[Federal Register: June 21, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 118)]
[Page 35080-35081]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2009-N165; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Tampa Bay Refuges, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: final comprehensive conservation plan 
and finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment for Egmont Key, Pinellas, and Passage Key National Wildlife 
Refuges. These three refuges, known as the Tampa Bay Refuges, are 
managed as part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) 
Complex. In the final CCP, we describe how we will manage these refuges 
for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Michael 
Lusk, Refuge Manager, 1502 S.E. Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, FL 
34429. You may also access and download the document from the Service's 
Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Michael Lusk; telephone: 727/570-
5417; e-mail: michael_lusk@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for the Tampa Bay 
Refuges. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register on December 3, 2004 (69 FR 70276). For more about the process, 
please see that notice.
    Egmont Key NWR includes 392 acres and was established in 1974 to 
protect the Key's significant natural, historical, and cultural 
resources from the impending threats of development. Of the three Tampa 
Bay Refuges, it is the only refuge island open to the public and has 
been traditionally visited for many years as a primary recreation 
destination. Egmont Key NWR seeks to provide nesting habitat for brown 
pelicans and other waterbirds, as well as to conserve and protect 
barrier island habitat and to preserve historical structures of 
national significance (i.e., historic lighthouse, guardhouse, gun 
batteries, and brick roads). Presently, the island's approximately 244 
acres of beach and coastal berm support more than 110 species of 
nesting, migrating, and wintering birds. The island is designated as 
critical habitat for endangered piping plovers and provides habitat and 
protection for endangered manatees and sea turtles. Egmont Key NWR has 
an unusually high population of gopher tortoises and box turtles. Two 
wildlife sanctuaries, one on the east side of the island and one at the 
south end of the island, comprise about 97 acres and are closed to 
public use. Cooperative management agreements between the Service, the 
U.S. Coast Guard, and the Florida Department of Environmental 
Protection entrust daily management activities of Egmont Key NWR to the 
Florida Park Service, which manages the island to protect and restore 
the historic structures and for swimming, sunbathing, shelling, and 
    Pinellas NWR was established in 1951 as a breeding ground for 
colonial bird species. It contains 7 mangrove islands encompassing 
about 394 acres. The refuge is comprised of Little Bird, Mule, Jackass, 
Listen, and Whale Island Keys and leases Tarpon and Indian Keys from 
Pinellas County. A Pinellas County seagrass sanctuary is located around 
Tarpon and Indian Keys, and the use of internal combustion engines 
within this zone is prohibited to protect the seagrass beds. Hundreds 
of brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants and dozens of herons, 
egrets, and roseate spoonbills nest within Tarpon and Little Bird Keys. 
Pinellas NWR provides important mangrove habitat for most long-legged 
wading species, especially the reddish egret. All of the mangrove 
islands of Pinellas NWR are closed to all public use year-round to 
protect the migratory birds.
    Passage Key NWR was originally designated as a Federal bird 
reservation by President Roosevelt in 1905, when it consisted of a 60-
acre island with a freshwater lake and lush vegetation. However, 
erosion and hurricanes have virtually destroyed the key, and it is now 
a meandering sand bar varying in size from 0.5 to 10 acres, depending 
on weather. In 1970, Passage Key NWR was designated a Wilderness Area. 
The refuge's objective is to provide habitat for colonial waterbirds. 
Hundreds of brown pelicans, laughing gulls, black skimmers, and royal 
terns, and small numbers of herons and egrets, nested annually until 
the island was destroyed by a hurricane in 2005. The key once hosted 
the largest royal tern and

[[Page 35081]]

sandwich tern nesting colonies in the State of Florida. Because of its 
fragility, small size, and to protect the migratory birds that use the 
island, it is now closed to all public use year-round.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for the Tampa Bay Refuges 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 the Tampa Bay Refuges for the next 15 years. 
Alternative B is the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for beach uses, bicycling, 
boating, camping, competitive sporting events, concessions, geocaching, 
hiking/walking, military uses, mosquito management, picnicking, 
photography/video/filming/audio recording, research and surveys, 
snorkeling and SCUBA diving, and wildlife observation and photography 
are available in the CCP.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Administration Act), as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to develop 
a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose in 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 Administration 


    Copies of the Draft CCP/EA for the Tampa Bay Refuges were made 
available for a 30-day public review and comment period as announced in 
the Federal Register on April 24, 2009 (74 FR 18744). We held two 
meetings to present the Draft CCP/EA to the public and to solicit 
comments. Approximately 57 persons attended the two meetings. A total 
of 23 comment letters was received by mail or e-mail from 12 persons 
and 8 organizations. All comments were considered and thoroughly 
evaluated. Responses to the comments are contained in Appendix D of the 

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received and based on the 
professional judgment of the planning team, we selected Alternative B 
for implementation. Under Alternative B, we will continue the 
cooperative agreement with the State to manage Egmont Key NWR and will 
establish monthly communications and quarterly meetings to better 
coordinate our efforts. A visitors center will be established at the 
Egmont Key NWR Guardhouse, and interpretive signs and information 
distribution will be increased. Our primary mission will continue to be 
providing habitat and protection for wildlife. We will assume more of a 
leadership role in coordinating, directing, and conducting bird and 
other wildlife surveys; monitoring and conducting research on gopher 
tortoises; and identifying, mapping, and protecting State-listed plant 
species with partners.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

    Dated: August 24, 2009.
Patrick Leonard,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received in the Office of the 
Federal Register on June 16, 2010.

[FR Doc. 2010-14876 Filed 6-18-10; 8:45 am]