[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 28 (Friday, February 10, 2012)]
[Pages 7176-7178]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3108]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2011-N222; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Rockingham County, NH

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge 
(NWR) for public review and comment. Great Bay NWR is located in 
Newington, New Hampshire, and is administered by staff at Parker River 
NWR in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The draft CCP/EA describes three 
alternatives for managing Great Bay NWR for the next 15 years. 
Alternative B is identified as the Service-preferred alternative. Also 
available for public review and comment are the draft compatibility 
determinations, which are included as appendix C in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure our consideration of your written comments, please 
send them by March 12, 2012. We will also hold public meetings. We will 
announce those meetings and other opportunities for public input in 
local news media, via our project mailing list, and on our Regional 
planning Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Great%20bay/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 ``Great Bay CCP'' 
in the subject line of your email.
    U.S. Mail: Nancy McGarigal, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Fax: Attention: Nancy McGarigal, (413) 253-8468.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call Parker River NWR 
headquarters during regular business hours at (978) 465-5753 to make an 
appointment to view the document at Great Bay NWR, 100 Merrimac Drive, 
Newington, NH 03801.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Graham Taylor, Refuge Manager, Parker 
River NWR, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950; phone: 978-
465-5753; fax: (978) 465-2807; email: fw5rw_prnwr@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Great Bay NWR. We 
published our original notice of intent to prepare a CCP in the Federal 
Register on June 17, 2009 (74 FR 28722).
    Great Bay NWR was established in 1992 to conserve natural 
diversity, protect federally listed species and other species of 
conservation concern, and preserve and enhance water quality. The 
1,103-acre refuge is located on a portion of the former Pease Air Force 
Base. Despite its past land uses, including active military operations 
and a weapons storage area, the refuge has a diversity of habitat types 
including oak-hickory forest, grasslands, shrub thickets, fresh and 
saltwater wetlands, and open water habitats. The refuge also includes 7 
miles of shoreline, and is the largest parcel of protected land on 
Great Bay. These habitats provide important habitat for wintering 
waterfowl and bald eagles, as well as shorebirds, wading birds, and 
other wildlife and plant species of conservation concern.
    Great Bay NWR also offers a wide range of wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities. Two interpretive trails covering 2.5 miles 
provide visitors with excellent wildlife observation and nature 
photography opportunities. Additionally, the refuge offers a 2-day, 
white-tailed deer hunt each fall.
    The refuge also includes a 29-acre conservation easement, located 
in Concord, New Hampshire, that is managed primarily for the federally 
endangered Karner blue butterfly. The easement has a mix of open pitch 
pine-scrub, pine hardwood, and other scrubland. Since 2008, Great Bay 
NWR and the Karner blue butterfly easement have been managed by staff 
located at Parker River NWR in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


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 each CCP at least every 15 years, in accordance with 
the Refuge Administration Act.

Public Outreach

    In June 2009, we distributed a planning newsletter to several 
hundred people on our project mailing list. The newsletter informed 
people about the planning process and asked recipients to contact us 
about issues or concerns they would like us to address. We also posted 
the newsletter on our Web site for people to access electronically. In 
addition, we notified the general public of our planning project, and 
our interest in hearing about issues and concerns, by publishing news 
releases in local newspapers. We also held afternoon and evening public 
scoping meetings on June 18, 2009, in Newington, New Hampshire. The 
purpose of the two meetings was to share information on the planning 
process and to solicit management issues and concerns. Throughout the 
process, refuge staff have conducted additional outreach via 
participation in community meetings, events, and other public forums. 
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 scoping process, which initiated work on our draft CCP/
EA, we, other governmental partners, and the public raised the 
following general issues that are further detailed and addressed in the 
draft CCP/EA:
     Which habitats and species should be a focus for 
management, and how will we manage for them on the refuge?
     How can we address concerns about the biological 
diversity, health, and integrity of the refuges' forests, wetlands, and 
shoreline given limited staffing and budgets?
     Which invasive species should be a priority for control on 
refuge lands, and what specific techniques will we use to control them?
     How can the refuge work with partners to address regional-
scale conservation concerns, such as climate change, water quality, and 
habitat fragmentation?
     What are the appropriate types and levels of wildlife-
dependent uses to offer on the refuge? What partnership opportunities 
exist and what staffing levels are needed to enhance and expand our 
public use programs?
     How will we preserve, protect, and interpret cultural 
resources on refuge lands? How should we address historical structures 
on the refuge?
     How will we address environmental contaminants resulting 
from past land uses and from offsite activities?
    We developed three management alternatives in the draft CCP/EA for

