[Federal Register: July 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 139)]
[Page 41371-41373]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0120; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Hyde County, NC

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 (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Mattamuskeet National 
Wildlife Refuge for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we 
describe the alternative we propose to use 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 August 18, 2008. Mailings, a news release, newspaper articles, 
appearances on broadcast media, and the Southeast Region's planning Web 
site will be the avenues by which the public is informed of the 
availability of the Draft CCP/EA for comment.

ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of the Draft CCP/EA should be addressed 
to: Bruce Freske, Refuge Manager, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife 
Refuge, 38 Mattamuskeet Road, Swan Quarter, NC 27885; Telephone: 252/
926-4021. The Draft CCP/EA may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning. Comments on 
the Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to the above address or by e-mail to 
Mr. Freske at: bruce_freske@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bruce Freske; Telephone: 252/926-4021.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Mattamuskeet 
National Wildlife Refuge. We started the process through a notice in 
the Federal Register on February 7, 2001 (66 FR 9353).
    Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is located at the southern 
end of a broad, swampy peninsula in northeastern North Carolina. It was 
established in 1934 to protect and conserve migratory birds and other 
wildlife resources through the protection of wetlands, particularly the 
40,000-acre Lake Mattamuskeet itself. This water body, the largest 
natural lake in the state, comprises almost 80 percent of the 50,180-
acre refuge. While the lake averages only two feet in depth, it is 18 
miles long and five to six miles wide. In addition to Lake 
Mattamuskeet, the refuge's other main habitats are wet pine flatwoods, 
moist-soil units, natural lake shoreline, and cypress-gum swamp.
    Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge is exceptionally important 
for wintering waterfowl, particularly tundra swan, the Atlantic 
population of Canada geese, northern pintail, green-winged teal, 
gadwall, widgeon, mallard, and black duck.


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.
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: Waterfowl 
conservation; shorebirds; threatened and endangered species; habitat 
protection; neotropical migratory birds; conservation of open water 
habitat in Lake Mattamuskeet; visitor services (e.g., hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation); funding and staffing; cultural resources; land 
acquisition; and invasive species management.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
Alternative B as the proposed alternative. A full description of each

[[Page 41372]]

alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative 

Alternative A--Continue Current Management Direction (No Action 

    This alternative represents the status quo (i.e., no change from 
current management). During fall and winter, the refuge would continue 
to furnish habitat and sanctuary for 20-30 percent of North Carolina's 
tundra swans; 40,000-60,000 northern pintails and American green-winged 
teals; 5,000 Canada geese (Atlantic Population); and 40,000-60,000 
other ducks, including 2,000-4,000 black ducks.
    Protection of fish and their habitats and cooperation with 
universities, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), 
and other agencies would continue, as would winter counts of bald 
eagles and Christmas bird counts. On a rotating basis, moist-soil 
management units would be managed to benefit shorebirds during spring 
migration. Deer herd health would be studied once every five years. 
Collaboration with the red wolf recovery program and assistance with 
partners on studies of reptiles and amphibians would continue.
    Existing habitats would be maintained, including 40,276 acres of 
open water habitat in Lake Mattamuskeet and associated canals; 2,300 
acres of freshwater marsh; 2,000 acres in 12 moist-soil units; and 572 
acres of three forested impoundments. We would also maintain existing 
areas of mixed pine hardwood (1,300 acres), wet pine flatwoods (1,000 
acres), cypress gum swamp (266 non-impounded acres), as well as 191 
acres of cropland in corn and soybeans and 189 acres of cropland in the 
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
    Refuge resources would be protected by limiting the negative 
impacts of human activity and invasive species on and around the 
refuge. These efforts would include minor purchases, water quality 
monitoring with NCWRC, and protection of cultural and historic 
resources. The refuge would continue to control common reed, 
alligatorweed, and nutria.
    A range of visitor services without the guidance of an overall 
visitor services' plan would continue for all six priority public uses, 
including hunting for deer (6,000 acres), waterfowl (1,000 acres) 
(including a program for youth), and resident Canada geese. Fishing 
facilities and opportunities would remain the same and support 20,000 
angler visits annually.
    Environmental education efforts would include hosting Environmental 
Field Day, environmental educator workshops, and university student 
activities on the refuge. The refuge would continue to provide 
approximately 10,000 interpretation opportunities annually and would 
construct a new visitor contact station with several interpretive 
exhibits (at the new refuge headquarters) by 2010. Wildlife observation 
and photography opportunities would include maintaining a boardwalk, 
fishing piers, observation decks, a photo blind, and a wildlife drive. 
These facilities would serve an estimated 90,000 visitors annually.
    By 2010, a new refuge headquarters/visitor contact station and 
maintenance workshop would be constructed, and two staff houses would 
be replaced. The refuge would continue to partner with a number of 
governmental and non-governmental institutions, as well as with 

