[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 6 (Thursday, January 9, 2014)]
[Pages 1654-1656]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-00136]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2013-N186; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Camas National Wildlife Refuge, Jefferson County, ID; 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 our draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for the Camas National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR, Refuge), in Hamer, Idaho, for public review and comment. 
The Draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for managing the Refuge for the 
next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we need to receive your written 
comments by February 10, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, requests for more information, or 
requests for copies by any of the following methods. You may request a 
hard copy or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Camas NWR CCP'' in 
the subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Brian Wehausen, Refuge Manager, 208-662-5525.
    U.S. Mail: Brian Wehausen, Refuge Manager, Camas NWR, 2150 East 
2350 North, Hamer, ID 83425.
    Web site: http://www.fws.gov/camas/refuge_planning.html; select 
``Contact Us.''
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: You may drop off comments 
during regular business hours at Refuge Headquarters at 2150 East 2350 
North, Hamer, ID 83425.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Wehausen, Refuge Manager, 208-



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process at Camas NWR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 
57053; September 17, 2010).
    The Camas Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
in 1937 for the purpose of serving as a refuge and breeding ground for 
migratory birds and other wildlife. The Refuge is located 36 miles 
north of Idaho Falls, near the community of Hamer, Idaho. The Refuge 
lies in the upper Snake River plain at approximately 4,800 feet in 
    About half of the Refuge's 10,578 acres are lakes, ponds, and 
marshlands, with the remainder consisting of sagebrush-steppe and semi-
desert grassland uplands and meadows. There are 292 known species of 
wildlife that utilize the Refuge during various periods of the year. 
Approximately 100 species of migratory birds nest at the Refuge, and it 
is especially important to migrating land birds. A large number of 
songbirds use the Refuge's cottonwood groves, which are also a 
significant winter roost site for bald eagles. Greater sandhill cranes 
gather on the Refuge prior to fall migration. Sage grouse use the 
Refuge during brood rearing. During migration, which peaks during March 
and April, and again in October, up to 50,000 ducks, 3,000 geese, and 
several hundred tundra and trumpeter swans may be present on the 
Refuge. The Refuge also hosts elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, 
pronghorn, and moose.


    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 (NWRS), consistent with sound 
principles of fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal 
mandates, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, 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 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 We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, along with other 
governmental agencies, Tribes, and the public, raised several issues 
which our Draft CCP/EA addresses. To address these issues, we developed 
and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized below:

Alternative 1 (No-Action)

    This alternative represents current management.
    Wildlife and Habitat: Under Alternative 1, the Refuge would 
continue to be managed to provide consistent deep wetland habitats 
April through October to support reliable levels of annual waterfowl 
production. Providing hemi-marsh habitat (habitat with approximately 
equal areas of emergent vegetation and open water) would continue to be 
the primary management emphasis. Camas Creek would remain highly 
altered (diked and incised), and minimal overbank flooding would occur. 
Management of upland habitats (sagebrush steppe and grasslands) would 
be minimal (mostly invasive species control and monitoring). 
Shelterbelt habitats would continue to be irrigated. Tall, mature 
cottonwoods nearing the end of their life spans would be replaced, and 
non-native understory trees and shrubs would be replaced with native 
    One hundred forty acres of alfalfa and 20 acres of small grain 
would be grown annually under cooperative farming agreements. Three 
hundred thirty acres of formerly farmed fields would be flood irrigated 
annually, and 150 acres of these fields would be hayed annually by 
cooperative farmers.
    Public Use: The Refuge would maintain existing public use 
facilities, including a parking lot and information kiosk, 0.5-mile 
pedestrian birding trail and viewing platform, 6.3-mile auto tour road, 
and 6.5 miles of hunter access roads. Year-round hiking, biking, 
jogging, cross-country skiing, and/or snowshoeing would be allowed on 
approximately 27 miles of unimproved service roads. Off-road hiking 
would be permitted throughout the Refuge from July 15 through February 
28. Approximately 24 percent (2,510 acres) of Camas NWR would be open 
to hunting of migratory game birds (ducks, geese, mergansers, American 
coots, and Wilson's snipe) and upland game birds (ring-necked 
pheasants, gray partridge, and sage-grouse) during the State seasons.

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    Interpretation and environmental education programs would be 
limited, with no staff or facilities dedicated to these programs. The 
size of the volunteer program would continue to be limited due to the 
lack of staff to recruit, train, and manage them.

Alternative 2 (Preferred Alternative)

