[Federal Register: January 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 2)]
[Page 353-355]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plans and Environmental Assessments for Chickasaw National Wildlife 
Refuge in Lauderdale County, TN; Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge in 
Haywood County, TN; Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge in 
Lauderdale and Tipton Counties, TN; and Reelfoot and Lake Isom National 
Wildlife Refuges in Obion and Lake Counties, TN; and Fulton County, KY

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plans and Environmental Assessments for the 
above referenced refuges are 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, wildlife photography, and environmental education and 

DATES: A meeting will be held to present the plans to the public. 
Mailings, newspaper articles, and posters will be the avenues to inform 
the public of the date and time for the meeting. Individuals wishing to 
comment on these draft plans and environmental assessments should do so 
no later than February 21, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of each of these plans and environmental 
assessments should be addressed to West Tennessee Refuges, 301 No. 
Church, Room 201, Dyersburg, Tennessee 38024; Telephone 731/287-0650. 
The plans may also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's 

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southeast.fws.gov/planning/. Comments on the draft plans may be 
submitted to the above address or via electronic mail to 
Randy_Cook@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: Significant issues addressed in the draft 
plans include: threatened and endangered species; waterfowl management; 
neotropical migratory birds; bottomland hardwood forest restoration; 
agriculture; visitor services; funding and staffing; cultural 
resources; and land acquisition.


    The Service developed the following alternatives for managing the 
refuges and selected Alternative D as the preferred alternative.
    Alternative A. Existing refuge management and public outreach 
practices would be favored under this alternative. Refuge management 
actions would be directed toward achieving established refuge purposes 
including (1) preserving wintering waterfowl habitat (e.g., croplands, 
moist-soil management units), and (2) meeting the habitat conservation 
goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Additionally, 
these actions would contribute to other national, regional, and state 
goals to protect and restore habitat for shorebirds, wading birds, 
neotropical breeding birds, and threatened and endangered species. 
Refuge management programs would continue to be developed and 
implemented with little baseline biological information. Active habitat 
management would continue to be implemented through water level 
manipulations, moist-soil and cropland management, and forest 
management designed to provide a diverse complex of habitats that meet 
the foraging, resting, and breeding requirements for a variety of 
species. However, no additional moist-soil units would be developed and 
no new lands would be acquired.
    Control of exotic plants or nuisance wildlife populations, 
including beaver, would be kept to a reactive level. Hunting and 
fishing would continue to be the major focus for the public use 
program, with no expansion of current opportunities. Current 
restrictions or prohibitions would remain, including the seasonal 
closure of the waterfowl sanctuary. No new visitor education facilities 
would be built and only limited improvements would occur for existing 
environmental education exhibits and interpretive materials.
    Alternative B. This alternative would emphasize recreational uses 
and environmental education while maintaining a low maintenance 
approach to managing habitats. Additional staff and resources would be 
dedicated to allow for more public use activities in all areas of the 
refuges. Bottomland hardwood forests and moist-soil habitats would be 
maintained on existing lands but no additional moist-soil units would 
be developed. Cropland acres would be reduced to accommodate increased 
public use programs.
    If opportunities and funding become available, new refuge lands 
could be acquired up to the completion of the current approved 
acquisition boundaries. Additional lands would be managed for public 
use rather than habitat management under this alternative.
    Control of exotic plants or nuisance wildlife populations would be 
kept to a minimal and reactive level. Beaver control would be conducted 
only where necessary to protect property of adjoining landowners. 
However, the deer herd would be controlled through public hunting and 
opportunity would be expanded under this alternative. Hunting and 
fishing seasons and regulations would be examined to provide more 
    Outreach opportunities would be designed to increase public 
understanding and enjoyment of fish and wildlife and their habitats. 
Efforts would include increased participation in the local civic 
organizations and in meeting with city, county, and State officials.
    Secondary recreational uses would be considered for compatibility 
on refuge lands. The environmental education program could see a 
visitor education facility, exhibits, and interpretive materials. 
Additional staff and/or volunteers would be added in an effort to 
increase on-site public contacts, including enhanced environmental 
education and interpretation programs on and off the refuges.
    Alternative C. Under this alternative, the emphasis would be the 
active and intensive management of existing fish, wildlife, and plant 
habitats. Primary management efforts would focus on restoring and 
enhancing habitats and associated plant communities for the benefit of 
migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and other federal 
trust species. Forest habitat would be managed to increase and enhance 
the red oak component for migratory waterfowl by manipulating existing 
timber stands through both commercial and non-commercial harvest 
methods, and by incorporating native tree species in any future 
reforestation efforts. Additional staff and resources would be 
dedicated to allow for more habitat management activities in all areas 
of the refuges, such as tree planting in converted bottomland hardwood 
forests and a prescribed burning program. Integrated biological 
controls and harvest methods would be used to control exotic plant or 
nuisance wildlife species. The biological research and monitoring 
program would also receive more attention.
    Refuge staff would continue to restore, enhance, and maintain 
existing bottomland hardwood forests and moist-soil units, and 
additional moist-soil units would be developed on existing and newly 
acquired lands. Cropland habitats would be managed by cooperative and 
force account farming and additional units would be developed on newly 
acquired lands.
    As opportunities and funding become available, new refuge lands 
could be acquired to complete the current approved acquisition 
boundaries. Newly acquired lands would be managed with an emphasis on 
habitat management rather than public use under this alternative.
    In contrast to the expansion of habitat work, new recreational 
opportunities for visitors would not be pursued and environmental 
education and outreach programs would remain at present levels. Hunting 
and fishing seasons and access would continue, but with the possibility 
of more seasonal closures to protect sensitive wildlife resources. The 
environmental education program could see a new visitor facility but 
only minimal improvements in existing exhibits and interpretive 
materials. A slight increase in public awareness of the refuges would 
be expected due to land protection efforts.
    Alternative D. The Service planning team has identified Alternative 
D as the preferred alternative. This alternative was developed based on 
public input and the best professional judgment of the planning team. 
Strategies presented in the draft plans were developed as a direct 
result of the selection of Alternative D.
    Alternative D represents a combination and/or compromise between 
Alternative B (Habitat Management Emphasis) and Alternative C (Public 
Use Emphasis). Whereas these two alternatives seek to maximize either

