[Federal Register: May 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 101)]
[Page 25576-25577]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2009-N0050; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Adams and Grant Counties, WA

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; announcement of a public open house 
meeting; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Columbia 
National Wildlife Refuge (refuge) located in Adams and Grant Counties, 
Washington. We will also prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to 
evaluate the potential effects of various CCP alternatives. This notice 
also announces a public open house meeting; see SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for the details. We issue this notice in compliance with 
our CCP policy to advise the public and other agencies of our 
intentions and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues we will consider during the CCP planning process.

DATES: Please provide written comments by July 13, 2009. A public open 
house meeting will be held on June 16, 2009. See SUPPLEMENTARY 
INFORMATION for details.

ADDRESSES: Additional information concerning the refuge and the CCP is 
available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/mcriver/. Send your 
comments or requests for more information to us as follows:
     Mail: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge Comments, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 64 Maple Street, Burbank, WA 99323.
     Fax: (509) 488-0705.
     E-mail: mcriver@fws.gov. Include ``Columbia NWR CCP 
Scoping Comments'' in the subject line of the message. If you would 
like to be added to the refuge's CCP mailing list, please include your 
mailing address and specify whether you want to receive a hard copy or 
CD-ROM of the draft and final plans.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Randy Hill, Columbia National Wildlife 
Refuge, telephone (509) 488-2668.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge 
System) Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), requires 
us to develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge and to update it 
every 15 years. The purpose of developing a CCP is to provide refuge 
managers a 15-year strategy for achieving refuge purposes and 
contributing toward the mission of the Refuge System consistent with 
sound principles of fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal 
mandates, and our policies. In addition to outlining broad management 
direction for conserving refuge wildlife and habitats, we also identify 
wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities available to the public 
that are compatible with the refuge's establishing purposes and the 
mission of the Refuge System. These opportunities include hunting, 
fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education 
and interpretation.
    We will prepare an EA in accordance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA 
Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508); other appropriate Federal laws 
and regulations; and our policies and procedures for compliance with 
those laws and regulations.
    Each unit of the Refuge System is established to fulfill specific 
purposes. We use these purposes to develop and prioritize management 
goals and objectives within the Refuge System mission and to guide 
which public uses will occur on a refuge.

Public Involvement

    As part of the CCP planning process, we will provide opportunities 
for the public, refuge neighbors, interested individuals and 
organizations, Tribes, elected officials, and local, State, and Federal 
government and nongovernment stakeholders and partners to participate 
in our planning process. At this time, we are requesting input in the 
form of issues, concerns, ideas and suggestions for the future 
management of the Columbia Refuge.

[[Page 25577]]

Information About CCPs

    During the CCP planning process, we will consider many elements of 
refuge management, including wildlife, habitat, and visitor services 
management. Public input during the planning process is essential. The 
CCP will describe the refuge purposes and desired conditions for the 
refuge and the long-term conservation goals, objectives and strategies 
for fulfilling refuge purposes and achieving desired conditions.

Refuge Overview

    Columbia Refuge was established ``as a refuge and breeding ground 
for migratory birds and other wildlife,'' and ``for use as an inviolate 
sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.'' 
It fills an important role in the management of mallard, northern 
pintail, and lesser Canada goose populations during migration and 
wintering periods, and is the primary migratory stopover area for the 
Pacific Coast population of the lesser sandhill crane. The refuge 
covers almost 30,000 acres in the arid Columbia Basin of south-central 
Washington State straddling Crab Creek, between Potholes Reservoir and 
the Columbia River in both Grant and Adams Counties. The refuge is 
divided into six management units primarily arranged according to land 
type. Most of the refuge is within the Drumheller Channels National 
Natural Landmark. It is also located along the Pacific Flyway and has 
become a particularly important stop-over and wintering ground for 
migratory birds and waterfowl. In addition, cackling geese, sandhill 
cranes, and neotropical birds consume the refuge's grain crops. Birds 
of prey, such as red-tailed hawks, hunt for rodents and other small 
mammals living in the refuge's agricultural fields.
    Various visitor services and activities take place on the refuge, 
including hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, wildlife observation and 
photography, nature and cultural resources interpretation, and 
environmental education.

Preliminary Issues and Concerns

    We have identified the following preliminary issues, concerns, and 
opportunities that we may address in the CCP. We may identify 
additional issues during public scoping.
     How can we best protect and restore populations of 
priority species on the refuge?
     How can we best achieve optimal habitat conditions on the 
refuge for priority species?
     How can we protect refuge habitats from invasive species, 
wildfire risks, over-grazing, vandalism, and other disturbances and 
threats, and restore habitat values?
     Which compatible wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities on the refuge should be expanded, developed, or modified?
     What are the refuge's land acquisition priorities within 
its approved boundary, and should boundary expansion be considered?
     How can we meet refuge staffing needs?

Public Open House Meeting

    A public open house meeting will be held on June 16, 2009, from 
5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the City of Othello's Municipal Building (City 
Hall), City Council Chambers, 500 East Main Street, Othello, WA 99344, 
to provide information on the CCP and receive public comments. 
Opportunities for public input will be announced throughout the CCP 
planning process.

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.
    All comments and materials we receive from individuals on our NEPA 
documents become part of the official public record. We will handle 
requests for such comments in accordance with the Freedom of 
Information Act, NEPA, and Department of the Interior and Service 
policies and procedures.

    Dated: May 19, 2009.
Don Weathers,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. E9-12390 Filed 5-27-09; 8:45 am]