[Federal Register: December 22, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 245)]
[Page 80524-80525]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2010-N159; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge, Jefferson County, AL

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 Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In the 
final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Stephen 
A. Miller, Refuge Manager, Mountain Longleaf NWR, P.O. Box 54087, 
Anniston, AL 36205. The CCP may also be accessed and downloaded from 
the Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/ under 
``Final Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Mike Dawson, Refuge Planner, 
Jackson, MS; telephone: 601/965-4903, ext. 20; fax: 601/965-4010; e-
mail: mike_dawson@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Watercress Darter 
NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register 
on March 12, 2007 (72 FR 11048).
    Watercress Darter NWR, near the city of Bessemer, Jefferson County, 
Alabama, was established by the Service in 1980, to provide protection 
for the endangered watercress darter. The refuge is only about 24 acres 
of ponds, mixed pine-hardwood forest, and a residence, and contains 
Thomas Spring. A second pond was constructed on the refuge in 1983, to 
provide additional watercress darter habitat. The refuge is unstaffed 
and administered by Mountain Longleaf NWR.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Watercress Darter NWR in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [40 CFR 1506.6(b)] requirements. We 
completed a thorough analysis of

[[Page 80525]]

impacts on the human environment, which we included in the Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment (Draft 
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Watercress 
Darter NWR for the next 15 years. Alternative C, as we described in the 
final CCP, is the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for wildlife observation and 
photography and environmental education and interpretation are also 
available in the final 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 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, 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 period as announced in the Federal Register on April 16, 2010 
(75 FR 19988). 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 
habitat management and visitor services throughout the refuge.
    Threats to the refuge are becoming more prominent as development 
activities occur in the city of Bessemer, Alabama. Watercress Darter 
NWR is a small system that can be greatly compromised by activities a 
distance away from its boundary. We fully recognize the impact these 
activities could have on the integrity of the refuge. In addition to 
our current management, we will extend beyond the immediate neighbors 
to address issues associated with the aquifer and spring recharge area, 
watershed, and biota exchange pathways. Extensive resource sharing and 
networking with other protected areas, state agencies, local 
governments, organizations, specialists, researchers, and private 
citizens will expand the knowledge base and assist in developing 
cooperation between interest groups. Restoration of natural systems, 
native communities, and healthy environments will be emphasized, 
promoting regionally a high-quality of life. Monitoring environmental 
parameters and flora and fauna will be incorporated into an integrated 
study to gain knowledge on the health of the refuge ecosystem. 
Education and outreach will be expanded, with an emphasis on cultural 
and historical resources. Staffing will be developed to meet the needs 
of partners and the greater number of interest groups and accommodate 
data and resource sharing. An increase in staff is presented in this 
alternative so that Watercress Darter NWR can be managed with a greater 
emphasis on landscape management. Additional staff members needed to 
fully implement this alternative at the highest quality level includes 
one position at Watercress Darter NWR and four positions shared between 
Cahaba River NWR and Watercress Darter NWR.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: September 14, 2010.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2010-32080 Filed 12-21-10; 8:45 am]