[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 175 (Friday, September 9, 2011)]
[Pages 55937-55939]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-23119]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2011-N028; 10137-1265-0000 9B]

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Washoe and Humboldt Counties, 
NV, and Lake County, OR; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (Draft CCP) and 
draft environmental impact statement (Draft EIS) for the Sheldon 
National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) for public review and comment. In 
these documents, we describe alternatives, including our preferred 
alternative, for managing the Refuge for 15 years, following approval 
of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
November 8, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    E-mail: SheldonCCP@fws.gov. Include ``Sheldon Refuge draft CCP/
EIS'' in the subject line of the message.
    Internet: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/NV/docssheldon.htm.
    Fax: Attn: John Kasbohm, Project Leader, 541-947-4414.
    U.S. Mail: Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 
P.O. Box 111, Lakeview, OR 97630.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 541-947-3315 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at the above address. For more information on locations for 
viewing or obtaining documents, see Public Availability of Documents 

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Aaron Collins, Planning Team Leader, 
(541) 947-3315.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Sheldon Refuge. 
We started this process through a notice published in the Federal 
Register on May 12, 2008 (73 FR 27003). We now announce a Draft CCP/
EIS, prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act, as amended, and the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (NEPA).
    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.
    Habitat management activities proposed in the Draft CCP/EIS include 
improving the conditions of wetland, riparian, desert grassland, and 
shrub-steppe habitats, with emphasis on removing feral animals, 
reducing invasive species, reducing encroachment of western juniper, 
and where feasible, restoring fire to improve habitat diversity and 
plant community succession.
    Public-use management actions proposed in the Draft CCP/EIS include 
expanding and improving trails, signs, campgrounds, and visitor contact 
facilities for wildlife observation and photography, sport fishing, and 
hunting; continuing fishing and hunting coordination with the States; 
improving information available to all visitors; formally designating 
authorized motorized vehicle routes; and reducing illegal activities.


    Sheldon Refuge encompasses approximately 575,000 acres primarily in 
northwestern Nevada, but includes a small portion within south-central 
Oregon. Originally established to protect and conserve the American 
pronghorn, the Refuge provides important habitat for a variety of 
wildlife, including greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, American pika, 
mule deer, California bighorn sheep, Sheldon tui chub, and a variety of 
migratory birds, including shorebirds, raptors, and passerines. Habitat 
types found on the Refuge are primarily shrub-steppe uplands, but also 
include important springs and spring brooks, basalt cliffs and canyons; 
emergent marshes; juniper, mountain mahogany, and aspen woodlands; and 
desert greasewood flats.
    The purpose of the CCP is to fulfill the purposes for which the 
Refuge was established and to provide reasonable, scientifically-
grounded guidance for improving the Refuge's shrub-steppe, riparian, 
wetland, and cliff-talus habitats for the long-term conservation of 
native plants and animals, endemic fish, and migratory birds while 
providing high-quality public-use programs for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. The Draft CCP/EIS

[[Page 55938]]