    Wildlife and Habitat: Under Alternative 2, the Service's Preferred 
Alternative, the Refuge would provide a more diverse array of wetland, 
riparian, and upland habitats for not only waterfowl, but a variety of 
migratory birds and other wildlife. The Refuge would develop a long-
term rehabilitation plan for Camas Creek and Refuge wetlands (Wetland 
and Riparian Rehabilitation Plan or WRRP) by 2017. A Hydrogeomorphic 
(HGM) Assessment and predictive modeling of water flows based on 
changes to infrastructure would be completed prior to developing the 
WRRP. Once the WRRP is completed, the Refuge would initiate strategies, 
consistent with Idaho water law, to restore the historic form and 
fluvial processes (e.g. overbank flooding) of Camas Creek. If such 
restoration is impossible, the stream channel and riparian zone would 
be rehabilitated to a state of equilibrium with the watershed's ongoing 
water-sediment production regime, such that the creek is no longer 
actively incising.
    From 2013 to 2017, we would decrease hemi-marsh habitat to 285 
acres (range 250-300 acres) within 3-4 annually flooded impoundments, 
while 2-3 impoundments would be dewatered (drawn down) annually. While 
the Refuge would provide less deepwater habitat, it would provide more 
shallow seasonal and habitat, and wetland productivity would increase. 
Existing naturalized shelterbelt habitat would continue to be managed 
for tall mature cottonwoods and native understory trees and shrubs, to 
provide habitat for migratory landbirds and maintain quality wildlife 
viewing opportunities.
    Cooperative farming (160 acres) and haying (150 acres annually) 
would continue. However, only 150 acres of formerly farmed fields would 
be irrigated for hay production annually.
    Public Use: Waterfowl and upland game bird hunting would continue 
as in Alternative 1. In addition we would establish an elk hunt on 
4,112 acres of the Refuge in line with State seasons for GMU 63. A 
maximum of 20 access permits for elk hunting would be issued annually, 
with priority being given to youth and mobility impaired hunters.
    As in Alternative 1, the 6.3-mile, one-way auto tour route would be 
maintained year round, and 6.5 miles of Refuge roads (leading to the 
north and south waterfowl and upland game hunting units) would be open 
to vehicle and pedestrian access during hunt seasons. The birding trail 
would be extended from .5 miles to 1.3 miles. Year-round pedestrian 
hiking, biking, jogging, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing would be 
allowed on approximately 27 miles of unmaintained and ungroomed Refuge 
service roads as conditions permit. The use of personal portable photo 
blinds (up to 5 on the Refuge daily) would be allowed within 100 feet 
of Refuge roads or trails. To avoid disturbances to wildlife and their 
habitat, off-road hiking would be prohibited, except by hunters with 
valid State licenses in the hunt areas during State seasons. A small 
visitor contact station, environmental education multi-purpose room, 
and Refuge office would be constructed.

Alternative 3

    Wildlife and Habitat: Under Alternative 3, upland (sagebrush-steppe 
and native grassland), wetland, and riparian habitats would receive 
equal management emphasis. As in Alternative 2, the Refuge would 
develop a long-term rehabilitation plan for Camas Creek and Refuge 
wetlands (Wetland and Riparian Rehabilitation Plan) by 2017. In 
addition, the Refuge would emphasize restoring landscape connectivity 
within sagebrush ecosystems. Upland management would emphasize 
maintaining and restoring structural and functional attributes of sage-
steppe habitat.
    Within the next 8 years, acres of cooperative farming on the Refuge 
would decrease from 160 acres to 80 acres (60 of irrigated alfalfa and 
20 acres of irrigated small grain). Eighty acres of farmland would be 
slowly restored back to a native sage-steppe community. The Refuge's 
330 acres of formerly farmed fields would no longer be irrigated. 
Haying would occur on up to 150 acres of dryland meadows annually, 
without irrigation.
    As in Alternative 2, existing naturalized shelterbelt habitat would 
continue to be maintained. Over time, mature cottonwoods would be 
replaced, while non-native understory trees and shrubs would be 
replaced with native species. The Refuge would seek outside funding 
sources to maintain existing shelterbelt habitat and expand this 
habitat on the periphery of the existing stand, adjacent to current 
irrigation infrastructure.
    Public Use: The waterfowl and upland game bird hunting programs 
would continue as described in Alternatives 1 and 2. As in Alternative 
2, we would establish an elk hunt on 4,112 acres of the Refuge in line 
with State seasons for GMU 63. A maximum of 20 access permits for elk 
hunting would be issued annually, with priority being given to youth 
and mobility impaired hunters.
    Other public use facilities and programs would be as described for 
Alternative 2, except that the Refuge would open the 7.5-mile Sandhole 
Lake loop road seasonally (July 1 through November 1) for vehicle 
traffic; 10 miles of service roads would be groomed in winter for cross 
country skiing; and off-road hiking would be allowed year-round on the 
north waterfowl and upland game hunting unit (980 acres), and January 1 
through July 31 in the south waterfowl and upland game hunting unit 
(1,530 acres). Off-road hiking would be prohibited on the rest of the 
Refuge to avoid disturbances to wildlife and their habitat. In addition 
to allowing the use of portable photography blinds (up to 5 per day) 
within 100 feet of roads, the Refuge would construct three semi-
permanent photo blinds. As in Alternative 2, new facilities would allow 
the Refuge's interpretive, environmental education, and volunteers 
programs to expand.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the information in ADDRESSES, you can view copies of 
the Draft CCP/EA on the internet at http://www.fws.gov/camas/refuge_planning.html, and printed copies will be available for review at the 
following libraries: Hamer Public Library, 2450 East 2100 North, Hamer, 
ID 83425; Idaho Falls Public Library, 457 W. Broadway, Idaho Falls, ID 
83402; Rigby City Library, 110 North State Street, Rigby, ID 83442; 
Marshall Public Library, 113 S. Garfield Ave., Pocatello, ID 83204.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in a final CCP and decision document.

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 identifying information from 
the public, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

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    Dated: September 13, 2013.
Richard Hannan,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2014-00136 Filed 1-8-14; 8:45 am]