[Federal Register: January 10, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 6)]
[Page 1734-1735]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plans for Assabet River, Great Meadows, and Oxbow National Wildlife 

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 Plans (CCP) are available for the 
Assabet River, Great Meadows, and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges 
(NWR). These CCPs were prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National 
Wildlife System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 6688dd et seq.), and 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The CCPs describe how 
the Service intends to manage the refuges over the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the CCPs are available on compact diskette or in 
hard copy, and may be obtained by writing Bill Perry, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 73 Weir Hill Road, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776, or 
by e-mailing northeastplanning@fws.gov. These documents may also be 
accessed at the Web address http://library.fws.gov/ccps.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Perry, Refuge Planner at the 
above address, 978-443-4661 ext. 32, or e-mail at Bill_Perry@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife System Administration 
Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act 
of 1997, requires the Service to develop a CCP for each refuge. 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 1969, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
    Great Meadows NWR was established in 1944, when the Concord 
impoundments became the first tract of land in the refuge. The refuge 
currently includes 3,863 acres and extends into eight towns. Great 
Meadows NWR is divided into two units: The Concord unit (1,542 acres) 
and the Sudbury unit (2,321 acres). The refuge was created under the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Act ``for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or 
for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.'' The refuge 
provides habitat for a variety of species. For example, the Concord 
impoundments are used by many migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, wading 
and marsh birds. The upland areas support woodcock, songbirds, and many 
raptors. The marsh habitats are used by amphibians and reptiles. This 
diversity of habitats helps to contribute to a number of regional 
conservation priorities.
    Assabet River NWR was formerly known as the Sudbury Training Annex 
and is the most recent addition to the Eastern Massachusetts National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex. It was created in the fall of 2000, when Fort 
Devens Army base transferred 2,230 acres to the Service. This transfer 
was made in accordance with the Defense Base Closure and Realignment 
Act of 1990, with the purpose of having ``particular value in carrying 
out the national migratory bird management program.'' All acres within 
the approved refuge boundary are acquired. The large wetland complex 
and the contiguous forested areas are important feeding and breeding 
areas for migratory birds. Under U.S. Army administration, the refuge 
was not opened to general public use; however, hunting, fishing, and 
interpretive opportunities remain a high priority for local community 
    The Oxbow NWR is located in north-central Massachusetts, 
approximately 35 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. The refuge 
consists of 1,667 acres of upland, southern New England floodplain 
forest and wetland communities along nearly 8 miles of the Nashua River 
corridor. Oxbow NWR is a long, narrow parcel having a north/south 
orientation and was formed by three land transfers from the former U.S. 
Army, Fort Devens Military Installation, and a recent purchase of 
private land in Harvard, Massachusetts. The primary purpose for which 
Oxbow NWR was created is its ``* * * particular value in carrying out 
the National Migratory Bird Management Program'' (16 U.S.C. 667B, an 
Act authorizing the transfer of certain real property for wildlife, or 
other purposes, as amended). The refuge's interspersion of wetland, 
forested upland and old field habitats is ideally suited for this 
purpose. The refuge supports a diverse mix of migratory birds including 
waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, shorebirds, passerines, as well as 
resident mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.
    The extensive and regionally significant wetlands occurring on and 
adjacent to all three refuges, including their associated tributary 
drainages and headwaters, have been listed as a priority for protection 
under both the

[[Page 1735]]

North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) and the Emergency 
Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. The refuges are located in close 
proximity to the Greater Boston metropolitan area, which, along with 
their accessibility to the local and regional communities and diverse 
biological resources, make them highly attractive for natural resource 
educational or interpretive programs, and compatible wildlife dependent 
recreational uses.
    Our Final CCPs include management direction for each of the refuges 
and include vegetation management, wildlife management, public use, 
cultural resources, infrastructure, and refuge operations. On each of 
the refuges, we have included specific management strategies that 
include management of native plant communities, non-native invasive 
species, removal and revegetation of unused roads and stream crossings, 
and management of water impoundments. Visitor use facilities will 
include new wildlife observation trails, a visitor contact station for 
Oxbow NWR, a visitor center for the complex, and new parking areas. 
Most of the trails would use existing roads and public access would be 
by foot. A public hunting program will be developed for each of the 
    The Service solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Great 
Meadows, Assabet River, and Oxbow NWRs from July 20 to September 3, 
2003. We contracted with the U.S. Forest Service's Content Analysis 
Team (CAT) to compile the nearly 2,000 comments that we received. The 
CAT developed a summary report of comments as well as a database of 
individual comments. We used the CAT report and comment database to 
develop a list of substantive comments that required responses. 
Editorial suggestions and notes of concurrence with or opposition to 
certain proposals were noted and included in the decisionmaking 
process, but do not receive formal responses. The Final CCPs include 
responses to all substantive comments. Comments are considered 
substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document,
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the 
environmental analysis,
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EIS,
     Cause changes or revisions in the CCP, and
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 
    Based upon comments that we received, we have chosen management 
alternative B, with the following modifications:
     We have completed a Compatibility Determination (CD) which 
concludes that jogging is compatible with refuge purposes. However, a 
study of the impacts of jogging on wildlife will be initiated and 
results evaluated to evaluate site specific impacts to wildlife. The CD 
will be reviewed and any appropriate changes will be made using the 
site specific data in 5 years.
     We have clarified our rules regarding picnicking in the 
final CCP. No picnic tables will be provided nor will large gatherings 
or events involving food be permitted. Eating snacks on refuge benches 
and trails is allowed.
     We modified our original hunting proposal based upon 
additional analysis of State mandated safety zones, our ability to 
effectively administer the hunt program, and to balance the needs of 
the different wildlife-dependent recreationists.
     We clarified that the waterfowl hunting areas along the 
Concord and Sudbury Rivers at Great Meadows and the Nashua River at 
Oxbow areas include the main stems of the rivers as well as adjacent 
wetlands and pools.
     We adjusted the proposed waterfowl hunting areas to remove 
areas near concentrations of houses, playing fields, and high numbers 
of additional users.
     We are proposing 1,192 acres of waterfowl hunting that was 
previously closed.
     We revised the deer hunting program to archery hunting 
only in areas of specific safety concern.
     We have revised the proposed access fee program to be 
consistent with other Region 5 refuges and to encourage purchase of the 
``local'' annual pass. Fees would be required at Assabet River, Oxbow 
(south of Route 2), and the Concord impoundments of Great Meadows. 
Visitors would be able to use a duck stamp in lieu of the refuge access 
fee. All access fees are per car or per group for pedestrians.
     We have not modified our decision to prohibit dog walking 
at Great Meadows and Oxbow NWRs and will not allow dog walking at 
Assabet River NWR.

    Dated: December 23, 2004.
Marvin E. Moriarty,
Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, Massachusetts.
[FR Doc. 05-407 Filed 1-7-05; 8:45 am]