[Federal Register: September 19, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 181)]
[Page 54836-54837]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Including 
Blackwater, Martin and Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuges)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Final comprehensive conservation plan 
and finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that the 
final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) is available for Chesapeake 
Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex (including 
Blackwater, Martin and Susquehanna NWRs). This CCP is required pursuant 
to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(16 U.S.C. 668 dd et seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969. The CCP describes how the Service intends to manage the 
complex over the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the CCP are available on compact diskette or in 
hard copy, and may be obtained by writing Bill Perry, Refuge Planner, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 
01035, or by electronic mail at 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, 413-253-8371, or electronic mail at Bill_Perry@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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, 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

[[Page 54837]]

education and interpretation. The CCP will be reviewed and updated at 
least every 15 years.
    Established in 1933, Blackwater NWR is the oldest and largest in 
the complex. It encompasses 23,686 acres and consists of extensive 
marshes, moist-soil impoundments, and croplands that form a mosaic of 
habitats important to migrating and wintering waterfowl. The forests of 
Blackwater NWR provide unique and important habitats for a variety of 
migratory songbirds, the bald eagle, and the largest remaining 
population of the Federal-listed endangered Delmarva fox squirrel. 
Martin NWR was established in 1954. It consists of 4,569 acres and is 
closed to the public. Tidal marsh, coves and creeks and vegetated 
ridges form a habitat complex important to thousands of migratory 
waterfowl and nesting songbirds. Susquehanna NWR was established in 
1942 and consists of a 4-acre island with scattered trees mixed in with 
grass and shrubs. Eastern Neck NWR is a 2,286-acre refuge that was 
established in 1962. This refuge is not included in this CCP, and will 
undergo the planning process for a CCP at a later date.
    Our final CCP includes management direction for each of the three 
refuges, and includes habitat management and public use goals and 
objectives based on the vision for the refuge that has been developed 
as a part of the CCP process. Our adopted management direction 
represents adaptive management based on the results of scientific 
survey and monitoring programs. It focuses on restoring, enhancing, and 
maintaining ecological processes and natural biological communities and 
biodiversity. It emphasizes managing the complex for the benefit of all 
migratory bird species, maintaining and recovering endangered or 
threatened species, restoring submerged aquatic vegetation and 
wetlands, reducing or eliminating invasive plant and animal species, 
and adding research and inventories, including those for butterflies, 
reptiles, amphibians and fish.
    The final CCP includes the decision to expand the boundary of 
Blackwater NWR, primarily through partnerships and easements, in two 
areas: 15,300 acres surrounding the refuge, and 16,000 acres east of 
the refuge along the Nanticoke River. All of that acreage contains low-
lying forest and marsh habitats.
    Finally, the CCP improves our ability to provide opportunities for 
compatible, wildlife-dependent recreation. This includes a new, 
accessible fishing pier and parking area at Key Wallace Bridge, new 
hiking and canoe trails, a canoe access ramp and wetland observation 
deck, rebuilding the wildlife observation tower, remodeling and 
expanding the visitor center, updating the exhibits at the center, 
enhancing signage, providing new hunting opportunities for turkey, 
resident Canada geese, and waterfowl, and providing many more outreach 
and environmental education programs.
    The Service solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Chesapeake 
Marshlands NWR Complex from May 3 through July 15, 2005. We developed 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 decision making process, but 
did not receive formal responses. The final CCP includes 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 EA,
     Cause changes or revisions in the CCP,
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 
    Based upon the comments we received, we chose management 
alternative B to develop into the final CCP, with the following 
     Land Protection: We received a mixed response to the 
proposed boundary expansion. While there was a degree of support, a 
number of comments expressed concern about the scope of the Land 
Protection Plan (LPP) and proposed boundary expansion. Some comments 
indicated a concern about the potential for condemnation of land by the 
    We revised the LPP to include protection measures other than fee-
title acquisition for the Nanticoke Division of Blackwater NWR. The use 
of easements and management agreements, for example, is authorized for 
this division. Fee-title acquisition is authorized only for the 
boundary expansion contiguous to the existing Blackwater NWR.
     Marshbird Habitat Improvement: We received comments that 
the CCP should recognize the distinctness and conservation value of the 
brackish marsh bird community and plan for its long term management.
    We have added a new objective to Goal 1 to capture the significance 
of the brackish marsh bird community and future management strategies, 
including the need to adaptively manage fire in marsh ecosystems.

    Dated: August 7, 2006.
Richard O. Bennett,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, 
 [FR Doc. E6-15507 Filed 9-18-06; 8:45 am]