[Federal Register: October 1, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 191)]
[Page 57143-57144]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-R-2008-N0221; 70133-1265-0000-S3]

Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, Kotzebue, AK

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to revise the comprehensive conservation plan 
and prepare an environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and 
environmental assessment (EA) for Selawik National Wildlife Refuge 
(Selawik Refuge, Refuge). We furnish this notice in compliance with our 
CCP policy to advise other agencies, Tribes, and the public of our 
intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues to consider in the planning process. We will use local 
announcements, special mailings, newspaper articles, the Internet, and 
other media announcements to inform people of opportunities to provide 
input throughout the planning process. We will hold public meetings in 
communities within and near Selawik Refuge during preparation of the 
revised plan.

DATES: Please provide written comments on the scope of the CCP revision 
and planning process by January 15, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Address comments, questions, and requests for further 
information to:
    Agency Web Site: For more information visit http://alaska.fws.gov/
    E-mail: Selawik_planning@fws.gov. Please include ``Selawik Refuge 
Revised CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Jeffrey Brooks, Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1011 E. Tudor Road, MS 231, Anchorage, AK 99503-6199.
    Fax: Comments may be faxed to (907) 786-3965.
    In-Person: Call (907) 786-3357 to make an appointment during 
regular business hours at the USFWS Regional Office, 1011 E. Tudor 
Road, Anchorage, AK 99503 or call (907) 442-3799 to make an appointment 
during regular business hours at Selawik Refuge Headquarters, Kotzebue, 
AK 99752.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeffrey Brooks, Planning Team Leader, 
(907) 786-3839 or Selawik_planning@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With this notice, we initiate our process 
for developing a revised CCP for the Selawik Refuge, Alaska. We furnish 
this notice in compliance with our policy to (1) advise other Federal 
and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of our intention to conduct 
detailed planning on this refuge and (2) obtain suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues to be considered in the EA and 
during the development of the CCP.


    We are required to develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge 
in Alaska according to direction provided in the Alaska National 
Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) (94 Stat. 2371) and 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. The purpose in developing a CCP is to 
provide refuge managers with long-term guidance for achieving refuge 
purposes and contributing to the mission of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System. CCPs are prepared in a manner consistent with sound 
principles of fish and wildlife management and conservation, visitor 
management principles, legal mandates, and Service policies. CCPs 
outline broad management direction for conservation of wildlife 
habitats, subsistence activities, and identification and management of 
wildlife-oriented recreation opportunities including, hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 
years in accordance with the Refuge Improvement Act and the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).
    Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System was established 
for specific purposes. These purposes guide us as we develop and 
prioritize management goals and objectives within the National Wildlife 
Refuge System mission, and as we decide which types of visitor services 
and public uses will occur on refuges. The planning process used to 
develop CCPs allows the Service and the public to evaluate management

[[Page 57144]]

goals and objectives for the refuges. The planning process for refuges 
is designed to prioritize conservation of important wildlife habitats, 
while providing for wildlife-oriented recreation opportunities that are 
compatible with the establishing purposes of each refuge and the 
mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    We will conduct a comprehensive conservation planning process that 
will provide opportunities for Tribal, State, and local government 
agencies; organizations; and the public to participate in identifying 
planning issues through public involvement activities. We request input 
in the form of issues, concerns, ideas, and suggestions for future 
management of Selawik Refuge.
    We will prepare an EA in accordance with the requirements of the 
NEPA, as amended; NEPA regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508); other 
appropriate Federal laws and regulations; and Service policies that 
comply with those laws and regulations.

