[Federal Register: June 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 126)]
[Page 36888-36890]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0032; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Clarendon County, SC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability 
of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment 
(Draft CCP/EA) for Santee National Wildlife Refuge for public review 
and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we describe alternatives, including 
our proposed alternative to manage this refuge for the 15 years 
following approval of the Final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by July 30, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of the Draft CCP/EA should be addressed 
to: Van Fischer, Natural Resource Planner, South Carolina Lowcountry 
Refuge Complex, 5801 Highway 17 North, Awendaw, South Carolina 29429. A 
copy of the Draft CCP/EA is available on both compact disc and hard 
copy. You may also access and download a copy of the Draft CCP/EA at 
the Service's Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning. 
Comments on the Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to the above address or 
via electronic mail to: van_fischer@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Van Fischer at 843/928-3264.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Santee National 
Wildlife Refuge. We started the process through a notice in the Federal 
Register on January 3, 2007 (72 FR 143).
    The primary purpose of this 15,000-acre refuge, which was 
established in 1942, is to alleviate the loss of natural waterfowl and 
other wildlife habitat caused by the construction of hydro-electric 
power and navigational projects on the Santee and Cooper Rivers. The 
refuge lies within the Atlantic Coastal Plain and consists of mixed 
hardwoods, mixed pine hardwoods, pine plantations, marsh, croplands, 
old fields, ponds, impoundments, and open water.

[[Page 36889]]


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), which amended the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, requires us to develop a CCP for each 
national wildlife refuge. The purpose in developing a CCP is to provide 
refuge managers with a 15-year plan 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, and our policies. In addition to 
outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their 
habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities 
available to the public, including opportunities for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 
years in accordance with the Improvement Act and NEPA.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
Alternative C as the proposed alternative.


    A full description of each alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We 
summarize each alternative below.
Alternative A: Current Management (No Action)
    There would be no change from current management of the refuge. 
Management emphasis would continue to focus on maintaining existing 
managed wetlands for wintering waterfowl. Primary management activities 
would include managing wetland impoundments, basic species monitoring, 
wood duck banding, and planting corn for waterfowl. Alternative A would 
represent the anticipated conditions of the refuge for the next 15 
years, assuming current resources, policies, programs, and activities 
continue. The other two alternatives are compared to this alternative 
in order to evaluate differences in future conditions compared to 
baseline management.
    This alternative would reflect actions that include managing 
habitat for resident and wintering waterfowl and nesting bald eagles, 
maintaining upland and wetland forests, and repairing wetland 
impoundment control structures. Habitat management actions would 
benefit waterfowl; however, there would be limited active management of 
other species and habitats.
    Management coordination would occur between the refuge and the 
State. Coordination would remain focused on waterfowl management, 
hunting, and fishing. Hunting and fishing would continue to follow 
State regulations. Wildlife-dependent recreational uses would be 
allowed with all areas opened to the public, with some areas only 
seasonally opened.
    The refuge would remain staffed at current levels. Researchers 
would be accommodated when projects benefit the refuge.
Alternative B: Targeted Habitat Management Primarily for Waterfowl
    This alternative would expand on Alternative A with a greater 
amount of active habitat management on the refuge. The focus of this 
alternative would be to enhance and expand suitable habitat under 
species-specific management, targeted to attract greater numbers of 
wintering waterfowl and breeding areas for resident wood ducks. The 
acreage of managed wetlands and agricultural fields would be increased 
to accommodate larger waterfowl numbers. Some open fields and scrub-
shrub areas would be converted to wetlands or crops. Management of 
habitats for neotropical migratory and breeding songbirds would be 
greater than under Alternative A, but limited to maintaining existing 
areas suitable for these migratory species. There would be an increased 
effort to control invasive exotic plants.
    This alternative would propose to increase monitoring efforts to 
focus primarily on waterfowl, with less effort to address other 
species. Monitoring efforts would only occur based on available 
resources and academic research.
    Wildlife-dependent recreational uses of the refuge would continue. 
Hunting and fishing would continue to be allowed and environmental 
education and interpretation would be enhanced. Interpretive signage 
would be increased or added to existing nature trails. There would be 
restricted access to some areas of the refuge that have waterfowl and 
threatened or endangered species sensitive to disturbance. 
Interpretation efforts would focus mostly on the primary objective of 
waterfowl management.
    The refuge would be staffed at current levels plus the addition of 
three biological technicians to carry out the increased habitat 
management and monitoring needs. Researchers would be accommodated when 
projects benefit the refuge and focus mostly towards waterfowl habitat 
and management.
Alternative C: Wildlife and Habitat Diversity (Proposed Alternative)
    This alternative would expand on Alternative A, with a greater 
amount of effort to increase overall wildlife and habitat diversity. 
Although waterfowl would remain a focus of management, wetland habitat 
manipulations would also consider the needs of multiple species, such 
as marsh and wading birds. Under this alternative, upland forests and 
fields would be more actively managed for neotropical migratory 
songbirds than under Alternative B. Landscape level consideration of 
habitat management would include a diversity of open fields, upland and 
wetland forests, and additional managed wetlands. Multiple species 
consideration would include species and habitats identified by the 
South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative and the State's Strategic 
Conservation Plan.
    This alternative would expand the monitoring efforts of Alternative 
A to provide additional monitoring of neotropical migratory and 
breeding songbirds, as well as resident species. Monitoring efforts 
would be increased with the assistance of additional staff, trained 
volunteers, and academic researchers. Greater effort would be made to 
recruit academic researchers to the refuge to study and monitor refuge 
    Wildlife-dependent recreational uses of the refuge would continue. 
Hunting and fishing would continue to be allowed. However, hunting 
would be managed with a greater focus on achieving the biological needs 
of the refuge, such as controlling the deer population. Education and 
interpretation would be the same as Alternative A, but with additional 
education and outreach efforts aimed at the importance of landscape and 
diversity. A much broader effort would be made with outreach to nearby 
developing urban communities.
    The refuge would be staffed at current levels plus an additional 
three to four staff members to carry out the increased habitat 
management and monitoring needs. Greater emphasis would be placed on 
recruiting and training volunteers. Refuge biological programs would 
actively seek funding for studies dealing primarily with management-
orientated research needs. Refuge staff would place greater emphasis on 
developing and maintaining active partnerships, including seeking 

[[Page 36890]]

to assist the refuge in reaching primary objectives.

Next Step

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a Final CCP and Finding of No Significant 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your 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.

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

     Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on June 25, 2008.

    Dated: February 8, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-14745 Filed 6-27-08; 8:45 am]