[Federal Register: August 27, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 165)]
[Page 43716-43718]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2009-N124; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Central Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for the Central Arkansas 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Complex), consisting of Bald Knob, 
Big Lake, Cache River, and Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuges, for 
public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we describe the 
alternative we propose to use to manage this complex for the 15 years 
following approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by September 28, 2009.
    A meeting will be held to present the Draft CCP/EA to the public; 
mailings, newspaper articles, and posters will be the avenues to inform 
the public of the date and time for the meeting.

ADDRESSES: Send comments, questions, and requests for information to: 
Mr. William R. Smith, Central Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex, 26320 Highway 33 South, Augusta, AR 72006. The Draft CCP/EA is 
available on compact disk or in hard copy. The Draft CCP/EA may also be 
accessed and downloaded from the Service's Internet Site: http://

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. William R. Smith; telephone: 870/
347-2074; e-mail: william_r_smith@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Bald Knob, Big 
Lake, Cache River, and Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuges. We started 
this process through a notice in the Federal Register on January 3, 
2007 (72 FR 142).


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

[[Page 43717]]

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 strategy 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.
    Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge (Bald Knob NWR) is near the town 
of Bald Knob in White County, Arkansas, and was established in 1993 to 
protect and provide feeding and resting areas for migrating waterfowl. 
Bald Knob NWR, totaling 16,100 acres of forested wetlands, moist-soil 
impoundments, and croplands, hosts one of the largest populations of 
wintering pintails in the State. The refuge is a crucial staging area 
for pintails migrating to the coastal areas of Louisiana and eastern 
    Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Big Lake NWR) is near the town 
of Manila in Mississippi County, Arkansas, and was established in 1915 
by Executive Order of President Woodrow Wilson, to serve as a reserve 
and breeding ground for native birds. Big Lake NWR encompasses 11,038 
acres of lake and swamp habitats, including 2,144 acres designated as 
Wilderness. Big Lake NWR provides important migratory bird habitat and 
is designated as a ``National Natural Landmark Area.'' The American 
Bird Conservancy also has listed the refuge as a ``Globally Important 
Bird Area.''
    Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (Cache River NWR) is near the 
towns of Augusta and Brinkley, Arkansas, and was established in 1986 to 
provide critical wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory 
and resident wildlife species. Although the land acquisition boundary 
is approved for 185,574 acres, Cache River NWR presently encompasses 
66,350 acres situated within Jackson, Monroe, Prairie, and Woodruff 
Counties. Cache River NWR is noted as part of the most important 
wintering habitat for mallards in North America.
    Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge (Wapanocca NWR) is 20 miles 
northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, and near the town of Turrell in 
Crittendon County, Arkansas. Wapanocca NWR was established in 1961 to 
provide a wintering area for migratory waterfowl, and presently 
encompasses 5,620 acres of agricultural land, grassland, bottomland 
hardwood forest, and flooded cypress/willow swamp. Wapanocca NWR is 
important as a nesting area for resident wood ducks and provides 
significant habitat along the Mississippi River that is heavily used by 
migrating and wintering waterfowl. The American Bird Conservancy has 
listed the refuge as a ``Continentally Important Bird Area.''
    Significant issues identified in the Draft CCP/EA include: (1) 
Management of waterfowl, other migratory birds, and other native 
wildlife species; (2) bottomland hardwood reforestation and management; 
(3) management of moist-soil impoundments and croplands; (4) water 
quality; (5) invasive species management; (6) land acquisition; and (7) 
visitor services (e.g., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, 
wildlife photography, environmental education and interpretation, 
access, and facilities).

CCP Alternatives, Including our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuges within the 
Complex and chose Alternative C as our proposed alternative. A full 
description is in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each below.

Alternative A--Maintain Current Management (No Action)

    Under Alternative A, we would continue current management of each 
refuge within the Complex. We would continue to restore, protect, and 
manage bottomland hardwood forests, wetlands, cropland units, moist-
soil units, open-water areas, grassland/scrub-shrub areas, and the Big 
Lake NWR Wilderness. Management activities would continue to focus on 
afforestation and reforestation, restoration of wetlands, invasive 
plant and nuisance animal management, cooperative farming, inventorying 
and monitoring, and priority public uses (e.g., hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation). We would seek to acquire land from willing sellers 
within the approved acquisition boundaries.

Alternative B--Minimal Management Alternative

    Under Alternative B, we would undertake minimal wildlife, habitat, 
and infrastructure management. Under this ``let nature take its 
course'' alternative, there would be no more active reforestation 
efforts; no moist-soil impoundments and croplands; and no more road, 
beaver dam, or invasive species management and maintenance programs. We 
would let natural succession proceed unchecked, and provide for 
development of early stage or successional forest habitat on abandoned 
lands, with no silvicultural treatments in existing forest stands being 
conducted. We would implement a custodial or passive stewardship 
approach to management and would monitor natural succession and 
wildlife populations over time. Both quality and quantity of habitats 
for wildlife would be expected to decline, along with wildlife use of 
these habitats. There would likely be reduced associated public use, 
because roadways and facilities would not be maintained and the quality 
of visitor services would diminish. There would be no change in the 
acreage or amount of waterfowl sanctuaries. We would seek to acquire 
land from willing sellers within the approved acquisition boundaries.

Alternative C--Enhanced Habitat Management and Public Use Programs 
(Proposed Alternative)

    By implementing the proposed alternative, we would actively expand 
and improve habitat management and public use programs. We would 
intensify and enhance forest, moist-soil, scrub-shrub, grassland, and 
aquatic management programs in order to increase benefits for 
waterfowl, shorebirds, water birds, other migratory birds, and other 
species of native wildlife. We would expand wetlands and forest 
restoration projects. We would increase invasive plant and animal 
control projects. A full range of inventorying, monitoring, and 
research programs would be developed and implemented to enable adaptive 
management. We would continue habitat conservation and restoration 
projects. We would expand our land acquisition projects by working with 
willing sellers. We would also pursue boundary expansions. As part of a 
comprehensive visitor services program, we would improve environmental 
education and interpretation programs. Opportunities for hunting, 
fishing, and wildlife observation would be expanded, and law 
enforcement coverage would be increased for more effective protection 
of resources and visitors. We would recruit additional staff, acquire 
additional equipment, and improve facilities to enable

[[Page 43718]]

implementation of these projects and programs.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them.

Public Availability of 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.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

    Dated: June 25, 2009.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E9-20665 Filed 8-26-09; 8:45 am]