[Federal Register: June 13, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 115)]
[Page 33848-33849]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0090; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Iberia Parish, LA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Shell Keys National 
Wildlife Refuge for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we 
describe the alternatives, including our proposed action, to manage 
this refuge for the 15 years following approval of the Final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by July 14, 2008.

ADDRESSES: To provide written comments or to obtain a copy of the Draft 
CCP/EA, please contact Tina Chouinard, Refuge Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 6772 Highway 76 South, Stanton, TN 38069. The Draft 
CCP/EA may also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's Internet 
site: http://www.fws/southeast/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tina Chouinard; Telephone: 731/780-
8208; Fax: 731/772-7839; e-mail: tina_chouinard@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Shell Keys 
National Wildlife Refuge. We started this process through a notice in 
the Federal Register on June 27, 2007 (72 FR 35255).
    Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Southwest 
Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes the 
Cameron Prairie, Lacassine, and Sabine National Wildlife Refuges. Shell 
Keys Refuge's eight acres are in the offshore waters of the Louisiana 
Gulf Coast to the west of the Atchafalaya River Delta, and south of the 
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Marsh Island Refuge, in 
Iberia Parish, Louisiana. Shell Keys Refuge is within the Lower 
Mississippi River Ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico.
    President Taft established Shell Keys Refuge on August 17, 1907, by 
Executive Order 682, to serve ``* * * as a reserve and breeding ground 
for native birds.''
    Shell Keys Refuge is one of the oldest refuges in the National 
Wildlife Refuge System. Its boundary was and still is rather loosely 
described as ``* * *a small group of unsurveyed islets located in the 
Gulf of Mexico about three and one-half miles south of Marsh Island, 
Louisiana, and approximately in latitude 29 degrees 26 minutes north, 
longitude 91 degrees 51 minutes west from Greenwich.* * *'' The 
boundary of the refuge has been interpreted to be those areas in this 
vicinity that are above mean high tide.
    Shell Keys Refuge is a small group of islands that is subject to 
shell deposits and erosion, so the actual acreage above mean high water 
may, of course, be different at this time. How these islands change and 
move may affect ownership of that area lying above mean high water. 
Under certain circumstances, accreted areas above mean high water may 
belong to the State of Louisiana.
    For a number of years, there has been only one islet at this 
location. This islet is composed almost entirely of shell fragments. It 
is extremely dynamic and builds or recedes with passing storms. 
Vegetation is almost entirely lacking. Species known to nest here 
include royal terns, sandwich terns, black skimmers, and laughing 
gulls. In addition, the islet is used at various times as a loafing 
area by white pelicans, brown pelicans, and various other species of 
terns and gulls. Recent hurricanes and storms have eroded the island to 
such an extent that no known nesting has occurred since 1992.
    Public access to the refuge is limited due to its remoteness and 
the fact that it is accessible only by boat.

[[Page 33849]]

    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: Colonial 
nesting birds; endangered species; shorebirds; habitat restoration 
feasibility; cooperative management agreement with Louisiana Department 
of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF); law enforcement issues; visitor 
services (e.g., fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation); and cultural resource 


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Improvement Act), which amended the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose in 
developing a CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for 
achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal mandates, and our 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will 
review and update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the Improvement Act.

CCP Actions We Are Considering, Including Proposed Action

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
Alternative C as the proposed alternative. A full description of each 
alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative 

Alternative A: Current Management (No Action)

    This is the ``status quo'' alternative in which current habitat, 
wildlife, and public use management would continue with no changes. On 
an annual basis, monitoring and trip report status are conducted. 
Periodically during winter migratory bird surveys, fly-over surveys are 
conducted to determine if the island is emergent. A cooperative law 
enforcement agreement will remain in effect with LDWF.

Alternative B: Custodial Cooperative Management

    Under Alternative B, nature would be allowed to take its course 
regarding the future of the islands, with no restoration activities 
accomplished. If the islands fail to rebuild and continue to erode, 
areas available to birds may diminish. With the land area diminishing, 
the island would continue to support a reducing population of colonial 
nesting birds. Working with LDWF, routine and additional patrols would 
be provided in coordination with refuge law enforcement officers. 
Through the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 
interpretation would concentrate on the history of the formation and 
subsequent changes and erosion of the shell key shoal/island and reef 
complex habitat. Alternative B would open the refuge for public use by 
offering limited fishing and wildlife observation and photography.

Alternative C: Large-Scale Habitat Restoration and Cooperative 
Management Approach (Proposed Alternative)

    Under Alternative C, our proposed alternative for Shell Keys 
Refuge, we would explore implementing large-scale restoration efforts 
in cooperation with partners. We would enter into a new cooperative 
agreement with the LDWF Fur and Refuge Division, focusing on natural 
resource monitoring and restoration as appropriate. Partners are 
necessary to supply expertise and funding for the daunting task of 
restoration. Feasibility studies would be performed to determine the 
costs associated with rebuilding and re-establishing the Shell Islands, 
or portions of the islands. Restoration efforts would adapt to changing 
conditions as practices and techniques are assessed. The refuge would 
be open to recreational fishing and wildlife observation and 
photography. Because the refuge is remote and few guests actually visit 
the islands, outreach would center around providing information in 
combination with the Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex and on Internet web pages.

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.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends for the Draft CCP/EA, we will analyze 
the comments and address them in the form of a Final CCP and Finding of 
No Significant Impact.

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

    Dated: May 5, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-13313 Filed 6-12-08; 8:45 am]