[Federal Register: November 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 226)]
[Page 70669]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 70669]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0231, 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Shell Keys National Wildlife Refuge, Iberia Parish, LA

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: final comprehensive conservation plan 
and finding of no significant impact.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Shell Keys National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In the final CCP, we describe how we will manage 
this refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP may be obtained by writing to: Southwest 
Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 1428 Highway 27, Bell City, 
LA 70630. The CCP may also be accessed and downloaded from the 
Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Terry Delaine; Telephone: 337/762-
3816; Fax: 337/762-3780; E-mail: terry_delaine@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Shell Keys NWR. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
June 27, 2007 (72 FR 35255).
    Shell Keys NWR, in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, is part of the 
Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Complex), which 
also includes the Cameron Prairie, Lacassine, and Sabine Refuges. The 
8-acre refuge is located in the offshore waters of the Louisiana Gulf 
Coast, west of the Atchafalaya River Delta and south of the Louisiana 
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Marsh Island Refuge. Shell Keys 
NWR was established on August 17, 1907, by Executive Order 682, to 
serve ``* * * as a reserve and breeding ground for native birds.'' The 
refuge is located within the Service's Lower Mississippi River 
Ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Shell Keys NWR 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 NWR is a small group of islands that is subject to shell 
deposits and erosion, so the actual acreage above mean high water may 
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. 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 restricted due to its remoteness and sole 
accessibility by boat.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Shell Keys NWR in accordance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We completed a 
thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, which we 
included in the Draft CCP/EA. The CCP will guide us in managing and 
administering Shell Keys NWR for the next 15 years. Alternative C is 
the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for wildlife observation and 
photography and recreational fishing are also available within the CCP.


    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 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. 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.


    Approximately 160 copies of the Draft CCP/EA were made available 
for a 30-day public review period as announced in the Federal Register 
on June 14, 2008 (73 FR 33848). Seven comments on the Draft CCP/EA were 
received. The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated three alternatives 
for managing the refuge over a 15-year period.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received and based on the 
professional judgment of the planning team, we selected Alternative C 
for implementation.
    Alternative C will look into the feasibility of implementing large-
scale habitat restoration efforts in cooperation with partners. We will 
enter into a new cooperative agreement with the Louisiana Department of 
Wildlife and Fisheries' 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 will be performed to determine the 
costs associated with rebuilding and re-establishing the shell islands, 
or portions of the islands. Restoration efforts will adapt to changing 
conditions as practices and techniques are assessed. The refuge will be 
open to recreational fishing and wildlife observation and photography. 
Because the refuge is remote and few guests actually visit the islands, 
outreach will center around providing information in combination with 
the Complex and on Web pages.

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

    Dated: October 6, 2008.
Sam D. Hamilton,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-27706 Filed 11-20-08; 8:45 am]