[Federal Register: May 28, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 103)]
[Page 30052-30054]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2009-N185; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge, Town of Chilmark, MA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
draft environmental assessment (EA) for Nomans Land Island National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for a 30-day public review and comment period. In 
this draft CCP/EA, we describe three alternatives, including our 
Service-preferred Alternative C, for managing this refuge for the next 
15 years. Also available for public review and comment is the draft 
wilderness review, which is included as Appendix C in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure our consideration of your written comments, please 
send them by June 28, 2010. We will also hold at least one public 
meeting in Chilmark, Massachusetts, during the 30-day review period to 
receive comments and provide information on the draft plan. We will 
announce and post details about public meetings in local news media, 
via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning Web site, 

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods.
    Agency Web site: View or download the draft document at http://
    Electronic mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Nomans Land 
Island NWR CCP/EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    U.S. Postal Service: Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, 73 Weir 
Hill Road, Sudbury, MA 01776.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 978-443-4661 to make 
an appointment during regular business hours at the above address.
    Facsimile: Attn: Carl Melberg, 978-443-2898.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl Melberg, Planning Team Leader, at 
978-443-4661 extension 32.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Nomans Land 
Island NWR in Chilmark, Massachusetts, which we started with the notice 
of intent (NOI) that was published in the Federal Register (73 FR 
76376) on December 16, 2008. We prepared the draft CCP in compliance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) (NEPA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act 
of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), as amended by the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Act). This refuge is one of 
eight refuges in the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex.
    Nomans Land Island NWR is a 628-acre roadless island located 
approximately 3 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. It was 
established for the conservation and management of migratory birds. The 
Service first began managing a portion of the eastern side of the 
island in 1975 as an ``overlay'' refuge under a Joint Management 
Agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. 
Department of the Navy (DoN), while it was still under DoN ownership. 
In 1998, management responsibility for the island was transferred to 
the Service and became Nomans Land Island NWR.
    This island has a unique history, from use by Native Americans as a 
summer camp, to sheep grazing when the island was privately owned in 
the 1800s, to use as a bombing range to train DoN pilots during and 
after World War II. The refuge provides diverse habitats that include 
intertidal, freshwater wetland, grassland and shrubland habitats, and 
serves an important role for nesting landbirds and colonial waterbirds 
and as a stopover habitat for migratory birds and raptors such as the 
peregrine falcon.
    Public access has never been allowed on the refuge due to 
unexploded ordnance (UXO), therefore, none of the six priority uses of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) established by Congress in 
the Act occur on the island. Off-site interpretation opportunities 
exist with potential partners such as the Town of Chilmark, the 
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (the Tribe), and the Aquinnah 
Cultural Center.


The CCP Process

    The Act requires us to develop a CCP for each national wildlife 
refuge. The purpose for developing CCPs is to provide refuge managers 
with 15-year plans for achieving refuge purposes and the mission of the 
NWRS, in conformance 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 priority 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 
each CCP at least every 15 years, in accordance with the Act.

[[Page 30053]]

The Wilderness Review

    Service planning policy (602 FW 3) requires that we conduct a 
wilderness review in association with the development of a refuge CCP, 
pursuant to the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.). The purpose of 
the wilderness review is to identify and describe wilderness values and 
evaluate appropriate management alternatives. The wilderness review 
process has three phases: Inventory, study, and recommendation. After 
first identifying lands and waters that meet the minimum criteria for 
wilderness during the inventory phase, the resulting wilderness study 
areas (WSAs) are further evaluated to determine if they merit 
recommendation from the Service to the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary) for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation 
System (NWPS).

