[Federal Register: April 29, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 82)]
[Page 22618-22619]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2009-N202; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Kent County, MD

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of final comprehensive conservation plan 
and finding of no significant impact for environmental assessment.


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 Eastern Neck 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 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://
    Electronic mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Eastern Neck 
Final CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    U.S. Postal Service: Suzanne Baird, Project Leader, Chesapeake 
Marshlands NWR Complex, 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, MD 21613.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 410-228-2692 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at refuge complex 
headquarters in Cambridge, Maryland.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Suzanne Baird, Project Leader, 
Chesapeake Marshlands NWR Complex, 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, 
MD 21613; phone: 410-228-2692 extension 101; electronic mail: suzanne_



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Eastern Neck NWR. 
We started this plan's development through a notice in the Federal 
Register on June 11, 2002 (67 FR 40002). Because of changes in budget 
and staffing priorities, we put the project on hold in 2003. We 
restarted the process, publishing another notice in the Federal 
Register on January 22, 2007 (72 FR 2709). We released the draft CCP/EA 
to the public, announcing and requesting comments in a notice of 
availability in the Federal Register on September 9, 2009 (74 FR 
    Eastern Neck NWR, a 2,286-acre island, was established in 1962 to 
protect and conserve migratory birds. The refuge lies at the confluence 
of the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay, and is regionally important as 
foraging and resting habitat for a wide variety of migratory birds and 
wintering waterfowl. Refuge habitats are highly diverse, and include 
tidal marsh, open water, and woodland. The refuge's managed croplands 
specifically benefit waterfowl by providing a ready source of high-
energy food during winter when their reserves are low, as well as a 
secure area to forage during hunting season. The moist soil units (MSU) 
and green tree reservoirs on the refuge are also managed to enhance 
habitats for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Thousands of Atlantic 
population Canada geese and black ducks winter here, as do large rafts 
of ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, and greater and lesser scaup. Of 
particular note are the wintering tundra swans that use the adjacent 
shallow waters. A small number of the Federally listed endangered 
Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) occur on the refuge, as 
do nesting bald eagles and more than 60 migratory bird species of 
conservation concern.
    Although conserving wildlife and habitat is the refuge's first 
priority, the public can observe and photograph wildlife, fish, hunt, 
or participate in environmental education and interpretation programs. 
To facilitate those activities, we maintain self-guiding trails, 
fishing and observation platforms, and photography blinds. School 
groups come throughout the year for our educational and interpretive 
programs. An annual deer hunt and youth turkey hunt are also very 
popular activities on the refuge. All programs benefit from the active 
involvement of the Friends of Eastern Neck and refuge volunteers.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Eastern Neck NWR in accordance with National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We completed 
a thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, which we 
included in the draft CCP/EA.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Eastern Neck 
NWR for the next 15 years. Alternative B, as we described in the draft 
CCP/EA, is the foundation for 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 goals 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 Administration Act.

[[Page 22619]]

