[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 238 (Monday, December 12, 2011)]
[Pages 77245-77247]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-31808]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R2-R-2011-N186; FXRS12610200000S3-123-FF02R06000]

Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, Austin and 
Colorado Counties, TX; Comprehensive Conservation 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) and an 
environmental assessment (EA) for Attwater Prairie Chicken National 
Wildlife Refuge (Refuge, NWR), located approximately 60 miles west of 
Houston, Texas, 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 
January 23, 2012. We will announce 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 hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents. Please contact Terry Rossignol, 
Refuge Manager, or Monica Kimbrough, Natural Resource Planner.
    Email: Monica_Kimbrough@fws.gov. Include ``Attwater Prairie 
Chicken NWR draft CCP and EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Monica Kimbrough, (505) 248-6803.
    U.S. Mail: Monica Kimbrough, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service, NWRS Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, 
Albuquerque, NM 87103.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: In-Person Drop-off: You may 
drop off comments during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) 
at 500 Gold Street SW., 4th Floor, Room 4019, Albuquerque, NM 87102.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Terry Rossignol, Refuge Manager, 
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, CCP--Project, P.O. Box 519, Eagle Lake, 
TX 77434; phone: (979) 234-3021; fax: (979) 234-3278.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for the Attwater 
Prairie Chicken

[[Page 77246]]

NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register 
(73 FR 65871; November 5, 2008).
    The Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, which consists of 10,538 acres 
located approximately 60 miles west of Houston, Texas, is one of the 
largest remnants of coastal prairie habitat remaining in southeast 
Texas. The Refuge was officially established on July 1, 1972, to 
preserve and restore coastal prairie habitat for the endangered 
Attwater's prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri).


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, 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 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

    Formal scoping began with publication of a notice of intent to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment 
(EA) in the Federal Register on November 5, 2008 (73 FR 65871). In 
December 2008, a letter was sent to individuals at Texas Parks and 
Wildlife Department (TPWD) formally inviting them to participate in the 
development of the CCP. We received input from TPWD in January 2009. 
Information sheets were sent to the public, and news releases were sent 
to four area newspapers and published in two of the local newspapers 
(Colorado County Citizen and Eagle Lake Headlight). The news release 
also aired on KULM Radio in Columbus. Three public open house meetings 
were held. Despite advertising for these open houses, turnout was poor. 
Additional written comments were received prior to these open house 
meetings. The meetings were held at three locations in the area on 
three separate days between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. A variety of 
stakeholders contributed feedback at the open house meetings and via 
written comments; we used the feedback in development of the CCP.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
this draft CCP, we, other governmental partners, Tribes, and the 
public, raised multiple issues. Our draft CCP addresses them. A full 
description of each alternative is in the EA. To address these issues, 
we developed and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized 

