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Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Background

  • History of Refuge Establishment, Acquisition and Management
  • Purpose of and Need for Action
  • Refuge Purpose
  • Refuge Vision Statement
  • Legal and Policy Guidance
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its Mission
  • The National Wildlife Refuge System and its Mission
  • Fulfilling the Promise
  • North American Waterfowl Management Plan
  • Partners In Flight
  • Regional Wetlands Concept Plan
  • Ohio River Valley Ecosystem Strategic Plan

2. Planning Process

  • Planning Issues

3. Refuge and Resource Description

  • Physical Environment
  • Water Quality
  • Topography/Soils
  • Geology/Hydrology
  • Air Quality
  • Biological Environment
  • Terrestrial Habitats
  • Wetland Habitats
  • Aquatic Habitats
  • Fish and Wildlife
  • Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species
  • Socioeconomic Environment
  • History/Archaeology
  • Land Use
  • Recreational Use

4. Management Direction

  • Refuge Management Direction: Goals and Objectives
Goal 1 (Habitat)
Goal 2 (Biological Monitoring)
Goal 3 (Priority Public Uses)
Goal 4 (Raise Public Awareness)
Goal 5 (Staff and Facilities)
  • Alternatives Considered, but eliminated from detailed study
  • Summary of Management Actions and Strategies (Figure 4)
  • Summary of Potential Impacts (Figure 5)

5. Implementation and Monitoring

  • Background
  • Step-Down Management Plans
  • Proposed Staffing Chart (Figure 6)
  • Compatibility Determinations
  • Plan Performance
  • Partnership Opportunities
  • Monitoring and Evaluation


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Comprehensive Conservation Plan

Implementation and Monitoring


Refuge lands are managed as defined under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Fish and Wildlife Manual, sound biological principles, and up-to-date research. Congress has distinguished a clear legislative mission of wildlife conservation for all national wildlife refuges which, unlike other public lands, are dedicated to the conservation of the Nation 's fish and wildlife resources. Recreational values are accommodated where appropriate and compatible, while still meeting the Congressional mandates of wildlife conservation first. Priority projects emphasize the protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife species first and foremost, but consideration is given to balancing the needs and demands for wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education.

Step-Down Management Plans

This planning effort reflects the basic needs identified by Service staff, the public, partners and planning team members for the management of fish and wildlife populations, habitats, visitor services, general administration, land protection, and conservation. Among these projects is a list of step-down plans to be developed. Step-down plans describe the specific management actions we intend to follow, "stepping down" from general goals, objectives, and strategies. Some specific plans may need revisions, while others will need to be developed. The preparation of new step-down plans (or substantial changes to existing step-down plans) typically require further compliance with NEPA and other policies, as well as an opportunity for public review.

The Refuge System Manual, Part 4, Chapter 3, lists over 25 specific management plans that are potentially required on Refuges. Some plans require annual revisions or programs, and others are on a 5 to 10 year revision schedule.

Following is a list of required plans and a schedule for their completion:

1) Occupational Safety and Health Plan …..…. Revise by June 2002

(a) Safety Programs
(b) Safety Operations
(c) Flood Contingency
(d) Emergency Spill Response

2) Cultural Resources Management Plan …..…. Initiate and Complete by December 2004

3) Habitat Management Plan …..…. Initiate and Complete by December 2002

(a) Reforestation
(b) Wetland Restoration
(c) Shoreline Stabilization and Revegetation
(d) Exotic Plant Species Control

4) Wildlife-dependent Recreation Plan …..…. Revise by June 2004

(a) Hunting . Completed
(b) Fishing . Completed
(c) Wildlife Observation
(d) Wildlife Photography
(e) Environmental Education
(f) Interpretation

5) Law Enforcement Plan …..…. Initiate and Complete by June 2003

6) Population Management Plan …..…. Complete by June 2004

(a) Wildlife Inventory . In Progress
(b) Furbearer Management
(c) Nest Boxes
(d) Endangered Species Recovery
(e) Marking and Banding
(f) Propagation and Stocking

Minimum Standard: 13 FTE's -- Existing Permanent Staff: 6 FTE's(unshaded) Unfilled Positions: 7 FTE's (shaded)


Compatibility Determinations

The Refuge Manager will usually complete compatibility determinations as part of the comprehensive conservation plan or step-down management plan process for individual uses, specific use programs, or groups of related uses described in the plan. When we add lands to the Refuge System, the Refuge Manager assigned management responsibility for the land to be acquired will identify prior to acquisition the existing wildlife- dependent recreational public uses (if any) determined to be compatible that we will permit to continue. However, since we will not be addressing land acquisition in this document, and instead will be preparing a subsequent Land Protection Plan (LPP), Service policy states that the compatibility determinations should be made in conjunction with the preparation and release of the appropriate pre-acquisition realty documentation, prepared pursuant to NEPA.

