[Federal Register: February 18, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 32)]
[Page 7287-7289]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2009-N183; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, Merrimack County, NH

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces the 
availability of the draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
draft environmental assessment (EA) for John Hay National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR) for a 30-day public review and comment period. In this 
draft CCP/EA, we describe three 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 March 22, 2010. We will also hold at least one public 
meeting in Newbury, New Hampshire, during the 30-day review period to 
receive comments and provide information on the draft plan. We will 
announce and post details about the public meeting in local news media 
via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning Web site, 

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by one 
of the following methods.
    Electronic mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``John Hay NWR 
CCP/EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    U.S. Postal Service: Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, 73 Weir 
Hill Road, Sudbury, MA 01776.
    In-person drop-off, viewing, or pickup: Call 978-443-4661 to make 
an appointment during regular business hours at the above address.
    Facsimile: Attn: Carl Melberg, 978-443-2898.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barry Parrish, Deputy Refuge Manager, 
Silvio O. Conte NFWR, 103 East Plumtree Road, Sunderland, MA 01375; 
phone: 413-548-8002 extension 113; or Carl Melberg, Planning Team 
Leader, at 978-443-4661, extension 32.
    Agency Web site: View or download the draft document at http://

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Barry Parrish, Deputy Refuge Manager, 
Silvio O. Conte NFWR, 103 East Plumtree Road, Sunderland, MA 01375; 
phone: 413-548-8002, extension 113; facsimile: 413-548-9725.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for John Hay NWR in 
Merrimack County, New Hampshire, which we started with the notice of 
intent we published in the Federal Register (73 FR 76376) on December 
16, 2008. We prepared the draft CCP in compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended (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. This refuge is a 
satellite station of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife 
    John Hay NWR was the former summer estate of historic figure John 
Hay. It was donated to the Service in 1972 by Alice Hay to be used as a 
migratory bird and wildlife reservation. Currently, the refuge consists 
of approximately 80 acres on the shores of Lake Sunapee in Newbury, New 
Hampshire, and consists of upland northern forest, small meadows, and 
several wetland habitats, including a long, undeveloped lake shoreline, 
brook, fens, and vernal pools. The area serves the habitat needs of 
migrating birds as well as a diversity of other wildlife. No listed 
species are known to occur on the refuge. Although small in area, the 
refuge contains some of the largest-diameter white pine (and other 
northern forest tree species) in the regional landscape and provides 
habitat for Canada warbler and other priority forest birds and 
    Although wildlife and habitat conservation is the refuge's first 
priority, the public can observe and photograph wildlife and 
participate in environmental education and interpretation on the 
refuge. Adjacent partner lands also accommodate these uses with a 
connected network of accessible nature trails. Some adjacent partner 
lands also allow hunting.


The CCP Process

    The Improvement Act requires us to develop a CCP for each national 
wildlife refuge. 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, conservation, legal 
mandates, and our policies. In addition to outlining broad management 
direction on conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify 
priority wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities available to the 
public, including opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation, photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. We will review and update each CCP at least every 15 
years, in accordance with the Administration Act.

Public Outreach

    In October 2008, we initiated intra-agency, State agency, 
stakeholder, and public scoping to obtain input on current and future 
management of the refuge. We held a morning and an afternoon public and 
partner meeting on October 9, 2008, at the Newbury Town Hall. During 
these meetings, we asked attendees specific questions about their views 
on the refuge's wildlife and habitat values, how they use and access 
the refuge, their preferences for future wildlife-dependent recreation, 
and whether they knew about other refuge opportunities. Our scoping 
process lasted until November 7, 2008.
    Some of the key issues we identified include forest management, 
other priority habitat types to conserve, wetlands protection, 
improving the visibility of the Service and refuge, providing desired 
facilities and visitor activities, and ways to improve opportunities 
for public use while ensuring the restoration and protection of 
priority resources.

CCP Actions We Are Considering

    We developed three management alternatives based on the purposes 
for establishing the refuge, its vision and goals, and the issues and 
concerns the public, State agencies, and the Service identified during 
the planning process. The alternatives have some actions in common, 
such as protecting and monitoring fish and wildlife species and the 
unique large white pines, controlling invasive plants and wildlife 
diseases, encouraging research that benefits our resource decisions, 
protecting cultural resources like the Hay Estate house and the view to 
the lake, updating the memorandum of understanding with our neighboring 
partner, The Fells, and distributing refuge revenue sharing payments to 
the Town of Newbury.
    Other actions distinguish the alternatives. The draft CCP/EA 
describes the alternatives in detail, and relates them to the issues 
and concerns identified. Highlights are as follows:

Alternative A (Current Management)

    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by the 
NEPA Act of 1969. Alternative A defines our current management 
activities, and serves as the baseline against which to compare the 
other alternatives. Our habitat management focuses on allowing natural 
processes to shape the almost 80 acres of mature upland forest to 
maintain the cultural legacy, encourage natural regeneration, and 
diversify the forest structure that supports migratory and nesting 
birds of conservation concern in Bird Conservation Region 14 and the 
New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan (NHWAP) (including the Canada 
warbler and wood thrush). Natural processes would also shape the fens, 
vernal pools, and other wetland habitats on the refuge that provide 
important breeding habitat for amphibian and reptile species of 
conservation concern identified in the NHWAP.
    We would continue to maintain the instream habitat and riparian 
corridor along the approximately 1,750 feet of Beech Brook on the 
refuge for species identified as conservation priorities by the Eastern 
Brook Trout Joint Venture and NHWAP plans, and we would continue to 
protect the 3,100 feet of undeveloped refuge shoreline and 0.1-acre 
Minute Island by preventing public use activities that may pose risks 
to the biological integrity of these habitats.
    We would continue to work with our partners to monitor our forests 
and wetlands for invasive plants and disease, and we would treat the 
forests to fight invasive species and diseases if we have available 
funding and staffing. Our biological monitoring and inventory program 
and habitat and trail management would continue at its current minimal 
level, and would focus on safety and hazard tree removal only when 
    Our visitor services programs would not change, as most activities 
are conducted by The Fells. Wildlife

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observation and photography are the most popular activities. Our 
staffing and facilities would remain the same. Seven staff positions 
for the refuge complex would remain in place, and the headquarters 
would remain at the Sunderland Office.

