[Federal Register: October 23, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 206)]
[Page 63190-63192]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-R-2008-N0068; 70133-1265-000-S3]

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, Tok, AK

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of the revised comprehensive 
conservation plan and finding of no significant impact for 
environmental assessment.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce the 
availability of our Revised

[[Page 63191]]

Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Finding of No Significant 
Impact (FONSI) for the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Tetlin 
National Wildlife Refuge (Tetlin Refuge). In this revised CCP, we 
describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the revised CCP and FONSI 
by any of the following methods. You may request a paper copy, a 
summary, or a CD-ROM containing both.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the documents at http://
    E-mail: fw7_tetlin_planning@fws.gov. Please include ``Tetlin 
Refuge Revised CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Mikel Haase, Planning Team Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 231, Anchorage, AK 99503-6199.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call (907) 786-3357 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at the USFWS Regional Office, 
1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503 or call (907) 883-5312 to make 
an appointment during regular business hours at Tetlin Refuge, Mile 
Post 1314 Alaska Highway, Tok, AK 99780.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mikel Haase, Planning Team Leader, 
(907) 786-3402 or fw7_tetlin_planning@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for the Tetlin 
Refuge. We started this process with a notice of intent in the Federal 
Register (69 FR 70704, Dec. 7, 2004) and a revised notice of intent in 
the Federal Register (71 FR 42116, July 25, 2006). We announced the 
availability of the draft CCP and EA, and requested comments in a 
notice of availability in the Federal Register (72 FR 56371, Oct. 3, 
    Tetlin Refuge is located northeast of the Alaska Range, adjacent to 
the U.S.-Canada border in the headwaters of the Tanana River. It is 
bordered by Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve to the south 
and Canada to the east. The Alaska Highway runs adjacent to its 
northeastern border. The Refuge lies within the Nabesna/Chisana River 
Basin, in the Upper Tanana Valley. The large, flat basin of the Upper 
Tanana River Valley is dominated by lakes, ponds, and wetland tundra. 
Most of the Refuge is rolling lowlands; however, the Mentasta Mountains 
in the refuge's southwest corner are rugged, glacier-carved peaks 
reaching elevations of 8,000 feet. The Refuge boundaries encompass over 
900,000 acres, of which about 700,000 acres are Federal lands. The 
landscape provides valuable habitat for a wide variety of fish and 
wildlife species. The Upper Tanana Valley, including Tetlin Refuge, is 
one of the most significant migratory bird corridors in the world as it 
is located along three major flyways. The extensive wetlands, rivers, 
ponds, and forests of the Refuge provide resting and breeding habitats 
for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
revised CCP for the Tetlin Refuge in accordance with National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We 
completed a thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment in 
the EA that accompanied the draft revised CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering the Tetlin 
Refuge for the next 15 years. The revised CCP is Alternative B, the 
preferred alternative in the draft CCP, developed in response to public 
scoping comments.


    The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (94 
Stat. 2371; ANILCA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement 
Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) require us to develop a CCP for 
each Alaska refuge. The purpose for 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. We will review and 
update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with national 
policy and ANILCA.
    ANILCA requires us is to designate areas according to their 
respective resources and values and to specify programs and uses within 
the areas designated. To meet this requirement, the Alaska Region 
established management categories for refuges including Wilderness, 
Minimal, Moderate, Intensive, and Wild River management. For each 
management category we identified appropriate activities, public uses, 
commercial uses, and facilities. Only the Minimal, Moderate, and 
Intensive management categories are applied to Tetlin Refuge.

