[Federal Register: July 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 129)]
[Page 37041-37043]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental impact statement for Lake Umbagog National Wildlife 
Refuge; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the 
availability for review of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Environmental Impact Statement for Lake Umbagog National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR). The Service prepared the Draft CCP/EIS in compliance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. We request public 

DATES: The Draft CCP/EIS will be available for public review and 
comment until close of business on August 20, 2007.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain copies of the draft CCP/EIS on compact 
diskette or in print by writing to Nancy McGarigal, Refuge Planner, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, 
Massachusetts 01035, or by electronic mail at 
northeastplanning@fws.gov. You may also view the draft on the Web at 

http://library.fws.gov/ccps.htm. We plan to host public meetings in 

Errol, Berlin, and Concord, New Hampshire, and in Bethel and Augusta, 
Maine. We will post the details of each meeting approximately 2 weeks 
in advance, via our project mailing list, in local papers, and at the 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For more information, or to get on the 
project mailing list, contact Nancy McGarigal, Refuge Planner, at the 
address above, by telephone at 413-253-8562, by fax at 413-253-8468, or 
by e-mail at Nancy_McGarigal@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, as amended

[[Page 37042]]

by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd et seq.), 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 
to the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), in 
conformance with the sound principles of fish and wildlife science, 
natural resources conservation, legal mandates, and Service policies. 
In addition to outlining broad management direction on conserving 
wildlife and habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental interpretation and education. The Service will review and 
update each CCP at least once every 15 years, in accordance with the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 and the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
    We established Lake Umbagog NWR with its first land purchase in 
1992. Its purposes are to provide long-term protection for unique 
wetlands, threatened and endangered species and migratory birds of 
conservation concern, and sustain regionally significant concentrations 
of wildlife.
    This 20,513-acre refuge lies in Coos County, New Hampshire, and 
Oxford County, Maine. It contains widely diverse types of upland and 
wetland habitat around the 8,500-acre Umbagog Lake. Since establishing 
the refuge, we have focused primarily on conserving lands within its 
approved boundary; monitoring the occupancy and productivity of common 
loon, bald eagle, and osprey nesting sites, and protecting them from 
human disturbance; conducting baseline biological inventories; and 
providing wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.
    The Draft CCP/EIS evaluates three alternatives, which address 18 
major issues identified during the planning process. Several sources 
generated those issues: The public, State or Federal agencies, other 
Service programs, and our planning team. The draft describes those 
issues in detail. Highlights of the alternatives follow.
    Alternative A (Current Management): This alternative is the ``No 
Action'' alternative required by the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, as amended). Alternative A defines our 
current management activities, including those planned, funded, or 
under way, and serves as the baseline against which to compare the 
other two action alternatives. It would maintain our present levels of 
approved refuge staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in 
place. Our biological program would continue its passive habitat 
management. That is, the program would focus on protecting and 
monitoring key resources and conducting baseline inventories to improve 
our knowledge of the ecosystem. We would not manage our habitats 
actively, (e.g., by conducting silvicultural operations) under this 
alternative. However, we would continue such projects as monitoring and 
protecting common loon, bald eagle, and osprey nests, and biological 
inventories for breeding and migrating waterfowl, land birds, rare 
plant communities, and amphibians. If funding were available, we would 
conduct other projects, such as mapping vernal pools and surveying for 
small mammals. We would continue to allow research by others on refuge 
lands, as long as it contributes to our knowledge of refuge resources.
    Regarding our visitor services programs, we would continue to 
conduct hunting, wildlife observation and photography, and limited 
environmental education and interpretation programs as staffing and 
funding allow. We would continue planning to extend our only trail, the 
Magalloway River Trail, and make it an accessible, self-guided, 
interpretive trail. We would also continue to allow snowmobiling on 
designated trails that are part of an established trail system, and 
allow remote lake camping at 12 sites, and river camping at 2 sites 
under a reservation system administered for us by the New Hampshire 
Division of State Parks and Recreation. We would continue our annual 
community outreach by participating in the ``Umbagog Wildlife 
Festival'' and ``Take Me Fishing'' events. Finally, we would continue 
to pursue the acquisition from willing sellers of the 6,392 acres of 
important wildlife habitat that lies within our currently approved 
acquisition boundary.
    Alternative B (the Service-preferred alternative): This alternative 
represents the combination of actions we believe most effectively 
achieves the purposes and goals of the refuge and address the major 
issues. It builds on the programs identified under current management. 
Funding and staffing would need to increase to support adequately the 
program expansions we propose. We would construct a new administrative 
headquarters and visitor contact facility in a location more centrally 
located and better suited for administrating refuge resources. The 
protection and restoration of wetlands would continue to be our highest 
priority biological program, followed by forest management in upland 
habitats to benefit refuge focal species. Those include species that 
national and regional plans identify as conservation priorities. We 
would also expand our program to monitor the human disturbance of 
resources of concern and evaluate wildlife responses to refuge 
management strategies.
    We would adapt those strategies to those results to ensure full 
resource protection. We would also manage furbearers.
    We would expand three of our existing priority public use programs, 
and formally open the refuge for fishing. We would develop new 
infrastructure to facilitate wildlife observation, nature photography, 
and interpretation. Those include the construction of several new 
walking trails with observation platforms, interpretative signs, and 
roadside areas for viewing wildlife. Our hunting program would not 
change. We would continue to allow remote lake camping at 12 sites on 
refuge lands, but would close and restore the 2 sites on the river. 
Snowmobiling would continue on existing, designated trails, but we 
would not expand it.
    We would enhance local and regional partnerships consistent with 
our mission. Those would include visitor contact facilities, regional 
wildlife trails and auto-tours, land conservation, and wildlife habitat 
management. We would pursue the establishment of a Land Management 
Research Demonstration (LMRD) site on the refuge to promote research 
and development of applied management practices, primarily for the 
benefit of refuge focal species and other resources of concern in the 
Northern Forest.
    In addition to our acquisition of land in Alternative A, 
Alternative B includes expanding the refuge by 49,718 acres by 
combining 65 percent fee-simple acquisition with 35 percent 
conservation easement acquisition from willing sellers. All of those 
lands are contiguous with refuge land and undeveloped. They consist of 
high-quality, important wildlife habitat in an amount and distribution 
to provide us with management flexibility in achieving refuge habitat 
goals and objectives. Collectively, they would form a land base that 
affords vital links to other conserved lands in the Upper Androscoggin 
River watershed. Finally, they would fully complement and enhance the 
Federal, State and private conservation partnerships actively

