[Federal Register: December 14, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 238)]
[Page 66147-66148]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2009-N206; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge, Brevard County, FL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and associated National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents for St. Johns National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR). We provide this notice in compliance with our 
CCP policy to advise other Federal agencies, State agencies, Tribes, 
and the public of our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues to consider in the planning process.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by January 13, 2010.
    Special mailings, newspaper articles, and other media announcements 
will be used to inform the public and State and local government 
agencies of the opportunities for input throughout the planning 
process. A public scoping meeting will be held early in the CCP 
development process. The date, time, and place for the meeting will be 
announced in the local media and on the refuge's Internet web site as 
follows: http://www.fws.gov/merrittisland/subrefuges/SJ.html.

ADDRESSES: Send comments, questions, and requests for more information 
to: Mr. Bill Miller, Wildlife Biologist, St. Johns NWR CCP, Merritt 
Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 2683, Titusville, FL 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Bill Miller; telephone: 561/715-
0023; fax: 321/861-1276; E-mail: St.JohnsCCP@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we initiate our process for developing a CCP for 
St. Johns NWR in Brevard County, Florida. This notice complies with our 
CCP policy to (1) Advise other Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and 
the public of our intention to conduct detailed planning on this 
refuge; and (2) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of 
issues to consider in the environmental document and during development 
of the CCP.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), 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 strategy for achieving refuge purposes and 
contributing to 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 Administration Act.
    Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established for 
specific purposes. We use these purposes as the foundation for 
developing and prioritizing the management goals and objectives for 
each refuge within the National Wildlife Refuge System, and to 
determine how the public can use each refuge. The planning process is a 
way for us and the public to evaluate management goals and objectives 
for the best possible conservation approach to this important wildlife 
habitat, while providing for wildlife-dependent recreation 
opportunities that are compatible with the refuge's establishing 
purposes and the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for Tribal, 
State, and local governments; other agencies; organizations; and the 
public. At this time we encourage input in the form of issues, 
concerns, ideas, and suggestions for the future management of St. Johns 
NWR. The refuge's Web site,

[[Page 66148]]

special mailings, newspaper articles, and other media outlets will be 
used to announce opportunities for input throughout the planning 
    We will conduct the environmental assessment in accordance with the 
requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1968, as 
amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA regulations (40 CFR parts 
1500-1508); other appropriate Federal laws and regulations; and our 
policies and procedures for compliance with those laws and regulations.
    St. Johns NWR, in Brevard County, Florida, is managed as a unit of 
the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Other refuges in 
the Complex include Merritt Island, Lake Wales Ridge, Pelican Island, 
Archie Carr, and Lake Woodruff. The refuge has two main management 
units: State Road 50 and Bee Line.
    The refuge was established in 1971 to provide protection for 
threatened and endangered species and native diversity. The primary 
purpose is to ``conserve fish or wildlife which are listed as 
endangered species or threatened species * * * (or) plants * * *'' (16 
U.S.C. 1534, Endangered Species Act). A secondary purpose provides for 
native species diversity and applies to specific refuge tracts for the 
``conservation, management, and restoration of the fish, wildlife, and 
plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and 
future generations of Americans'' (16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)(2), National 
Wildlife Refuge Administration Act).
    St. Johns NWR was originally envisioned to provide habitat for 
threatened and endangered species, specifically for the conservation of 
the dusky seaside sparrow, first discovered in 1872. Historic flood 
control projects, including channelization and interbasin diversions, 
helped drain wetlands for development purposes throughout Florida. 
These actions significantly altered dusky seaside sparrow habitat 
throughout the State. In 1967, the dusky seaside sparrow was listed as 
endangered by the Department of the Interior and by 1979, surveys 
determined that it had declined to 20 individual males. The last known 
sighting of this species in the wild was 1980. Despite our efforts to 
protect and recover the species through regulations, land acquisition, 
and land management efforts specifically targeting the needs of the 
dusky seaside sparrow, the species never recovered and was declared 
extinct in December 1990.
    St. Johns NWR was named for and is part of the southern headwaters 
of the St. Johns River--a river system that runs south to north, 
eventually flowing into the Atlantic Ocean in northeastern Florida. The 
refuge is connected through surface and groundwater to the 310-mile-
long St. Johns River and plays an important role in the river's health 
and integrity. Over time, the refuge's hydrologic setting has been 
altered through various dredge and fill activities both on the refuge 
(prior to refuge establishment) and off (prior to and after refuge 
establishment), which today poses considerable management challenges. 
Off-refuge hydrologic inputs are conveyed from the residentially 
developed areas surrounding the refuge through channelization and may 
lead to an overall decrease in refuge water quality. In addition, off-
site inputs may alter water quantity, timing, and flows, thus impacting 
wetland composition and value for the benefit of fish and wildlife. 
Flood protection provided by existing channels and levees continues to 
be a valued commodity and is continually in demand as lands surrounding 
the refuge are converted to residential and commercial settings.
    Today, the 6,194-acre St. Johns NWR is home to at least 20 Federal- 
and State-listed species, including the federally listed wood stork, 
crested caracara, eastern indigo snake, and American alligator. It is 
managed to benefit a diversity of species and a wide array of wetland 
habitats, including spartina marsh, the predominant habitat type found 
on the refuge. Its wetland marshes provide valuable resources for 
marshland species, including black rail and other secretive marsh 
birds. Refuge marshlands are managed primarily through the application 
of prescribed fire to maintain mosaics of marsh habitat.

Public Availability and Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, and/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: October 30, 2009.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E9-29639 Filed 12-11-09; 8:45 am]