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expanded wildlife habitat management or expanded public use 
opportunities, Alternate D seeks to optimize the benefits of the 
refuges to wildlife and people, recognizing that tradeoffs may preclude 
maximizing the benefits of each alternative. By seeking the ``best of 
both'' Alternatives B and C, Alternative D would promote better 
management and protection of fish, wildlife, and their habitats and 
higher quality recreational and educational programs for visitors.
    Under Alternative D, refuge lands would be more intensely managed 
than at present to provide high quality habitat for wildlife, which 
would work toward fulfilling the habitat objectives outlined for the 
Mississippi Alluvial Valley Migratory Bird Initiative, and would 
include significant benefits for waterfowl, shorebirds, and neotropical 
migratory birds. With the implementation of this alternative, there 
would be significant habitat benefits to migratory bird species by 
increasing and enhancing breeding, wintering, and migration habitat for 
wetland-dependent migratory species. This alternative contributes 
directly to the objectives of the Lower Mississippi Joint Venture of 
the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the Partners in Flight--
Mississippi Alluvial Valley Habitat Conservation Plan, the United 
States Shorebird Conservation Plan--Lower Mississippi Valley/West Gulf 
Coastal Plain, West Tennessee Wildlife Resources Conservation Plan, and 
the North American Woodcock Plan, and provides integrated migratory 
bird management objectives in a landscape-level, biologically driven 
framework particularly for migratory birds. This would include creating 
and maintaining additional moist-soil units and restoring bottomland 
hardwood forest habitats.
    Fisheries management would be emphasized and, where appropriate, 
restored for native diversity within the floodplain. Refuge habitats 
would be managed and restored for natural diversity in support of 
national and regional plans. Forest management would address the need 
to restore and enhance the red oak component for migratory waterfowl 
and develop vertical structure to provide habitat for a diversity of 
species, particularly priority migratory birds. Any future 
reforestation efforts would incorporate greater native tree species 
    This alternative would encourage more public recreational and 
educational uses, where feasible, while intensifying current habitat 
management. Hunting and fishing would continue with greater emphasis on 
the quality of the experience and with more diverse opportunities, 
including those for youth and disabled hunters/anglers. Education and 
interpretation would be promoted while providing programs and 
partnerships with local schools. Wildlife observation and photography 
opportunities would be expanded. Information guides and signage that 
highlight refuge management programs, as well as unique wildlife 
habitats, would also be developed. Efforts would also be undertaken to 
improve road maintenance in order to provide better visitor access.
    A visitor center and headquarters office would be constructed on 
the refuges, with space for interpretation, environmental education, 
and staff.
    Research studies would continue to be fostered and partnerships 
developed with universities and other agencies, with the refuges 
providing needed resources and study sites. Research would also provide 
benefits to conservation efforts throughout the Lower Mississippi River 
Valley to preserve, enhance, restore, and manage bottomland hardwood 
habitat. Inventorying and monitoring of birds, freshwater mussels, 
reptiles, and amphibians would be continued and expanded in order to 
assess population trends, correlate with environmental pressures, and 
provide baseline data to be used in development of appropriate 
management strategies. Additional staff would include biological, law 
enforcement, outreach, and maintenance personnel. Providing a wildlife 
biologist, outdoor recreation planner, maintenance workers, and an 
additional full-time law enforcement officer would enable the Service 
to fully develop and manage fish and wildlife resources and habitats, 
provide opportunities and facilities for wildlife observation and 
photography, provide environmental educational programs that promote a 
greater understanding of natural resources, and protect natural and 
cultural resources, as well as refuge visitors.
    Under this alternative, the refuges would continue to acquire lands 
within the present acquisition boundaries for the use of compatible 
wildlife-dependent public recreation and environmental education 
    Tracts that provide better-quality habitat and connectivity to 
existing refuge lands would receive higher priority for acquisition. 
The refuges would also use other important acquisition tools, including 
partnerships with conservation organizations, conservation easements 
with adjacent landowners, and leases/cooperative agreements.

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

    Dated: October 7, 2005.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 06-48 Filed 1-3-06; 8:45 am]