[Federal Register: June 26, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 122)]
[Page 36408-36418]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

RIN 1018-AG46

Final Appropriate Refuge Uses Policy Pursuant to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: This notice pertains to our final policy regarding the process 
we use to decide if a nonwildlife-dependent recreational use is an 
appropriate use of

[[Page 36409]]

a refuge. The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(Improvement Act) amends the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966 (Administration Act) and defines six refuge 
uses (hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation) as wildlife-dependent 
recreational uses. The Improvement Act states that when compatible 
these uses are appropriate refuge uses and are the priority general 
public uses of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System). The 
Improvement Act directs us to give priority consideration to and 
facilitate these uses. To do this, we will provide compatible wildlife-
dependent recreational uses enhanced and priority consideration over 
other general public uses in refuge planning and management. This final 
policy establishes a process for determining when we may further 
consider other general public uses on refuges. We are incorporating 
this policy as part 603, chapter 1, of the Fish and Wildlife Service 
Manual (603 FW 1). This chapter (603 FW 1) will be available on the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) Web site at http://policy.fws.gov/ser600.html

DATES: This policy is effective July 26, 2006.

Specialist, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 670, Arlington, Virginia 22203 
(telephone 703-358-2490, fax 703-358-2154).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We published the Draft Appropriate Refuge 
Uses Policy in the Federal Register on January 16, 2001 (66 FR 3673). 
We invited the public to provide comments on the draft policy. The 
initial comment period closed on March 19, 2001. On March 15, 2001, we 
extended the comment period to April 19, 2001 (66 FR 15136). On May 15, 
2001, we reopened the comment period to June 14, 2001 (66 FR 26879), 
and on June 21, 2001, we reopened the comment period until June 30, 
2001 (66 FR 33268). In our June 21, 2001, notice, we also corrected the 
May 15, 2001, notice to reflect that comments received between April 19 
and May 15, 2001, would be considered and need not be resubmitted.


    The Improvement Act (Pub. L. 105-57) amends and builds upon the 
Administration Act (16 U.S.C. 6688dd et seq.), providing an ``organic 
act'' for the Refuge System. The Improvement Act clearly establishes 
the Refuge System mission, provides guidance to the Secretary of the 
Interior (Secretary) for management of the Refuge System, provides a 
mechanism for refuge planning, and gives refuge managers uniform 
direction and procedures for making decisions regarding uses of the 
Refuge System.
    Previously, much Refuge System public recreation policy was 
promulgated from the Refuge Recreation Act of 1962 (Recreation Act), 
which authorized us to regulate or curtail public recreational uses in 
order to ensure that we accomplish our primary conservation objectives. 
The Recreation Act also authorizes us to allow public recreation on 
areas within the Refuge System when the use is an ``appropriate 
incidental or secondary use.'' The Administration Act authorizes the 
Secretary to allow any use, but only if the use is compatible with the 
purposes of the area. The Improvement Act amended the Administration 
Act to define compatibility and to provide a Refuge System mission. It 
also includes specific directives and a clear hierarchy of public uses 
on the Refuge System.
    The Improvement Act defines wildlife-dependent recreation and 
wildlife-dependent recreational use as ``a use of a refuge involving 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation.'' The Improvement Act also 
provides a set of affirmative stewardship responsibilities regarding 
our administration of the Refuge System. These stewardship 
responsibilities direct us to ensure that these six wildlife-dependent 
recreational uses, where compatible, are provided enhanced 
consideration and priority over other general public uses.
    We are committed to providing enhanced opportunities for the public 
to enjoy compatible wildlife-dependent recreation. We are also 
committed to ensuring that refuge uses do not compromise individual 
refuge purpose(s) or the Refuge System mission. We can achieve 
individual refuge purpose(s) and the Refuge System mission while 
providing people with lasting opportunities for quality, wildlife-
dependent recreation. To do this we must carefully plan, apply 
regulations and policies uniformly throughout the Refuge System, 
diligently monitor impacts of uses on natural resources, and prevent or 
eliminate uses not appropriate in the Refuge System.
    The finding of appropriateness is the first step in deciding 
whether we will allow a proposed use or continue, expand, renew, or 
extend an existing use on a refuge. The Improvement Act states that, 
when compatible, the six wildlife-dependent recreational uses are 
appropriate and legitimate uses of the Refuge System and are the 
priority general public uses of the Refuge System. The Improvement Act 
directs us to facilitate these priority general public uses. We 
evaluate all other general public uses under a process established by 
this policy to determine their relationship to individual refuge 
purpose(s), the Refuge System mission, and priority general public 
uses. This screening process (i.e., the appropriateness finding 
contained in this policy) is a decision process that refuge managers 
will use to quickly and systematically find which uses are appropriate 
on a specific refuge. The outcome of the process will vary depending on 
refuge purpose(s) and conditions at the refuge, but the process will be 
applied consistently throughout the Refuge System. When we find a use 
is appropriate, we then thoroughly review the use for compatibility 
before allowing it on a refuge. This appropriate use policy and our 
compatibility policy (603 FW 2) are key tools refuge managers use 

Purpose of This Final Policy

    The purpose of this final policy is to establish a procedure for 
finding when uses other than the six wildlife-dependent recreational 
uses are appropriate for further consideration to be allowed on a 
refuge. This policy also provides procedures for review of existing 
uses. The policy will help us fulfill individual refuge purpose(s) and 
the Refuge System mission, as well as afford priority to compatible 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses within the Refuge System. This 
policy will apply to all proposed and existing uses of refuges where we 
have jurisdiction over these uses. This policy does not apply where we 
do not have jurisdiction. This policy is intended to improve the 
internal management of the Service, and it is not intended to, and does 
not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, 
enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its 
Departments, agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or 
employees, or any other person.

Summary of Comments Received

    During public comment periods, we received 2,064 comment letters by 
mail, fax, or email on our draft policy from Federal, State, and local 
governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals. 
Some comments addressed specific elements of the draft policy, while 
many comments

[[Page 36410]]

expressed general support without addressing specific elements. We 
considered all of the information and recommendations for improvement 
included in the comments and made changes to the draft policy where 
needed. The number of issues addressed in each comment letter varied 
widely. We identified 18 specific issues addressed in the comment 
letters. A summary of those issues and our responses follow. Several 
comments were not relevant to this policy, and we do not address them.