Alternative B (Enhanced Visitor Services and Habitat Diversity--the 
Service-Preferred Alternative)

    This alternative is the one we propose as the best way to manage 
this refuge over the next 15 years. It includes an array of management 
actions that, in our professional judgment, works best toward achieving 
the refuge purposes, our vision and goals, and the goals of other State 
and regional conservation plans. We also believe it most effectively 
addresses the key issues that arose during the planning process.
    Similar to alternative A, under alternative B we would primarily 
allow natural processes to shape the refuge's forest habitat and would 
continue to work with partners to complement the larger landscape for 
priority species through partnerships. We would conduct forest 
inventories every 10 to 15 years to determine silvicultural 
prescriptions to encourage early successional forest habitat and pine 
regeneration, and to maintain the existing unique character of large-
diameter trees. A habitat management plan would be completed within 1 
year of CCP approval. The current meadow would be expanded up to 
approximately 3 acres, but not at the expense of mature forest habitat. 
A treatment schedule for maintaining the view to the lake from the Hay 
Estate house would be developed in partnership with The Fells and 
incorporate both scenic and wildlife habitat aspects that meet 
biological and cultural objectives for the area.
    We would continue to monitor refuge forests and wetlands for 
invasive plants and disease, and to treat them to the extent our 
funding allows. Protecting and enhancing riparian and wetlands habitat 
would be a priority, including the undeveloped Lake Sunapee shoreline, 
Beech Brook, fens, and vernal pools. We would also continue our 
monitoring and inventory program, but regularly evaluate the results to 
help us better understand the implications of our management actions 
and identify ways to improve their effectiveness.
    In addition to enhancing our existing programs in wildlife 
observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation, 
we would open the refuge to fishing. We would also work with partners 
to accommodate hunting on their lands as part of a regional 
recreational program offering a diversity of wildlife-dependent public 
use opportunities. We would seek partnerships to help us achieve our 
enhanced and new programs, including assistance on interpretive trail 
construction and enhancements, and environmental education programs 
using the refuge as a living laboratory. The refuge would remain closed 
to hunting due to its small size and staffing constraints. We would 
also improve and expand access to the lake for freshwater fishing and 
enhance trails for environmentally sensitive stream crossings and 
access to additional habitats. If we can secure permanent funding, we 
would fill one new visitor services staff position to provide depth to 
our programs and achieve our goals and objectives. We also propose to 
collaborate with neighboring partner, The Fells, at their visitor 
contact facilities at the adjacent Fells gatehouse and parking lot to 
increase our visibility and improve public access to refuge land.

Alternative C (Forest Management Emphasis)

    This alternative resembles Alternative B in its refuge 
administration and facilities, but differs in its habitat management 
intensity and visitor services programs.
    Under Alternative C, we would actively manage for mature upland 
forest, including silvicultural prescriptions such as thinning or soil 
scarification to promote regeneration success. Additional early 
successional forest habitat would be provided by expanding the existing 
meadow and creating new meadows, but not at the expense of mature 
forest habitat. The width of The Fells view to the lake would be 
expanded to provide additional habitat for wildlife dependent upon 
early successional habitat, and increase the view from the estate 
    As in Alternative B, we would protect and enhance riparian and 
wetlands habitats as a priority. As in Alternative B, we would monitor 
and inventory our forests and wetlands for invasive plants and disease 
and treat them to the extent funding allows. Protecting and enhancing 
riparian and wetland habitats would also be a priority. Compared to 
Alternative B, we would conduct a more intensive, focused monitoring 
and inventory program designed to address more-specific questions about 
habitat quality and the response of wildlife populations. In the near-
term, inventory and monitoring would be aimed specifically at 
documenting the species and habitat baseline conditions.
    Under Alternative C, our public use programs would accommodate 
additional access with enhanced trail conditions to allow people of all 
abilities to access and view the lake. This Alternative explores the 
possibility of accommodating hunting by determining the feasibility of 
a very limited hunt program in collaboration with our State partners.

Public Meetings

    The public will have the opportunity to provide input at one public 
meeting in Newbury, New Hampshire. We will release mailings, news 
releases, and announcements electronically and provide information 
about opportunities for public review and comment on our Web site and 
in local newspapers, along with the contact information below. You can 
obtain the schedule from the planning team leader or project leader 
    You may also submit comments anytime during the planning process by 
mail, electronic mail, or facsimile (see ADDRESSES). For specific 
information, including dates, times, and locations, contact the project 
leader (see ADDRESSES) or visit our Web site at http://www.fws.gov/

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 available to the public 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: January 8, 2010.
Wendi Weber,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Hadley, Massachusetts.
[FR Doc. 2010-3053 Filed 2-17-10; 8:45 am]