[Federal Register: June 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 104)]
[Page 30423-30425]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2009-N208; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 
Assessment; Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Tucker County, WV

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
draft environmental assessment (EA) for Canaan Valley National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR) for a 45-day public review and comment period. The draft 
CCP/EA describes four alternatives, including our Service-preferred 
alternative B, for managing this refuge for the next 15 years. Also 
available for public review and comment are the draft compatibility 
determinations, which are included as appendix B in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure our consideration of your written comments, please 
send them by July 16, 2010. We will also hold public meetings. We will 
announce and post details of the public meetings in local news media, 
via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning Web site, 

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for copies of the draft CCP/
EA by one of the following methods. You may also drop off comments in 
person at Canaan Valley NWR, located off Route 32 in Davis, West 
    U.S. Mail: Beth Goldstein, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Facsmile: Attention: Beth Goldstein, 413-253-8468.
    Electronic Mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Canaan Valley 
NWR CCP'' in the subject line of your e-mail.
    Agency Web Site: View or download the draft document on the Web at 
http://www.fws.gov/northeast/ planning/Canaan%20Valley/ ccphome.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jonathan Schafler, Refuge Manager, 
Canaan Valley NWR, HC 70, P.O. Box 200, Davis, WV 26260; phone: 304-
866-3858; facsimile: 304-866-3852; electronic mail: fw5rw_



    This notice continues the CCP process for Canaan Valley NWR. We 
prepared the draft CCP in compliance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), and the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 
(Administration Act), as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (Improvement Act), which requires us to develop 
a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. We published our original 
notice of intent to prepare a CCP in the Federal Register on January 
22, 2007 (72 FR 2709).
    The 16,183-acre Canaan Valley NWR was established in 1994 to 
conserve and protect fish and wildlife resources and the unique wetland 
and upland habitats of this high elevation valley. The refuge is 
located in Tucker County, West Virginia, and has an approved 
acquisition boundary of 24,000 acres. It includes the largest wetland 
complex in the State, and encompasses the headwaters of the Blackwater 
and Little Blackwater rivers. The refuge supports species of concern at 
both the Federal and State levels, including the West Virginia northern 
flying squirrel, bald eagle, and the Federal listed Cheat Mountain 
salamander and Indiana bat. Its dominant habitats include wet meadows, 
peatlands, shrub and forested swamps, beaver ponds and streams, 
northern hardwood forest, old fields and shrubland, and managed 
    Refuge visitors engage in wildlife observation and photography, 
environmental education, interpretation, hunting, and fishing. 
Management activities include maintaining and perpetuating the 
ecological integrity of the Canaan Valley wetland complex; perpetuating 
the ecological integrity of upland northern hardwood and northern 
hardwood-conifer forests to sustain wildlife and plant communities; 
providing a diversity of successional habitats in upland and wetland-
edge shrublands, grasslands, old fields, and hardwood communities; and 
supporting wildlife-dependent recreation and education.


The CCP Process

    The purpose for developing CCPs is to provide refuge managers with 
15-year plans for achieving refuge purposes and the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, in conformance with sound principles 
of fish and wildlife management and conservation, legal mandates, and 
Service policies. In addition to outlining broad management

[[Page 30424]]

direction on conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify 
opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation available to the 
public, which includes opportunities for hunting, fishing, observing 
and photographing wildlife, and participating in environmental 
education and interpretation programs. We will review and update each 
CCP at least every 15 years, in accordance with the Administration Act.

Public Outreach

    In September 2006, we distributed an issues workbook/planning 
newsletter to more than 2,000 names on our mailing list, asking people 
about their interest in the refuge and whether they had issues or 
concerns they would like us to address. We also posted the newsletter 
and workbook online for people to complete electronically, and we 
electronically mailed it to our stakeholder's mailing list, which was 
developed with help from the U.S. Geological Survey. In October 2006 
and January 2007, we held public scoping meetings in Elkins, Parsons, 
Thomas, and Davis, West Virginia. The purposes of those meetings was to 
share information on the planning process, review the workbook results, 
and solicit new management issues and concerns. Throughout the process, 
we have conducted additional outreach via participation in community 
meetings, events, and other public forums, and requested public input 
on managing the refuge and its programs.
    Some key issues expressed by the public included:
     Create trail connections on- and off-refuge;
     Allow multiple recreational uses on refuge trails while 
minimizing user conflicts;
     Increase opportunities for interpretation and education by 
providing more guided walks, programs, and brochures;
     Re-route existing trails to decrease erosion;
     Evaluate the refuge for wilderness designation;
     Improve woodcock habitat by cutting alder and aspen, and 
by grazing shrublands;
     Provide more opportunities for hunting;
     Reduce or eliminate hunting on the refuge; and
     Allow more vehicle access for deer hunting.

