[Federal Register: June 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 117)]
[Page 35449-35451]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Environmental Assessment for Sand Lake National Wildlife 
Refuge, Columbia, SD

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that 
the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment 
(CCP/EA) for the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) is 
available for public review and comment. This Draft CCP/EA was prepared 
pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as 
amended, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Draft 
CCP/EA describes the Service's proposal for management of the Refuge 
for 15 years.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the postal or electronic 
addresses listed below by July 20, 2005. Comments may also be submitted 
VIA electronic mail to: kathleen_linder@fws.gov.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the Draft 
CCP/EA, please write to Linda Kelly, Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 
80225-0486; (303) 236-8132; fax (303)236-4792, or Gene Williams, Refuge 
Manager, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 39650 Sand Lake Drive, 
Columbia, South Dakota 57433; (605) 885-6320; fax (605) 885-6401. The 
Draft CCP/EA will also be available for viewing and downloading online 
at http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Linda Kelly, Planning Team Leader at 
the above address or at (303) 236-8132.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Wildlife System Administration 
Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act 
of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee et seq), requires the

[[Page 35450]]

Service to develop a CCP for each National Wildlife Refuge. 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, consistent with sound 
principles of fish and wildlife management, 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. We will 
review and update these CCPs at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-4370d).


    Sand Lake NWR was established by Executive Order 6724, dated May 
28, 1934, and Executive Order 7169, dated September 4, 1935, as a 
Refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. Sand 
Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established for * * * ``use by 
migratory birds, with emphasis on waterfowl and other water birds'' and 
``the conservation of fish and wildlife resources.''
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: Wildlife 
and habitat management, water management, public use, and invasive 
plants. The Service developed three alternatives for management of the 
Refuge: Alternative 1--No Action; Alternative--Maximize biological 
potential for grassland-nesting birds; Alternative 3--Integrated 
management. All three alternatives outline specific management 
objectives and strategies related to wildlife and habitat management, 
water management, public use, and invasive plant control.
    Alternative 1--No Action (Current Management) would continue and 
would not involve extensive restoration of cropland, grassland, and 
wetland habitat, or improvements to roads and administrative 
facilities. Grasslands would be managed to provide habitat for upland 
nesting waterfowl. Shelterbelt woodlands would deteriorate and die out, 
benefiting grassland-nesting birds. Species of migratory birds that use 
fringes would decrease.
    Cropland would be maintained to control invasive plants and to 
provide food for resident wildlife. Deer and pheasant populations would 
be sustained, along with hunting and viewing opportunities for these 
    In addition to herbicides, management tools such as grazing, 
burning, mowing, and farming would be used to maintain the quality of 
upland habitat.
    Invasive-plant infestations may increase or decrease, depending on 
environmental conditions. Using herbicides to control invasive plants 
would reduce the diversity and quality of grasslands, and may spread 
toxic and persistent chemicals into the environment.
    Sedimentation rates near the Mud Lake dike are expected to remain 
elevated near current levels, thereby continuing to degrade the wetland 
functions of Mud Lake.
    The ability to cycle vegetation and create an interspersion of 
cover and water to meet objectives in Mud Lake through current water-
level manipulations would be hindered. Reduced invertebrate production 
may impact nutrient cycling and overall wetland productivity, as well 
as limit a major food source for waterfowl and other wildlife.
    All hunting and fishing seasons would continue as presently 
managed. No new parking areas would be developed.
    Alternative 2--Maximize biological potential for grassland-nesting 
birds would involve intense management of upland habitat to maximize 
numbers of migratory birds, because of their importance as Federal 
Trust Species.
    The amount of grassland habitat would be maximized by the 
elimination of croplands, decreased wetland acreage with the removal or 
breaching of dikes, and the elimination of shelterbelts. The number of 
acres of invasive plants might increase due to lower water levels.
    Grassland-dependent birds would benefit from larger blocks of 
nesting habitat and the elimination of travel corridors and den sites 
for predators. The number and diversity of tree-nesting species and 
edge species would be reduced.
    The diversity of wetland-dependent species would decline due to the 
decreased wetland acreage and lack of water control. The number of 
waterfowl would probably decline. Use of the refuge by overwater-
nesting colonial birds would decline.
    White-tailed deer use of the refuge would likely be sustained. With 
the elimination of all cropland, depredation on neighboring crops may 
    Sedimentation rates in wetlands would decline with the removal or 
breaching of the dikes, resulting in long-term benefits to water 
    An education and visitor center would be built to allow visitors to 
learn about wildlife and experience the refuge without disturbing 
    Conflicts between humans and nesting, brooding, and foraging birds 
would be avoided through restriction or elimination of nearly all 
spring and summer recreational use and some fall recreational use of 
the James River within the refuge.
    Deer and upland-game hunting would continue. Accessibility of deer 
and upland-game to hunters would likely decrease. Migrating waterfowl 
may pass through the refuge more quickly during the fall. Overall 
hunter satisfaction may decrease as the quality of hunting and harvest 
opportunities decreases.
    Fall and winter fishing would be allowed at five designated areas. 
Spring and summer fishing opportunities would be eliminated to avoid 
direct conflicts with nesting and brooding migratory birds.
    Alternative 3--Integrated Management, the Service's Proposed 
Action, takes an integrated approach that maximizes the biological 
potential for migratory birds, and finds a balance with reducing 
cropland, while ensuring depredation is minimized.
    Cropland acreage would be reduced. Upland habitat management would 
be geared toward providing tall and dense nesting cover on a high 
percentage of the uplands for nesting birds, especially waterfowl.
    The vegetative diversity of grasslands would be greatly enhanced by 
re-seeding all habitat blocks to native plants or rejuvenated dense 
nesting cover.
    The die-off of some shelterbelts and removal of isolated trees 
would increase the size of grassland blocks for nesting migratory 
    Although more grassland-dependent birds may be able to use the 
refuge, nesting success is not expected to increase. Remaining 
shelterbelts would provide travel corridors and den sites that help 
support a robust population of predators.
    The five sub-impoundments would be managed as shallow-water 
wetlands for waterfowl breeding pairs and broods, nesting black terns 
and pied-billed grebes, and foraging water birds and shorebirds.
    Deer and pheasant populations would be sustained, along with 
hunting and viewing opportunities for these species. Depredation issues 
would be a function of the location and size of the total farmed 

