[Federal Register: November 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 224)]
[Page 69671-69673]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0246; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, Barbour and Russell Counties, 
AL and Stewart and Quitman Counties, GA

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 Eufaula National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR). 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: Mr. Troy 
Littrell, Refuge Manager, 367 Highway 165, Eufaula, AL 39027-8187. The 
CCP may also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's Web site: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Mike Dawson, Refuge Planner, 
Jackson, MS; Telephone: 601-965-4903 ext. 20; fax: 601-965-4010; e-
mail: mike_dawson@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Eufaula NWR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
January 26, 2006 (71 FR 4373). For more about the process, see that 
    Eufaula NWR was established in 1964 through community support and 
in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide habitat 
for wintering waterfowl and other migratory and resident wildlife. The 
refuge landscape is a mixture of wetlands, croplands, woodlands, 
grasslands, and open water, creating a mosaic of wildlife-rich 

[[Page 69672]]

    Eufaula NWR is located on both banks of the Chattahoochee River in 
southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. The refuge is superimposed on 
the Walter F. George Reservoir (also referred to as Lake Eufaula), a 
river and harbor project of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 
reservoir was created from the impoundment of the Chattahoochee River 
between Alabama and Georgia. Named after the city of Eufaula, the 
refuge provides 11,184 acres of land and water for public enjoyment in 
a wide range of outdoor activities. The refuge covers 7,953 acres in 
Barbour and Russell Counties, Alabama, and 3,231 acres in Stewart and 
Quitman Counties, Georgia.
    Habitats encompassed by the refuge include a riverine area on the 
west side containing a section of the Escatawpa River and a tributary, 
Black Creek; an area of coastal savanna in the central part of the 
refuge; and a large gopher tortoise colony at the northeast corner of 
the refuge.
    Eufaula NWR lies on the eastern edge of the Mississippi Flyway. 
Peak wintering populations of ducks reached over 40,000 in the mid-
1970s. Recently, the refuge's duck populations have peaked at 12,000-
20,000. Few migratory geese visit Eufaula NWR, but more than 2,000 
Canada geese are residents. Large breeding populations of raptors, such 
as bald eagles and osprey, are becoming more common on the refuge. High 
populations of herons and other marsh birds are supported by the 
habitat. An abundance of other migratory birds and wildlife is present 
    Eufaula NWR is a significant component in the region's recreational 
opportunities. The refuge's Management Information System (RMIS) showed 
371,251 visits to the refuge in 2002. Fishing and nature observation 
were the most popular activities with 129,959 and 101,190 visits, 
respectively. Deer hunters accounted for 8,700 visits in 2002. The auto 
tour route attracted 35,974 motorists, and a small proportion of these 
people walked the nature trails or used the observation platform. The 
local economy significantly benefits from the refuge. In 2002, refuge 
visitors spent $7 million related to refuge recreation. This resulted 
in $5.6 million in local final demand, $2.4 million in earnings, and 
125 jobs attributable to refuge visitation.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Eufaula NWR 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 Eufaula NWR for 
the next 15 years. Alternative D, 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) canoeing; (7) farming/haying; (8) 
feral hog management program; (9) forest management; (10) horseback 
riding; (11) jogging/walking; and (12) scientific field studies 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 100 copies of the Draft CCP/EA were made available 
for a 30-day public review period as announced in the Federal Register 
on June 6, 2008 (73 FR 32349). Nineteen public comments were received.

