[Federal Register: December 26, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 247)]
[Page 77406-77407]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of the Draft Interim Visitor Services Plan 
for the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of Midway National 
Memorial/Midway Atoll Special Management Area

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has completed a Draft 
Interim Visitor Services Plan (VSP) and associated Environmental 
Assessment (EA) for the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge/Battle of 
Midway National Memorial/Midway Atoll Special Management Area (Refuge). 
The Draft VSP/EA is available for public review and comments. This 
remote Pacific island Refuge is a U.S. territory located in the 
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and part of the newly established 
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (Monument). The 
VSP is intended to guide visitor activities on the Refuge for an 
interim period of time until a broader Monument management plan is 
completed that meets the applicable requirements of a refuge 
comprehensive conservation plan.

DATES: Written comments must be received (see ADDRESSES) by midnight on 
February 6, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the Draft VSP/EA should be submitted via 
electronic mail to midway@fws.gov. Please use ``VSP'' in the subject 
line. Alternatively, comments may be addressed to: Barbara Maxfield, 
Chief, Pacific Islands Division of External Affairs and Visitor 
Services, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Honolulu, HI 96850. You may 
view or obtain copies of the Draft VSP/EA as indicated under 

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Barbara Maxfield, Chief, Pacific Islands 
Division of External Affairs and Visitor Services, phone number (808) 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Draft VSP and EA were prepared pursuant 
to the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, in consultation with 
the Secretary of Commerce through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA), and the State of Hawaii.
    Important elements of the Draft VSP/EA include: Allowing visitation 
only in limited numbers, and only from November through July, to ensure 
no adverse impacts to wildlife or their habitats occurs and to maintain 
a high quality visitor experience; and developing and maintaining a 
financially self-sustaining program and an associated table of proposed 
    The Draft VSP/EA will be available for viewing and downloading 
online at http://www.fws.gov/midway. Limited copies of the Draft VSP/EA 

may be obtained by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: 
Barbara Maxfield, Chief, Pacific Islands Division of External Affairs 
and Visitor Services, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Honolulu, HI, 
96850. Copies of the Draft VSP/EA may be viewed at the Hawaiian and 
Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex Office, Monday through 
Friday, during regular business hours from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The office 
is located in the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building at 
300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Honolulu, HI.


    In 1996, the Service prepared a public use plan to guide visitor 
services on the Refuge. Since then, new laws and policy regarding 
wildlife-dependent recreation in the National Wildlife Refuge System 
have been promulgated, and a new visitor services plan is required to 
ensure recreational uses at the Refuge are compatible with the National 
Wildlife Refuge System mission and the purposes of the Refuge and the 
Battle of Midway National Memorial. In addition, all recreational 
activities must be compliant with the requirements of the newly 
designated Monument, which refers to the Refuge as a Special Management 
    The Draft VSP/EA is an interim plan to guide visitor activities on 
the Refuge until such time as the broader management plan is completed 
for the Monument that meets the applicable requirements of a refuge 
comprehensive conservation plan. The Monument's management plan will 
incorporate opportunities to participate in broader management and 
conservation activities, within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 
throughout the main Hawaiian Islands, benefiting the Monument.
    The development of this Draft VSP/EA began prior to the 
establishment of the Monument to fulfill Service requirements necessary 
to allow a regularly scheduled visitor services program to resume at 
the Refuge. As such, the focus of activities under the Draft VSP/EA is 
limited to initial visitor services within the Midway Atoll Special 
Management Area only. Future planning for a Monument-wide visitor 
services program will be further developed to more fully realize the 
President's vision to create a visitor window to the Monument at the 
Refuge. In addition, future planning will explore opportunities for 
visitor use at Kure Atoll (under the jurisdiction of the State of 
Hawaii) and in the main Hawaiian Islands, using distance learning and 
remote educational opportunities. The Service will continue to work 
closely with its co-trustees of the Monument, NOAA and the State of 
Hawaii, when the final VSP is implemented, and in the development of 
the Monument's management plan. Longer-term strategies are included in 
this Draft VSP/EA, so the interested public may gain a vision of what 
the co-trustees envision at the Refuge.
    This Draft VSP/EA evaluates recreational activities at the Refuge, 
and describes the structure of the proposed visitor services program. 
It also outlines activities that honor and interpret the World War II 
history at Midway Atoll, in recognition of its status as the Battle of 
Midway National Memorial. It discusses operational limitations, 
biological constraints, and partnership opportunities beyond Midway 
    Since 1995, the Service has been strongly committed to welcoming 
visitors to the Refuge. This is the first and only remote island 
national wildlife refuge in the Pacific Ocean to provide the general 
public with an opportunity to learn about and experience these unique 
ecosystems. A regularly scheduled visitor program operated on the 
Refuge until early in 2002, when it ended after our cooperator left the 
atoll. Since then, visitors have arrived almost exclusively by the 
occasional cruise ship or sailboat, or for a Battle of Midway 
commemorative event. In the Draft VSP/EA, opportunities to expand the 
visitor program and allow more people to experience Midway's wildlife 
and historic treasury are proposed.
    Preliminary compatibility determinations are provided in the Draft 
VSP/EA that would allow the following wildlife-dependent recreational 
uses: Wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and

