[Federal Register: June 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 120)]
[Page 35149-35150]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0103; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Polk and Highlands 
Counties, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and associated National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents for Lake Wales Ridge National 
Wildlife Refuge. We provide this notice in compliance with our CCP 
policy to advise other agencies, Tribes, and the public of our 
intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues to consider in the planning process.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by July 21, 2008. Special mailings, newspaper articles, and other media 
announcements will be used to inform the public and State and local 
government agencies of the opportunities for input throughout the 
planning process. A public scoping meeting will be held early in the 
CCP development process. The date, time, and place for the meeting will 
be announced in the local media.

ADDRESSES: Comments, questions, and requests for information should be 
sent to: Bill Miller, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 
6504, Titusville, FL 32782-6504; Fax: 321/861-1276; Electronic mail: 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Miller; Telephone: 561/715-0023.



    With this notice, we initiate our process for developing a CCP for 
Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Highlands and Polk 
Counties, Florida.
    This notice complies with our CCP policy to (1) advise other 
Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of our intention to 
conduct detailed planning on this refuge; and (2) obtain suggestions 
and information on the scope of issues to consider in the environmental 
document and during development of the CCP.


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 strategy 
for achieving refuge purposes and contributing to 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.
    Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established for 
specific purposes. We use these purposes as the foundation for 
developing and prioritizing the management goals and objectives for 
each refuge within the National Wildlife Refuge System mission, and to 
determine how the public can use each refuge. The planning process is a 
way for us and the public to evaluate management goals

[[Page 35150]]

and objectives for the best possible conservation approach to this 
important wildlife habitat, while providing for wildlife-dependent 
recreation opportunities that are compatible with the refuge's 
establishing purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge 
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for Tribal, 
State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the public. 
At this time we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, ideas, 
and suggestions for the future management of Lake Wales Ridge National 
Wildlife Refuge. Special mailings, newspaper articles, and other media 
outlets will be used to announce opportunities for input throughout the 
planning process.
    We will conduct the environmental assessment in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as 
amended (NEPA) (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 regulations.
    Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge is managed as a unit of 
the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Titusville, FL, 
which is about 100 miles away. Other refuges in the Complex include St. 
Johns, Pelican Island, Archie Carr, and Lake Woodruff.
    The refuge was established in 1993 for the protection of threatened 
and endangered plants and animals: `` * * * to conserve (A) fish or 
wildlife which are listed as endangered species * * * or (B) plants * * 
* '' (16 U.S.C. 1534, Endangered Species Act).
    The refuge is composed of four tracts totaling 1,857 
acres in Polk and Highlands Counties along the south central Florida 
ridge. In Florida geologic terms, the ridge is an ancient beach and 
sand dune system formed about 2.5 million years ago. Due to its age and 
historic geological isolation, many of the plants that inhabit ridge 
ecosystems are unique and found nowhere else in the world. The refuge 
contains prime examples of several highly imperiled ecosystems, 
including Florida scrub and sandhill, as well as over half of the 
federally listed plant species endemic to the Lake Wales Ridge. The 
refuge protects 22 federally listed plants, 40 endemic plants, at least 
4 listed animals, and more than 40 endemic invertebrates. Because of 
the potential for impacts to these plants and animals, the refuge has 
not been opened to the public.
    Each of the four tracts comprising the refuge has its own 
particular merits and value, as listed. The Carter Creek unit is an 
excellent example of endemic-rich Lake Wales Ridge sandhill, with nine 
listed plants; it contains one of only a dozen populations of Florida 
ziziphus, one of the rarest and most endangered plants in the State. 
The tracts making up the Flamingo Villas unit have 10 listed species 
and the only protected populations of Garrett's scrub balm, a woody 
mint known only from Highlands County. The Lake McLeod unit has 11 
listed plants and is the only protected site for scrub lupine, another 
extremely rare plant. The Snell Creek site contains one of the last 
remaining tracts of undisturbed sandhill in northern Polk County.
    Ridge ecosystems have been reduced by 85 percent from the 
originally estimated 80,000-acre extent due to development and land use 
changes. The refuge exists as part of a network of scrub preserves, 
owned by the State of Florida, The Nature Conservancy, Archbold 
Biological Station, and Polk and Highland Counties, with similar 
purposes to protect and manage what remains of this unique ridge 

Public Availability and 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.

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

    Dated: May 19, 2008.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-13927 Filed 6-19-08; 8:45 am]