[Federal Register: November 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 212)]
[Page 64553-64555]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Final Environmental Impact Statement and Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan for Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and 
Fish Refuge in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of record of decision.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce our decision 
and the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan (CCP) for Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish 
Refuge in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act 
requirements (NEPA).

ADDRESSES: The ROD and Final EIS/CCP may be viewed at Upper Mississippi 
River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Headquarters or at Refuge 
District Offices in Winona, Minnesota; La Crosse, Wisconsin; McGregor, 
Iowa; and Savanna, Illinois. You may obtain a copy of the ROD on the 
planning Web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/planning/uppermiss or 

by writing to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Conservation 
Planning, Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota 55111.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Don Hultman, (507) 452-4232.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
announce our decision and the availability of the Record of Decision 
(ROD) for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for Upper Mississippi River 
National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in accordance with NEPA requirements 
(40 CFR 1506.6(b)). We completed a thorough analysis of the 
environmental, social, and economic considerations, which we included 
in the Final EIS/CCP. We released the Final EIS/CCP to the public and a 
published a notice of availability in the Federal Register (71 FR 
39125, July 11, 2006). The ROD documents the selection of Alternative 
E, the Preferred Alternative in the Final EIS/CCP, with one 
modification. The ROD was signed by the Regional Director, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Midwest Region, on August 24, 2006.
    The CCP for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish 
Refuge (Refuge) will guide the management and administration of the 
Refuge for the next 15 years. Alternative E, as described in the Final 
EIS, is the foundation for the CCP, with one modification. The 
modification designates 215 acres west of the Rieck's Lake area of Pool 
4, in the area between Highway 35 and the railroad tracks, as a No 
Hunting Zone to avoid impacts to persons using the Buffalo River 
Access, access to the main river, and anglers desiring to fish in the 
    Four alternatives and their consequences were developed for the 
Draft EIS and CCP. A fifth alternative, Alternative E, was developed 
based on extensive public input and comment, and was released as a 
Supplement to the Draft EIS (71 FR 2561, January 17, 2006).
    Alternative A--No Action or Current Direction. Continue current 
level of

[[Page 64554]]