[[Page 77407]]

interpretation, and participatory research. Hunting and fishing, two 
uses normally given priority on national wildlife refuges, will not 
take place on the Refuge. All animal species occurring on the Refuge 
are protected by law, or occur in numbers too low to provide hunting 
opportunities. Recreational fishing is precluded under the Presidential 
proclamation (Proclamation 8031) designating the Monument.
    Additional preliminary compatibility determinations allow for beach 
use activities such as swimming and volleyball, non-administrative 
airport operations, limited outdoor sports such as bicycling and 
jogging, and amateur radio use. Each preliminary compatibility 
determination includes stipulations necessary to ensure protection of 
the Refuge's natural and historic resources. Any additional activities 
that may be proposed within the Refuge would need to be evaluated 
through the compatibility determination process with formal public 
review. Activities that are determined to be compatible are authorized 
through the issuance of Monument permits, which fall within six permit 
types: Conservation and management, research, education, Native 
Hawaiian uses, special ocean uses, and recreation.
    Goals, objectives, and strategies for the visitor program are 
discussed in Chapter 4 of the Draft VSP/EA. The Service will encourage 
individual visitors as well as organized groups to visit the Refuge. 
Opportunities for teacher workshops in environmental education, college 
courses, and distance learning will be explored. Improvements to trails 
and installation of blinds will benefit wildlife observation and 
photography opportunities, as will snorkeling and guided kayaking 
tours. Onsite and offsite interpretation of Midway Atoll's historic and 
wildlife resources will be enhanced.
    In order to ensure a quality visitor experience using the limited 
infrastructure currently available, limiting the total number of 
overnight visitors that would be allowed on Midway Atoll at any one 
time to 30 people in 2007, and 50 people in 2008 and beyond, as long as 
the VSP is effective, is proposed. The number of visitors may exceed 
these limits for short periods of time (less than a day) for 
prearranged visits by ocean vessels or aircraft. In these cases, 
visitor activities are closely supervised and primarily consist of 
guided tours or participation in commemorative events. Annual goals for 
the number of overnight visitors are 100 people in 2007 and 500 people 
in 2008 and beyond.
    For the next 5 years (2007-2011), visitor programs would operate 
from November through July, which coincides with the albatross season 
on the Refuge. The months of August through October would be reserved 
primarily for planned construction and major maintenance activities.
    With no additional Service funding available to support a visitor 
program, visitation at the Refuge must be financially self-sustaining. 
Fees reflecting actual costs for transportation, lodging, food 
services, and visitor services staffing are included in this Draft VSP/
EA. Additional permitting requirements also are discussed.
    For this interim period, the Service intends to operate the visitor 
program primarily with its own staffing and with help from Monument co-
trustees and volunteers. Outside entities may be needed to provide 
assistance with marketing the program, and to establish a dive program 
at the Refuge. These options will be evaluated over the coming year.

Public Comments

    Public comments are requested, considered, and incorporated 
throughout the planning process. After the review and comment period 
ends for the Draft VSP/EA, comments will be analyzed by the Service and 
addressed in revised planning documents. All comments received from 
individuals, including names and addresses, become part of the official 
public record and may be released. 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 
Service and Department of the Interior policies and procedures.

    Dated: December 6, 2006.
David J. Wesley,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
 [FR Doc. E6-22112 Filed 12-22-06; 8:45 am]