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. Over the life of the CCP, Eufaula NWR will provide a complex of 
habitats, both moist-soil and grain crops, to meet the foraging needs 
of 25,000 wintering ducks. This will assist the North American 
Waterfowl Management Plan. The refuge will also provide adequate open 
space (upland crop fields) for winter utilization and feeding of at 
least 500 geese and cranes. In addition, staff and/or volunteers will 
maintain 200 wood duck boxes on the refuge.
    Under Alternative D, Eufaula NWR will provide forest habitat 
conditions conducive to supporting both priority pine and hardwood 
associated bird species. The refuge will provide high-quality grassland 
habitat to support grassland bird species on 220 to 300 acres, while 
achieving priority waterfowl objectives. This will include planting 
native warm season grass species on old farm fields. In addition, it 
will promote tall emergent vegetation sufficient to support a 
population of 10-20 king rails and to benefit other species of marsh 
    For the benefit of wading birds, the refuge will provide for both 
secure nesting sites and ample foraging habitat. The refuge will 
furnish at least two areas of up to 20 acres each for shorebirds, 
during both northbound and southbound movements. In addition, the 
refuge will provide protective conservation measures for federal- or 
state-listed species and habitats for future ecological existence.
    The refuge staff will expand its capability and effort to implement 
sound scientific principles to better manage healthy populations of 
resident wildlife species. The staff will also control domestic, feral, 
or pest animals, especially feral hogs, removing an average of 100-plus 
hogs annually, or as needed.
    Eufaula NWR will gradually reduce cooperative farmer cropland 
acreage to 300 acres (from 500 acres at present) over the 15-year life 
of the CCP. Additionally, the refuge itself will cultivate crops on 100 
to 300 acres to provide food, cover, and sanctuary areas for wildlife. 
This will provide adequate habitat for wintering waterfowl and provide 
quality dove hunting opportunities.
    The refuge will employ silvicultural treatments to improve 2,800 
acres of refuge forestland to provide benefits to forest-dependent 
wildlife. It will also use fire as a management tool on approximately 
800-1,000 acres annually in suitable habitats for species and habitat 
conservation. Management of moist-soil wetlands (approximately 1,200 
acres) will be intensified, with emphasis on waterfowl and other 
aquatic birds foraging and life-history requirements.

[[Page 69673]]

    Eufaula NWR will aggressively control aquatic invasive plant 
species on approximately 25 shoreline miles (or as needed) and 1,250 
acres annually. It will also conduct preventive and maintenance control 
of upland invasive plant species.
    In addition to maintaining all existing hunts and seasons, Eufaula 
NWR will consider adding a youth wild turkey quota hunt, an alligator 
hunt, and falconry. Boat launch facilities and bank fishing 
opportunities on the refuge will be expanded. The refuge will document 
the impact of sport fishing and fishing tournaments on sensitive 
wildlife and habitat resources on the refuge. This will serve as a 
basis for discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Alabama 
and Georgia authorities on the possibility of establishing no-wake 
zones in sensitive areas.
    All existing wildlife observation and photography facilities will 
be maintained, and within 10 years of the date of the CCP, the refuge 
will: (1) Designate a one-way loop in the Houston Bottoms and add 
additional pull-offs to the existing Wildlife Drive; (2) improve the 
existing interpretive trail and add foot trails between Lakepoint State 
Park and the refuge; (3) add one photo blind in the Houston Impoundment 
or Goose Pen Impoundment; and (4) construct an observation platform 
adjacent to the Hour Glass Impoundment on the Wildlife Drive and assess 
the need for an additional viewing platform in the Houston Bottoms 
    In terms of environmental education and interpretation, the refuge 
will maintain its existing opportunities and facilities, and establish 
a new visitor center.
    Under Alternative D, the refuge will enlarge its current staff of 
six by adding five full-time positions, consisting of a biological 
science technician, a maintenance position, two non-law enforcement 
park rangers, and a law enforcement officer. The total staffing level 
will then be eleven.
    Eufaula NWR will develop and begin to implement a Cultural 
Resources Management Plan. In the meantime, there will continue to be 
limited management of cultural resources based on known locations of 
identified cultural, historical, and archaeological resources. The 
refuge will follow standard procedures to protect cultural resources 
whenever projects involving excavation are undertaken.
    Refuge staff will increase cooperation with the Corps and both 
states on invasives' management, and with Alabama and Georgia 
authorities on overall refuge management, including restoration of 
longleaf pine forests. The refuge will work to establish a Friends 
group (support group).
    Under Alternative D, Eufaula NWR will construct and begin to 
operate a visitor center east of U.S. Highway 431, adjacent to the 
Kennedy Unit. This center will serve as a focal point of public use 
opportunities on the refuge.

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

    Dated: September 12, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-27450 Filed 11-18-08; 8:45 am]