[Federal Register: December 16, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 240)]
[Page 66672-66673]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2009-N186; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, 
Charleston, Beaufort, Colleton, and Hampton Counties, SC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment for Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge 
(ACE Basin NWR). In the final CCP, we describe how we will manage this 
refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Van 
Fischer, Refuge Planner, South Carolina Lowcountry Refuge Complex, 5801 
Highway 17 North, Awendaw, SC 29429. You may also access and download 
the document from the Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Van Fischer; telephone: 843/928-
3264; E-mail: van_fischer@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for ACE Basin NWR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
January 3, 2007 (72 FR 141). For more about the process, see that 
notice. ACE Basin NWR was established on September 20, 1990, and was 
renamed the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge on 
May 16, 2005. The refuge is a partner in the ACE Basin Task Force, a 
coalition consisting of the Service, the South Carolina Department of 
Natural Resources, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, The Low 
Country Open Land Trust, Mead Westvaco, and private landowners of the 
ACE Basin system. The refuge's two separate units (Edisto and Combahee) 
are further broken down into subunits, with the Edisto Unit containing 
the Barrelville, Grove, and Jehossee subunits; and the Combahee Unit 
containing the Bonny Hall, Combahee Fields, and Yemassee subunits. The 
refuge is divided into 9 management units or compartments, ranging in 
size from 350 to 3,355 acres. Compartment boundaries are established 
along geographic features that can be easily identified on the ground 
(i.e., rivers, roads, and trails).
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for ACE Basin 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 Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 
Assessment (Draft CCP/EA). The CCP will guide us in managing and 
administering ACE Basin

[[Page 66673]]

NWR for the next 15 years. Alternative C is the foundation for the CCP.
    The compatibility determinations for upland game hunting, fishing/
boating, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education 
and interpretation, bicycling, research, exotic and nuisance wildlife 
control, forest management--commercial timber harvest, and cooperative 
farming are also available in the CCP.


    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, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Administration 


    Approximately 120 copies of the Draft CCP/EA were made available 
for a 30-day public review period as announced in the Federal Register 
May 4, 2009 (74 FR 20495). Written comments were received from local 
citizens and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative C for implementation. Our primary focus under Alternative C 
will be to increase overall wildlife and habitat diversity. Although 
waterfowl will remain a focus of management, wetland habitat 
manipulations will also consider the needs of multiple species, such as 
marsh and wading birds. We will more actively manage upland forests and 
fields for neotropical migratory birds. Landscape level consideration 
of habitat management will include a diversity of open fields, upland 
and wetland forests, and additional wetlands. Upland loblolly pine 
plantations (e.g., relic industrial forests) will be heavily thinned to 
encourage multi-strata vegetation composition and hardwood 
interspersion. More xeric loblolly pine plantations will be converted 
to longleaf pine savannas and subjected to frequent growing season 
prescribed fires to favor warm season grasses and forbs and the 
potential reintroduction of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the ACE Basin 
Project Area. Multiple species consideration will include species and 
habitats identified by the South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative and 
the State's Strategic Conservation Plan.
    This alternative will expand our monitoring of migratory 
neotropical and breeding songbirds and other resident species. 
Monitoring efforts will be increased with the assistance of additional 
staff, trained volunteers, and academic researchers. Greater effort 
will be made to recruit academic researchers to the refuge to study and 
monitor refuge resources.
    Hunting and fishing will continue to be allowed on the refuge. 
However, hunting will be managed with a greater focus on achieving 
biological needs of the refuge, such as deer population management and 
feral hog elimination. Education and interpretation will continue, but 
with additional education and outreach efforts aimed at the importance 
of landscape ecology and diversity. A much broader effort will be made 
with outreach to nearby developing urban communities and a growing 
human population.
    The refuge will be staffed the same as the 2008 staffing model to 
enhance all refuge services and management programs. We will place 
greater emphasis on recruiting and training volunteers, and expanding 
worker-camper opportunities to facilitate maintenance programs and 
other refuge goals and objectives. We will actively seek funding for 
research needs. We will place greater emphasis on developing and 
maintaining active partnerships, including seeking grants to assist the 
refuge in reaching primary objectives.
    Alternative C is considered to be the most effective for meeting 
the purposes of the refuge by conserving, restoring, and managing the 
refuge's habitats and wildlife, while optimizing wildlife-dependent 
public uses. Alternative C will best achieve national, ecosystem, and 
refuge-specific goals and objectives and it positively addresses 
significant issues and concerns expressed by the public.

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

    Dated: September 30, 2009.
Jacquelyn B. Parrish,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E9-29869 Filed 12-15-09; 8:45 am]