[Federal Register: December 14, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 238)]
[Page 66148-66150]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2009-N210; 20131-1265-2CCP-S3]

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Cameron and Willacy 
Counties, TX

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
environmental assessment (EA) for the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife 
Refuge (Refuge, NWR) for public review and comment. In these documents, 
we describe alternatives, including our preferred alternative, to 
manage this Refuge for the 15 years following approval of the final 

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
February 12, 2010. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local 
news media.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    E-mail: mark_sprick@fws.gov. Include ``Laguna Atascosa Draft CCP 
and EA'' in the subject line of the e-mail.
    Fax: Attn: Mark Sprick, Natural Resource Planner, 505-248-6874.
    U.S. Mail: Mark Sprick, AICP, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish & 
Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
    In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments during regular 
business hours (8:00 am to 4:30 pm) at 500 Gold Avenue, SW., 4th Floor, 
Room 4005, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
    Internet/Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sonny Perez, Wildlife Refuge Manager, 
Laguna Atascosa NWR, CCP-Project, 22817 Ocelot Road, Los Fresnos, TX 
78566, or by phone at 956-748-3607, or

[[Page 66149]]

fax at 956-748-3609; or Mark Sprick, AICP, Natural Resource Planner, by 
phone at 505-248-7411.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Laguna Atascosa 
NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register 
July 19, 2004 (69 FR 43010).
    Laguna Atascosa NWR is located in Cameron and Willacy Counties, 
Texas, and encompasses 97,007 acres of brush lands, coastal prairies, 
freshwater and brackish pothole wetlands, estuarine wetlands, lomas 
(clay ridges), wind tidal flats, and barrier island beaches and dunes. 
Management efforts focus on protecting, enhancing, and restoring Refuge 
habitats and water management for the benefit of important fish and 
wildlife resources. The Refuge is a premiere birdwatching destination 
with 415 recorded bird species, more than any other national wildlife 
refuge. A total of nine federally listed endangered or threatened 
species occur within the Refuge, including four species of sea turtles. 
The largest United States population of endangered ocelot cats is 
located on the Refuge, making it the center for ocelot conservation and 
    Laguna Atascosa NWR was formally established by the Migratory Bird 
Commission on October 31, 1945, and the first tract forming the Refuge 
was acquired on March 29, 1946. The purposes of the Refuge are: ``[F]or 
use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for 
migratory birds'' (Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (16 U.S.C. 
715d), as amended); ``for wildlife conservation purposes if the real 
property has particular value in carrying out the national migratory 
bird management program'' (Transfer of Certain Real Property for 
Wildlife Conservation Purposes Act of 1948 (16 U.S.C. 667b-667d), 
Public Law 80-537, as amended); ``for the development, advancement, 
management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife 
resources'' (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742(a)(4), as 
amended); and ``for the benefit of the United States Fish and Wildlife 
Service, in performing its activities and services. Such acceptance may 
be subject to the terms of any restrictive or affirmative covenant, or 
condition of servitude'' (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 
742(b)(1), as amended).


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Administration Act), as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 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 and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Administration 

Public Outreach

    To begin the CCP process, we opened a 60-day comment period on July 
19, 2004 (69 FR 43010). We made draft documents and other relevant 
information available for public review at the Refuge headquarters. In 
February and June 2004, we held internal preplanning meetings at the 
Refuge to discuss concerns, issues, and opportunities for the future of 
the Refuge. We held four ``open-house'' public scoping meetings between 
February 28 and March 8, 2005, at Raymondville, Brownsville, Harlingen, 
and South Padre Island to solicit initial public input and involvement 
during the early stages of CCP development. We also invited the Texas 
Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to participate as a partner in the 
planning process. We have considered and evaluated all of these 
comments received, and have incorporated many of them into the various 
alternatives we addressed in the draft CCP and the EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
this draft CCP, we, other governmental partners, Tribes, and the public 
raised several issues. Our draft CCP addresses them. A full description 
of each alternative is in the EA. To address these issues, we developed 
and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized below.

                                         B: Proposed       C: Optimize
                      A: No-action         action          public-use
                      alternative        alternative       alternative
Issue 1: Habitat   Biological         Integrated        Same as No-
 Management         program and        biological and    Action
 Activities.        habitat            habitat           Alternative
                    management would   management        (Alternative
                    continue under     efforts with      A).
                    existing plans;    landscape level
                    any expansions     and ecosystem
                    would occur        level plans;
                    opportunisticall   emphasis on
                    y.                 protection and
                                       monitoring of
                                       Federal trust
                                       species and
                                       species and
                                       their habitats.
Issue 2:           Limited to         Improvement of    Expand and
 Improvements to    current public     priority public   emphasize all
 public use         use under          uses,             priority public
 opportunities.     existing plans;    particularly      uses,
                    Any expansions     hunting,          particularly
                    would occur        fishing and       hunting and
                    opportunisticall   wildlife          fishing and
                    y.                 observation, to   access to all
                                       meet demand       Refuge areas to
                                       when compatible   the maximum
                                       with wildlife     extent when
                                       needs and         compatible,
                                       Refuge            based on public
                                       purposes;         comments.
                                       expansion of
                                       efforts and

[[Page 66150]]

Issue 3:           Existing staffing  Addition of 11    Base funding and
 Staffing,          (17 permanent      staff to          staffing would
 Facilities, and    positions) and     existing base;    increase by 4
 Infrastructure.    facilities; any    addition of       positions
                    additional staff   over 6 miles of   (Outdoor
                    and facility       hike/bike         Recreation
                    expansions would   trails; one       Planner and 3
                    occur              auto tour         Park Rangers);
                    opportunisticall   route; 2          several
                    y.                 separate          additional
                                       parking areas;    miles of auto
                                       new visitor       tour routes, 7
                                       center at         hike/bike
                                       Laguna Atascosa   trails and
                                       Unit. Visitor     associated
                                       contact and       parking areas;
                                       research          visitor contact
                                       station at        station; all
                                       Bahia Grande.     primarily at
                                                         Bahia Grande.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     At the Laguna Atascosa NWR Headquarters Office, 22817 
Ocelot Road, Los Fresnos, TX 78566, 18 miles east of Rio Hondo, on 
Farm-to-Market Road 106, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., 
Monday through Friday.
     On our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/
     At the following public libraries:

            Library                     Address           Phone number
City of Brownsville Public      2600 Central Blvd.,         956-548-1055
 Library.                        Brownsville, TX 78520-
Harlingen Public Library......  410 '76 Drive,              956-427-8841
                                 Harlingen, TX 78550.
Laguna Vista Public Library...  1300 Palm Blvd.,            956-943-7155
                                 Laguna Vista, TX
Los Fresnos Public Library....  402 W. Ocean, Los           956-233-5330
                                 Fresnos, TX 78566.
Port Isabel Public Library....  213 Yturria St., Port       956-943-2265
                                 Isabel, TX 78578.
Willacy County/Reber Memorial   190 N. 4th. St.,            956-689-2930
 Library.                        Raymondville, TX
Rio Hondo Public Library......  121 N. Arroyo Blvd.,        956-748-3322
                                 Rio Hondo, TX 78583.
San Benito Public Library.....  101 W. Rose St., San        956-361-3860
                                 Benito, TX 78586.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document;
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the EA;
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the EA.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP.

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.

    Dated: November 4, 2009.
Brian A. Millsap,
Acting Regional Director, Region 2.
[FR Doc. E9-29637 Filed 12-11-09; 8:45 am]