[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 33 (Friday, February 17, 2012)]
[Pages 9693-9694]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3756]



Fish and Wildlife Service

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

Establishment of Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area, Kansas

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 Flint Hills Legacy Conservation 
Area, the 555th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 
Service established the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area on 
September 28, 2011, with the donation of a conservation easement in 
Chautauqua County, Kansas.

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: Amy Thornburg, Planning Team Leader, 
USFWS, Division of Refuge Planning, P.O. Box 25486, DFC, Denver, CO 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Service established the Flint Hills 
Legacy Conservation Area, which covers all or part of 21 counties in 
eastern Kansas. Today, less than 4 percent of the once-vast tallgrass 
prairie remains, most (80 percent) of which lies within the Flint Hills 
of eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. The Service will work to 
conserve tallgrass prairie and the wildlife resources in the 
conservation area primarily through the purchase of perpetual easements 
from willing sellers in Kansas. These conservation easements will 
protect native grassland birds, as well as over 80 species of native 
fish, and native mollusks that depend on the pristine streams that are 
found in the Flint Hills region.
    The Service recognizes the importance of protecting and fostering 
traditional cultural values, including ranching lifestyles and 
economies, in concert with habitat conservation interests. Ranching has 
historically played a major role in preserving the tallgrass 
ecoregion--and by extension, conserving valuable fish and wildlife 
habitat. Based on anticipated levels of landowner participation, 
objectives for the conservation area are to protect up to 1.1 million 
acres of tallgrass prairie habitat. The conservation area is a 
landscape-scale effort to conserve populations of native grassland 
birds, which are among the most consistently declining species in the 
United States. 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, and integrated conservation delivery, monitoring, 
and research at ecoregional scales.
    This conservation area allows the Service to purchase perpetual 
conservation easements, using the acquisition authority of the Fish and

[[Page 9694]]

Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a-j). The Federal money used to 
acquire conservation easements is primarily from the Land and Water 
Conservation Fund Act of 1965, as amended (16 U.S.C. 460l-4 through 11) 
(derived primarily from oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental 
Shelf, motorboat fuel taxes, and the sale of surplus Federal property). 
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 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. For 
initial public scoping, the Service held three open-house meetings, on 
November 30, December 1, and December 2, 2009, in Alma, Wichita, and 
Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, respectively. These open houses were 
announced in local media.
    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Service prepared an environmental 
assessment (EA) that evaluated two alternatives and their potential 
impacts on the project area. The Service released the draft EA and land 
protection plan (LPP), on April 14, 2010, for a 30-day public review 
period. The draft documents were made available to Federal elected 
officials and agencies, State elected officials and agencies, Native 
American tribes with aboriginal or tribal interests, and other members 
of the public that were identified during the scoping process. The 
Service held three additional open-house public meetings to discuss the 
draft EA and land protection plan LPP, on April 21, 22, and 23, 2010--
at El Dorado, Cottonwood Falls, and Alma, Kansas, respectively. These 
meetings were announced in advance in local media. Approximately 148 
landowners, citizens, and elected representatives attended the 
meetings. The Service received 7 letters from agencies, organizations, 
and other entities, and 24 general public comments. After all comments 
were received, they were reviewed and incorporated into the EA and 
administrative record.
    Based on the documentation contained in the EA, a Finding of No 
Significant Impact was signed on July 30, 2010, for the establishment 
of the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area.

    Dated: December 23, 2011.
Noreen E. Walsh,
Deputy Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-3756 Filed 2-16-12; 8:45 am]