[Federal Register: April 13, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 69)]
[Page 16886-16888]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R3-R-2009-N0036; 30136-1265-0000-S3]

Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area, Located Throughout 8 
Counties in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


[[Page 16887]]

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and draft 
environmental assessment (EA) for Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife 
Management Area (Kirtland's Warbler WMA) for public review and comment. 
In this draft CCP/EA we describe how we propose to manage Kirtland's 
Warbler WMA for the next 15 years. The Kirtland's Warbler WMA is part 
of the National Wildlife Refuge System and is administered by the staff 
of Seney National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by May 15, 2009. Special mailings, newspaper articles, internet 
postings, and other media announcements will inform people of the 
opportunities to submit written comments.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods. You may also drop off comments in person at 
Seney NWR.
     Agency Web site: View or download a copy of the document 
and comment at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Planning/kirtland/
     E-mail: r3planning@fws.gov. Include ``Kirtland's Warbler 
WMA Draft CCP/EA'' in the subject line of the message.
     Fax: 906-586-3800.
     Mail: Attention: Refuge Manager, Seney National Wildlife 
Refuge, 1674 Refuge Entrance Road, Seney, MI 49883.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tracy Casselman, 906-586-9851.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Kirtland's 
Warbler WMA, which we began by publishing a notice of intent April 21, 
2006 (71 FR 20722). For more about the initial process and the history 
of this WMA, see that notice.
    We established this WMA in the early 1980s due, in part, to the 
recommendations of the Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Team. The original 
goal was to acquire 7,500 acres of land on which habitat would be 
managed for the benefit of Kirtland's warbler. At present, the area 
contains 124 separate tracts totaling 6,582 acres.


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), requires us to develop a comprehensive 
conservation plan for each national wildlife refuge and wildlife 
management area. The purpose in developing a CCP is to provide managers 
with a 15-year strategy for achieving wildlife management area 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, plans identify wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation.

CCP Alternatives and Our Preferred Alternative

Priority Issues

    During the public scoping process, we, other stakeholders and 
partners, and the public identified several priority issues, which 
include habitat management, nuisance species control, and recreation 
opportunities and visitor services. To address these issues, we 
developed and evaluated the following alternatives during the planning 

Alternative 1: Current Management Direction of Habitat Management (No 

    The current management direction of Kirtland's Warbler WMA would be 
maintained under this alternative. For NEPA purposes, this is referred 
to as the ``No Action'' alternative, a misnomer as some changes will 
occur over the next 15 years. Nonetheless, in Alternative 1 intensive 
management of existing jack pine stands would continue to occur in 
close cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources 
(DNR), with the primary objective to produce dense jack pine 
plantations for Kirtland's Warbler breeding habitat. The WMA staff and 
Michigan DNR land managers would continue to monitor habitat 
prescription effects and make improvements in jack pine habitat 
management as it pertains primarily to Kirtland's Warbler. Public use 
would follow the current direction and be linked to uses of the 
surrounding state lands. Environmental education and outreach will be 
limited primarily to the annual Kirtland's Warbler Festival events.

Alternative 2: Management From an Ecological Perspective

    Alternative 2 would seek to make changes from the current high 
intensity habitat management that produces jack pine plantations for 
Kirtland's Warbler by trenching and planting. Future management would 
be from a more ecologically broad and holistic jack pine ecosystem 
management standpoint based on benchmark conditions derived from jack 
pine stands regenerated by wildfire. This alternative would include 
management practices that place a greater emphasis on ecological 
integrity and better emulating wildfire-produced jack pine stand 
composition and structural patterns and resulting biodiversity. Timber 
harvests would try to better emulate wildfire-produced stand 
conditions, and a range of regeneration options would be used, 
including prescribed fire when and where possible. An increased 
emphasis would also occur within law enforcement and visitor use. 
Enforcement of hunting regulations, trespass, and other violations 
would likely require more staff time and year-round presence. Visitor 
use would be facilitated by marking some properties with signs and by 
outreach to surrounding communities and users.

Alternative 3: Ecological Management and Land Ownership Consolidation 
(Preferred Alternative)

    Alternative 3 would seek to manage existing lands as suggested in 
Alternative 2, but would also explore land exchanges with the state 
(and possibly U.S. Forest Service) to consolidate state and WMA 
parcels. Proposed land exchanges would likely increase the total area 
of land managed for Kirtland's Warbler, as well as increase management 
efficiency by both federal and state agencies. Existing lands and any 
new lands acquired through exchange would be managed to benefit the 
Kirtland's Warbler and other native flora and fauna of jack pine 
ecosystems. However, jack pine stand management would be shifted 
towards a more ecologically-based approach rather than the highly 
intensive manner of present habitat management that produces jack pine 
plantations. For instance, if consolidation would occur and the Service 
would obtain upland jack pine stands in the eastern Upper Peninsula, 
prescribed fire would be a more likely management tool.

Public Input

    We will give the public an opportunity to provide comments upon 
release of the draft plan. You may

[[Page 16888]]

submit comments anytime during the comment period.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should know 
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: March 3, 2009.
Charles M. Wooley,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota.
[FR Doc. E9-8380 Filed 4-10-09; 8:45 am]