[Federal Register: June 12, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 113)]
[Page 40333-40337]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Intent To Prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Associated Environmental Impact Statement for Hanford Reach National 
Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Associated Environmental Impact Statement for the Hanford Reach 
National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge.


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (Service), in cooperation with the Department of Energy (DOE) 
and other cooperating agencies, is preparing a Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan (CCP) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 
the Hanford Reach National Monument/Saddle Mountain National Wildlife 
Refuge in Benton, Franklin, Adams, and Grant counties, Washington. The 
Service is furnishing this notice in compliance with the Service's 
National Wildlife Refuge planning policy and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA), and implementing regulations for 
the following purposes: (1) To advise other agencies, Tribal 
governments, and the public of our intentions; (2) To obtain comments 
and information on the issues and alternatives to be addressed in the 
CCP and EIS; and (3) to describe additional opportunities for public 
comment during the scoping phase for the CCP and EIS.

DATES: Public comments are requested within 90 days of the date of 
publication in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Address comments and requests for more information to: Greg 
Hughes, Project Leader, Hanford Reach National Monument, 3250 Port of 
Benton Blvd., Richland, Washington 99352, Fax (509) 375-0196.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Greg Hughes, Project Leader, at (509) 
371-1801, Fax (509) 375-0196. Documents referenced herein can be viewed 
during business hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at the address above or 
at the DOE Public Reading Room located in the Washington State 
University Tri-Cities Library at 2770 University Drive, Richland, 
Washington 99352.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Hanford Reach National Monument 
(Monument) was designated by Presidential Proclamation 7319 on June 9, 
2000. The Monument encompasses approximately 195,000 acres, of which 
approximately 166,000 acres are currently managed by the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service) as the Saddle Mountain National Wildlife 
Refuge under its authority pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Administration Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 668dd-ee), and through 
agreements with the DOE. The entire Monument is superimposed over a 
portion of the 375,040-acre DOE Hanford Site, in Richland, Washington. 
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) administers

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800 acres of the Monument through a permit with the DOE. The DOE 
administers the remaining acreage and currently retains primary 
ownership or control on all acreage. The Service-managed acreage within 
the Monument area is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System under 
permits and agreements with the DOE. By Federal law, all lands within 
the National Wildlife Refuge System are to be managed in a manner 
consistent with an approved CCP. The Service is the lead agency for 
planning and management of the Monument and development of the CCP. 
Service planning for Monument lands is subject to review and approval 
by the DOE.

Management Units

    The Monument is divided into six administrative units, briefly 
described below. Of the total 195,000 acres within the Monument, 60,000 
acres and 45 miles of the Columbia River are currently open to the 

Wahluke Unit (Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge)

    Located on the east side of the Columbia River, the Wahluke Unit 
extends from the river north to the Saddle Mountains, encompassing 
57,000 acres of riparian and shrub-steppe habitats. Numerous species of 
native plants are found here, including rare plants such as White 
Bluffs bladderpod, Geyer's milkvetch, and desert dodder. Near the 
center of the Wahluke Unit is Wahluke Lake (also known as the WB-10 
ponds), formed by water returning to the river from nearby irrigated 
lands. One of the most scenic parts of the unit is the White Bluffs 
which form the eastern bank of the Columbia River, for about 20 miles, 
north of the city of Richland, Washington, near the shared border of 
Grant and Franklin counties. The Wahluke Unit also includes the White 
Bluffs Landing, an historic river crossing for local Tribes, and site 
of the first store and ferry in the Mid-Columbia region. Administered 
by the Service, the Wahluke Unit is open to the public from two hours 
before sunrise to two hours after sunset, year round. Current 
recreational uses include hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife 
observation, and photography.

Fitzner/Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve Unit (Saddle Mountain 
National Wildlife Refuge)

    This 77,000-acre unit on the southwest side of the Columbia River, 
is located southwest of State Highway 240 between State Highways 24 and 
225, encompassing Rattlesnake Mountain. Rattlesnake Mountain, at 3,600 
feet, is the highest landmark in the area and has religious 
significance for several local Tribes. This unit, as well as the other 
Monument Units, originally served as a buffer zone for DOE's Hanford 
Site operations. In 1967, it was set aside by the U.S. Atomic Energy 
Commission to preserve native shrub-steppe vegetation. The unit has 
been protected as a National Environmental Research Park since the 
1970s. This area contains one of the largest remnants of native shrub-
steppe vegetation in Washington. A major wildfire in 2000 devastated 
native plants, especially sagebrush. The unit is home to a large herd 
of Rocky Mountain elk. The DOE retains administration of the 
Rattlesnake Ridge and associated access road, while the Service manages 
the remainder of this area. Public use in this unit is currently 
limited to approved environmental education and research activities.

