[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 195 (Friday, October 7, 2011)]
[Pages 62439-62440]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-25981]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N052; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Complex, GA and SC; 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 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 Savannah Coastal National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
(Complex). The Complex consists of the following refuges: Pinckney 
Island NWR in Beaufort County, South Carolina; Savannah NWR in Chatham 
and Effingham Counties, Georgia, and Jasper County, South Carolina; 
Tybee NWR in Jasper County, South Carolina; Wassaw NWR in Chatham 
County, Georgia; and Blackbeard Island NWR off the coast of McIntosh 
County, Georgia. In the final CCP, we describe how we will manage these 
refuges for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Ms. Jane 
Griess, 694 Beech Hill Lane, Hardeeville, SC 29927. Alternatively, you 
may download the document from our Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning, under ``Final Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Jane Griess, at 843/784-9911 
(telephone), 843/784-2465 (fax), or jane_griess@fws.gov (e-mail).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for the Complex. The 
CCP for Wolf Island NWR, which is a part of the Complex, was completed 
in 2008. We started this process through a Federal Register notice on 
May 19, 2008 (73 FR 28838). Please see that notice for more about the 
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for the Complex 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 (Draft CCP/EA).

[[Page 62440]]

    Compatibility determinations for beach use, bicycling, commercial 
guiding for wildlife-wildland observation, environmental education and 
interpretation, recreational fishing, hiking, public hunting, mosquito 
control, scientific research, timber harvest, salvage timber harvest 
and sale, utility rights-of-way, and wildlife observation and 
photography are available in the CCP.


The CCP Process

    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 September 
15, 2010 (75 FR 56133). We received comments from State and Federal 
government agencies, local government agencies, non-governmental 
organizations, and local citizens.

Selected Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the Complex. 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 will be to 
increase management. This alternative best signifies the vision, goals, 
and purposes of the Complex. We will emphasize restoring and improving 
resources needed for wildlife and habitat management and providing 
enhanced appropriate and compatible wildlife-dependent public use 
opportunities, while addressing key issues and individual mandates.
    We will focus on augmenting wildlife and habitat management to 
identify, conserve, and restore populations of native fish and wildlife 
species, with an emphasis on migratory birds and threatened and 
endangered species. This will partially be accomplished by increased 
monitoring of waterfowl, other migratory and resident birds, and 
endemic species in order to assess and adapt management strategies and 
actions. We will address information gaps by the initiation of baseline 
surveys and periodic monitoring.
    Habitat management programs for impoundments, beaches, wetlands, 
open waters, forested habitats, scrub/shrub habitats, grasslands, and 
open lands will be re-evaluated and step-down management plans will be 
developed to meet the foraging, resting, and breeding requirements of 
priority species. Additionally, monitoring and adaptive habitat 
management will be implemented to potentially counteract the impacts 
associated with long-term climate change and sea level rise.
    We will more aggressively manage invasive and exotic plant species 
by implementing a management plan, completing a baseline inventory, 
supporting research, and controlling by strategic mechanical and 
chemical means. Additionally, we will utilize this management plan to 
enhance our efforts to control/remove invasive, exotic, and/or nuisance 
animals on the refuges.
    Alternative B enhances each refuge's visitor service opportunities 
(except for Tybee NWR, which will remain closed to the public) by: (1) 
Improving the quality of fishing opportunities; (2) streamlining the 
quota hunt process and where possible evaluating the options of 
allowing the use of crossbows and creating additional hunting 
opportunities; and (3) maintaining and where possible expanding 
environmental education opportunities. Volunteer programs and a friends 
group will be expanded to enhance all aspects of management and to 
increase resource availability. The Complex is also evaluating the 
possibility of utilizing a concessionaire at Pinckney Island NWR, to 
implement a tram tour of the refuge that will provide access in a 
controlled manner and allow participation of patrons with mobility 
    Under this alternative, the priority of land acquisition at Harris 
Neck NWR will be to acquire lands that provide resource and public use 
values. This will be accomplished by acquiring lands from willing 
sellers by fee title purchase, donation, mitigation purchase and 
transfer, or other viable means. This will include an investigation 
into expanding the current acquisition boundary. At Savannah NWR, focus 
will be increased on acquiring lands that provide resource and public 
use values. This, too, will be accomplished by acquiring lands from 
willing sellers.
    Law enforcement activities to protect archaeological and historical 
sites and to provide visitor safety will be intensified. The allocation 
of an additional law enforcement officer for the Complex will provide 
security for cultural resources, but will also ensure visitor safety 
and public compliance with refuge regulations.
    Administration plans will stress the need for increased maintenance 
of existing infrastructure and construction of new facilities. Funding 
for new construction projects will be balanced between habitat 
management and public use needs. Additional staff will be required to 
accomplish the goals of this alternative. Personnel priorities will 
include employing an environmental education coordinator, law 
enforcement officers/park rangers, a volunteer coordinator, biological 
technicians, maintenance workers, refuge managers, assistant refuge 
managers, and a geographic information systems specialist. The 
increased Complex budget and staffing levels will better enable us to 
meet the obligations of wildlife stewardship, habitat management, and 
public use.


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

    Dated: April 5, 2011.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received in the Office of the 
Federal Register on Monday, October 4, 2011.

[FR Doc. 2011-25981 Filed 10-6-11; 8:45 am]