[Federal Register: October 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 190)]
[Page 60808-60810]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2010-N134; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, Chesterfield County, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the 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 Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In 
the final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 
15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Ms. Allyne 
Askins, Refuge Manager, Carolina Sandhills NWR, 23734 U.S. Highway 1, 
McBee, SC 29101. The CCP may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/ under ``Final 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Allyne Askins; telephone: 843-335-
8350; fax: 843-335-8406; e-mail: allyne_askins@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Carolina 
Sandhills NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register on August 22, 2007 (72 FR 47062).
    Carolina Sandhills NWR was established by Executive Order 8067, 
dated March 17, 1939. This Executive Order authorized the Federal 
Government to purchase lands from willing sellers to restore habitats 
and wildlife species. Today, the 45,348-acre refuge is managed to 
restore the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem for the benefit of the 
red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) and other endangered species; to provide 
habitat for migratory and upland game birds; to provide opportunities 
for environmental

[[Page 60809]]

education, interpretation and wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities; and to demonstrate sound land management practices that 
enhance natural resource conservation. The refuge is a land management 
demonstration refuge for the longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. The 
refuge supports an estimated 150 active clusters of the endangered RCW, 
the largest population in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 
refuge's primary public use is hunting; although wildlife observation, 
hiking, and fishing also are popular.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Carolina Sandhills NWR 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 Carolina Sandhills NWR for the next 15 
years. Alternative C is the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation, cooperative farming, commercial timber harvest, 
boating, public safety and military training, natural resource 
collection for personal use, cemetery upkeep, scientific research and 
collections, off-road vehicle use for mobility-impaired persons, 
outdoor recreation (e.g., bicycling, hiking, jogging, walking, mountain 
biking, and picnicking), camping, and horseback riding 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 


    We made copies of the Draft CCP/EA available for a 30-day public 
review and comment period via a Federal Register notice on January 21, 
2010 (75 FR 3484). We received five comments on the Draft CCP/EA.

Selected Alternative

    The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the refuge. After considering the comments we received and 
based on the professional judgment of the planning team, we selected 
Alternative C for implementation.
    Under Alternative C, we will optimize management of native wildlife 
and habitat diversity (e.g., floristic communities, longleaf-wiregrass, 
and native grasslands) and appropriate wildlife-dependent public uses 
and visitor services. We will continue our focus on RCW monitoring and 
recovery, while managing for a suite of species. We will enhance 
habitat required for RCWs by (1) accelerating the transition to multi-
aged management; (2) improving forest structure and composition, 
focusing on diversifying plantation structure to create multiple-aged 
classes and densities of overstory pines, while improving ground layer 
structure and composition; (3) using all available tools to control 
midstory (e.g., chemical, mechanical, and pre-commercial); (4) 
increasing growing season burning; and (5) considering use of fall 
burning for hazardous fuel reduction and seed bed preparation.
    We will increase partnership activities with the South Carolina 
Department of Natural Resources, Cheraw State Park, and Sandhills State 
Forest to manage RCWs as one recovery population. We will enhance our 
management of the unique floristic communities on the refuge, including 
seepage bogs, Atlantic white cedar and cane bottoms, and old field 
species at Oxpen Farm. We will develop and implement habitat management 
response surveys to identify species response to treatments in longleaf 
pine and restoration in pocosin habitat sites.
    We will manage 1,200 acres of grasslands for birds of conservation 
concern, conduct baseline population surveys of grassland birds, and 
survey to assess effects of habitat management. As part of grassland 
management and restoration, we will restore longleaf-wiregrass and 
native grasslands, establish native warm season grass demonstration 
areas, and eradicate non-native plants (e.g., fescue, love grass, and 
bamboo). We will also establish a seed nursery/orchard for native warm 
season grass and native ground cover and engage in native plant 
botanical research.
    We will balance habitat restoration and fish and wildlife 
population management with enhanced visitor services. We will improve 
our wayside exhibits and update our Web site, encouraging families to 
use the refuge to pursue outdoor recreational opportunities. We will 
host an annual public lands and private landowner demonstration day to 
showcase restoration and management practices. We will work with our 
volunteers, partners, and friends group, to further information and 
technology exchange. We will target land acquisitions that will 
maximize ecosystem management objectives and opportunities for public 
use and environmental education. We will identify and evaluate 
important gaps and corridors to ensure landscape-level conservation and 
connectivity. We will search for opportunities to enter into 
cooperative wildlife management agreements with private landowners in 
the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program focus areas. We will 
increase protection of visitors to the refuge.
    Alternative C directs the development of programs to best achieve 
the refuge purpose and goals; emphasizes adaptive management; collects 
habitat and wildlife data; and ensures long-term achievement of refuge 
and Service objectives. At the same time, these management actions 
provide balanced levels of compatible public use opportunities 
consistent with existing laws, Service policies, and sound biological 
principles. It provides the best mix of program elements to achieve 
desired long-term conditions. Under this alternative, all lands under 
our management and direction will be protected, maintained, and 
enhanced to best achieve national, ecosystem, and refuge specific goals 
and objectives within anticipated funding and staffing levels. In 
addition, the action positively addresses significant issues and 
concerns expressed by the public.


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

[[Page 60810]]

    Dated: August 5, 2010.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2010-24668 Filed 9-30-10; 8:45 am]