[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 200 (Tuesday, October 16, 2012)]
[Pages 63326-63327]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-25337]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-R-2008-N0186; FF06R06000 134 FXRS1265066CCP0]

Huron Wetland Management District, Madison Wetland Management 
District, and Sand Lake Wetland Management District, SD; 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) involving Huron, Madison, and Sand Lake Wetland 
Management Districts (Districts). In this final CCP, we describe how we 
will manage these three Districts 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 document at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning.
    Email: bernardo_garza@fws.gov. Include ``Huron Wetland Management 
District, Madison Wetland Management District, Sand Lake Wetland 
Management District final CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 
P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225.
    In person Viewing or Pickup: call 303-236-4377 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at 134 Union Boulevard, Suite 
300, Lakewood, Colorado 80228.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bernardo Garza, 303-236-4377, (phone); 
bernardo_garza@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Huron Wetland 
Management District, Madison Wetland Management District, Sand Lake 
Wetland Management District. We started this process through a notice 
in the Federal Register (73 FR 53439, September 16, 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 
65525, October 21, 2011).
    Huron Wetland Management District was established in 1992 
encompassing lands that were previously under the management of both 
the Lake Andes and Sand Lake Wetland Management Districts. Madison 
Wetland Management District was established in 1969. Sand Lake Wetland 
Management District was established in 1961. These Districts lie in 
eastern South Dakota, within the highly productive Prairie Pothole 
region. These Districts are three of six existing Districts in South 
Dakota, and together manage more than 1.5 million acres of land within 
the 27-county planning area. A mosaic of primarily tallgrass and mixed-
grass prairies dotted with many small lakes

[[Page 63327]]

and semipermanent or permanent wetlands, interspersed among 
agricultural lands, comprise most of the Districts.
    These diverse prairie habitats provide for a myriad of waterfowl, 
waterbird, and neotropical migratory bird species, resident white-
tailed deer, as well as federally listed species such as whooping and 
sandhill cranes, least terns, and piping plovers in the eastern portion 
of the districts to pronghorn, mule deer, and prairie chicken, among 
others, in the westernmost portion of the planning area. Native fish 
such as walleye and lake trout, as well as a large variety of other 
smaller native fish species, share this environment with sport fishes 
such as smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill and northern pike.
    Wetland drainage and tiling, as well as prairie conversion to crop 
production, pose some of the greatest challenges to the wildlife and 
native plant species of this region of the Central Flyway.
    The Districts were created to administer the Small Wetlands 
Acquisition Program to protect wetlands from various threats--
particularly drainage. Grassland easements were included in this 
program in 1991. The purpose of the Districts is ``to assure the long-
term viability of the breeding waterfowl population and production 
through the acquisition and management of waterfowl production areas, 
while considering the needs of other migratory birds, threatened and 
endangered species, and other wildlife.'' This purpose statement was 
developed for all Region 6 wetland management districts.
    Despite the decentralized nature of the lands managed by the three 
districts, it is estimated that annual visitation to all three 
districts' lands totaled more than 240,000 visitor-days, with nearly 75 
percent of this visitation involving local residents and the remaining 
25 percent from visitors from outside of the planning area. Hunting 
accounted for nearly 80 percent of the total visitation, followed by 
fishing with nearly 12 percent, and non-consumptive uses, such as bird 
watching and wildlife photography, accounting for less than eight 
percent. Trapping is also a popular activity among visitors to the 
    The Districts have been historically managed for migratory birds, 
with an emphasis on waterfowl species. Management techniques include 
prescribed burning, cattle grazing, invasive species control, and water 
level management in wetlands with water control structures. Past 
management has included installing some water control structures and 
constructing channels used to divert water. The planning area is a 
popular area for research by the Service and local universities, as 
well as state and other partners, given its diversity of wildlife and 
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for the Huron Wetland Management District, Madison Wetland 
Management District, and Sand Lake Wetland Management District 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 Huron Wetland 
Management District, Madison Wetland Management District, and Sand Lake 
Wetland Management District for the next 15 years. 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 unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System 
(System). The purpose for developing a CCP is to provide refuge 
managers with a 15-year plan for achieving their unit's purposes and 
contributing toward the mission of the 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 addressed and evaluated three management 
alternatives. Alternative A, Current Management, would have maintained 
the current management activities of each of the three Districts. 
Alternative B, Increased Efficiency, would seek the development and 
implementation of an improved, science-based priority system to restore 
native prairie habitats. Alternative C, Increased Efficiency with 
Expanded Resources, would follow the same prioritization system for 
restoration and management as under Alternative B, but it would be 
based on projected staffing and funding increases.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP and the EA for Huron, 
Madison, and Sand Lake Wetland Management Districts from October 21, 
2011 to November 21, 2011 (76 FR 65525, October 21, 2011). The Service 
received 9 comments during the public review period. All of those 
comments were thoroughly evaluated by the planning team. However none 
of the comments caused substantial changes to the CCP.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative B for implementation. This alternative, also known as 
Increased Efficiency, would emphasize developing and implementing an 
improved, science-based priority system to restore native prairie 
habitats for the benefit of waterfowl and other migratory birds. 
Districts staffs will focus on high priority tracts and, when possible, 
on medium-priority tracts. The focus of this will be to restore 
ecological processes and native grassland species to the greatest 
extent possible within the parameters of available resources and 
existing budgetary and staffing constraints. The Districts' staffs will 
seek to maintain the existing levels and types of public use programs, 
ensuring that programs offered to the public are of consistently high 

    Dated: September 12, 2012.
Steve Guertin,
Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U. S. Fish and Wildlife 
[FR Doc. 2012-25337 Filed 10-15-12; 8:45 am]