[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 44 (Monday, March 7, 2011)]
[Pages 12365-12367]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-4043]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2010-N269; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Tucker and Grant 
Counties, WV; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No 
Significant Impact for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment (EA) for Canaan Valley 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 a CD-ROM.
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document(s) at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Canaan%20Valley/ccphome.html.
    E- mail: Send document requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. 
Include ``Canaan Valley NWR CCP'' in the subject line of your e-mail.
    U.S. Postal Service: Send document requests to Ken Sturm, Acting 
Refuge Manager, Canaan Valley NWR, 6263 Appalachian Highway, Davis, WV 
    Fax: Attention: Ken Sturm, 304-866-3852.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Sturm, Acting Refuge Manager, 
Canaan Valley NWR, 6263 Appalachian Highway, Davis, WV 26260-8061; 
phone: 304-866-3858; electronic mail: ken_sturm@fws.gov.

[[Page 12366]]



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Canaan Valley 
NWR. We started this plan's development through a notice in the Federal 
Register (72 FR 2709) on January 22, 2007. We released the draft CCP/EA 
to the public, announcing and requesting comments in a notice of 
availability in the Federal Register (75 FR 30423) on June 1, 2010.
    The 16,193-acre Canaan Valley NWR was established in 1994 to 
conserve and protect fish and wildlife resources and the unique wetland 
and upland habitats of this high-elevation valley. The refuge is 
located in Tucker County, WV, and has an approved acquisition boundary 
of 24,000 acres. It includes the largest wetland complex in the State, 
and encompasses the headwaters of the Blackwater and Little Blackwater 
Rivers. The refuge supports species of concern at both the Federal and 
State levels, including the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, 
bald eagle, and the Federally listed Cheat Mountain salamander and 
Indiana bat. Its dominant habitats include wet meadows, peatlands, 
shrub and forested swamps, beaver ponds and streams, northern hardwood 
forest, old fields and shrubland, and managed grassland.
    Refuge visitors engage in wildlife observation and photography, 
environmental education, interpretation, hunting, and fishing. 
Management activities include maintaining and perpetuating the 
ecological integrity of the Canaan Valley wetland complex, perpetuating 
the ecological integrity of upland northern hardwood and northern 
hardwood-conifer forests to sustain wildlife and plant communities, 
providing a diversity of successional habitats in upland and wetland-
edge shrublands, grasslands, old fields, and hardwood communities, and 
supporting wildlife-dependent recreation and education.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Canaan Valley NWR in accordance with National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (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 Canaan Valley 
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 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 

CCP Alternatives, Including the Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (75 FR 30423) addressed several key issues, 
including the improvement of early successional habitat, the creation 
of trail connections on- and off-refuge, and the need for better hunter 
    To address these issues and develop a plan based on the purposes 
for establishing the refuge, and the vision and goals we identified, 
four alternatives were evaluated in the EA. The alternatives have some 
actions in common, such as protecting cultural resources, controlling 
invasive plant species, encouraging research that benefits our resource 
decisions, continuing to acquire land from willing sellers within our 
approved refuge boundary, and distributing refuge revenue-sharing 
payments to counties.
    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 three 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,'' is designed 
to balance the conservation of a mixed-forest matrix landscape with the 
management of early successional habitats and the protection of 
wetlands. The habitat-type objectives in the plan identify focal 
species whose life and growth requirements would guide management 
activities in each respective habitat. We would facilitate the removal 
of more deer from the refuge by increasing access and opening more 
lands to rifle hunting, and we would officially open the refuge to 
fishing. We would create more trail connections, expand visitor center 
hours, build a new environmental education pavilion, and increase the 
number of environmental education and interpretation programs.
    In Alternative C, we would increase access and infrastructure to 
support more priority public uses than any of the other alternatives. 
We would create a cross-valley trail that would run east-west through 
the northern part of the valley, and we would allow limited off-trail 
use in a designated area. With an increase in public access and 
infrastructure development, we anticipate a greater need for monitoring 
and control of invasive plants. We would also encourage additional 
research that would assess whether increased public use affects 
wildlife behavior, including nesting, feeding, and resting. Within the 
biological objectives, differences between this alternative and the 
others are more subtle, but generally emphasize early successional 
habitat management over forest stand improvement.
    Alternative D strives to establish and maintain the ecological 
integrity of natural communities within the refuge. Management would 
range from passive, or ``letting nature take its course,'' to actively 
manipulating vegetation to create or hasten the development of mature 
forest structural conditions shaped by natural disturbances such as 
infrequent fires, ice storms, and small patch blow-downs. Under this 
alternative, no particular wildlife species would be a management 
focus. We would promote research and development of applied management 
practices to sustain and enhance the natural composition, patterns, and 
processes within their natural range in the Central Appalachian Forest. 
We would limit new visitor services infrastructure to already disturbed 
areas. We would enhance hunting and fishing opportunities in ways 
similar to Alternatives B and C.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Canaan Valley NWR 
from June 1, 2010, to July 16, 2010 (75 FR 30423). During the comment 
period, we received 312 responses, both oral and written. All comments 
we received were evaluated. A summary of those comments and our 
responses to them is included as Appendix J in the CCP.

[[Page 12367]]

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, we 
have selected Alternative B for implementation, for several reasons. 
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 
FONSI, located in Appendix K of the CCP.

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain documents as indicated under ADDRESSES.

    Dated: January 19, 2011.
Wendi Weber,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2011-4043 Filed 3-7-11; 8:45 am]