[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 103 (Friday, May 27, 2011)]
[Pages 30959-30961]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-13214]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N055; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, LA and MS; 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 a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Bogue Chitto National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, 
Louisiana, and Pearl River County, Mississippi, for public review and 
comment. In this 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 27, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by contacting Ms. 
Tina Chouinard, via U.S. mail at Fish and Wildlife Service, 3006 
Dinkins Lane, Paris, TN 38242. Alternatively, you may download the 
document from our Internet site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning 
under ``Draft Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Tina Chouinard, at 731/432-0981 



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Bogue Chitto NWR. 
We started the process through a notice of intent in the Federal 
Register on February 20, 2009 (74 FR 7913). For more about the refuge 
and our CCP process, please see that notice.
    Established in 1980, Bogue Chitto NWR is one of eight refuges 
managed as part of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex. The refuge headquarters is approximately 9 miles northeast of 
the city of Slidell, Louisiana. The 36,502-acre refuge is bisected by 
the Pearl River in Louisiana and Mississippi. On the Mississippi side 
of the river, the refuge is bounded by Old River Wildlife Management 
Area (15,400 acres) to the north and by the State of Louisiana's Pearl 
River Wildlife Management Area (35,031) to the south, thereby forming 
an 87,000-acre block of protected forested wetlands and adjacent 
uplands within the Pearl River Basin.
    White-tailed deer, squirrel, turkey, waterfowl, and hog hunting, as 
well as fishing, are offered to the public. The threatened and 
endangered species found on the refuge are ringed map turtle, gopher 
tortoise, inflated heelsplitter mussel, and gulf sturgeon.
    Access is primarily by boat on the refuge's Louisiana side and road 
access is available on the refuge's Mississippi side. In 2002, the new 
Holmes Bayou walking trail was unveiled on the Louisiana side of the 
refuge. This 3/4-mile walking trail offers a unique journey into the 
interior of Bogue Chitto NWR's majestic habitat. The Pearl River 
Turnaround area is being developed as a site for education and 
interpretation, as well as a site for the annual youth fishing rodeo.


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 
    Significant issues addressed in this Draft CCP/EA include: (1) 
Managing for invasive species and species of special concern, such as 
the gopher tortoise and ringed map turtle; (2) managing mixed pine 
upland and bottomland hardwood forests; (3) managing for land 
protection; (4) examining for a wilderness study area; (5) enhancing 
wildlife-dependent public use: And (6) increasing permanent staff.

[[Page 30960]]

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)

    The no action alternative would maintain the status quo and was 
developed using anticipated conditions in the area of Bogue Chitto NWR 
over the next 15 years. It assumes that current conservation management 
and land protection programs and activities by the Service and its 
stakeholders would continue to follow past trends. This alternative is 
included for the purpose of comparison to baseline conditions and is 
not considered to be the most effective management strategy for 
achieving the vision and goals of the refuge.
    Under this alternative, wildlife population monitoring/surveying 
would be limited to current, primarily mandated species, without the 
benefit of additional focus on species of concern and species chosen as 
indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Forest management efforts for 
wildlife benefit would occur opportunistically. Public use programs 
would not change or increase with demand and would not be adapted based 
on their effects on refuge resources. Forestry and fire management 
programs would not be evaluated for efficiency and effectiveness.
    The wilderness character of Holmes Island would probably not be 
altered appreciably under this alternative. No facilities' development 
would take place on the island; however, the island could still be 
subjected to habitat improvement projects, such as forest thinning and 
prescribed fire. If the island were to be thinned, depending on the 
logging method(s) used, this could necessitate temporary skid roads and 
pads for timber harvesting equipment, which could potentially, at least 
temporarily, compromise Holmes Island's wilderness character.
    Under Alternative A, negative effects to soils, water, air, and 
other physical parameters would be mitigated to some extent, but not as 
well as benefits that could be provided with the use of strategic 
habitat management. The biological environment would remain protected, 
but certain systems could suffer if not systematically monitored using 
focused species as indicators. Management under Alternative A would not 
adversely affect socioeconomic values of the area, but the refuge would 
not achieve its potential for providing needed educational and 
wildlife-dependent recreational activities.

Alternative B--Resource-Focused Management (Proposed Alternative)

    Implementing Alternative B would be the most effective management 
action for meeting the purposes of Bogue Chitto NWR. Monitoring and 
surveying would be conducted systematically, after assessing which 
species should be targeted based on their population status and ability 
to indicate health of important habitat. Restoration efforts, the fire 
program, and forest management would reflect best management practices 
determined after examination of historical regimes, soil types and 
elevation, and the current hydrological system. Management actions 
would be monitored for effectiveness and adapted to changing 
conditions, knowledge, and technology. A Habitat Management Plan would 
be developed for future habitat projects and to evaluate previous 
    The wilderness character of Holmes Island would be ensured under 
this alternative, pending a final decision by the Service, the 
President, and the Congress on whether to adopt the refuge's 
recommendation that it be designated a unit of the National Wilderness 
Preservation System. While this would be a benefit of Alternative B, 
one adverse effect of including Holmes Island as a Wilderness Study 
Area would be to restrict management options, such as conducting forest 
thinning and prescribed fire on the island for the sake of wildlife 
habitat improvement.
    Public use programs would be updated to educate visitors about the 
reasons for specific refuge management actions, and to provide quality 
experiences for refuge visitors. The refuge complex headquarters in 
Lacombe, Louisiana, would be equipped to provide additional information 
about Bogue Chitto NWR. Options and opportunities would be explored to 
expand visitor contact areas on the refuge. In an increasingly 
developing region, Alternative B would strive to achieve a balanced 
program of wildlife-dependent recreational activities and protection of 
wildlife resources.
    This alternative proposes to add six new positions to current 
staffing dedicated primarily to Bogue Chitto NWR in order to continue 
to protect refuge resources, provide visitor services, and attain 
facilities and equipment maintenance goals.

Alternative C--User-Focused Management

    Alternative C emphasizes managing the refuge for wildlife-dependent 
recreational uses. The majority of staff time and efforts would support 
public use activities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. In general, the focus of refuge management would be on 
expanding public use activities to the fullest extent possible, while 
conducting only mandated resource protection such as conservation of 
threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and archaeological 
    All management programs for conservation of wildlife and habitat, 
such as monitoring, surveying, and marsh management, would support 
species and resources of importance for public use. Emphasis would be 
placed more on interpreting and demonstrating these programs than 
actual implementation. Providing access with trails would be maximized, 
as would public use facilities throughout the refuge. Federal trust 
species and archaeological resources would be monitored as mandated. 
Any negative impacts to soil, water, air, and other physical parameters 
would be observed only when highly visible effects manifested, because 
monitoring would not be based on indicator species or species of 
concern. With the majority of staff time and funds supporting a public 
use program, wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education 
and interpretation could be more successful than in the other 
alternatives. Refuge resources would be protected from over-use so that 
quality public-use experiences would not be reduced. The socioeconomic 
value of the refuge to the surrounding area would be the highest under 
this alternative.
    Land acquisitions within the approved acquisition boundary would be 
based on importance of the habitat for public use. The refuge 
headquarters and visitor center would be developed for public use 

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 

[[Page 30961]]

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: March 22, 2011.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2011-13214 Filed 5-26-11; 8:45 am]