[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 196 (Wednesday, October 10, 2012)]
[Pages 61624-61626]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-24929]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N078; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Patuxent Research Refuge, Prince George's and Anne Arundel 
Counties, MD; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (we, the Service), 
announce the availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment (CCP/EA) for Patuxent Research Refuge 
(Patuxent RR), located in Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties, 
Maryland, for public review and comment. The draft CCP/EA describes our 
proposal for managing the refuge for the next 15 years.

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    Also available for public review and comment are the draft findings 
of appropriateness and draft compatibility determinations for uses to 
be allowed upon initial completion of the plan, if alternative B is 
selected. These are included as appendix C in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your comments no later than 
November 26, 2012. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local 
news media, via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning 
Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/patuxent/ccphome.html.

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.
    Email: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Please include ``Patuxent RR 
Draft CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attention: Bill Perry, 413-253-8468.
    U.S. Mail: Bill Perry, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 301-497-5580 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at Patuxent RR, 10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708. For 
more information on locations for viewing or obtaining documents, see 
``Public Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Knudsen, Refuge Manager, 301-437-
5580 (phone), or Bill Perry, Planning Team Leader, 413-253-8688 
(phone); northeastplanning@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Patuxent RR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 
12563; March 16, 2010).
    Patuxent RR was established in 1936 by Executive Order by President 
Franklin D. Roosevelt ``to effectuate further the purposes of the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Act'' and ``as a wildlife experiment and 
research refuge.'' The total approved acquisition boundary encompasses 
12,841 acres between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC--an area 
with one of the highest densities of development in the United States. 
Currently, about 10,000 of Patuxent RR's 12,841 acres are forest, but 
the refuge also contains grasslands, freshwater marshes, shrub and 
early successional forest, and open water. It provides important 
habitat for a variety of migratory birds of conservation concern. The 
refuge also offers unique opportunities for environmental education and 
interpretation in an urban setting and is home to the U.S. Geological 
Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, a leading 
international research institute for wildlife and applied environmental 


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.

Public Outreach

    We started pre-planning for the Patuxent RR CCP in December 2009. 
In February 2010, we distributed our first newsletter and press release 
announcing our intent to prepare a CCP for the refuge. In February and 
March 2010, we had a formal public scoping period. The purpose of the 
public scoping period was to solicit comments from the community and 
other interested parties on the issues and impacts that should be 
evaluated in the draft CCP/EA. To help solicit public comments, we held 
two public meetings at the refuge during the formal public scoping 
period. Throughout the rest of the planning process, we have conducted 
additional outreach by participating in community meetings, events, and 
other public forums, and by requesting public input on managing the 
refuge and its programs. We received comments on topics such as the 
potential effects of climate change, habitat management, reforesting, 
environmental education programs, and other public uses of the refuge. 
We have considered and evaluated all of the comments we received and 
addressed them in various ways in the alternatives presented in the 
draft CCP/EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, the Maryland Department of 
Natural Resources, other governmental partners, and the public raised 
several issues. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated 
three alternatives in the draft CCP/EA. A full description of each 
alternative is in the draft CCP/EA. All alternatives include measures 
to control invasive species, monitor and abate diseases affecting 
wildlife and plant health, coordinate with USGS to house and support 
research efforts, protect cultural resources, continue existing 
projects managed by outside programs, and minimize impacts from the 
shooting ranges located on the refuge. There are also several actions 
that are common to both alternatives B and C. These include using green 
technology to update refuge buildings and grounds, constructing 
additional space for environmental education and interpretation 
classes, and collaborating with stakeholders on a redesign of the 
shooting ranges.
    There are other actions that differ among the alternatives. The 
draft CCP/EA describes each alternative in detail and relates it to the 
issues and concerns that arose during the planning process. Below, we 
provide summaries for the three alternatives.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    Alternative A (current management) satisfies the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirement of a ``no 
action'' alternative, which we define as ``continuing current 
management.'' It describes our existing management priorities and 
activities, and serves as a baseline for comparing and contrasting 
alternatives B and C. It would maintain our present levels of approved 
refuge staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in place. 
We would continue to manage for and maintain a diversity of habitats, 
including forests, forested wetlands, pine-oak savannah, grasslands, 
and scrub-shrub on the refuge. The refuge would continue to provide an 
active visitor use program that supports environmental education and 
interpretation, hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation and 

Alternative B (Forest Restoration and Mixed Public Use)

    This alternative is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines 

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actions we believe would most effectively achieve the refuge's 
purposes, vision, and goals, and respond to the issues raised during 
the scoping period. It emphasizes the management of specific refuge 
habitats to support species of conservation concern in the Chesapeake 
Bay region. In particular, it emphasizes forest biodiversity and 
ecosystem function. This includes the restoration of a number of 
impoundments and grasslands to forested areas to support forest 
interior-dwelling bird species and other forest-dependent species. In 
addition, alternative B strives to promote wildlife-dependent public 
uses, while allowing for non-wildlife-dependent public uses. In 
particular, it promotes higher quality hunting and fishing programs; 
expands wildlife observation, viewing, and photography opportunities; 
and initiates new interpretive program and environmental education 

Alternative C (Maximize Forest Interior Restoration and Emphasize 
Wildlife-dependent Public Use Activities)

    Alternative C would focus on maximizing interior forest habitat. 
This would require active management to restore a majority of 
impoundments and grasslands into forested areas that would support 
forest interior-dwelling species, in addition to other species of 
conservation concern. Alternative C also focuses on accommodating 
wildlife-dependent public uses while minimizing non-wildlife-dependent 
uses, particularly by expanding wildlife observation, viewing, and 
photography opportunities and reducing the number of special events and 
interpretive programming.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/patuxent/ccphome.html.

Submitting Comments

    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document;
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the EA;
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the EA.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and, if appropriate, a finding 
of no significant impact.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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. 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 14, 2012.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-24929 Filed 10-9-12; 8:45 am]