Public Outreach

    There is a long planning history for this CCP. On February 24, 
1999, a NOI to prepare a CCP and environmental impact statement (EIS) 
for what was then known as Great Meadows NWR Complex, of which Nomans 
Land Island NWR is a part, was printed in the Federal Register. In 
2001, we determined it was not feasible to prepare one plan for eight 
refuges, and on February 15, 2001, another notice was printed in the 
Federal Register indicating that a CCP/EIS would be prepared for 
Monomoy, Nantucket, and Nomans Land Island NWRs. However, no work was 
done on those plans at that time. On December 13, 2004, another NOI was 
printed in the Federal Register to indicate that the planning process 
for Nomans Land Island NWR and Monomoy NWR was being re-initiated, and 
that comments already received under previous notices would be 
considered. In 2008, because of the different issues facing the 
refuges, the Service determined it to be more efficient to proceed 
separately with the Nomans Land Island NWR CCP/EA.
    Scoping began in 1999 with public meetings and the solicitation of 
public comments via planning workbooks. In April 2005, two scoping 
meetings were held in Chilmark, Massachusetts. Interagency, 
stakeholder, and public scoping was re-initiated through partner and 
public meetings held on October 14, 2008, at the Chilmark Library, 
followed by a comment period ending November 14, 2008. Federal and 
State natural resource agency staff, current and potential refuge 
partners, and members of the general public attended these meetings. 
During these meetings, we asked attendees specific questions about 
their views on the refuge's wildlife and habitat values, how they view 
the refuge, and their suggestions for future refuge management.
    Some of the key issues we identified were the management of 
migratory birds and their habitats including shrubland, rocky shoreline 
and wetlands, coordination with the DoN to ensure safety, UXO removal, 
enforcement of no public access, better communication with the public 
about the refuge and our management activities, and protection of 
cultural resources.

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    We developed three management alternatives based on the purposes 
for establishing the refuge, its vision and goals, and the issues and 
concerns identified by the public, State agencies, the Tribe, and the 
Service during the planning process. The alternatives have some actions 
in common, such as protecting and monitoring fish and wildlife species, 
managing the extensive shrubland habitat, controlling invasive plants 
and wildlife diseases, protecting cultural resources, planning for 
limited Tribal use of the island, developing a partnership agreement 
with the Tribe, maintaining a no public use policy, and distributing 
refuge revenue sharing payments to the Town of Chilmark.
    Other actions distinguish the alternatives. The draft CCP/EA 
describes the alternatives in detail, and relates them to the issues 
and concerns identified. Highlights are as follows:

Alternative A (Current Management)

    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by NEPA. 
Alternative A defines our current management activities, and serves as 
the baseline against which to compare the other alternatives. Our 
current habitat management focuses on allowing natural processes and 
prescribed burns conducted by the DoN for UXO removal operations to 
maintain the diversity of the maritime shrubland habitat that supports 
migratory and nesting birds of conservation concern such as the eastern 
towhee and gray catbird. Other than some invasive species management, 
only natural processes affect the ponds and wetlands on the refuge that 
provide important breeding habitat for Virginia rail and other species 
of conservation concern.
    We would continue to maintain the 15 acres of herbaceous upland and 
100 acres of intertidal beach and rocky shore to provide suitable 
habitat conditions for nesting American oystercatcher, piping plover, 
and terns, as well as other shorebird, colonial waterbird, and seabird 
species identified as species of conservation concern. We would 
continue to enforce the no public access policy along the shoreline to 
prevent public use activities that may pose safety risks due to UXO.
    We would continue to work with our partners to monitor these 
habitats for invasive plants and disease, and we would treat the 
vegetation to fight invasive species if we have available funding and 
staffing. Our biological monitoring and inventory program and habitat 
and trail management would continue at its current minimal level, and 
would be limited by safety concerns and UXO removal conducted by the 
    We would continue to protect cultural resources by strengthening 
our relationships with the Tribe and the Chilmark Historical 
Commission. We would consult with the DoN Regional Archeologist prior 
to any ground-disturbing activities.
    Our visitor services programs would not change, as minimal off-site 
interpretation now occurs via our Web site and virtual tour. Our 
staffing and facilities would remain the same. Existing staff for the 
refuge complex would remain in place, and the headquarters would remain 
at the Sudbury, Massachusetts office. No new staff would be hired 
specifically for this refuge.

Alternative B (Enhanced Management and Habitat Diversity)

    In this alternative, the Service takes a more active role in 
managing habitats, research, monitoring, and inventorying its priority 
natural and cultural resources.
    We would coordinate with the DoN on all management activities and 
provide additional trails for monitoring and management access 
throughout the island. Under this alternative, we would establish a 
fire-based management regime with prescribed burns to maintain 400 
acres of desired shrubland habitat conditions in order to support focal 
nesting bird species and provide critical shrubland stop-over habitat 
for migrating landbirds and butterflies. We would also explore the 
potential to introduce the New England cottontail on the refuge in 
support of regional recovery efforts for this species of State and 
regional conservation concern.
    We would manage the 15 acres of herbaceous upland vegetation that 
provides habitat for shorebirds and terns, and the 100 acres of marine 
intertidal beach and rocky shore habitats to benefit marine mammals and 
nesting and migrating shorebirds. We

