[Federal Register: January 7, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 4)]
[Page 1228-1229]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Vieques, PR

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: Record of decision.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the decision and 
availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Vieques National 
Wildlife Refuge Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We completed a thorough analysis 
of the environmental, social, and economic considerations and presented 
it in the Final CCP/EIS. The availability of the Final CCP/EIS was 
announced in the Federal Register on August 22, 2007. The ROD documents 
our decision to adopt and implement Alternative C.

DATES: The Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast 
Region, signed the ROD on October 24, 2007.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the ROD may be obtained from Mr. Matthew Connolly, 
Refuge Manager, Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Vieques Office Park, 
Road 200, KM 0.04, Vieques, PR 00765, or you may call Mr. Connolly at 
787/741-2138. The Final CCP/EIS and a copy of the ROD are available for 
viewing and downloading at the Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Matthew Connolly, Refuge Manager, 
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, at the address in the ADDRESSES 



    With this notice, we complete the CCP process for Vieques National 
Wildlife Refuge, begun as announced in the Federal Register on 
September 3, 2003 (68 FR 52418). We released the Draft CCP/EIS to the 
public for a 60-day review and comment period on February 28, 2007 (72 
FR 9018). We announced the availability of the Final CCP/EIS on August 
22, 2007 (72 FR 47063).
    Vieques National Wildlife Refuge was created from former Navy 
managed lands by congressional actions in 2001 and 2003. It consists of 
approximately 17,771 acres--3,100 acres on western Vieques and 14,671 
acres on eastern Vieques. The transferred lands are to be managed in 
accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act 
(as amended).
    The refuge lands were historically used for agricultural purposes 
and more recently for military training activities. As a result, the 
wildlife habitats and communities are significantly altered and non-
native invasive species are common along with remnants of native 
habitats. As a result of the military training, portions of the refuge 
contain unexploded ordnance and other contaminants. These areas have 
been classified as a ``superfund site'' under the Comprehensive 
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). 
Cleanup of these portions of the refuge is being conducted by the Navy 
in accordance with CERCLA. In addition, a Federal Facilities Agreement 
between the Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will help to guide the cleanup 
    In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 
CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements, this notice announces our decision and the 
availability of the ROD for the Final CCP/EIS. We completed a thorough 
analysis of the environmental, social, and economic considerations, 
which we included in the Final CCP/EIS. The ROD documents our selection 
of Alternative C, the preferred alternative.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Vieques 
National Wildlife Refuge for the next 15 years. Alternative C is the 
foundation for 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 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 to 
conserve 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 and NEPA.

CCP Alternatives and Selected Alternative

    Our Draft CCP and NEPA document addressed several priority issues 
raised by us, other governmental partners, and the public. To address 
these priority issues, we developed and evaluated three alternatives 
during the planning process. Alternative A would have provided for a 
continuation of the existing level of management. Alternative B would 
have focused on

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wildlife and habitat management but maintained the existing visitor 
programs and public uses. After considering the comments we received, 
we have chosen Alternative C. This alternative will direct the refuge 
toward a realistic and achievable level of both habitat management and 
public use, and will provide a management program to address the needs 
of the resources and, where appropriate and compatible with the refuge 
purposes, the needs of the community. This alternative will provide for 
increases in management efforts to restore the refuge habitats without 
diminishing the wildlife values associated with the current conditions. 
There will also be a focus on management activities to benefit 
threatened and endangered species. This alternative will best achieve 
the purposes and goals of the refuge, as well as the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System. Included in the Final CCP/EIS are the 
goals, objectives, and strategies under each alternative, mitigation 
measures incorporated in each alternative, and a listing of the 
approved compatibility determinations.
    Alternative C incorporates several components addressing a variety 
of needs, including providing emergency access to the area of Puerto 
Ferro during hurricane watches and warnings; continuing to work with 
the Navy, Environmental Protection Agency, Puerto Rico Environmental 
Quality Board, and the community to ensure that cleanup of contaminants 
and unexploded ordnance from former military activities is completed; 
developing fire suppression capabilities and agreements to ensure that 
refuge resources and the adjacent communities are protected; managing 
the former ``Live Impact Area'' as a wilderness in accordance with the 
legislation that established the refuge; seeking agreements with 
Commonwealth agencies and non-governmental organizations to ensure 
conservation of historic and archaeological sites; and removing unused 
former Navy structures to provide a refuge atmosphere.

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

    Dated: December 3, 2007.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E8-5 Filed 1-4-08; 8:45 am]