[Federal Register: May 7, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 87)]
[Page 25771-25773]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Kingman Reef National 
Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment and a step-down research management plan 
and environmental assessment; and announcement of a public open house 


SUMMARY: This notice advises the public that we the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (Service, we) intend to initiate a single planning 
process to consecutively develop a comprehensive conservation plan 
(CCP) and environmental assessment for the Palmyra Atoll National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and a step-down research management plan (RMP) 
and environmental assessment for both Palmyra and Kingman Reef NWRs. 
This notice also announces a public open house meeting; see 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for the details. Both NWRs are low coral 
atolls located in the Central Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 miles 
south of Hawai'i. We furnish this notice in compliance with our CCP 
policy to advise other agencies and the public of our intentions, and 
to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to be 
considered in the planning process.

DATES: Please provide written comments on these proposals by June 6, 
2007. We will hold a public open house meeting on May 8, 2007, to begin 
the CCP and RMP planning process; see SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for 
date, time, and location.

ADDRESSES: Address comments, questions, and requests for further 
information to William Smith, Refuge Manager, Palmyra Atoll National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 5-231, Box 
50167, Honolulu, HI 96850. Comments may be faxed to the Refuge Complex 
office at (808) 792-9586, or e-mailed to william_smith@fws.gov. 
Additional information concerning these NWRs is available on the 
Internet at http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/wnwr/nwrindex.html. The 

address for the public meeting location is listed under SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: William Smith, (808) 792-9550.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With this notice, we initiate the process 
for development of a CCP for Palmyra Atoll NWR and a RMP for the 
Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs.


Planning Requirements

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 
(Refuge Administration Act), 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 national 
wildlife refuge. The purpose in developing a comprehensive conservation 
plan is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy for 
achieving refuge purposes and contribute toward the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife management, 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, wildlife 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation.
    A step-down RMP would address research goals, objectives, and 
strategies for research actions and include findings of appropriateness 
of a refuge use, and compatibility determinations for all research 
activities proposed for or occurring on Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef 
    The Service will prepare separate environmental assessments for the 
CCP and RMP pursuant to 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; and 
our policies and procedures for compliance with those laws and 
    We establish each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System with 
specific purposes. We use these purposes to develop and prioritize 
management goals and objectives within the National Wildlife Refuge 
System mission, and to

[[Page 25772]]

guide which public uses will occur on a refuge. The planning process is 
a way for us and the public to evaluate management goals and objectives 
for the best possible conservation of important wildlife habitat, while 
providing for wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are 
compatible with the Refuges' establishment purposes and the mission of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    We will conduct a planning process that will provide opportunity 
for Tribal, State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and 
the public to participate in issue scoping and provide public comments. 
We request input for issues, concerns, ideas, and suggestions for the 
future management of the Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs. We will 
also give the public an opportunity to provide input at an open house 
to scope issues and concerns. All information provided voluntarily by 
mail, phone, or at public meetings becomes part of our official public 
record. We will handle requests for comments received in accordance 
with the Freedom of Information Act, NEPA, and Service and Departmental 
policies and procedures.

