[Federal Register: February 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 29)]
[Page 6872-6874]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2009-N205; 20131-1265-2CCP-S3]

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Aransas, Calhoun, and 
Refugio Counties, TX

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and an 
environmental assessment (EA) for the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex (NWRC, Refuge) for public review and comment. In these 
documents, we describe alternatives, including our preferred 
alternative, to manage this Refuge complex for the 15 years following 
approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
April 13, 2010. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local news 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents by any of the following methods:
    E-mail: Roxanne_Turley@fws.gov. Include ``Aransas CCP'' in the 
subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Roxanne Turley, 505-248-6874.
    U.S. Mail: Roxanne Turley, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish & 
Wildlife, Service, NWRS, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, NM 87103-1306.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 505-248-6636 to make 
an appointment during regular business hours. You may drop off comments 
during regular business hours at 500 Gold Avenue, SW., 4th Floor, Room 
4019, Albuquerque, NM 87102. For more information on locations for 
viewing or obtaining documents, see ``Public Availability of 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Alonso, Complex Manager, by U.S. 
mail at Aransas NWRC, CCP-Project, P.O. Box 100, Austwell, TX 77050; by 
phone at 361-286-3559; or by fax at 361-286-3722; or Felipe Prieto, 
Wildlife Refuge Specialist/CCP Planning Team, Aransas NWRC, by phone at 



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Aransas NWRC. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (67 FR 
55862, August 30, 2002).
    Aransas NWRC is located in Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio Counties, 
Texas, and encompasses 115,931 acres of coastal prairie, oak woodland 
and savannah, barrier island, and salt and freshwater marshes. 
Management efforts focus on protecting, enhancing, and restoring Refuge 
habitats and water management for the benefit of important fish and 
wildlife resources.
    Aransas NWRC was established ``as a refuge and breeding grounds for 
birds,'' by Executive Order No. 7784 on December 31, 1937. The 
authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 712d) 
establishes that each refuge in the system is ``for use as an inviolate 
sanctuary, or any other management purpose, for migratory birds.'' The 
Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. 460-1) states that each refuge in the 
system is ``suitable for incidental fish and wildlife-oriented 
recreational development, the protection of natural resources, and the 
conservation of endangered or threatened species.'' Additionally, 
Aransas NWRC contains critical habitat for the whooping crane (43 FR 
20938, May 15, 1978).


The CCP Process

    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 a CCP for each 
national wildlife refuge. The purpose for developing a CCP is to 
provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy for achieving refuge 
purposes and contributing toward the mission of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System,

[[Page 6873]]

consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management, 
conservation, legal mandates, and Service policies. In addition to 
outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their 
habitats, the 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 
these CCPs at least every 15 years in accordance with the 
Administration Act.

Public Outreach

    To begin the CCP process, we held a comment period beginning on 
August 30, 2002, and ending on October 29, 2002 (67 FR 55862). We made 
draft documents and other relevant information available for public 
review at the Refuge headquarters. Prior to opening the public comment 
period, Refuge staff gathered in July and August 2002 to discuss 
concerns, issues, and opportunities for the future of the Refuge. In 
January 2003, we held seven open-house-style meetings at the Refuge 
Headquarters and in Rockport, Port Lavaca, Corpus Christi, Refugio, and 
Victoria, including one Partners meeting for the Golden Crescent Nature 
Club in February 2003. We intended these meetings to solicit initial 
public input and involvement during the early stages of CCP 
development. We also invited the State of Texas (Texas Parks and 
Wildlife Department) to participate as a partner in the planning 
process. We have considered and evaluated all of the comments we 
received, and have incorporated many of them into the various 
alternatives we addressed in the draft CCP and the EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
this draft CCP, we, other governmental partners, and the public raised 
several issues. Our draft CCP addresses them. A full description of 
each alternative is in the EA. To address these issues, we developed 
and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized below.

                                                                   B: Optimal habitat
                                             A: No-action        management and public      C: Maximal habitat
                                             alternative         use (proposed action)    management and public-
                                                                      alternative            use alternative
Issue 1: Habitat Management            Biological program and   Ecosystem-level          Intensive management to
 Activities.                            habitat management       management actions to    achieve a
                                        would continue under     better protect and       predetermined amount
                                        existing plans, with     preserve the natural     of woodlands,
                                        the emphasis remaining   diversity of unique      wetlands, croplands,
                                        primarily on migratory   habitats and sensitive   grasslands,
                                        birds, waterfowl, and    wildlife through a       shrublands, and water
                                        Federally listed         holistic, partnered,     impoundments to
                                        species; the status      and publicly involved    benefit the highest
                                        quo would prevail        approach would be        possible variety of
                                        without the benefit of   implemented; current     plants and wildlife
                                        holistic, long-term,     and future long-term     would be implemented.
                                        and comprehensive        benefits for migratory
                                        guidance.                and resident birds,
                                                                 wildlife and their
                                                                 habitats, and the
                                                                 recovery of threatened
                                                                 and endangered species
                                                                 would be provided.
Issue 2: Improvements to Public Use    Current public use       An optimal, quality      All priority public
 Opportunities.                         under existing plans     experience for the       uses (hunting,
                                        would continue; any      public. Priority         fishing, wildlife
                                        expansions would occur   wildlife-dependent       observation,
                                        opportunistically.       uses would be            photography, and
                                                                 emphasized, and other    environmental
                                                                 existing public uses     education and
                                                                 would be allowed where   interpretation) would
                                                                 appropriate.             be expanded
                                                                                          significantly above
                                                                                          current levels.
                                                                                          Visitor facilities and
                                                                                          interpretive and
                                                                                          education programs
                                                                                          would be improved or
Issue 3: Refuge Land and Boundary      Currently, there is no   Same as Alternative A;   Same as Alternative A.
 Protection.                            active land              however, additional
                                        acquisition or land      land protection to
                                        protection plan.         address whooping crane
                                        However, any future      flock expansion in the
                                        acquisitions would be    vicinity of the Refuge
                                        based on an approved     would be considered.
                                        land protection plan,    The emphasis would
                                        developed as a step-     remain on protecting
                                        down plan of the CCP.    whooping cranes and
                                        Any additional lands     available acres of
                                        added to the Refuge      existing wetland or
                                        would be purchased       restorable wetland
                                        from willing sellers     habitat and adjacent
                                        as opportunities and     uplands in portions of
                                        funding arise.           Aransas, Calhoun, and
                                                                 Refugio Counties.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     At the Aransas NWRC Headquarters Office, at 1 Wildlife 
Circle, near Austwell, TX, during the hours between 8 a.m. and 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday.
     Agency Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/
     At the following public libraries:

            Library                     Address             Phone No.
Victoria Public Library.......  302 N Main St.,             361-572-2701
                                 Victoria, TX 77901.
Parkdale Branch Library.......  1230 Carmel Pkwy,           361-853-9961
                                 Corpus Christi, TX
Calhoun County Public Library.  200 West Mahan St.,         361-552-7323
                                 Port Lavaca, TX 77979.

[[Page 6874]]

Aransas County Public Library.  701 E Mimosa St.,           361-790-0153
                                 Rockport, TX 78382.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document;
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the 
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the document; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and finding of no significant 

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 in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Dated: January 7, 2010.
Brian Millsap,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2.
[FR Doc. 2010-2911 Filed 2-11-10; 8:45 am]