[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 157 (Monday, August 15, 2011)]
[Pages 50490-50492]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-20448]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R7-2010-N290; 70133-1265-0000-S3]

Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental 
Impact Statement, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks, AK

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability and request for comments; announcement 
of public meetings.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Arctic National Wildlife 
Refuge (Refuge) for public review and comment. In this document, we 
describe goals and objectives, management direction, and alternatives 
to manage the Refuge for the 15 years following approval of the final 
CCP. Also available for review in the document are draft compatibility 
determinations, a draft wilderness review, and a draft wild and scenic 
river review prepared in association with the CCP, as well as 
supporting documents required by the National Environmental Policy Act 

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
November 14, 2011. We will hold public meetings in communities within 
and near the Refuge, and also in the cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, 
in Alaska. We will announce these upcoming public meetings in local 
news media.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request a 20-page 
summary of the CCP; a 1,200-page hard copy of the full CCP; or a CD-ROM 
of the summary and full document.
    Agency Web Site: Download a copy of the summary or full CCP 
document at http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm.
    E-mail: ArcticRefugeCCP@fws.gov. Include ``Arctic National Wildlife 
Refuge draft CCP and draft EIS'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Sharon Seim, Planning Team Leader, (907) 456-0428.
    U.S. Mail: Sharon Seim, Planning Team Leader, Arctic National 
Wildlife Refuge, 101 12th Ave., Rm. 236, Fairbanks, AK 99701.
    In-Person Pickup or Drop-off: You may pick up a copy or drop off 
comments during regular business hours at the address listed above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sharon Seim, Planning Team Leader, at 
the address listed above, by phone at (907) 456-0501, or by e-mail at 



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for the Arctic 
National Wildlife Refuge. We started this process through a notice of 
intent in the Federal Register (75 FR 17763; April 7, 2010).
    The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge includes nearly 19.3 million 
acres, three wild rivers, and one of the largest areas of designated 
Wilderness in the United States. The rugged Brooks Range, with peaks 
and glaciers to 9,000 feet, extends east to west in a band 75 miles 
wide, rising abruptly from a tundra-covered plain. This treeless plain 
is cut by numerous braided rivers and streams. South of the continental 
divide, rivers wind serpentine courses through broad spruce-covered 
valleys dotted with lakes and sloughs. Nearly 180 species of birds, 45 
species of mammals, and 36 species of fish have been documented on 
Arctic Refuge. Vast mountains, diverse wildlife, and a wealth of 
habitats give this unspoiled wildlife refuge high cultural-heritage, 
scenic, scientific, and wilderness values.


The CCP Process

    The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (94 
Stat. 2371; ANILCA) requires us to develop a CCP for each 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. We will review and update the CCP at least 
every 20 years in accordance with ANILCA.

Public Outreach

    We started the CCP for Arctic Refuge in April 2010. At that time 
and throughout the planning process, we requested public comments and 
considered and incorporated them in numerous ways. In April 2010, we 
mailed a planning newsletter to more than 2,000 individuals, agencies, 
and organizations describing the planning process for the CCP revision 
and telling the public how they could be informed or involved. It 
informed the public about the Refuge vision and draft goals identified 
by the planning team and Refuge staff. The newsletter contained a 
comment form that provided an opportunity for people to identify issues 
they thought should be addressed in the CCP or to provide suggestions 
on how best to accomplish Arctic Refuge purposes. The newsletter and 
comment form were also made available over the Internet.
    To gather additional input from the public, members of the planning 
team and Refuge staff held eight public open house meetings--five in 
communities adjacent to or within the boundaries of the Arctic Refuge; 
one in Washington, DC; one in Anchorage, Alaska; and one in Fairbanks, 
    Individuals and organizations provided 94,061 comments during the 
scoping process. The responses came in e-mails, Web forms, postcards, 
faxes, letters, and public hearing transcripts. Approximately 300 
people spoke at meetings in 8 communities. The responses were reviewed, 
coded, and

[[Page 50491]]

analyzed. Comments were sorted into six categories:
    (1) General comments expressing support for, or opposition to, 
wilderness designation and development within the Refuge;
    (2) Analysis--These comments spoke to the scope and content of the 
draft CCP/EIS, with the major theme being the need to update studies 
and to employ effective monitoring and inventories. A minor theme was 
the adequacy of the studies--the data concerns related to climate 
change, wildlife, invasive plants, recreation, oil and gas, water, and 
    (3) Process--Commenters provided input on process considerations 
for CCP preparation, including comments on decisionmaking philosophy, 
outreach, public involvement process, public meetings, and the 
influence of politics and special interests in the process;
    (4) Activities and Uses--The comments received covered four major 
areas of activities and uses:
     Commercial activities, either support or opposition--e.g., 
concern about potential impacts to Refuge resources, or impact of 
permitted users on Native groups;
     Government Activities--e.g., scientific research, species 
management, structures within the Refuge, and alternative energy;
     Private Activities; and
     Native/Tribal activities on the Refuge, including support 
or opposition to recreational activities, large groups and growing 
crowds, with comments focused on potential impacts of Refuge 
regulations and policies to Native Alaskans;
    (5) Land and Resource Management--The focus of these comments 
included discussions about Refuge purposes and mandates (asking the 
Service to avoid changing or manipulating the natural environment in 
the Refuge); support for, and opposition to, further Wilderness and 
Wild and Scenic River designations; opposition to naming of features; 
and both ensuring compliance with Refuge treaties and agreements and 
concern from Alaska Natives that treaties have been used to manipulate 
their lifestyles;
    (6) Legal Consistency--This category included comments about the 
legal consistency of various laws, treaties, and policies that affect 
the Refuge--e.g., asking for clarification of the roles of the Service 
and Congress related to Wilderness designation and management within 
the ``1002'' area of the Refuge, and the role of Refuge planning to 
ensure that planning efforts for the CCP are consistent with laws, 
regulations, and policies.
    We have considered and evaluated these issues and public concerns, 
and we have used them to develop various aspects of the draft CCP/EIS, 
such as management objectives, management guidelines, and alternatives.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    We developed and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized 
in the table below. A full description of each alternative is in the 
draft EIS.