[[Page 37043]]

involved in protecting this unique ecosystem.
    Alternative C: This alternative proposes to establish and maintain 
the ecological integrity of natural communities on the refuge and 
surrounding landscape without specific emphasis or concern for any 
particular species or species groups. As in Alternative B, funding and 
staffing would increase to support the program expansions we propose, 
and we would construct a new administrative headquarters and visitor 
contact facility. Our biological program would build off the passive 
habitat management in Alternative A to include some habitat 
manipulations to create or hasten the development of mature forest 
structural conditions shaped by natural disturbances. Much of that 
would include upland forest management to diversify the age and 
structure of the young, even-aged stands created by past commercial 
uses of refuge forestland.
    We would offer the same variety of programs as in Alternative B. 
However, we would promote more dispersed, low-density, undeveloped 
backcountry experiences. The only new infrastructure developments would 
be located at the new administrative facility. If necessary in order to 
promote a back-country experience in our hunting and fishing programs, 
we would develop a permit system, limit access, and designate hunting 
and fishing areas. We would continue to allow snowmobiling and remote 
lake camping as in Alternative B. However, we would place additional 
restrictions on the activities allowed at campsites to promote low-
density management.
    Alternative C would also include the LMRD program and furbearer 
management. It also builds off the proposal in Alternative A to include 
a refuge expansion of 76,304 acres, acquired in fee simple from willing 
sellers. We designed this proposal to protect and conserve large, 
contiguous blocks of habitat exceeding 25,000 acres and connect them to 
other conserved lands in the Upper Androscoggin River watershed. As in 
Alternative B, those expansion lands consist of high-quality, important 
wildlife habitat; occur in an amount and distribution that provide us 
the management flexibility to achieve refuge habitat goals and 
objectives; and, fully complement and enhance the land management of 
adjacent conservation partners.
    After we evaluate and respond to public comments on this Draft CCP/
EIS, we will prepare a Final CCP/EIS and announce its availability in 
the Federal Register for a 30-day review period. After this period, we 
will prepare a Record of Decision (ROD), which is the decision document 
that certifies that the selected alternative meets all agency 
compliance requirements and achieves refuge purposes and the NWRS 
mission. The Regional Director signs the final CCP and ROD, which, if 
approved by the Director, will include the decision to expand the 
refuge as detailed in the Land Protection Plan.

    Dated: July 18, 2006.
Richard O. Bennett,
Acting Regional Director, Region 5, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Hadley, Massachusetts.
    This document was received at the Office of the Federal Register 
on June 26, 2007.
[FR Doc. E7-12626 Filed 7-5-07; 8:45 am]