[Federal Register: April 19, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 75)]
[Page 19719-19721]
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 Catahoula National Wildlife 

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 Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is available for 
distribution. 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 Catahoula National 
Wildlife Refuge over the next 15 years.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the postal address listed 
below no later than May 21, 2007.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the Draft 
CCP/EA, please write to: Central Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex, 401 Island Road, Marksville, Louisiana 71351; or telephone: 
318/253-4238. The Draft CCP/EA may also be accessed and downloaded from 
the Service's Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: All comments received 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.
    Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1958 
primarily as a wintering area for migratory waterfowl. The refuge, 
located in east-central LaSalle Parish, and west-central Catahoula 
Parish, Louisiana, about 30 miles northeast of Alexandria, and 12 miles 
east of Jena, now totals 25,242 acres. The 6,671-acre Headquarters Unit 
borders nine miles of the northeast shore of Catahoula Lake, a 26,000-
acre natural wetland renowned for its large concentrations of migratory 
waterfowl. The 18,571-acre Bushley Bayou Unit, located eight miles west 
of Jonesville, was established in May 2001. The acquisition was made 
possible through a partnership agreement between The

[[Page 19720]]

Conservation Fund, American Electric Power, and the Fish and Wildlife 
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: Waterfowl 
management, bottomland hardwood reforestation and management, refuge 
access, land acquisition, visitor services (i.e., hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation), cultural resources, and minor boundary expansion. 
The Service developed three alternatives for management of the refuge 
(alternatives A, B, and C), with Alternative B as the proposed 
    Alternative A represents no change from current management of the 
refuge. Under this alternative, existing refuge management practices 
and uses would continue. All management actions would be directed 
towards achieving the refuge's primary purposes, which include: (1) To 
provide migrating and wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl 
consistent with the overall objectives of the Mississippi Flyway; (2) 
to provide nesting habitat for wood ducks; (3) to provide habitat and 
protection for threatened and endangered species; and (4) to manage 
bottomland hardwoods and provide habitat for a natural wildlife 
diversity. Management programs would continue to be developed and 
implemented with limited baseline biological information. Active 
wetland management would be implemented by continuing water level 
manipulations for moist soil. Grassland and forest management actions 
are designed to provide diversified foraging, resting, and breeding 
habitat for a variety of species and would be implemented only when 
resources are available. Land would be acquired from willing sellers 
within the current 28,254-acre acquisition boundary. Oil and gas 
operations would continue under current special use permits, with 
little opportunity to prevent potential risks of spills. There would be 
no water quality surveys or pollution prevention measures for improving 
or providing increased protection of refuge lands and water. Hunting 
and fishing would continue to be the major focus of the public use 
program, with no expansion of current opportunities.
    Alternative B, the proposed alternative, is considered to be the 
most effective management action for meeting the purposes of the refuge 
by adding more staff, equipment, and facilities in order to provide 
greater enhancement and management of habitats and associated plant 
communities for the greater benefit of wildlife. Extensive wildlife and 
plant census and inventory activities would be initiated to obtain the 
biological information needed to implement management programs on the 
refuge. The refuge would improve migratory waterfowl habitat, the wood 
duck nest box program, habitat to support breeding pairs of wading 
birds, and migration habitat for southbound and northbound shorebirds. 
Habitat management activities would focus on providing healthy 
bottomland hardwood forests, moist-soil units, and grasslands needed to 
achieve wildlife population objectives. Forested habitat would be 
managed to establish a multi-layered canopy that promotes and maintains 
structural and plant species diversity and ultimately supports key 
species of migratory and resident species. To improve habitat for 
grassland birds, the refuge would work with the Natural Resources 
Conservation Service to replant the 95-acre Willow Lake area with 
native warm-season grasses. The refuge would inventory and more 
aggressively monitor, control, and, where possible, eliminate invasive 
plants. An archaeological survey to identify potential cultural 
resources would help in planning for land protection.
    The refuge would work closely with partners to acquire or exchange 
lands with willing in-holding landowners and to expand the current 
acquisition boundary by 2,824 acres in order to improve access for 
refuge staff and the public. The refuge would continue to identify and 
eliminate potential spill risks from oil and gas activities, to 
continue the refuge special use permit system, and to provide 
monitoring for first alert in spill events.
    Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation opportunities would be 
improved. Youth hunts, handicap-accessible blinds, improved access for 
bank fishing, replacement of the observation tower and an additional 
tower, and supporting environmental-based curricula in the local 
schools are some of the improvements planned under Alternative B. In 
addition, the current office facility would be expanded to accommodate 
an environmental education display and an interpretive display. 
Additional staff would include a biologist, forester, park ranger (law 
enforcement), engineering equipment operator, maintenance worker, 
assistant refuge manager, and park ranger (interpretive) to accomplish 
objectives for establishing baseline data on refuge resources, for 
managing habitats, and for adequate protection of wildlife and 
    Alternative C would maximize endemic bottomland hardwood forest 
with minimal management. Under this alternative, there would be no 
active management of refuge resources. Grasslands would be left fallow 
and moist-soil units would not be actively managed. Bottomland hardwood 
forests would be left to mature with no active management. Wood duck 
nest boxes would be left in place and banding quotas would not 
typically be met. There would be no active management of marshbird, 
long-legged wader, shorebird, or forest breeding bird habitat. The 
refuge would continue to support bald eagle management guidelines when 
nests are encountered. The refuge would continue to attempt to acquire 
land from willing sellers within the current 28,254-acre acquisition 
boundary, but would plan no additional active management for these 
lands. Oil and gas operations would continue under current special use 
permits, with little opportunity to prevent potential risks of spills. 
There would be no water quality surveys or pollution prevention 
measures for improving or providing increased protection of refuge 
lands and water. An archaeological survey to determine if there are any 
cultural resources present would be used in planning for land 
    A limited amount of deer, duck, and small game hunting would 
continue and the refuge would maintain current recreational fishing. 
The current facilities for wildlife observation and photography, such 
as the observation tower, nature trails, and wildlife drive pull-offs, 
would be maintained and enhanced. Environmental education and 
interpretation requests would be increased and would be accommodated 
with the addition of a park ranger (interpretive). Enforcement of 
refuge regulations and protection of wildlife and visitors would 
continue at current levels.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tina Chouinard, Planning Team Leader, 
Central Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Telephone: 318/253-
4238; Fax: 318/253-7139; e-mail: tina_chouinard@fws.gov; or by writing 
to the address in the ADDRESSES section.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Pub. L. 

[[Page 19721]]

    Dated: December 19, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on April 16, 2007.
[FR Doc. E7-7432 Filed 4-18-07; 8:45 am]