[Federal Register: March 20, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 54)]
[Page 13001-13003]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Issue a Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan, Associated Environmental Assessment, and Finding of No 
Significant Impact for Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in 
the Southwest Region

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service) has prepared a Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
(CCP), associated Environmental Assessment (EA), and a Finding of No 
Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Balcones Canyonlands National 
Wildlife Refuge, north of Austin, Texas, pursuant to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and its implementing regulations. The 
Regional Director, Southwest Regional Office, upon issuing a FONSI, 
considered a reasonable range of management framework alternatives, and 
has selected Alternative 2, found in the EA, to be the Service's 
proposed alternative.

[[Page 13002]]

    Approval of the Balcones Canyonlands NWR CCP formalizes 8 goals 
which will result in:
     Restoration and enhancement of threatened and endangered 
species habitat on Refuge lands. (Goal 1)
     Protection and enhancement of habitat for a diversity of 
wildlife including other migratory birds. (Goal 2)
     Restoration of watershed health to minimize sheet runoff 
and siltation, enhance seasonal stream flow, and maximize ground and 
surface water recharge. (Goal 3)
     Development of interpretive programs that enable the 
public to (1) enjoy the fish and wildlife resources found on the 
refuge, (2) understand these resources and issues related to them, and 
(3) act to promote fish and wildlife conservation. (Goal 4)
     Protection of habitat within approved Refuge boundaries by 
fee acquisition or conservation easement. (Goal 5)
     Accurate, up-to-date data on roads, other physical 
infrastructure, habitats and wildlife, and plant species.(Goal 6)
     Compliance with historic and archeological resource 
protection laws and regulations. (Goal 7)
     Efficient Administration that Supports Refuge Objectives
    Accomplishments. (Goal 8)
    Some of the specific changes to the existing program changes 
include but are not necessarily limited to the following objectives:
     Restore and enhance 500 acres of black-capped vireo 
habitat within 10 years.
     Maintain brown-headed cowbirds parasitism on black-capped 
vireo nests below 10%.
     Protect existing golden-cheeked warbler habitat on Refuge 
lands and enhance additional areas for golden-cheeked warbler where 
     Within five years design and begin to implement a plan to 
locate and map caves and other karst features, monitor changes 
occurring in them, and take actions as needed to protect them.
     Continue to support and promote the conservation of the 
golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo in their migration and 
wintering areas through coordination with Central American 
ornithologists and participation in the Nature Conservancy's 
International Program.
     Within 10 years restore and manage at least 1,000 acres of 
existing and former native grassland and savannah habitat on the Refuge 
and increase the amount and diversity of native annual and perennial 
grasses and forbs on the refuge.
     Within ten years, design and implement a plan to restore 
wetlands and riparian corridors.
     Within ten years rehabilitate and improve existing wells 
for wildlife water sources for public viewing sites using wind and 
solar power.
     Control invasive species (e.g. second-growth juniper, 
prickly pear and false-willow) on at least 50 acres per year to improve 
ground cover and plant diversity.
     Reduce the Refuge white-tailed deer herd to achieve and 
maintain a density of one deer per 20 or more acres within five years 
to reduce adverse effects on Refuge habitat.
     Maintain and increase herbarium collection and print a 
Refuge Plant list within three years. Identify native plant and 
wildlife species that are unique to the Balcones Canyonlands region for 
potential restoration and enhancement on the Refuge.
     Control feral, exotic and domestic animals that can 
compete with native wildlife and damage its habitat (e.g. dogs, cats, 
feral hogs, emu, etc.). Complete hog control plan within three years.
     Restore native plant growth on eroded and disturbed sites 
to increase water holding capacity of the soils. Restore 50 acres per 
     Through increasing visitation to 5,000 visitors per year, 
provide public opportunities to view and learn about Refuge wildlife 
species and representative habitat characteristics of the Texas Hill 
Country, and to promote a conservation ethic.
     Provide compatible wildlife dependent outdoor recreational 
opportunities for the public on the Refuge to include wildlife viewing 
access, while striving for a balance between conflicting user groups. 
Annually evaluate hunting program to include newly acquired tracts.
     Within five years develop a public outreach program to aid 
in the understanding of Refuge purposes, issues specific to Balcones 
Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
     Within five years develop a public outreach program to aid 
in the understanding of Refuge purposes, issues specific to Balcones 
Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
     Within five years design and implement Partnership and 
Volunteer programs to facilitate meeting Refuge management objectives.
     Improve five miles of public or administrative roads per 
year to improve access to the Refuge for public and administrative use.
     Annually review and update the land protection plan 
priorities. Acquire lands according to revised priorities.
     Meet with five private owners of lands within the Refuge 
per year to exchange information and provide assistance on management 
of wildlife populations and endangered species habitat.
     Within five years map roads, inspect ponds, map and 
monitor Refuge habitats and species distributions.
     Within three years, create and maintain a database of 
Refuge biological resources for use in making management decisions and 
documenting changes in habitat and wildlife composition.
     Maintain files on all archeological and cultural resource 
sites. Annually inspect all sites and record condition.
     Within three years complete plans for implementation of 
objectives and strategies in this comprehensive conservation plan.
     Within five years increase Refuge staff to meet minimal 
needs for implementation of Refuge objectives and strategies identified 
in this comprehensive conservation plan.
     Conduct, encourage and support research and management 
studies that will increase scientific data available for use in making 
Refuge management decisions.
     Within five years obtain adequate equipment and storage 
facilities to implement management strategies to meet objectives 
identified in this management plan.
     Within five years plan acquisition, remodeling and/or 
construction of a permanent Refuge Office and Visitor Contact Station 
to be located on Refuge lands.
    The implementation of the above management approaches among others 
and employment of strategies associated with those approaches should 
assist in the achievement of the refuge's broad goals.
    Based on a review and evaluation of the information contained in 
the CCP and EA for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, 
the Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, has selected Alternative 2 detailed in the EA. Consequently 
the Regional Director has determined that the approval of the 
individual or cumulative approaches reflected in Alternative 2 the 
Proposed Alternative and CCP Goals, Objectives and Strategies, is not 
deemed to constitute a major Federal action which would significantly 
affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 
Section 102(2) (c) of the National Environmental Policy Act

[[Page 13003]]

(NEPA). Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. 
However, it is the intent of the Service to revisit questions of 
potential significant environmental consequences in accordance with 
NEPA upon consideration of the implementation of site specific 
proposals called for and discussed in the final plan document.

ADDRESSES: A paper copy and/or a Compact Disk copy may be obtained by 
writing to: Mr. John Slown, Natural Resource Planner, Division of 
Refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: It is Service policy to have all lands 
within the National Wildlife Refuge System managed in accordance with 
an approved CCP. The CCP guides management decisions and identifies 
refuge goals, long-range objectives, and strategies for achieving 
refuge purposes. The planning process has considered many elements, 
including habitat and wildlife management, habitat protection and 
acquisition, public and recreational uses, and cultural resources. 
Public input into this planning process has assisted in the development 
of these documents. The CCP will provide other agencies and the public 
with a clear understanding of the desired conditions for the Refuges 
and how the Service will implement management strategies.
    The Service considered comments and advice generated in response to 
draft documents issued in November 1998. The Service is furnishing this 
notice in compliance with Service CCP policy to advise other agencies 
and the public of the availability of the final documents.

    Dated: March 8, 2002.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 02-6768 Filed 3-19-02; 8:45 am]