Saddle Mountain Unit (Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge)

    Dense stands of sagebrush thrive on the 32,000-acre Saddle Mountain 
Unit. Located in Grant County, north of the Columbia River, along 
Highway 24, this unit serves as a wildlife preserve, providing home to 
many protected bird species, including orioles, kingbirds, warblers, 
and Brewer's blackbirds. Managed by the Service, since 1971, public use 
in this unit is currently limited to approved environmental education 
and research activities.

McGee Ranch/Riverlands Unit

    This unit is located on the south side of the Columbia River which 
forms its northern boundary, and is bordered on the east and south by 
State Highway 24 to Cold Creek where the western boundary stair-steps 
north back to the Columbia River. This unit encompasses 9,000 acres. It 
includes a former pioneer ranch area and rare plants, such as Umtanum 
buckwheat; which exists nowhere else in the world; Hoover's desert 
parsley, and Kittitas larkspur. The unit provides a corridor of 
protected land for wildlife between the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve Unit 
and the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center. This unit is managed by the 
DOE. Public use is allowed in the area between the Midway Road and the 
Columbia River only.

Vernita Bridge Unit

    The WDFW administers approximately 800 acres of the Monument, 
located along the Columbia River northwest of the Vernita bridge under 
a DOE permit that predates the Monument designation. The entire unit is 
open to day use, year round. The primary public use is fishing access.

River Corridor Unit

    This unit includes 25,000 acres on the south and west banks of the 
Columbia River, the Columbia River Islands, and Hanford Dune Field. 
Sixteen islands exist in this unit, providing habitat for waterfowl, 
shorebirds, small mammals, and mule deer. Columbia yellowcress, a rare 
species, grows in the gravelly river shore. The River Corridor Unit is 
managed by the DOE except for the surface waters of the Columbia River. 
While access to Hanford Reach surface waters is open year round, the 
southwest river shore from Vernita Bridge to River Mile 343, and all 
islands between the Vernita Bridge and the Bonneville Power 
transmission line crossing at River Mile 351 are closed to public 

Purposes of the Monument

    The purpose for establishment of the Monument is defined in 
Presidential Proclamation 7319 (2000). The Monument was established to 
conserve a unique and biologically diverse landscape, encompassing an 
array of scientific and historic objects. The six units described above 
functioned historically as protective buffer zones surrounding the 
Hanford Site. They encompass some of the most pristine shrub-steppe 
habitat in the Columbia Basin. In addition to the sagebrush/grassland 
communities, a host of forbes, grasses, wetland and riparian plants and 
fragile microbiotic soil crusts have been preserved. Several sensitive 
species and rare plants such as the White Bluffs bladderpod and Umtanum 
desert buckwheat exist in the Monument. The Monument provides habitat 
for a wide variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, beaver, 
coyote, waterfowl and upland birds, and raptors as well as migratory 
and non-migratory fish. In addition to species that reside on the 
Monument year round, migrating salmon, birds, and hundreds of other 
native plant and animal species rely on the Monument's natural 
ecosystem. In addition to its natural and historic resources, the area 
contains one of the most extensive, intact, American Indian occupation 
and traditional use areas in the region. The diversity, density, and 
preservation of these sites is unparalleled in the Pacific Northwest. 
The Monument also contains historic structures and other remains from 
more recent human activities, including homesteads from small towns 
established along the riverbanks in the early 20th century.

