[Federal Register: June 25, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 121)]
[Page 34711-34712]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Rice Lake and Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuges, Aitkin, Pine, 
and Mille Lacs Counties, MN

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
environmental assessment for Rice Lake and Mille Lacs National Wildlife 
Refuges (NWRs) for public review and comment. In this draft CCP/EA, we 
describe how we propose to manage these refuges for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by July 30, 2007. Open house style meetings will be held during the 
comment period to receive comments and provide information on the draft 
plan. Special mailings, newspaper articles, Internet postings, and 
other media announcements will inform people of the meetings and 
opportunities for written comments.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods. You may also drop off comments in person at 
Rice Lake NWR.
     Agency Web site: View or download a copy of the document 
and comment at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/planning/RiceLake/..     E-mail: r3planning@fws.gov. Include ``Rice Lake Draft CCP/

EA'' in the subject line of the message.
     Fax: 218-768-3040.
     Mail: Refuge Manager, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 
36289 State Hwy 65, McGregor, MN 55760.




    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Rice Lake and 
Mille Lacs NWRs, which was started with the notice of intent published 
in 70 FR 5693 (February 3, 2005). For more about the initial process 
and the history of these refuges, see that notice. Rice Lake and Mille 
Lacs NWRs are located in east-central Minnesota. Both refuges are 
administered by the staff at Rice Lake NWR. Rice Lake NWR is a mosaic 
of lakes, marshes, forests, and grasslands that provide a variety of 
habitat for migrant and resident wildlife. The Refuge is especially 
noted for its fall concentrations of Ring-necked Ducks, which often 
number over 150,000 birds. The Refuge also includes pre-historic and 
historic cultural resources of recognized importance. Mille Lacs NWR is 
the smallest refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 0.57-
acre Refuge consists of two islands in Mille Lacs Lake. One island is 
managed as a nesting colony for the State-listed threatened Common 
Tern. The other island is used by other colonial nesting species.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), requires us to develop a comprehensive 
conservation plan 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 our 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, plans identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

CCP Alternatives and Our Preferred Alternative

Priority Issues

    During the public scoping process, we, other governmental partners, 
and the public identified several priority issues, which include: 
Management of the grassland area on auto tour route; management of 
water levels in Rice Lake; pending Wilderness recommendation; Native 
American activities on the Refuge; interpretation of cultural resources 
on the Refuge; unmet demand for interpretation and environmental 
education; erosion of Hennepin Island (Mille Lacs); operation of the 
Sandstone Unit. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated the 
following alternatives during the planning process.

Alternative A, Current Management

    Under Alternative A, Current Management, the 170 acres of grassland

[[Page 34712]]

on the auto tour route would be maintained; stable water levels in Rice 
Lake would be maintained throughout the growing season and at 
sufficient level to allow rice harvest; the 1,400 acre area with the 
pending Wilderness recommendation would be managed as de facto 
wilderness; Native American ceremonies would be held under special use 
permit and wild rice harvest coordinated with local Native American 
committee; cultural resources would not be interpreted on-site; demand 
for interpretation and environmental education would be responded to as 
staff and time permitted; the erosion of Hennepin Island would 
continue; and the 2005 landcover at the Sandstone Unit would be 
maintained while allowing for forest succession.

Alternative B, Preferred Alternative

    Under Alternative B, Preferred Alternative, 85 acres would be 
maintained as grassland on the auto tour route to facilitate wildlife 
observation; water levels would be allowed to fluctuate in Rice Lake to 
more closely approximate a natural system; the 1,400 acre Wilderness 
recommendation would be withdrawn to allow for more active management; 
Native American ceremonies would be held under special use permit and 
wild rice harvest would be coordinated with local Native American 
committee; additional interpretation of cultural resources would be 
developed in cooperation with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; demand for 
interpretation and environmental education would be responded to with 
additional interpretive opportunities and educational programs with the 
addition of a park ranger position; the erosion of Hennepin Island 
would be reversed through rebuilding and protection with a constructed 
reef; and the 2005 landcover at the Sandstone Unit would be maintained 
while allowing for forest succession.

Public Meeting

    We will give the public an opportunity to provide comments at a 
public meeting. You may obtain the schedule from the addresses listed 
above (see ADDRESSES). You may also submit comments anytime during the 
comment period.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should know 
that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you may 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Dated: April 27, 2007.
Charles M. Wooley,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fort 
Snelling, Minnesota.
 [FR Doc. E7-12228 Filed 6-22-07; 8:45 am]