[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 206 (Wednesday, October 24, 2012)]
[Pages 65011-65015]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-26083]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2012-N019: FXRS12610200000S3-123-FF02R06000]

Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Randall County, TX; 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and an 
environmental assessment (EA) for the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife 
Refuge (Refuge, NWR), located approximately 30 miles southwest of 
Amarillo, Texas, for public review and comment. The

[[Page 65012]]

Draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for managing the refuge for the 
next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
November 23, 2012. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local 
news media.

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. Please contact Lynn Nymeyer, 
Refuge Manager, or Joseph Lujan, Natural Resource Planner.
    Email: Joseph_Lujan@fws.gov. Include ``Buffalo Lake NWR draft CCP 
and EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Joseph Lujan, 505-248-6803.
    U.S. Mail: Joseph Lujan, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, NWRS Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, NM 87103.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: In-Person Drop-off: You may 
drop off comments during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) 
at 500 Gold Street SW., 4th Floor Room 4305. Albuquerque, NM 87102.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Nymeyer, Refuge Manager, Buffalo 
Lake NWR, CCP--Project, P. O. Box 179, Umbarger, TX 79091; phone: 806-
499-3382; fax: 806-499-3254.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for the Buffalo Lake 
NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register 
(63 FR 33693; June 19, 1998).
    The Buffalo Lake NWR, which consists of over 7,677 acres, is 
located approximately 30 miles southwest of Amarillo, Texas. The 
primary purpose of the refuge is to protect wintering waterfowl and 
short-grass prairie habitat. The refuge was officially established on 
November 17, 1959, and continues to provide critical habitat for 
migratory waterfowl and grassland bird species.


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 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

    Formal scoping began with publication of a notice of intent to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment 
(EA) in the Federal Register on June 19, 1998 (63 FR 33693). Texas 
Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was formally invited to 
participate in the development of the CCP. We received input from TPWD 
on September 16, 2004, and have continued to involve them throughout 
the planning process. Information sheets were sent to the public, and 
news releases were sent to a variety of media outlets. A public open 
house meeting was held December 15, 2009, at the refuge. Additional 
written comments were received prior to these open house meetings. A 
variety of stakeholders contributed feedback at the open house meetings 
and via written comments; we used the feedback in development of the 

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
this draft CCP, we, other governmental partners, Tribes, and the 
public, raised multiple issues. Our draft CCP addresses them. A full 
description of each alternative is in the EA. To address these issues, 
we developed and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized 

                                                                                            C--Optimal habitat
                                             A--No-action         B--Improved habitat     management and public
             Alternatives               alternative  (current    management and public    use  (proposed action)
                                              practices)            use alternative            alternative
                                               Habitat Management
Climate Change.......................  No current management    Establish a baseline     Same as Alternative B.
                                        direction.               dataset for refuge
                                                                 resources. From this
                                                                 dataset, a decision-
                                                                 based research and
                                                                 monitoring program
                                                                 will be developed to
                                                                 track any potential
                                                                 impacts climate change
                                                                 may have on the refuge.
Habitat Fragmentation................  Limit the amounts and    Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        types of all new         plus the development
                                        infrastructures such     of a Land Protection
                                        as roads and trails on   Plan of an additional
                                        the refuge.              20,000 acres would
                                                                 guide land acquisition
                                                                 for the refuge and
                                                                 further conservation
                                                                 efforts in the area
                                                                 and reduce human
                                                                 encroachment on the

[[Page 65013]]

Wind Energy Research.................  Conduct a diurnal avian  Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        activity survey and      plus actively track
                                        acoustic monitoring in   wind energy
                                        order to track any       development projects
                                        changes in habitat and   in and around Randal
                                        wildlife.                County to assist the
                                                                 refuge in anticipating
                                                                 potential changes in
                                                                 habitat and wildlife.
Prairie Management and Restoration...  Use grazing and          Same as Alternative A,   Cease using grassland
                                        prescribed fire to       plus supplement          leasing for livestock
                                        promote and maintain     current management       grazing and permit
                                        prairie habitat.         with reseeding parts     native fauna species,
                                                                 of the refuge with       whose populations
                                                                 native short grasses.    would be permitted to
                                                                                          increase under this
                                                                                          alternative, to graze
                                                                                          freely without
                                                                                          competition on the
                                                                                          refuge. The 7-year
                                                                                          prescribed fire
                                                                                          program as described
                                                                                          in Alternative A would
Invasive Flora Species...............  Remove invasive flora    Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        through chemical means.  plus the refuge would
                                                                 utilize additional
                                                                 chemical treatment on
                                                                 invasive flora species
                                                                 through the use of
                                                                 aircraft application,
                                                                 followed by the
                                                                 mechanical removal of
                                                                 aboveground systems.
Moist Soil Management................  Maintain 40-acre Moist   Same as Alternative A,   Developed sufficient
                                        Soil Unit.               plus the addition of     moist soil units to
                                                                 three 40-acre moist      maintain the level
                                                                 soil units and the       available to wildlife
                                                                 related pumping          prior to the Ogallala
                                                                 infrastructure. The      Aquifer receding due
                                                                 water source, like the   to human activity and
                                                                 current moist soil       use.
                                                                 units, will be a well
                                                                 from the Santa Rosa
                                                                 Aquifer with filters
                                                                 to insure no Ogallala
                                                                 water is used.
Lakebed Management...................  Cooperatively farm 581   Reduce all farming       Remove all farming
                                        acres of the dry         activities to            activity from the
                                        lakebed.                 approximately half of    refuge and convert
                                                                 current management;      farming lands to
                                                                 this would limit         native vegetation.
                                                                 farming activities to
                                                                 no more than 300
                                                                 acres. Additionally,
                                                                 previously farmed
                                                                 lands would be
                                                                 converted back to
                                                                 natural vegetation.
Water Quality........................  Continue to utilize the  Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative A.
                                        current water            plus the installation
                                        retention structure at   of bio-filters and
                                        Umbarger Dam.            necessary groundwater
                                                                 pump infrastructure in
                                                                 order to remove coli
                                                                 forms from surface and
                                                                 ground water flowing
                                                                 from adjacent and
                                                                 nearby cattle
                                                                 operations. This
                                                                 infrastructure would
                                                                 be located on the
                                               Wildlife Management
Native Fauna.........................  Maintain current levels  Same as Alternative A..  Same as Alternative A.
                                        of prairie dogs, mule
                                        deer and white tailed
Invasive Fauna.......................  Manage invasive fauna    Same as Alternative A..  Same as Alternative A.
                                        throughout the refuge.
                                             Visitor Services Issues
Hunting..............................  There is currently no    Introduce hunting to     Same as Alternative B.
                                        hunting permitted on     the refuge to assist
                                        the refuge and a hunt    in controlling
                                        plan has not been        invasive fauna species
                                        developed.               as well as control the
                                                                 populations of native
                                                                 fauna species.
Fishing..............................  Currently, no fishing    Construct a 6+/-acre     Same as Alternative B.
                                        in the refuge.           public fishing pond
                                                                 near existing viewing
                                                                 blind by the lake bed
                                                                 and Stewart Marsh.