Alternative B--Proposed Action

    The Service's proposed alternative enhances or slightly expands 
various aspects of Alternative A. With regard to wintering waterfowl, 
for example, the objectives for tundra swan and northern pintail are 
the same as Alternative A, but the Canada goose objective is 5,000 
higher and the duck objective 40,000 to 60,000 higher under Alternative 
B than Alternative A.
    Alternative B would replicate most elements and expand upon other 
aspects of Alternative A's fisheries management, increasing cooperation 
with universities and other agencies to monitor fish population status 
and increasing applied research especially with regard to baseline 
surveys and carp management.
    Alternative B would implement each action proposed under 
Alternative A with respect to management of raptors, passerine birds, 
shorebirds, marsh and wading birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. 
Alternative A would differ from Alternative B by re-initiating nest 
counts of ospreys and implementing passerine point counts in different 
refuge habitats to evaluate the effects of habitat management actions 
on passerine diversity and populations. Furthermore, alternative 
management strategies for moist-soil units would be evaluated as to 
their benefit for spring and fall migration of shorebirds. Also, ground 
surveys for marsh and wading birds would be re-instituted.
    Alternative B aims to expand on Alternative A's habitat objectives. 
The refuge would investigate the desirability and feasibility of 
restoring Salyer's Ridge pinewoods. In addition, it would consider new 
management options for the CRP cropland when the contract expires in 
    Alternative B would expand resource protection by increasing the 
control of invasive plant and animal species, such as common reed, 
alligatorweed, and nutria. The refuge would also prepare and begin to 
implement a Cultural Resources Management Plan. To enhance law 
enforcement, the refuge would obtain one full-time law enforcement 
officer dedicated solely to Mattamuskeet Refuge.
    To better support public use, under Alternative B, the refuge would 
prepare and implement a Visitor Services' Plan. Existing hunts would 
continue and we would explore how to increase youth hunting 
opportunities for deer and waterfowl and cooperate with NCWRC to 
conduct activities promoting hunter recruitment and retention. Fishing 
opportunities would increase by adding one boat ramp to support an 
additional 5,000 angler visits annually.
    In terms of environmental education, Nature Week would be re-
instituted and the refuge would begin to host ten K-12 school programs 
annually. Interpretation opportunities would be expanded by adding 
kiosks, annually revised brochures, and interpretive signage along the 
wildlife drive and New Holland boardwalk trail. Opening and staffing 
the visitor contact station with volunteer(s) on weekends would also 
promote further interpretation.
    Alternative B would reinstall an 8-mile canoe and kayak loop trail 
and construct an additional photo-blind. Like Alternative A, the refuge 
would cooperate with partners to encourage commercial ecotours. We 
would also increase outreach. Facilities and partnerships would be the 
same as Alternative A.

Alternative C--Moderately Expanded Program

    This alternative would represent a moderate expansion over the 
refuge's existing program; Alternative C is also somewhat more 
expansive than Alternative B, the Service's proposed alternative. With 
regard to wintering waterfowl, for example, the objectives for tundra 
swan and northern pintail are the same as Alternative B, but the Canada 
goose objective is 5,000 higher and the duck objective 80,000 to 
120,000 higher under Alternative C than Alternative B.
    Alternative C would aim for the same objectives as Alternative B in 
other aspects of wildlife and fisheries management. Where these two 
alternatives differ is that Alternative C generally proposes more 
studies and surveys.

[[Page 41373]]

    Alternative C's habitat management objectives are identical to 
Alternative B and quite similar to Alternative A. Concerning resource 
protection, Alternative C would replicate Alternative B's objectives, 
but in addition, would install and maintain one or more remote 
automated water quality monitoring devices/stations and further 
increase control of invasive species, including monitoring for the 
presence of kudzu and feral swine.
    Alternative C would provide increased visitor services over those 
offered by the first two alternatives, and provide for increases in 
each of the six priority public uses. As in Alternative B, visitor 
services would be under the guidance of a Visitor Services' Plan. A 
park ranger would annually offer 30 interpretive programs, including 
offering or hosting interpreted kayak excursions. The refuge would 
further expand outreach by increasing off-refuge programs, news 
releases, and Web site updates.

Next Step

    After the 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 

    Dated: May 22, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
 [FR Doc. E8-16424 Filed 7-17-08; 8:45 am]