[Federal Register: April 30, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 84)]
[Page 23803-23805]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge Complex

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 
Impact Statement (EIS) is available for the Petit Manan National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex. This 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. dd et seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
and describes how the Service intends to manage this five-refuge 
complex over the next 15 years.

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DATES: Comments must be received within 60 days of this publication. 
Public hearings will be scheduled in the following communities: 
Milbridge, Augusta, Rockland, and Falmouth, Maine.
    Send Comments to: Nancy McGarigal, Planning 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 ``Petit Manan NWR Complex.''

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Draft CCP/EIS are available on compact 
diskette or hard copy, and may be obtained by writing: Nancy McGarigal, 
Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate 
Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035. Copies of the Draft CCP/EIS 
may also be accessed and downloaded at the following Web site address: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nancy McGarigal, Planning Team Leader, 
at 413-253-8562, or e-mail Nancy_McGarigal@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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. 6688dd et 
seq). The purpose in developing a CCP 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 (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 CCP identifies wildlife-dependent recreational 
opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. These CCPs 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. dd 
et seq.), and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
    The Petit Manan NWR Complex lies along the Maine coast and is 
comprised of five NWRs: Cross Island, Seal Island, Franklin Island, 
Pond Island, and Petit Manan. Each have separate establishment 
histories and refuge purposes; however, they all have in common the 
purpose to protect and manage migratory birds. Seal Island (65 acres; 
established 1972), Franklin Island (12 acres; established 1973), and 
Pond Island (10 acres; established 1973) are single-island NWRs. Cross 
Island NWR (1,703 acres; established 1980) is a six-island complex, and 
Petit Manan NWR (5,771 acres; established 1974) includes 3 mainland 
divisions (Petit Manan, Gouldsboro Bay, and Sawyers Marsh) and 33 
islands which span the Maine coast from the New Hampshire border to 
Machias Bay in downeast Maine.
    In the Draft CCP/EIS we evaluate 4 management alternatives which 
address 14 major issues identified during the planning process. These 
issues were generated from several sources: The public; State or 
Federal agencies; our conservation partners; our planning team; or, 
other Service programs. The issues are described in detail in the 
document. Highlights of the alternatives are as follows:
    Alternative A (Current Management): This alternative is the ``No 
Action'' alternative required by the National Environmental Policy Act 
of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347 as amended, and by its implementing 
regulations 40 CFR 1500-1508. Alternative A defines our current 
management activities including those planned, funded, and/or under 
way, and serves as the baseline against which to compare the other 
three action alternatives. Funding and staffing levels would not 
increase appreciably over those in fiscal years 2002-2003. Our 
biological program priority would continue to be the six intensively-
managed seabird habitat restoration projects on refuge islands. We 
manage vegetation, seabird predators, and public use and access, and 
collect detailed biological information at these project sites. In 
addition, we would continue to maintain the 70 acres of open field and 
the three freshwater impoundments on the Petit Manan Point mainland 
division, and continue baseline vegetation and wildlife inventories as 
staffing and funding allows.
    There would be no change to our priority public use programs: 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. These uses were established 
as a priority on refuges by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997. Our annual hunt program would continue, which 
includes waterfowl hunting on 22 islands, deer hunting on Bois Bubert 
Island, and small game, big game, and waterfowl hunting on the Sawyers 
Marsh and Gouldsboro Bay mainland divisions. The two interpretive 
trails on the Petit Manan Point Division would be maintained; 
otherwise, no new public use infrastructure would be developed.
    We would continue to pursue Service acquisition from willing 
sellers of 467 acres within our currently approved boundary. We would 
also continue to facilitate the pending, no-cost land transfer of Corea 
Heath (400 acres) from the U.S. Navy. It would become a fourth mainland 
division on the Petit Manan NWR. In addition, we would seek an 
expansion of Petit Manan NWR to include 30 nationally significant 
seabird nesting islands (667.2 acres) and 153 acres of important 
coastal mainland habitat which are not permanently protected.
    Alternative B (The Service's Preferred Alternative): This 
alternative represents those actions which we believe most effectively 
achieve the purposes and goals of Petit Manan NWR Complex, and address 
the major issues. Funding and staffing levels would increase to support 
the program expansions we propose. The protection and restoration of 
seabird habitat would continue to be the highest biological program 
priority and we would expand this program to initiate six new project 
areas over the 15-year planning time-frame. We would focus our habitat 
management, inventory, and monitoring activities to benefit seabirds, 
migratory landbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds identified as a 
conservation priority in national and regional plans.
    Our priority public use programs would notably expand, especially 
in the areas of environmental education and interpretation. New 
infrastructure would be developed, including interpretive kiosks, and 
new trails, observation platforms, and parking areas on the Gouldsboro 
Bay, Sawyers Marsh, and Corea Heath divisions. We would place 
interpreters on commercial wildlife viewing tour boats. Our seasonal 
island closures to protect nesting seabirds would be modified on 
certain islands to allow public access in August; a month earlier than 
is currently allowed. We would also continue to pursue our proposal for 
a new Headquarters and Coastal Education Center; a proposal we would 
further develop in a separate environmental analysis once prospective 
sites are identified. Our hunt program would be expanded to include 
white-tailed deer hunting on the Petit Manan Point Division.
    We would enhance local community outreach and our partnerships with 
other Service programs, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and 
Wildlife (MDIFW), numerous conservation organizations, and the