[[Page 65014]]

Wildlife Observation and Photography.  Maintain hiking trails   Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        and the auto-tour        plus the installation
                                        route, observation       of six additional
                                        decks, viewing blinds,   blinds, near moist
                                        and scenic overlooks.    soil units, prairie
                                        The refuge maintains     dog town, and Unit 12
                                        two viewing blinds,      (for deer).
                                        one at Stewart Marsh
                                        and another
                                        overlooking the
                                        prairie dog town.
Environmental Education and            The refuge hosts and     Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
 Interpretation.                        annual education day     plus increase the
                                        for school children      number of education
                                        from surrounding         days (as requested) to
                                        communities. Refuge      a maximum of one per
                                        staff maintains an       month. The refuge
                                        environmental            would also develop and
                                        education area for       construct 20
                                        education/               interpretive panels.
                                        interpretation           Expansion of existing
                                        programs; both the       auto tour route would
                                        education area and the   open areas of the
                                        staff are available      refuge that are closed
                                        upon request to          to the public due to
                                        provide environmental    safety concerns.
                                        education and
                                        interpretation on the
                                        auto-tour route and
                                        self-guided hiking
Camping..............................  The refuge currently     Same as Alternative A..  Same as Alternative A.
                                        permits primitive
                                        camping in a
                                        designated 25-site
                                        campground that has
                                        picnic tables and
                                        restroom facilities.
Administrative Facilities............  Maintain headquarters    Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B,
                                        and Visitors Center.     plus develop an          plus increase
                                                                 Administrative Complex   infrastructure to
                                                                 to include               provide the refuge
                                                                 headquarters, Visitors   with sufficient water
                                                                 Center, biological       sources to mimic the
                                                                 lab, and maintenance     amount as historically
                                                                 and storage facility.    provided by the
                                                                                          natural spring. This
                                                                                          would provide the same
                                                                                          habitat that was
                                                                                          available to wildlife
                                                                                          prior to the Ogallala
                                                                                          Aquifer receding due
                                                                                          to human activity and
Public Use Facilities................  Limited public use       Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        facilities include       plus expand
                                        photo blinds, four       construction and
                                        parking lots, six        maintenance of two
                                        vault toilets.           additional hiking
                                                                 trails, one near the
                                                                 Prairie Dog town and
                                                                 the other through
                                                                 grassland prairie
                                                                 habitat near the
                                                                 campground. The refuge
                                                                 would also replace and/
                                                                 or rehabilitate the
                                                                 existing chemical
                                                                 toilet facilities
                                                                 adjacent to the
                                                                 campground with
                                                                 facilities that can
                                                                 remain open year round.
Quality and Safety of Refuge Roadways  Maintain current road    Same as Alternative A,   Same as Alternative B.
                                        infrastructure.          plus the
                                                                 rehabilitation of the
                                                                 entrance road from
                                                                 Farm to Market 168 to
                                                                 headquarters with a
                                                                 two lane paved road
                                                                 with adequate
                                                                 shoulders. Resurfacing
                                                                 of the remaining
                                                                 refuge roads with new

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to using any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or 
obtain documents at the following locations:
     Buffalo Lake NWR Headquarters Office, Umbarger, TX 79091, 
between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/publicinvolvement.html.
     The following public libraries:

[[Page 65015]]

            Library                      Address             Phone No.
Deaf Smith County Library......  211 East 4th Street,       806-364-1206
                                  Herford, TX 79045.
Canyon Public Library..........  1501 3rd Avenue,           806-655-5015
                                  Canyon, TX 79015.
Amarillo Southwest Library.....  6801 Southwest 45th        806-359-2094
                                  Ave, Amarillo, TX

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    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 
environmental assessment (EA);
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 

Next Steps

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

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: September 13, 2012.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-26083 Filed 10-23-12; 8:45 am]