[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 78 (Tuesday, April 23, 2013)]
[Pages 23949-23951]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-09486]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N282; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Carlton Pond 
Waterfowl Production Area, Penobscot, Kennebec, and Waldo Counties, ME; 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (we, the Service), 
announce the availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment (CCP and EA) for Sunkhaze Meadows National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Carlton Pond Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), 
located in Penobscot, Kennebec, and Waldo Counties, Maine, for public 
review and comment. The draft CCP and EA describes our proposal for 
managing the refuge and WPA for the next 15 years.
    Also available for public review and comment are the draft findings 
of appropriateness and draft compatibility determinations for uses to 
be allowed upon initial completion of the plan, if alternative B is 
selected. These are included as appendix B in the draft CCP and EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your comments no later than 
May 31, 2013. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local news 
media, via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning Web 
site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Sunkhaze%20Meadows/ccphome.html.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Email: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Please include ``Sunkhaze Meadows 
NWR and Carlton Pond WPA Draft CCP'' in the subject line of the 
    Fax: Attention: Lia McLaughlin, 413-253-8468.
    U.S. Mail: Lia McLaughlin, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 207-594-0600 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at Maine Coastal Islands NWR, 9 Water Street, Rockland, ME 04841. 
For more information on locations for viewing or obtaining documents, 
see ``Public Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Beth Goettel, Refuge Manager, 207-594-
0600 (phone), or Lia McLaughlin, Planning Team Leader, 413-253-8575 
(phone); northeastplanning@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Sunkhaze Meadows 
NWR and Carlton Pond WPA. We started this process through a notice in 
the Federal Register (76 FR 14984; March 18, 2011).
    Currently, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR is comprised of three units: the 
Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, the Benton Unit, and the Sandy Stream Unit. The 
Sunkhaze Meadows Unit is the largest of the three, at 11,484 acres, 
located in the town of Milford in Penobscot County. The Benton Unit is 
a 334-acre former dairy farm in the town of Benton in Kennebec County. 
The Sandy Stream Unit is a 58-acre parcel in the town of Unity in Waldo 
County. Sunkhaze Meadows NWR was established in 1988 to preserve the 
Sunkhaze Meadows peat bog (now the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit) and to ensure 
public access to this unique environment. Sunkhaze Meadows NWR includes 
more than 3,450 acres of freshwater wetland-peatland that provides 
breeding and migrating habitat for waterfowl and other wetland species.
    Carlton Pond WPA is a 1,068-acre artificial impoundment located in 
the town of Troy in Waldo County. The area was acquired by the Service 
in 1966 to protect the waterfowl and other wildlife associated with 
this area in central Maine. Carlton Pond WPA has historically provided 
good nesting habitat for waterfowl and other birds, and is one of the 
few areas in Maine that provides nesting habitat for the black tern, 
which is listed as endangered by the State. Many bird species that use 
Carlton Pond WPA have been listed by the Partners In Flight 
organization as species that are declining.
    Sunkhaze NWR and Carlton Pond WPA are currently administered by 
staff from Maine Coastal Islands NWR. Both areas offer an abundance of 
wildlife observation and photography opportunities. Partners offer 
limited environmental education and interpretation programs. Visitors 
to the refuge and WPA also participate in outdoor recreation activities 
such as hiking, snowmobiling, hunting, and fishing.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (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 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 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.

Public Outreach

    We started pre-planning for the Sunkhaze Meadows NWR and Carlton 
Pond WPA CCP on January 4, 2011. In March 2011, we published a notice 
of intent in the Federal Register, a press release, and a newsletter, 
all announcing our intent to prepare a CCP for the refuge and WPA. In 
March and April 2011, we had a formal public scoping period. The 
purpose of the public scoping period was to solicit comments from the 
community and other interested parties on the issues and impacts that 
should be evaluated in the draft CCP and EA. To help solicit public 
comments, we held two public meetings at the Milford Town Hall and one 
public meeting at Unity College during the formal public scoping 

[[Page 23950]]