Issue 1: Coordination With State Fish and Wildlife Agencies and 

    Comment: Several commenters were concerned the draft policy 
contained no language requiring us to coordinate with State or local 
government agencies. Some States felt that State authorities, 
jurisdictions, and responsibilities were ``made vague, diminished, or * 
* * ignored'' in the draft policy. Two States were concerned that the 
draft policy may result in Federal infringement on State jurisdiction. 
One State commented that the policy should be rewritten to involve 
State agencies at an early stage. One commenter recommended that we 
implement a more formal process to solicit input from State agencies.
    Response: In section 1.2 of the draft policy (What is the scope of 
this policy?), we stated the ``policy applies to all proposed and 
existing uses of national wildlife refuges when we have jurisdiction 
over these uses.'' In section 1.2.B., we acknowledge and consider the 
roles of the States in managing fish and wildlife management on refuge 
when such activities are consistent with the refuges purpose(s), refuge 
goals, and the Refuge System mission. To enhance our coordination with 
State fish and wildlife agencies, we include take of fish and wildlife 
under State regulations as an appropriate activity on refuges (section 
1.3B.). However, before we allow a specific activity, we must determine 
if the activity is compatible.
    Both the Service and the State fish and wildlife agencies have 
authorities and responsibilities for management of fish and wildlife on 
refuges as described in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 
43, part 24. Consistent with the Administration Act, as amended, the 
Director of the Service will interact, coordinate, cooperate, and 
collaborate with the State fish and wildlife agencies in a timely and 
effective manner on the acquisition and management of refuges. Under 
both the Administration Act, as amended, and 43 CFR 24.4(e), the 
Director of the Service, as the Secretary's designee, will ensure that 
Refuge System regulations and management plans are, to the extent 
practicable, consistent with State laws, regulations, and management 
plans. We charge refuge managers, as the designated representatives of 
the Director at the local level, with carrying out these directives. We 
will provide State fish and wildlife agencies timely and meaningful 
opportunities to participate in the development and implementation of 
programs conducted under this policy. These opportunities will most 
commonly occur through State fish and wildlife agency representation on 
comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) planning teams. However, we will 
provide other opportunities for the State fish and wildlife agencies to 
participate in the development and implementation of program changes 
that would be made outside of the CCP process (603 FW 2). Further, we 
will continue to provide State fish and wildlife agencies opportunities 
to discuss and, if necessary, elevate decisions within the hierarchy of 
the Service.
    During the comment periods, we developed summaries of this and 
other policies and sent them to each State. We held numerous meetings 
with individual State fish and wildlife agencies, through the 
International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, to explain the 
policy and discuss concerns. We extended the comment period three times 
to accommodate additional review and comment. To address concerns 
regarding input from State agencies, we added language to the final 
policy that stresses the importance of this coordination. We also 
modified section 1.6E. (Refuge Manager) in the draft policy (section 
1.7E. in the final policy) to state the refuge manager must consult 
with State fish and wildlife agencies when a request for a use could 
affect fish, wildlife, or other resources that are of concern to the 
State fish and wildlife agency.

Issue 2: Categories of Refuge Uses

    Comment: We received a variety of comments concerning the six 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses (hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation and photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation) identified in the Improvement Act. Several commenters 
suggested that there is another legitimate category of uses that 
requires special consideration. That category would include other 
wildlife-dependent uses that are not specifically identified in the 
Improvement Act. Some commenters stated that these activities should be 
considered second after the six wildlife-dependent recreational uses. A 
number of commenters suggested additional uses that should also be 
given priority, such as boating, swimming, and camping. One commenter 
stated the way ``a quality experience'' is discussed, hunting is made 
subservient to all other wildlife-dependent activities. Other 
commenters objected to any hunting or fishing on refuges and 
recommended these activities be banned.
    Response: The Improvement Act is very specific where it states that 
``compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority 
general public uses of the Refuge System and shall receive priority 
consideration in refuge planning and management.'' The Act goes on to 
define ``wildlife-dependent recreational uses'' as uses ``of a refuge 
involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or 
environmental education and interpretation.'' The term ``wildlife-
dependent recreational use'' is clearly defined in law, and we do not 
have the authority to change that definition and add categories of 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses. The intent of these provisions is 
to ensure that those types of uses most closely related to refuge 
purposes and the Refuge System mission would be available. While other 
uses might also be allowed, the Improvement Act does not prioritize 
them. In addition, the use of the term ``quality experience'' is in no 
way intended to make hunting subservient to any use. Finally, wildlife 
dependent recreational uses, including hunting and fishing, are the 
uses that the Improvement Act directs us to facilitate when they are 
compatible, ``subject to such restrictions or regulations as may be 
necessary, reasonable, and appropriate.'' Therefore, we have not made 
any changes to the policy based on these comments.
    Comment: Three commenters stated uses that directly support 
priority uses should be subject to the appropriateness finding. Also, 
several comments concerned the lack of justification for identifying 
public uses that facilitate priority public uses as ``second priority 
uses of the System.''
    Response: The Improvement Act directs us to provide increased 
opportunities for families to experience compatible wildlife-dependent 
recreation. The Act defines compatible wildlife-dependent recreational 
uses as the priority general public uses of the Refuge System. The Act 
directs us to ensure that we provide opportunities within the Refuge 
System for these uses and to facilitate these uses. Priority general 
public uses may require additional activities to ensure that we

[[Page 36411]]

can provide the public with safe, quality, compatible wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities. However, we agree with the 
commenters that uses supporting the priority general public uses should 
also be evaluated under this policy to ensure they are appropriate, and 
we revised the final policy to reflect this. Supporting uses, if truly 
necessary for the safe, practical, and effective conduct of a wildlife-
dependent use, should readily meet the requirements of this policy. 
Supporting uses that are found appropriate must also undergo review for 
compatibility before being allowed on a refuge.
    Comment: One commenter stated uses that contribute to refuge 
purposes or to the Refuge System mission should not automatically be 
considered appropriate uses. Two commenters stated it was not clear if 
the policy applies to refuge management activities.
    Response: We consider uses that help us fulfill our legally 
mandated Refuge System mission to be appropriate on refuges. However, 
these uses must also meet the compatibility requirements of the 
Improvement Act.
    The Improvement Act requires us to manage each refuge to fulfill 
the specific purpose(s) for which the refuge was established as well as 
the Refuge System mission. The Act defines management activities, which 
we conduct to achieve refuge purposes and the Refuge System mission, to 
include methods and procedures such as ``protection, research, census, 
law enforcement, habitat management, propagation, live trapping and 
transplantation, and regulated taking.'' The Act clearly differentiates 
between management activities and uses of refuges. Based on the 
requirements of the Act, this policy provides procedures to follow in 
finding if a use of a refuge is appropriate. It does not apply to 
refuge management activities. We added a paragraph in section 1.2B. to 
the final policy to clarify that it does not apply to management 
activities (see the compatibility policy, 603 FW 2.9 and 2.10). We also 
described the types of activities we consider to be refuge management 
activities based on the Improvement Act.

