[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 13 (Friday, January 20, 2012)]
[Pages 2992-2993]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-1113]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2009-N231; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Adams and Grant Counties, WA; 
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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and a 
finding of no significant impact for the environmental assessment for 
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge (NWR/refuge). In this final CCP, we 
describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 years. 
Implementation of the CCP is subject to the availability of funding and 
any additional compliance requirements.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and finding 
of no significant impact (FONSI) and environmental assessment (EA) by 
any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or CD-ROM.
    Refuge Web Site: Download a copy of the document(s) at www.fws.gov/columbia/management.html.
    Email: mcriver@fws.gov. Include ``Columbia NWR Final CCP'' in the 
subject line of the message.
    Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Columbia NWR Final CCP, 64 
Maple Street, Burbank, WA 99323.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call (509) 546-8333 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at the address above.
    Local Library: The document is also available for review at the 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kelly Chase, Refuge Manager, (509) 
488-2668 (phone); mcriver@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we announce the completion of the CCP process for 
Columbia NWR. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register (74 FR 25576; May 28, 2009). We released the draft CCP/EA to 
the public, announcing and requesting comments in a notice of 
availability in the Federal Register (76 FR 45600; July 29, 2011).
    We announce our CCP decision and the availability of a FONSI for 
Columbia NWR in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge 
Administration Act) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 
CFR 1506.6(b)) requirements. We prepared an analysis of environmental 
impacts, which we included in the EA that accompanied the draft CCP.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Columbia NWR 
for the next 15 years. The selected alternative, as described in the 
final CCP, is a combination of actions from alternatives 2 and 3 in the 
draft CCP and is the basis for management direction.


    The 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 compatible wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
opportunities for compatible 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.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for the refuge from July 
29, 2011, to August 29, 2011 (76 FR 45600). All letters and comments 
received were thoroughly evaluated and considered in the selection of a 
final alternative. The only change to the alternatives in the draft CCP 
was modifying the overnight closure of Morgan Lake Road to allow for 
access starting 1\1/2\ hours before legal hunting time and ending 1\1/
2\ hours after legal hunting time during State hunting seasons.

Selected Alternative

    All actions in the selected alternative are subject to available 
funding and any other compliance requirements. Under the selected 
alternative, refuge management will continue much as is, consistent 
with available funding and staffing, except that 175 acres of emergent 
marsh wetlands in Marsh Unit III will be converted to riparian habitat, 
with other wetlands to potentially follow based on the success of the 
first conversion. The Crab Creek channel will be restored, and stream 
restoration will be a priority to provide for steelhead and redband 
trout and improve riparian areas for migrating neotropical birds. 
Specialized habitats (e.g., rock outcroppings) will receive more 
planned attention. Grasslands will be maintained to provide for species 
like the long-billed curlew, and cooperative farming agreements will 
continue to provide green forage and grains for geese, waterfowl, and 
Sandhill cranes, while emphasizing low-impact techniques. Habitats will 
be maintained and protected for loggerhead shrikes, sagebrush lizards, 
and a variety of raptors. Management of State and Federal species of 
concern will be emphasized. Refuge lands will continue to be managed 
using a mix of natural processes and substantial management 
intervention. For example, many wetland areas are allowed to follow 
natural succession--although noxious weed control, prescribed fire, and 
other maintenance actions are undertaken--but several moist soil 
management areas require water level manipulation, dike maintenance, 
extensive soil preparation, planting, and other treatments. Land 
transfers will be pursued to provide continuous blocks of habitats and 
simplify management.

[[Page 2993]]

    Public use will be a blend of active and passive. Horseback riding 
and bicycling will continue, but camping will be eliminated. The Soda 
Lake Campground will be converted to day-use facilities, and the area 
around the Bluebird Campground will be available by permit for day use 
as an educational site. Morgan Lake Road will be closed to overnight 
travel. Facilities with increased accessibility will be developed to 
promote compatible hunting and fishing. Waterfowl and big game hunting 
opportunities will be expanded by opening new areas; providing for 
additional hunting weapons; and implementing additional youth hunt 
days, areas, and seasons. The waterfowl hunting lottery will be 
discontinued in favor of first-come, first-served hunting. A new hiking 
and interpretive trail will be developed within the Drumheller Channel 
National Natural Landmark in cooperation with the National Park 
Service. Seasonal and permanent wildlife observation blinds will be 
provided. New interpretive and educational programs and brochures will 
be developed, with an emphasis on building the volunteer program to 
manage them. The Sandhill Crane Festival will remain a priority. Fish 
stocking by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will 
continue, with an approved fisheries management plan, but will be 
discontinued in lakes where there is the highest likelihood of success 
for northern leopard frog recovery.
    Step-down plans on informational and interpretive signs, cultural 
resource management, habitat management, and other management areas 
related to the goals and objectives in this CCP will be developed. 
Water rights and/or agreements will be pursued to ensure the 
availability of water for moist soil management.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Agency Web Site: www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/.
     Public Library: Othello Branch of Mid-Columbia Libraries, 
101 East Main Street, Othello, WA 99344; (509) 488-9683.

    Dated: November 17, 2011.
Michael Carrier,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-1113 Filed 1-19-12; 8:45 am]