Refuge Overview

    Selawik Refuge straddles the Arctic Circle in northwestern Alaska, 
encompassing an area approximately the size of Connecticut. The Refuge 
was established by ANILCA in 1980. When land conveyances under the 
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (approximately 800,000 acres) are 
completed, 2.1 million acres are expected to remain under federal 
ownership and management. The Refuge staff manages Selawik Refuge from 
a headquarters office in Kotzebue, Alaska.
    ANILCA requires us to designate areas in refuges according to their 
respective resources and values and to specify programs and uses within 
the areas designated. To meet this requirement, the Alaska Region 
established categories for refuges including Wilderness, Minimal, 
Moderate, Intensive, and Wild River management. For each management 
category, we identified appropriate activities, public uses, commercial 
uses, and facilities. Only the Minimal, Wilderness, and Wild River 
management categories are applied to Selawik Refuge. The Selawik River 
and corridor is a designated Wild River. About 11 percent of the Refuge 
is designated Wilderness. The remainder, and majority of the Refuge's 
acreage, is managed in the Minimal category.
    The Selawik River meanders through the heart of the Refuge, 
creating a rich succession of habitats, including vast wetlands. The 
names of both the river and the Refuge originated from the Inupiaq word 
``siilivik,'' which means ``place of sheefish.'' The sheefish, or 
innconnu, is a member of the whitefish family that provides an 
important, and highly desired, food resource for Native subsistence 
harvesters in this arctic region of Alaska.
    Extensive tundra wetlands containing grass and sedge meadows 
dominate the Refuge landscape, while boreal spruce forests, alder, and 
willow thickets trace stream and river drainages. Multitudes of 
migratory waterfowl and shorebirds breed on 24,000 lakes and ponds 
within the Refuge. Neo-tropical songbirds nest in forests and willow 
thickets. Moose, wolves, lynx, bears, muskoxen, arctic and red fox, 
beavers, and muskrats are year-round residents. The Western Arctic 
caribou herd migrates across Selawik Refuge. In mild winters, small 
bands of caribou remain on the Refuge to forage in the lichen-covered 
foothills. Many rivers, sloughs, and lakes support both freshwater and 
anadromous fisheries, and provide spawning grounds for northern pike, 
arctic grayling, and various types of whitefish.
    Access to the Refuge is possible only by boat, float-or ski-
equipped airplane, snowmobile, or dog sled team. Snowmobile trails 
provide vital links among the Native villages of the region in winter 
and are usually passable to travelers through the end of April. Several 
Native Alaskan villages are located within or near the Refuge 
boundaries including Noorvik, Selawik, Kiana, and Ambler.
    The purposes of the Selawik Refuge set forth by ANILCA in 1980 are 
(i) to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their 
natural diversity, including but not limited to, the Western Arctic 
caribou herd (including participation in scientific studies to better 
manage caribou), waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory birds, and 
salmon and sheefish; (ii) to fulfill the international treaty 
obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and 
their habitats; (iii) to provide, in a manner consistent with the 
purposes set forth in subparagraphs (i) and (ii), the opportunity for 
continued subsistence uses by local residents; and (iv) to ensure, to 
the maximum extent practicable and in a manner consistent with the 
purposes set forth in paragraph (i), water quality and necessary water 
quantity within the Refuge.
    Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities: We have identified 
preliminary issues, concerns, and opportunities that may be addressed 
in the CCP. These are (1) management of legal access such as easements 
and rights-of-way; (2) management of access for community residents and 
the visiting public; (3) management of hunting and fishing, both 
subsistence and commercial; (4) concerns about degradation of cultural 
resources; (5) impacts of off-refuge activities to Refuge resources; 
and (6) concerns about how managers can proactively address 
uncertainties such as climate change and related large-scale habitat 
changes. These and other issues will be explored during the public 
scoping process. The Refuge planning team, including representatives 
from State of Alaska and Tribal governments, will determine which key 
issues will be addressed in the revised CCP.
    Public Meetings: We will involve the public in the planning process 
through open houses, meetings, and multiple requests for comments. We 
will mail planning updates to individuals, agencies, and organizations 
on the Selawik Refuge mailing list to keep the public aware of the 
status of the revised CCP. We will inform the public as to how we use 
their comments and other input in each stage of the planning process. 
Scoping meetings are planned to be held in October and November 2008 in 
Kotzebue and in several local communities within or near the Refuge 
boundaries. Details of public involvement and participation activities 
will be announced locally.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, 
or other personal identifying information with 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 may 
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: September 25, 2008.
Gary Edwards,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
[FR Doc. E8-23118 Filed 9-30-08; 8:45 am]