CCP Actions We Are Considering, Including the Service-Preferred 

    We developed four management alternatives based on the purposes for 
establishing the refuge, its vision and goals, and the issues and 
concerns of the public, State agencies, and the Service that arose 
during the planning process. The alternatives share some actions in 
common, such as protecting wetlands and rare plant communities, 
controlling invasive plant species, addressing climate change, 
protecting cultural resources, distributing refuge revenue sharing 
payments, and continuing our role in land conservation partnerships.
    The draft CCP/EA describes the alternatives in detail and relates 
them to the issues and concerns. Highlights follow.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by NEPA. 
Alternative A defines our current management activities, including 
those planned, funded, or underway, and serves as the baseline against 
which to compare the other three action alternatives. It would maintain 
our present level of approved refuge staffing and the biological and 
visitor services programs now in place. It would continue the following 
priorities of the biological program: Shrubland and grassland 
management for migratory birds; protection and monitoring of threatened 
and endangered species; red spruce and balsam fir community 
restoration; upland and wetland habitat restoration; invasive plant 
monitoring and eradication; and rare plant and animal conservation. We 
would continue efforts to protect the federally threatened Cheat 
Mountain salamander, the federally endangered Indiana bat, and the 
recently delisted West Virginia northern flying squirrel by monitoring 
known populations, inventorying suitable habitat for new populations, 
and researching habitat limitations. We would continue to offer a hunt 
program that is in accordance with State seasons. We would maintain 
current access sites for fishing and boating, and current trails for 
wildlife observation and photography. We would continue to offer our 
current level of environmental education and interpretation programs as 
staffing and funding allows. Finally, we would continue to collaborate 
with partners to promote the natural resources of Canaan Valley through 
outreach and public awareness.

Alternative B (Emphasis on Focal Species)

    This alternative represents the combination of actions we believe 
most effectively achieves the purposes and goals of the refuge and 
would make an important contribution to conserving Federal trust 
resources in West Virginia and the central Appalachians. It is the 
alternative that would most effectively provide low-impact wildlife-
dependent recreation and would address the significant issues in 
Chapter 1 of the draft CCP/EA. It builds on the programs identified 
under current management. It is designed to balance the conservation of 
a mixed-forest matrix landscape with the management of early 
successional habitats and the protection of wetlands. The habitat-type 
objectives in the plan identify focal species whose life and growth 
requirements would guide management activities in each respective 
habitat. Alternative B addresses the refuge's mandate to consider 
managing refuge habitat under the Biological Integrity, Diversity and 
Environmental Health Policy (601 FW 3). Also in this alternative, we 
would designate 754 acres of the refuge's central wetland complex as a 
Research Natural Area.
    The hunt program would remain the same as alternative A, except we 
would facilitate the removal of more deer from the refuge by providing 
more access into the interior of the refuge and by opening more land to 
rifle hunting. We would officially open the refuge to fishing by 
amending 50 CFR 32.68 and would promote fishing opportunities. For 
increased wildlife observation and photography, the refuge would create 
more trail connections. We would also expand visitor center hours, 
build a new environmental education pavilion, and increase the number 
of environmental education and interpretation programs. We expect a 15 
percent increase in visitation under this alternative. To fully 
implement alternative B, we would add 3.5 positions to the Canaan 
Valley NWR staff, for a total of 12.5 positions.

Alternative C (Emphasis on Expanding Priority Public Uses)

    In alternative C, we would increase access and infrastructure to 
support more priority public uses than any of the other alternatives. 
We would create a cross-valley trail that would run east-west through 
the northern part of the valley, and we would allow limited off-trail 
use in a designated area. With these improvements in the public use 
programs, we expect refuge visitation to increase by 20 percent. With 
an increase in public access and infrastructure

[[Page 30425]]

development, we anticipate a greater need for monitoring and control of 
invasive plants. We would also encourage additional research that would 
assess whether increased public use affects wildlife behavior, 
including nesting, feeding, and resting. We therefore propose in this 
alternative to have a staff of 13.5, compared to a staff of 12.5 in 
alternative B.
    Within the biological objectives, differences are more subtle and 
emphasize early successional habitat management over forest stand 
improvement. Although the Biological Integrity and Diversity Policy 
would still guide some management of the forested and unique wetland 
plant communities, this management would mostly be in the form of 
protection and conservation rather than restoration. The Research 
Natural Area in this alternative would be 593 acres, compared with 754 
acres in alternative B.

Alternative D (Emphasis on Managing for Historic Habitats)

    This alternative strives to establish and maintain the ecological 
integrity of natural communities within the refuge. Management would 
range from passive, or ``letting nature takes its course,'' to actively 
manipulating vegetation to create or hasten the development of mature 
forest structural conditions shaped by natural disturbances such as 
infrequent fires, ice storms, and small patch blow-downs. Under this 
alternative, no particular wildlife species would be a management 
focus. We would pursue wetland restoration projects where past land 
uses have altered historical plant communities or have hindered natural 
hydrological flow. We would also promote research and development of 
applied management practices to sustain and enhance the natural 
composition, patterns, and processes within their natural range in the 
Central Appalachian Forest. As in the other alternatives, we would 
ensure protection of current or future threatened and endangered 
species, and we would control the establishment and spread of non-
native, invasive species. We would create the same 754-acre Research 
Natural Area as we would in alternative B.
    In alternative D, we would limit new visitor services 
infrastructure to already-disturbed areas, such as around the refuge 
headquarters and visitor center facility, the Freeland tract, and 
roadside pullouts along A-frame Road. We would enhance hunting and 
fishing opportunities in ways similar to alternatives B and C. Under 
this alternative, we would expect a 10 percent increase in visitor use, 
which is the same as alternative A. To fully implement this 
alternative, we would add 2.5 positions to the Canaan Valley staff for 
a total of 11.5 positions. One of these would be a law enforcement 
officer to help enforce stricter limitations on visitor use.

Public Meetings

    We will give the public opportunities to provide input at public 
comment meetings. You can obtain the schedule from the project leader 
or natural resource planner (see addresses or FOr Further Information 
CONTACT, above). You may also submit comments at any time during the 
planning process, by any means shown in the ADDRESSES section.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comments, 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: April 26, 2010.
James G. Geiger,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, MA.
[FR Doc. 2010-12998 Filed 5-28-10; 8:45 am]