[Federal Register: December 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 243)]
[Page 75471-75472]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan for Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Baldwin and Mobile 
Counties, AL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge 
is available for distribution. The plan was prepared pursuant to the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and in 
accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and 
describes how the refuge will be managed for the next 15 years. The 
compatibility determinations for wildlife observation, photography, and 
hiking; swimming and beach use; recreational fishing; environmental 
education and interpretation; and scientific research are also 
available within the plan.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the plan may be obtained by writing to Robert 
Cail, Refuge Manager, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, 12295 State 
Highway 180, Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542; or by calling 251/540-7720; 
fax 251/540-7301. The plan may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Web site http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is 
located on the Gulf coast of Alabama, 8 miles west of the city of Gulf 
Shores in Baldwin and Mobile Counties. The planning study area was 
divided into five separate management units along the Fort Morgan 
Peninsula and Little Dauphin Island. Although the refuge was 
established in 1980, to date, only 6,978 acres have been acquired 
within the 12,570-acre acquisition boundary, including the 575 acres 
leased from the State of Alabama. The Service has management 
jurisdiction along the shoreline above mean high tide, except on Little 
Dauphin Island, which contains 560 acres of submerged bottoms. The 
potential wildlife habitat values of beach/dune, maritime forest, and 
estuarine habitat provided the impetus to purchase the properties.
    Management efforts since 1985 have emphasize acquiring land, 
securing staff to operate the refuge, and initiating conservation 
programs that benefit endangered wildlife species. However, Service 
acquisition of key properties, such as inholdings and beach/dune 
habitat, may not be realized within the 15-year planning period due to 
budget constraints and landowner preferences. The five units within the 
acquisition boundary have a significant ``edge,'' which contributes to 
the predation of birds, sea turtles, and beach mice. Edge effect is the 
tendency of a transitional zone between communities to contain a 
greater variety of species and more dense populations of species than 
any surrounding communities.
    Implementing the comprehensive conservation plan will enable the 
refuge to fulfill its critical role in the conservation and management 
of fish and wildlife resources along coastal Alabama, and to provide 
quality environmental education and wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities for refuge visitors. The Service analyzed four 
alternatives for managing the refuge and selected Alternative D to 
guide management direction over the next 15 years.
    Under alternative D, fishing will continue with greater emphasis on 
the quality of the experience. Education and interpretation will be 
promoted with regular programs and partnerships with local schools. 
Wildlife observation and photography opportunities will be expanded, 
including a kayak trail and observation towers, highlighting refuge 
management programs and unique wildlife habitats. A user fee and permit 
system will be implemented to facilitate night fishing at Mobile Point. 
Depending upon the availability of funds, a visitor center and 
headquarters office will be constructed, which will include space for 
interpretation and environmental education. Also based on the 
availability of funds, a biological technician, outdoor recreation 
planner, seasonal maintenance worker, and full-time law enforcement 
officer will be added to accomplish objectives outlined in the plan.
    Research studies on the refuge will be fostered and partnerships 
developed with agencies and universities, providing needed resources 
and equipment sites, all while meeting the needs of the refuge's 
wildlife and habitat management programs. Research will also benefit 
conservation efforts throughout the central Gulf coast to preserve, 
enhance, restore, and manage coastal barrier island habitat. New 
surveys on birds, reptiles, and amphibians will be initiated to develop 
baseline information.
    Under this alternative, the refuge will continue to seek 
acquisition of all lands within the present acquisition boundary. 
Pristine lands that provide quality habitat and connectivity to 
existing refuge lands will be priority

[[Page 75472]]

acquisitions. Equally important acquisition tools to be used include: 
transfer lands, partnerships with conservation organizations, 
conservation easements with adjacent landowners, and leases/cooperative 
agreements with state agencies.
    Public comments were requested, considered, and incorporated 
throughout the planning process. Public outreach included open houses, 
public meetings, technical workgroups, planning update mailings, and 
Federal Register notices. During the comment period on the draft 
document, the Service received a total of 30 comments. All substantive 
issues raised have been addressed either through revisions of the final 
comprehensive conservation plan or in responses contained in the 
appendix dealing with public comments.

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

    Dated: August 24, 2005.
Jeffrey M. Fleming,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 05-24240 Filed 12-19-05; 8:45 am]