[Federal Register: April 2, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 62)]
[Page 15710-15711]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability of Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Environmental Assessment for the 39 North Dakota Limited-Interest 
National Wildlife Refuges

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that a 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the 39 North Dakota Limited-
interest National Wildlife Refuges is available. This CCP, prepared 
pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, describes how the 
Service intends to manage these 39 Refuges for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP may be obtained by writing to U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 134 Union Boulevard, 
Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228; or downloaded from http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura King, Planning Team Leader, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, telephone 701-724-3097; fax 701-724-3683; or 
e-mail: laura_king@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 39 North Dakota Limited-interest 
National Wildlife Refuges are Appert Lake, Ardoch, Bone Hill, Brumba, 
Buffalo Lake, Camp Lake, Canfield Lake, Cottonwood Lake, Dakota Lake, 
Half-way Lake, Hiddenwood, Hobart, Hutchinson Lake, Johnson Lake, Lake 
George, Lake Otis, Lake Patricia, Lambs Lake, Little Goose, Lords Lake, 
Lost Lake, Maple River, Pleasant Lake, Pretty Rock, Rabb Lake, Rock 
Lake, Rose Lake, School Section Lake, Sheyenne Lake, Sibley Lake, 
Silver Lake, Snyder Lake, Springwater, Stoney Slough, Sunburst Lake, 
Tomahawk, Willow Lake, Wintering River, and Wood Lake National Wildlife 
Refuges. Each of these refuges started out in the 1930s as flowage and/
or refuge easement lands. This was the era of droughts, depression, and 
declining waterfowl populations. This flowage and/or refuge easement 
program (program) was initiated by the Franklin D. Roosevelt 
administration to address these crises on private lands. Through these 
easements, the Service acquired the right to control hunting and 
trapping on the entire easement area, and impound, maintain, and 
control water levels, and control the uses that occur on that water or 
other main water bodies (such as rivers and lakes). The landowners of 
these easement lands retain all other rights including the right to 
farm, graze, build structures, etc.
    An additional status (beyond the existing flowage and/or refuge 
easements) was added in the late 1930s. Adjoining easement lands were 
combined and an approved acquisition boundary was designated resulting 
in 31 new National Wildlife Refuges. These Refuges were established 
through separate Executive Orders signed by President Franklin D. 
Roosevelt for the purpose of ``* * * refuge[s] and breeding ground[s] 
for migratory birds and other wildlife * * * .'' Seven additional 
Refuges were established in 1948 in the same manner but under the 
authority of the precursor to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. 
Lake Otis, the remaining refuge, was established in the early 1970s as 
``* * * an inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds.'' Combined, these 
Refuges encompass 47,296 acres, ranging in size from 160 acres (Half-
way Lake) to 5,506 acres (Rock Lake). Although these are National 
Wildlife Refuges in name, the language in the establishing authorities 
does not apply unless the lands are acquired by the Service. After 70 
years, 99 percent of the lands within the approved acquisition 
boundaries remain in private ownership; therefore, the original 1930s 
easement language remains the purpose for the majority of these 
refuges. Due to this fact, the Service has ``limited-interest'' in 
these refuges due to the restrictive management capabilities (as stated 
above) afforded by the easement.
    The Draft CCP and Environmental Assessment (EA) was made available 
to the public for a 60-day review and comment period following the 
announcement in the Federal Register on October 5, 2005 (70 FR 58232). 
The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated two alternatives for managing 
these 39 Refuges for the next 15 years. Alternative A, the No Action 
Alternative, would have continued current management, which for the 
most part, has been minimal. Only minor improvements, such as repairs 
to water control structures on the impoundments, would continue under 
this alternative. No funding would be provided for this program, as in 
the past, and partnerships would be incidental to common interests and 
not actively pursued. Alternative B, the Preferred Alternative (Enhance 
the Program), first proposes that six Refuges, which have no potential 
to ever fully function as National Wildlife

[[Page 15711]]

Refuges, be divested. These Refuges include Bone Hill, Camp Lake, 
Cottonwood Lake, Lake Patricia, Sheyenne Lake, and School Section Lake. 
This divestiture decision was based on the best available science and 
expert opinions, both by managers and biologists within the Service. 
This information was then evaluated by a divestiture model developed by 
a regional team. These six, for various reasons, were finally proposed 
for divestiture consideration. The justifications included State or 
other Federal agency ownership of the lands, extensive habitat loss, or 
lack of desirable habitat that would warrant such federal protection. 
This is the first step in the divestiture process. Implementation will 
require a proposal that will be sent to the Migratory Bird Conservation 
Commission for concurrence and then to Congress. No Refuge will be 
divested until an Act of Congress is signed. The remaining 33 Refuges 
will be managed in cooperation with the current landowners. At a 
minimum, landowners will receive an annual newsletter describing 
opportunities for receiving additional compensation for added habitat 
protection. These Refuges will be given priority for such programs as 
grassland and wetland easements, while the Service actively works with 
other conservation partners on mutual interests on these Refuges. These 
lands will also be given additional consideration as projects are 
submitted for land acquisition dollars available to the region. In 
order to implement this part of the CCP, the managing stations will 
first prioritize their individual Refuges by developing a greater 
understanding of the habitat types that occur and which types need 
added protection. The CCP states that highest priority will be given to 
native prairie habitat on all Refuges.
    Under the preferred alternative, the Service will post all 
boundaries with a unique sign that will identify these refuges as 
private lands. As part of implementation, compatibility determinations 
(CD) will be completed for all proposed Service-controlled activities 
that occur on the uplands and water. These CDs could not be completed 
as part of the Final CCP. A significant part of implementation will be 
to work with over 200 landowners to determine their willingness to 
grant access for public use as the Service never acquired the right to 
control public access. Until the Service has worked out these 
negotiations, no CD can be completed. The Service will work with the 
State and willing landowners to determine if any additional public use 
opportunities are available including hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation, wildlife photography, environmental education and 
interpretation. Trapping will continue on a permit-only basis for the 
purposes of protecting nesting migratory birds (including waterfowl and 
songbirds) and increase survival rates of young birds. Trappers will be 
required to provide annual reports of harvest and follow State 
    The Service is furnishing this notice to advise other agencies and 
the public of the availability of the Final CCP, to provide information 
on the desired conditions for the North Dakota Limited-interest 
Refuges, and to detail how the Service will implement management 
strategies. Based on the review and evaluation of the information 
contained in the environmental assessment, the Regional Director has 
determined that implementation of the Final CCP does not constitute a 
major Federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the 
human environment within the meaning of Section 102(2)(c) of the 
National Environmental Policy Act. Therefore, an Environmental Impact 
Statement will not be prepared. Future site-specific proposals 
discussed in the Final CCP will be addressed in separate planning 
efforts with full public involvement.

    Dated: April 23, 2006.
James Slack,
Deputy Regional Director, Region 6, Denver, CO.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on March 27, 2007.
[FR Doc. E7-5884 Filed 3-30-07; 8:45 am]