[[Page 40335]]

Recent Land Use and Resource Planning at the Hanford Site

    In 1999, the DOE prepared a 50-year Comprehensive Land Use Plan 
(CLUP) and EIS, for the Hanford Site. The associated Record of Decision 
(ROD) designated a preservation land use for the six units described 
above. The ROD also designated these units to be managed as part of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    In accordance with the CLUP, the Service, as a Cooperating Agency, 
signed its own ROD (November, 1999) that expanded the Saddle Mountain 
National Wildlife Refuge to include the Wahluke Slope. The ROD also 
documented the Service's formal adoption of the National Park Service's 
Hanford Reach Comprehensive River Conservation Study and Final EIS 
(June, 1994), and DOE's Final Hanford Comprehensive Land-Use Plan and 
    The conclusions of previous planning and NEPA documents will be 
fully considered in the Monument CCP, to the extent that they are 
consistent with Proclamation 7319. Conflicts will be resolved in 
accordance with direction of the Proclamation, which provides the 
overruling purpose of the lands, subject to valid existing rights. As 
stated in the Proclamation; ``Nothing in this proclamation shall be 
deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or 
appropriation; however, the national Monument shall be the dominant 
reservation.'' Additional existing plans, agreements, legal 
designations, and agency jurisdictions include:
    1. DOE Biological Resources Management Plan; 2001;
    2. DOE Hanford Cultural Resources Protection Plan; Draft, 2002;
    3. National Park Service (NPS) Hanford Reach Comprehensive River 
Conservation Study and Environmental Impact Statement; June, 1996;
    4. Public Law 100-605 (November, 1988); the Hanford Reach Study 
Act, as amended by Public Law 103-333, Section 404; Hanford Reach 
    5. USFWS Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve Preliminary 
Draft CCP; initiated in 1999 under management agreement with the DOE. 
When the Monument was designated, this planning effort stopped;
    6. WDFW Rattlesnake Hills (Hanford) Elk Strategic Management Plan; 
February, 2000;
    7. Hanford Reach Fire Management Plan and Environmental Assessment; 
July, 2000;
    8. Hanford Reach Protection and Management Program Interim Action 
Plan; April, 1999;
    Other plans will be referenced/considered as the Service proceeds 
with scoping and detailed planning.

Preliminary Issues, Concerns and Opportunities

    The Hanford Reach Federal Advisory Committee (described under 
separate heading) has held five meetings to organize and become 
familiar with the Monument and management planning parameters. The 
committee has identified the following preliminary planning issues as 
    1. Public Use and Access--What kinds of recreation opportunities 
should be provided? Is existing access to the lands and waters adequate 
and appropriate?
    2. Resource Protection--How can the biologic, historic, cultural, 
geologic and paleontologic resources be protected while providing for 
invasive species control, fire management, vegetation restoration, and 
public use activities?
    3. Valid Existing Rights/Existing Activities--How can existing 
activities such as power transmission lines, irrigation water canals, 
and transportation corridors be managed for compatibility with proper 
care for the Monument's natural and cultural resources?
    4. White Bluffs Slumping--To what degree can the adverse natural 
and cultural impacts from White Bluffs slumping be mitigated?
    In this EIS, the Service will describe and evaluate a range of 
reasonable alternatives, including a No Action alternative and several 
proposed alternatives, and the anticipated impacts of each.

Overview of Planning Process

    By Federal law, all lands within the National Wildlife Refuge 
System (System) are to be managed in accordance with an approved CCP 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee). A CCP must describe the desired future 
conditions of the refuge and provide long-range guidance and management 
direction to accomplish the purposes of the refuge, contribute to the 
mission of the System, and meet other relevant mandates. Additional 
goals of the CCP process include: (1) Conducting refuge planning in 
accordance with an ecosystem approach; (2) providing a forum for the 
public to comment on the type, extent, and compatibility of wildlife-
dependent and other uses within the refuge area; (3) ensuring public 
involvement in refuge management decisions by providing a process for 
effective coordination, interaction, and cooperation with affected 
parties; (4) utilizing the best available science and sound 
professional judgement; and (5) ensuring that the six priority uses 
(hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, 
environmental education, and interpretation) receive priority 
consideration during CCP preparation. Some of the topics to be 
addressed in the CCP include: Wildlife and habitat management, habitat 
restoration, and public use.
    During development of the CCP, we will comply with the provisions 
of NEPA through concurrent preparation of an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) that will accompany the CCP. The draft EIS will contain 
a No Action alternative, a proposed action alternative, and potentially 
other alternatives. The alternatives will be used to define management 
options and compare their effects. The potential environmental impacts 
of each alternative will be analyzed in the draft EIS. Following 
completion of the final CCP/EIS document, and the finalization of the 
ROD, the product of the planning process will be a stand-alone CCP, 
separate from the EIS.
    As part of the CCP process, written compatibility determinations 
will be prepared for all uses of the Monument. Uses to be considered 
will include all recreational uses (including Monument facilities 
associated with a recreational use or other general public use), 
Monument management economic activities, and other uses of the Monument 
by the public or other agencies. The Service will determine that a 
proposed or existing wildlife-dependent use or any other use of the 
Monument is compatible if the use will not materially interfere with or 
detract from the fulfillment of the mission of the System or the 
purpose of the Monument. Incompatible uses will not be permitted to 
occur on the Monument.
    Review of the CCP and EIS will be conducted in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act, as 
amended (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), Federal 
regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1500-1508), other appropriate 
Federal laws and regulations, and Service policies and procedures for 
compliance with those regulations.
    The Monument CCP/EIS will provide guidance and management direction 
for the Service for the next 15 years. Our CCP planning process can be 
reviewed by visiting our website at http://pacific.fws.gov/planning/. 
We will use this website to provide pertinent information about the 
Monument and to keep the public informed about the status of the CCP/

