[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 165 (Friday, August 24, 2012)]
[Pages 51556-51557]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-20843]

[[Page 51556]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2012-N123: 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, Humboldt County and Washoe 
County, NV; Lake County, OR; Final 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 the final comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental impact statement (CCP/EIS) for Sheldon National Wildlife 
Refuge (Refuge). In the final CCP/EIS, we describe how we propose to 
manage the Refuge for the next 15 years.

DATES: We will sign a record of decision no sooner than 30 days after 
publication of this notice.

ADDRESSES: You may view, obtain, or request printed or CD-ROM copies of 
the Final CCP/EIS by any of the following methods.
    Agency Web Site: Download the final CCP/EIS at www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/NV/docssheldon.htm.
    Mail: Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 111, Lakeview, OR 
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, 
20995 Rabbit Hill Road, Lakeview, OR 97630.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aaron Collins, Planning Team Leader, 
(541) 947-3315 ext. 223 (phone).



    With this notice, we announce the availability of the Refuge's 
final CCP/EIS. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register (73 FR 27003; May 12, 2008). We released the draft CCP/EIS to 
the public, announcing and requesting public comments in a notice of 
availability in the Federal Register (76 FR 55937; September 9, 2011).
    The Refuge encompasses approximately 575,000 acres, located 
primarily in northwestern Nevada, with a small area in south-central 
Oregon. The Refuge was established to protect the American pronghorn; 
it also provides important habitat for greater sage-grouse, pygmy 
rabbit, American pika, mule deer, California bighorn sheep, Sheldon tui 
chub, various raptors, and numerous passerines and invertebrates. 
Habitat types found on the Refuge are primarily shrub-steppe uplands, 
and springs and spring brooks, basalt cliffs and canyons, and emergent 
marshes; juniper, mountain mahogany, and aspen woodlands; and desert 
greasewood flats.
    We announce the availability of the final CCP/EIS 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 in the final CCP/EIS.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering the Refuge for 
the next 15 years. Alternative 2, as we described in the Final CCP/EIS, 
is our preferred alternative.


The CCP Process

    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 We Are Considering

    We evaluated three alternatives for managing the Refuge for the 
next 15 years in the Final CCP/EIS. Based on our analysis, we 
identified Alternative 2 as our preferred alternative; it was modified 
in the Final CCP/EIS to address the comments we received on the Draft 
CCP/EIS. We summarized the comments and our responses in Appendix N of 
the Final CCP/EIS. Summaries of our alternatives follow.

Alternative 1 Current Management (No Action Alternative)

    Alternative 1 reflects current management of the Refuge and serves 
as the baseline for comparing the other management alternatives. Under 
Alternative 1 our management focus would be on maintaining habitats 
throughout the Refuge in their current conditions and preventing 
further degradation. We would continue to roundup and adopt out feral 
horses and burros, to maintain a population of approximately 800 horses 
and 80 burros. Wildland fire suppression, and mechanical cutting and 
thinning of encroaching juniper, would continue, to maintain sagebrush 
habitats in the late stages of succession, and avoid potential 
widespread growth of invasive annual grasses. We would continue to use 
prescribed fire to maintain wet meadow and grassland habitats in their 
early-to-mid-stages of succession. Public uses such as wildlife 
observation, photography, hunting, and fishing would continue on 
existing ponds, reservoirs, fishing docks, primary roads, and various 
primitive, semi-primitive, and developed campgrounds. Fish stocking in 
Refuge reservoirs would continue, as would the limited collection of 
rocks and minerals. The existing wilderness proposal would not change.

Alternative 2 Intensive Habitat Management (Preferred Alternative)

    Under Alternative 2, our preferred alternative, we would focus on 
improving habitat for fish and wildlife, with an emphasis on supporting 
healthy populations of sagebrush-obligate wildlife species such as 
American pronghorn and greater sage-grouse. Actions to improve the 
Refuge's habitats would include removing all feral horses and burros 
from the Refuge within 5 years, relocating campgrounds away from 
sensitive riparian habitats, reducing western juniper encroachment, 
and, where feasible, increasing the frequency of fire to restore more 
natural habitat conditions, diversity, and plant community succession. 
Removing abandoned livestock developments and reducing invasive plants 
along roads would be emphasized. Opportunities for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation would be maintained or improved. Limited rock and 
mineral collecting would continue, with improved visitor information. 
Nevada's fish stocking program would continue, using fish species 
naturally occurring within the local area. Our wilderness 
recommendation would differ from the existing proposal by including 
some but not all of the lands identified in the existing proposal, and 
recommending areas not previously identified. Contingent upon approval 

[[Page 51557]]

the wilderness recommendation, we would propose reopening some 
primitive routes for motorized vehicle use. Several segments of 
existing and recommended routes would be realigned to reduce erosion 
and impacts to riparian habitats. Alternative 2 would result in the 
greatest improvements to native habitat conditions throughout the 
Refuge, would best meet the policy and directives of the Service, is 
compatible with the Refuge's purposes, and would maintain balance among 
the Refuge's varied management needs and programs.

Alternative 3 Less Intensive Management

    Under Alternative 3, we would restore natural processes, to 
maintain, enhance, and where possible, increase the Refuge's 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 more natural conditions, while using less intensive management 
actions where appropriate. Habitat management actions would include 
removing all feral horses and burros from the Refuge within 10 years, 
and creating conditions where natural processes, such as fire, could be 
allowed, with less dependence on intensive management actions. 
Opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, hunting, and 
fishing would continue at most current sites, except that fish stocking 
at Big Spring Reservoir would not occur. Campgrounds would be 
consolidated into fewer but larger developed campgrounds, with better 
amenities. We would recommend a smaller number of acres for wilderness 
designation under Alternative 3. As part of our wilderness proposal, we 
would recommend reopening some primitive routes for motorized vehicle 
use, which would not require intensive restoration or management to 
minimize adverse impacts.


    We solicited comments on the Draft CCP/EIS in a Federal Register 
notice (76 FR 55937; September 9, 2011). We received comments from 
1,709 agencies, organizations, and individuals. We addressed the 
comments in the Final CCP/EIS by making minor changes and 
clarifications as appropriate. These changes are explained in our 
responses to public comments in Appendix N of the Final CCP/EIS.

    Dated: June 21, 2012.
Richard R. Hannan,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-20843 Filed 8-23-12; 8:45 am]