[Federal Register: April 16, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 73)]
[Page 19988-19989]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2010-N022; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Watercress Darter National Wildlife Refuge, Jefferson County, AL

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

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


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Watercress Darter National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/
EA, we describe the alternative we propose to use to manage this refuge 
for the 15 years following approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by May 17, 2010.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by writing to: Mr. 
Stephen A. Miller, Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 
5087, Anniston, AL 36205; telephone: 256/848-6833. The Draft CCP/EA is 
available on compact disk or in hard copy. You may also access and 
download the document from the Service's Internet Web site: http://
southeast.fws.gov/planning/under ``Draft Documents.'' Comments on the 
Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to the above address or via electronic 
mail to: stephen_a_miller@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Mike Dawson, Refuge Planner, 
Jackson, MS; 601/965-4903, extension 20.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Watercress Darter 
NWR. We started the process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
March 12, 2007 (72 FR 11048).


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), 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 strategy 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 Act.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
``Alternative C'' as the proposed alternative. A full description of 
each alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative 

Alternative A--Current Management (No Action)

    The current management of Watercress Darter NWR recognizes the 
importance of looking beyond the refuge boundary. We continue to seek 
partnerships with adjacent landowners to protect and enhance the 
habitat for the endangered watercress darter. Upland management 
emphasizes the maintenance and restoration of native vegetative 
communities. Environmental parameters are monitored, adding additional 
parameters as issues arise. We currently monitor long-term trends for 
exotic invasive species. Other institutions are sought to investigate 
topics in detail. Wildlife observation is incorporated in the current 
public use program. Some outreach avenues have been established at both 
the State and local level. Watercress Darter NWR is currently managed 
by the staff of the Mountain Longleaf NWR, which is located 90 miles to 
the north.

Alternative B--Refuge Focused Management

    Under this alternative, we would focus on activities within the 
jurisdictional boundaries of Watercress Darter NWR. We would rely on 
interest groups to collect information on outside threats. We would 
emphasize protection of the endangered watercress darter, restoration 
of native communities, and the health of resident wildlife species. 
Environmental monitoring would demonstrate long-term trends, 
environmental changes, or the results of management practices on refuge 
lands. Research, management, protection, education, and public use 
would be conducted to maximize benefits to Watercress Darter NWR. Land 
acquisition would be emphasized on high-priority areas within the 
approved acquisition boundary. The staff needed to fully implement this 
alternative would include four positions to be shared with Cahaba River 

Alternative C--Integrated Landscape Management (Proposed Alternative)

    Threats to the refuge are becoming more prominent as development 
activities occur in the city of Bessemer, Alabama. Watercress Darter 
NWR is a small system that can be greatly compromised by activities a 
distance away from its boundary. Under Alternative C, we fully 
recognize the impact these activities may have on the integrity of the 
refuge. We would continue the activities as stated under Alternative A 
and extend beyond the immediate neighbors to address issues associated 
with the aquifer and spring recharge area, watershed, and biota 
exchange pathways. Extensive resource sharing and networking with other 
protected areas, State and local government agencies, non-governmental 
organizations, specialists, researchers, and private citizens would 
expand the knowledge base and develop cooperation among interest 
groups. Restoration of natural systems, native communities, and healthy 
environments would be emphasized, thus promoting regionally a high 
quality of life. Monitoring environmental parameters and flora and 
fauna would be incorporated into an integrated study to

[[Page 19989]]

gain knowledge on the health of the refuge ecosystem. Education and 
outreach would be expanded, with an emphasis on cultural and historical 
resources including groundwater springs. An increase in staff would 
occur under this alternative in order to place greater emphasis on 
landscape management. Additional staff members needed to fully 
implement this alternative would include one position stationed at 
Watercress Darter NWR and four positions to be shared between Cahaba 
River NWR and Watercress Darter NWR.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, 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.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

    Dated: February 25, 2010.
Jeffrey M. Fleming,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2010-8720 Filed 4-15-10; 8:45 am]