[[Page 35451]]

    The size and location of remaining cropland would be based on the 
need to control invasive plants, especially Canada thistle. Grasslands 
infested with Canada thistle would be tilled and planted with native 
vegetation or dense nesting cover after the area is considered clear of 
viable Canada thistle seed. Canada thistle should be much more 
contained than it is currently, reducing the potential for a thistle 
seed source to invade adjacent or downstream private lands.
    Watershed-level conservation efforts through partnerships may 
result in a long-term reduction of sediment entering the James River 
and refuge.
    Sedimentation rates near the Mud Lake dike are expected to remain 
elevated near current levels in the short term, thereby continuing to 
degrade the wetland functions of Mud Lake.
    The ability to cycle vegetation and create an interspersion of 
cover and water to meet objectives in Mud Lake through current water-
level manipulations would be hindered. Reduced invertebrate production 
may impact nutrient cycling and overall wetland productivity, as well 
as limit a major food source for waterfowl and other wildlife.
    Wildlife-dependent recreational and educational activities would be 
expanded and improved on- and off-refuge. The building of an education 
and visitor center would allow visitors a quality experience and 
provide a focus point for public use on the refuge.
    All hunting and fishing seasons would continue as presently 
managed. Support facilities, including parking, for hunting and fishing 
opportunities would be improved.
    The review and comment period is 30 calendar days commencing with 
publication of this Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. 
After the review and comment period for this Draft CCP/EA, all comments 
will be analyzed and considered by the Service. All comments received 
from individuals on the Environmental Assessment become part of the 
official public record. Requests for such comments will be handled in 
accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Council on 
Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1506.6(f)) and other 
Service and Departmental policies and procedures.

    Dated: May 26, 2005.
Ron Shupe,
Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, CO.
[FR Doc. 05-12061 Filed 6-17-05; 8:45 am]