[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 19 (Friday, January 28, 2011)]
[Pages 5196-5198]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-1299]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2010-N208; 20131-1265-2CCP-S3]

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Aransas, Calhoun, and 
Refugio Counties, TX; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding 
of No Significant Impact for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment (EA) for the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
(NWRC). In this final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge 
for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and FONSI/EA 
by any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the document(s) at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/index.html.
    E-mail: roxanne_turley@fws.gov. Include ``Aransas final CCP'' in 
the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Roxanne Turley, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish & 
Wildlife Service, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 505-248-6636 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at 500 Gold Avenue SW., 
Albuquerque, NM 87102.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dan Alonso, Refuge Manager, Aransas 
NWRC, P.O. Box 100, Austwell, TX 77050; by phone, 361-286-3559; or by 
e-mail, dan_alonso@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for the Aransas NWRC. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register August 
30, 2002 (67 FR 55862).
    Aransas NWRC is located in Aransas, Calhoun, and Refugio Counties, 
Texas, and encompasses 115,931 acres of coastal prairie, oak woodland 
and savannah, barrier island, and salt and freshwater marshes. 
Management efforts focus on protecting, enhancing, and restoring Refuge 
habitats and water management for the benefit of important fish and 
wildlife resources. The Refuge is world renowned for hosting the 
largest wild flock of endangered whooping cranes each winter. Other 
native species on the Refuge include the American alligator, javelina, 
roseate spoonbill, armadillo, and wildflowers.
    Aransas NWRC was established ``as a refuge and breeding grounds for 
birds'', by Executive Order No. 7784 on December 31, 1937. The 
authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 712d) 
establishes that each refuge in the system is ``for use as an inviolate 
sanctuary, or any other management purpose, for migratory birds.'' The 
Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. 460-1) states that each refuge in the 
system is ``suitable for incidental fish and wildlife-oriented 
recreational development, the protection of natural resources, and the 
conservation of endangered or threatened species.'' Additionally, 
Aransas NWRC contains critical habitat for the whooping crane (43 FR 
20938, May 15, 1978).
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for the Aransas NWRC in accordance with National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We 
completed a thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, 
which we included in the EA that accompanied the draft CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering the Aransas 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex for the next 15 years. Alternative B, 
with modifications as described in Appendix J (Response to Public 
Comments), is selected as the management direction for the Final Plan.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge Administration Act), 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 plan 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 and 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will 
review and update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the Refuge Administration Act.

CCP Alternatives, Including Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP and our EA (75 FR 6872) addressed several issues. To 
address these, we developed and evaluated the following alternatives.

[[Page 5197]]

                                                                   B: Optimal habitat
                                             A: No-action        management and public      C: Maximal habitat
                                             alternative         use (proposed action)    management and public-
                                                                      alternative            use alternative
Issue 1: Habitat Management            Biological program and   Ecosystem-level          Intensive management to
 Activities.                            habitat management       management actions to    achieve a
                                        would continue under     better protect and       predetermined amount
                                        existing plans, with     preserve the natural     of woodlands,
                                        the emphasis remaining   diversity of unique      wetlands, croplands,
                                        primarily on migratory   habitats and sensitive   grasslands,
                                        birds, waterfowl, and    wildlife, through a      shrublands, and water
                                        Federally listed         holistic, partnered,     impoundments to
                                        species; the status      and publically           benefit the highest
                                        quo would prevail        involved approach,       variety of plants and
                                        without the benefit of   would be implemented;    wildlife would be
                                        holistic, long-term,     current and future       implemented.
                                        and comprehensive        long-term benefits for
                                        guidance.                migratory and resident
                                                                 birds, wildlife and
                                                                 their habitats, and
                                                                 the recovery of
                                                                 threatened and
                                                                 endangered species
                                                                 would be provided.
Issue 2: Improvements to Public Use    Current public use       An optimal, quality      All priority public
 Opportunities.                         under existing plans     experience for the       uses (hunting,
                                        would continue; any      public. Priority         fishing, wildlife
                                        expansions would occur   wildlife-dependent       observation,
                                        opportunistically.       uses would be            photography, and
                                                                 emphasized, and other    environmental
                                                                 existing public uses     education and
                                                                 would be allowed where   interpretation) would
                                                                 appropriate.             be expanded above
                                                                                          current levels.
                                                                                          Visitor facilities and
                                                                                          interpretive and
                                                                                          education programs
                                                                                          would be improved or
Issue 3: Refuge Land and Boundary      Currently, there is no   Same as Alternative A;   Same as Alternative A.
 Protection.                            active land              however, additional
                                        acquisition or land      land protection to
                                        protection plan.         address whooping crane
                                        However, any future      flock expansion in the
                                        acquisitions would be    vicinity of the Refuge
                                        based on an approved     would be considered.
                                        land protection plan,    The emphasis would
                                        developed as a step-     remain on protecting
                                        down plan of the CCP.    whooping cranes and
                                        Any additional lands     available acres of
                                        added to the Refuge      existing wetland or
                                        would be purchased       restorable wetland
                                        from willing sellers     habitat and adjacent
                                        as opportunities and     uplands in portions of
                                        funding arise.           Aransas, Calhoun, and
                                                                 Refugio Counties.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP and the EA for the Aransas 
NWRC from February 12, 2010, to April 13, 2010 (75 FR 7862). 
Subsequently, the Draft Plan/EA was made available for public review 
starting on February 12, 2010, at the Refuge, online, and at the 
Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Two open house meetings 
were held in communities near the Refuge in March 2010. In all, 
approximately 30 individuals attended the open house meetings and a 
total of 73 comments were submitted in writing or phoned in to the 
Refuge/Regional Office. Additionally, one State agency, two Federal 
agencies, and four nongovernmental organizations responded prior to the 
end of the 60-day public comment period.
    Based on the comments received, the Draft Plan/EA was changed to 
include an improved assessment of effects to air and water resources, 
inclusion of wildlife observed at the refuge, added strategies for 
wildlife-dependent recreation, and updates or added supplemental 
information throughout the document.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, we have selected 
Alternative B for implementation. This alternative describes how 
habitat objectives will be accomplished through a combination of 
management activities to encourage ecological integrity, promote 
restoration of coastal prairie habitats, control invasive plant 
species, and provide long-term benefits for migratory and resident 
birds and the recovery of threatened and endangered species. This 
alternative was selected because it best meets refuge purposes and 
goals of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Complex. This action will 
not adversely impact threatened or endangered species or their habitat. 
Opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation activities, such as 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental 
education, and interpretation, will be enhanced. Future management 
actions will have a neutral or positive impact on the local economy, 
and the recommendations in the Plan will ensure that Refuge management 
is consistent with the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/STRC/laguna/Index_Laguna.html.
     At the following libraries:

            Library                     Address           Phone number
Victoria Public Library.......  302 N Main St.,             361-572-2701
                                 Victoria, TX 77901.
Parkdale Branch Library.......  1230 Carmel Pkwy.,          361-853-9961
                                 Corpus Christi, TX
Calhoun County Public Library.  200 West Mahan St.,         361-552-7323
                                 Port Lavaca, TX 77979.
Aransas County Public Library.  701 E Mimosa St.,           361-790-0153
                                 Rockport, TX 78382.

[[Page 5198]]

    Dated: January 19, 2011.
Joy Nicholopoulor.
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Region 2.
[FR Doc. 2011-1299 Filed 1-27-11; 8:45 am]