Issue 3: Factors Used To Make an Appropriateness Finding

    Comment: We received a wide range of comments concerning the 
factors we will use to decide if a refuge use is appropriate. Some 
commenters stated the factors we use should be based solely on whether 
the proposed activity is consistent with fulfilling the purpose(s) for 
which the refuge was established.
    Response: We are responsible for managing each refuge to fulfill 
its establishing purpose(s) and the Refuge System mission. In addition, 
the Improvement Act requires us to manage refuges as a nationwide 
system. To do this, we need standard procedures that are followed 
throughout the Refuge System. This policy provides standard procedures 
in the form of a process for all refuge managers to follow when 
deciding whether or not a use is appropriate on a specific refuge. The 
process each refuge manager uses is the same, but the outcome of the 
process will usually vary because the refuge manager evaluates the use 
in relation to the refuge purpose(s), the Refuge System mission, and 
conditions at the refuge.
    Comment: Some commenters fully supported the factors used to make 
an appropriateness finding in the draft policy and stated the Service 
should use the factors to strictly evaluate all uses. Other commenters 
suggested we use some of the factors, but not others. Some commenters 
suggested that few uses would meet all of the factors and recommended 
that the factors should be more flexible, and some suggested revisions 
to specific factors. However, the commenters had no consensus on what 
changes should be made. Some commenters thought certain factors were 
too restrictive; others thought the same factors should be more 
    Response: The Improvement Act requires we facilitate compatible 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses (the priority general public 
uses). We must carefully review other refuge uses to ensure they are 
appropriate, meet the compatibility requirements, and would not 
conflict with the priority general public uses, refuge purposes, the 
Refuge System mission, and other refuge and Refuge System management 
goals and objectives. Our aim is to provide quality, compatible, 
wildlife-dependent recreation to enable the American public to develop 
an appreciation for fish and wildlife. If the response is ``no'' to any 
of the factors dealing with jurisdiction, public safety, and compliance 
with laws, regulations, Executive orders, and policies, we will 
immediately stop consideration of the use. Although we will generally 
not allow a use when the answer to one of the other factors is ``no,'' 
we state that there may be exceptions. Each refuge situation will be 
different. We provide a process to follow to ensure consistency in the 
way we manage refuges. However, we will immediately reject any use that 
is illegal, inconsistent with existing policy, unsafe, or over which we 
do not have jurisdiction. Refuge managers must use sound professional 
judgment in making these evaluations and should consult with the refuge 
supervisor when they receive requests for uses that may be sensitive or 
controversial. The refuge manager is also responsible for consulting 
with State fish and wildlife agencies when a request could affect fish, 
wildlife, or other resources that are of concern to the State fish and 
wildlife agency. We modified section 1.6E. in the draft policy (Refuge 
Manager) (section 1.7E. in the final policy) to clarify the requirement 
for State consultation.
    Comment: One commenter asked if the first factor regarding 
compliance with applicable laws and regulations referred to both 
Federal and State laws and regulations.
    Response: This factor refers to all laws and regulations, when 
applicable, including State, local, and tribal requirements. We revised 
the text in section 1.11A. (section 1.10 of the draft policy) and in 
exhibit 1 to clarify this.
    Comment: Two commenters objected to the use of such words as 
``believe'' or ``feel'' in relation to the refuge manager's review of 
an activity.
    Response: We agree that the use of terms such as ``believe'' or 
``feel'' should not be included in the final policy. We therefore 
eliminated these terms.
    Comment: Several commenters, including a number of State agencies, 
expressed concern that inclusion of the factor in section 1.10A.(3)(i) 
(``Is the refuge the only place this activity can reasonably occur?'') 
in the draft policy would preclude legitimate activities, such as 
hunting and fishing, on a refuge if the answer is ``no.'' With respect 
to uses other than wildlife-dependent recreational uses, commenters 
stated that this factor should also consider whether the refuge affords 
a quality public setting for persons who could not otherwise attain 
access or afford to engage in the activity. They stated refuge managers 
should not disregard uses simply because opportunities already exist on 
nearby State lands and recommended this factor be deleted or rewritten.
    Response: After considering all the comments, we again reviewed 
this factor concerning location. Under the Improvement Act, wildlife-
dependent recreational uses (hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, or environmental education and interpretation) are 
considered appropriate uses by this policy (section 1.11A.(1) in the 
final policy). These activities are, however, subject to a 
compatibility determination before they can occur on a refuge. 
Compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority 
general public uses of the

[[Page 36412]]

Refuge System. For other general public uses, whether or not the refuge 
is the only place the use can occur is an important factor that should 
be considered by refuge managers. The proximity of other public or 
private lands that allow a proposed use may reduce the public's need 
for an activity other than a wildlife-dependent recreational use to be 
conducted on the refuge.
    We are trying to ensure that the conduct of uses other than 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses does not compromise our ability to 
offer opportunities for priority general public uses or to properly 
manage the refuge for its establishing purposes. We originally 
introduced this factor in the context of considering whether a 
nonwildlife-dependent use, such as cave exploring or rock climbing, is 
appropriate on the refuge if it was not available anywhere nearby. 
These uses now occur on some refuges, and the public has no other 
opportunity to engage in these activities for hundreds of miles. This 
factor introduces an opportunity whereby we might consider such an 
activity appropriate. However, we deleted this factor as a criteria in 
the checklist and incorporated it into section 1.11B of the final 