                               Issue 1: Should
                           additional  Wilderness        Issue 2: Should
                               Study Areas  be        additional Wild  and       Issue 3: How will the Refuge
                               recommended for          Scenic Rivers  be     manage  Kongakut River visitor use
      Alternatives            inclusion  in the          recommended for       to protect  natural resources and
                             National Wilderness     inclusion  in the Wild           visitor experience?
                          Preservation System, and  and Scenic River System,
                             if so, which areas?    and if so, which rivers?
A (No Action)...........  No new Wilderness         No new Wild and Scenic    Group size limits exist for
                           recommended.              Rivers recommended.       commercially guided groups (7
                                                                               hikers, 10 floaters). There are
                                                                               no group size limits for non-
                                                                               guided visitors.
                                                                              Commercial service providers have
                                                                               permits, with occasional
                                                                               compliance checks.
                                                                              In the Kongakut Valley, air taxi
                                                                               permits are granted under
                                                                               condition that the holders limit
                                                                               landing to non-vegetated surfaces
                                                                               only; subject to safety and
                                                                               weather, they must maintain
                                                                               minimum 2,000 feet above ground
                                                                               level flight operations, with no
                                                                               intentional low flights over
                                                                               camps or people; aircraft
                                                                               operations must not harass
                                                                               wildlife or interfere with refuge
                                                                              Visitor-use monitoring occurs
                                                                               every other year or less often.
                                                                               Campsite conditions are monitored
B.......................  Recommend the Brooks      Recommend the Kongakut,   Same as Alternative A, with the
                           Range Wilderness Study    Hulahula, and Marsh       following additional actions:
                           Area.                     Fork of the Canning      Develop and initiate monitoring
                                                     Rivers.                   physical and social conditions to
                                                                               evaluate management
                                                                              Develop targeted public education
                                                                               materials explaining preferred
                                                                               practices to minimize impacts,
                                                                               such as proper waste disposal,
                                                                               avoiding wildlife impacts, and
                                                                               alleviating crowding among
C.......................  Recommend the Coastal     Recommend the Atigun      Same as Alternative B.
                           Plain Wilderness Study    River.
D.......................  Recommend the Brooks      Recommend the Kongakut,   Same as Alternative B, except:
                           Range and Porcupine       Marsh Fork of the        Increase efforts to enforce
                           Plateau Wilderness        Canning, and Atigun       compliance with permit conditions
                           Study Areas.              Rivers, and those         and regulations.
                                                     portions of the          Reduce the number of groups on the
                                                     Hulahula River that are   river during heavy use periods
                                                     on Refuge lands.          (late June and mid-August) by
                                                                               working with commercial guides to
                                                                               modify their use of the river
                                                                               throughout the season.
                                                                              Work with commercial air taxi
                                                                               operators to disperse flight
                                                                               paths over the river.

[[Page 50492]]

E.......................  Recommend the Brooks      Recommend the Kongakut,   Same as Alternative D, except:
                           Range, Porcupine          Marsh Fork of the        Detailed step-down planning would
                           Plateau, and Coastal      Canning, Hulahula, and    start within 2 years of
                           Plain Wilderness Study    Atigun Rivers.            completing the Record of Decision
                           Areas.                                              for the CCP.
F.......................  Same as Alternative A...  Same as Alternative A...  Same as Alternative B, except:
                                                                              A detailed step-down plan would
                                                                               decide how to enforce compliance
                                                                               with permit conditions and
                                                                              Step-down planning would start
                                                                               within 2 years after completing
                                                                               the Record of Decision for the

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at our Web site: http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm.

Public Meetings

    We will involve the public through open houses, hearings, meetings, 
and written comments. We will mail documents to our national and local 
Refuge mailing lists. Public open house meetings will be held in the 
communities of Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, Kaktovik, and Venetie, 
Alaska, and public hearings in will be held in Anchorage and Fairbanks, 
Alaska. Dates, times, and locations of each meeting or open house will 
be announced in advance in local media.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    We particularly seek comments on the following issues:
     Issue 1--Should one or more areas of the Arctic Refuge be 
recommended for Wilderness designation?
     Issue 2--Should additional Wild and Scenic Rivers be 
recommended for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River System?
     Issue 3--How will the Refuge manage Kongakut River visitor 
use to protect resources and visitor experience?
    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document;
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the 
environmental assessment;
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the draft
    CCP and the EIS; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the 

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and decision document.

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.

    Dated: July 15, 2011.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.
[FR Doc. 2011-20448 Filed 8-12-11; 8:45 am]