[Federal Register: February 28, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 39)]
[Page 9018-9019]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Environmental Impact Statement for Vieques 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 Impact Statement 
(Draft CCP/EIS) for the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is available 
for review and comment. This Draft CCP/EIS was 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. The Draft CCP/EIS describes 
how the Service intends to manage the refuge over the next 15 years.

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

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the Draft 
CCP/EIS, please write to: Oscar Diaz, Refuge Manager, Vieques National 
Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 1527, Vieques, Puerto Rico 00765. A copy of 
the Draft CCP/EIS is also available on compact diskette. It can be 
accessed and downloaded at the following Internet address: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/planning/.
 A public meeting will be held at the 

Multiple Use Center (Centro de Usos Multiples) in Isabel Segunda, 
Vieques, Puerto Rico, to present the plan to the public. Special 
mailings, news media outlets, and posters will be avenues to inform the 
public of the date and time of the meeting.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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 the 
Service to develop a comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge. 
The purpose in developing a plan 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 science, conservation, legal 
mandates, and Service 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 and photography, and environmental education and 
    The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge was created from former Navy 
managed lands by congressional actions in 2001 and 2003. It consists of 
approximately 17,771 acres--3,100 acres on western Vieques and 14,671 
acres on eastern Vieques. The transferred lands are to be managed in 
accordance with the Refuge Administration Act (as amended).
    The refuge lands were historically used for agricultural purposes 
and more recently for military training activities. As a result, the 
wildlife habitats and communities are significantly altered and non-
native invasive species are common along with remnants of native 
habitats. As a result of the military training, portions of the refuge 
contain unexploded ordnance and other contaminants. These areas have 
been classified as a ``superfund site'' under the Comprehensive 
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). 
Cleanup of these portions of the refuge is being conducted by the Navy 
in accordance with CERCLA. In addition, a Federal Facilities Agreement 
between the Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will help to guide the cleanup 
    Although the short-term use and management of areas contaminated 

[[Page 9019]]

unexploded ordnance would be restricted, the alternatives presented in 
this Draft Plan were developed with the assumption that these lands 
would be cleaned of any contaminants that would pose a threat to either 
wildlife or humans.
    Before the Service began the development of the Draft Plan, it 
hosted a series of public scoping meetings to solicit public opinion 
and identify issues that should be addressed. To address the existing 
habitat conditions, the ongoing cleanup activities, the issues 
identified by the public, and the mission and purpose of the refuge, 
the planning team developed a series of goals for the plan. The goals 
are: (1) Conserve, enhance, and restore native plant communities and 
wetland habitats and their associated fish, wildlife, and plants, 
representative of the native biological diversity that would have been 
found on Vieques Refuge lands prior to major agricultural and military 
use of the lands; (2) monitor, protect, and recover special status 
animals, plants, and species of management interest; (3) provide 
opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation and education to 
enhance public appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of refuge 
wildlife, habitats, and cultural history; (4) ensure, through the 
cooperative efforts of partners, that the refuge is cleaned of all 
classes of contaminants that could pose a threat to the health and 
safety of the wildlife, residents, staff, and visitors; (5) provide the 
resources needed to implement the selected management alternative and 
ensure the other goals and objectives identified in the plan can be 
achieved; and (6) develop effective and open communication with the 
community to raise public awareness of refuge programs, management 
decisions, the missions of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the 
National Wildlife Refuge System by working closely with Vieques 
citizens and interested groups and organizations.
    Based on these goals and information obtained during the scoping 
process, the plan offers three alternatives to help address the issues 
identified and achieve the vision of the Vieques National Wildlife 

Alternative A (Current Management or No Action)

    The current management alternative provides for a continuation of 
the existing level of management. Staffing would remain at the current 
levels and ongoing programs and activities would continue with only 
minor changes and no new programs.

Alternative B (Resource Emphasis)

    This alternative focuses on wildlife and habitat management but 
maintains the existing visitor programs and public uses. Habitat 
management and monitoring would be expanded and agreements with 
research, governmental, and non-governmental organizations would be 
developed to provide information needed for the management of forests, 
grasslands, coastal wetlands, beaches, and listed species and their 
habitats. In partnership with others, programs would be developed for 
management of nesting sea turtle populations on Vieques Refuge beaches.

Alternative C (Habitat Management and Public Use Emphasis) (Proposed 

    This alternative directs the refuge toward a realistic and 
achievable level of both habitat management and public use and provides 
a management program that addresses the needs of the resources and, 
where appropriate and compatible with the refuge purposes, the needs of 
the community. This alternative provides for an increase in management 
efforts to restore the refuge habitats without diminishing the wildlife 
values associated with the current conditions. There is also a focus on 
management activities to benefit threatened and endangered species. 
This includes the possible reintroduction of species extirpated from 
Vieques and expansion of populations of species already found on the 
refuge. Priority public uses, as identified in the National Wildlife 
Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, would be expanded and other uses 
that are determined to be compatible with the refuge mission may be 
permitted. Historic and archaeological resources would be stabilized 
and, where possible, interpretation of their significance and role in 
the evolution of Vieques Refuge would be provided.
    After the review and comment period for the Draft Plan and 
Environmental Impact Statement, all comments will be analyzed and 
considered by the Service. All comments become part of the official 
public record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance 
with the Freedom of Information Act and other Service and Departmental 
policies and procedures.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gisella Burgos; Telephone: 787/741-

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

     Dated: November 21, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
 [FR Doc. E7-3478 Filed 2-27-07; 8:45 am]