[Federal Register: November 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 229)]
[Page 74073-74075]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2010-N203; 20131-1265-2CCP-S3]

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron and Willacy 
Counties, TX; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No 
Significant Impact for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


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 (EA) for the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). 
In this final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge for the 
next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and FONSI/EA 
by any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the document(s) at http://
    E-mail: mark_sprick@fws.gov. Include ``Laguna Atascosa final CCP'' 
in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Mark Sprick, AICP, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 505-248-7411 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at 500 Gold Avenue, SW., 
Albuquerque, NM 87102.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sonny Perez, Refuge Manager, Laguna 
Atascosa NWR, 22817 Ocelot Road, Los Fresnos, TX 78566; by phone, 956-
748-3607; or by e-mail, sonny_perez@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for the Laguna 
Atascosa NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register July 19, 2004 (69 FR 43010).
    Laguna Atascosa NWR is located in Cameron and Willacy Counties, 
Texas, and encompasses 97,007 acres of brush lands, coastal prairies, 
freshwater and brackish pothole wetlands, estuarine wetlands, lomas 
(clay ridges), wind tidal flats, and barrier island beaches and

[[Page 74074]]

dunes. Management efforts focus on protecting, enhancing, and restoring 
Refuge habitats and water management for the benefit of important fish 
and wildlife resources. The Refuge is a premiere bird watching 
destination with 415 recorded bird species, more than any other 
national wildlife refuge. A total of eight federally listed endangered 
or threatened species occur within the Refuge, including four species 
of sea turtles. The largest U.S. population of endangered ocelot cats 
is located on the Refuge, making it the center for ocelot conservation 
and recovery.
    Laguna Atascosa NWR was formally established by the Migratory Bird 
Commission on October 31, 1945, and the first tract forming the Refuge 
was acquired on March 29, 1946. The purposes of the Refuge are: ``[F]or 
use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for 
migratory birds'' (Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (16 U.S.C. 
715d), as amended); ``for wildlife conservation purposes if the real 
property has particular value in carrying out the national migratory 
bird management program'' (Transfer of Certain Real Property for 
Wildlife Conservation Purposes Act of 1948 (16 U.S.C. 667b-667d), 
Public Law 80-537, as amended); ``for the development, advancement, 
management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife 
resources'' (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742(a)(4), as 
amended); and ``for the benefit of the United States Fish and Wildlife 
Service, in performing its activities and services. Such acceptance may 
be subject to the terms of any restrictive or affirmative covenant, or 
condition of servitude'' (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 
742(b)(1), as amended).
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for the Laguna Atascosa NWR in accordance with 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 EA that accompanied the draft CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering the Laguna 
Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge for the next 15 years. Alternative B, 
with modifications as described in Appendix H (Response to Public 
Comments), is selected as the management direction for the Final Plan.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge 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 for 
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 and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will 
review and update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the Refuge Administration Act.

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP and our EA (74 FR 66148) addressed several issues. To 
address these, we developed and evaluated the following alternatives.

