[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 154 (Thursday, August 9, 2012)]
[Pages 47660-47662]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-19538]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2012-N142; FXRS12610200000S3-123-FF02R06000]

Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Austin and 
Colorado Counties, TX; 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 the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife 
Refuge (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/EA 
by any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the documents at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/planindex.html.
    Email: monica_kimbrough@fws.gov. Include ``Attwater Prairie 
Chicken NWR final CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Monica Kimbrough, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 505-248-6642 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at 500 Gold Avenue SW., 
Albuquerque, NM 87102 or the Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR Headquarters, 
1206 APC NWR Road, Eagle Lake, TX 77434; phone: (979) 234-3021.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Terry Rossignol, Refuge Manager, 
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, CCP--Project, P.O. Box 519, Eagle Lake, 
TX 77434; phone: (979) 234-3021; fax: (979) 234-3278.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Attwater Prairie 
Chicken NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register (73 FR 65871; November 5, 2008). We released the draft CCP and 
the EA to the public, announcing and requesting comments in a notice of 
availability in the Federal Register (76 FR 77245; December 12, 2011).
    The Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, which consists of 10,541 acres 
located approximately 60 miles west of Houston, Texas, is one of the 
largest remnants of coastal prairie habitat remaining in southeast 
Texas. The Refuge was officially established on July 1, 1972, to 
preserve and restore coastal prairie habitat for the endangered 
Attwater's prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri).
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Attwater Prairie Chicken 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 EA that accompanied the draft CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Attwater 
Prairie Chicken NWR for the next 15 years.

[[Page 47661]]

Alternative B, as we described in the final CCP, is the foundation for 
the CCP.


    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.

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP and our EA (76 FR 77245; December 12, 2011) addressed 
several issues. To address these, we developed and evaluated the 
following alternatives.

                                                                 B--Optimal habitat
                                                                management and public      C--Maximal habitat
           Issue topic              A--No action alternative    use (proposed action)     management and public
                                                                     alternative             use alternative
Habitat Management Issue 1:        Combination of planting    Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B;
 Prairie Restoration.               native grasses, grazing,   plus explore              except establish seed
                                    burning, hydrologic        partnership options to    harvest and production
                                    restoration.               produce native grass      on the Refuge; grazing
                                                               seed to increase the      bison only.
                                                               number of restoration
                                                               acres; expand
                                                               monitoring for grazing
                                                               and burning effects;
                                                               remove infrastructure,
                                                               including two manmade
                                                               wetland impoundments,
                                                               restoring a functional
                                                               level of hydrology.
Habitat Management Issue 2: Land/  Acquire acres within       Continue to acquire land  Same as Alternative B.
 Property Acquisition.              approved acquisition       within acquisition
                                    boundary; not              boundary, proactively
                                    proactively seeking out    seek out land
                                    additional land            protection options and
                                    protection options.        diversify those options.
Habitat Management Issue 3:        Treatments include a       Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B.
 Invasive Species Control (Flora).  combination of chemical,   plus conduct one-time
                                    mechanical, and            systematic chemical
                                    prescribed fire.           invasive species
                                                               control for entire
                                                               refuge, unit by unit;
                                                               afterward, treatment is
                                                               expected to be required
                                                               every 2-3 years as
                                                               invasive species re-
Wildlife Management Issue 1:       Continue to implement      Same as Alternative A...  Same as Alternative A.
 Attwater's Prairie-Chicken         Attwater's Prairie-
 Recovery.                          Chicken Recovery Plan.
Wildlife Management Issue 2:       Eliminate feral hogs and   Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B.
 Invasive Species Control (Fauna).  nutria based on sighting   plus work with adjacent
                                    and/or documented          land owners to control
                                    damage; treat nest sites   feral hog population;
                                    and conduct research on    remove brush and other
                                    impacts of red imported    elements of hog
                                    fire ants on insect        movement corridors;
                                    community.                 depending on results of
                                                               current research of red
                                                               imported fire ants,
                                                               expand treated area to
                                                               full extent of refuge
                                                               and work with adjacent
                                                               landowners to expand
                                                               treatment off refuge.
Wildlife Management Issue 3:       Manage three food plots    Same as Alternative A;    Eliminate wildlife food
 Wildlife Food Plots (Farming       totaling up to 150 acres.  plus explore additional   plots.
 Program).                                                     ways to provide
                                                               supplemental food to
                                                               Attwater's prairie-
                                                               chicken, including
                                                               capability to irrigate
                                                               and addition of food
                                                               plots when the species'
                                                               populations expand.
Visitor Services Issue 1:          Provide wildlife           Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B.
 Wildlife Observation and           observation and            plus realign auto-tour
 Wildlife Photography.              photography to include     route; exclude cattle
                                    auto-tour route and two    from public hiking
                                    hiking trails.             trails; establish a new
                                                               platform and hiking
                                                               trail around Horseshoe
                                                               Lake; remove Pipit
                                                               Trail; increase guided
                                                               van tours.
Visitor Services Issue 2:          Provide environmental      Develop an environmental  Develop an outdoor
 Environmental Education.           education as requested     education program and     classroom through
                                    and as staff time          promote in local school   partnerships with local
                                    permits.                   districts.                schools, volunteers,
                                                                                         and friends group.
Visitor Services Issue 3:          Host annual Attwater's     Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B.
 Interpretation.                    Prairie-Chicken            plus add interpretive
                                    Festival; interpretive     signage and kiosk to
                                    signage at headquarters    new auto-tour route and
                                    and along auto-tour        new trail; expand
                                    route.                     interpretive
                                                               opportunities using
                                                               recent technologies.

