[Federal Register: March 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 42)]
[Page 9924-9925]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[[Page 9924]]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-6-R209-N182; 60138-1265-6CCP-S3]

Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Red Rock Lakes 
National Wildlife Refuge, MT

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that our final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (Plan) and finding of no 
significant impact (FONSI) for the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife 
Refuge is available. This final Plan describes how the Service intends 
to manage this refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the Plan may be obtained by writing to U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, P.O. Box 25486, 
Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225; or by download from 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura King, 406-644-2211, ext. 210 
(phone); 406-644-2661 (fax); or redrocks@fws.gov (e-mail).

    The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located 28 miles 
east of Monida in Beaverhead County in southwestern Montana. This 
48,955-acre refuge sits at 6,670 feet above sea level and lies east of 
the Continental Divide near the uppermost reach of the Missouri 
    The refuge was established in 1935 by President Franklin D. 
Roosevelt. Historically, management focused on protecting and enhancing 
the trumpeter swan population at the refuge. In the 1930s, the refuge 
was their last known breeding location. The refuge played an important 
role in their recovery and today continues to provide protected nesting 
and resting areas for these magnificent birds.
    The refuge has one of the most naturally diverse areas in the 
National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge boasts the largest wetland 
complex within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as well as expansive 
tracts of grassland and sagebrush-steppe habitats and a small amount of 
mid-elevation forested areas. These habitats support over 200 species 
of birds, including peregrine falcons, bald eagles, short-eared owls, 
sandhill cranes, sage grouse, trumpeter swans and numerous other 
species of waterfowl and waterbirds. Common mammalian species include 
Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mule and white-tailed deer, badger, 
coyote, and red fox. In addition, wolves and grizzly bears have been 
documented using the refuge. There is also a remnant population of 
native adfluvial Arctic grayling that occurs on the refuge.
    A full-time staff of five employees and various summer temporaries 
manage and study the refuge habitats and maintain visitor facilities. 
Domestic livestock grazing and prescribed fire are the primary 
management tools used to maintain and enhance upland habitats. 
Currently, four grazing cooperators are using refuge lands. Water level 
manipulation occurs in some areas of the refuge to improve wetland 
    Approximately 12,000 people visit the refuge annually. Two refuge 
roads and three county roads that pass through the refuge account for 
the majority of visitor use. The refuge is open to limited fishing, 
with the majority of fishing occurring on Red Rock. In addition, the 
refuge is open to limited hunting of ducks, geese, coots, and moose. 
Elk, pronghorn, moose, mule deer, and white-tailed deer are also hunted 
on certain areas of the refuge according to State regulations and 
    The draft Plan and Environmental Assessment (EA) was made available 
to the public for review and comment following the announcement in the 
Federal Register on September 26, 2008 (73 FR 55864-55865). The public 
was given 60 days to comment. Over 100 individuals and groups provided 
comments and appropriate changes were made to the final Plan based on 
substantive comments. The draft Plan and Environmental Assessment 
identified and evaluated four alternatives for managing the refuge for 
the next 15 years. Alternative B (the proposed action submitted by the 
planning team) was selected by the Region 6 Regional Director as the 
preferred alternative and will serve as the final Plan.
    The final Plan identifies goals, objectives, and strategies that 
describe the future management of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife 
Refuge. Alternative B, the preferred alternative, acknowledges the 
importance of naturally functioning ecological communities on the 
refuge. However, changes to the landscape (e.g., human alterations to 
the landscape, past refuge management creating wetlands, and species in 
peril requiring special management actions) prevent managing the refuge 
solely as a naturally functioning ecological community. Because some of 
these changes are significant, some refuge habitats will require 
``hands on'' management actions during the life of this Plan, while 
others will be restored. Refuge habitats will continue to be managed 
utilizing water control structures, prescriptive cattle grazing, and 
prescribed fire. The structures that created Culver and MacDonald Ponds 
will be removed to restore 1.7 miles of native streams to provide 
habitat for spawning native adfluvial Arctic grayling, migratory birds, 
and native ungulates. The refuge will do this systematically over the 
life of the Plan, conducting numerous studies to determine the effects 
and best methods of restoration, including any effects on downstream 
users. Mechanical, biological, and chemical treatments will be used to 
control invasive species. Monitoring and documenting the response to 
management actions will be greatly expanded. Additional habitat and 
wildlife objectives will be clearly stated in step down management 
plans to be completed as this Plan is implemented. Visitor services 
programs will be maintained and expanded including hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation. Hunting of big game and waterfowl will continue. Big 
game hunting boundaries will be modified or expanded to address 
confusing boundaries and impacts to refuge habitats, while providing 
additional quality hunting opportunities. Actions will be taken to 
ensure that current and expanded hunting opportunities are carefully 
planned. The refuges' environmental education program will be modestly 
expanded, given the refuges' remote location. Interpretation programs 
will also be enhanced to better educate and orient visitors while 
maintaining the wilderness characteristics of the refuge. Fishing will 
be expanded and visitors will be encouraged to keep non-native fish 
species (according to State regulations) that impact native adfluvial 
Arctic grayling. Some refuge trails will provide interpretation and be 
identified on a new visitor services map. Idlewild Road will remain 
open, but no new roads or trails will be added. An interpreted auto 
tour route will be created along roads currently open to the public. 
Interpretation will occur through a brochure and limited signage. Both 
refuge campgrounds will be maintained to support wildlife dependent 
compatible recreation on this remote refuge and enhanced to provide 
access to disabled visitors. Campground users will be charged a small 
fee to provide funds needed to maintain the campground facilities. 
Seven full-time

[[Page 9925]]

and one permanent seasonal staff will be assigned to the refuge. Due to 
the lack of housing around this remote refuge, up to four residences 
will be constructed for this added staff.
    The Service is furnishing this notice to advise other agencies and 
the public of the availability of the final Plan, to provide 
information on the desired conditions for the refuge, and to detail how 
the Service will implement management strategies. Based on the review 
and evaluation of the information contained in the EA, the Regional 
Director has determined that implementation of the Final Plan does not 
constitute a major federal action that would significantly affect the 
quality of the human environment within the meaning of Section 
102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act. Therefore, an 
Environmental Impact Statement will not be prepared.

    Dated: February 23, 2010.
Hugh Morrison,
Regional Director, Region 6, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2010-4513 Filed 3-3-10; 8:45 am]