[Federal Register: January 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 17)]
[Page 4617-4619]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) for a Proposed Land Exchange in Yukon Flats National 
Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, and announcement of Alaska National Interest 
Lands Conservation Act subsistence hearings.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce that the Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a Proposed Land Exchange in 
the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, is available for 
public comment. We prepared this DEIS pursuant to the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and its implementing 
regulations. The Service is furnishing this notice to advise the public 

[[Page 4618]]

other agencies of the availability of the DEIS and to solicit comments. 
We have amended our original schedule to provide 60 days for public 
comment, rather than the minimum 45 days required by regulation. This 
extension provides the latest date we can accept public comment and 
still meet our obligation to complete the EIS within the fiscal year. 
We believe that 60 days is adequate to meet the needs for public 
review. Public hearings will be held in February and March in the 
cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the communities of Arctic 
Village, Beaver, Birch Creek, Central, Chalkyitsik, Circle, Fort Yukon, 
Stevens Village, and Venetie. In conjunction with the public hearings, 
we will hold subsistence hearings under Section 810 of the Alaska 
National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in the affected 
communities. The schedule for the hearings will be highly dependent on 
local weather conditions and other community activities and 
commitments. Dates, times, and locations will be announced locally at 
least two weeks prior to each hearing.

DATES: We must receive your comments on or before March 25, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Written comments may be submitted on-line at http://
 or mailed to: Yukon Flats EIS Project Office, c/

o ENSR, 1835 S. Bragaw Street, Suite 490, Anchorage, AK 99508-3438. To 
request a paper copy or compact disk of the DEIS, contact: Cyndie 
Wolfe, Project Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East 
Tudor Road, MS-231, Anchorage, AK 99503, or yukonflats_noi@fws.gov or 
at 907-786-3463. You may view or download a copy of the DEIS at: http:/
 Copies of the DEIS may be viewed at the Yukon 

Flats National Wildlife Refuge Office in Fairbanks, Alaska and at the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Office in Anchorage, Alaska.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cyndie Wolfe at the above address.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Yukon Flats Refuge is located in eastern 
interior Alaska. The exterior boundaries encompass about 11.1 million 
acres, including 2.5 million acres owned or selected by Native 
corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 
of 1971 (ANCSA; 43 U.S.C. 1601, et seq.). The Refuge includes the Yukon 
Flats, a vast wetland basin bisected by the Yukon River. The Refuge 
supports the highest density of breeding ducks in Alaska, and includes 
one of the greatest waterfowl breeding areas in North America.
    Doyon, Limited (Doyon) is an Alaska Native Regional Corporation 
established under ANCSA. Under the authority of ANCSA, Congress granted 
to Doyon land entitlements within an area that later became the Yukon 
Flats National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in 1980. Doyon has ownership 
interests in nearly 2 million acres within the boundaries of the 
Refuge, including the surface and subsurface estates of 1.15 million 
acres of land, and the subsurface estate of another 782,000 acres. An 
additional 56,500 acres remain to be allocated by Doyon to Village 
Corporations located in the Refuge; Doyon would own the subsurface to 
these lands. Doyon is owned by over 14,000 Alaska Natives (Native 
Americans) with ties to a large portion of interior Alaska. 
Approximately 1,300 people reside in nine communities in or near the 
Yukon Flats Refuge. Most residents are Alaska Natives and many are 
Doyon shareholders.
    Negotiators for Doyon and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska 
Region, have agreed in principle to exchange certain lands within the 
Refuge. Under the agreement, the United States (U.S.) would convey to 
Doyon the title to Refuge lands that may hold developable oil and gas 
resources. In exchange, Doyon would convey to the U.S. certain lands 
owned by Doyon within the Refuge boundary. These lands include wetlands 
previously identified by the Service as priority fish and wildlife 
habitats. In addition, both parties have agreed to exchange nearly six 
townships (132,000 acres each) to consolidate ownerships and facilitate 
land management within the Refuge. All lands acquired by the U.S. would 
be managed as part of the Yukon Flats Refuge. Activities on Doyon-owned 
lands are not subject to regulation by the Service.
    At the request of Doyon and the public, the Service has prepared a 
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to evaluate the effects of 
the exchange, in accordance with procedures for implementing the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370d).
    The DEIS evaluates a range of reasonable alternatives, including 
the following four alternatives:
    Proposed Action: Equal-value land exchange (based on fair market 
appraisals) as described in the Agreement in Principle (for the full 
text of the Agreement, see Appendix A of the DEIS or the project Web 
site at http://yukonflatseis.ensr.com/yukon_flats/documents_
). Under Phase I of this agreement, Doyon would receive about 

