[Federal Register: December 21, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 244)]
[Page 75830]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 75830]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan for the North Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Which 
Consists of Three National Wildlife Refuges (Coldwater River, Dahomey, 
and Tallahatchie), as Well as a Number of Farm Service Agency Tracts in 
the Northern Section of the Mississippi Delta

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION:  Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the North Mississippi National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex 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 Complex will be managed for the next 
15 years. The compatibility determinations for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and 
interpretation, off-road vehicle use, and resource research studies on 
each refuge, as well as bicycle use and farming on Dahomey and 
Tallahatchie refuges, are also available within the plan.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the plan may be obtained by writing to the Project 
Leader, North Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 2776 Sunset 
Drive, Grenada, Mississippi 38901; or by calling the Project Leader at 
662/226-8286. The plan may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Web site http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The North Mississippi National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex, formerly the Mississippi Wetland Management District, 
is composed of three distinct work areas. Each contains a national 
wildlife refuge and all Farm Service Agency tracts within that area. 
The three refuges plus the 128 Farm Service Agency properties total 
33,746 acres, with the Complex headquartered in Grenada. Since the 
Complex was established in 1989, and assigned administrative 
responsibility for Coldwater River, Dahomey, and Tallahatchie refuges, 
the overriding collective thrust has been the creation, restoration, 
and enhancement of wetlands on public and private lands. The Complex 
provides habitat for large concentrations of wintering waterfowl and 
numerous species of neotropical migratory birds.
    Implementing the comprehensive conservation plan will enable the 
Complex to fulfill its role of conserving and managing fish and 
wildlife resources in the northern section of the Mississippi Delta, 
and of providing quality environmental education and wildlife-dependent 
recreation opportunities for visitors. The Service analyzed four 
alternatives for managing the Complex and selected Alternative D to 
guide management direction over the next 15 years.
    Alternative D represents a combination and/or compromise between 
Alternative B (Public Use Emphasis) and Alternative C (Wildlife 
Management Emphasis). Whereas these two alternatives seek to maximize 
either expanded public use or expanded wildlife management 
opportunities, Alternative D seeks to optimize the benefits of the 
Complex to both wildlife and people. Under Alternative D, refuge lands 
will be more intensively managed than at present to provide quality 
habitat for wildlife, particularly migratory birds. Additional areas on 
the refuges with pumping capability (wells) and a water control 
structure will be managed for moist-soil vegetation or force-account 
farmed (with 100 percent of crops left standing) to benefit migratory 
waterfowl. Cooperative farming fields will be farmed in rice, milo, 
corn, or soybeans (in order of preference) and flooded during the late 
fall and winter.
    Increased emphasis will be placed on meeting objectives of various 
step-down plans, providing habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. These 
habitats and their use will be monitored on the refuges to ensure that 
goals and objectives are being met. Population and habitat surveys will 
be conducted throughout the refuges to develop baseline data to 
determine initial population levels and habitat conditions.
    The alternative will encourage more public recreational uses even 
while intensifying current habitat management. Additional staff, 
emphasis, and resources will be more or less evenly divided between 
enhancing public use opportunities and wildlife habitat management. 
Hunting and fishing opportunities will be increased as funding and 
personnel allow. Moist-soil, cropland, forest, and wetland management 
will also intensify, to the extent permitted by funding and staffing 
limits. One auto tour, one canoe trail, one or more foot trail(s) and/
or interpretive trail(s), one observation tower, and one or more blinds 
will be added for environmental education, photography, and watchable 
wildlife programs. Staff may be added to develop and present both on- 
and off-site environmental education and interpretation programs.
    Under Alternative D, the Complex will continue to seek acquisition 
of all willing-seller inholdings within the acquisition boundaries, 
expanding Complex acreage by up to an additional 10 percent of the 
current boundaries. Highest priority will be given to those lands 
adjacent to existing refuge tracts and those lands supporting unique 
habitats or offering compatible public use opportunities. Additionally, 
the Complex will concentrate future off-refuge partnerships on 
promoting more intensive wildlife management on privately owned lands.
    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 25 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. 05-24282 Filed 12-20-05; 8:45 am]