[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 141 (Tuesday, July 23, 2013)]
[Pages 44144-44146]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-17770]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-R-2013-N087; FXRS12650800000-134-FF08R00000]

Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Sonny 
Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge and Coachella Valley National 
Wildlife Refuge), Imperial and Riverside Counties, CA; 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 (Service), announce the 
availability of a Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex, which includes the Sonny Bono Salton Sea 
NWR and the Coachella Valley NWR. The Draft CCP/EA, prepared under the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and in 
accordance with the National

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Environmental Policy Act of 1969, describes how the Service proposes to 
manage the two Refuges for the next 15 years. A hunt plan, draft 
compatibility determinations for existing public uses, a draft predator 
management plan, and a draft integrated pest management plan are also 
available for review and public comment with the Draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by August 22, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments, requests for more information, or 
requests to be added to the mailing list by any of the following 
    Email: Victoria_Touchstone@fws.gov. Include ``Sonny Bono Salton 
Sea CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Victoria Touchstone, 619-476-9149.
    U.S. Mail: Victoria Touchstone, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Refuge Planning, P.O. Box 2358, Chula Vista, CA 91912
    In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments at the Sonny Bono 
Salton Sea NWR Office between 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; please call 760-348-
5278 for directions.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Victoria Touchstone, Refuge Planner, 
at 619-476-9150 extension 103, or Chris Schoneman, Project Leader, at 
760-348-5278, extension 227. Further information may also be found at 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), which amended the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, requires 
the Service to develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The 
purpose in 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 initiated the CCP/EA for the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Sonny Bono Salton Sea and 
Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuges, in October 2010. At that 
time and throughout the process, we requested, considered, and 
incorporated public scoping comments in numerous ways. Our public 
outreach included a Federal Register notice of intent published on 
October 15, 2010 (75 FR 63502), two planning updates, and two public 
scoping meetings. The scoping comment period ended on December 14, 
2010. Verbal comments were recorded at public meetings, and written 
comments were received via letters, emails, and comment cards.


    The Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR was established as a 32,766-acre 
sanctuary and breeding ground for birds and other wildlife in 1930 
(Executive Order 5498). Additional leased lands have been added to the 
Refuge under the authorities of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 
U.S.C. 715d), ``for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds,'' and the Lea Act (16 U.S.C. 
695), ``for the management and control of migratory waterfowl, and 
other wildlife.'' Today, with the original Refuge lands covered by the 
waters of the Salton Sea, management activities are focused on about 
2,000 acres of primarily leased land. Approximately 900 acres consist 
of managed wetlands that support resident and migratory birds, and 
another 850 acres are farmed to provide forage for wintering geese and 
other migratory birds. Existing public uses include waterfowl hunting, 
fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, 
interpretation, and scientific research.
    The Coachella Valley NWR was established in 1985 under the 
authorities of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1534), 
``to conserve (A) fish or wildlife which are listed as endangered 
species or threatened species or (B) plants.'' The 3,709-acre Refuge, 
which is part of the larger Coachella Valley Preserve, protects the 
federally listed endangered Coachella Valley milk-vetch (Astragalus 
lentiginosus var. coachellae) and threatened Coachella Valley fringe-
toed lizard (Uma inornata), as well as other desert-dwelling species 
adapted to living in the sand dune habitat of the Coachella Valley. 
Access onto the Refuge is limited to a designated corridor for 
equestrian and hiking use.


    The Draft CCP/EA identifies and evaluates three alternatives for 
managing the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR and three alternatives for 
managing the Coachella Valley NWR. For each Refuge, the alternative 
that appears to best meet the Refuge's purposes is identified as the 
preferred alternative. The preferred alternative for each Refuge is 
identified based on the analysis presented in the draft CCP/EA, and may 
be modified following the completion of the public comment period based 
on comments received from other agencies, tribal governments, 
nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.
    For each Refuge, under Alternative A (no action alternative) 
current management practices would continue to be implemented over the 
next 15 years and no changes to the current public use programs would 

Alternatives for Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR

    Under Alternative B (preferred alternative), the Service would 
expand current habitat management activities to enhance habitat 
quality, particularly in managed wetlands and agricultural fields; 
initiate the phased restoration of shallow saline water habitat at Red 
Hill Bay, an area of the Salton Sea that has recently receded; 
implement predator management to protect nesting western gull-billed 
terns (Gelochelidon nilotica vanrossemi) and black skimmers (Rynchops 
niger); and implement an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to 
control invasive plants. A variety of actions are also proposed to 
improve existing public use facilities and provide additional 
opportunities for wildlife observation and photography.
    Under Alternative C, the Service would implement habitat actions 
similar to those proposed in Alternative B. The proposals for public 
use in Alternative C would focus on enhancing existing facilities in 
Units 1 and 2, rather than providing additional public use facilities 
in Unit 2, as proposed in Alternative B.

Alternatives for the Coachella Valley NWR

    Under Alternative B (preferred alternative), the Service would 
increase listed and sensitive species management and support actions, 
implement an IPM plan to control invasive plants; enhance the habitat 
quality of an old agricultural site by reintroducing appropriate native 
plant species; and in partnership with others develop and implement a 
long-term sand transport monitoring plan. Also proposed is an expanded 
public outreach program. Occasional guided tours of the Refuge would 
continue at current levels and the only public access onto the Refuge 
would occur on a designated trail corridor that extends along portions 
of the Refuge's western and northern boundary. The remainder

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of the Refuge would continue to be closed to the public.
    Under Alternative C, the Service would expand current management to 
protect listed and sensitive species, implement an IPM Plan to control 
invasive plants, and initiate a comprehensive restoration plan for an 
old agricultural site on the Refuge to restore creosote bush scrub 
habitat. In addition, the existing public outreach program would be 
expanded and interpretive signs would be installed along the existing 
trail corridor. Occasional guided tours of the Refuge would continue at 
current levels and public access would continue to be limited to the 
existing public trail corridor. All other areas within the Refuge would 
remain closed to the public.

Public Meetings

    The locations, dates, and times of public meetings will be listed 
in a planning update distributed to the project mailing list and posted 
on the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge Complex public 
Web site at http://go.usa.gov/jbhn.

Review and Comment

    Copies of the Draft CCP/EA may be obtained by contacting Victoria 
Touchstone (see ADDRESSES). Copies of the Draft CCP/EA may be viewed at 
Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR office (see ADDRESSES for contact 
information) and local libraries. The Draft CCP/EA is also available 
for viewing and downloading online at: http://go.usa.gov/jbhn. Comments 
on the Draft CCP/EA should be addressed to Victoria Touchstone (see 
    At the end of the review and comment period for this Draft CCP/EA, 
comments will be analyzed by the Service and addressed in the Final 
CCP. 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.

Alexandra Pitts,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Southwest Region Sacramento, 
[FR Doc. 2013-17770 Filed 7-22-13; 8:45 am]