[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 60 (Wednesday, March 28, 2012)]
[Pages 18856-18857]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-7403]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N-170; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, LA; 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 Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment for Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in St. Martin 
and Iberville Parishes, Louisiana. In the final CCP, we describe how we 
will manage this refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Daniel 
Breaux, Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Bayou 
Lacombe Centre, 61389 Highway 434, Lacombe, LA 70445. Alternatively, 
you may download the document from our Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/ under ``Final Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Daniel Breaux, at 985/882-2030 
(telephone), 985/882-9133 (fax), or Daniel_breaux@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Atchafalaya NWR. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
January 9, 2009 (74 FR 915). For more about the refuge, see that 
    Atchafalaya NWR is one of eight refuges managed as part of the 
Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Complex). 
Atchafalaya NWR is located in the lower Atchafalaya Basin Floodway 
System. Atchafalaya NWR is bounded on the north by U.S. Highway 190, on 
the south by Interstate 10, on the west by the Atchafalaya River, and 
on the east by the East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee.
    Atchafalaya NWR was established in 1986, when 15,255 acres were 
purchased from the Iberville Land Company, as directed by Public Law 
98-548. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and 
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have also purchased fee title 
land adjacent to and within the Atchafalaya NWR, which brings the 
current acreage to approximately 44,000. The USACE has authority to 
purchase additional lands within the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System.
    Approximately 12 percent of the refuge is inundated open water, 
with isolated cypress trees and willow stands. Bottomland hardwood 
forest is the primary habitat.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (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, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Administration 


    We made copies of the Draft CCP/EA available for a 30-day public 
review and comment period via a Federal Register notice on May 24, 2011 
(76 FR 30190). A news release was sent out to four local, state, and 
regional newspapers, six online media outlets, and two local radio 
networks. Copies of the Draft CCP/EA were posted at refuge headquarters 
and on the Service's Internet Web site and more than 100 copies were 
distributed to local landowners; the general public; and local, state, 
and federal agencies. Respondents representing the following submitted 
comments: LDWF; Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and 
Tourism; Jena Band of Choctaw Indians; National Park Service; Audubon 
Society; Friends of the Atchafalaya; The Nature Conservancy; Gulf 
Restoration Network; Atchafalaya Basinkeeper; Louisiana Crawfish 
Producers Association--West; Sierra Club--Delta Chapter; Lower 
Mississippi Riverkeeper; Louisiana Environmental Action Network; and 
local citizens.

Selected Alternative

    The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the refuge over the next 15 years. After considering the 
comments we received and based on the professional judgment of the 
planning team, we selected Alternative B for implementation. 
Alternative B best signifies the vision, goals, and purposes of the 
refuge. Under Alternative B, emphasis will be on restoring and 
improving the resources needed for wildlife and habitat management and 
providing appropriate and compatible wildlife-dependent public use 
opportunities, while addressing key issues and refuge mandates.
    The compatibility determinations for (1) Wildlife observation/
photography; (2) recreational fishing; (3) recreational hunting; (4) 
environmental education and interpretation; (5) walking, hiking, and 
jogging; (6) forest management; (7) scientific research; (8) kayaking,

[[Page 18857]]

canoeing, and paddling; (9) all-terrain vehicle use; (10) bicycling; 
and (11) boating are also available within the CCP.
    Alternative B will focus on augmenting wildlife and habitat 
management to identify, conserve, and restore populations of native 
fish and wildlife species, with an emphasis on migratory birds and 
threatened and endangered species. This objective will partially be 
accomplished by increased monitoring of waterfowl, other migratory and 
resident birds, and endemic species, in order to assess and adapt 
management strategies and actions. Additionally, information gaps will 
be addressed by the initiation of baseline surveying, periodic 
monitoring, and ultimately adding adaptive habitat management.
    Habitat management programs for impoundments, greentree reservoir, 
wetlands, open waters, forested habitats, scrub/shrub habitat, 
grasslands, and open lands will be reevaluated, and step-down 
management plans will be developed to meet the foraging, nesting, and 
breeding requirements of priority species. Additionally, monitoring and 
adaptive habitat management will be implemented to potentially 
counteract the impacts associated with long-term climate change and sea 
level rise.
    The control of invasive and exotic plant species will be more 
aggressively managed by implementing a management plan, completing a 
baseline inventory, supporting research, and controlling with strategic 
mechanical and chemical means. Additionally, the Complex will utilize 
this management plan and monitoring to enhance efforts to control/
remove invasive, exotic, and/or nuisance wildlife on the refuge.
    Alternative B will enhance our visitor services opportunities by: 
(1) Improving the quality of fishing opportunities; (2) implementing an 
environmental education program component that utilizes volunteers and 
local schools as partners; (3) enhancing wildlife viewing and 
photography opportunities by implementing blinds, a swamp trail 
boardwalk, and additional observational areas; (4) developing and 
implementing a visitor services management plan, (5) working with 
partners to develop a Complex visitor center, including a law 
enforcement office and maintenance facility with an attached visitor 
contact station; and (6) enhancing personal interpretive and outreach 
opportunities. Volunteer programs and friends groups also would be 
expanded to enhance all aspects of management and to increase resource 
    In addition to the enforcement of all Federal and State laws to 
protect archaeological and historical sites, we will identify and 
develop a plan to protect all known sites. The development of an onsite 
office for law enforcement officers will not only better provide 
security for these resources, but will also ensure visitor safety and 
public compliance with refuge regulations.
    Land acquisitions within the approved acquisition boundary will be 
based on the importance of the habitat for wildlife, management, and 
access. Alternative B also will develop a preliminary land protection 
proposal to achieve a congressionally authorized refuge boundary 
expansion of approximately 17,000 acres within the Atchafalaya Basin 
Floodplain to improve buffer conditions, contribute to biological 
objectives, close gaps between existing tracts, and improve public 
access. Administration plans will stress the need for increased 
maintenance of existing infrastructure and construction of new 
facilities. Funding for new construction projects will be balanced 
between habitat management and public use needs. Additional staff will 
be required to accomplish the goals of this alternative. Personnel 
priorities will include adding a visitor services specialist, assistant 
manager, biological technician, forestry technician, maintenance 
worker, and law enforcement officer to the staff. The increased budget 
and staffing levels will better enable us to meet the obligations of 
wildlife stewardship, habitat management, and public use.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

     Dated: September 27, 2011.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-7403 Filed 3-27-12; 8:45 am]