[Federal Register: October 29, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 210)]
[Page 64361-64363]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0195; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Georgetown, Horry, and Marion 
Counties, SC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: final comprehensive conservation plan 
and finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Waccamaw National Wildlife 
Refuge. In the final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge 
for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP may be obtained by writing to: Waccamaw 
National Wildlife Refuge, 1601 North Fraser Street, Georgetown, SC 
29440. The plan may also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's 
Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Craig Sasser, Refuge Manager, 
Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge; Telephone: 843/527-8069; Fax: 843/


[[Page 64362]]


    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Waccamaw National 
Wildlife Refuge. We started this process through a notice in the 
Federal Register on March 29, 2006 (71 FR 15757). For more about the 
process, see that notice.
    Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge is currently 18,251 acres in size 
(within an approved acquisition boundary of 54,000 acres), and was 
established in 1997 for the following purposes: (1) To protect and 
manage diverse habitat components within an important coastal river 
ecosystem for the benefit of threatened and endangered species, 
freshwater and anadromous fish, migratory birds, and forest wildlife, 
including a wide array of plants and animals associated with bottomland 
hardwood habitats; and (2) to provide compatible wildlife-dependent 
recreational activities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and 
    The refuge acquisition boundary includes large sections of the 
Waccamaw and Great Pee Dee Rivers and a small section of the Little Pee 
Dee River. The wetland diversity of this refuge is what distinguishes 
it from most others found along the east coast. Wetland habitats range 
from historic, broken, and actively managed tidal rice fields, to black 
water and alluvial floodplain forested wetlands. These tidal freshwater 
wetlands are some of the most diverse freshwater wetland systems found 
in North America and they offer many important habitats for migratory 
birds, fish, and resident wildlife.
    Over 400 species of animals are supported by the variety of 
habitats in the refuge acquisition area, including several endangered 
species. Birds, such as the swallow-tailed kite, osprey, wood stork, 
white ibis, prothonotary warbler, and many species of waterfowl, can be 
observed on a seasonal basis, while mammals, such as the American black 
bear, frequent the refuge's forests year-round. Notably, the refuge 
acquisition area supports the highest density of nesting swallow-tailed 
kites in South Carolina and is the northernmost documented nesting area 
for this raptor within its range.
    Additionally, the refuge's wetlands play a critical role in the 
filtration and storm water retention of the primary drinking water 
resource for the greater Grand Strand region.
    Popular recreation uses of the refuge include hunting and both 
recreational and commercial fishing. Wildlife viewing and photography 
programs, as well as environmental education and interpretation, are 
also being developed on the refuge, especially in conjunction with a 
visitor center now under construction.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in accordance with the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) 
requirements. We completed a thorough analysis of impacts on the human 
environment, which we included in the draft comprehensive conservation 
plan and environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA).
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Waccamaw 
National Wildlife Refuge for the next 15 years. Alternative C, as we 
described in the final CCP, is the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for (1) Hunting; (2) fishing; (3) 
wildlife observation and photography; (4) environmental education and 
interpretation; (5) bicycling; (6) commercial services; (7) commercial 
fishing; (8) research; (9) camping; (10) rights-of-way; and (11) forest 
management--commercial timber harvest are also available within the 
final CCP.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Improvement Act), which amended the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose for 
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.


    Approximately 200 copies of the Draft CCP/EA were made available 
for a 30-day public review period as announced in the Federal Register 
on February 13, 2008 (73 FR 8343). Ninety-four written comments were 
received from private citizens and a number of non-governmental 
organizations, including American Rivers, Baruch Marine Field 
Laboratory (University of South Carolina), Charleston Audubon, Coastal 
Conservation League, Coastal Expeditions, Five Rivers Coalition, 
Georgetown County League of Women Voters, Grand Strand Surfrider 
Foundation, Historic Charleston Foundation, Morgan Park Committee, 
National Rifle Association of America, The Nature Conservancy, Palmetto 
Conservation Foundation, Republican Women of Myrtle Beach, SEWEE 
Association, Swallow-tailed Kite Conservation Alliance, Waccamaw 
Watershed Academy (Coastal Carolina University), Waccamaw Audubon 
Society, and Winyah Rivers Foundation. Almost all commenters supported 
the Service's proposed alternative, Alternative D.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative D for implementation. This alternative is judged to be the 
most effective management action for meeting the purposes of the refuge 
by optimizing habitat management and visitor services throughout the 
refuge. The Service would aim to improve wintering waterfowl habitat on 
approximately 600 acres on Unit 1 by restoring hydrology. We would also 
continue to conduct informal surveys on swallow-tailed kites and 
Swainson's warblers on an occasional basis. Management of black bears 
would be stepped up, and would include annual surveys and enlisting 
public participation in gathering, recording, and compiling sightings.
    Management of threatened and endangered species would involve 
restoring the hydrology on Unit 1 to enhance the existing wood stork 
rookery, restoring wood stork feeding areas on Unit 3, and red-cockaded 
woodpecker nesting and foraging habitat on Unit 2. Recreational use of 
the refuge would continue. This alternative would expand on hunting 
opportunities for deer and hog by considering a hunt by mobility-
impaired individuals. It would potentially include a youth waterfowl 
hunt on refuge management lands. Over the lifetime of the CCP, this 
alternative would call for reducing deer herd density to improve herd 
health and to improve habitat quality for other species.
    This alternative would identify the 4,600-acre Bull Island as a 
proposed Wilderness Study Area. The Service would maintain its 

[[Page 64363]]

character, and within 10 years of approval of the CCP, would prepare a 
wilderness study report and additional NEPA documentation on whether 
Bull Island should be formally designated by Congress as a unit of the 
National Wilderness Preservation System. The refuge would prepare and 
implement a Visitor Services' Plan and expand most wildlife-dependent 
public uses in a number of ways.

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

    Dated: July 22, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received in the Office of the 
Federal Register on October 24, 2008.
 [FR Doc. E8-25840 Filed 10-28-08; 8:45 am]