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (74 FR 46456) addressed several key issues, 
including the protection and restoration of shoreline, tidal marsh, and 
submerged aquatic vegetation; invasive plant and exotic species 
control; management for waterfowl and other species of conservation 
concern; wetland and upland habitat management; archeological and 
culture resource protection; and enhancement of public use programs.
    To address these issues and develop a plan based on the purposes 
for establishing the refuge, and the vision and goals we identified, we 
evaluated three alternatives in the draft CCP/EA. The alternatives have 
some actions in common, such as protecting and monitoring Federally 
listed and recently delisted species, controlling invasive species and 
monitoring wildlife diseases, encouraging research that benefits our 
resource decisions, protecting cultural resources, and distributing 
refuge revenue-sharing payments to Kent County.
    Other actions distinguish the alternatives. Alternative A, or the 
``No Action Alternative,'' is defined by our current management 
activities. It serves as the baseline against which to compare the 
other two alternatives. Our habitat management and visitor services 
programs would not change under this alternative. We would continue to 
use the same tools and techniques, and not expand existing facilities.
    Alternative B, the ``Service-Preferred Alternative,'' reflects a 
management emphasis on protection and restoration of the refuge's 
shoreline and tidal marshes. Priorities under this alternative are 
expanding our shoreline and tidal marsh protection and restoration 
program, managing wetlands and uplands to benefit migratory waterfowl, 
consolidating and reducing the acreage of managed croplands, and 
increasing the diversity, health, and distribution of the refuge's 
deciduous-mixed forest to benefit forest-dependent migratory and 
resident birds. Our public-use programs would be enhanced, but not 
expanded. In addition to continuing to offer wildlife observation, 
wildlife photography, deer hunting, youth turkey hunting, recreational 
crabbing, and fishing opportunities, we would augment our environmental 
education program with volunteer-led programs and increased involvement 
with the local school district. We would also seek funding for two new 
refuge complex staff positions assigned to Eastern Neck NWR: a 
biological technician and a park ranger (law enforcement).
    Alternative C resembles alternative B in its focus on the 
protection and restoration of shoreline and tidal marsh; however, it is 
distinguished by its emphasis on forest management and natural 
succession and the expansion of public-use opportunities. Under 
alternative C, we would manage the transition of existing croplands, 
grasslands, and shrublands to deciduous-mixed forest. Under alternative 
C, we would enhance and expand our public-use programs to include year-
round use of the Ingleside Recreational Area, an extension of the 
Tundra Swan boardwalk, additional environmental education programs, new 
interpretive signage, and an all-age turkey hunt. We would also 
evaluate adding a new trail and car-top boat launch on the southern 
portion of the refuge.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Eastern Neck NWR from 
September 9, 2009, through October 30, 2009 (74 FR 46456). We received 
comments from 42 individuals, organizations, and State and Federal 
agencies on our draft plan via electronic mail, phone, and letters. We 
evaluated all received comments. A summary of those comments and our 
responses to them is included as Appendix H in the final CCP.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, and 
after conducting a field review with Service and Maryland Department of 
Natural Resources staff, we made six modifications to Alternative B to 
include in the final CCP. First, we will create three larger MSUs 
totaling 22 acres, instead of the four smaller ones we originally 
proposed. Second, we will reduce the acres in cropland management from 
the existing 557 acres to 403 acres (a 28-percent reduction), instead 
of reducing it to 372 acres (a 33-percent reduction) as originally 
proposed in the draft CCP/EA. The 31 acres that will remain in cropland 
are fields which, upon further examination, receive high wildlife use 
and will facilitate wildlife observation and photography along public 
access roads. Third, we will maintain two hedgerows we planned to 
remove in the draft CCP/EA, since subsequent field evaluation indicates 
they contribute to habitat diversity, reduce the erosive forces of wind 
and storm events on adjacent fields, and facilitate wildlife 
observation and photography along public access roads. Fourth, the plan 
to retain the two hedgerows and adjacent cropland reduces the need and 
benefit of moving the headquarters road, which we had proposed in the 
draft CCP/EA. Because of the reduced need and benefit described above, 
coupled with public concern about the expense, we have dropped from the 
final CCP the proposal to move the road. Fifth, we will increase our 
shoreline and tidal marsh protection programs to include an additional 
3,000 linear feet along the northern portion of the refuge where 
shoreline loss has accelerated in recent years. All new major shoreline 
protection projects will require additional environmental analysis and 
public involvement. Sixth, we will modify the aggressive Phragmites 
control efforts described in the draft CCP/EA. There are certain areas 
where the loss of refuge shoreline is accelerating and the only 
protection is the presence of Phragmites, which helps dissipate the 
erosive forces of wind and wave action. Until we can establish native 
vegetation or other natural barriers to those impacts, we will scale 
back our Phragmites control efforts in certain high-risk areas.
    We have selected alternative B with the changes identified above 
for implementation for several reasons. The modified alternative B 
comprises the mix of actions that, in our professional judgment, works 
best towards achieving refuge purposes, our vision and goals, and the 
goals of other State and regional conservation plans. We also believe 
it most effectively addresses the key issues raised during the planning 
process. The basis of our decision is detailed in the final CCP 
Appendix I--Finding of No Significant Impact.

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain documents as indicated under ADDRESSES.

    Dated: April 26, 2010.
James G. Geiger,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Hadley, MA 01035.
[FR Doc. 2010-9946 Filed 4-28-10; 8:45 am]