[Federal Register: July 27, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 143)]
[Page 43445-43446]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Cameron Prairie National Wildlife 
Refuge in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.


SUMMARY: The notice announces that a Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Cameron Prairie National Wildlife 
Refuge is now available for review and comment. The National Wildlife 
Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires the Service to 
develop a comprehensive conservation plan for each national wildlife 
refuge. The purpose in developing a comprehensive conservation plan 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 
management, conservation, legal mandates, and Service policies. In 
addition to outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife 
and their habitats, plans identify wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation.
    Proposed goals for the refuge include:
     Preserving, restoring, and enhancing diverse habitats to 
provide favorable conditions for migratory and native wildlife species;
     Maintaining healthy and viable native fish and wildlife 
populations on the refuge to contribute to the purpose for which it was 
established and to the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System;
     Providing opportunities for safe, quality, compatible, 
wildlife-dependent public use and recreation, which includes hunting, 
fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental 
education and interpretation;
     Protecting cultural resources in accordance with Federal 
and state historic preservation legislation and regulations; and
     Developing and maintaining the Southwest Louisiana 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex Headquarters in a manner that 
supports, directs, and manages the needs, resources, and staff of 
Cameron Prairie, Sabine, and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuges.
    Also available for review are the draft compatibility 
determinations for: recreational fishing; recreational hunting; 
environmental education and interpretation; wildlife observation and 
photography; commercial alligator harvest; commercially guided wildlife 
viewing, photography, environmental education, and interpretation; 
research and monitoring; commercial video and photography; adjacent 
property access; and beneficial use of dredge material.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to adopt and implement a 15-year 
comprehensive conservation plan for management that best achieves the 
refuge's purpose, vision, and goals; contributes to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System mission; addresses the significant issues and 
relevant mandates; and is consistent with principles of sound fish and 
wildlife management. The Service analyzed three alternatives for future 
management and chose Alternative B as the one to best achieve all of 
these elements.


    The draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental 
assessment evaluates three alternatives for managing the refuge over 
the next 15 years. These alternatives are briefly described as follows:
    Alternative A represents the status quo; e.g., no changes from 
current management of the refuge. The refuge would continue with 
approximately the same direction, emphases, constraints, and priorities 
that have characterized management decisions and actions in recent 
years. Habitats would be managed under current policies. Removal of 
undesirable plants and animals would occur as funding and staffing 
permit. Cultural resources would be protected at current levels. Public 
use opportunities would remain the same as current levels.
    Under Alternative B, the Service's proposed action, the quality and 
quantity of habitat for wintering waterfowl would be maximized by 
focusing on a more adaptive

[[Page 43446]]

management approach through improved biological monitoring. Alternative 
B would best support the purpose for which the refuge was established.
    The refuge would be managed with an active hands-on, labor 
intensive approach. The refuge would intensely manage up to 1,500 acres 
of early successional wetlands. Succession would be controlled with 
more aggressive drawdown cycles, more frequent soil disturbance, and by 
implementing a more focused fire management program. Public use 
opportunities would generally increase under this alternative but 
hunting and fishing opportunities would remain at the same level that 
is currently occurring with the exception of rabbit hunting. Facilities 
such as trails, boardwalks, observation platforms, and photography 
blinds would be improved. The refuge would increase its emphasis on 
environmental education and interpretation.
    Archery hunting for resident deer would continue to manage 
populations and provide hunting opportunities for archers. Snipe and 
dove hunting would continue. A lottery waterfowl hunt would be allowed 
for youth with parental or guardian supervision. The purpose of the 
youth hunt is to provide opportunities for public access to waterfowl 
hunting because these opportunities are limited state-wide and would 
introduce young hunters to a safe controlled hunting environment. The 
experimental rabbit hunt would be discontinued due to declining public 
interest and conflicting management activities. Habitat that is managed 
for wintering waterfowl is not favorable for a quality rabbit hunt and 
harvest. Commercial alligator harvest would continue in cooperation 
with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and would be by 
lottery only. Commercial guides for wildlife viewing, photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation would be permitted. Existing 
fishing areas on the refuge would be improved. Research and monitoring 
would be enhanced. Programs that promote the beneficial use of dredge 
material would be allowed. Current partnerships that assist the refuge 
in accomplishing its conservation objectives would continue under this 
alternative, however, the refuge would strive to develop new 
partnerships with conservation groups and state agencies. Communication 
with local landowners and community groups would continue in order to 
promote wildlife conservation and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 
A more aggressive approach to removal of undesirable plants and animals 
would be implemented. Cultural resources would continue to be protected 
and interpretation of cultural resources would be improved.
    Under Alternative C, the refuge would degrade all levees to an 
extent defined as the ``neareast marsh elevation found in the area.'' 
The refuge would then be in custodial form. No active habitat 
management would be applied. Staff would serve as caretakers of the 
refuge, observing and monitoring the natural forces and ecological 
succession that would shape its habitats and effectively determine 
their suitability for wildlife. Water management capability would cease 
and no mechanical or prescribed fire disturbances would occur. Use of 
fire would be limited to hazardous fuel reduction and suppression of 
wildfires. Removal of undesirable plants and animals would be minimal. 
Enjoyment of opportunities for public use may decline because wildlife 
diversity and abundance may be reduced under this alternative. Cultural 
resources would continue to be protected and interpretation of cultural 
resources would be improved.

Actions Common to All Alternatives

    All three alternatives share the following management concepts and 
techniques for achieving the goals of the refuge:
     Protecting a variety of freshwater marsh and upland 
prairie habitat;
     Serving as a critical resting area for waterfowl in a 
heavily hunted area;
     Establishing, maintaining, and improving partnerships with 
landowners and local, state, and Federal agencies and organizations;
     Coordinating management actions with local and state land 
and resource managment agencies; and
     Encouraging scientific research on the refuge.

DATES: An Open House will be held at the refuge on August 18, 2005, 
from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. to present the plan to the public. The refuge 
headquarters is located at 1428 Highway 27, Bell City, Louisiana. 
Individuals wishing to comment on the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Cameron Prairie National Wildlife 
Refuge should do so no later than September 12, 2005. Public comments 
were requested, considered, and incorporated throughout the planning 
process. Public outreach has included public scoping meetings, 
technical workgroups, planning updates, and a Federal Register notice.

ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment should be addressed to Judy 
McClendon, Natural Resource Planner, Southwest Louisiana National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, 1428 
Highway 27, Bell City, Louisiana 70630; Telephone 337/598-2216; Fax 
337/598-2492. Comments on the draft may be sumitted to the above 
address or via electronic mail to judy_mcclendon@fws.gov. Please 
include your name and return address in your internet message. 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 
addresses from the record, which we will honor to the extent allowable 
by law.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, 
located in southwestern Louisiana, consists of 9,621 acres of 
freshwater marsh, coastal prairie, and early successional wetlands, and 
is managed to preserve and protect wintering waterfowl and their 
habitat. Cameron Prairie is one of three refuges comprising the 
Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Annually, about 
30,000 visitors participate in refuge activities, including 
recreational fishing, recreational hunting, wildlife photography, 
wildlife observation, and environmental education and interpretation.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: January 6, 2004.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
Editorial note:
    This document was received at the Office of the Federal Register 
July 22, 2005.
[FR Doc. 05-14785 Filed 7-26-05; 8:45 am]