[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 101 (Wednesday, May 25, 2011)]
[Pages 30382-30384]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-12964]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2010-N125; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Benton, Linn, 
Marion, and Polk Counties, OR

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (DCCP) and 
environmental assessment (EA) for the Willamette Valley National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex (refuge complex) for public review and comment. 
The refuge complex is made up of Ankeny, Baskett Slough, and William L. 
Finley National Wildlife Refuges (refuges), located in Benton, Linn, 
Marion, and Polk Counties, Oregon. In the DCCP and EA, we describe and 
evaluate alternatives, including our preferred alternative, for 
managing the refuge complex for the 15 years following approval of the 
final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by June 24, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, requests for more information, or 
requests for copies of the DCCP/EA, by any of the following methods:
    E-mail: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Willamette Valley 
NWRC DCCP/EA'' in the subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, (541) 757-4450.
    U.S. Mail: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, Willamette Valley National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, 26208 Finley Refuge Road, Corvallis, OR 97333-
    Web site: http://www.fws.gov/WillametteValley/complex/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, (541) 



    The complex includes three refuges: William L. Finley, Baskett 
Slough, and Ankeny. Together, the three refuges encompass approximately 
11,110 acres in western Oregon. Habitats on the refuges include 
seasonal, semipermanent, and permanent wetlands; wet prairies, upland 
prairie/oak savannas, oak woodlands, mixed deciduous-coniferous 
forests, riparian, and riverine and stream habitats. Agricultural 
lands, the majority managed as grass fields, are also present on the 
refuges. The refuges were established under the Migratory Bird 
Conservation Act ``for use as an inviolate sanctuary or for any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds . . . to conserve and protect 
migratory birds . . . and to restore or develop adequate wildlife 
habitat'' with emphasis on protecting dusky Canada geese. In the last 
four decades, these refuges have provided not only an important 
wintering grounds for the dusky and thousands of other wintering geese 
and ducks--but have been recognized more recently as increasingly 
important areas for conservation of the remaining fragments of the 
native Valley habitats and biota. The refuges support key populations 
of federally listed species, including Oregon chub, Fender's blue 
butterfly, Bradshaw's desert-parsley, Kincaid's lupine, Nelson's 

[[Page 30383]]

mallow, and Willamette daisy, and provide migration habitat for listed 
Chinook salmon and steelhead. Several other rare species are also found 
on the refuges.


The CCP Process

    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.

Public Outreach

    We began public outreach by publishing a Notice of Intent in the 
Federal Register (73 FR 11137; February 29, 2008), announcing our 
intent to complete a CCP and EA and inviting public comments. In 
January 2008, we distributed Planning Update 1 to our mailing list and 
public outlets. On February 7 and 13, 2008, we held public scoping 
meetings in Salem and Corvallis, Oregon, respectively, to meet the 
public and identify issues for evaluation. The meetings were announced 
through local media outlets, on the refuges' Web site, and in Planning 
Update 1. In September 2008, we distributed Planning Update 2, which 
included a summary of the comments we received, a planning schedule, 
and a description of the CCP's scope. In September 2009, we distributed 
Planning Update 3; in it we summarized our preliminary draft 
alternatives, and invited public comments.

DCCP/EA Alternatives We Are Considering

    We identified and evaluated three alternatives for managing the 
refuges, including a No Action Alternative (Alternative 1). Brief 
descriptions of the alternatives follow:

Alternative 1 (No Action)

    Under Alternative 1, the refuges would continue to maintain 
cultivated grass fields under a cooperative farming program to provide 
forage for wintering Canada geese. Other goose management activities, 
such as managing wetland habitats and providing sanctuary, would 
continue. The refuges would also continue to manage and enhance native 
habitats but no further habitat restoration work would occur. 
Endangered species management would continue. Existing public uses 
would continue with the current facilities and programs in place. No 
new public use facilities would be developed. The current areas closed 
to public access would remain in effect to provide sanctuary during the 
wintering waterfowl season. The refuges would not pursue any additional 
land protection measures under the no change alternative.

