[Federal Register: May 21, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 98)]
[Page 27840-27841]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge 
located in Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and Winston Counties, Mississippi.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for 
Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge are available for review and comment. 
These documents have been prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, and describe the Service's proposal for managing 
the refuge over the next 15 years. Proposed goals for the refuge 
    [sbull] Perpetuating a diversity of high quality, more natural-like 
communities as habitats for trust and resident species;
    [sbull] Continuing to protect, maintain, and enhance native plant 
and animal species;
    [sbull] Improving conditions for fish, wildlife, habitats, special 
management areas, and wilderness through the use of current land 
protection programs, laws, policies, and partnerships;
    [sbull] Developing recreation and education opportunities that 
promote fish and wildlife conservation consistent with the Service's 
mission and policies, and the purpose for which the refuge was 
    [sbull] Protecting the cultural resources of the refuge; and
    [sbull] Developing and maintaining a comprehensive refuge facility 
responsive to supporting the management of fish and wildlife resources, 
and the safety and experience of refuge visitors.
    Also available for review are the draft compatibility 
determinations for recreational hunting, recreational fishing, wildlife 
observation and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation, forest habitat management, haying, and research and 

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to adopt and implement a comprehensive 
conservation plan for the refuge that best achieves the refuge's 
purpose, vision, and goals; contributes to the National Wildlife Refuge 
System mission; addresses the significant issues and relevant mandates; 
and is consistent with principles of sound fish and wildlife 
management. The Service analyzed three alternatives for future 
management of the refuge and chose Alternative 2, as the one to best 
achieve all of these elements.


    The draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental 
assessment evaluates the three alternatives for managing the refuge 
over the next 15 years. These alternatives are briefly described as 
    Alternative I represents the status quo; e.g., no changes from 
current management of the refuge. The refuge would continue with its 
existing forest management plan that emphasizes older age classes of 
trees and late successional wildlife communities. Waters and wetlands 
would be managed under current policies. Cultural resources would be 
protected at current levels.
    Under Alternative 2, the Service's proposed action, wildlife and 
habitat would be managed with emphasis on old growth forest 
communities, and increasing emphasis on education and recreation 
programs. Refuge programs provide the public with an opportunity to 
learn about, enjoy, and appreciate fish and wildlife. these programs 
include hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. Deer hunting opportunities 
would continue in order to manage the population, and small game and 
waterfowl hunting opportunities would continue as well. Game fish 
populations at Bluff and Loakfoma lakes would be maintained to support 
an annual average of 13,000 angler-use days through natural 
reproduction, habitat management, regulated harvest, and stocking when 
appropriate. Under this alternative, the refuge would seek to maintain 
and improve overlooks, boardwalks and trails, and provide special 
guided and education program tours each season, with an objective of 
increasing interpretation activities to at least 15 events annually. 
The refuge would coordinate with the local school district and others 
to share expertise, host meetings at the environmental education 
center, refuge outdoor classroom, and off-site locations to support 
15,000 students annually. This alternative emphasizes providing habitat 
for forest nesting birds dependent on mature hardwood forests and 
adequate habitat for resident and migratory waterfowl. Current 
partnerships that assist the refuge in accomplishing its conservation 
objectives would continue under this alternative, as would coordination 
with the Service's private lands' biologist to implement the Partners 
for Fish and Wildlife Program with local landowners and other 
conservation groups. Communication with local landowners and community 
groups would continue in order to promote wildlife conservation. A 
comprehensive cultural resources' survey would be conducted, and 
protection and interpretation of cultural resources would be improved.
    Alternative 3 emphasizes providing early successional forest 
habitat and increases in certain education and recreation programs. 
Forest management of pine and pine/hardwood forests would be directed 
towards providing old growth adequate to support the refuge's goal for 
the redcockaded woodpecker, and for providing early successional 
habitat for neotropical migratory birds and certain game

[[Page 27841]]

species. Management of the hardwood forest would also be directed 
towards providing early successional habitat.

Actions Common to All Alternatives

    All three alternatives share the following management concepts and 
techniques for achieving the goals of the refuge:
    [sbull] Restoring native habitats;
    [sbull] Establishing, maintaining, and improving partnerships with 
landowners and local, state, and federal agencies and organizations;
    [sbull] Coordinating management actions with local and state land 
and resource management agencies;
    [sbull] Monitoring breeding red-cockaded woodpecker populations in 
partnership with others;
    [sbull] Removing non-native invasive plants;
    [sbull] Encouraging scientific research on the refuge; and
    [sbull] Exploring expansion of the refuge boundary.

DATES: A meeting will be held at the refuge's education center to 
present the plan to the public. Mailings, newspaper articles, and 
postings on the refuge website will be the avenues to inform the public 
of the date and time for this meeting. Individuals wishing to comment 
on the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 
Assessment for Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge should do so within 60 
days following the date of this notice. Public comments were requested, 
considered, and incorporated throughout the planning process in 
numerous ways. Public outreach has included public scoping meetings, 
technical workgroups, planning updates and a Federal Register notice.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Assessment should be addressed to Refuge Manager, Noxubee 
National Wildlife Refuge, 224 Office Road, Brooksville, Mississippi 
39739. Comments may also be submitted via electronic mail to 
Noxubee@fws.gov. If you wish to submit comments by electronic mail, 

please submit them as an ASCII file, avoiding the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please include your name and 
return address to your Internet message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet 
message, contact us at the phone number or address listed in this 
notice. Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individuals respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the record, which we will honor to the extent 
allowable by law.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, located in 
east-central Mississippi, consists of 47,959 acres, of which 42,500 
acres are in bottomland hardwood, upland hardwood, mixed pine/hardwood, 
and pine forests. These forests support a variety of upland species 
including turkey, deer, and quail. The endangered red-cockaded 
woodpecker is found in the refuge's old-growth pine habitat. Many 
neotropical bird species benefit from refuge forests. Greentree 
reservoirs, natural ponds, and man-made impoundments provide important 
habitat for other migratory birds, as well as wintering habitat for 
waterfowl and bald eagles.
    Annually, more than 150,000 visitors participate in refuge 
activities, including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife photography, 
wildlife observation, and environmental education and interpretation.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Refuge Manager, Noxubee National 
Wildlife Refuge at 662/323-5548; fax 662/323-5806, or by writing to the 
Refuge Manager at the above address.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: May 14, 2003.
J. Mitch King,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 03-12710 Filed 5-20-03; 8:45 am]