|Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge|
Table of Contents
|Comprehensive Conservation Plan
The key to effective conservation begins with effective community involvement. To ensure that future management of the Refuge is reflective of the issues, concerns and opportunities expressed by the public, a variety of public involvement techniques were used.
The Service mailed out and distributed a Planning Update in October 1998 which summarized responses to the Issues Workbook. The update represented the opinions of those who received, completed and returned the workbook. We also briefed local members of Congress on the input we had received.
The planning team held four workshops to identify and discuss management strategies to deal with issues pertaining to fisheries and fishing, public uses, and land protection. The diverse group of individuals and groups participating in the workshops included adjacent landowners, non-governmental organizations such as sportsmens groups and environmental organizations, state fish and wildlife agencies, state legislators, local businesses, and other interested and affected people.
The Draft CCP/EA was made available for public review and comment, providing the public another opportunity to discuss issues and offer solutions. We reviewed and considered all letters received. The Draft CCP/EA was originally released for 46 days of public review from February 13 to March 31, 2001, then extended an additional two weeks to April 13.
We received numerous responses by way of oral testimony at public hearings or through submission of written or electronic documents. Comments were received from Federal and State agencies, local and national conservation and recreation organizations, and local residents. In the following section, we identify the issues raised and our response to those issues.
We also held four public meetings to solicit additional comments as follows:
Based on the analysis in the Draft CCP/EA, and our review of public comments, the Service has selected a Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative basically includes all of Alternative B, the Proposed Action in the Draft CCP/EA, with a few modifications that are discussed in Chapter 4 of this document, and in our responses to comments. We also issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI establishes that our decision will not significantly effect the quality of the human environment and does not require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.
The CCP must be formally revised within fifteen years (or earlier, if it is determined that conditions affecting the Refuge have changed significantly). The plan will be monitored to ensure that the strategies and decisions noted within are accomplished. Data collected in association with routine inspections or programmatic evaluations will be used to continually update and adjust management activities.
A number of issues emerged during the planning process noted above. Some of the issues that are very important to people cannot be solved by the Service with this plan. Nevertheless, we have considered them throughout the planning process, and have developed a plan that may not resolve every problem, but would not worsen the problem either. These issues and concerns, voiced by the public during the scoping process, include:
The following key issues were addressed in the Draft CCP/EA:
Issue 1 - Erosion of islands and banks, and sedimentation and siltation of shallow water embayment areas (specifically) and the river (in general) adversely affect water quality and the general bottom habitat conditions for mussels and other benthic invertebrates and fish populations. Sand and gravel dredging also physically impact island stability, and could damage all culturally important islands.
Issue 2 - Important fish and wildlife habitat in the Refuge area is not being adequately protected from the impacts of development or misuse. To date, the four states, as well as non-governmental organizations, have not shown ample commitment to acquiring these important habitats. The past, continuing and future loss of habitat (such as the removal of trees and vegetative cover along the river shoreline) also enhances erosion.
Issue 3 - The introduction and spread of invasive plants and aquatic species on Refuge lands and in the Ohio River threaten native riparian vegetation and freshwater mussel species. Among the most recognized of these nuisance exotics are the plants "Japanese knotweed" and " mile-a-minute" as well as the zebra mussel. Invasive species cost our Nation's economy an estimated $123 billion annually and are second only to habitat destruction in threatening extinction of native species.
Issue 4 - Public access to the river (and therefore, the islands) is often difficult or inadequate. Loss of river access is due to a number of factors, including the continued development of waterfront facilities, land acquired for commercial, industrial, or residential purposes, barge repairs, and docking areas. There is also a need to increase Refuge opportunities for people without boats.
Issue 5 - The four state resource agencies contend that the current hunt plan is unnecessarily and overly restrictive with regard to hunting methods and species which may be hunted. Although hunting opportunities are currently offered on Refuge lands and throughout the Ohio River Valley, the agencies would prefer the Refuge adopt all State regulations on current and future Refuge properties.
Issue 6 - Environmental education is limited within the Ohio River area. There are significant educational and research opportunities on and around the islands. The opportunity to educate schoolchildren and the public about these interesting habitats should be a primary thrust of the Refuge planning effort.
Issue 7 - Despite current outreach efforts, public awareness of the Refuge is low. Generally, the public (and particularly the non-boating public) is unfamiliar with: the Refuge's existence, regulations, mission and goals; the recreational opportunities it has to offer; and the important resources that are being protected.
Issue 8 - Existing staffing levels and Refuge facilities are inadequate to meet present and anticipated future needs of the Refuge. To effectively serve the public, additional staff and an office/visitor contact station would likely be required.
Issue 9 - The Refuge currently does not have a trapping program. State resource agencies have expressed that they would prefer and advocate the use of trapping as a public use on Refuge lands.
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