Draft CCP Alternatives

    Our draft CCP and EA addressed five issues and evaluated three 
alternatives. The five significant issues raised during scoping were: 
(1) The visitor services role of Tetlin Refuge in the upper Tanana 
Valley; (2) refuge role in providing opportunities for access and 
associated facilities for existing and expanding wildlife-dependent 
uses of the Refuge; (3) management of fire on the Refuge to provide 
adequate protection of refuge resources and private property within and 
adjacent to the Refuge; (4) use of prescribed fire as a method of 
habitat management; and (5) use of fishery management actions to 
maintain native fish breeding stocks and enhance recreational fishing.
    Alternative A (the no-action alternative--a NEPA requirement) 
described what would happen with a continuation of current management 
activities and served as a baseline for comparison of other 
alternatives. Under Alternative A, management of the refuge would 
continue to follow the current course of action as described in the 
1987 Tetlin CCP and Record of Decision as modified by subsequent 
program-specific plans. Refuge lands would remain in their present 
management categories--about 564,300 acres (82.7 percent) in Minimal 
management, 116,600 acres (17.1 percent) in Moderate management, and 
1,700 acres (less than one percent) in Intensive management.
    Under our selected alternative, Alternative B, refuge lands would 
continue to be managed in their present management categories. New 
regional policies and guidelines for national wildlife refuges in 
Alaska would be incorporated. In addition to the actions included under 
Alternative A, the Refuge would work to gain ``Gateway Community'' 
status for Tok, promote opportunities for current and new public uses 
and facilities, continue to protect resources and property from fire, 
emphasizing the use of natural fire and a variety of fire management 
techniques, and native fisheries would be managed to maintain natural 
diversity. See below for additional details.
    Under Alternative C, no changes in land management classifications 
would occur. New regional policies and guidelines for national wildlife 
refuges in Alaska would be incorporated. In addition to actions under 
Alternatives A and B, this alternative would expand the refuge 
interpretive program and includes construction of additional 
interpretive facilities, hiking trails, boat launches, other recreation 
and access-related facilities, and public use cabins. It would also 
establish a fee system at some campgrounds to support additional 
amenities, and mark campsites and maintain portages on canoe routes. 
Fire suppression would be the primary tool to protect resources and 
property on the Refuge. Fisheries

[[Page 63192]]

management would be the same as under Alternative B.

Comments on the Draft CCP

    Comments on the draft CCP/EA for Tetlin Refuge were solicited by 
the Service from October 3, 2007, through January 18, 2008. During the 
public review and comment period the Service held public meetings in 
Fairbanks, Northway, Tanacross, Tetlin, and Tok. The planning team 
reviewed, analyzed, and summarized all comments received at the public 
meetings and in writing. We received a number of comments which 
supported plans for additional recreational opportunities and 
facilities, additional access to the Refuge, and that all-terrain 
vehicle use be restricted. Support was expressed for use of natural 
fire management regimes, restricted use of prescribed fire, and use of 
aggressive fire control only in or near intensive use areas and around 
private inholdings. Several comments were made regarding management of 
fish and wildlife populations-related specifically to invasive species, 
non-native species, predator control, and trophy fisheries.

Selected Alternative--Alternative B

    Under the selected alternative, refuge lands would remain in their 
present management categories--about 564,300 acres (82.7 percent) in 
Minimal management, 116,600 acres (17.1 percent) in Moderate 
management, and 1,700 acres (less than one percent) in Intensive 
management. Along with the actions described under Alternative A, the 
Refuge would pursue additional management actions under Alternative B. 
The Refuge would work with the local community to seek formal 
recognition of Tok as a ``Gateway Community'' and to increase 
opportunities for environmental education, interpretation, and 
recreation off-Refuge and in support of or in conjunction with refuge 
programs. Opportunities for current and new public use would be 
promoted (canoe routes established and public outreach would encourage 
use of administrative cabins); additional public use facilities would 
be constructed, upgraded, or established (additional hiking trails and 
primitive campsites at Seaton Roadhouse and sanitary facilities-in 
conjunction with the Alaska Department of Transportation--at highway 
pullouts). The Refuge would upgrade or establish additional access (to 
promote day-use near the Alaska Highway, to increase season of use at 
Lakeview and Deadman Lake campgrounds, and to provide additional 
backcountry opportunities); and additional signing (for interpretive 
pullouts and undeveloped trailheads and access points). There would 
continue to be no use of all-terrain vehicles authorized on the refuge.
    The Refuge would continue to protect resources and property using a 
variety of fire management techniques including prescribed burning, 
suppression, thinning, and wildland fire use. The use of natural fire 
would be emphasized with prescribed burns based only on specific 
project objectives (e.g. fuels reduction, habitat protection, or fire 
effects research) and suppression to reduce potential for large-scale 
wildfires and to maintain long-term ecological health of refuge lands. 
Natural fire would be the primary tool to maintain and enhance habitat. 
Native fisheries would be managed to maintain self-sustaining, healthy 
populations to contribute to the natural diversity in the Upper Tanana 
Valley; any new reintroduction plans will be based on historic 

    Dated: October 10, 2008.
Thomas O. Melius,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
[FR Doc. E8-25283 Filed 10-22-08; 8:45 am]