[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 15 (Monday, January 24, 2011)]
[Pages 4129-4131]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-1305]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2010-N217; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Highlands and Polk 
Counties, FL; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No 
Significant Impact for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


[[Page 4130]]

SUMMARY: We, the 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 for Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In the 
final CCP, we describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Charles 
Pelizza, Refuge Manager, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960-3559, 
or by e-mail to: PelicanIsland@fws.gov. The CCP may also be accessed 
and downloaded from the Service's Web site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/under ``Final Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Charles Pelizza; telephone: 772/
562-3909, extension 244; e-mail: PelicanIsland@fws.gov; or Mr. Bill 
Miller; telephone: 561/715-0023; e-mail: LakeWalesRidgeCCP@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Lake Wales Ridge 
NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register 
on June 20, 2008 (73 FR 35149).
    Lake Wales Ridge NWR is a unit of the Merritt Island National 
Wildlife Refuge Complex and is administered by and co-managed with 
Pelican Island and Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuges, colloquially 
termed the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
    Lake Wales Ridge NWR is one of the first of its kind in the 
National Wildlife Refuge System to target community-level 
conservation--specifically scrub habitat--a unique vegetation type 
largely restricted to the central Florida ridge systems occurring on 
the remnants of ancient beach and sand dune systems from Ocala National 
Forest to southern Highlands County, Florida.
    The refuge consists of 1,842.4 acres in fee title across four 
management units within a 12-unit approved acquisition boundary. These 
four units are as follows: Flamingo Villas (1,037.6 acres), Carter 
Creek (627.5 acres), Lake McLeod (38 acres), and Snell Creek (139.3 
acres). The refuge contains prime examples of several highly imperiled 
ecosystems, including Florida scrub and sandhill, as well as over half 
of the Federally listed plant species endemic to the Lake Wales Ridge. 
The refuge protects 17 Federally listed plants, 40 endemic plants, 6 
listed animals, and 1 candidate species, and more than 40 endemic 
invertebrates. Because of the potential for impacts to these plants and 
animals, the refuge has not been opened to the public.
    Each of the four units comprising the refuge has its own particular 
merits and value. Ten Federally listed plants, including the only 
protected population of the Federally listed endangered Garrett's mint, 
and five Federally listed animals are known to exist on the refuge's 
Flamingo Villas Unit, including the threatened Florida scrub-jay. The 
Carter Creek Unit is an excellent example of endemic-rich Lake Wales 
Ridge sandhill, where 13 Federally listed plants exist, including an 
introduced population of the Florida ziziphus, once thought to be 
extinct. It is one of only a dozen populations known and one of the 
rarest and most endangered plants in the State. Eight Federally listed 
plants and two Federally listed animals occur on the small, 36-acre 
Lake McLeod Unit, one of but two protected sites where the endangered 
scrub lupine occurs. The Snell Creek Unit contains the vast majority of 
the refuge's sand pine scrub habitat where rare, threatened, and 
endangered species are known to occur, including the endangered sand 
    The refuge exists as part of a network of scrubs which include 
lands managed by the U.S. Avon Park Air Force Range, State of Florida, 
The Nature Conservancy, Archbold Biological Station, and Polk and 
Highland Counties, with similar purposes to protect and manage what 
remains of this unique ecosystem.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Lake Wales Ridge NWR in accordance with the 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 Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Assessment for Lake Wales Ridge NWR. The CCP will guide 
us in managing and administering Lake Wales Ridge NWR for the next 15 
    Compatibility determinations are available in the CCP and include 
Research, Wildlife Observation and Photography, and Environmental 
Education and Interpretation.


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


    We made copies of the Draft CCP/EA available for a 30-day public 
review and comment period via a Federal Register notice on April 30, 
2010 (75 FR 22832). We received comments from local citizens and 

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received, and based on the 
professional judgment of the planning team, we selected Alternative B 
for implementation.
    The primary focus under Alternative B is management for rare, 
threatened, and endangered species. Implementing Alternative B is 
expected to result in restoring, improving, and maintaining habitat 
conditions for the many and varied rare, threatened, and endangered 
species found on the refuge. Increased information on a variety of 
species, suites of species, and habitats will enhance our decision-
making. Further benefits will be realized from increased control of 
exotic, invasive, and nuisance species, and implementation of a 
prescribed fire program to target restoration of habitats to pre-fire 
exclusion conditions in support of rare, threatened, and endangered 
species. We will coordinate with partners to address challenges related 
to the impacts of landscape-level ecosystem stresses, including climate 
change and habitat conversion. We will increase our science and 
management capacities. We will enhance resource protection through 
focused and innovative land acquisition strategies and provide boundary 
protection from illicit uses. To achieve this, we will work with 
governmental and non-governmental partners, area communities, and local 
businesses, in addition to pursuing additional staff to address 
management concerns.
    Alternative B is considered to be the most effective for meeting 
the purposes

[[Page 4131]]

of the refuge. It addresses priority issues such as: (1) Declines in 
and threats to rare, threatened, and endangered species; (2) lack of 
baseline information on resources; (3) lack of an effective approach to 
apply fire management and measure fire effects; (4) existence, 
persistence, and spread of exotic, invasive, and nuisance species; (5) 
management challenges resulting from fragmented conservation lands 
under multiple jurisdictions; (6) inability to complete acquisition 
within the refuge's approved acquisition boundary; (7) threats and 
impacts of an increasing human population; (8) lack of on-site staff 
and resources to address needs; and (9) lack of understanding on the 
effects of global climate change on resources.


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

    Dated: October 22, 2010.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2011-1305 Filed 1-21-11; 8:45 am]