[[Page 30054]]

would manage the 100 to 150 acres of freshwater wetland communities to 
support breeding marsh birds and native plant and animal communities, 
and control non-native invasive species and predators as necessary to 
support nesting focal species of conservation concern. We would create 
a habitat map for the refuge, and conduct inventories, research, and 
monitoring on rare and special concern species.
    Since no public use is allowed, we would increase visitor services 
programming off-site with environmental education and interpretation by 
developing partnerships with the Tribe, Town of Chilmark, and the 
Aquinnah Cultural Center. We would work with partners to conduct 
shoreline surveys for archeological resources at risk from erosion and 
develop protocols for collection and repository of artifacts and 
    We would increase refuge complex staff by three new positions--
Biological, Visitor Services, and Law Enforcement. Under this 
alternative, we would focus on strengthening partnerships with the 
Tribe for ceremonial access. We would also increase access and 
management throughout the refuge with the cooperation of the DoN.

Alternative C (Natural Processes Emphasis-Service Preferred 

    This alternative is the one we propose as the best way to manage 
this refuge over the next 15 years. It includes an array of less active 
management actions that, in our professional judgment, works best 
toward achieving the refuge purposes, our vision and goals, and the 
goals of other State and regional conservation plans. We also believe 
it most effectively addresses the key issues that arose during the 
planning process. Lastly, it is the most realistic, given the 
relatively modest increase in staffing and funding that is anticipated 
over the next 15 years.
    This alternative acknowledges that the refuge meets the minimum 
criteria for a WSA. Under this alternative, a Nomans Land Island WSA 
would be recommended as suitable for designation and inclusion in the 
NWPS. The analysis of environmental consequences is based on the 
assumption that Congress would accept the recommendation and designate 
Nomans Land Island NWR as wilderness. The Nomans Land Island WSA would 
be managed according to the provisions of the Wilderness Act and 
Service Wilderness Stewardship Policy (610 FW 1-3). The wilderness area 
would be managed to accomplish refuge purposes and the NWRS mission, 
while also preserving wilderness character and natural values for 
future generations. Use of motorized vehicles, motorized equipment, 
mechanical transport on the island would be allowed for emergency 
purposes, and when necessary to meet minimum requirements for the 
administration of the area as wilderness, and to accomplish refuge 
purposes. The island would continue to be accessible by motorboat.
    The information and analyses in the CCP/EA would be used to compile 
a wilderness study report and legislative EIS to accompany the 
wilderness recommendation. Since Congress has reserved the authority to 
make final decisions on wilderness designation, the wilderness 
recommendation is a preliminary administrative determination that would 
receive further review and possible modification by the Director, the 
Secretary, or the President. We would conduct some survey, inventory, 
research, and monitoring of focal species such as common and roseate 
terns, and would implement necessary measures to protect any colonies 
larger than 50 pairs. We would work with partners on specific priority 
efforts, such as analyzing the feasibility of New England cottontail 
introduction. We would track vegetation changes and invasive species, 
and control those that threaten healthy ecosystems. Under Alternative 
C, we would primarily allow coastal processes of wind and wave action 
to shape the refuge habitats, but would consider using fire to maintain 
shrubland stopover habitat for migratory birds, if necessary. We would 
focus our efforts to provide quality habitat on the refuge for 
landbirds, including raptors, during fall migration.
    This alternative resembles Alternative A in its minimal management 
approach, refuge administration, and facilities. We would provide 
oversight and coordination to the DoN contaminant and UXO cleanup, 
pursue a partnership agreement with the Tribe that provides, in part, 
access to the refuge for ceremonial purposes, and work with partners on 
cultural resource protection.
    As with Alternative B, we would enhance visitor services to provide 
additional off-site opportunities for interpretation and communication, 
since no public access is allowed on the refuge. Staffing would remain 
the same as in Alternative A.

Public Meetings

    The public will have the opportunity to provide input at one public 
meeting in Chilmark, Massachusetts. We will release mailings, news 
releases, and announcements electronically and provide information 
about opportunities for public review and comment on our Web site and 
in local newspapers with the contact information below. You can obtain 
the schedule from the planning team leader or project leader (see 
ADDRESSES). You may also submit comments anytime during the planning 
process by mail, electronic mail, or facsimile (see ADDRESSES). For 
specific information, including dates, times, and locations, contact 
the planning team leader (see ADDRESSES) or visit our Web site at 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, electronic mail 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comments, 
you should be aware that your entire comment--including your personal 
identifying information--may be made available to the public 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.

    Dated: April 26, 2010.
James G. Geiger,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Hadley, Massachusetts.
[FR Doc. 2010-12669 Filed 5-27-10; 8:45 am]