[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 32 (Thursday, February 16, 2012)]
[Pages 9260-9261]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3650]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-R-2011-N212; FF06R06000-FXRS1265066CCP0S2-123]

Establishment of Dakota Grassland Conservation Area, North Dakota 
and South Dakota

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) has established the Dakota Grassland Conservation 
Area, the 554th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 
Service established the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area on September 
21, 2011, with the purchase of a 318.18-acre grassland easement in 
Walworth County, South Dakota.

ADDRESSES: A map depicting the approved Refuge boundary and other 
information regarding the Refuge is available on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nick Kaczor, Planning Team Leader, 
Division of Refuge Planning, USFWS, P.O. Box 25486, DFC, Denver, CO 
80225. http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Service established the Dakota Grassland 
Conservation Area in the eastern parts of North Dakota and South 
Dakota, which cover all counties north and east of the Missouri River 
except those in the existing Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Wildlife 
Management Area. The Service will continue to conserve wetland and 
grassland resources in the conservation area, primarily through the 
purchase of perpetual easements from willing sellers. These wetland and 
grassland easements will connect and expand existing lands under 
conservation protection.
    The area's strong and vibrant rural lifestyle, of which agriculture 
is the dominant land use, is one of the key components to ensuring 
habitat integrity and wildlife resource protection. Based on 
anticipated levels of landowner participation, objectives for the 
conservation area are to protect 240,000 acres of wetland and 1.7 
million acres of critical grassland habitat. The conservation area is a 
landscape-scale effort to conserve populations of priority species in a 
highly diverse and endangered ecosystem over an area of approximately 
29.6 million acres. Therefore, it is important to incorporate the 
elements of strategic habitat conservation (SHC) to ensure effective 
conservation. SHC entails strategic biological planning and 
conservation design, integrated conservation delivery, monitoring, and 
research at ecoregional scales.
    This conservation area allows the Service to purchase critical 
wetland and grassland easements, using the acquisition authority of the 
Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a-j). In response to 
comments received during the public review of the draft environmental 
assessment (EA) and land protection plan (LPP), the Service included 
the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (16 U.S.C. 
715-715d, 715e, 715f-r). The Federal money used to acquire conservation 
easements is from the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 460l-4 through 11; funds received under this act are 
derived primarily from oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental 
Shelf, motorboat fuel taxes, and the sale of surplus Federal property), 
and the sale of Federal Duck Stamps [Migratory Bird Hunting and 
Conservation Stamp Act (16 U.S.C. 718-718j, 48 Stat. 452)]. Additional 
funding to acquire lands, water, or interests for fish and wildlife 
conservation purposes could be identified by Congress or donated by 
nonprofit organizations. The purchase of easements from willing sellers 
will be subject to available money.
    The Service has involved the public, agencies, partners, and 
legislators throughout the planning process for the easement program. 
At the beginning of the planning process, the Service initiated public 
involvement for the proposal to protect habitats primarily through 
acquisition of wetland and grassland conservation easements for 
management as part of the Refuge System. The Service spent time 
discussing the proposed project with landowners; conservation 
organizations; Federal, State and county governments; tribes and other 
interested groups and individuals. The Service held three open-house 
meetings on December 14, 15, and 16, 2010, at Minot, North Dakota; 
Jamestown, North Dakota; and Huron, South Dakota; respectively. These 
open houses were announced in local media.

[[Page 9261]]

    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(42 U.S.C. 4321), the Service prepared an environmental assessment (EA) 
that evaluated two alternatives and their potential impacts on the 
project area. The Service released the draft environmental assessment 
(EA) and LPP on June 20, 2011, for a 30-day public review period. The 
draft documents were made available to Federal elected officials and 
agencies, State elected officials and agencies, 32 Native American 
tribes with aboriginal or tribal interests, local media, and other 
members of the public that were identified during the scoping process.
    In addition, two public meetings were held, in Bismarck, North 
Dakota, and in Miller, South Dakota, on June 28 and 29, 2011, 
respectively. These meetings were announced in advance in local media. 
Approximately 50 landowners, citizens, and elected representatives 
attended the meetings. The Service received 10 letters from agencies, 
organizations, and other entities, and 347 general public comments. 
After all comments were received, they were reviewed, added to the 
administrative record, and incorporated into the environmental 
assessment (EA) if substantial.
    Based on the documentation contained in the environmental 
assessment (EA), a Finding of No Significant Impact was signed on 
September 1, 2011, for the establishment of the Dakota Grassland 
Conservation Area.

    Dated: December 2, 2011.
Matt Hogan,
Acting, Deputy Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-3650 Filed 2-15-12; 8:45 am]