[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 33 (Friday, February 17, 2012)]
[Pages 9690-9692]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3759]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2011-N198; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Corvallis, 
OR; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant 
Impact for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and a 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment (EA) for the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges 
(NWRs/refuges). In this final CCP, we describe how we will manage these 
refuges for the next 15 years. Implementing the CCP is subject to the 
availability of funding and any additional compliance requirements.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and FONSI/EA 
by any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning.
    Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Willamette Valley NWR 
FCCP/EA'' in the subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, (541) 757-4450.
    U.S. Mail: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, Willamette Valley National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, 26208 Finley Refuge Road, Corvallis, Oregon 
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call (541) 757-7236 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at W.L. Finley National 
Wildlife Refuge, 26208 Finley Refuge Road, Corvallis, Oregon 97333-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Doug Spencer, Project Leader, (541) 



    With this notice, we announce the completion of the CCP process for 
the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuges. The Service started 
this process through a notice of intent in the Federal Register (73 FR 
11137; February 29, 2008). We released the draft CCP/EA to the public, 
announcing and requesting comments in a notice of availability in the 
Federal Register (76 FR 30382; May 25, 2011).
    The Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes 
three refuges: William L. Finley, Baskett Slough, and Ankeny. Together, 
the three refuges encompass approximately 11,110 acres in western 
Oregon. Habitats on the refuges include seasonal, semipermanent, and 
permanent wetlands; wet prairies, upland prairie/oak savannas, oak 
woodlands, mixed deciduous-coniferous forests, riparian, riverine, and 
stream habitats. Agricultural lands, the majority managed as grass 
fields, are also present on the refuges. The refuges were established 
under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act ``for use as an inviolate 
sanctuary or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds * * 
* to conserve and protect migratory birds * * * and to restore or 
develop adequate wildlife habitat,'' with emphasis on protecting dusky 
Canada geese. In the last four decades, these refuges have provided not 
only an important wintering grounds for the dusky Canada goose and 
thousands of other wintering geese and ducks, but also have been 
recognized more recently as increasingly important areas for 
conservation of the remaining fragments of the native Willamette Valley 
habitats and biota. The refuges support key populations of federally 
listed species, including Oregon chub, Fender's blue butterfly, 
Bradshaw's desert-parsley, Kincaid's lupine, Nelson's checker-mallow, 
and Willamette daisy, and provide migration habitat for listed Chinook 
salmon and steelhead. Several other rare species are also found on the 
    We announce our CCP decision and the availability of a FONSI for 
the final EA for Willamette Valley NWRs in accordance with the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-
668ee) (Refuge Administration Act) and National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We prepared an analysis of 
environmental impacts, which we included in an EA that accompanied the 
draft CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering the refuges for 
the next 15 years. Alternative 2, as described in the draft CCP, is the 
basis of the final CCP.


    The 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

[[Page 9691]]

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 compatible wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for compatible 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 Refuge Administration Act.

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (76 FR 30382; May 25, 2011) discussed several 
issues. To address these, we developed and evaluated the following 

Alternative 1 (No Action)

    Under Alternative 1, we analyzed the following ongoing actions:
     Maintaining cultivated grass fields under a cooperative 
farming program to provide forage for wintering Canada geese;
     Managing wetland habitats and providing sanctuary for 
     Managing and enhancing the existing areas of native 
     Continuing habitat and population management for 
endangered and threatened species;
     Providing wildlife observation, interpretation, 
environmental education, fishing, and hunting with current facilities 
and programs; and
     Maintaining the current area closed to wintertime public 
access to provide sanctuary during the wintering waterfowl season.

Alternative 2 (Selected Action)