[[Page 47662]]

Facilities Issue 1: Roads........  Cooperate with county      Same as Alternative A;    Same as Alternative B.
                                    maintenance personnel      plus acquire
                                    for refuge entrance        jurisdiction and
                                    road, and maintain other   maintenance
                                    refuge roads.              responsibilities of
                                                               existing refuge
                                                               entrance road and widen
                                                               to two full lanes; bury
                                                               powerline along
                                                               entrance road; evaluate
                                                               and remove services
                                                               roads where necessary.
Facilities Issue 2: Development    Administrative operations  Develop and approve site  Same as Alternative B.
 of Administrative Complex.         conducted out of three     plan for new integrated
                                    portable structures.       administrative complex.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP and the EA for the Attwater 
Prairie Chicken NWR from December 12, 2011, to January 23, 2012 (76 
FR77245). The public was notified of the release of the draft CCP and 
the EA through the NOA, through local media outlets, and public notices 
were posted on various community bulletin boards. The draft CCP and EA 
were made available, online, at the Regional Office in Albuquerque, at 
the Refuge, and at three public libraries in surrounding communities. A 
public open house meeting was held on January 14, 2012. The Service 
received four comment letters. The comments were thoroughly reviewed 
and the CCP did not change substantially based on public comment.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative B for implementation. Alternative B was selected over the 
other alternatives because it best meets the Refuge's vision for the 
future, the purposes for which the Refuge was established, and the 
habitat, wildlife and visitor services goals identified in the CCP. 
This alternative is the basis for the CCP and describes how habitat 
objectives will be accomplished through a combination of management 
activities to encourage ecological integrity, control invasive species, 
improve or maintain habitats, and most importantly support recovery of 
the Attwater's prairie-chicken. Opportunities for wildlife-dependent 
recreation activities will be enhanced. Future management actions will 
have a neutral or positive impact on the local economy and the 
recommendations in the CCP will ensure that Refuge management is 
consistent with the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System and 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     At the following libraries:

                 Library                                Address                          Phone number
Eula and David Wintermann Library........  101 North Walnut Ave., Eagle       979-234-5411
                                            Lake, TX 77434.
Nesbitt Memorial Library.................  529 Washington Street, Columbus,   979-732-3392
                                            TX 78934.
Virgil and Josephine Gordon Memorial       917 North Circle Dr., Sealy, TX    979-885-7469
 Library.                                   77474.

    Dated: August 3, 2012.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-19538 Filed 8-8-12; 8:45 am]