110,000 acres of Refuge lands with oil and gas potential and 97,000 
acres of oil and gas interests (no surface occupancy). In exchange, the 
U.S. would receive from Doyon a minimum of 150,000 acres with lowland 
fish and wildlife habitats. The actual amount of land received from 
Doyon would be more than 150,000 acres if appraisals (due in late 
spring 2008) indicate more lands are needed to equal the value of the 
Service lands. In addition, Doyon would reallocate 56,500 acres of its 
remaining land entitlement under Section 12(b) of ANCSA to areas 
outside the Refuge. Both parties would pursue additional township-level 
exchanges to consolidate ownerships. If Doyon were to produce oil or 
gas on lands acquired in the exchange, under Phase II of the Agreement 
the Service would receive a perpetual production payment equal to 1.25% 
of the value at the wellhead to be used to: (1) Purchase from Doyon up 
to 120,000 acres of additional lands or interests therein, within the 
Refuge, (2) purchase land or interests therein, from other willing 
sellers in other national wildlife refuges in Alaska, or to (3) 
construct facilities in Alaska Refuges.
    Alternative 1: Land exchange with non-development easements. The 
land exchange would proceed as described in Phase I under the Proposed 
Action above. In addition, at the time of the initial exchange, Doyon 
would donate to the U.S. non-development easements that preclude 
development on up to 120,000 acres of Doyon-owned lands. Rather than 
selling these lands to the U.S. in Phase II (as provided for in the 
Proposed Action), Doyon would donate the non-development easements 
whether or not oil and gas is produced from the exchange lands. If 
Doyon were to produce oil or gas on lands received in the exchange, the 
U.S. would receive a perpetual production payment of 0.25% of the 
resource value at the wellhead rather than 1.25% as provided under the 
Proposed Action.
    Alternative 2: Land exchange excluding White-Crazy Mountains. The 
Yukon Flats Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact 
Statement recommended Wilderness designation for a 658,000 acre area in 
the White-Crazy Mountains. Under the Proposed Action and Alternative 1, 
Doyon would receive title to about 26,500 acres of this land; under 
Alternative 2, these 26,500 acres would be excluded from the exchange. 
In Phase I of the exchange, Doyon would receive title to approximately 
83,500 acres of Refuge lands (surface and subsurface) and 105,000 acres 
of oil and gas interests. About 21,000 acres of the latter would be 
within the area

[[Page 4619]]

proposed for Wilderness designation. However, only off-site drilling 
would be allowed; there would be no surface occupancy by Doyon. From 
Doyon, the U.S. would receive title to a minimum of 115,000 acres, but 
the actual amount could be adjusted upward to equalize values. The land 
consolidation exchange and 12(b) reallocation provisions of Phase I 
would proceed as detailed in the Agreement in Principle. Phase II of 
the exchange would proceed as detailed in the Agreement, however 
Doyon's commitment to sell additional lands to the U.S. would be 
reduced from about 120,000 acres to about 81,000 acres. Potential 
access rights-of-way would cross the proposed White-Crazy Mountains 
Wilderness Area. If Doyon were to produce oil or gas on the lands 
received in the exchange, the Service would receive a perpetual 
production payment equal to 1.25% of the value at the wellhead.
    Alternative 3: No action (no exchange). The U.S. would not enter 
into a land exchange with Doyon.
    Doyon currently owns about 1.055 million acres of land with oil and 
gas potential inside the Refuge. Therefore, any alternative, including 
the ``no action'' alternative, could result in oil and/or gas 
development on Doyon-owned lands. If Doyon develops any of its lands, 
including those received through exchange, the resulting infrastructure 
could facilitate development on other private lands in the Refuge. The 
impacts of development on Doyon's current land holdings, with or 
without a land exchange, are analyzed as Cumulative Effects in the 
DEIS. In most cases, access to Doyon lands would cross federally-owned 
lands. In these cases, Doyon would be required to apply for a right-of-
way permit under Title XI of ANILCA. At that time, a separate NEPA 
process would evaluate various transportation/pipeline corridor 
alternatives as well as the proposed oil field development.
    During scoping, the Service identified a number of issues that are 
analyzed in detail in the DEIS. Most of the public scoping comments 
focused on the potential impacts of oil and gas development in the 
Yukon Flats rather than the land exchange itself. Therefore much of the 
DEIS focuses on development impacts. Specifically, the DEIS addresses 
how the proposed alternatives could affect fish and wildlife; wetlands 
and aquatic habitats; the physical environment (water quality and 
quantity, hydrology, air quality, climate); subsistence; cultural/
archaeological resources; socioeconomics; refuge purposes; biological 
integrity, diversity and environmental health; land use (including 
special designation areas, recreation, visual resources) and 
environmental justice (including human health).
    Section 810 of ANILCA requires the Service to evaluate the effects 
of the alternatives on subsistence activities and to hold public 
hearings if any alternative may significantly restrict subsistence 
activities. The Service analysis finds that the cumulative effects, 
considered in conjunction with the alternatives, meet the ``may 
significantly restrict'' threshold. Therefore, the Service will hold 
subsistence hearings in conjunction with the DEIS public hearings.
    Public availability of comments: Before including your address, 
phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information 
in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment-including 
your personal identifying information-may be made publicly available at 
any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your 
personal identifying information from public review, we cannot 
guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    Dated: January 17, 2008.
Thomas O. Melius,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
 [FR Doc. E8-1277 Filed 1-24-08; 8:45 am]