[Federal Register: June 9, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 112)]
[Page 36711-36712]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for 
the Proposed Establishment of the Little Darby National Wildlife 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) for the proposed establishment of the Little Darby National 
Wildlife Refuge.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) intends to gather the information necessary for the 
preparation of an EIS. The action to be evaluated by this EIS is the 
establishment of the Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge, located in 
Madison and Union counties, Ohio. This notice is being furnished as 
required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Regulations 
(40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22). The intent of the notice is to obtain 
suggestions and additional information from other agencies and the 
public on the scope of issues to be addressed in the EIS. Comments and 
participation in this scoping process are solicited.

DATES: Written comments should be received on or before July 10, 2000. 
The dates and schedule of the public scoping meetings are: June 19--
(6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.) at the Made From Scratch Conference Center, 7500 
Montgomery Dr., Plain City, OH, and June 20 (6 p.m.-9 p.m.) at the 
Della Selsor Building located on the Madison County Fairgrounds, 
London, Ohio.
    Public Involvement: The public will be invited to participate in 
the scoping process, review of the draft EIS, and a public hearing. 
Release of the draft EIS for public comment and the public hearing will 
be announced in the local news media, as these dates are established.
    Comments that were received during the scoping process for the 
Environmental Assessment and on the draft Environmental Assessment will 
be considered in the draft EIS. The Service appreciates all those that 
have taken time to provide comments during the Environmental Assessment 
process. At this stage, the Service is especially seeking new ideas or 
concepts beyond those that have already been raised. Written comments 
should be received within 30 days from the date of publication of this 
Notice of Intent.
    All comments received from individuals become part of the official 
public record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance 
with the Freedom of Information Act and the Council on Environmental 
Quality's NEPA regulations [40 CFR 1506.6(f)]. Our practice is to make 
comments, including names and home addresses of respondents, available 
for public review during regular business hours. Individual respondents 
may request that we withhold their home address from the record, which 
we will honor to the extent allowable by law. If a respondent wishes us 
to withhold his/her name and/or address, this must be stated 
prominently at the beginning of the comment.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be address to: Regional Director, Region 3, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, 
Minnesota 55111. Electronic mail comments may also be submitted within 
the comment period to: http://www.fws.gov/r3pao/planning/public/htm.

Watershed Project Manager, Reynoldsburg Field Office, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 6950-H Americana Parkway, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-
4132; telephone 614-469-6923, extension 17; or Mr. Thomas Larson, Chief 
of Ascertainment and Planning, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bishop 
Henry Whipple Federal Building, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, 
Minnesota 55111; telephone 612-713-5430.


Purpose of Action

    The general purpose of the refuge would be ``for the development, 
advancement, management, conservation, and protection of fish and 
wildlife resources'' (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956). More 
specifically, the Service's interests include preservation and 
restoration of Federal threatened and endangered species and migratory 
birds and their habitats in the Little Derby Creek Watershed, ensuring 
that the overall Darby Creek watershed biodiversity and Federal 
wildlife trust resources are protected and enhanced, while providing 
opportunities for wildlife-dependent public uses consistent with 
preservation and restoration of the natural resources.

[[Page 36712]]

After having developed a draft Environmental Assessment and conducting 
a series of public meetings, the Service had decided that the 
preparation of an EIS is appropriate for this proposed action. The 
decision to prepare an EIS is based upon strong public interest in the 
project, both supportive and non-supportive. There has also been 
interest expressed in development of an EIS by local governments and by 
members of the Ohio Congressional delegation.

Need for Action

    Big and Little Darby Creeks, located 20 miles west of downtown 
Columbus, are the major streams in a 580-square mile watershed 
encompassing portions of 6 counties in central Ohio. The Darby 
watershed is one of the healthiest aquatic systems of its size in the 
Midwest and is ranked among the top five warm freshwater habitats in 
Ohio by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Land use in the 
drainage basin has historically been agriculture, with appropriately 80 
percent of the land area in fields, row-cropped, in a corn-soybean 
rotation. The project area was the location of the easternmost 
extension of the mid-continent tallgrass prairie. The following eight 
points help explain the need to preserve this area:
    (1) Existing and threatened conversion of the watershed, from 
agriculture to urban land uses, presents an increased risk to the 
health of this aquatic system.
    (2) Scientists (Ohio EPA surveys) place the number of fish species 
in the Darby Creek System at 94 and 60+; in the Little Darby Creek sub 
watershed. The number of mollusk species, including the federally 
endangered Northern riffle shell and the Northern club shell, is 35 
(Dr. Tom Watters). They are reported to be declining.
    (3) There are 3 federally endangered, 1 threatened, 1 candidate, 
and 10 monitored species confirmed in the original project area or 
likely to be in the original project area.
    (4) Collectively, 44 species are designated as being state threaten 
or endangered throughout the watershed. Another 36 species are 
identified as potentially threatened or of special interest in the 
state. A total of 38 (24 percent) species listed in the Service's 
regional conservation priorities would be affected potentially by the 
project as proposed in the draft Environmental Assessment.
    (5) While the Refuge project area encompasses only 14-15 percent of 
the entire Little Darby Creek Watershed, it includes almost 50 percent 
of all stream miles and important aquatic habitat that is in the 
    (6) The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the National Park 
Service and the Nature Conservancy have all given special designations 
to the Big Darby and Little Darby Creeks. The Nature Conservancy 
identified this watershed as one of the ``Last Great Places'' in the 
Western Hemisphere.
    (7) A 1996 report (Swanson, D.) found that the population trend in 
Ohio for 10 species of nongame grassland migratory birds exhibited 
declines in populations from 30 to 84 percent.
    (8) The Service's Regional Wetlands Concept Plan, November 1990, 
identified the Big Darby Creek Watershed that includes Little Darby 
Creek as, ``One of the last remaining watersheds in Ohio with excellent 
biological diversity.'' Under threat from development for water use and 
urban development, the area was listed as a potential wetland 
acquisition site.


    A draft Environmental Assessment has been prepared and undergone 
public review and comment prior to this notice. This EIS will further 
evaluate alternative methods of establishing the Little Darby National 
Wildlife Refuge including alternatives for agricultural land use 
conservation that supports the Service's primary mission of fish and 
wildlife habitat protection. Socioeconomic, fiscal, and other community 
impacts related to alternative methods for refuge establishment will be 
further explored. Critical biological and potential management impacts 
will be evaluated as part of each part of each alternative or suite of 
alternatives that may have similar effects. Development of new 
alternatives and further evaluation of previously formulated 
alternatives will be made in conjunction with the local community, and 
interested state agencies. As required by NEPA, the Service will also 
analyze the ``no action'' alternative as a baseline for gauging the 
impacts of the establishment of the refuge.
    Potential impacts that may be addressed in the EIS include effects 
on development, land use, habitat, wildlife populations, economics and 
listed species. Potential associated impacts may be related to drainage 
maintenance, school district revenue, tax revenue, fire management, and 
wildlife disease.
    The environmental review of the proposed establishment of the 
Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge will be conducted in accordance 
with the requirements of the NEPA Act of 1969 as amended (42 U.S.C. 
4371 et seq.), NEPA Regulations (42 CFR 1500-1508), other appropriate 
Federal regulations, and Service procedures for compliance with those 
    The Service estimates that the draft EIS will be made available to 
the public during the summer of 2000.

    Dated: May 31, 2000.
William F. Hartwig,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 00-14101 Filed 6-8-00; 8:45 am]