                                                                  B--Optimal habitat
                                          A--No action        management and public use     C--Maximal habitat
            Issue topic                    alternative            (proposed action)        management and public
                                                                     alternative              use alternative
Habitat Management Issue 1: Prairie  Combination of          Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B;
 Restoration.                         planting native         explore partnership          except establish seed
                                      grasses, grazing,       options to produce native    harvest and
                                      burning, hydrologic     grass seed increase the      production on the
                                      restoration.            number of restoration        Refuge; grazing bison
                                                              acres; expand monitoring     only.
                                                              for grazing and burning
                                                              effects; remove
                                                              infrastructure, including
                                                              two manmade wetland
                                                              impoundments, restoring a
                                                              functional level of
Habitat Management Issue 2: Land/    Acquire acres within    Continue to acquire land     Same as Alternative B.
 Property Acquisition.                approved acquisition    within acquisition
                                      boundary; not           boundary, proactively seek
                                      proactively seeking     out land protection
                                      out additional land     options and diversify
                                      protection options.     those options.
Habitat Management Issue 3:          Treatments include a    Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B.
 Invasive Species Control (Flora).    combination of          conduct one-time
                                      chemical, mechanical,   systematic chemical
                                      and prescribed fire.    invasive species control
                                                              for entire refuge, unit by
                                                              unit; afterward, treatment
                                                              is expected to be required
                                                              every 2-3 years as
                                                              invasive species are re-
Wildlife Management Issue 1:         Continue to implement   Same as Alternative A......  Same as Alternative A.
 Attwater's Prairie-Chicken           Attwater's Prairie-
 Recovery.                            Chicken Recovery Plan.
Wildlife Management Issue 2:         Eliminate feral hogs    Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B.
 Invasive Species Control (Fauna).    and nutria based on     work with adjacent land
                                      sighting and/or         owners to control feral
                                      documented damage;      hog population; remove
                                      treat nest sites and    brush and other elements
                                      conduct research on     of hog movement corridors;
                                      impacts of red          depending on results of
                                      imported fire ants on   current research of red
                                      insect community.       imported fire ants, expand
                                                              treated area to full
                                                              extent of refuge and work
                                                              with adjacent landowners
                                                              to expand treatment off
Wildlife Management Issue 3:         Manage three food       Same as Alternative A; plus  Eliminate wildlife
 Wildlife Food Plots (Farming         plots totaling up to    explore additional ways to   food plots.
 Program).                            150 acres.              provide supplemental food
                                                              to Attwater's prairie-
                                                              chicken, including
                                                              capability to irrigate and
                                                              addition of food plots
                                                              when the species'
                                                              populations expand.
Visitor Services Issue 1: Wildlife   Provide wildlife        Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B.
 Observation and Wildlife             observation and         realign auto-tour route;
 Photography.                         photography to          exclude cattle from public
                                      include auto-tour       hiking trails; establish a
                                      route and two hiking    new platform and hiking
                                      trails.                 trail around Horseshoe
                                                              Lake; remove Pipit Trail;
                                                              increase guided van tours.

[[Page 77247]]

Visitor Services Issue 2:            Provide environmental   Develop an environmental     Develop an outdoor
 Environmental Education.             education as            education program and        classroom through
                                      requested and as        promote in local school      partnerships with
                                      staff time permits.     districts.                   local schools,
                                                                                           volunteers, and
                                                                                           friends group.
Visitor Services Issue 3:            Host annual Attwater's  Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B.
 Interpretation.                      Prairie-Chicken         add interpretive signage
                                      Festival;               and kiosk to new auto-tour
                                      interpretive signage    route and new trail;
                                      at headquarters and     expand interpretive
                                      along auto-tour route.  opportunities using recent
Facilities Issue 1: Roads..........  Cooperate with county   Same as Alternative A; plus  Same as Alternative B.
                                      maintenance personnel   acquire jurisdiction and
                                      for refuge entrance     maintenance
                                      road, and maintain      responsibilities of
                                      other refuge roads.     existing refuge entrance
                                                              road and widen to two full
                                                              lanes; bury powerline
                                                              along entrance road;
                                                              evaluate and remove
                                                              services roads where
Facilities Issue 2: Development of   Administrative          Develop and approve site     Same as Alternative B.
 Administrative Complex.              operations conducted    plan for new integrated
                                      out of three portable   administrative complex.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR Headquarters Office, 1206 
APCNWR Road, Eagle Lake, TX 77434 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday.
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/publicinvolvement.html.
     At the following public libraries:

            Library                     Address             Phone No.
Eula and David Wintermann       101 North Walnut Ave.,    (979) 234-5411
 Library.                        Eagle Lake, TX 77434.
Nesbitt Memorial Library......  529 Washington Street,    (979) 732-3392
                                 Columbus, TX 78934.
Virgil and Josephine Gordon     917 North Circle Dr.,     (979) 885-7469
 Memorial Library.               Sealy, TX 77474.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    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 (EA);
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA; 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 finding of no significant 

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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: November 14, 2011.
Joy Nicholopoulos,
Acting Regional Director, Southwest Region.
[FR Doc. 2011-31808 Filed 12-9-11; 8:45 am]