[Federal Register: January 14, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 9)]
[Page 2158-2159]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2009-N241; 12521-1261-0000-N3]

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Pacific Island 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 
and announcement of public scoping.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare an environmental impact statement to evaluate eradication of 
nonnative rats on Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). We 
provide this notice to advise the public and other agencies of our 
intent, and obtain public comments, suggestions, and information on the 
scope of issues to consider in the EIS.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by March 1, 2010.

ADDRESSES: Additional information about the Refuge is available on the 
Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/palmyraatoll/. Send your comments or 
requests for information by any of the following methods.
    E-mail: palmyra@fws.gov.
    Fax: Attn: Beth Flint, (808) 792-9586.
    U.S. Mail: Beth Flint, Acting Project Leader, Pacific Reefs 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 300 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 5-231, 
Honolulu, HI 96850.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Beth Flint, Pacific Reefs National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, phone (808) 792-9553.


Refuge Overview

    The Refuge is located in the Northern Line Islands, approximately 
1,000 miles south of Honolulu, HI, in the Central Pacific Ocean. The 
Refuge was established in 2001 to protect, restore, and enhance 
migratory birds, coral reefs, and threatened and endangered species in 
their natural setting. Palmyra Atoll consists of approximately 54 
small, heavily vegetated islets surrounding 3 central lagoons. Habitats 
consist of 680 acres of land and 15,512 acres of lagoons and shallow 
reefs. The Refuge's boundary extends seaward 12 nautical miles, 
encompassing 515,232 acres. Palmyra's terrestrial habitats support one 
of the largest remaining tropical coastal strand forests in the U.S. 
Pacific Islands. A diverse land crab fauna including the coconut crab, 
ecologically intact predator-dominated fish assemblages, and large 
seabird populations are important resources of this Refuge. The Refuge 
is closed to commercial fishing.
    The original configuration of the atoll was significantly modified 
by the U.S. Navy during World War II. A network of roadways connecting 
the major islets and the construction of a north-south causeway altered 
natural water circulation. Introduced rats are severely degrading the 
terrestrial ecosystem of this important atoll by limiting the 
reproduction, recruitment, and establishment of several native tree 
species. Furthermore, the coconut palm, an invasive tree, already 
dominates 45 percent of Palmyra's forests. The spread of coconut palm 
is likely aided by rat-related recruitment and limitation of other tree 
species. Left unchecked, the combined effects of rats and coconut palms 
could drastically alter forest structure. Introduced rats on islands 
are also known to prey heavily on seabirds, which is likely preventing 
six seabird species from successfully nesting on the atoll. The rats 
also prey on native land crabs and directly compete with them for 
limited food resources. All of these impacts in turn affect the 
relationship between land and marine resources, and compromise the 
Service's ability to achieve Refuge purposes.
    We furnish this notice in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as amended, and its implementing 
regulations; the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 
1966 as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 
of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge Administration Act); and 
Service policies. The Refuge Administration Act requires all lands 
within the National Wildlife Refuge System to be managed in accordance 
with achieving the purposes for which a refuge was established. For the 
Palmyra Atoll Refuge, the eradication of introduced rats would aid in 
achieving the following Refuge purposes.
     Perpetuate a functioning atoll ecosystem with natural 
diversity and abundance of fauna and flora.
     Preserve, restore, and enhance all terrestrial species of 
animals and plants that are endangered or threatened with becoming 
     Provide for conservation of migratory bird resources at 
the Refuge.
    We will prepare an EIS in accordance with NEPA and its implementing 
regulations. Public input during the EIS planning process is hereby 

Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    We have identified the following preliminary issues, concerns, and 
opportunities we may consider during development of the EIS. We may 
identify additional issues during the public comment period. We will 
consider public comments during development of the EIS.
     What alternatives should be considered with regard to 
eradication of rats from Palmyra Refuge?
     How can we balance cost, efficacy, risks to nontarget 
species, and other variables?
     What current or planned island uses including natural 
resource management activities, public visitation, and scientific 
research at the atoll should we consider in the Draft EIS?
     What other island resources, including historic and 
cultural artifacts, specific biological resources, and physical 
attributes such as water quality and soils, should we consider in the 
Draft EIS?
     To document the effects and effectiveness of our Refuge 
management actions, what monitoring should the proposal include?
    We will evaluate a range of alternatives in the EIS, and their 
potential effects on the environment and local communities. We estimate 
that the draft EIS will be available for public review in October 2010. 
We will

[[Page 2159]]

announce opportunities for public input throughout the EIS planning 

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: December 1, 2009.
David J. Wesley,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2010-579 Filed 1-13-10; 8:45 am]