[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 102 (Friday, May 25, 2012)]
[Pages 31379-31381]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-12353]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2012-N049; 1265-0000-1037-S3]

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Lake County, OR; Draft 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
revise the comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for Hart Mountain 
National Antelope Refuge (Refuge). An environmental impact statement 
(EIS) evaluating effects of various CCP alternatives will also be 
prepared. We provide this notice in compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act and our CCP policy to advise the public, other 
Federal and State agencies, and Tribes of our intentions and to obtain 
public comments, suggestions, and information on the scope of issues to 
consider in the planning process.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
July 24, 2012. We will hold public meetings to begin the CCP planning 
process in various communities in the vicinity of the Refuge. Meeting 
dates, times, and locations will be announced in news releases, 
planning updates, and on our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Hart/refuge_planning.html.

ADDRESSES: Information about the Refuge is available on our Web site 
http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Hart/index.html. Send your comments 
or requests for information by any of the following methods:
    Online: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Hart/refuge_planning.html. Follow the web link to our online comment form.
    U.S. Mail: Project Leader, Sheldon--Hart Mountain National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 111, Lakeview, OR 97630.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Aaron Collins, (541) 947-3315, ext. 



    With this notice, we initiate our process for revising the Refuge 
CCP. This notice complies with our CCP policy and the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.), to (1) advise other Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the 
public of our intention to conduct detailed planning on this refuge and 
(2) obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to 
consider in the EIS and during development of the CCP.


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 (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 hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation and photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. We will review and update the CCPs at least every 15 
years in accordance with the

[[Page 31380]]

Refuge Administration Act. The existing management plan for the Refuge 
was completed in 1994. The revised CCP will include updates and changes 
needed to comply with the Refuge Administration Act and current Service 
    Each unit of the Refuge System was established for specific 
purposes. We use these purposes as the foundation for developing and 
prioritizing the management goals and objectives for each refuge within 
the Refuge System mission and to determine how the public can use each 
refuge. The planning process is a way for us and the public to evaluate 
management goals and objectives that will ensure the best possible 
approach to wildlife, plant, and habitat conservation, while providing 
for wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are compatible 
with each refuge's establishing purposes and the mission of the Refuge 
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for Tribal, 
State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the public. 
At this time we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, ideas, 
and suggestions for the future management of the Refuge.
    We will conduct the environmental review of this project and 
develop an EIS in accordance with the requirements of NEPA, NEPA 
regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), other appropriate Federal laws 
and regulations, and our policies and procedures for compliance with 
those laws and regulations.

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge

    The Refuge's approved boundary encompasses 277,893 acres of 
sagebrush steppe uplands in Lake County, Oregon; of this, the Service 
owns approximately 270,686 acres. The Refuge was established for the 
following purposes.
    ``* * * as a range and breeding ground for antelope and other 
species of wildlife * * *'' Executive Antelope Range (OR) Order 7523, 
dated Dec. 21, 1936;
    ``* * * for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds.'' 16 U.S.C. 715d (Migratory 
Bird Conservation Act);
    ``* * * for the development, advancement, management, conservation, 
and protection of fish and wildlife resources * * *'' 16 U.S.C. 
    ``* * * for the benefit of the United States Fish and Wildlife 
Service, in performing its activities and services * * *'' 16 U.S.C. 
742f(b)(1) (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956); and
    ``* * * suitable for--(1) incidental fish and wildlife-oriented 
recreational development, (2) the protection of natural resources, (3) 
the conservation of endangered species or threatened species * * *'' 16 
U.S.C. 460k-1.
    The Refuge encompasses a massive fault block ridge known as Hart 
Mountain, which ascends abruptly almost three-quarters of a mile above 
the Warner Valley and then extends along nearly the entire western edge 
of the Refuge in a series of rugged cliffs, steep slopes, and knife-
like ridges. The eastern slope descends gradually in a series of hills 
and a broad, gentle plain. Refuge habitats primarily include various 
sagebrush uplands interspersed with meadows, seasonal shallow playas, 
and pothole lakes. Aspen line the few perennial streams, and western 
juniper cover steep canyon slopes along the mountain escarpment. The 
Refuge provides important but seasonal habitat for its signature 
species, the American pronghorn antelope, and also for mule deer, 
bighorn sheep, and a wide variety of raptors and smaller migratory 
birds. The Refuge also provides habitat for year-round resident 
wildlife, which includes a full assemblage of sagebrush steppe mammals, 
amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and birds, and provides some of the 
most intact and important remaining habitat for the imperiled greater 

Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    The following preliminary issues, concerns, and opportunities have 
been identified for the Refuge, and may be evaluated in the CCP. 
Additional issues may be identified during public scoping.
     Habitat management and restoration. What management 
actions are needed to sustain and restore antelope and priority species 
and habitats over the next 15 years? How is the quality of the Refuge's 
sagebrush steppe habitat being impacted by fire suppression and 
encroachment from western juniper? What effects will climate change 
have on pronghorn and other species the Refuge was established to 
     Invasive species control. Invasive species, primarily 
cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), degrade habitat for most sagebrush steppe 
wildlife. How can we reduce the incidence and spread of cheatgrass and 
other damaging weeds while maintaining a healthy mosaic of sagebrush 
     Visitor services and education opportunities. Compatible 
wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, environmental 
education, fishing, and hunting are provided at the Refuge. How can we 
improve the quality of these services and programs while minimizing 
impacts to Refuge wildlife and habitats? What volunteer programs and 
partnerships can we develop to improve outreach and education and 
ensure adequate visitor facilities are maintained in keeping with the 
Refuge's primitive and historic character?
     Land protection and planning. Fish and wildlife depend not 
only upon the Refuge, but also a much larger supporting landscape 
influenced by changes in climate, land use, and other activities. What 
management actions, including partnerships and/or additional landscape 
protection measures, are needed to sustain and restore priority species 
and habitats, maintain water quality, improve habitat protection and 
connectivity, and reduce habitat fragmentation?
     Wildlife and habitat monitoring. What data are needed and 
how can we obtain those data regarding antelope and key species and 
their habitats to accurately measure population numbers and trends and 
to measure the effectiveness of projects and progress toward our 
management objectives in order to adjust future management actions 
    The following issue, previously addressed, will not be considered 
in the CCP.
     Grazing. In the Refuge's 1994 management plan, livestock 
grazing was evaluated and found incompatible with the purposes for the 
Refuge and the use was discontinued. Following amendment of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 
668dd-668ee) by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 
1997, the Service adopted an Appropriate Use Policy. The Appropriate 
Use Policy requires an Appropriate Use analysis and finding for uses of 
a refuge prior to the completion of a Compatibility Determination. 
Pursuant to this policy, we have reevaluated the use of livestock 
grazing on Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge through an 
Appropriate Use Finding. Considering results from a number of studies 
that evaluated changes in conditions and management of Refuge habitats 
following livestock removal, we have determined that grazing is not 
beneficial to Refuge resources and cannot be accommodated without 
impacting existing wildlife-dependent uses. Therefore, we have 
concluded that livestock grazing is not an appropriate use on the Hart 
Mountain National

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Antelope Refuge and will not be considered in the revised CCP.

Public Meetings

    We will give the public an opportunity to provide input at public 
meetings. We will hold a meeting on May 31, 2012, at 6 p.m. at Daly 
Middle School, 220 South H Street, Lakeview, Oregon. We will hold 
another meeting on June 4, 2012, at 6 p.m. at Plush Elementary School 
in Plush, Oregon. These public open houses will be announced in press 
releases, planning updates, and on our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/Hart/refuge_planning.html. You may also send comments 
anytime during the planning process by mail or email (see ADDRESSES).

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: April 2, 2012.
Richard R. Hannan,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-12353 Filed 5-24-12; 8:45 am]