[Federal Register: June 29, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 123)]
[Page 31046-31048]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2009-N109; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Harney County, OR

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental impact statement; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for Malheur National 
Wildlife Refuge (refuge). We will also prepare an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential effects of various CCP 
alternatives. We provide this notice in compliance with our CCP policy 
to advise the public, other Federal and State agencies, and Tribes of 
our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope 
of issues to consider during the planning process.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by October 15, 2009. We will hold public meetings and will announce 
meeting details on the refuge's Web site (see ADDRESSES).

ADDRESSES: Additional information about the CCP planning process is 
available on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/malheur. Send your 
comments or requests for information by any of the following methods.
    E-mail: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Malheur CCP'' in the 
subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Tim Bodeen, (541) 493-2405.
    U.S. Mail: Tim Bodeen, Project Leader, Malheur National Wildlife 
Refuge, 36391 Sodhouse Lane, Princeton, OR 97221.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Bodeen, Project Leader, Malheur 
National Wildlife Refuge, phone (541) 493-2612.



The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Administration Act), 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 and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Improvement Act.
    Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System was established 
for specific purposes. We use these purposes as the foundation for 
developing and prioritizing the management goals and objectives for 
each refuge within the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, and to 
determine how the public can use each refuge. The planning process is a 
way for us and the public to evaluate management goals and objectives 
that will ensure the best possible approach to wildlife, plant, and 
habitat conservation, while providing for wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities that are compatible with each refuge's establishing 
purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    Our CCP planning process provides participation opportunities for 
Tribal, State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the 
public. At this

[[Page 31047]]

time we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, ideas, and 
suggestions for the future management of Malheur Refuge. The Service 
will manage the refuge's CCP process to maximize opportunities for 
public involvement and dialogue to help inform our decision-making. The 
Service will contract with the Oregon Consensus Program (OCP), a State-
funded agency that assists public agencies and others in convening 
collaborative processes. The OCP will work with interested 
organizations, including the High Desert Partnership, a neutral, non-
profit, and non-partisan organization that addresses challenges in 
Harney County, Oregon, to engage government agencies, non-profit 
groups, and interested individuals throughout the planning process to 
provide expertise, information, and feedback to the Service. Our intent 
is to develop a CCP that is consistent with refuge system law and 
policy and supported by the diverse parties with interests in the 
    We will conduct the environmental review of this project and 
develop an EIS in accordance with the requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (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.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

    Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 
1908, by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Bird 
Reservation. The refuge was originally set aside to prevent plume 
hunters from decimating colonial nesting bird populations. It protected 
unclaimed lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud, and Harney Lakes ``as a 
preserve and breeding ground for native birds.'' The refuge was 
expanded to include the Blitzen Valley in 1935 and the Double-0 Unit in 
    The refuge consists of over 187,000 acres of open water (marsh, 
river, and stream), wetlands, springs, riparian areas, irrigated 
meadows and grain fields, and uplands. The uplands are dominated by big 
sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and greasewood interspersed with grasses, 
including basin wild rye and desert saltgrass.
    Practices to manage and improve habitat on the refuge include 
vegetation manipulation through haying, burning, flooding, irrigation, 
farming, and grazing; and water management through flooding and 
drainage. Wetland and meadow habitat management is accomplished by 
pooling water behind a series of dams; the water is then diverted via 
canals into numerous meadows and wetlands. In the Blitzen River Unit, 
some of the water returns to the Blitzen River by surface sheet flow, 
return flow pipes or ditches, or subsurface seepage.
    Malheur Lake is one of the largest freshwater marshes in the 
country. The floor of the lake is only 8 feet below the surface at its 
deepest point. Together with the adjacent water bodies of Harney and 
Mud Lakes, Malheur Lake is the endpoint of an inland basin fed by 
waters from the Blitzen River, Silvies River, and Silver Creek. With 
its abundance of water in an otherwise arid landscape, the refuge 
attracts a significant portion of the Pacific Flyway's bird population 
during spring migration. The Audubon Society designated the refuge an 
Important Bird Area. Breeding season highlights include:
     Up to 20 percent of the world's population of White-faced 
     The highest known densities of Willow Flycatcher;
     One of the highest Breeding Bird Survey counts for the 
Brewer's Sparrow;
     Breeding populations of Western Snowy Plover (400 
individuals), Long-billed Curlew, Franklin's Gull, Short-eared Owl, 
Greater Sage-Grouse, Bobolink, and Trumpeter Swan;
     Significant populations of American White Pelican, 
Cinnamon Teal, Redhead, and Greater Sandhill Crane (the latter being 20 
percent of Oregon's breeding population);
     Up to 1,300 pairs of nesting Franklin's Gulls;
     Breeding Forster's Terns, up to 350 pairs of nesting 
Caspian Terns, and up to 6,000 nesting Black Terns;
     100-600 pairs of nesting Great Blue Herons and similar 
numbers of Great Egrets, and more than 200 pairs of nesting Snowy 
Egrets; and
     Post-breeding concentrations of Ring-billed Gulls 
sometimes reaching 25,000 in August.
    Migrant bird species highlights include:
     Passage of up to half of the world's population of Ross' 
     A significant proportion of the total populations of 
green-winged teal, American wigeon, northern shoveler, northern 
pintail, canvasback, and ruddy duck;
     Hundreds of thousands of waterfowl (including up to 
100,000 snow geese; 15,000 green-winged teal; 15,000 mallards; 250,000 
northern pintail; 250,000 northern shovelers; 4,000 canvasbacks; 2,000 
ring-necked ducks; 5,000 lesser scaup; and 50,000 ruddy ducks); and
     Concentrations of up to 25,000 western sandpipers; 350 
pectoral sandpipers; 35,000 long-billed dowitchers; 15,000 Wilson's 
phalaropes; 15,000 American avocets; and 200 black-necked stilts.
    The refuge provides hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and 
photography, interpretation, and limited environmental education. 
Because there are a limited number of trails, most viewing and 
interpretation occurs from the refuge's auto tour route. An unsigned 
portion of the National Desert Scenic Trail crosses the refuge. 
Waterfowl hunting is available on approximately half of Malheur Lake. 
Upland bird hunting is available on approximately one quarter of the 
refuge's acreage. Fishing is allowed on Krumbo Reservoir, the Blitzen 
River, Bridge Creek, and the East Canal.

Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    We identified the following preliminary wildlife and habitat issues 
for consideration during the planning process: Decreased populations of 
colonial nesting birds and waterfowl compared to historic levels; carp 
infestation in the lakes, wetlands, and rivers adversely affecting 
habitat for colonial nesting waterbirds, waterfowl, native fish, and 
invertebrates; degraded water quality and quantity in the Blitzen 
River; degraded stream and riparian condition of the Blitzen River and 
tributaries; the presence and spread of aggressive noxious weeds such 
as perennial pepperweed and reed canary grass; achieving desired plant 
composition and structure in meadow habitats for target wildlife 
species; maintaining redband trout and other native fishes; and the 
potential effect of climate change on refuge habitats and species.
    We identified the following preliminary public use issues for 
consideration during the planning process: Adequacy of access and 
facilities for all of the wildlife-dependent uses; opportunities to 
expand programs; impacts of public use programs on natural and cultural 
resources and refuge visitors; management of commercial outfitters or 
guides; and management of non-wildlife dependent uses.
    In addition to wildlife, habitat, and public use issues, we will 
conduct a new wilderness review as part of this CCP/EIS. In 1973 we 
made a recommendation to designate 30,000 acres around Harney Lake as 
wilderness. In the new review we will

[[Page 31048]]

identify whether some or all of the areas proposed in 1973 still meet 
wilderness recommendation criteria, and if there are other refuge areas 
could meet the criteria.
    Proper conservation, management, and interpretation of the refuge's 
cultural resources, including archaeological sites and historic 
buildings, constitute an additional management issue. Additional issues 
may be identified during public scoping.

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 to withhold it from public review, we cannot guarantee we will 
be able to do so.

    Dated: May 22, 2009.
David J. Wesley,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. E9-15271 Filed 6-26-09; 8:45 am]