[Federal Register: April 2, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 63)]
[Page 15986-15987]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Arid Lands Ecology 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Associated Environmental Assessment for the Arid Lands Ecology 
Reserve in the Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) intends to gather information necessary to prepare a 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and an Environmental Assessment 
(EA) for the Arid Lands Ecology (ALE) Reserve. The Service manages the 
ALE Reserve pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding, and an 
associated permit, with the Department of Energy (DOE). The Service is 
furnishing this notice in compliance with Service CCP policy and the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing regulations 
to accomplish the following: (1) advise other agencies and the public 
of our intentions; (2) obtain suggestions and information on the scope 
of issues to include in the plan and environmental document; and (3) 
provide notice that the Service is proposing an administrative boundary 
to incorporate lands it manages for DOE into the National Wildlife 
Refuge System.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before May 3, 1999.

ADDRESSES: Address comments and requests for more information to: Dave 
Goeke, Refuge Manager, Arid Lands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 
3250 Port of Benton Blvd., Richland, WA 99352.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Goeke, Refuge Manager, at (509) 371-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The ALE Reserve, formally known as the 
Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, is being managed by the 
Service under agreement with DOE. The Service entered into a 25-year 
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 20, 1997, for the protection 
and management of the Hanford Site area known as the ALE Reserve. 
Pursuant to the MOU, the FWS is to prepare a comprehensive plan to 
govern management activities on the ALE Reserve. DOE is a cooperating 
agency on the CCP/EA. The CCP/EA will be prepared by the Service, which 
will consult with DOE during the process.
    Concurrent with the planning process, the FWS will evaluate public 
comments on the EA and determine whether to establish a refuge 
boundary. The refuge boundary would permit the Service to administer 
inclusive areas as part of the NWRS once acquired or when overlaying 
management authority has been granted by permit from DOE. The refuge 
boundary would include the ALE Reserve, but final delineation of a 
boundary will depend on additional information and public involvement.
    The Service started the comprehensive conservation planning process 
for the ALE Reserve study area in June, 1998. Several internal Service 
meetings were conducted to develop a timeline and strategy for 
involving the public in the planning process. Since then, the Service 
has met with the Benton County Commission and with the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife to discuss issues and concerns 
regarding management of the ALE Reserve. Also, the Service conducted a 
public meeting and open house in Richland, Washington, on January 14, 
1999. Approximately 60 people attended the open house and approximately 
120 participated in the public meeting. Information from those meetings 
can be provided by Refuge staff at the address given above. A 
newsletter has been distributed and approximately 80 people have 
provided written comments in response.
    The CCP guides management decisions and identifies refuge goals, 
long-range objectives, and strategies for achieving wildlife and 
habitat management purposes. Public input into the process is 
encouraged. The CCP will provide other agencies and the public with a 
clear understanding of the desired conditions for the ALE Reserve and 
how the Service will implement management strategies.
    The CCP will support the requirements of the MOU and will address 
the following topics:
    (A) Habitat management;
    (B) Wildlife population management, including federally-listed 
endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, and other native 
wildlife species;
    (C) Public use management, including hunting, wildlife observation 
and photography, and environmental education and interpretation
    (D) Cultural resource identification and protection
    The ALE Reserve is a 120 square-mile tract of land in the 
southwestern portion of the Hanford Site. The Hanford Site was acquired 
by the U.S. Government in 1943 as a national security area for the 
production of weapons-grade plutonium. The ALE Reserve was managed for 
many years for DOE by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The 
ALE Reserve generally is inaccessible to the public, though limited 
access is occasionally granted. Although part of the Hanford Site, the 
ALE Reserve was established to preserve a vegetation type that once 
covered great expanses in the West. The site is also designated as the 
Rattlesnake Hills Research Natural Area.
    Alternatives (and their effects) that address issues and management 
strategies associated with the CCP topics will be included in the 
environmental document. With the publication of this notice, the public 
is encouraged to send written comments on these and other issues, 
courses of action that the Service should consider, and potential 
impacts that could result from implementation of the CCP on the ALE 
Reserve. All comments received from individuals on environmental 
documents become part of the official public record. Requests for such 
comments will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information 
Act, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations [40 CFR 
1506.6(f)], and other Service and Departmental policy and procedures. 
When requested, the Service generally will provide the names and 
addresses of individuals who wrote comments. However, telephone numbers 
will not be provided in response to such requests to the extent 
permissible by law. Additionally, public comment letters are not 
required to identify the author or the author's address. Such comments 
may be submitted anonymously to the Service.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), NEPA Regulations (40 
CFR 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws and regulations, the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and Service 
policies and procedures for compliance with those regulations.

[[Page 15987]]

    Dated: March 26, 1999.
Cynthia U. Barry,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1.
[FR Doc. 99-8135 Filed 4-1-99; 8:45 am]