Issue 4: Refuge Managers, the Appropriate Use Process, and Oversight

    Comment: We received comments ranging from the opinion that the 
refuge manager is given too much authority, to the opinion that the 
refuge manager should have more authority. Some commenters on this 
issue were concerned about the amount of autonomy given to the refuge 
manager, especially when the draft policy did not specifically require 
coordination with the States. Some commenters did not think refuge 
managers should have the discretion to allow a use that does not meet 
all of the factors included in section 1.10A.(3) of the draft policy, 
while others stated that the factors leave a refuge manager with little 
or no discretion. Comments ranged from seeing no value in letting local 
refuge managers make appropriate use decisions themselves, to the 
perception the decisionmaking authority of the individual refuge 
manager is usurped. One commenter stated citizens (neighbors) could 
exert pressure on a local manager; therefore, the refuge manager should 
not be allowed to consider each case on its merits. Concern was also 
expressed that, if a refuge manager were biased for or against a 
certain activity, then nothing would check that bias. Several 
commenters stated refuge managers should have to provide documentation 
on all uses found not appropriate as well as documentation on uses 
found appropriate. In addition, one commenter recommended the review 
process for all appropriate use findings, both positive and negative, 
should be the same. Various commenters thought that a refuge manager 
might try to get out of having to provide documentation by declaring a 
use not appropriate. Several commenters recommended there be oversight 
on all appropriate use decisions. Most who commented on this issue 
suggested the refuge supervisor review appropriateness findings, while 
one commenter suggested that the Regional Director provide final 
    Response: Refuge managers are responsible for using sound 
professional judgment when making findings of appropriateness and 
documenting those findings in writing. A refuge manager's field 
experience and knowledge of the refuge's resources are essential to 
making the appropriateness finding. In any situation having unusual 
factors, such as pressure from local citizens, the refuge manager 
should discuss the situation with his/her refuge supervisor. Section 
1.10A.(3) of the draft policy (1.11A.(3) of the final policy) requires 
a refuge manager to document findings that a use is appropriate in 
writing by completing exhibit 1 and to obtain concurrence from the 
refuge supervisor. Section 1.10B. of the draft policy (1.11C. of the 
final policy) requires that, when a refuge manager finds a proposed use 
is not appropriate, the finding must also be documented using exhibit 
1. Thus, the policy requires refuge managers to complete the same form 
(exhibit 1) for all uses subject to an appropriateness finding, 
regardless of whether the finding is positive or negative.
    To ensure consistency and oversight and to balance any potential 
bias on the part of the refuge manager, we revised the responsibilities 
of the refuge manager to include a requirement to consult with the 
refuge supervisor on all findings. When a request could affect fish, 
wildlife, or other resources of concern to a State fish and wildlife 
agency, the refuge manager is required to coordinate with the State 
fish and wildlife agency. In addition, we revised the draft policy to 
clarify that the refuge manager must submit all findings of 
appropriateness to Refuge System Headquarters, through the refuge 
supervisor, for inclusion in a national reference database on refuge 
uses. However, only uses a refuge manager finds to be appropriate 
require refuge supervisor concurrence. We revised the responsibilities 
of the refuge supervisor to include a periodic review of findings where 
a use is considered not appropriate. With these changes, all findings 
are seen by the refuge supervisor at least annually. This should help 
achieve consistency within the Region. We need to try and ensure that 
we apply relevant laws, regulations, and policies consistently in 
similar situations. This policy represents a balance by providing clear 
standards that all managers will use, as well as the flexibility they 
need, to make judgments applicable in specific situations.
    Comment: One commenter stated the draft policy should be rewritten 
to give clear criteria and a detailed, step-by-step approach for refuge 
managers to follow. One commenter considered the process to decide 
appropriateness too complex and suggested it be streamlined and 
    Response: We consider the guidance in this policy to be clear and 
easy to follow. Exhibit 1, which must be completed for each proposed 
use, provides a checklist of each factor the refuge manager must 
consider and presents a simple, streamlined framework for making these 
decisions. We did not make revisions to the policy based on these 
    Comment: Two States commented there were no provisions in the draft 
policy for State agencies to appeal decisions made by refuge managers.
    Response: The Improvement Act directs us to ensure that we 
effectively coordinate, interact, and cooperate with the fish and 
wildlife agencies of the States in which refuges are located. One of 
the ways we do this is by inviting State fish and wildlife agencies to 
participate on the CCP team for each refuge. We added an element to the 
refuge manager's responsibilities to require consultation with State 
fish and wildlife agencies when requests for uses could affect fish, 
wildlife, or other resources of concern to the State agency, whether 
within or outside of the CCP process. In any instance where State fish 
and wildlife agencies have concerns they do not think have been 
addressed, they should contact Refuge System representatives first at 
the refuge and then, if they consider it necessary, at the Regional 
    Comment: One commenter suggested exhibit 1 should be modified to 
include the statements contained in sections 1.10A.(1) and (2) of the 
draft policy. The commenter stated that having an easy documentation 
process for these activities will allow refuge managers to comply with 
the annual review of uses identified in the draft policy.
    Response: Section 1.10A.(1) in the draft policy identified as 

[[Page 36413]]

both wildlife-dependent recreational uses as defined in the Improvement 
Act and activities ``necessary for the safe, practical, and effective 
conduct of a priority public use on the refuge.'' The Act states that 
compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are appropriate and 
legitimate refuge uses. For those uses, a refuge manager does not need 
to complete exhibit 1. We revised the final policy to require 
appropriateness findings for general public uses that are not wildlife-
dependent recreational uses as defined by the Improvement Act, but that 
may support such uses. The refuge manager must complete exhibit 1 for 
these uses.
    Section 1.10A.(2) in the draft policy identifies as appropriate 
activities that contribute to fulfilling the Refuge System mission or 
the refuge purposes, goals, or objectives as described in a refuge 
management plan. Because the uses covered in this section have already 
been found appropriate, the refuge manager does not need to complete 
additional documentation (such as exhibit 1). However, the CCP process 
includes a review of the appropriateness and compatibility of all 
existing refuge uses and of any planned future public uses. The 
documentation for both appropriateness findings and compatibility 
determinations should be included in the documentation for the CCP.
    The commenter mentioned a requirement for an ``annual review'' of 
uses identified in the draft policy. There is no requirement for such a 
review. Section 1.10C. of the draft policy (section 1.11D. of the final 
policy) contains a requirement that refuge managers review all existing 
uses for appropriateness within 1 year of the issuance of the final 
appropriate uses policy. However, this would be a one-time review to 
ensure that current uses are appropriate. Once current uses have been 
reviewed, there is no requirement, nor is there a need, for an annual 
review of uses for appropriateness.
    Comment: One commenter stated exhibit 1 should also include the 
line ``Would this use be manageable by using volunteers or other 
resources available from cooperating partners?'' This would remind 
managers of the potential opportunity to obtain additional resources 
from cooperators.
    Response: Volunteers and other resources are, and will continue to 
be, valuable assets to refuge managers. When a refuge manager makes a 
determination of whether or not a requested use is manageable, such 
resources should be considered. However, the refuge manager is also 
responsible for anticipating the long-term effects of use decisions. 
The resources available at one point may not be available the next time 
someone requests the same or a similar use of the refuge. The refuge 
manager needs to be aware of precedents that may be set by allowing a 
use the refuge staff alone could not manage. If a requested use would 
rely heavily on volunteer and other resources, the refuge manager 
should consider discussing the situation with the refuge supervisor 
before making an appropriateness finding. We revised section 
1.10A.(3)(f) of the draft policy (section 1.11A.(3)(g) in the final 
policy) to remind the refuge manager to consider the use of volunteers 
and other resources. The compatibility policy (603 FW 2) also addresses 
the question of available resources in its section 2.12A.(7).
    Comment: One commenter recommended a list of responsibilities, by 
job title, be included in appropriate sections of each of the policies. 
The commenter also recommended that an appeal process should be 
identified within these job categories.
    Response: A list of responsibilities, by job title, is already 
included in section 1.6 (What are our responsibilities?) in the draft 
policy (section 1.7 in the final policy). We added a statement in 
section 1.10C. of the final policy pointing out that persons who are 
denied a special use permit for an activity may appeal the denial by 
following the procedures outlined in 50 CFR 25.45 and in 50 CFR 36.41.

Issue 5: Consistency

    Comment: Several commenters stressed the need for uniformity among 
refuges in the same geographic area. In addition, they stated we should 
give a high priority to ensuring Refuge System policies, management 
activities, and recreational uses are consistent with State laws, 
regulations, and policy.
    Response: We clarified in the final policy that, when reviewing 
requests for refuge uses, we must ensure the uses are consistent with 
applicable State law (section 1.11A.(3)(b) of the final policy). This 
policy provides a consistent process for refuge managers to follow in 
making appropriateness findings on refuge uses. In making these 
findings, the refuge manager must consider the specific purpose(s) for 
which that refuge was established as well as the Refuge System mission. 
Because the establishing purposes of all refuges in a Region are 
usually not the same and local conditions and needs vary, decisions on 
what is appropriate on one refuge may not be the same for other refuges 
in that Region. Also, the national database, which will have 
appropriateness findings filtering through refuge supervisors, may 
provide additional consistency.

