[Federal Register: November 15, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 220)]
[Page 64236]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) for Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in St. 
Tammany Parish, Louisiana, is available for distribution. The CCP was 
prepared pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement 
Act of 1997, and in accordance with the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, and describes how the refuge will be managed for the next 
15 years. The compatibility determinations for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation, bicycling, trapping of selected furbearers, forest 
management, and mosquito management are also available within the CCP.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP/FONSI may be obtained by writing to the 
Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, 61389 Highway 434, Lacombe, 
Louisiana 70445. The plan may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Web site address: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charlotte Parker, Natural Resource 
Planner, Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex, Telephone: 985/882-2029; 
Fax: 985/882-9133; Electronic mail: charlotte_parker@fws.gov; or by 
writing to the Natural Resource Planner at the address in the ADDRESSES 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With this notice, we finalize the CCP 
process for Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge begun as 
announced in the Federal Register on January 12, 2004 (69 FR 1756). We 
released the Draft CCP/EA to the public, announcing and requesting 
comments for 30 days in a notice of availability in the Federal 
Register on April 30, 2007 (72 FR 21284).
    The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the refuge over the next 15 years. Alternative A, the ``no 
action'' alternative, would have continued current management of the 
refuge. Alternative B, the ``proposed'' alternative, would emphasize 
maintaining and improving wetland habitats, monitoring targeted flora 
and fauna representative of the Pontchartrain Basin, and providing 
quality public use programs and wildlife-dependent recreational 
activities. The refuge headquarters would not only house administrative 
offices, but would offer interpretation of refuge wildlife and 
habitats, demonstrate habitat improvements for individual landowners, 
and be developed as an urban public use area with trails and visitor 
and community outreach. Management decisions and actions would support 
wildlife species and habitat occurring on the refuge based on well-
planned strategies and sound professional judgment. Alternative C would 
have focused refuge management on expanding public use activities to 
the fullest extent possible, while conducting only mandated resource 
    Based on the environmental assessment and the comments received, 
the Service adopted Alternative B as its ``preferred'' alternative. 
This alternative was considered to be the most effective for meeting 
the purposes of the refuge by: (1) Assessing which species should be 
targeted for monitoring; (2) conserving and restoring wetlands; (3) 
determining best management practices for forestry and fire management 
programs; and (4) monitoring management actions for effectiveness. 
Public use programs will be updated to support and teach reasons behind 
refuge management actions, and to provide quality experiences to refuge 
visitors. The refuge headquarters will be developed to provide more 
visitor services. Alternative B best achieves national, ecosystem, and 
refuge-specific goals and objectives and positively addresses 
significant issues and concerns expressed by the public.
    Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is in St. Tammany Parish, 
Louisiana, between the towns of Mandeville and Slidell. The refuge 
covers a total of 17,366 acres within the 24,000-acre acquisition 
boundary. The refuge is located within the Pontchartrain Basin and 
consists of diverse habitat types, such as open waters of Lake 
Pontchartrain, marshes, ponds, bayous, submerged aquatic vegetation 
beds, prairie terrace, forested wetlands, and pine ridges within a 
relatively small area. Annually, more than 49,000 visitors participate 
in refuge activities.

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

     Dated: July 20, 2007.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E7-22311 Filed 11-14-07; 8:45 am]