[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 28 (Friday, February 10, 2012)]
[Pages 7172-7174]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3107]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2011-N179; XRS12610200000S3-123-FFO2R06000]

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, Sequoyah, Muskogee, and 
Haskell Counties, OK; Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 
Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for Sequoyah National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR; Refuge) in Sequoyah, Muskogee, and Haskell 
Counties, Oklahoma. An environmental

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impact statement (EIS) evaluating effects of various CCP alternatives 
will also be prepared. We provide this notice in compliance with our 
CCP policy to advise other Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the 
public of our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on 
the scope of issues to consider in the planning process. We are also 
requesting public comments. This notice also advises the public that we 
have reconsidered a 1998 notice, in which we announced our intention to 
develop a CCP and environmental assessment for the Refuge. Comments 
already received in response to the previous notice will be considered 
during preparation of the subject CCP/EIS. You do not need to resend 
those comments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
April 10, 2012. We will announce additional opportunities for public 
input in local news media throughout the CCP process.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods.
    Email: SequoyahNWRCCP-EIS@fws.gov.
    Fax: Attention: Carol Torrez, NEPA Coordinator, at 505-248-6803.
    U.S. Mail: Carol Torrez, NEPA Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Southwest Regional Office, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
    In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments Monday through 
Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Sequoyah NWR office headquarters, 
Route 1, Vian, OK.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Haas, Refuge Manager, Sequoyah 
NWR, Route 1, Box 18-A, Vian, OK 74962; phone: 918-773-5251 x 29; fax: 
918-773-5598; or Carol Torrez, NEPA Coordinator, Southwest Regional 
Office, by phone at 505-248-6821, or at the address or fax above. If 
you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.



    With this notice, we continue our process for developing a CCP for 
Sequoyah NWR in Sequoyah, Muskogee, and Haskell Counties, OK. This 
notice complies with our CCP policy, and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), to (1) 
Advise other Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of our 
intention to conduct detailed planning on this Refuge, and (2) obtain 
suggestions and information on the scope of issues to consider in the 
environmental document and during development of the CCP.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (Improvement Act), requires the Service 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 (NWRS), 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 Improvement Act.
    Each unit of the NWRS was established for specific purposes. We use 
these purposes as the foundation for developing and prioritizing the 
management goals and objectives for each refuge within the NWRS 
mission, and to determine how the public can use each refuge. The 
planning process is a way for the Service and the public to evaluate 
management goals and objectives that will ensure the best possible 
approach to wildlife, plant, and habitat conservation, while providing 
for wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are compatible 
with each refuge's establishing purposes and the mission of the NWRS.
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for Tribal, 
State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the public. 
At this time, we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, 
ideas, and suggestions for the future management of Sequoyah NWR.

Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge

    In 1970, Sequoyah NWR was established on the Robert S. Kerr 
Reservoir as an overlay of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' project 
under the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 
U.S.C. 664), expressly for migratory waterfowl.
    The Refuge manages 20,800 acres of habitat for wildlife and allows 
for a variety of public use opportunities and experiences. The majority 
of the Refuge is comprised of large interior floodplain and riparian 
forests. Current habitat management includes the maintenance of 
wetlands and moist-soil units, farming of 2,754 acres by cooperative 
farmers, occasional prescribed burning, and invasive species control. 
The Refuge provides for more than 470 native wildlife species, 
including but not limited to: Wild turkeys, bald eagles, prothonotary 
warblers, wood ducks, mallards, teal, common snipe, alligator snapping 
turtles, white-tailed deer, map turtles, snow geese, and green tree 
frogs. Public use activities include all six wildlife-dependent uses: 
Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, 
and environmental education. The Refuge allows some use supportive of 
these six so long as they are compatible with the Refuge's purpose and 

Previous Actions

    We previously published a notice of intent on June 19, 1998 (63 FR 
33693), stating that we intended to prepare a CCP and EA for Sequoyah 
NWR. We held a public meeting in March 1999, in Vian, OK. Progress 
continued, albeit slowed due to staff and priority changes, through 
fall 2009. Another scoping meeting, announced in local newspapers, was 
held at the Refuge Headquarters on February 23, 2010; seventeen members 
of the public attended this meeting and provided comments.
    During the summer of 2010, the Southwest Region of the Service 
initiated a review of all farming programs on national wildlife refuges 
in the region to ensure that the programs were consistent with current 
laws and policies such as the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997, and that they met the purposes for which the 
refuges were established. At that time, this effort was separate from 
the CCP planning process. Scoping for the environmental assessment (EA) 
on use of specified genetically modified crops in association with the 
cooperative farming program at Sequoyah NWR began on July 1, 2010. A 
draft EA on the use of genetically modified crops in association with 
the cooperative farming program was released on April 1, 2011. The 
comment period was open through May 16, 2011.
    Based on the public comments already received, and subsequent