The Refuges

    Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef are the northernmost atolls in the 
Line Islands Archipelago in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Both are 
located approximately 1,000 miles south by west of Honolulu, Hawai'i, 
and are situated about 5 degrees north of the Equator. During WWII, the 
U.S. Navy stationed over 6,000 personnel at Palmyra Atoll. The military 
dredged a seaplane runway through the central lagoon and built a 
connective causeway that bisected the lagoon across the remaining reef 
flat. Relatively small, disconnected islets were joined together with 
dredge spoil, increasing both the elevation and terrestrial footprint 
of the emergent atoll. An extensive base and supporting infrastructure 
were built, including a 1-mile land-based airplane runway surfaced with 
crushed coral. The Palmyra Atoll NWR was established in 2001 through 
DOI Secretarial Order 3224. The Refuge boundary extends from the low 
water mark seaward to 12 nautical miles (515,232 acres) and includes 
16,094 acres of coral reef habitat and 680 acres of horseshoe-shaped 
emergent lands encompassing a central lagoon. Palmyra's terrestrial 
habitats support one of the largest remaining stands of Pisonia beach 
forest in the Pacific and several other native varieties of ferns and 
shrubs. The Atoll is also home to the world's largest land-based 
invertebrate, the coconut crab, so-named because of its ability to 
crack open a coconut with its huge claws. The second largest red-footed 
booby colony in the world is found on Palmyra, which also hosts 
significant populations of brown boobies, black noddies, sooty terns, 
red- and white-tailed tropicbirds, masked boobies, great frigatebirds, 
and white terns. More than 200 bristle-thighed curlews, a large 
shorebird whose worldwide population estimate is only 6,000 
individuals, spend their winters on Palmyra. Palmyra Atoll's near-
pristine reefs support three times the number of coral species found in 
Hawai'i and the Caribbean, and five times the number of species found 
in the Florida Keys. Marine wildlife includes pilot whales, bottle-
nosed dolphins, hawksbill and green sea turtles, reef sharks, tiger 
sharks, manta rays, and giant clams. Management programs on Palmyra 
Atoll are primarily focused on invasive species management, 
conservation of the Pisonia forest, restoring altered lagoon hydrology, 
protecting seabird nesting colonies, and providing opportunities for 
the public to learn about wildlife resources through wildlife viewing, 
interpretation, and recreation.
    Palmyra Atoll is managed cooperatively by the Service and The 
Nature Conservancy (TNC), which owns Cooper Island proper, within the 
NWR, including the airstrip. In a partnership with 10 academic 
institutions comprising the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium (PARC), 
TNC owns and operates The Palmyra Atoll Research Station on Cooper 
Island. The PARC was established by TNC in 2003 to conduct integrative 
research and studies of biodiversity, ecosystem function, and 
environmental change at Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs. Proposed 
projects generally fall under one or more of three overarching themes: 
Marine Biodiversity, Terrestrial Interface, and Climate and 
    Kingman Reef NWR lies 33 miles northwest of Palmyra. The first 
recorded western contact with Kingman Reef was by Captain Fanning, an 
American whaler, in 1798. The reef was also visited by its namesake, 
Captain W.E. Kingman, in the American ship Shooting Star, in 1853. In 
1860, the United States Guano Company claimed Kingman Reef as a United 
States Territory under the Guano Islands Act of 1856, 48 U.S.C. 1411-
1419. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 
No. 6935, which ``reserved [and] set aside'' Kingman Reef and placed it 
under the Secretary of the Navy's ``control and jurisdiction.'' In 
1941, President Roosevelt issued a second executive order affecting 
Kingman Reef. Executive Order No. 8682 established and reserved several 
Naval Defense Sea Area and Naval Airspace Reservations over certain 
Pacific islands, including Kingman Reef. In 2000, the Navy identified 
its ``control over and administrative jurisdiction of Kingman Reef'' as 
``excess'' to Department of Defense requirements, and transferred 
``custody and accountability for Kingman Reef'' to the Department of 
the Interior. The Department of the Interior accepted this transfer, 
subject to the 1934 and 1941 Executive Orders, which remained in 
    There are no terrestrial plants on Kingman Reef, which is 
frequently awash; however, its pristine coral reefs support abundant 
and diverse marine fauna and flora. Kingman Reef is one of the most 
pristine coral reef atoll ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean. In 2001, the 
waters surrounding the Reef out to 12 nautical miles were designated as 
the Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuge. It is comprised of 486,699 
submerged acres of crystal clear oceanic waters and vibrant coral reefs 
supporting a spectacular diversity of corals and other marine 
invertebrates, algae, fishes, marine mammals, sea turtles and migratory 

Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    We have identified a number of preliminary issues, concerns, and 
opportunities, which may warrant addressing in the CCP. We have briefly 
summarized these issues below. During public scoping, we may identify 
additional issues.
    During the CCP planning process the Service will analyze methods 
for protecting the resources of the Palmyra Atoll NWR in the long term, 
while providing quality opportunities for wildlife-dependent 
    At the Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs, the Service will 
specifically evaluate the extensive inventory, monitoring, and research 
needs of these NWRs through the development of a RMP. Research 
strategies and objectives will be evaluated within the context of 
Refuge needs and priorities, and in the wider context of regional, 
national, and international conservation priorities. We will determine 
methods for prioritizing and accomplishing research needs in a RMP. We 
will also identify and consider research alternatives, strategies, 
actions, and partnerships to facilitate valuable research, while 
protecting sensitive and irreplaceable wildlife, habitat, and cultural 
resources found within the NWRs.

[[Page 25773]]

Public Meeting

    A public open house meeting will be held on May 8, 2007, at 7:30 
p.m. at the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road, 
Carlsbad, CA 92001, to provide information on a CCP and RMP, and 
receive public comments. Opportunities for additional public input will 
be announced throughout the planning process.

    Dated: April 17, 2007.
David J. Wesley,
Acting Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. E7-8756 Filed 5-4-07; 8:45 am]