[Federal Register: May 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 101)]
[Page 29582-29583]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-R-2010-N082; 70133-1265-0000-U4]

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks, AK

AGENCY: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: record of decision.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the record of decision (ROD) for the final 
environmental impact statement (EIS) for a Proposed Land Exchange in 
the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge (NWR, Refuge). We completed a 
thorough analysis of the environmental, social, and economic 
considerations and presented it in our final EIS, which we released to 
the public on March 12, 2010.

DATES: The Regional Director of the Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, signed the ROD on April 21, 2010.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the ROD/final EIS on paper 
or CD-ROM by any of the following methods:
    Web Site: Download a copy of the document(s) at http://
    E-mail: yukonflats_planning@fws.gov. Include ``Yukon Flats ROD'' 
in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Laura Greffenius, EIS Project Coordinator, (907) 786-
    Mail: Laura Greffenius, EIS Project Coordinator, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Road, MS-231, Anchorage, AK 99503.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call Laura Greffenius, EIS Project 
Coordinator at (907) 786-3872 to make an appointment during regular 
business hours at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1011 East Tudor Rd., 
MS-231, Anchorage, AK 99503.

Coordinator, phone (907) 786-3872.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: With this notice, we finalize the EIS 
process for a Proposed Land Exchange in the Yukon Flats NWR. In 
accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 
1506.6(b)) requirements, this notice announces the availability of the 
ROD for the final EIS for a Proposed Land Exchange in the Yukon Flats 
NWR. We completed a thorough analysis of the environmental, social, and 
economic considerations, which we included in the final EIS. The ROD 
documents our selection of the No Land Exchange Alternative (No Action 
Alternative), the Service's preferred alternative in the final EIS. 
Under this alternative the Service would not exchange land with Doyon, 
Limited (Doyon). The No Land Exchange Alternative, as we described in 
the final EIS/ROD, is the decision to continue to manage lands within 
the Refuge as they currently are.

Background Information

    The Final EIS analyzes the potential direct, indirect, and 
cumulative impacts associated with the Service's proposed ``Agreement 
in Principle'' (Agreement) between the Service and Doyon to exchange 
and acquire lands within the Refuge. Under the terms of the Agreement, 
the proposed land exchange involved 110,000 acres of Refuge lands that 
may hold developable oil and gas reserves, and oil and gas rights to an 
adjacent 97,000 acres of Refuge lands. Under the Proposed Action, the 
Refuge would have received a minimum of 150,000 acres of Doyon lands 
within the Refuge boundaries, and Doyon would have reallocated 56,500 
acres of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 12(b) land entitlements 
within the Refuge to lands outside the Refuge.


    Alternatives analyzed in the Final EIS included the No Land 
Exchange (No Action) Alternative, or continuation of present 
management. The No Action Alternative was the Service's preferred 
alternative. In addition, three action alternatives were evaluated: (1) 
The Proposed Action, with land exchanges and acquisitions as described 
in the Agreement; (2) A Land Exchange with Non-development Easements 
Alternative, where Doyon would grant non-development easements on 
120,000 acres, but would not sell land to the Service; and (3) A Land 
Exchange Excluding the White-Crazy Mountains Alternative that would 
exclude from the exchange an area within the Refuge that had been 
recommended for Wilderness designation.
    Among the alternatives evaluated, the No Land Exchange Alternative 
is the environmentally preferable alternative. It has the least 
potential for adverse effects to the biological and physical 
environment of the Refuge, it best protects and preserves the Refuge's 
resources, and it best supports the purposes for which the Refuge was 

[[Page 29583]]

Public Involvement

    Public involvement and comments have been requested, considered, 
and incorporated throughout the EIS process. The Notice of Intent to 
prepare an EIS for a proposed land exchange in the Refuge was published 
in the Federal Register on October 19, 2005 (70 FR 60845). The notice 
of public scoping meetings was published in the Federal Register on 
March 3, 2006 (71 FR 10988). Public scoping meetings were held in local 
communities within the Refuge and surrounding areas. The Service 
distributed newsletters with project updates discussing opportunities 
for public involvement and results of public input. Comments and 
concerns received during this time were used to identify issues and 
draft alternatives for evaluation in the Draft EIS.
    The Notice of Availability for the Draft EIS was published in the 
Federal Register on January 25, 2008 (73 FR 4617). Public hearings were 
held in each local community affiliated with the Refuge, plus Fairbanks 
and Anchorage. From May to July 2008, government-to-government 
consultations were also held with Tribal Councils who requested them. 
In response to numerous requests for additional time to review and 
comment, the comment period was reopened and extended via a Federal 
Register notice published April 18, 2008 (73 FR 20931). We received 
more than 100,000 comments during the full comment period. The vast 
majority of comments, including those from several area tribal 
governments, opposed the proposed exchange. The Responses to Comments 
are contained in Volume 2 of the Final EIS.
    The Notice of Availability for the Final EIS was published in the 
Federal Register on March 12, 2010 (75 FR 11905). Comments from tribal 
governments, Alaska Native and conservation organizations, and 
individuals expressed support for the Service's designation of the No 
Action Alternative as the preferred alternative.

Findings and Basis for Decision

    In making its decision, the Service reviewed and carefully 
considered the impacts identified in the draft and final Environmental 
Impact Statement; relevant issues and concerns; public input received 
throughout the EIS process, including comments on the draft and final 
Environmental Impact Statement; and other factors including refuge 
purposes and relevant laws, regulations, and policies. For the 
following reasons, the Service selected the No Land Exchange 
    First, the Service has a limited understanding of the effects that 
oil and gas development would have on the hydrology of lands exchanged 
to Doyon and lands that would be retained by the Service. Second, the 
exchange would create a private lands corridor that would almost split 
the Refuge into two parcels, resulting in habitat fragmentation, and 
that could degrade the biological integrity, diversity, and 
environmental health of the Refuge. Third, the Service is concerned 
that the proposed land exchange could magnify projected changes to 
Refuge resources from climate change. Fourth, infrastructure associated 
with access corridors from the proposed exchange would increase human 
use of the Refuge. Fifth, there is concern that the lands proposed for 
acquisition by the Service are more likely to be adjacent to 
prospective areas of development (based on revised U.S. Geological 
Survey oil and gas data). Impacts from adjacent development would make 
those lands less desirable to the Service. This has cast doubts on the 
benefits of the exchange to all involved. The adoption of the No Land 
Exchange Alternative is effective immediately.

    Dated: May 19, 2010.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
[FR Doc. 2010-12629 Filed 5-25-10; 8:45 am]