[[Page 40336]]

Agency and Public Involvement

    The Monument is located in a highly complex planning environment 
associated with a nuclear superfund site, Bonneville Power 
Administration transmission grid, Bureau of Reclamation Columbia Basin 
Irrigation project and associated infrastructure, the Energy Northwest 
Nuclear Power Generating Station, nationally significant natural, 
historic, and cultural resources, Tribal trust responsibilities, and 
diverse public interest groups. The wide-range of potential issues to 
consider in the CCP/EIS will require the Service and DOE to involve an 
equally wide range of potentially affected interests in the planning 
process. We intend to involve the public and other agencies in the 
planning process through the following mechanisms.

Federal Planning Advisory Committee

    The Service recognizes that the planning process is best conducted 
by seeking the advice of Tribal, local and regional agencies, and 
private sector entities associated with the Monument. The Secretary, of 
the U.S. Department of the Interior, directed the Service to form a 
Federal Advisory Committee to advise the Service and DOE on the 
preparation of the CCP. The 13-member Hanford Reach National Monument 
Federal Planning Advisory Committee (Committee) is chartered to ensure 
that the CCP considers the land-use visions and perspectives of 
affected stakeholders, within the framework of the Presidential 
Proclamation 7319 and policy requirements of the Service and DOE. 
Committee members represent a cross-section of stakeholders, including 
state, city, county, tribal, education, scientific, conservation, 
economic development, outdoor recreation, and ``public-at-large'' 
representation. The Service and DOE are committed to serious 
consideration of all recommendations and advice from the Committee 
throughout the planning process.
    Committee meetings were held June 14 and 15, 2001; September 12 and 
13, 2001; October 25, 2001; February 6, 2002; March 19, 2002; May 2, 
2002; and May 29, 2002. The Committee is chartered for 2 years; 
however, the charter can be renewed for another 2-year period to 
complete the Monument CCP/EIS. Meetings are open to the public, and a 
public comment period is provided during each meeting. Meeting minutes 
are recorded and can be accessed at the Department of Energy's Public 
Reading Room, Mail Stop H2-53, Richland, Washington, 99352. The general 
electronic mail address is <doe.reading.room@pnl.gov. 

Cooperating Agencies

    Agencies with jurisdiction by law or special expertise on 
environmental issues that should be addressed in the CCP/EIS will be 
invited to participate in the planning process as a Cooperating Agency, 
as defined by the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations 
for implementing the NEPA, 40 CFR 1508.5. Cooperating Agencies will 
participate in the scoping process to identify significant planning 
issues and to help develop the EIS purpose and need statement. With 
direction from the Service, they will also develop pertinent 
information and prepare environmental analyses based on their expertise 
and area of jurisdiction. Consistent with applicable Federal law and 
policy, and our responsibilities as lead agency, we will fully consider 
the data, environmental analyses, and action alternatives provided by 
Cooperating Agencies.

Public Involvement

    We will use news releases to the local and regional media and other 
appropriate means to notify the public of opportunities to participate 
in the planning process. Planning updates will be mailed out to 
potentially affected interests and to those entities requesting to be 
on the planning project mailing list. To add individuals or groups to 
the mailing list, please submit a name and mailing address to the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service at 3250 Port of Benton Blvd., Richland, 
Washington 99352, or call (509) 371-1801. Public scoping meetings and 
workshops will be held at locations and times to be specified. The 
public will also be provided the opportunity to submit verbal or 
written comments at regularly scheduled meetings of the Monument 
Federal Planning Advisory Committee. All Advisory Committee meetings 
will be announced in the Federal Register and public workshops will be 
announced through local media.

