[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 148 (Tuesday, August 2, 2011)]
[Pages 46317-46320]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-19503]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2009-N184; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge, Nantucket, MA; Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan, Land Protection Plan, and 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP), 
including a land protection plan (LPP), and environmental assessment 
(EA) for Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) for public review and 
comment. The draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for managing the 
refuge for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
September 1, 2011. We will hold at least one public meeting in 
Nantucket, MA, during the public comment period to receive comments and 
provide information on the draft plan. We will also announce 
opportunities for public input in local news media, our project mailing 
list, and on our regional planning Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/nantucket/ccphome.html.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any one of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    E-mail: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Nantucket NWR draft 
CCP/EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attention: Carl Melberg, 978-443-2898.
    U.S. Mail: Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex, 73 Weir Hill Road, 
Sudbury, MA 01776.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 978-443-4661 to make 

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appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl Melberg, Planning Team Leader, 
978-443-4661, extension 32 (phone); northeastplanning@fws.gov (e-mail).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Nantucket NWR, on 
Nantucket Island in the Town of Nantucket, Massachusetts. We started 
this process through a notice in the Federal Register (73 FR 18806; 
April 7, 2008).
    Nantucket NWR was established in 1973, under an Act Authorizing the 
Transfer of Certain Real Property for Wildlife, or other Purposes (16 
U.S.C. 667b, Pub. L. 80-537), which authorized the U.S. Coast Guard 
(USCG) to transfer the property to the Service, because of ``its 
particular value in carrying out the Migratory Bird Act.'' The USCG 
currently maintains ownership of a 1-acre inholding on the refuge that 
contains the Great Point Lighthouse. Nantucket NWR lies at the northern 
tip of a narrow peninsula that forms the northernmost point of 
Nantucket Island. The tip is known locally as ``Great Point,'' and the 
peninsula is known as the ``Coskata-Coatue Peninsula.'' The only way 
visitors can access the refuge by land is via a road through The 
Trustees of Reservations' (TTOR) Coskata-Coatue Refuge and Nantucket 
Conservation Foundation (NCF) properties, both of which lie due south 
of the refuge on the peninsula.
    The refuge erodes and accretes constantly, but averages 20 acres in 
size. The refuge is a barrier beach system, where two longshore 
currents meet to form a rip current and dynamically erode and/or build 
the spit. The refuge is composed of beach and dune habitat that serves 
the needs of a wide diversity of water and land birds of conservation 
concern, including seabirds, colonial nesting birds such as common and 
roseate terns, shorebirds such as piping plover and oystercatcher, and 
marine mammals such as gray seals. Nantucket NWR is one of eight 
refuges in the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex.


The CCP Process

    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 (NWRS), 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.

Public Outreach

    The extensive planning history for this refuge began with the 
publication of a notice in the Federal Register (64 FR 9166; February 
24, 1999) announcing we were preparing a CCP and environmental impact 
statement (EIS) for all eight refuges in what was then known as the 
Great Meadows NWR Complex. In 2001, we determined it was not feasible 
to prepare a single CCP for all eight refuges, and thus prepared 
another notice in the Federal Register (66 FR 10506; February 15, 
2001), to indicate that a CCP/EIS would be prepared for Monomoy, 
Nantucket, and Nomans Land Island NWRs. However, no work was initiated 
on the plan at that time. In 2008, because of the different issues 
facing the refuges, the Service determined it was more efficient to 
proceed through the CCP process for each refuge separately, and 
published a notice in the Federal Register (73 FR 18806; April 7, 2008) 
to begin a separate CCP/EA process for Nantucket NWR. At that time, and 
throughout the process, we requested public comments and considered and 
incorporated them in numerous ways.
    The CCP planning team consisted of Service staff from refuges, 
planning, visitor services, migratory bird, and endangered species, as 
well as representatives from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries 
and Wildlife, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (WTOGHA), and 
the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (MWT). Partner and public meetings were 
held during October 2008. Attendees to the partner and public meetings 
included the Service, WTOGHA, MWT, TTOR, NCF, Massachusetts Audubon, 
Nantucket Anglers Club, Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket Civic 
League, Nantucket Land Council, Nantucket Wetlands Board, and numerous 
unaffiliated individuals.
    Issues from the public comment period focused on maintaining a 
balance between resource protection and beach access, increasing 
education and interpretation of the resources, increasing 
communications about management decisions, and cooperating in land 
management with adjacent land managers. Other issues included potential 
effects on public recreation by the presence of seals, staffing and 
enforcement needs, determining compatibility for recreational uses, 
creating a protocol for cultural resource protection, and planning for 
future land acquisition opportunities. We have considered and evaluated 
all of these comments, and have addressed many of them by incorporating 
them into the various alternatives in the draft CCP/EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    Our draft CCP/EA includes a full description of each issue noted 
above. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated the 
following alternatives in the draft CCP/EA, summarized below.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). Alternative 
A defines our current management activities, and serves as the baseline 
against which to compare the other alternatives. This alternative 
describes current refuge programs on approximately 20 acres for habitat 
management, fish and wildlife inventories and monitoring, 
administrative infrastructure and staffing, and visitor services. Under 
this alternative, TTOR would continue to provide on-site management of 
Nantucket NWR, and the Service would continue its passive management 
role and minimal presence on the refuge. The remote location of the 
refuge, along with limited staffing and funding resources, restricts 
our ability to maintain a consistent presence, or to actively oversee 
and implement management actions. Instead, we would continue to 
coordinate with TTOR for installing symbolic fencing and implementing 
beach closures to protect breeding and staging birds and seal haulout 
sites on the refuge.
    Under alternative A, the Service would maintain oversight, but 
visitor services programs would continue to be implemented primarily by 
partners, such as TTOR. The Service's role has not been visible, and 
many visitors are unaware that the tip of Great Point is a NWR. 
Priority public uses, such as wildlife observation, photography,

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environmental education, interpretation, and fishing, are currently 
allowed on the refuge and would continue where beach access is 
permitted. Hunting is the only priority public use that is not allowed 
on the refuge due to the refuge's small size and types of habitat.
    In this alternative, refuge staffing would remain at current levels 
stationed at the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex headquarters in 
Sudbury, Massachusetts. We would continue discussions to pursue a 
partnership agreement with TTOR, which would include resource 
management, visitor use, and shared funding sources to help contribute 
to refuge operations.