Issue 6: Public Involvement

    Comment: Several commenters recommended the public be actively 
involved in making management decisions for refuges.
    Response: Most decisions to allow particular public use activities 
on a refuge currently are or will soon be made in the refuge CCP 
process which provides significant opportunity for public involvement. 
New uses may also be allowed or existing uses discontinued based upon 
specific step-down plans derived from CCPs. These step-down plans may 
include a public involvement process in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347). If an activity is not 
addressed in these plans, the refuge manager must first find if that 
activity is appropriate. If the activity is appropriate, the refuge 
manager then must determine whether the activity is compatible with 
refuge purposes and the System mission. The compatibility determination 
includes an opportunity for public involvement. The refuge manager must 
be allowed some discretion in making timely decisions on behalf of the 
resource, while balancing the need to seek public input on significant 
or sensitive requests for uses of a refuge. We rely on refuge managers 
to use their sound professional judgment when making these decisions. 
When a specific request for a permit to conduct an activity is denied 
because of a decision by a refuge manager under this policy, the 
requestor may appeal the decision by following the procedures outlined 
in 50 CFR 25.45 and 50 CFR 36.41. The CCP and compatibility 
determination processes provide meaningful opportunities for public 
involvement in refuge management decisions. Therefore, we did not make 
any changes to this policy regarding public involvement.

Issue 7: Conflict Resolution Between Priority Uses

    Comment: Several commenters stated the policy should incorporate 
guidance for resolving conflicts among priority uses.
    Response: This policy focuses on finding whether or not a proposed 
refuge use is appropriate. The compatibility policy provides guidance 
for managing conflicting uses (603 FW 2.11G.). The issue is also 
addressed in our policies on recreational refuge uses (605 FW 1-7).

[[Page 36414]]

Issue 8: Trapping

    Comment: Many commenters expressed concern that trapping was not 
mentioned in this policy. Several commenters suggested trapping be 
identified as a wildlife-dependent recreational use and that it is an 
appropriate, legitimate, and compatible use on most Refuge System 
units. Several commenters also requested the Service ``clearly 
articulate its process for permitting and regulating trapping within 
System holdings.'' Some commenters stated refuge managers should have 
to justify why uses dependent on the presence of wildlife not included 
in the Improvement Act definition, such as trapping, may not be allowed 
on a specific refuge. Two commenters stated trapping should not be 
ruled out as a management tool. One commenter assumed that, since 
recreational trapping was not mentioned, it is considered a form of 
hunting and recommended we state this in the final policy.
    Response: The Improvement Act defines wildlife-dependent recreation 
as ``a use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation 
and photography, or environmental education and interpretation.'' The 
statutory definition of wildlife-dependent recreation does not include 
trapping. However, we recognize trapping as a form of regulated take 
and consider it an important management tool. We address trapping in 
our regulations in 43 CFR 24.4, 50 CFR 31.2, and 50 CFR 31.16, as well 
as in the Refuge Manual (7 RM 15). We coordinate and cooperate with 
State fish and wildlife agencies. To further this relationship, we 
include the take of fish and wildlife under State regulations, 
including trapping, as an appropriate refuge use. However, before 
allowing this use on a particular refuge, we must first determine if it 
is compatible with the purposes of that refuge.

Issue 9: Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

    Comment: Several commenters expressed concern regarding the many 
overlapping jurisdictions, the history of multiple use, and how this 
policy would apply to the Upper Mississippi NWR. Some commenters were 
concerned the proposed policy would impose limits on power boating, 
fishing, or other water recreation on the Mississippi River. Other 
commenters suggested the policy should have more flexibility and 
recognize the unique history of recreational uses on the Upper 
Mississippi River. Several commenters stated the policy should be 
strictly applied to uses on the Upper Mississippi NWR.
    Response: Section 1.2 of both the draft and final policies states 
that the policy applies only to uses which are under the jurisdiction 
and control of the Service. This policy  apply to areas or activities 
where we do not have jurisdiction. For example, the policy does not 
apply where the States have jurisdiction over the waterways near the 
Upper Mississippi NWR. This policy provides a consistent process for 
refuge managers to follow to decide if a use is an appropriate refuge 
use. The results of this process are based on refuge purpose(s), the 
Refuge System mission, and refuge conditions. We invite and encourage 
public participation at several points during refuge planning, such as 
during the CCP and the compatibility determination processes. In the 
final policy (section 1.11A.(3)(a)), we added a criterion concerning 
jurisdiction over a use as a factor to be considered when making an 
appropriateness finding. We also included this as the first criterion 
in exhibit 1.

Issue 10: Use of Snowmobiles, Off-Highway Vehicles, Boats, and Personal 
Watercraft on Refuges

    Comment: We received a variety of comments concerning use of 
snowmobiles on refuges. Some commenters supported the use of 
snowmobiles on refuges as an alternate form of transportation, to gain 
access for wildlife-dependent recreational uses, or because the use 
conforms with terms and conditions outlined within an environmental 
impact statement or an environmental assessment. Other commenters 
objected to the use of snowmobiles on refuges because of noise 
pollution, habitat damage, and wildlife disturbance.
    Response: The draft policy did not specifically address the 
appropriateness of snowmobiling as a refuge use. The policy outlines 
the process that the refuge manager must follow in making the 
appropriateness finding of any proposed refuge use, including 
snowmobiling. Because refuges have different establishing purposes and 
local conditions vary, a proposed refuge use may be found to be 
appropriate on one refuge, but not appropriate on another. Individual 
refuge managers will make the appropriateness finding on snowmobiling 
as a refuge use on a case-by-case basis. We must also comply with 
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) (16 
U.S.C. 410hh-410hh-5, 460mm-460mm-4, 539-539e, and 3101-3233; 43 U.S.C. 
1631 et seq.) and any refuge-specific legislation.
    The policy states that, before we can allow any off-road vehicle 
use (including snowmobiles), we must comply with Executive Order (E.O.) 
11644, which requires we designate areas as open or closed to off-road 
vehicles in order to protect refuge resources, promote safety, and 
minimize conflict among various refuge users; monitor the effects of 
these uses once they are allowed; and amend or rescind any area 
designation as necessary based on the information gathered. 
Furthermore, E.O. 11989 requires we close areas to these types of uses 
when we determine the use causes or will cause considerable adverse 
effects on the soil, vegetation, wildlife, habitat, or cultural or 
historic resources. This policy allows flexibility and consideration at 
the local level based upon specific, on-site needs for accessibility 
and transportation. However, we must protect wildlife and habitat from 
unwarranted damage. We did not make changes to the final policy based 
on these comments.
    Comment: The majority of comments received were form letters 
supporting the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) on refuges. However, 
we received comments from many individuals recommending we ban all OHV 
use on refuges. One commenter suggested we restrict their use. 
Commenters supporting use of OHVs on refuges felt access opportunities 
provided by OHV use were legitimate uses and that limitations were too 
restrictive and unnecessary. Commenters opposing their use stated OHVs 
cause habitat damage as well as air and noise pollution.
    Response: The draft policy did not specifically address the use of 
OHVs on refuges. The policy outlines the process the refuge manager 
must follow in making an appropriateness finding on a proposed refuge 
use, including uses involving OHVs. Because refuges have different 
establishing purposes, a proposed refuge use may be found to be 
appropriate on one refuge, but not appropriate on another. Individual 
refuge managers will make appropriateness findings on proposed OHV use 
on a refuge on a case-by-case basis.
    Current refuge policy (8 RM 7) and regulations (50 CFR 26.27) 
generally allow OHV use on established roadways or designated trails 
open for public vehicular use if the vehicle complies with State 
requirements. Both the draft policy and final policy reaffirm current 
policy and regulations, including E.O. 11644 and E.O. 11989. For 