Involvement of Tribes

    In recognition of the sovereign status of American Indian 
Governments, the Service will establish and maintain government-to-
government relationships with American Indian Tribal governments while 
developing the CCP/EIS. We will consider actions that may affect 
American Indian cultural or religious interests. To the extent that 
Indian Tribes have rights pursuant to the Treaties of 1855 (12 Stat. 
951), or any other Federal law, those rights will be properly 
recognized and addressed in the planning and decision-making process. 
We will observe legislative mandates, agency policies supporting trust 
responsibilities, and respect American Indian cultural values when 
planning for the Monument's future. We will take appropriate 
precautions to ensure that locations of protected sites remain 

Wilderness Review

    We are required by Service policy to complete a wilderness review 
of Service managed lands to determine if any lands are suitable for 
inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The 
wilderness review will be integrated into the CCP/EIS process including 
identifying areas that meet the minimum wilderness criteria; evaluating 
the wilderness suitability of alternatives; and documenting 
recommendations. Wilderness designation requires Congressional 
legislation. The last step if appropriate, would consist of forwarding 
any suitable recommendations from the Director of the Service, through 
the DOI Secretary and the President, to Congress in a Wilderness Study 
Report. If lands where the DOE retains primary jurisdiction are found 
suitable for wilderness designation, DOE concurrence would be required 
prior to any recommendations being forwarded to Congress.

Wild and Scenic River Proposed Designation

    In 1996, the DOI issued a Record of Decision recommending 
``Recreational River'' designation, as defined by the National Wild and 
Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, for the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River 
and a quarter-mile corridor on either side of the river. A final 
designation requires Congressional legislation. Congress has not acted 
upon this recommendation, and the river has been placed into indefinite 
protection status. Following designation of the Monument, the DOI 
Secretary transferred oversight responsibility for the Hanford Reach 
interim protection from the National Park Service to the Fish and 
Wildlife Service. Until Congress acts on the proposed designation, we 
will continue to oversee the protection of the proposed ``Recreational 
River'' in such a manner as to protect and enhance the values which 
caused it to be recommended for inclusion in the National Wild and 
Scenic Rivers System, to the extent that our jurisdiction will allow.

Refuge Roads Program

    In October 1998, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for 
the 21st

[[Page 40337]]

Century, or TEA-21, which established the Refuge Roads Program. TEA-21 
requires that all projects funded under the Refuge Roads Program be 
consistent with agency management plans. The Monument CCP and EIS will 
address transportation issues to determine current and future 
transportation needs such as the maintenance or improvement of existing 
roads, closure and revegetation of existing roads and the construction 
of new roads, parking lots, comfort stations, signs, or pedestrian 
trails. Construction of new roads and parking lots can not be funded by 
the Refuge Roads Program. The plan will explain how the public is going 
to access Service administered lands and waters within the Monument.


    With the publication of this notice, the public is encouraged to 
help identify potential issues, management actions and concerns; 
significant problems or impacts; and opportunities or alternatives to 
resolve them. The public scoping period will continue for 90 days from 
the date of this notice, however, the Service will accept comments 
throughout the planning process. The public may provide the Service 
with written comments at either the mailing address or planning website 
listed in this notice. Comments may also be provided at scheduled 
meetings of the Hanford Reach National Monument Federal Advisory 
Committee. The dates and location of Committee meetings will be 
published in the Federal Register and announced through local media and 
other appropriate means. All comments and written materials submitted 
to the Committee will be documented and provided to the Service for 
their consideration.
    All comments received on environmental documents become part of the 
official public record and may be released. Requests for such comments 
will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, CEQ 
and NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6(f)), and other Service and DOE 
policy and procedures. When requested, the Service generally will 
provide comment letters with the authors' names and addresses. However, 
the telephone number of the commenting individual will be withheld in 
response to such requests to the extent permissible by law. 
Additionally, public comment letters are not required to contain the 
author's name, address, or other identifying information.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of NEPA, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.), NEPA implementing 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.

    Dated: June 4, 2002.
William F. Shake,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 02-14694 Filed 6-11-02; 8:45 am]