                                             A: No-action          B: Proposed action     C: Optimize public-use
                                             alternative              alternative              alternative
Issue 1: Habitat Management            Biological program and   Integrated biological    Same as No-Action
 Activities.                            habitat management       and habitat management   Alternative
                                        would continue under     efforts with landscape-  (Alternative A).
                                        existing plans; any      level and ecosystem-
                                        expansions would occur   level plans; emphasis
                                        opportunistically..      on protection and
                                                                 monitoring of Federal
                                                                 trust species and
                                                                 priority species and
                                                                 their habitats..
Issue 2: Improvements to public use    Limited to current       Improvement of priority  Expand and emphasize
 opportunities.                         public use under         public uses,             all priority public
                                        existing plans; any      particularly hunting,    uses, particularly
                                        expansions would occur   fishing, and wildlife    hunting and fishing
                                        opportunistically..      observation, to meet     and access to all
                                                                 demand when compatible   Refuge areas to the
                                                                 with wildlife needs      maximum extent when
                                                                 and Refuge purposes;     compatible, based on
                                                                 expansion of research    public comments.
                                                                 efforts and dynamic
Issue 3: Staffing, Facilities, and     Existing staffing (17    Addition of 11 staff to  Base funding and
 Infrastructure.                        permanent positions)     existing base;           staffing would
                                        and facilities; any      addition of over 6       increase by four
                                        additional staff and     miles of hike/bike       positions (Outdoor
                                        facility expansions      trails; one auto tour    Recreation Planner and
                                        would occur              route; two separate      three Park Rangers);
                                        opportunistically..      parking areas; new       several additional
                                                                 visitor center at        miles of auto tour
                                                                 Laguna Atascosa Unit.    routes, seven hike/
                                                                 Visitor contact and      bike trails and
                                                                 research station at      associated parking
                                                                 Bahia Grande..           areas; visitor contact
                                                                                          station; all primarily
                                                                                          at Bahia Grande.


    We accepted comments on the draft CCP and the EA for the Laguna 
Atascosa NWR from December 14, 2009, to February 12, 2010 (74 FR 
66148). Subsequently, the Draft Plan/EA were made available for public 
review starting on December 14, 2009, at the Refuge, at eight local 
municipal and county libraries in the south Texas area near the Refuge, 
and at the Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Four open house 
meetings were held in communities near the Refuge in January 2010. In 
all, 98 individuals signed the attendance rosters at the open house 
meetings and a total of 52 comments were submitted in writing or phoned 
in to the Refuge/Regional Office. Additionally, one State agency, one 
university, and six nongovernmental

[[Page 74075]]

organizations responded prior to the end of the 60-day public comment 
period. Based on the comments received, we changed the Draft Plan/EA to 
include: Improved inventory and assessment of water resources to meet 
protection goals, recommended strategies for bird surveys, modification 
of a wildlife objective to clarify protections for falcons, and 
strategies to address future establishment of artificial water sources.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative B for implementation. This alternative describes how 
habitat objectives will be accomplished through a combination of 
management activities to encourage ecological integrity, promote 
restoration of coastal prairie habitats, control invasive plant 
species, and provide/enhance brush land, wetland and grassland habitat 
for ocelots, migratory waterfowl, and other resident wildlife. This 
alternative was selected because it best meets refuge purposes and 
goals of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. This action will 
not adversely impact endangered or threatened species or their habitat. 
Opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation activities, such as 
hunting, fishing, observation, photography, environmental education, 
and interpretation, will be enhanced. Future management actions will 
have a neutral or positive impact on the local economy, and the 
recommendations in the Plan will ensure that Refuge management is 
consistent with the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/
     At the following libraries:

            Library                      Address           Phone  number
City of Brownsville Public       2600 Central Blvd.,        956-548-1055
 Library.                         Brownsville, TX 78520-
Harlingen Public Library.......  410 '76 Drive,             956-427-8841
                                  Harlingen, TX 78550.
Laguna Vista Public Library....  1300 Palm Blvd., Laguna    956-943-7155
                                  Vista, TX 78578.
Los Fresnos Public Library.....  402 W. Ocean, Los          956-233-5330
                                  Fresnos, TX 78566.
Port Isabel Public Library.....  213 Yturria St., Port      956-943-2265
                                  Isabel, TX 78578.
Willacy County/Reber Memorial    190 N. 4th. St.,           956-689-2930
 Library.                         Raymondville, TX 78580.
Rio Hondo Public Library.......  121 N. Arroyo Blvd.,       956-748-3322
                                  Rio Hondo, TX 78583.
San Benito Public Library......  101 W. Rose St., San       956-361-3860
                                  Benito, TX 78586.

    Dated: October 19, 2010.
Joy Nicholopoulos,
Regional Director, Region 2, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-30003 Filed 11-29-10; 8:45 am]