[Federal Register: February 17, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 32)]
[Page 8108-8109]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Summary for Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges, Kern and Tulare 
Counties, CA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that the Kern and 
Pixley Refuges' Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Summary 
are available for distribution. The CCP, prepared pursuant to the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act as amended, and in 
accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
describes how the Service will manage the two Refuges for the next 15 
years. The compatibility determinations for waterfowl hunting, wildlife 
observation and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation, research, grazing and mosquito control are also 
available with the CCP.

DATES: The Final CCP and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) are 
available now. The FONSI was signed on September 30, 2004. 
Implementation of the CCP may begin immediately.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Final CCP, FONSI, or Summary may be obtained 
by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Mark Pelz, 
California/Nevada Refuge Planning Office, Room W-1916, 2800 Cottage 
Way, Sacramento, California, 95825. Copies of the CCP may be viewed at 
this address or at the Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
Headquarters, 10811 Corcoran Road, Delano, California, 93216. The Final 
CCP is also available online for viewing and downloading at http://pacific.fws.gov/planning

Service, California/Nevada Refuge Planning Office, Room W-1916, 2800 
Cottage Way, Sacramento, California, 95825; telephone 916-414-6500; fax 



    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 and other migratory 
birds in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Kern Refuge consists of a 
11,249-acre unit, owned by the Service. Kern Refuge's seasonal wetlands 
are an important wintering area for Pacific Flyway waterfowl 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 migratory birds. Later, it was expanded to 
protect 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 habitats. 
Pixley Refuge also has 756 acres of moist soil wetlands that are 
managed for wintering waterfowl, sandhill cranes, and other migratory 
    The availability of the Draft CCP and Environmental Assessment (EA) 
for a 30-day public review and comment period was published in the 
Federal Register on Friday, June 25, 2004 in Volume 69, Number 122. The 
Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated four alternatives for managing 
the Refuges for the next 15 years. Alternative A was the no-action 
alternative which described current Refuge management activities. Under 
Alternative B, improvements at Kern Refuge would have focused on 
improving habitat for migratory waterfowl and increasing waterfowl 
hunting opportunities. Changes at Pixley Refuge under Alternative B 
would have focused on improving and expanding the Refuge's existing 
threatened and endangered species management and environmental 
education and interpretation programs. Under Alternative C (the 
selected plan), Kern Refuge's focus will continue to emphasize 
providing wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, 
and also contributing to the recovery of targeted special status 
species. Management programs for all wildlife-dependant public uses 
will improve and expand. Changes at Pixley Refuge under Alternative C 
will be similar to those under Alternative B with additional 
improvements in sandhill crane management. Under Alternative D, 
management of both Kern and Pixley Refuges would have changed to 
maximize native biodiversity. The Service would have substantially 
modified management of moist soil units at both Refuges to encourage 
native waterfowl food plants and improve habitat for shorebirds.
    The Service received thirteen comment letters on the Draft CCP and 
EA. The comments received were incorporated into the CCP, when 
appropriate, and are responded to in an appendix to the CCP. 
Alternative C was selected for implementation and is the basis for the 
Final CCP.
    With the management program described in the Final CCP, the Service 
will continue existing management of moist soil units at Kern and 
Pixley Refuges and seasonal marsh units at Kern Refuge. In addition, 
the Service will rehabilitate 1,330 acres of seasonal marsh units at 
Kern Refuge to improve habitat conditions and water management 
efficiency. One of the objectives of the CCP is eradicating 90 percent 
of the salt cedar on Kern Refuge within five years, using flooding and 
mechanical removal. To provide sanctuary for wintering birds and other 
wildlife, the existing flexible closed zone will be maintained. Pixley 
Refuge will remain closed to hunting. The Service will continue to 
maintain water through most of the summer in the eastern portion of 
unit 1 to provide nesting habitat for tricolor blackbirds, white-faced 
ibis, and other colonial nesting birds. In addition, a 272-acre grain 
unit will be developed on Pixley Refuge to provide forging habitat for 
sandhill cranes and geese.
    Under the selected plan, the Service will continue to use cattle 
grazing on Kern and Pixley Refuge's upland habitats as a vegetation 
management tool to improve conditions for the endangered blunt-nosed 
leopard lizard and Tipton kangaroo rat. In addition, a grassland 
management plan will be developed that will explore various options for 
managing plant cover and improving habitat conditions for these two 
species. The Service will also pursue acquisition of the remaining 
natural lands within Pixley Refuge's approved boundary from willing 
    The Service will continue to maintain 215 acres of existing 
riparian habitat at Kern Refuge by periodically flooding it.

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In addition, the Service will plant and maintain 15 acres of new 
riparian habitat at Kern Refuge and 10 acres at Pixley Refuge. 
Herbicides will be used to treat salt cedar on Kern Refuge through 
foliar spray or cut stump application with a goal of removing 90 
percent within 10 years. In addition, the Service will restore 400 
acres of valley sink scrub on Kern Refuge.
    Under the selected plan, hunting opportunities at Kern Refuge will 
be increased by opening an additional 540 acres to hunting, and 
constructing nine new hunting blinds. Other new visitor services 
projects at Kern Refuge include: developing new interpretive signs and 
displays, and a new refuge brochure; enhancing the pond at the refuge 
entrance and constructing a new kiosk and boardwalk; constructing a new 
4.3-mile tour route (open every day); and constructing two new photo 
blinds. In addition, the environmental education program will be 
expanded and a visitor services plan will be developed. At Pixley 
Refuge, a new wildlife viewing area and interpretive displays will be 
constructed on the Turkey Tract adjacent to State Highway 43. Full 
implementation of the selected plan will be subject to available 
funding and staffing.

    Dated: February 11, 2005.
Steve Thompson,
Manager, California/Nevada Operations Office, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Sacramento, California.
[FR Doc. 05-3073 Filed 2-16-05; 8:45 am]