 
enhancements for federally listed species and temperate and neotropical 
migratory birds. We plan to conduct surveys of the federally threatened 
Northeastern beach tiger beetle to examine fluctuations in its 
population, and assess human disturbance from trespassing on the 
southern tip beach of the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. In addition, 
we will work with an adjacent resort owner to protect the beetle 
population on the resort beach. Surveys for the federally threatened 
piping plover, during both their breeding and migration seasons, will 
also be completed. We will implement strategies to manage predators 
where necessary to protect plovers and other nesting birds. We also 
plan to survey for, and protect where located, the federally threatened 
plant, seabeach amaranth.
    The CCP identifies habitats we will manage to augment the value of 
the refuges to neotropical and temperate migratory birds. Our goal is 
to enhance forage and cover for these birds by increasing the amount of 
hardwood-dominated forest, and the diversity and abundance of forest 
understory and native upland shrub. We have also selected locations to 
manage for grasslands. The effectiveness of our management will be 
greatly facilitated with the 6,030-acre expansion of Eastern Shore of 
Virginia NWR included in the CCP. These acres, once purchased from 
willing sellers, will afford permanent protection to habitat areas 
essential to the millions of birds migrating through the Delmarva 
    Our CCP includes programs to enhance wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities and community outreach

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programs. We will offer new deer and waterfowl hunting opportunities on 
the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR and expand environmental education 
programs and facilities. We will also develop new interpretive 
materials that focus on how these refuges contribute to the 
conservation of temperate and neotropical migratory birds.
    In the CCP, we commit to conducting wilderness reviews of both 
Eastern Shore of Virginia (including Skidmore Island) and Fisherman 
Island NWRs, within 3 years of approval. We will also evaluate these 
lands for their potential as Research Natural Areas, within the same 
time frame as the wilderness reviews.
    The CCP also establishes how we will manage three facilities on the 
Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR, which were important public concerns 
during development of both the draft and final CCPs: The Wise Point 
boat ramp, the firearms range, and the communications tower.
    Wise Point Boat Ramp: When the United States acquired the former 
Wise Point Corporation property in December 2001, the purchase included 
a private boat ramp which provides one of the only access points to 
deep water on the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula. The boat ramp 
is popular with recreational anglers and important to the operations of 
at least 20 commercial watermen. The CCP outlines our plans to maintain 
access for both user groups, and improve the entrance road, boat ramp, 
and the parking lot. Docking, 24-hour access, and parking privileges 
for commercial watermen will be phased out over time. We will charge a 
fee for boat ramp use with a fee structure based on the type and 
frequency of use. We will monitor these developments at the boat ramp 
to ensure they do not adversely impact barrier island and marsh-
dependent species, water quality, and surrounding habitat.
    Firearms Range: Immediately adjacent to the refuge, on 60 acres 
owned by Northampton County, is a firearms range used by Federal, State 
and County law enforcement personnel. Our staff will continue to 
maintain the firearms range, scheduling usage so as not to conflict 
with environmental education programs. We will continue to work with 
partners to find an alternate, off-refuge site for the firearms range. 
Until a new site is located, we will work with Northampton County to 
implement new practices for firearms range management, including those 
that control surface runoff and leachate from the berm, and 
periodically remove contaminated soils.
    Communications Tower: When the refuge was acquired, the Service 
assumed two existing leases which allowed a 299-foot communications 
tower and a switching station on the refuge. The tower supports in-
house radio communications for Verizon, Inc. and refuge staff. Adjacent 
to the tower, the switching station houses underground communications 
lines which cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and head north to 
Cape Charles. The leases on both the tower and the switching station 
expire in 2007. We will not renew the lease for the tower, and Verizon, 
Inc. will be responsible for removing the tower once the lease expires. 
The Service will work with Verizon, Inc. to assess the need for 
continued use of the switching station.

    Dated: April 7, 2004.
Richard O. Bennett,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, 
[FR Doc. 04-16270 Filed 7-16-04; 8:45 am]