    Alternative 2, our preferred alternative, represents a balanced 
approach among the many competing needs at the refuges. Overall, 
habitat and compatible public use programs will continue as currently 
managed but with many targeted improvements and additions. Implementing 
these actions is subject to the availability of funding and any 
additional compliance requirements.
    An emphasis on providing habitat for wintering geese will remain. 
Green forage for geese will continue to be provided primarily through 
cooperative farming agreements with local farmers. The Service will 
pursue measures to help retain the services of cooperative farmers, 
such as:
     Providing enhanced irrigation capabilities (these will 
help the farmers to better establish green forage crops and perhaps 
grow other cash crops);
     Providing additional lure crops such as corn or other 
     Taking over farming on certain high goose use fields; and/
     Offsetting a portion of the costs to cooperative farmers; 
     Goose use should be no less than under Alternative 1 and 
could increase if specific goose management strategies are implemented. 
Wetland habitat management and restoration activities will also be 
intensified to improve habitat for geese and other wildlife.
    Management and enhancement will continue in remnant native habitats 
and recently restored areas. In addition, approximately 845 additional 
acres on the three refuges will be restored to wetland, wet prairie, 
riparian, oak woodland, or upland prairie/oak savanna habitats over the 
next 15 years.
    Threatened and endangered species management will continue to be a 
priority, guided by recovery plans where applicable. Existing 
populations of several threatened and endangered species will be 
strengthened through habitat management activities, and several new 
populations will be established on the refuges.
    Wildlife observation and interpretation will continue to be 
emphasized as the cornerstone of the public use program. Several new 
trails and viewing facilities are planned, as well as interpretive 
signs and materials, including online materials. In addition, major 
special events are planned at a frequency of about 3-4/year, with 
monthly weekend interpretive programs.
    This alternative includes expansion of environmental education 
efforts, with an objective of reaching more students and schools, 
particularly at W.L. Finley Refuge. Outdoor classroom shelters are part 
of the alternative. In addition, a goal of this alternative is a new 
Environmental Education Center, indoor classroom facilities, and an 
interpretive exhibit area on W.L. Finley Refuge. This will depend on 
available funding.
    A new option to hunt deer of either sex will be added on W.L. 
Finley Refuge. In addition, new upland locations will be available for 
deer hunting during a portion of the restricted firearms season; this 
will require closure of two hiking trails for a week in November. The 
restricted firearms season will be shortened and shifted to later in 
the State season. A youth waterfowl hunt and a September goose hunt 
will be provided at Baskett Slough Refuge. Fishing will be promoted at 
the Willamette River by developing safe fishing access and a canoe 
launch at Snag Boat Bend Unit.
    The current area closed to public access will remain closed, in 
order to provide sanctuary during the wintering waterfowl season on the 
three refuges. However, the major portions of the Snag Boat Bend Unit 
will be open year-round.
    The refuges will develop an elk management plan cooperatively with 
the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife after completion of the CCP 
(within 1-2 years of CCP implementation). The refuges will continue to 
expand conservation partnerships, volunteer programs, and outreach to 
local communities. Proactive cultural resource management will occur by 
repairing/maintaining the historic structures on W.L. Finley Refuge and 
by adding associated interpretive facilities.
    Under the selected action, the Service also proposes protection, 
conservation, and management of additional lands within the Willamette 
Valley that could contribute to refuge purposes and goals by providing 
wintering habitat and forage for Canada geese; providing protection, 
enhancement, and restoration of native habitats and rare Willamette 
Valley species; and providing opportunity for additional wildlife-
dependent public use. The refuges will undertake a subsequent land 
protection planning process to identify specific tracts of lands for 
these purposes.

Alternative 3

    This alternative was analyzed but not selected. Alternative 3 
included a major shift in management for wintering Canada geese. Forage 
would have been provided either through contract farming (paying 
farmers to grow crops on the refuges) and/or force account farming 
(refuge staff doing the farming). The refuges would have farmed only 
fields that were receiving moderate-to-high goose use. Refuge farming 
program costs would have increased and goose use would have likely 
    This alternative would have created the opportunity to restore 
approximately 1,564 acres of cropland to native habitat over the next 
15 years, since the amount of farmland would be reduced. However, the 
fields to be restored would have likely lain fallow, open to nonnative 
plant introduction, while awaiting staff time and funding for 
    Wildlife observation and interpretation would have continued to be 
emphasized as the cornerstone of the

[[Page 9692]]

public use program. About a third to half as many new observation 
facilities (trails, viewing overlooks, etc.) would have been added as 
under Alternative 2, due to staffing and funding resources being 
directed toward refuge farming activity. The current area closed to 
public access on all three refuges would have remained closed, in order 
to provide sanctuary during the wintering waterfowl season, except for 
the proposed change at Snag Boat Bend as described in Alternative 2 
above. Fishing access to the Willamette River would have been provided 
through a canoe launch at Snag Boat Bend Unit; however, bank fishing 
access would not have been provided.
    Deer hunting, threatened and endangered species management, 
environmental education, elk management, cultural resources, subsequent 
land protection planning, and conservation partnership activity would 
have occurred as under Alternative 2.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA from May 25, 2011, to 
June 24, 2011 (76 FR 30382; May 25, 2011). A total of 27 separate 
communications from 25 different commenters (two commenters submitted 
two letters each) were received regarding the draft CCP/EA. To address 
public comments, responsive changes and clarifications were made to the 
final CCP where appropriate. These changes are summarized in the FONSI.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments received, we have selected 
Alternative 2 for implementation. The goals, objectives, and strategies 
under Alternative 2 best achieve the purpose and need for the CCP while 
maintaining balance among the varied management needs and programs. 
Alternative 2 addresses the refuge purposes, issues, and relevant 
mandates, and is consistent with principles of sound fish and wildlife 

    Dated: October 20, 2011.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-3759 Filed 2-16-12; 8:45 am]