[Federal Register: June 29, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 125)]
[Page 35717-35718]
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 Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment (Draft 
CCP/EA) for Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is available for 
distribution. This Draft CCP/EA also covers the East Cove Unit of 
Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. The National Wildlife Refuge 
System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires the Service to develop 
a comprehensive conservation plan for each national wildlife refuge. 
This Draft CCP, when final, will describe how the Service intends to 
manage Sabine National Wildlife Refuge over the next 15 years.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the postal address listed 
below no later than July 30, 2007.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the Draft 
CCP/EA, please write to: Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, 1428 Highway 27, Bell City, 
Louisiana 70630; or telephone: 337-598-2216. The Draft CCP/EA may also 
be accessed and downloaded from the Service's Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/

    Public Availability of Comments: Before including your address, 
phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information 
in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, 
including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly 
available at any time. While you can 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.
    Background: Sabine National Wildlife Refuge was established by 
Executive Order 7764, dated December 6, 1937, stating the official 
purpose of the refuge was, ``* * * as a refuge and breeding ground for 
migratory birds and other wildlife.'' A secondary purpose of the refuge 
is ``* * * for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds'' [16 U.S.C. 715d (Migratory 
Bird Conservation Act)].
    Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is one of four refuges that 
comprise the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It 
is located eight miles south of Hackberry on State Highway 27 in 
Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The refuge currently occupies the marshes 
between Calcasieu and Sabine Lakes and consists of 125,790 acres of 
open water and marsh grassland. The East Cove Unit, originally 
established as part of Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, was 
administratively transferred to Cameron Prairie National Wildlife 
Refuge in 1992. The East Cove Unit, also in Cameron Parish, consists of 
14,927 acres of brackish to intermediate marsh, bordered on the west by 
Calcasieu Lake, and on the north, east, and south by privately owned 
marshes. The East Cove Unit is also part of the Cameron Creole 
Watershed Project, a cooperative effort among local, State, and Federal 
agencies and the private sector to restore 64,000 acres of marsh in 
Cameron Parish. The Service manages the Cameron Creole Watershed 
Project under cooperative agreement among sponsors. The overall focus 
area to be evaluated in this Draft CCP/EA totals 140,717 acres.
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: Recovery 
from damages incurred by Hurricane Rita; management of migratory birds, 
with special emphasis on waterfowl (especially northern pintails and 
mottled ducks); management and restoration of unique coastal wetland 
habitats; management of oil and gas activities; access management for 
public use activities, including recreational freshwater sportfishing 
and hunting; and protection of cultural resources.
    Also addressed in the Draft CCP/EA are compatibility determinations 
for the following uses: (1) Recreational freshwater sportfishing; (2) 
recreational sportfishing tournaments; (3) recreational hunting; (4) 
environmental education and interpretation; (5) wildlife observation 
and photography; (6) research and monitoring; (7) commercial alligator 
harvest; (8) commercial video and photography; (9)

[[Page 35718]]

commercially guided wildlife viewing, photography, environmental 
education, and interpretation; and (10) beneficial use of dredge 
    Alternatives: The Service developed three alternatives for 
management of the refuge (alternatives A, B, and C), with Alternative B 
as the proposed alternative. We believe this alternative will be the 
most effective one to contribute to the purpose for which the refuge 
was established and to the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge 
    Alternative A, also called the ``No Action'' alternative, is the 
baseline or status quo of refuge programs and is usually a continuation 
of current planning unit objectives and management strategies, with no 
changes or changes that would have occurred without the CCP. Sabine 
Refuge, which was severely affected by Hurricane Rita in September 
2005, is currently closed to most activities other than essential 
operations, and hurricane clean-up and restoration activities.
    Non-essential programs, such as public use, would cease. Research 
monitoring activities and the fire program, including both prescribed 
fire as well as extinguishing wildfires, would continue. Hazardous 
debris removal and Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and 
Restoration Act projects would continue. Oil and gas operations would 
continue. Law enforcement operations would increase to ensure that the 
more than 300,000 annual visitors who normally use the refuge comply 
with the closure. Sabine Refuge staff would function at an office 
located off-site. Cultural resources would continue to be protected. As 
hurricane recovery is accomplished, the refuge would essentially be 
managed as it was prior to the devastation from the historic storm. The 
East Cove Unit would continue to be managed under an inter-agency 
management agreement.
    Alternative B, our proposed alternative, would continue to keep the 
refuge operational with minimal public use programs functional but at a 
reduced cost (near-term). It would increase marsh restoration, enhance 
fish and wildlife management, and expand public use (long-term).
    Over the near-term, programs would continue throughout the refuge 
commensurate with the levels of hazardous material clean-up and 
restoration. Over time, public use areas would be re-opened as repairs 
to infrastructure and restoration of habitat occur. Fire and research 
programs would remain active. Existing oil and gas operations would 
continue at the normal level, but new operations would be closely 
assessed under Service regulations and Federal laws. Staff assigned to 
the refuge would function out of a hurricane-resistant building to be 
located at the original headquarters site.
    Over the long-term, under Alternative B, Sabine Refuge would 
increase marsh restoration and enhance wildlife management, stepping up 
these efforts from current levels. Like Alternative A, Alternative B 
would maintain salinity monitoring throughout the refuge at established 
discrete salinity stations. Improving water quality would be a major 
thrust for the refuge. The refuge would provide additional 
opportunities for friends, volunteers, partners, and interns to assist 
the refuge.
    Management of the East Cove Unit under Alternative B would be 
identical to Alternative A. Gates at the water control structures would 
be operated to restore preferred vegetated plant communities associated 
with intermediate or possibly slightly brackish environments. Staff 
would evaluate the use of terraces to improve vegetation of open-water 
areas. During the life of the CCP, an assessment would be conducted to 
determine the need for sanctuary in the East Cove Unit, which would 
minimize detrimental waterfowl disturbances. The invasion of exotic 
plant species, with special emphasis on giant salvinia, would be 
monitored. Public fishing access to the East Cove Unit would be 
    Alternative C would hold the refuge in custodial form. Major 
restoration and recovery efforts from devastation caused by Hurricane 
Rita would be curtailed. The fire and research programs would remain 
active throughout the refuge. Oil and gas operations would continue at 
the current level. No active habitat management would occur. Instead, 
refuge and complex staff would serve as good caretakers or custodians 
of the refuge, observing and monitoring the natural forces and 
ecological succession that would shape its habitats and effectively 
determine their suitability for wildlife. The Service would conduct no 
prescribed fire and would limit fire management to hazardous fuel 
reduction and suppression of wildfires. There would be no need to 
replace and upgrade equipment and facilities, such as pumps, tractors, 
and water control structures. This alternative would result in very 
little effective high-quality waterfowl sanctuary. That is, high ground 
would succeed to a mix of Chinese tallow, willow, and hackberry, while 
lower ground reverted to dense stands of maidencane. There would be few 
open areas.
    With regard to public use, each of the six priority public uses 
would be strongly encouraged but facilities would be limited. 
Management of cultural resources and the East Cove Unit under 
Alternative C would be identical to Alternatives A and B.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Judy McClendon, Natural Resource 
Planner, Telephone: 870/347-2074, Extension 43; Fax: 870/347-2908; or 
electronically at: Judy_McClendon@fws.gov.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 

    Dated: April 30, 2007.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E7-12628 Filed 6-28-07; 8:45 am]