effort on fish and wildlife and habitat management. Public use programs 
would remain virtually unchanged.
    Alternative B--Wildlife Focus. Increase level of effort on fish and 
wildlife and habitat management. Some public use opportunities and 
programs would remain the same, others reduced in favor of wildlife and 
habitat protection.
    Alternative C--Public Use Focus. Increase level of effort on public 
use opportunities and programs. Continue current level of effort on 
many fish and wildlife and habitat management activities, and decrease 
effort on others in favor of public use.
    Alternative D--Wildlife and Integrated Public Use Focus. Increase 
level of effort on fish and wildlife and habitat management. Take a 
more proactive approach to public use management to ensure a diversity 
of opportunities for a broad spectrum of users, both for wildlife-
dependent uses and traditional and appropriate non-wildlife-dependent 
    Alternative E--Modified Wildlife and Integrated Public Use Focus 
(Preferred Alternative). Increase level of effort on fish and wildlife 
and habitat management. Take a proactive but balanced approach to 
public use management to ensure a diversity of opportunities for a 
broad spectrum of users, both for wildlife-dependent uses and 
traditional and appropriate non-wildlife-dependent uses.
    Elements common to all alternatives included interagency 
coordination, agency access to restricted areas, NEPA compliance for 
projects (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq. and 40 CFR 1500-1508), protection of 
threatened and endangered species and cultural resources, fire 
management, a continuation of general water-based recreation, mosquito 
management in the event of a health emergency, fish and wildlife 
disease control, and the fostering of volunteers and friends groups.
    The Service's Basis for Decision: Based on a review of the 
environmental consequences of each alternative, we judged Alternative E 
to be the environmentally preferable alternative. Although all 
alternatives have positive physical and biological environmental 
consequences, Alternatives D and E also address a variety of social, 
economic, and cultural issues. Alternative E is the most positive in 
terms of addressing human environmental issues, because it reflects 
input received during scores of public meetings and workshops, and 
through several thousand written comments. The Final EIS identified 
three broad needs: (1) Contribute to the Refuge System mission; (2) 
fulfill the purposes of the Refuge; and (3) achieve Refuge goals for 
landscape conservation, environmental health, wildlife and habitat 
health, and recreation. Alternative E meets these needs through the 
most balanced and integrated approach. Alternative E reflects 
substantive changes to earlier preferred alternatives. These changes 
were in response to agency review and comment, 30 public meetings and 
workshops on the draft documents, and more than 3,000 written comments. 
Alternative E in the Final EIS is the alternative most responsive to 
agency and public comment and suggestion. It identifies objectives and 
strategies for completing land acquisition, habitat improvements, water 
quality improvements, invasive species control, fish and wildlife 
monitoring, and forest management, and providing targeted resting and 
feeding areas for waterfowl and other wildlife. These measures will 
help ensure the biological health of the Refuge beyond the 15-year 
scope of the CCP. Alternative E also strikes a balance between the 
needs of fish and wildlife and needs of people for recreation through 
reasonable restrictions on a portion of the Refuge. This approach may 
prove more sustainable, both in terms of resource values and economic 
values, than the status quo, and help sustain the greatest diversity of 
opportunity for the greatest number of people. Alternative E reflects a 
large body of scientific and management knowledge and experience on the 
river environment and the needs of the system to improve and thrive. It 
reflects numerous studies and reports from the U.S. Geological Survey, 
States, interagency teams, and Refuge-specific monitoring and studies. 
Changes in public use programs reflect numerous studies on wildlife and 
human interaction and disturbance, and the latest thinking in 
recreation management. The Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-
57) requires that all uses on a national wildlife refuge must be 
compatible with the purposes of the refuge and the mission of the 
Refuge System. Alternative E, with its various stipulations for certain 
uses, ensures that these uses remain compatible. All current 
recreational uses (e.g., hunting, fishing, observation and photography, 
and interpretation and environmental education) and wildlife-dependent 
economic uses (e.g., commercial fishing, guiding, fishing tournaments, 
and trapping) will continue, and opportunities will remain abundant in 
terms of the amount of land and water available and seasons of use. 
Adjustments in time, space, and period of use will help ensure the 
highest quality experience for the greatest number of users, and ensure 
each use remains compatible. Recreation is the main economic driver on 
the Refuge, and Alternative E will continue to have a positive economic 
impact since all current public use opportunities will continue, and 
are expected to grow, even though means, timing, and location of 
recreation will change in some areas to protect wildlife, habitat, and 
the recreation experience. In the long -term, providing for a greater 
diversity of recreational opportunities should strengthen local and 
regional economies. Alternative E identifies staffing needs tied to 
objectives and strategies to increase the capacity of the Refuge to 
meet its purpose and the Refuge System mission. Alternative E also 
addresses infrastructure needs for effective and efficient 
administration and management of the Refuge while serving the needs of 
the visiting public. Although differences of opinion will remain, 
Alternative E is the strongest alternative in terms of fostering 
cooperative conservation. Virtually every objective and associated 
strategy in Alternative E stresses a cooperative approach with the 
States, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the public.
    Public Comments on Final EIS: During the 30-day waiting period, we 
received 50 written comments. With one exception, the comments did not 
raise any issues not addressed in the Final EIS, and the comments did 
not result in changes to the analysis of environmental consequences or 
affect our response to similar comments in the Final EIS. The exception 
was a comment requesting retention of the Waterfowl Hunting Closed Area 
near Rieck's Lake, Pool 4, due to its proximity to residences, school 
bus stop locations, and a marina. This comment provided new information 
and resulted in the modification to Alternative E, as noted above. All 
written comments received during the waiting period are available for 
review at the Refuge headquarters in Winona, Minnesota (see ADDRESSES 
    Measures to Minimize Environmental Harm: We addressed public 
concerns, potential impacts, and measures and stipulations to mitigate 
impacts in various sections of the Final EIS. We made 17 major changes 
to Alternative E between the Draft and Final EIS to mitigate public and 
agency concerns. Since the focus of the CCP is the improvement of the 
Refuge environment, there is little mitigation for physical 
environmental impacts. Also, many objectives in the CCP are 
programmatic in nature and local

[[Page 64555]]

impacts unknown. Thus, we will identify mitigation for any project-
specific impacts during detailed project planning and design. We 
prepared a biological assessment to address any impacts to federally-
listed threatened or endangered species. The biological assessment 
concluded that implementation of Alternative E is not likely to 
appreciably reduce the survival and recovery of listed species. We also 
prepared compatibility determinations for all uses identified in 
Alternative E, and these determinations contain stipulations to avoid, 
minimize, or mitigate any environmental impacts from these uses and 
associated facilities. The Refuge Manager and District Managers will be 
responsible for ensuring that monitoring and stipulations identified in 
the CCP are completed or followed.

    Dated: September 13, 2006.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort Snelling, 
[FR Doc. E6-18470 Filed 11-1-06; 8:45 am]