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Friends of Maine Seabird Islands. All of these relationships would be 
integral to successfully accomplishing our goals and objectives.
    We would pursue Service acquisition similar to Alternative A, 
except we would increase our proposed Petit Manan NWR expansion to 
include 87 nationally significant seabird and bald eagle nesting 
islands (2,314 acres) not permanently protected. According to our Gulf 
of Maine Program staff and MDIFW, these 87 islands are the highest 
priority seabird and bald eagle nesting islands in Maine in need of 
permanent protection. This proposal would make significant gains in the 
regional recovery of several species of seabirds and bald eagles. On 
our mainland divisions, we would await the recommendations of the 
inter-agency Maine Wetlands Protection Coalition Team before 
determining if an expansion proposal is warranted.
    We would pursue wilderness designation of eight wilderness study 
areas (WSAs), comprised of 13 islands. Appendix D of the Draft CCP/EIS 
describes in detail the wilderness review process we conducted on all 
current refuge lands. Until a final decision on wilderness designation, 
or we choose to modify the recommendation, we would manage the WSAs to 
maintain their wilderness character to the extent it would not preclude 
fulfilling the respective refuge establishment purposes and the Refuge 
System mission. Existing, compatible priority public uses, including 
hunting and fishing, would not be affected by management to preserve 
wilderness character and values. If formally designated as wilderness, 
the purposes of the Wilderness Act would become additional purposes of 
the affected NWRs. We would manage to achieve the establishing purposes 
of these NWRs, the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System and 
the purposes in the Wilderness Act.
    Alternative C: This alternative builds on Alternative B with 
substantial expansions of our biological, public use, and land 
protection programs. Funding and staffing levels would increase 
commensurately. We would initiate 12 new seabird habitat restoration 
sites over the 15-year planning time-frame, substantially increasing 
our responsibilities for and leadership in seabird recovery in Maine. 
Our biological inventory and monitoring programs would notably increase 
in complexity and duration, but would remain focused on seabirds, 
migratory landbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds identified as a 
conservation priority in national and regional plans.
    Under this alternative, we would implement the expanded priority 
public use programs identified in Alternative B, and would further 
supplement the educational and interpretive programs. On some seabird 
habitat restoration sites, we would install a live-feed video camera, 
to be broadcast on our website for use with a curriculum we would 
develop. We would also pursue a partnership with State and Federal 
highway administrations to construct interpretive panels at rest stops 
and visitor facilities along major travel ways. With regards to non-
priority public uses, we would open Petit Manan, Gouldsboro Bay, and 
Sawyers Marsh divisions and Cross and Bois Bubert islands to furbearer 
trapping according to State and refuge regulations. On the mainland 
divisions, trapping would not begin before December to protect the 
thousands of fall migrating waterfowl congregating on refuge wetlands.
    Alternative C proposes the largest refuge expansion. We would 
pursue Service acquisition from willing sellers of all, or parts of, 
151 nationally significant seabird and bald eagle nesting islands 
(approximately 6,310 acres) not permanently protected. This proposal 
includes all unprotected coastal Maine islands determined nationally 
significant and would substantially advance the regional recovery of 
seabirds and bald eagles. In addition to the mainland parcels 
identified in Alternative B, we would pursue Service acquisition of 
mainland tracts from willing sellers on a case-by-case basis within 
Atlantic Coast Joint Venture Focus Areas. Our priority would be to 
acquire those tracts with high quality migratory waterfowl habitat in 
proximity to existing refuge lands.
    Similar to Alternative B, we would pursue formal wilderness 
designation of the eight WSAs.
    Alternative D: This alternative is best described as a custodial, 
or low-intervention, approach to administering the complex and managing 
its resources. We would minimize human intrusion or intervention into 
ongoing ecological processes, except where necessary to protect 
threatened and endangered species, avoid catastrophic loss to seabird 
populations on refuge lands, control invasive and exotic species, or 
enforce regulations. Funding and staffing levels would remain at 
current levels, with the exception of added law enforcement 
    We would reduce our effort at individual seabird restoration sites, 
limiting our activities to non-lethal gull control, and hand-treatment 
of vegetation. We would no longer use sheep, prescribed burning, or 
mowing to manage vegetation. Our monitoring of seabird nesting success 
would be curtailed to an annual census of nesting pairs.
    We would maintain the priority public use infrastructure currently 
in place on the Petit Manan Point Division, but would keep the other 
mainland divisions undeveloped to minimize public use. Instead, our 
priority public use efforts would be focused on off-site environmental 
education and interpretation, such as at the proposed Coastal Education 
Center and in schools. Hunting would not be allowed on refuge lands. 
Further, all islands would be closed to public use and access year 
round, except when a tour is organized by our staff or led by a partner 
operating under a special use permit.
    Under Alternative D, we would continue to pursue Service 
acquisition from willing sellers of the 467 acres within our currently 
approved boundary. No expansion would occur; however, we would continue 
to work with our land conservation partners to support their efforts in 
protecting important coastal habitats in Maine. We would not pursue 
formal wilderness designation under this alternative.

    Dated: February 26, 2004.
Richard O. Bennett,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, 
[FR Doc. 04-9783 Filed 4-29-04; 8:45 am]