Alternative B (Enhanced Wildlife and Visitor Services) (Service-
Preferred Alternative)

    Alternative B is the alternative our planning team proposes to 
recommend to our Regional Director for implementation. It includes an 
array of management actions that, in our professional judgment, work 
best towards achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, and 
would make an important contribution to conserving Federal trust 
resources of concern. This alternative provides the most appropriate 
level and type of management for Service staff managing the eight 
refuges in the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex. We believe this is 
the most reasonable, feasible, and practicable alternative.
    This alternative describes increased Service management and 
presence over the next 15 years on the 20-acre refuge, and on the 
additional 1,790 acres proposed for Service acquisition from willing 
sellers in fee or easement, as funding and staffing levels permit. 
Additionally, it strives to provide a balance between habitat and 
species conservation and public use and access. We would increase our 
presence on the refuge to both implement and monitor habitat management 
actions, and provide higher quality opportunities for the five priority 
public uses currently allowed. It would also enhance partnerships with 
local conservation organizations and civic groups.
    Under this alternative, the Service would take a more active role 
in habitat and species management on the refuge, targeting the 
protection of dynamic coastal beach and dune systems and the avian and 
mammalian species that rely on them for critical nesting, resting, 
foraging, and staging habitat. The additional protection proposed would 
likely result in access restrictions and/or closures on the refuge 
during certain seasons or in some years. Species management would 
follow Federal piping plover recovery guidelines and State plover and 
tern guidelines, and would benefit other species such as nesting 
American oystercatchers. In the late summer/early fall, we would 
provide additional habitat protection for staging terns from vehicular 
and pedestrian disturbance. We would also continue to work closely with 
TTOR, NCF, and our other partners to accomplish these management 
actions with an emphasis on landscape-level conservation and more 
consistent management between peninsula partners.
    The Service would pursue acquisition of Federal (excess and 
surplus) land, including the old USCG Long Range Navigation and Federal 
Aviation Administration facilities, as well as easements and 
acquisitions from willing sellers on key parcels on the Coskata-Coatue 
Peninsula on or near Nantucket Island, to further enhance landscape-
level conservation. A draft LPP, which requires Director's approval 
before it can be implemented, is included as Appendix G.
    Under alternative B, we would also increase priority public-use 
opportunities, with an emphasis on fishing, wildlife observation, 
environmental education, and interpretation, which would be 
accomplished by working with partners. Subject to funding availability, 
we would conduct a study to evaluate alternative means of transporting 
people to the refuge without the use of individual vehicles. A 
primitive foot trail is proposed from the lighthouse to the refuge's 
eastern beach for pedestrian and fishing access. We would also explore 
the opportunity to install a webcam on the lighthouse, and facilitate 
outreach opportunities and activities for visitors and residents of 
Nantucket Island to highlight the Service's role as a steward of 
natural resources.
    Under alternative B, we propose a level of staffing that meets the 
minimum requirements for a refuge of this complexity by adding a part-
time, year-round visitor services specialist and a full-time biologist 
stationed on Nantucket Island, and a new law enforcement officer 
stationed at Monomoy NWR in Chatham, Massachusetts.

Alternative C (Wildlife Diversity and Natural Processes Emphasis)

    This alternative would focus on managing for wildlife diversity and 
natural coastal processes. It would emphasize species and habitat 
protection on the refuge through actions such as not allowing over-sand 
vehicles (OSV) over most of the refuge during April 1 through September 
15. This would be implemented to minimize disturbance to nesting and 
migrating birds, and to reduce the impacts on macroinvertebrates, 
vegetative communities, and dune structure and function. Staff would 
monitor and evaluate nesting success and productivity for priority bird 
species of conservation concern.
    Alternative C includes expansion of current management and staffing 
over the next 15 years on the refuge. It would also involve targeted 
fee and easement acquisition of excess and surplus Federal lands and 
other key conservation properties on Nantucket Island as opportunities 
    Visitor services would be the same as under alternative B, except 
for the longer, more restrictive OSV closure zones from April 1 through 
September 15 each year. Also, the Service would collaborate with 
partners to disseminate information on this seasonal OSV restriction on 
the refuge.
    Similar to alternative B, this alternative proposes a joint visitor 
facility with TTOR and NCF, a kiosk and interpretive panels, and a 
trail through the refuge with a viewing platform and/or photo blind. 
Also similar to alternative B, we would explore the opportunity to 
install a webcam on the lighthouse, and facilitate outreach 
opportunities and activities for visitors and residents of Nantucket 
Island to highlight the Service's role as a steward of natural 

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents on our regional planning Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/nantucket/ccphome.html.

Public Meetings

    We will hold at least one public meeting during the public comment 
period. For more information on the meeting schedule, contact the 

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and finding of no significant 

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 

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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.

    Dated: May 20, 2011.
Wendi Weber,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, Hadley, Massachusetts.
[FR Doc. 2011-19503 Filed 8-1-11; 8:45 am]