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Great Bay NWR to address these issues and to achieve the refuge's 
establishment purposes, and the vision and goals we developed. The full 
description of the alternatives is presented in the draft CCP/EA. The 
alternatives identify several actions in common. All alternatives 
include measures to protect the rocky shoreline habitat, control 
invasive species, protect cultural resources, monitor for climate 
change impacts, distribute refuge revenue sharing payments, and 
continue participation in conservation and education partnerships. 
There are also several actions that are common to both alternatives B 
and C. These include constructing a new joint administrative office and 
visitor contact station, and evaluating the need for additional land 
    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.

Great Bay NWR Alternatives

Alternative A (Current Management)
    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by the 
National Environmental Policy Act. Alternative A defines our current 
management activities, including those planned, funded, or underway, 
and serves as the baseline against which to compare alternatives B and 
C. Under alternative A, Great Bay NWR would remain unstaffed, and we 
would not change our current visitor services facilities, including 
existing trails and viewing platforms. Our biological program 
priorities would continue to be managing impoundments for migratory 
birds, managing grasslands for upland sandpipers and other grassland-
dependent species of concern, and inventorying and controlling invasive 
plants. We would continue to provide wildlife observation and 
photography opportunities on two trails, and implement a 2-day, fall 
deer hunt in partnership with the New Hampshire Fish and Game 
Department (NHFG).
    Management on the Karner blue butterfly easement would not change. 
We would continue to cooperate with NHFG to implement habitat 
management. One undeveloped trail would provide access, with limited 
information about the butterfly and management posted on a kiosk.
Alternative B (Habitat Diversity and Focal Species Emphasis; Service-
Preferred Alternative)
    Alternative B is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines the 
actions we believe would best achieve the refuge's purposes, vision, 
and goals and respond to public issues. Under alternative B, we would 
emphasize the management of specific refuge habitats to support focal 
species whose habitat needs would benefit other species of conservation 
concern that are found in the Great Bay region. Focal species include 
migrating and wintering waterfowl, migratory songbirds, breeding upland 
sandpiper, and rare and declining species, such as the New England 
cottontail and Karner blue butterfly. Habitat restoration work on 
refuge lands would also benefit forest-dwelling bats and migratory 
fish. We would also expand our conservation, research, and management 
partnerships to help restore and conserve the Great Bay estuarine 
    This alternative would enhance our visitor services programs, which 
have been limited under current management due to lack of staff. On 
Great Bay NWR, our improvements would include new interpretive 
materials, more programs for visitors to learn about the refuge and the 
surrounding landscape, and an extension to an existing trail that 
provides opportunities for wildlife observation and photography. We 
would also evaluate opportunities to expand the hunting program to 
include turkey hunting and a bow season for deer. On the Karner blue 
butterfly easement, we propose to install new interpretive signs, offer 
guided interpretive walks, and enhance our Web site with updated 
Alternative C (Enhanced Public Use Management)
    Alternative C would rely primarily on ecosystem processes and 
natural disturbances to restore the biological integrity, diversity, 
and ecological health of the refuge. All grassland and shrubland 
habitat on Great Bay NWR would be allowed to naturally succeed to 
forest. All three refuge impoundments would be removed, restoring 
Peverly Brook to stream habitat and returning Stubbs Pond to salt 
marsh. We would also remove all remaining structures in the former 
weapons storage area.
    Under this alternative, we would expand the refuge visitor services 
program and public access. We would construct two new trails, and after 
shrubland and grassland habitats transition to forest, we would open up 
larger portions of the refuge to public use. The management of the 
Karner blue butterfly easement would be the same as that proposed under 
alternative B.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents from the agency Web site at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Great%20bay/ccphome.html.

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, electronic mail 
address, or other personal identifying information in your comments, 
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 20, 2012.
Wendi Weber,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-3108 Filed 2-9-12; 8:45 am]