[Federal Register: December 27, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 248)]
[Page 77783-77784]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Environmental Assessment for Merritt Island National Wildlife 
Refuge in Brevard and Volusia Counties, Florida

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for 
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 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 nd 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 interpretation.

DATES: Comments on the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Assessment for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 
must be received no later than February 26, 2007.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the draft plan and environmental assessment is 
available on compact diskette or hard copy, and may be obtained by 
contacting the refuge at: Telephone: 321/861-0667; E-mail: 
MerrittIslandCCP@fws,giv; or by writing to: Merritt island NWR CCP, 

P.O. Box 6504, Titusville, Florida 32782-6504. You may also access or 
download a copy of the plan and environmental assessment at the 
following Web site address: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/. 

Comments should be mailed to the refuge at the above address or e-
mailed to: MerrittIslandCCP@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The draft comprehensive conservation plan 
addresses several priority issues raised by the Service, the Florida 
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, other governmental partners, 
and the public, including: the spread of exotic, invasive, and nuisance 
species; the threats to threatened, endangered, and other imperiled 
species; the threats and impacts of an ever-increasing human population 
and the associated demand for public use activities; the management/
maintenance of impounded wetlands; the coordination between 
intergovernmental partners; and the decline in migratory birds and 
their habitats.
    To address these priority issues, four alternatives were developed 
and evaluated during the planning process.
    Alternative A continues current refuge management activities and 
programs. Under this alternative, the refuge would continue to maintain 
550 Florida scrub jay family groups across 15,000 acres, 11-13 nesting 
pairs of bald eagles, and 6.3 miles of sea turtle nesting beaches.
    Alternative B expands refuge management actions on needs of 
threatened and endangered species. The refuge would aggressively manage 
for Florida scrub jays, restoring and maintaining 19,000-20,000 acres 
in optimal condition to support 900 family groups. Habitat management 
activities would support the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles to 
expand to 20, with increased protection of nest sites, development of 
artificial nesting platforms, and increased cultivation of future nest 
areas and nesting trees.
    Alternative C focuses refuge management actions on the needs of 
migratory birds. Current management activities for threatened and 
endangered species would remain the same or would be decreased. The 
refuge would manage intensively for waterfowl, increasing the acres of 
impounded wetlands managed to over 16,000 acres and annually supporting 
targets of 250 breeding pairs of mottled duck, 60,000 lesser scaup, 
25,000 dabbling ducks, and 38,000 diving ducks. The refuge would also 
intensively manage for shorebirds, increasing to over 5,000 acres 
managed in impounded wetlands.
    Alternative D, the Service's proposed alternative, takes a more 
landscape view of the refuge and its resources, focusing refuge 
management on wildlife and habitat diversity. The refuge would support 
500-650 Florida scrub jay family groups with 350-500 territories in 
optimal conditions across 15,000-16,000 acres. With active management, 
the refuge would support 11-15 nesting pairs of bald eagles; maintain 
6.3 miles of sea turtle nesting beaches; and maintain 100 acres of 
habitat for the southeastern beach mouse, while the refuge population 
would serve as a source for reintroduction of the beach mouse to other 
sites. Manatee-focused management would be re-established on the 
refuge. The refuge would manage 15,000-16,000 acres in impounded 
wetlands with a waterfowl focus and would support targets of 250 
breeding pairs of mottled ducks, 60,000 lesser scaup, 25,000 dabbling 
ducks, and 38,000 other diving ducks. Visitor services, programs, and 
messages would be focused on wildlife and habitat diversity, while also 
including threatened and endangered species and migratory birds.
    The actions outlined in the draft plan and in two included step-
down plans provide direction and guidance for management of Merritt 
Island National Wildlife Refuge. Successful implementation will depend 
on coordiantion and partnerships between the public, the Service, and 
other governmental agencies.
    After the review and comment period for the draft plan and 
environmental assessment, all comments will be analyzed and considered 
by the Service. All comments from individuals become part of the 
official public record. Requests for such comments will be

[[Page 77784]]

handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and other 
Service and Departmental policies and procedures.
    Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963, to 
protect migratory birds through an agreement with the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration, as an overlay of John F. Kennedy 
Space Center. The over 140,000 acres of beaches and dunes, estuarine 
waters, forested and non-forested wetlands, impounded wetlands, adn 
upland shrub lands and forests of the refuge support over 500 wildlife 
species and over 1,000 plant species, including a variety of waterfowl, 
shorebirds, and neotropical migratory birds.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Hight, Refuge Manager, or Cheri 
Ehrhardt, Natural Resource Planner, at 321/861-0667.

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

    Dated: August 9, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on December 21, 2006.
[FR Doc. 06-9870 Filed 12-26-06; 8:45 am]