[Federal Register: May 15, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 93)]
[Page 27327-27328]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



 Fish and Wildlife Service

Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability of the Draft Revised Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for Kanuti National 
Wildlife Refuge; request for comments; announcement of public meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service, we) announce 
that the Draft Revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge 
is available for public comment. We prepared this CCP pursuant to the 
Alaska National Interests Land Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA), the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (Refuge 
Administration Act), as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (Refuge Improvement Act), and the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). In this plan, we describe how 
the Service proposes to manage this refuge over the next 15 years.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before July 16, 2007.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to request a paper copy or 
compact disk of the Draft CCP/EA, contact: Peter Wikoff, Planning Team 
Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Rd., MS. 231, 
Anchorage, Alaska 99503, or at fw7_kanuti_planning@fws.gov, or at 
907-786-3837. You may view or download a copy of the Draft CCP/EA at: 
http://www.r7.fws.gov/nwr/planning/plans.htm. Copies of the Draft CCP/

EA may be viewed at the Kanuti Refuge Office in Fairbanks, Alaska; at 
local libraries; and at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional 
Office in Anchorage, Alaska.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Wikoff at the above address.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the Refuge Improvement Act of 
1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.), requires each refuge to develop and 
implement a CCP. The purpose of developing CCPs 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, 
conservation, legal mandates, and Service policies. In addition to 
outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their 
habitats, the CCPs identify wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
these CCPs at least every 15 years. The original CCP for the Kanuti 
Refuge was approved in 1987. After reviewing that plan, we decided to 
revise it to comply with current policies and to provide more complete 
management direction.
    Background: The Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge was established on 
December 2, 1980 by ANILCA. The purposes for which the Kanuti National 
Wildlife Refuge was established include:
    1. To conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their 
natural diversity including, but not limited to, white-fronted geese 
and other waterfowl and migratory birds, moose, caribou (including 
participation in coordinated ecological studies and management of the 
Western Arctic caribou herd), and furbearers;
    2. to fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United 
States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats;
    3. to provide, in a manner consistent with the purposes set forth 
in 1 and 2 above, the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by 
local residents; and
    4. to ensure, to the maximum extent practicable and in a manner 
consistent with the purposes set forth in 1 above, water quality and 
necessary water quantity within the refuge.
    The refuge is roadless and lies on the Arctic Circle about 150 
miles northwest of Fairbanks. It is situated in a broad basin formed by 
the Koyukuk and Kanuti rivers between the Brooks Range and the Ray 
Mountains. The Dalton Highway and Alyeska pipeline lie within eight 
miles of its eastern boundary. The refuge consists of nearly 1.3 
million acres of Federal lands within an external boundary that 
encompasses approximately 1.6 million acres of Federal, State, and 
private lands. The landscape consists primarily of rolling hills, 
wetlands, ponds, and streams. Elevations range from 500 feet to over 
3,000 feet. The major natural resources are wildlife, fisheries, and 
their associated habitats.
    Issues and Alternatives: Conservation of the natural, unaltered 
character of the refuge: During scoping, many people expressed a desire 
that the refuge remain in a natural, wild state. They wanted minimal 
intrusion on natural systems and for the refuge to remain wild for the 
future. This was true for people from both urban and rural backgrounds. 
The Kanuti Refuge is one of the few refuges in Alaska that is both 
roadless and without permanent villages or towns. These characteristics 
help to maintain the natural wild state with minimal intrusion that 
people expressed a desire for during the scoping process. Acceptance 
and integration of new management policies and guidelines for refuges 
in Alaska into the plan: Management of refuges in Alaska is governed by 
Federal law including ANILCA and the Refuge Administration Act as 
amended by the Refuge Improvement Act, by regulations implementing 
these laws, by intergovernmental treaties, by Service policies, and by 
principles of sound resource management, all of which establish 
standards for resource management or limit the range of potential 
activities that may be allowed on refuges. Management policies and 
guidelines, described in the plan, were developed as part of the 
region-wide refuge comprehensive planning effort and provide direction 
for National Wildlife Refuges in the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service. These policies and guidelines would be applied to the 
Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. Management categories (wilderness, 
wild rivers, minimal, moderate, and intensive) are used to describe 
management levels throughout the refuges in Alaska. A management 
category is a set of refuge management directions applied to an area, 
in light of its resources and existing and potential uses, to 
facilitate management and the accomplishment of refuge purposes and 
goals. Two management categories, moderate and minimal, apply to the 
Kanuti Refuge.
    Three alternatives for management of the refuge are evaluated in 
the EA.
    Alternative A (the no-action alternative) is required by NEPA, 
describes what would happen under continuation of current management 
activities, and serves as a baseline against which to compare other 
alternatives. Under this alternative, management of the refuge would