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developments since scoping, we have decided to combine the assessment 
of using specified genetically modified crops into the CCP and 
determined that an environmental impact statement (EIS) would be more 
appropriate than an EA to ensure that a full and fair discussion of all 
significant environmental impacts occurs, and to inform decision-makers 
and the public of the reasonable alternatives that would avoid or 
minimize adverse impacts and enhance the quality of the human 
environment. All comments we received since 1998 from scoping and 
meetings held on the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan and the 2010 scoping effort on the Draft EA for Use 
of Specified Genetically Modified Crops and Chemical Herbicides in 
Conjunction with the Cooperative Farming Program on the Sequoyah 
National Wildlife Refuge, will still be considered during the EIS 
planning process, so you do not need to resubmit them. We will conduct 
the environmental review of this project and develop an EIS in 
accordance with the requirements of NEPA, NEPA regulations (40 CFR 
parts 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, and 
our policies and procedures for compliance with those laws and 

Scoping: Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    We have identified preliminary issues, concerns, and opportunities 
that we will address in the CCP. We have briefly summarized some of 
these issues below. During public scoping, we may identify additional 


    Concerns related to the restoration of floodplain forests and 
cooperative farming exist both among the public and the Refuge staff. 
Past tree plantings were aimed at habitat improvement and carbon 
sequestration; they also resulted in the closure of open areas that 
facilitate public opportunities for hunting and farming.
    Sequoyah NWR has an on-Refuge cooperative farming program, which 
has a long history. This farmed acreage has been reduced over the 
years. Topics of concern regarding the Refuge's farming program 
include: (1) The number of acres farmed; (2) the methods and crops 
used; (3) the use of genetically modified crops (the most significant 
issue identified); and (4) the use of pesticides.
    The issue of invasive species also exists on the Refuge, including 
the expansion of current colonies, the introduction of new species, and 
the new locations of colonies. The potential effect of climate change 
on Refuge habitat and associated wildlife populations was another 
concern expressed. Other scoping issues included wetland and riparian 
habitat restoration, land acquisition and easement efforts, and water 


    Endangered species and other species of concern are a management 
focus of the Refuge. The Interior least tern was listed as endangered 
in 1985, and the American burying beetle was listed in 1989; both of 
these endangered species reside at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge 
and are managed under their respective recovery plans. The alligator 
snapping turtle is another species of concern on the Refuge, as the 
creeks, lakes, wetlands, and riparian areas at Sequoyah contain the 
unique habitat requirements that this species needs. Although the 
population of the alligator snapping turtle has been declining, the 
Refuge retains one of the largest populations of the turtle in the 
area. The planning team is concerned with ensuring that viable 
populations of these species are maintained.

Public Use

    The appropriate balance of wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities with fish and wildlife conservation is very important to 
the Refuge. The interpretative and educational opportunities, 
materials, and facilities at Sequoyah are outdated or in need of 
improvements. Some members of the public are concerned about their 
access to and opportunities for hunting and fishing, which are the 
largest public uses on the Refuge. Other members of the public prefer 
minimizing these programs or eradicating them altogether. Increase of 
and improvements to the Refuge's wildlife observation and photography 
opportunities may also be warranted.


    Concern exists over access to the Refuge, the quality and abundance 
of public use facilities, and the development and maintenance of 
administrative facilities. Refuge access issues center on the 
improvement, maintenance, and accessibility of roads, boat ramps, 
entrance points, and nature trails. The administration of areas closed 
to public use during certain times of the year, increased parking, 
improved bathroom facilities, enhanced visitor displays, and additional 
boat ramps are also concerns.

Public Involvement

    You may send comments anytime during the planning process by mail, 
email, or fax (see ADDRESSES). There will be additional opportunities 
to provide public input once we have prepared a draft CCP. Comments 
already received under the previous notice will be considered during 
preparation of the CCP/EIS. You do not need to resend these comments. 
The public's ideas and comments are an important part of the meaningful 
comments that will help determine the desired future conditions of the 
Refuge and address the full range of Refuge issues and opportunities.

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: January 23, 2012.
Joy E. Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-3107 Filed 2-9-12; 8:45 am]