Throughout the rest of the planning process, we have conducted 
additional outreach by holding an additional public meeting on 
potential wilderness designation on February 9, 2012, and by 
participating in community meetings, events, and other public forums. 
In addition to the initial newsletter, we have published three 
newsletters updating the public on our progress with the CCP. We 
received comments on topics such as the potential effects of climate 
change, improving biological connectivity, forest management, potential 
wilderness designation, staffing needs, expanding partnerships, trail 
maintenance, and public uses of the refuge and WPA. We have considered 
and evaluated all of the comments we received and addressed them in 
various ways in the alternatives presented in the draft CCP and EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, the Maine Department of 
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, other governmental partners, and the 
public raised several issues. To address these issues, we developed and 
evaluated three alternatives in the draft CCP and EA. Here we present a 
brief summary of each of the alternatives; a full description of each 
alternative is in the draft CCP and EA. All alternatives include 
measures to control invasive species, monitor and abate diseases 
affecting wildlife and plant health, and protect cultural resources. In 
addition, we have made the preliminary determination that Sunkhaze 
Stream and tributaries within the refuge boundary are eligible for Wild 
and Scenic River designation. Under all alternatives we would complete 
the suitability study to determine if the stream and its tributaries 
are suitable for this designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 
Carlton Pond WPA would also continue to be managed primarily to benefit 
the State-listed black tern under all alternatives. There are also 
several actions that are common to both alternatives B and C. These 
include establishing climate change monitoring, expanding partnerships, 
and expanding cultural resource protection and interpretation.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    Alternative A (current management) satisfies the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirement of a ``No 
Action'' alternative, which we define as ``continuing current 
management.'' It describes our existing management priorities and 
activities, and serves as a baseline for comparing and contrasting 
alternatives B and C. It would maintain our present levels of approved 
refuge and WPA staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in 
place. We would continue to focus on preserving the freshwater wetland-
peatland complex on the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, which provides habitat 
for breeding waterfowl. We would also continue to preserve the open 
water and emergent marsh habitat at Carlton Pond WPA, the grassland 
habitat at the Benton Unit, and the shrubland and riparian habitat at 
the Sandy Stream Unit. Public use activities such as wildlife 
observation, photography, hiking, snowmobiling, and hunting would 
continue to be allowed. Our environmental education program would 
continue to allow visitor access to refuge units and the WPA for 
environmental education purposes and conducting interpretation 

Alternative B (Increased Habitat Enhancement and Improved Visitor 

    This alternative is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines 
the actions we believe would most effectively achieve the refuge's and 
WPA's purposes, vision, and goals, and respond to the issues raised 
during the scoping period. Under alternative B, we would focus on the 
preservation of the peatland-wetland complex and mature forest within 
the Sunkhaze Meadow Unit. We would largely maintain existing forest and 
grassland habitat at the Benton Unit; however, we would convert about 
22 acres of forest habitat to grasslands if feasible. We would expand 
the riparian forest at the Sandy Stream Unit to protect water quality; 
we would continue to maintain the rest as shrubland habitat.
    We would expand and improve our visitor services programs by 
providing some Service-led environmental education and interpretation 
programs. We would also work with partners to offer more educational 
and interpretive opportunities. We would continue to offer hunting and 
fishing opportunities as well as allowing other existing uses of the 
refuge units such as snowmobiling. We would maintain the refuge's most 
popular walking trails at the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, including creating 
some small connector trails. We would stop maintaining two of the 
unit's less-used trails. We would also create a small connector trail 
at the Benton Unit, develop new interpretive materials for all of the 
units and the WPA, and develop new interpretive panels for the Benton 
Unit. Refuge staff would update existing trail signs and interpretive 

Alternative C (Intensive Habitat Management and Increased Public Use)

    Under alternative C, we would continue to focus on the preservation 
of the peatland-wetland complex at the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit. However, 
in contrast to alternatives A and B, this alternative includes shifting 
management of some mature forest and grasslands to shrubland and young 
forest habitat within the Sunkhaze Meadow Unit and the Benton Unit to 
benefit species that rely on shrubland and young forest habitat. 
Management of the Sandy Stream Unit and Carlton Pond WPA would be 
similar to alternative B. Under alternative C, we would also work 
closely with partners to increase and enhance public use activities, 
such as expanding the trails at the Benton Unit and providing more 
environmental education and interpretation programming.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Sunkhaze%20Meadows/ccphome.html Public Libraries: The Old Town Public 
Library, located at 46 Middle Street, Old Town, ME 04468, and the 
DorothyWebb Quimby Library, located at Unity College, 90 Quaker Hill 
Road, Unity, ME 04988, during regular library hours.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    We are seeking substantive comments, particularly on the following 
     Public uses of the refuge and WPA; and
     Potential for future wild and scenic river designation at 
the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit.
    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document.
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the EA.
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA.
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the EA.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and finding of no significant 

Public Availability of Comments

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

[[Page 23951]]

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.

    Dated: March 27, 2013.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-09486 Filed 4-22-13; 8:45 am]