[[Page 27328]]

continue to follow the current course of action. Private and commercial 
uses of the refuge would be likely unchanged. Currently 33 percent of 
the refuge is in Moderate Management and 67 percent of the Refuge is in 
Minimal Management.
    When the original plan was developed in 1987 two areas of Moderate 
Management were delineated, roughly corresponding to two major river 
drainages within the refuge. This was to allow more intensive habitat 
management activities to occur (e.g. water level management and 
mechanical manipulation of habitat). Though originally thought to be 
important to enhance the abundance of subsistence resources, subsequent 
studies showed that this level of manipulation was not needed. That 
aspect of the plan was never implemented.
    Alternative A would continue to protect and maintain the existing 
wildlife values, natural diversity, and ecological integrity of the 
refuge. Human disturbances to fish and wildlife habitats and 
populations would be minimal except, potentially, in Moderate 
Management areas. Public uses of the refuge employing existing access 
methods would continue to be allowed. Opportunities to pursue 
traditional subsistence activities, and recreational hunting, fishing, 
and other wildlife-dependent activities, would be maintained. 
Opportunities to pursue research would be maintained.
    Alternative B would convert all refuge lands now in Moderate 
Management to Minimal Management and incorporate the new policies and 
guidelines for refuges in Alaska. Management of the refuge would 
generally continue to follow the current course of action but would 
adopt a vision statement and set of goals developed in response to 
public scoping, that would implement low impact management.
    Alternative B was designed to maintain the natural, unaltered 
character and ecological integrity of the refuge with little evidence 
of human-caused change. Disturbance to resources as a result of public 
uses, economic activities, and facilities would be minimized. Habitats 
would be allowed to change and function through natural processes. 
Because activities that could have been allowed under Moderate 
Management in the 1987 Plan were never implemented, the public would 
see little or no change under Alternative B despite the removal of 
areas from the Moderate Management category.
    Alternative C (the preferred alternative) would convert a portion 
of the refuge lands now in Moderate Management, in the center of the 
refuge, to Minimal Management and would incorporate the new policies 
and guidelines for refuges in Alaska. With this change, 85 percent of 
the refuge would be in Minimal Management and 15 percent of the refuge 
would remain in Moderate Management. The areas remaining in Moderate 
Management are adjacent to private lands near the Koyukuk River in the 
northwestern portion of the refuge. Management activities would 
generally continue as with Alternative A.
    Lands in Minimal Management would be managed to maintain their 
natural unaltered character and ecological integrity with little 
evidence of human-caused change. Moderate Management could allow some 
small-scale changes in the environment that do not disrupt natural 
processes. Though there may be signs of human activity, the natural 
landscape would remain the dominant feature. Moderate Management would 
allow more habitat manipulation than would Minimal Management, and 
permanent facilities may be constructed. It was anticipated that this 
flexibility may be needed due to the proximity of these areas to 
private lands, the river, and overland transportation routes.
    Public availability of comments: Before including your name, 
address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made 
publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to 
withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    Dated: May 8, 2007.
Thomas O. Melius,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
 [FR Doc. E7-9281 Filed 5-14-07; 8:45 am]