[Federal Register: August 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 156)]
[Page 46914-46915]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0213; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the Final Comprehensive Conservation 
Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces that a Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is available 
for distribution. This CCP was prepared pursuant to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and in accordance with 
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and describes how the 
refuge will be managed for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP/FONSI is available on compact diskette or 
hard copy, and you may obtain a copy by writing: Merritt Island 
National Wildlife Refuge (CCP), P.O. Box 2683, Titusville, Florida 
32781. You may also access and download a copy of the CCP/FONSI from 
the Service's Web site address: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Hight, Telephone: 321/861-0667.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With this notice, we finalize the CCP 
process for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge begun as announced 
in the Federal Register on August 26, 2002 (67 FR 54816). We released 
the Draft CCP/EA to the public, announcing and requesting comments for 
60 days in a notice of availability in the Federal Register on December 
27, 2006 (71 FR 77783).
    Purpose of the Refuge: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was 
established in 1963, to protect migratory birds through an agreement 
with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, as an overlay 
of John F. Kennedy Space Center. The over 140,000 acres of beaches and 
dunes, estuarine waters, forested and non-forested wetlands, impounded 
wetlands, and upland shrub lands and forests of the refuge support over 
500 wildlife species and over 1,000 plant species, including a variety 
of waterfowl, shorebirds, and neotropical migratory birds.
    Alternatives and Preferred Alternative: The Draft CCP/EA addressed 
several priority issues raised by the Service, the Florida Fish and 
Wildlife Conservation Commission, other governmental partners, and the 
public. These issues included the spread of exotic, invasive, and 
nuisance species; the threats to threatened, endangered, and other 
imperiled species; the threats and impacts of an ever-increasing human 
population and the associated demand for public use activities; the 
management/maintenance of impounded wetlands; the coordination between 
intergovernmental partners; and the decline in migratory birds and 
their habitats.

[[Page 46915]]

    To address these priority issues, four alternatives were developed 
and evaluated during the planning process.
    Alternative A continued current refuge management activities and 
programs. Under this alternative, the refuge would continue to maintain 
550 Florida scrub jay family groups across 15,000 acres, 11-13 nesting 
pairs of bald eagles, and 6.3 miles of sea turtle nesting beaches.
    Alternative B expanded refuge management actions on needs of 
threatened and endangered species. The refuge would aggressively manage 
for Florida scrub jays, restoring and maintaining 19,000-20,000 acres 
in optimal condition to support 900 family groups. Habitat management 
activities would support the number of nesting pairs of bald eagles to 
expand to 20, with increased protection of nest sites, development of 
artificial nesting platforms, and increased cultivation of future nest 
areas and nesting trees.
    Alternative C focused refuge management actions on the needs of 
migratory birds. Current management activities for threatened and 
endangered species would remain the same or would be decreased. The 
refuge would manage intensively for waterfowl, increasing the acres of 
impounded wetlands managed to over 16,000 acres and annually supporting 
targets of 250 breeding pairs of mottled duck, 60,000 lesser scaup, 
25,000 dabbling ducks, and 38,000 diving ducks. The refuge would also 
intensively manage for shorebirds, increasing to over 5,000 acres 
managed in impounded wetlands.
    Alternative D, the Service's preferred alternative, takes a more 
landscape view of the refuge and its resources, focusing refuge 
management on wildlife and habitat diversity. The refuge will support 
500-650 Florida scrub jay family groups with 350-500 territories in 
optimal conditions across 15,000-16,000 acres. With active management, 
the refuge will support 11-15 nesting pairs of bald eagles; maintain 
6.3 miles of sea turtle nesting beaches; and maintain 100 acres of 
habitat for the southeastern beach mouse, while the refuge population 
will serve as a source for reintroduction of the beach mouse to other 
sites. Manatee-focused management will be re-established on the refuge. 
The refuge will manage 15,000-16,000 acres in impounded wetlands with a 
waterfowl focus and will support targets of 250 breeding pairs of 
mottled ducks, 60,000 lesser scaup, 25,000 dabbling ducks, and 38,000 
other diving ducks. Visitor services, programs, and messages will be 
focused on wildlife and habitat diversity, while also including 
threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and climate change.
    The actions outlined in the CCP and in two included step-down plans 
provide direction and guidance for management of Merritt Island 
National Wildlife Refuge. Successful implementation will depend on 
coordination and partnerships between the public, the Service, and 
other governmental agencies.

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

    Dated: June 29, 2007.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
    Editorial Note: This document was received in the Office of the 
Federal Register on August 5, 2008.
 [FR Doc. E8-18411 Filed 8-11-08; 8:45 am]