Alternative 2 (Preferred Alternative)

    Under Alternative 2, an emphasis on providing habitat for wintering 
geese would remain. Forage would continue to be provided primarily via 
cooperative farming. The refuges would pursue measures to help retain 
the services of cooperative farmers, such as providing enhanced 
irrigation capabilities; providing additional lure crops such as corn 
or other grains; the refuges taking over farming on certain high goose 
use fields; the Service offsetting a portion of the costs to 
cooperative farmers, etc. Wetland habitat management and restoration 
would also be intensified to improve habitat for geese and other 
    Management and enhancement would continue in remnant native 
habitats and recently restored areas. In addition, approximately 479 
additional acres on the three refuges would be restored to wetland, wet 
prairie, riparian, or upland prairie/oak savannah habitats over the 
next 15 years.
    Threatened and endangered species management would continue to be a 
priority, guided by recovery plans where applicable. Existing 
populations of several threatened and endangered species would be 
strengthened, and several new populations would be established on the 
    Wildlife observation and interpretation would continue to be 
emphasized as the cornerstone of the public use program. Several new 
trails and observation facilities would be added. Additional 
interpretive signs and materials, including on-line materials, would be 
developed. Major special events would occur at a frequency of about 3-4 
per year, and monthly weekend interpretive programs would be developed.
    Environmental education efforts would be expanded with an objective 
of reaching more students and schools, particularly at William L. 
Finley Refuge. Outdoor class shelters would be added. Funding would be 
sought to construct an Environmental Education Center, including indoor 
classroom facilities and a small exhibit area.
    A new option to hunt antlerless deer would be added. In addition, 
new upland locations would be available for hunting during a portion of 
the shotgun season; this will require closure of two hiking trails for 
a week in November. The shotgun season would be shortened and shifted 
to later in the State season. A youth waterfowl hunt and a September 
goose hunt would be provided at Baskett Slough Refuge. Fishing would be 
promoted at the Willamette River by providing a canoe launch at Snag 
Boat Bend. The current area closed to public access would remain in 
effect to provide sanctuary during the wintering waterfowl season.
    Together with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the refuges 
would develop an elk management plan after completion of the CCP. The 
refuges would continue to expand conservation partnerships, volunteer 
programs, and outreach to local communities. Proactive cultural 
resource management would occur by repairing/maintaining the historic 
structures on William L. Finley Refuge and by adding associated 
interpretive facilities.
    This alternative also proposes protection, conservation, and 
management of additional lands within the Willamette Valley that could 
contribute to the refuges' purposes and goals by providing wintering 
habitat and forage for Canada geese; providing protection, enhancement, 
and restoration of native habitats and rare Willamette Valley species; 
and providing opportunity for additional wildlife-dependent public use. 
The refuges would undertake a subsequent land protection planning 
process to identify specific tracts of lands for these purposes.

Alternative 3

    This alternative involves a major shift in management for wintering 
Canada geese. Forage would be provided either through contract farming 
(paying farmers to grow crops on the refuges) and/or force account 
farming (refuge staff doing the farming). The refuges would only farm 
fields that have been

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receiving moderate to high goose use. Refuge farming program costs 
would increase and goose use would likely decrease.
    This alternative would create the opportunity to restore 
approximately 1,436 acres of cropland to native habitat since the 
amount of farmland would be reduced. However, the fields to be restored 
would likely lie fallow and could become weedy while awaiting staff 
time and funding for restoration.
    Wildlife observation and interpretation would continue to be 
emphasized as the cornerstone of the public use program, but this 
alternative does little to expand these programs further. Interpretive 
signs would be developed or updated for existing facilities where 
needed, but major new developments and new interpretive methods would 
generally not occur. One or two special events would be held each year. 
The current area closed to public access on all three refuges would 
remain in effect to provide sanctuary during the wintering waterfowl 
    Deer hunting, threatened and endangered species management, 
environmental education, fishing, elk management, cultural resources, 
subsequent land protection planning, and conservation partnership 
activity would occur as under Alternative 2.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the information in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents in the following ways: by calling the refuge complex at (541) 
757-7236 or visiting our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/WillametteValley/finley/refuge_planning.html. Printed copies will be 
available for review at the following libraries:
     Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 NW. Monroe 
Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330, 541-766-6926.
     Albany Public Library, 2450 14th Avenue SE., Albany, OR 
97231, 541-917-7580.
     Dallas Public Library, 950 Main Street, Dallas, OR 97338, 
     Jefferson Public Library, 128 South Main Street, 
Jefferson, OR 97352, 541-327-3826.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the final CCP and decision document.

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 become publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your identifying information from 
the public, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    Dated: April 28, 2011.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2011-12964 Filed 5-24-11; 8:45 am]