[Federal Register: July 8, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 130)]
[Page 40681-40682]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 
Assessment for Assabet River, Great Meadows and Oxbow National Wildlife 
Refuges, Part of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge 

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

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that 
the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental 
Assessment (EA) is available for Assabet River, Great Meadows and Oxbow 
National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), part of the Eastern Massachusetts 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Complex). This Draft CCP is prepared 
pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 
1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 
of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et. seq.), and the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, and describes how the Service intends to manage 
this refuge over the next 15 years.

DATES: You must submit comments on the Draft CCP and EA by August 22, 
    Please contact Great Meadows NWR, at 978-443-4661, for information 
about dates, times and locations of public meetings.
    Send Comments to: Lindsay Krey, Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035, or e-
mail comments to northeastplanning@fws.gov with a subject line stating 
``Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex.''

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Draft CCP/EA are available on compact diskette 
or a hard copy may be obtained by writing: Lindsay Krey, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Dr., Hadley, Massachusetts 01035. 
Copies of the Draft CCP/EA may also be accessed and downloaded at the 
following Web site address: www.northeast.fws.gov/planning/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lindsay Krey, Planning Team Leader, at 
413-253-8556, e-mail Lindsay_Krey@fws.gov.
[[Page 40682]]

alternatives for addressing key management issues at the refuges. 
Alternative A is the current management, or what is currently offered 
at the refuge. Alternative B is the Proposed Action and Alternative C 
is another alternative considered. Public comment is being solicited on 
all alternatives. Based on the analysis documented in this Draft CCP/
EA, the Region 5 Regional Director of the Service will select a 
preferred alternative to be fully developed into a CCP for the refuges. 
A CCP is required by the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration 
Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et. seq.). The purpose in 
developing CCPs is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy 
for achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the mission of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles 
of fish and wildlife science, conservation, legal mandates, and Service 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, the CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. This CCP 
will be reviewed and updated at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd et. seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969.
    The Complex is a group of eight coastal and inland refuges. This 
Draft CCP/EA addresses the three northern-most refuges in the Complex. 
Both Oxbow and Assabet River NWR were established for their 
``particular value in carrying out the national migratory bird 
management program'' under the Transfer of Certain Real Property for 
Wildlife Conservation Purposes Act of May 1948. Oxbow NWR was 
established in 1973 and consists of 1,667 acres of upland and wetland 
habitats along the Nashua River in Middlesex County. Assabet River NWR 
was established in 2000 and consists of 2,230 acres in Middlesex and 
Worcester Counties. Great Meadows NWR was established under the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Act in 1944 ``for use as an inviolate 
sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.'' 
It protects 3,629 acres of wetland and upland habitats along the 
Concord and Sudbury Rivers in Middlesex County. Key issues for each 
refuge are described below.
    Hunting: Under Alternative A, small game, upland and woodcock 
hunting would remain open on portions of Oxbow NWR. Under Alternative 
B, the Service would open additional areas to small game, upland and 
woodcock hunting and open big game and migratory bird hunting on the 
refuge. Alternative C also offers these hunting opportunities, but 
limits areas where hunting would be allowed.
    Under Alternative A, Assabet River NWR would remain closed to 
public access. Under Alternative B, the refuge would be open for big 
game and upland hunting. Migratory bird hunting would be considered 
after further data is collected. Alternative C is similar to B, except 
big game hunting is limited to archery and black powder deer hunting 
    Great Meadows NWR, which is currently closed to all hunting 
(Alternative A), would be open to archery deer hunting and migratory 
bird hunting in limited areas under Alternative B. Alternative C 
proposes that additional areas be open for hunting than identified in 
Alternative B. Hunting would not be allowed at the Concord impoundments 
under any alternative.
    Fishing: Fishing opportunities would continue under Alternative A 
at both Great Meadows and Oxbow NWRs. Under Alternative B, fishing 
opportunities would continue unchanged at Great Meadows. Alternative B 
proposes that Oxbow NWR provide additional bank fishing areas and that 
Assabet River NWR be open for fishing on Puffer Pond. Alternative C is 
similar to Alternative B for all refuges.
    Non-wildlife dependent recreation: Dog walking, currently 
(Alternative A) occurring on Great Meadows and Oxbow NWRs, would be 
prohibited under Alternatives B and C. Jogging at Great Meadows and 
Oxbow NWRs will continue to be allowed. The Service plans to analyze 
the potential impacts of jogging on Service trust resources and 
priority public uses and will consider modifying or eliminating the use 
in the future, based on this additional analysis. Other non-wildlife 
dependent uses requested during the scoping process, including 
snowmobiling, dog sledding, horseback riding, dirt biking and model 
airplane flying, are alternatives addressed but not considered in 
further detail.
    These uses, including dog walking and jogging, are not considered 
for Assabet River NWR.
    User Fees: The refuges currently do not charge fees for access or 
use. Under Alternative B and C, user fees will be collected to help the 
Service recover costs, improve visitor facilities, promote activities 
for visitors and address the maintenance backlog of visitor service 

    Dated: June 19, 2003.
James G. Geiger,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, 
[FR Doc. 03-17163 Filed 7-7-03; 8:45 am]