[[Page 36415]]

ANILCA contains provisions concerning use of OHVs.
    Comment: We received comments ranging from requests that we ban all 
watercraft to requests that we allow all watercraft. Some commenters 
recommended restrictions on certain types of watercraft (such as 
motorized and personal watercraft); others supported the inclusion of 
sailing as a priority use.
    Response: The draft policy did not specifically address the use of 
any particular type of watercraft. The policy provides a standard 
procedure for all refuge managers to follow when making appropriateness 
findings for refuge uses including the use of watercraft. The 
Improvement Act specifically defines the wildlife-dependent 
recreational uses as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. Wildlife-
dependent recreational uses that are compatible are the priority 
general public uses. We do not have the authority to add other uses to 
those defined by law. Therefore, we did not make changes to the final 
policy based on these comments. Refuge managers, however, do have the 
latitude to consider any type of watercraft use under this policy. 
Where there is a strong nexus between the use of watercraft and a 
wildlife-dependent recreational use, the use of that watercraft may be 
both appropriate and compatible. For example, the use of canoes may be 
allowed on a refuge to facilitate fishing. On the other hand, 
conducting boat races on refuge waters would likely not be determined 
either appropriate or compatible.

Issue 11: General Support

    We received over 1,400 comments supporting the policy. Comments 
came from a Federal agency, States, nongovernmental organizations, and 
individuals. Commenters supported the development of the policy to 
provide guidance and standardization for management of the Refuge 
System. The strongest themes in the comments were recognition of the 
need to limit human activities on refuges and for the policy to be 
grounded in law.

Issue 12: Rights-of-Way

    Comment: We received one comment concerning corridor preservation 
and the importance of accommodating future roadway widening and other 
modifications. The commenter pointed out the importance of 
incorporating public transportation needs for refuge users in refuge 
management policy.
    Response: We agree that corridor preservation is important to 
accommodate future right-of-way requests when appropriate, compatible, 
and practical. Rights-of-way will continue to be handled through the 
compatibility and right-of-way permit processes, not this policy. We 
did not make any changes to the final policy based on this comment.

Issue 13: Research on Refuges

    Comment: Three organizations commented that all research should be 
considered appropriate and should not be subject to the appropriateness 
review. Two commenters supported the requirement that research should 
be subject to the appropriate uses policy. One commenter stated 
research should be defined as a refuge management activity, regardless 
of what the research is or who conducts it.
    Response: Not all research may be appropriate. Some research may 
affect fish, wildlife, and plants in a manner neither consistent with 
refuge management plans nor compatible with refuge purposes or the 
Refuge System mission. Some research may interfere with or preclude 
refuge management activities, appropriate and compatible public uses, 
or other research. Some research may be appropriate off the refuge, but 
not on the refuge. For example, some natural and physical research may 
not be wildlife-dependent and may be accomplished successfully at 
locations off the refuge. Because not all research supports the 
establishing purposes of refuges or the Refuge System mission, we 
cannot define research as a refuge management activity. Therefore, we 
did not exempt all research from evaluation under this policy.

Issue 14: Accessibility

    Comment: Some commenters recommended we allow motorized travel to 
provide persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in 
outdoor recreational opportunities.
    Response: We are committed to identifying and developing, where 
appropriate, opportunities for persons with disabilities to enjoy 
national wildlife refuges. A refuge manager can make decisions 
concerning the use of a motorized vehicle to accommodate a person with 
a disability who would like to participate in an approved recreational 
activity. The refuge manager will make this type of decision either on 
a case-by-case basis or programmatically through the CCP or stepdown 
management plans. The chapters on recreation in Part 605 of the Service 
Manual provide a more comprehensive discussion on providing 
opportunities to individuals with disabilities.

Issue 15: Dogs on Refuges

    Comment: One commenter stated dogs were becoming a problem on the 
Upper Mississippi NWR. We also received comments from two organizations 
that exist to train or otherwise promote use of dogs. These 
organizations proposed that field trials, raccoon hunting, and other 
dog-related activities be allowed on refuges.
    Response: Provisions are already in place requiring dogs on refuges 
to be on a leash or otherwise under control. Anyone who is aware of a 
problem with dogs on a refuge should notify the refuge manager so that 
there can be better enforcement of existing provisions. The specific 
issue of field trials is addressed in another chapter of the Service 
Manual (631 FW 5). No changes were made to the final policy based on 
these comments.

Issue 16: Clarify Goals

    Comment: One commenter stated the policy does not clearly and 
specifically spell out the goals of the policy.
    Response: We disagree and direct the reader to section 1.1 (What is 
the purpose of this chapter?) which describes the purpose of this 
policy. We do not see a need to break down the purpose into goals.

Issue 17: Resource Extraction

    Comment: One commenter supported our intention to honor valid 
existing mining rights. Some commenters encouraged us to ban all mining 
and oil exploration on refuges, while other commenters stated we should 
allow some resource extraction.
    Response: We revised section 1.9D.(7) (Natural resource 
extractions) in the draft policy (section 1.10C.(7) in the final 
policy) to clarify when natural resources may be extracted. Part 612 of 
the Fish and Wildlife Service Manual provides detailed information on 
minerals management on refuges, and we refer the refuge manager to that 
chapter. We have a legal obligation to honor any valid existing rights 
and will continue to do so. Where there are no existing legal rights 
and activities do not support a refuge management activity, refuge 
purposes, or the Refuge System mission, we will generally find them not 
appropriate. Under current Department of the Interior and Service 
policy, we only allow oil and gas leasing on refuges outside of Alaska 
in cases where these resources under the refuge are being extracted 
from a site outside the refuge (drainage).