Compatibility determinations in existence prior to the effective date of the compatibility policy will remain in effect until and unless modified and will be subject to periodic reevaluation. We will not initiate or permit a new use of a national wildlife refuge or expand, renew, or extend an existing use of a national wildlife refuge, unless we have determined that the use is a compatible use and that the use is not inconsistent with public safety.

We do not require a compatibility determination for refuge management activities as defined by the term "refuge management activity" except for "refuge management economic activities." Examples of refuge management activities that do not require a compatibility determination include: prescribed burning; water level management; invasive species control; routine scientific monitoring, studies, surveys, and censuses; historic preservation activities; law enforcement activities; and maintenance of existing refuge facilities, structures, and improvements.

Plan Performance

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act requires that the Service monitor fish, wildlife, and plants on refuges in order to establish status and trends of both resident and migratory wildlife. Monitoring is an essential component of this plan, and specific strategies have been integrated into the previously described goals and objectives. All habitat management activities will be monitored to assess whether the desired effect on wildlife and habitat components has been achieved. Baseline surveys will be established for other species of wildlife for which existing or historical numbers are not well known. It also may be important to begin studies to monitor the response of wildlife to increased visitor use. Management of projects is dependent on monitoring and evaluation to sustain the function and dynamics of the forested floodplain, maintaining biological diversity, protecting target species, and providing a variety of wildlife-dependent recreation and education experiences of value to visitors. Information derived from monitoring and evaluation will enable managers to adjust and test the management objectives outlined in this plan.

This plan would be reviewed annually to determine the need for revision and adjust and set priorities. Revisions to the plan would be subject to National Environmental Policy Act review, as well as public review. Management performance is documented in annual narratives. A new plan is required after 15 years.

Partnership Opportunities

Public outreach entails a variety of services and support that refuges provide to the public, special groups, other government agencies and individuals. It includes technical assistance to state agencies on special problems and publications and presentations to local civic groups and schools. Many biologists and private citizens, as well as environmental organizations, scientific organizations and other agencies, have expressed a great interest in the management of this and other refuges. Maintaining and developing partnerships will enable the refuge to achieve its goals and objectives, minimize costs, share funding and bridge relationships with others. To maintain and enhance wildlife outside of the refuge, the Service will focus its efforts on continuing to develop partnerships with landowners, the state resource agencies, and interested conservation and sportsmen groups. Although the Service does not have management responsibilities for those lands outside the refuge, it is important to articulate the wildlife resource needs area wide. Collaboration with colleges and universities and with conservation organizations will enable the refuge to carry on its plans for research, monitoring, and education. To create awareness and expand environmental education efforts in the community, partnerships will be established or expanded with organizations and school systems.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Wildlife population monitoring and habitat monitoring (as addressed in Goal 2) will be emphasized. Wildlife monitoring will include surveys during the appropriate seasons, species richness measurements, and relative abundance figures. Habitat monitoring will primarily involve the amount and distribution of habitats, vegetation surveys, community composition and structure, and representative components and habitat parameters.

Planning is a dynamic process, and this CCP (and the more specific related step-down plans) are subject to reviews and modification when appropriate. Work plans are submitted annually for funding. Further, monitoring and evaluation criteria could be established by the Ohio River Valley Ecosystem team. It would be the responsibility of the Refuge staff to complete monitoring under the time frames and conditions called for in respective plans. Effectiveness monitoring would provide the basis for an adaptive management response.

Adaptive management is a flexible approach to long-term management of biotic resources which is directed over time by the results of ongoing monitoring activities and other information. Adaptive management is a process in which projects are implemented

within a framework of scientifically driven experiments to test predictions and assumptions as outlined in this plan. The biological programs are systematically evaluated to determine management effects on wildlife populations. This information is used to refine approaches and to determine how effectively goals and objectives are being accomplished. Evaluations will be conducted on a regular basis to provide feedback to stakeholders and partners. If monitoring and evaluation yield undesirable effects for target and non-target species and/or communities, management projects will be altered and the CCP may be revised.

Monitoring and evaluation will occur at two levels. The first level, referred to herein as "implementation monitoring", responds to the question:

"Did we do what we said we would do, when we said we would do it?"

Implementation monitoring will be achieved annually by Refuge staff, and reported to the Regional Office. A second level of monitoring, referred to herein as "effectiveness monitoring", responds to the question:

"Are the actions we proposed effective in achieving the results we had hoped for?" Or, in other words,

"Are the actions leading us towards our vision, goals, and objectives?"

Effectiveness monitoring would be directed towards evaluating an individual action, a suite of actions, or for an entire resource program. This approach to monitoring is more analytical in evaluating management effects to species, populations, habitats, and predetermined indicators of ecosystem integrity and the socio-economic environment using evaluation criteria established in step-down, individual project, or partnership plans. Each of these plans would have a monitoring and evaluation component. It would be the responsibility of the Refuge staff to complete monitoring under the time frames and conditions called for in respective plans.

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