[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 84 (Monday, May 2, 2011)]
[Pages 24512-24513]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-10548]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2010-N276; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge, Lajas, Puerto Rico; 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Laguna Cartagena National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for public review and comment. In the Draft CCP/
EA, we describe the alternative we propose to use to manage this refuge 
for the 15 years following approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by June 1, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by contacting Ms. 
Laura Housh, Regional Planner, Okefenokee NWR, 2700 Suwannee Canal 
Road, Folkston, GA 31537. Alternatively, you may download the document 
from our Internet Site at http://southeast.fws.gov/planning under 
``Draft Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Laura Housh, at 912/496-6273 
(telephone) or laura_housh@fws.gov (e-mail); or Mr. Oscar Diaz, at 
787/851-7258, extension 312 (telephone), or oscar_diaz@fws.gov (e-



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Laguna Cartagena 
NWR. We started the process through a notice of intent in the Federal 
Register on May 16, 2007 (72 FR 27588). For more about the refuge, its 
purposes, and our CCP process, please see that notice.


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 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 
    The establishment of the refuge was justified to rehabilitate the 
lagoon for resident and migratory water birds and to provide increased 
wildlife-dependent public use. To date, 164 species of birds have been 
recorded in the area, including 25 first-records for Puerto Rico.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
Alternative B as the proposed alternative. A full description of each 
alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative 

Alternative A (Current Management, No Action)

    Under this alternative, our management actions would continue to be 
directed towards achieving the refuge's primary purposes. These 
purposes include restoring and enhancing native wildlife and plants, 
particularly the endangered yellow-shouldered blackbird; increasing the 
level of environmental awareness among residents and visitors; and 
protecting one of the most important shorebird habitats in the 
Caribbean. We would continue to restore and maintain existing 
subtropical dryland forest, the Cartagena Lagoon, and grassland 
habitats. Management programs would continue to be developed and 
implemented with limited baseline biological information. Active 
habitat wetland management would be implemented by continuing water-
level management of the lagoon and conducting opportunistic removal of 
cattails to try and create more open water. Current visitor facilities, 
which are somewhat limited, would be maintained, but no additional 
facilities would be added, except for perhaps a new information kiosk. 
Law enforcement of refuge regulations and for protection of wildlife 
and visitors would continue at current levels, which is done through 
sharing the resource of a single law enforcement officer who is based 
at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge.

Alternative B (Wildlife Diversity and Habitat Restoration, Proposed)

    Under this alternative, our emphasis would be on improving refuge 
resources for wildlife. We would provide greater enhancement and 
management of all habitats and associated plant communities for the 
greater benefit of wildlife. We would also work to reintroduce native 
fish to the lagoon and actively help to support birds that are 
threatened, endangered, or of management interest, including West 
Indian whistling ducks and kestrels. Specific activities that would be 
expanded or introduced under this alternative would include: Actively 
managing endangered plant populations, increasing native vegetative 
planting in the uplands, reducing the occurrence of exotic species, and 
better managing the lagoon's water quality and open-water restoration 
effort. In addition, we would expand the visitor services program, 
including facilities.
    Additional staff would be required to implement this alternative. 
Such staff would likely include a biologist, a

[[Page 24513]]

biological technician, two engineering equipment operators, a forestry 
technician (fire), a park ranger or environmental education specialist, 
a shared GIS specialist, and a shared law enforcement officer.

Alternative C (Wetland Restoration Emphasis)

    Under this alternative, we would concentrate on improving the 
lagoon's water quality and habitat; less emphasis would be placed on 
upland restoration and management and general visitor services. We 
would provide support for the lagoon's rehabilitation and management. 
Priority activities (in and adjacent to the wetlands) would include 
invasive species management (particularly cattail clearing), water 
quality monitoring and management, water flow management, and creating 
improved wetland habitat conditions and opportunities.
    Additional staff would be required to implement this alternative. 
Such staff would likely include a biologist, a biological technician, 
two engineering equipment operators, a forestry technician (fire), a 
park ranger or environmental education specialist, a shared GIS 
specialist, and a shared law enforcement officer.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them.

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.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

    Dated: January 4, 2011.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2011-10548 Filed 4-29-11; 8:45 am]