[[Page 36416]]

Issue 18: Required Determinations

    Comment: One commenter stated the curtailment of some activities on 
some refuges could affect smaller user groups, affect the local 
economy, and place additional pressure on nearby State-owned sites. The 
commenter did not agree the ``document will not have a significant 
economic effect on a substantial number of small entities under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act.'' The commenter expressed concern about the 
impact of policy changes on businesses in the vicinity of the Upper 
Mississippi NWR, especially businesses related to boating.
    Response: In determining whether or not a document will have a 
significant impact (an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or 
more) under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, we consider the amount of 
change that may occur due to any alteration in policy. This policy 
applies only to activities where we have jurisdiction. Most waterways 
in the vicinity of the Upper Mississippi NWR are under State 
jurisdiction and not subject to this policy. Therefore, this policy 
would have little or no effect on boating businesses near the Upper 
Mississippi NWR. In addition, we may be able to provide other wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities on the refuge that could increase 
income to some businesses.
    Comment: One State expressed concern the policy will have a 
substantial direct effect on the relationship between States and the 
Federal Government (under E.O. 13132, Federalism) and that the draft 
has the Federal Government intruding into areas of State jurisdiction 
concerning navigable waters near the Upper Mississippi NWR.
    Response: The policy only applies where we have jurisdiction. This 
policy does not apply where we do not have jurisdiction. Therefore, 
there will be no effect on the relationship between States and the 
Federal Government. We amended section 1.2 to clarify and emphasize 
that the policy only applies where we have jurisdiction.
    Comment: One commenter disagreed with our statement that the 
overall net effect of the policy is likely to increase visitor activity 
at the Upper Mississippi NWR. The commenter suggested we should examine 
the effects on each refuge to make a valid determination of the 
potential impact of this policy.
    Response: Refuge visitation is a small component of the wildlife 
recreation industry as a whole. We expect changes in expenditures as a 
result of this policy to be marginal and scattered. Because this is a 
relatively small proportion of recreational spending, we do not agree 
we need to do a refuge-by-refuge evaluation. We do not expect the 
policy to have a substantial or significant economic effect (over $100 
million) and have made no changes in the final notice concerning this 

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review (E.O. 12866)

    In accordance with the criteria in E.O. 12866, the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that this policy is a 
significant regulatory action.
    1. This document will not have an annual economic effect of $100 
million or adversely affect an economic sector, productivity, jobs, the 
environment, or other units of government. A cost-benefit or full 
economic analysis is not required. This document is administrative, 
legal, technical, and procedural in nature. This policy establishes the 
process for making an appropriateness finding for proposed refuge uses. 
This policy will have the effect of providing priority consideration 
for compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, 
fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental 
education and interpretation. Existing policy has been in place since 
1985 that encourages the phase-out of nonwildlife-oriented recreation 
on refuges. The Improvement Act does not greatly change this direction 
in public use, but provides legal recognition of the priority we afford 
to compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses. We expect these new 
procedures to cause only minor modifications to existing refuge public 
use programs. While we may curtail some nonpriority refuge uses, we may 
also provide new and expanded opportunities for priority public uses. 
We expect an overall small increase, at most a 5 percent annual 
increase, in the amount of public use activities allowed on refuges as 
a result of this policy.
    The appropriate measure of the economic effect of changes in 
recreational use is the change in the welfare of recreationists. We 
measure this in terms of willingness to pay for the recreational 
opportunity. We estimated total annual willingness to pay for all 
recreation at refuges to be $792.1 million in fiscal year 2001 (Banking 
on Nature: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National 
Wildlife Refuge Visitation, DOI/FWS/Refuges, 2003). We expect the 
appropriate use process implemented in this policy to cause at most a 5 
percent annual increase in recreational use Refuge Systemwide. This 
does not mean that every refuge will have the same increase in public 
use. We will allow the increases only on refuges where increases in 
hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent recreational visitation 
are compatible. Across the entire Refuge System, we expect an increase 
in hunting, fishing, and nonconsumptive visitation to amount to no more 
than a 5 percent overall increase. If the full 5 percent increase in 
public use were to occur at refuges, this would translate to a maximum 
additional willingness for the public to pay $39.6 million annually. 
However, we expect the real benefit to be less than $39.6 million 
because we expect the final increase in public use to be smaller than 5 
percent. Furthermore, if the public substitutes nonrefuge recreation 
sites for refuges, then we would subtract the loss of benefit 
attributed to nonrefuge sites from the $39.6 million estimate.
    We measure the economic effect of commercial activity by the change 
in producer surplus. We can measure this as the opportunity cost of the 
change; i.e., the cost of using the next best production option if we 
discontinue production using the refuge. Refuges use grazing, haying, 
timber harvesting, and farming to help fulfill refuge purposes and the 
Refuge System mission. Congress authorizes us to allow economic 
activities on refuges, and we do allow some. But, for all practical 
purposes (almost 100 percent), we invite the economic activities to 
help achieve a refuge purpose or the Refuge System mission. For 
example, we do not allow farming per se; rather, we invite an 
individual farmer to farm on the refuge under a cooperative agreement 
to help achieve a refuge purpose. This policy will likely have minor 
changes in the number of these activities occurring on refuges. 
Information on profits and production alternatives for most of these 
activities is proprietary, so a valid estimate of the total benefits of 
permitting these activities on refuges is not available.
    2. This policy will not create a serious inconsistency or otherwise 
interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency since the 
policy pertains solely to management of refuges by the Service.
    3. This policy does not alter the budgetary effects of 
entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights or 
obligations of their recipients. No grants or other Federal assistance 
programs are associated with public use of refuges.

[[Page 36417]]

    4. OMB has determined that this policy raises novel legal or policy 
issues. This policy incorporates the Improvement Act provisions that 
ensure that compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the 
priority general public uses of the Refuge System, and adds consistency 
in application of public use guidelines across the entire Refuge 

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We certify this document will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.).
    Congress created the Refuge System to conserve fish, wildlife, and 
plants and their habitats and facilitated this conservation mission by 
directing us to provide Americans opportunities to visit and 
participate in compatible wildlife-dependent recreation (hunting, 
fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental 
education and interpretation) as priority general public uses on 
refuges and to better appreciate the value of and need for conservation 
of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats.
    This document is administrative, legal, technical, and procedural 
in nature and provides more detailed instructions for making a finding 
of appropriateness for public use activities than have existed in the 
past. This policy may result in more opportunities for wildlife-
dependent recreation on refuges and may result in the reduction of some 
nonwildlife-dependent recreation. For example, more wildlife 
observation opportunities may occur at Florida Panther National 
Wildlife Refuge in Florida or more hunting opportunities at Pond Creek 
National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Conversely, we may no longer 
allow some activities on some refuges. The overall net effect of these 
regulations is likely to increase visitor activity near the refuge. To 
the extent visitors spend time and money in the area that would not 
otherwise have been spent there, they contribute new income to the 
regional economy and benefit local businesses.
    Refuge visitation is a small component of the wildlife recreation 
industry as a whole. In 2001, 82 million U.S. residents 16 years old 
and older spent 1.2 billion activity-days in wildlife-associated 
recreation activities. They spent about $108 billion on fishing, 
hunting, and wildlife watching trips (Tables 1, 50, 52, and 68, 2001 
National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated 
Recreation, DOI/FWS/FA, 2002). Refuges recorded about 39 million 
visitor-days in fiscal year 2003 (Refuge Management Information System, 
FY2003 Public Use Summary). A 2003 study of refuge visitors found their 
travel spending generated $809 million in sales and 19,000 jobs for 
local economies (Banking on Nature: The Economic Benefits to Local 
Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, DOI/FWS/Refuges, 
2003). These spending figures include spending which would have 
occurred in the community anyway, and so they show the importance of 
the activity in the local economy rather than its incremental impact. 
Marginally greater recreational opportunities on refuges will have 
little industrywide effect.
    Expenditures as a result of this policy are a transfer and not a 
benefit to many small businesses. We expect the incremental increase of 
recreational opportunities to be marginal and scattered, so we do not 
expect the policy to have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities in any region or nationally.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA)

