[Federal Register: August 7, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 151)]
[Page 44170-44171]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Medicine Lake National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, Sheridan, Roosevelt, Daniels, Wibaux Counties, 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that 
the draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental 
Assessment (EA) for the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
(Complex) is available. This draft CCP/EA describes how the Service 
intends to manage Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), the 
Northeast Montana Wetland Management District (WMD), and Lamesteer NWR 
for the next 15 years.

DATES: We must receive written comments on the draft CCP/EA by 
September 6, 2007. Submit comments by one of the methods under 

ADDRESSES: Please provide written comments to Laurie Shannon, Planning 
Team Leader, Division of Refuge Planning, Mountain-Prairie Region, P.O. 
Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225-0486, or 
electronically to Laurie_Shannon@fws.gov. A copy of the CCP can be 
obtained by writing to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of 
Refuge Planning, at the address above; or by download from http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Shannon, 303-236-4317 (phone); 
303-236-4792 (fax); or Laurie_Shannon@fws.gov (e-mail).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Medicine Lake Complex is located within 
the highly productive prairie pothole region of the Northern Great 
Plains, along the western edge of the Missouri Coteau, in Northeastern 
Montana. It is composed of three individual units--the Medicine Lake 
NWR, the Northeast Montana WMD, and the Lamesteer NWR. These refuges 
are managed as one complex, and together they are dispersed across four 
counties and require management of more than 29,757 hectares (73,532 
acres) of Service-owned lands and wetland and/or grassland easements or 
leases on privately-owned land. Medicine Lake NWR encompasses about 
12,761 hectares (31,534 acres) including 4,597 hectares (11,360 acres) 
of designated wilderness and was established in 1935 as ``* * * a 
refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife'' 
(Executive Order 7148, dated August 29, 1935). The Northeast Montana 
WMD was established in 1968 and consists of Waterfowl Production Areas 
and wetland and grassland easements. The purpose of these acquired 
Waterfowl Production Areas and easements is to function as ``waterfowl 
production areas subject to * * * all of the provisions of the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp Act * * * except the inviolate 
sanctuary provisions'' (16 U.S.C. Section 718). Lamesteer NWR, 
established in 1942 as an easement refuge, was described as ``800 acres 
in Wibaux County, Montana * * * as refuge and breeding ground for 
migratory birds and other wildlife'' (Executive Order 9166, dated May 
19, 1942).
    The refuge complex is home to more than 270 species of birds, 38 
species of mammals, and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians. Each 
unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), including the 
Medicine Lake Complex, has specific purposes for which it was 
established and for which legislation was enacted. Those purposes are 
used to develop and prioritize management goals and objectives within 
the NWRS mission, and to guide which public uses will occur on these 
refuges. The planning process is a way for the Service and the public 
to evaluate management goals and objectives for the best possible 
conservation efforts of this important wildlife habitat, while 
providing for wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are 
compatible with the refuges' establishing purposes and the mission of 
the NWRS.
    This draft CCP/EA identifies and evaluates three alternatives for 
managing the Medicine Lake NWR and Northeast WMD and two alternatives 
for management of Lamesteer NWR for the next 15 years.
    For Medicine Lake NWR and the Northeast Montana WMD, under 
Alternative A, the no action alternative, the Service would manage 
habitats, wildlife, programs, and facilities at current levels as time, 
staff, and funds allow. The Service would not develop any new 
management, restoration, or education programs at the refuge. 
Improvements of native prairie or mixed-native and nonnative grasslands 
and tame grasslands would be undertaken when and where feasible. 
Current wildlife-dependent uses (hunting, fishing, observation, 
photography, environmental education, and interpretation) would 
continue at existing levels (about 16,000 visitors annually).
    Alternative B, the Service's proposed action would conserve the 
natural resources of Northeast Montana by restoring or protecting the 
native and mixed-grass prairie grasslands and maintaining high-quality 
nesting habitats within the refuge complex. The refuge would reduce 
populations of selected species of invasive plants, and control of 
crested wheatgrass would be the management priority. The approved 
refuge administrative boundary would be expanded through willing 
sellers or buyers by about 722 hectares (1,784 acres) based on three 
priority areas. This alternative would focus visitor-use resources on 
developing access and improving opportunities for wildlife-dependent 
uses while also encouraging a greater understanding and appreciation 
for the mixed grass prairie ecosystem.
    Alternative C would maximize the conservation of natural resources 
by restoring or protecting native or mixed-grass prairie and 
maintaining high-quality nesting habitats within the refuge complex. 
Reducing the populations of invasive and nonnative plants would be the 
management priority. The approved refuge administration boundary would 
be expanded to allow purchase of 3,399 hectares (8,400 acres) primarily 
in the Big Muddy Creek floodplain corridor between the Medicine Lake 
and Homestead Units. Visitor services would focus on encouraging a 
greater understanding and appreciation for the mixed-grass prairie 
while maintaining access and opportunities for wildlife-dependent uses.
    The proposed action was selected because it best meets the purposes 
and goals of the refuge and wetland management district, as well as the 
goals of the NWRS. The proposed action also will benefit federally 
listed species, waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, grassland birds, 
and songbirds.

[[Page 44171]]

Environmental education and partnerships will result in improved 
wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities. Cultural and historical 
resources, as well as federally listed species, will be protected.
    For Lamesteer NWR, under Alternative A, the no action alternative, 
the Service would continue to manage the site as an easement refuge 
superimposed on privately owned lands to serve as a resting place for 
migratory birds while on migration. The Service would maintain the dam 
and spillway, including the funding of all maintenance costs. The 
landowner would continue to control access to the site, including all 
hunting access and other public uses.
    Alternative B, the Service's proposed action, would relinquish the 
easement at Lamesteer NWR to the current landowners. The Service would 
divest its interest in the refuge.
    Opportunities for public input also will be provided at a public 
meeting. Exact dates and times for these public meetings are yet to be 
determined, but will be announced via local media and a planning 
update. All information provided voluntarily by mail, phone, or at 
public meetings (e.g., names, addresses, letters of comment, input 
recorded during meetings) becomes part of the official public record. 
If requested under the Freedom of Information Act by a private citizen 
or organization, the Service may provide copies of such information. 
The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA 
Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508); other appropriate Federal laws 
and regulations; Executive Order 12996; the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Improvement Act of 1997; and Service policies and procedures for 
compliance with those laws and regulations.

    Dated: June 28, 2007.
J. Mitch King,
Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, CO.
[FR Doc. E7-15291 Filed 8-6-07; 8:45 am]