[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 67 (Monday, April 8, 2013)]
[Pages 20942-20943]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-08105]



Fish and Wildlife Service

National Park Service

[FWS-R6-R-2013-N021; FXRS1265066CCP0-134-FF06R06000]

Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas, NE and 
SD; Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Land Protection Plan; 
Request for Public Comments

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park 
Service (NPS), as lead agencies, announce the availability of a draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS) and land protection plan (LPP) 
for the proposed Niobrara Confluence Conservation Area and Ponca Bluffs 
Conservation Area in Nebraska and South Dakota for public review and 
comment. In these documents, we describe alternatives, including our 
proposed action, for implementing conservation actions along the 
Missouri River and its tributaries. We are furnishing this notice in 
compliance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act 
of 1966, as amended, the National Park Service Organic Act of 1916, as 
amended, and the National Environmental Policy Act to advise other 
agencies, Tribal governments, and the public of our intentions to 
provide the opportunity for public review and comment on the DEIS and 

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
June 14th, 2013. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local 
news media, on our Web site, and by mail.

ADDRESSES: You may submit your comments or a request for copies (hard 
copies or a CD-ROM) or more information by any of the following 
    Agency Web site: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/niob-ponca.
    Email: niobrara_ponca@fws.gov.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call (605) 665-0209 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at Missouri River National 
Recreational River Headquarters, 508 East 2nd Street, Yankton, SD 
    Mail: Nick Kaczor, USFWS, Division of Refuge Planning, P.O. Box 
25486, DFC, Denver, CO 80225.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nick Kaczor, Planning Team Leader, at 
(303) 236-4387, or by mail at Division of Refuge Planning, USFWS, P.O. 
Box 25486, DFC, Denver, CO 80225.



    With this notice, we continue the LPP process for the proposed 
Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas. We started 
this process through a notice in the Federal Register (77 FR 8892, 
February 15, 2012).
    The proposed Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation 
Areas are partnership-based projects being taken on by the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, to build upon existing 
conservation efforts along the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska and 
southeast South Dakota. This proposal aims to work with willing private 
landowners, local communities, and other conservation entities to 
conserve important wildlife habitats, increase quality recreational 
opportunities, preserve sensitive historical sites, and maintain 
sustainable ranching operations.

The Missouri River

    The Missouri River is the artery to America's heartland, coursing 
its way

[[Page 20943]]

through the scenic landscapes of the Great Plains to the Eastern 
deciduous forest. It drains one-sixth of the United States and 
encompasses over 500,000 square miles, flowing 2,341 miles from its 
headwaters in western Montana to where it joins the Mississippi River, 
at St. Louis, Missouri. It is home to thousands of fish, wildlife, and 
plants, while providing unlimited recreational opportunities for its 
visitors. Visitors can also experience scenic bluffs, forests, 
grasslands, and traditional rural lifestyles critical to the local 

Niobrara Confluence

    The Niobrara Confluence segment between Fort Randall Dam and Lewis 
and Clark Lake is one of the last portions of the middle Missouri River 
that remains unchannelized, relatively free-flowing, and undeveloped. 
This area of the Missouri River's main channel in the old, wider river 
valley contains important habitat for at least 60 native and 26 sport 
fish. In addition, the riparian woodlands and island complexes are 
important for approximately 25 year-round bird species and 115 species 
of migratory birds, including piping plovers, least terns, and bald 

Ponca Bluffs

    The Ponca Bluffs segment between Gavins Point Dam and Sioux City is 
a diverse, relatively unaltered riverine/floodplain ecosystem 
characterized by a main channel, braided channels, wooded riparian 
corridor, pools, chutes, sloughs, islands, sandbars, backwater areas, 
wetlands, natural floodplain and upland forest communities, 
pastureland, and croplands. This area also supports a wide variety of 
wildlife and fisheries resources similar to those found in the Niobrara 
Confluence segment.

The Concept

    We are proposing to work with willing landowners to conserve 
valuable recreational, natural, scenic, and historical resources. By 
combining agency resources and working together with other conservation 
efforts like the Natural Resource Conservation Service's Wetland 
Reserve Program, we hope to maintain a legacy for future generations. 
Our personnel and technical resources in each agency's various programs 
will help improve the delivery of actions outlined in this plan. The 
concept of this project is to combine agency resources to enhance 
conservation; enhance recreation; increase tourism; instill new money 
into local economies; improve quality of life through healthy air, 
water, and ecosystems; and increase the appreciation and awareness of 
the natural resources.
    This would be achieved by purchasing conservation easements from 
willing landowners or the use of fee-title acquisition. Fee-title 
acquisition could be used when rehabilitation is needed to improve the 
ecological function of the river by allowing a more natural meander, or 
when extensive public access is anticipated.

Conservation Easements

    We recognize that the preservation of working landscapes such as 
farms and rangeland through easement acquisition is more cost 
effective, socially acceptable, and politically popular than fee title 
acquisition, while still effectively promoting the preservation of 
unfragmented quality habitat. Conservation easements provide a unique 
tool for agencies to use in partnership with willing landowners. 
Easements allow the land to stay in private ownership and on the local 
tax rolls while still providing the greater American public lifelong 
conservation value. The alternatives outlined in the plan (B-C) allow 
for a greater use of easements (80 percent) over more traditional fee 
title acquisition. With easement acquisitions, landowners will be 
compensated for perpetually conserving their property in a native 
state, and in turn will have funds available to use for investment in 
the local communities.
    The purpose of the easements would be to promote native grasses, 
shrubs, and trees; eliminate or reduce invasive species such as eastern 
red cedars; and protect culturally or tribally significant sites. All 
easement conditions would be mutually agreed upon by the landowner and 


    We developed this draft conservation plan by focusing on the 
overall ecological function of the Missouri River. We identified areas 
that are important for native fish and wildlife species such as bald 
eagles and pallid sturgeon. In addition, we prioritized areas that 
increase access to the river, conserve scenic areas such as chalkstone 
bluffs, and maintain historically significant sites.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, 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.


    The FWS and NPS are furnishing this notice in compliance with 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; the National Park Service 
Organic Act of 1916 (16 U.S.C. l et seq.), and amendments thereto, and 
the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and its 
implementing regulations.

    Dated: Feb 21, 2013.
Michael Reynolds,
Midwest Regional Director, National Park Service.
    Dated: Feb 26, 2013.
Matt Hogan,
Acting, Regional Director, Mountain Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-08105 Filed 4-5-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-4312-51-P