    This policy is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This policy:
    1. Does not have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or 
more. This document will affect only visitors at refuges. It may result 
in increased visitation at refuges and provide for minor changes to the 
methods of public use permitted within the Refuge System. See response 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act.
    2. Will not cause a major increase in costs or prices for 
consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government 
agencies, or geographic regions.
    3. Does not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501, 
et seq.):
    1. This policy will not ``significantly or uniquely'' affect small 
governments. A Small Government Agency Plan is not required. See 
response to Regulatory Flexibility Act.
    2. This policy will not produce a Federal mandate of $100 million 
or greater in any year; i.e., it is not a ``significant regulatory 
action'' under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. See response to 
Regulatory Flexibility Act.

Takings (E.O. 12630)

    In accordance with E.O. 12630, this policy does not have 
significant takings implications. A takings implication assessment is 
not required. This policy may result in increased visitation at refuges 
and provide for minor changes to the methods of public use permitted 
within the Refuge System. Refer to response under Regulatory 
Flexibility Act.

Federalism (E.O. 13132)

    In accordance with E.O. 13132, this document does not have 
significant federalism effects. This document applies only to areas 
where we have jurisdiction. It will not have substantial direct effects 
on the States, on the relationship between the Federal Government and 
the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among 
the various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with E.O. 
13132, we have determined that this policy does not have sufficient 
federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism 

Civil Justice Reform (E.O. 12988)

    In accordance with E.O. 12988, the Office of the Solicitor has 
determined that this policy does not unduly burden the judicial system 
and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order. 
This policy will expand upon established policies, and result in better 
understanding of the policies by refuge visitors.

Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use (E.O. 13211)

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued E.O. 13211 on regulations 
that significantly affect energy supply, distribution, and use. 
Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to prepare statements of energy 
effects when undertaking certain actions. This policy is 
administrative, legal, technical, and procedural in nature. Because 
this policy establishes the process for making an appropriateness 
finding for proposed refuge uses, it is not a significant regulatory 
action under E.O. 12866 and is not expected to significantly affect 
energy supplies, distribution, and use. This notice does not designate 
any areas that have been identified as having oil or gas reserves, 
whether in production or otherwise identified for future use. 
Therefore, this action is not a significant energy action and no 
statement of energy effects is required.

[[Page 36418]]

Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments (E.O. 

    In accordance with E.O. 13175, we have evaluated possible effects 
on federally recognized Indian tribes and have determined that there 
are no effects. We coordinate recreational use on refuges with tribal 
governments having adjoining or overlapping jurisdiction before we 
propose the activities. This policy is consistent with and not less 
restrictive than tribal reservation rules.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This document does not include any new information collection that 
would require Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). An agency may 
not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a 
collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 
control number.

Section 7 Consultation

    We determined the policy established by this notice will not affect 
listed species or designated critical habitat. Therefore, consultation 
under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act is not required. The 
basis for this conclusion is this final policy establishes the process 
for making a finding of whether or not a use of a refuge is an 
appropriate use. The appropriateness process described in this final 
policy is only one step in the decisionmaking process for deciding 
whether or not to allow a use of a refuge. The ultimate decision to 
allow or otherwise implement a particular use is the causative agent 
with respect to affecting listed species or their critical habitat. We 
will conduct section 7 consultations when actions that the decision 
authorizes, funds, or carries out may affect listed species or their 
critical habitat.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347) when developing refuge CCPs and 
visitor services plans, and we make determinations required by NEPA 
before the addition of refuges to the lists of areas open to public 
uses. In accordance with 516 DM 2, appendix 1.10, we have determined 
this policy is categorically excluded from the NEPA process because it 
is limited to policies, directives, regulations, and guidelines of an 
administrative, financial, legal, technical, or procedural nature; or 
the environmental effects of which are too broad, speculative, or 
conjectural to lend themselves to meaningful analysis. Site-specific 
proposals, as indicated above, will be subject to the NEPA process.

Available Information for Specific Refuges

    Individual refuge headquarters offices retain information regarding 
public use programs, the conditions that apply to their specific 
programs, and maps of their respective areas. You may also obtain 
information from the Regional Offices at the addresses listed below:
     Region 1--California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and 
Washington. Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Eastside Federal Complex, Suite 1692, 911 NE 11th 
Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232-4181; Telephone (503) 231-6214; http://pacific.fws.gov

     Region 2--Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 
Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Box 1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103; Telephone (505) 248-
7419; http://southwest.fws.gov.

     Region 3--Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, 
Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge 
System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Building, Fort 
Snelling, Twin Cities, Minnesota 55111; Telephone (612) 713-5400; 

     Region 4--Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, 
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, 
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Regional Chief, National Wildlife 
Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, 
Room 324, Atlanta, Georgia 30345; Telephone (404) 679-7166; http://southeast.fws.gov

     Region 5--Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, 
Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, 
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. 
Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, Massachusetts 01035-9589; 
Telephone (413) 253-8550; http://northeast.fws.gov.

     Region 6--Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North 
Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Regional Chief, National 
Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 134 Union 
Blvd., Lakewood, Colorado 80228; Telephone (303) 236-8145; http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov

     Region 7--Alaska. Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge 
System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 E. Tudor Rd., Anchorage, 
Alaska 99503; Telephone (907) 786-3545; http://alaska.fws.gov.

Primary Author

    Tom C. Worthington, Chief, Division of Refuge Operations, Region 3, 
National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the 
primary author of this notice.


    Our authority for issuing these manual chapters is derived from 16 
U.S.C. 668dd et seq.

Availability of the Policy

    The Final Appropriate Refuge Uses Policy is available at this Web 
site: http://policy.fws.gov/ser600.html.

    Persons without Internet access may request a hard copy by 
contacting the office listed under the heading FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 

    Dated: January 20, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Note: This document was received at the Office of the Federal 
Register on June 21, 2006.

[FR Doc. 06-5645 Filed 6-23-06; 8:45 am]