[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 5 (Friday, January 7, 2011)]
[Pages 1190-1191]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-97]

[[Page 1190]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2010-N228; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, City of Virginia Beach, VA; 
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 our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment (EA) for Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In this 
final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 

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 CD-ROM.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the document(s) at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Back%20Bay/ccphome.html.
    Electronic mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Back Bay 
Final CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    U.S. Postal Service: Thomas Bonetti, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035-
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 757-721-2412 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at Back Bay NWR, 4005 
Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456-4325.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jared Brandwein, Refuge Manager, Back 
Bay NWR, 4005 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23456-4325; phone: 
757-721-2412; electronic mail: jared_brandwein@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Back Bay NWR. We 
started this plan's development by publishing a notice in the Federal 
Register (67 FR 30950; May 8, 2002), and then updating that notice (72 
FR 8196, February 23, 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 15721) on March 30, 2010.
    Back Bay NWR, currently 9,035 acres, was established in 1938 by 
Executive Order 7907 `` * * * as a Refuge and breeding ground for 
migratory birds and other wildlife.'' Another of the refuge's primary 
purposes for lands acquired under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act 
is ``* * * use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management 
purpose, for migratory birds.'' The Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 
1986 also authorizes purchase of wetlands for the purpose of ``* * * 
the conservation of the wetlands of the Nation in order to maintain the 
public benefits they provide and to help fulfill international 
obligations contained in various migratory bird treaties and 
conventions,'' using money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 
In 1939, presidential proclamation closed 4,600 acres of open bay 
waters within the refuge boundary to the taking of migratory birds. The 
refuge includes 5 miles of oceanfront beach, a 900-acre freshwater 
impoundment complex, numerous bay islands, bottomland mixed forests, 
old fields, and freshwater wetlands adjacent to Back Bay and its 
tributary shorelines.
    Although wildlife and habitat conservation come first on the 
refuge, the public can enjoy excellent opportunities to observe and 
photograph wildlife, fish, hunt, or participate in environmental 
education and interpretation. Current visitor facilities are primarily 
located in the eastern, barrier island portion of the refuge, where 
annual visitation is greater than 100,000. Back Bay NWR provides scenic 
trails, a visitor contact station, and, with advance scheduling, group 
educational opportunities. Outdoor facilities are open daily, dawn to 
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Back Bay NWR in accordance with National Environmental 
Policy Act (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 Back 
Bay 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 Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (75 FR 15721) addressed several key issues, 
including ways to improve access and opportunities for public use while 
ensuring the restoration and protection of priority resources, the 
evaluation of wilderness characteristics of refuge lands, the role of 
cooperative farming, and the management of invasive or nuisance species 
on the refuge.
    To address these issues and develop a plan based on the purposes 
for establishing the refuge, and the vision and goals we identified, 
three alternatives were evaluated in the EA. The alternatives have some 
actions in common, such as encouraging research that benefits our 
resource decisions, maintaining a proactive law enforcement program, 
protecting cultural resources, 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 base-line against which to compare the 
other two 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,'' reflects a 
management emphasis on enhancing conservation of wildlife through 
habitat management, as well as providing additional visitor 
opportunities on the refuge. Some of the major strategies proposed 
include: Opening up the forest canopy by selectively removing loblolly 
pine, sweetgum, and red maple; withdrawing the 1974 wilderness 
designation proposal for Long Island, Green Hills, and Landing Cove 
(2,165 acres); developing a canoe/kayak trail on the

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west side of the refuge; expanding the deer hunt; developing new hiking 
trails; and developing and designing a new headquarters/visitor contact 
    Alternative C features additional management that aims to restore 
(or mimic) natural ecosystem processes or functions to achieve refuge 
purposes. Alternative C focuses on using management techniques that 
would encourage forest growth and includes an increased focus toward 
the previously proposed wilderness areas. Strategies proposed include 
creating conditions that allow us to shift more resources from 
intensive management of the refuge impoundment system to the 
restoration of Back Bay-Currituck Sound. In addition, we propose to 
develop and design a new headquarters/visitor contact station that 
provides more office space than proposed for Alternative B; and we also 
plan to work with partners to provide a shuttle service (for a fee) 
from the new headquarters site to the barrier spit.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Back Bay NWR from 
March 30 to May 1, 2010 (75 FR 15721). We received comments from 162 
individuals, organizations, and State and Federal agencies on our draft 
plan via electronic mail, phone, and letters. All comments we received 
were evaluated. A summary of those comments and our responses to them 
is included as Appendix K in the CCP.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, we 
have selected Alternative B for implementation. 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 Appendix L of the 

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain documents as indicated under ADDRESSES.

    Dated: November 17, 2010.
Salvatore M. Amato,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Hadley, MA 01035.
[FR Doc. 2011-97 Filed 1-6-11; 8:45 am]