identifies appropriate actions to protect and sustain biological 
features of the Refuge's sagebrush obligate wildlife populations and 
habitats, the migratory shorebird populations that use the Refuge, and 
candidate or rare species.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    The Service identified and evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the Sheldon Refuge for the next 15 years, including a No 
Action Alternative (Alternative 1). Brief descriptions of the 
alternatives follow.
    Alternative 1: Current Management. Alternative 1 reflects current 
management of Sheldon Refuge and serves as the baseline for comparing 
and contrasting the other management alternatives. Under Alternative 1, 
the Refuge's management focus would be on maintaining habitats 
throughout the Refuge in their current conditions and preventing 
further degradation of fish and wildlife habitats. The primary action 
would be to continue the current program of gathering feral horses and 
burros through regular roundups, and allowing their adoption, in order 
to maintain a relatively stable population of approximately 800 feral 
horses and 90 feral burros.
    Wildland fire suppression and mechanical cutting and thinning of 
encroaching juniper would continue, in order to maintain sagebrush 
habitats in a late stage of plant community succession and avoid 
potential widespread growth of invasive annual grasses. Prescribed 
burning would continue to be used to maintain wet meadow and grassland 
habitats in an early to mid stage of plant community succession.
    Public uses such as wildlife observation, photography, hunting, and 
fishing would continue through the maintenance of existing facilities, 
which include ponds, reservoirs, fishing docks, primary roads, and 13 
campgrounds in primitive, semi-primitive, and developed conditions. 
Stocking fish in Refuge reservoirs would continue, and the limited 
collection of rocks and minerals would be allowed to continue. Under 
Alternative 1, we would not change the current proposal for lands 
designated as wilderness. The Refuge would officially designate roads 
and routes necessary for wildlife-dependent public uses throughout 
Sheldon Refuge, consistent with existing Executive orders, Federal 
regulations, and Service policies, where such uses would be compatible 
with Refuge purposes.
    Alternative 2: Intensive Habitat Management. Under Alternative 2, 
the Service's preferred alternative, the Refuge would focus on 
improving habitat for all fish and wildlife, especially those necessary 
for healthy populations of sagebrush obligate wildlife species such as 
American pronghorn and greater sage-grouse. Actions to improve habitats 
within the Refuge would include the adoption, and if necessary, auction 
of all feral horses and burros on the Refuge within 5 years of 
implementing the CCP, consistent with Service policy. Other management 
actions to improve habitat conditions would include relocating 
campgrounds away from sensitive riparian habitats, reducing western 
juniper and sagebrush encroaching into adjacent habitats, and, where 
feasible, increasing the occurrence and frequency of fire, to restore 
more natural habitat conditions, diversity, and plant community 
succession. Removing abandoned commercial livestock developments and 
reducing invasive plants along road corridors would be emphasized.
    Wildlife-dependent public uses would also be emphasized, with 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, 
interpretation, and environmental education maintained or improved from 
present conditions. Recreation opportunities for limited collection of 
rock and mineral specimens would be allowed to continue, with added 
emphasis on visitor information related to relevant laws, regulations, 
and interpretation of the area's geology. The State of Nevada fish 
stocking program would continue, limiting stocked fish species to those 
naturally occurring within the local area.
    Under Alternative 2, we would recommend wilderness designation for 
approximately the same number of acres in the current proposal, but the 
location and distribution of the areas recommended would differ. 
Contingent upon approval of the wilderness recommendation, we would 
open some designated primitive routes for motorized vehicle use under 
Alternative 2. Several segments of existing and proposed routes would 
be realigned to reduce erosion and other impacts to riparian habitats.
    Alternative 2 is the Service's preferred alternative because it is 
expected to result in the greatest improvement of habitat conditions 
for native fish, wildlife, and plants on the Refuge. It also achieves 
the purposes for which the Refuge was established.
    Alternative 3: Less Intensive Management. Under Alternative 3, the 
Refuge's management focus would be on mimicking or restoring natural 
processes, to maintain, enhance, and where possible, increase native 
fish, wildlife, and plant diversity representative of historical 
conditions in the Great Basin. Emphasis would be placed on improving 
shrub-steppe habitats and restoring modified and/or degraded habitats 
to a more native condition, while using less intensive and less costly 
management actions where appropriate. Habitat management actions would 
include the adoption and, if necessary, auction of all feral horses and 
burros from the Refuge within 10 years. Other habitat management 
efforts would emphasize natural habitat restoration and creating 
conditions where natural processes, such as fire, could be allowed more 
frequently, with less dependence on prescribed fire and other intensive 
management actions.
    Public-use opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, 
hunting, and fishing would be available at most current sites, except 
fish stocking would be discontinued at one of the two reservoirs 
currently stocked within the Refuge. Campgrounds would be consolidated 
to establish larger individual campgrounds with better amenities. Under 
Alternative 3, we would propose the least number of acres for 
designation as wilderness, compared to the other alternatives. 
Contingent upon this proposal, Alternative 3, we would open some 
designated primitive routes to motorized vehicle use that would not 
require intensive restoration or management to minimize adverse 

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations.
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/NV/docssheldon.htm.
     Lake County Public Library, 513 Center St., Lakeview, OR.
     Humboldt County Public Library, 85 East Fifth St., 
Winnemucca, NV.
     Washoe County Public Library, 301 South Center St., Reno, 

Submitting Comments

    Public comments are requested, considered, and incorporated 
throughout the planning process; please see DATES for due dates. 
Comments on the Draft CCP/EIS will be analyzed by the Service and 
addressed in final planning documents.

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.

[[Page 55939]]

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: August 31, 2011.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2011-23119 Filed 9-8-11; 8:45 am]