[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 188 (Thursday, September 27, 2012)]
[Pages 59412-59414]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-23799]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N126; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Rockingham County, NH; Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Great Bay National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR, refuge) in Newington, New Hampshire, which 
includes the Karner blue butterfly conservation easement in Concord, 
New Hampshire. Great Bay NWR is administered by Parker River NWR in 
Newburyport, Massachusetts. In this final CCP, we describe how we will 
manage the refuge and Karner blue butterfly conservation easement for 
the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and FONSI by

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any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or a CD-ROM.
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Great%20bay/ccphome.html.
    Email: Send requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include ``Great 
Bay Refuge CCP'' in the subject line of your email.
    Mail: Nancy McGarigal, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Fax: Attention: Nancy McGarigal, 413-253-8468.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 978-465-5753 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at the Parker River NWR 
office, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Graham Taylor, Refuge Manager, Parker 
River NWR, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950; 978-465-5753 
(phone); 978-465-2807 (fax); fw5rw_prnwr@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Great Bay NWR. We 
started this process through a notice of intent in the Federal Register 
(74 FR 28722) on June 17, 2009. We announced the release of the draft 
CCP/environmental assessment (EA) to the public and requested comments 
in a notice of availability in the Federal Register (77 FR 7176) on 
February 10, 2012.
    The Service established Great Bay NWR in 1992 to protect the 
natural diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants within its boundaries, 
protect federally listed species, preserve and enhance water quality 
and aquatic habitats, and fulfill the United State's international 
treaty obligations relating to fish and wildlife resources. The refuge 
is located in the town of Newington in southeastern New Hampshire, on 
the eastern shore of the tidally influenced Great Bay Estuary. Prior to 
its establishment, refuge lands were part of the former Pease Air Force 
Base. The 1,103-acre refuge is the largest parcel of protected land on 
Great Bay Estuary, and includes a rich diversity of habitat types 
including oak-hickory forests, grasslands, shrub thickets, freshwater 
and saltwater wetlands, open water, and rocky shoreline.
    Great Bay NWR also includes the Karner blue butterfly conservation 
easement in Concord, New Hampshire. The 29-acre conservation easement 
is managed for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, and also 
supports other rare moths and butterflies. It primarily consists of a 
mix of open pitch pine/scrub oak, pine-hardwood, and other shrubland 
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Great Bay NWR in accordance with National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requirements. We completed a 
thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, which we 
included in the draft CCP/EA.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Great Bay NWR 
for the next 15 years. Alternative B, as described for the refuge in 
the draft CCP/EA, and with the modifications described below, is the 
foundation for the final CCP.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-68ee) (Refuge Administration Act), as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each NWR. The purpose for developing a CCP is to 
provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for achieving refuge 
purposes and contributing to the mission of the National Wildlife 
Refuge System (NWRS), 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 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.

CCP Alternatives, Including the Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (77 FR 7176) addressed several key issues, 
     Managing a diversity of habitat types, including 
grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, and forest to benefit Federal and 
State species of concern.
     Protecting the water quality of the Great Bay Estuary.
     Providing more public access opportunities on Great Bay 
     Balancing the protection of historic resources with 
wildlife and habitat conservation.
    To address these issues and develop a plan based on the refuge's 
establishing purposes, vision, and goals, we evaluated three 
alternatives for Great Bay NWR in the draft CCP/EA. These alternatives 
have some actions in common, such as controlling invasive species, 
monitoring wildlife diseases, protecting the rocky shore, reducing 
impacts from climate change, protecting cultural resources, and 
distributing refuge revenue sharing payments to the town of Newington, 
New Hampshire. There are other actions that differ among the 
alternatives. The draft CCP/EA describes each alternative in detail and 
relates them to the issues and concerns that arose during the planning 
process. Below, we provide summaries for the three Great Bay 
alternatives evaluated in the draft CCP/EA.

Management Alternatives

Alternative A (Current Management)
    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by NEPA 
(42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). It describes our current management 
activities, including those planned, funded, or underway, and serves as 
the baseline against which to compare alternatives B and C. Alternative 
A would continue to emphasize our current biological program 
priorities, including maintaining impoundments for migratory birds and 
managing grasslands for grassland-dependent species of concern. The 
refuge would remain unstaffed and we would continue to rely on 
volunteers to help with seasonal activities. Our visitor services 
program would continue to focus on wildlife observation and 
photography, and we would continue to provide a 2-day fall deer hunt. 
On the Karner blue butterfly easement, we would continue to actively 
manage habitat for Karner blue butterflies in partnership with New 
Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG).
Alternative B (Habitat Diversity and Focal Species Emphasis)
    This is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines the actions 
we believe would best achieve the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, 
and is consistent with the intent of NWRS policy on Biological 
Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health (601 FW 3). This 
alternative would also best respond to the issues that arose during the 
planning process.
    Alternative B would improve our management of refuge habitats to 
benefit species of conservation concern in the Great Bay area and 
coastal New Hampshire. In particular, we would emphasize habitat for 
priority species such as migratory waterfowl, wading birds, forest-
dependent songbirds, New

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England cottontails, and forest bats. We would also manage estuarine 
and aquatic species of concern, including shellfish and migratory fish. 
We would also remove the Lower Peverly Pond Dam to restore 
approximately 1,100 feet of stream habitat, while maintaining the dams 
at Upper Peverly Pond and Stubbs Pond to benefit a range of fish and 
wildlife species of conservation concern. We would also expand our 
conservation, research, and management partnerships to help restore and 
conserve the Great Bay estuarine ecosystem.
    This alternative would enhance our visitor services programs. We 
would improve our trails, create new interpretive materials, expand on 
the existing volunteer program, and offer visitors more opportunities 
to learn about the refuge's history, its resources, and its surrounding 
area. We would also evaluate an expansion of hunting opportunities to 
include wild turkey and a fall bow season for deer. These expanded 
programs would be possible through increased staffing and a new refuge 
headquarters/visitor contact facility.
    On the Karner blue butterfly easement, we would enhance our 
partnership with NHFG to help manage habitat on the easement to support 
this species' recovery. We would also expand the easement's visitor 
services program by installing new interpretive signs and trails, 
offering guided walks, and updating our Web site.
Alternative C (Emphasis on Natural Processes)
    Alternative C primarily relies on ecosystem processes, such as 
natural disturbances, to affect the diversity and integrity of refuge 
habitats. In particular, we would no longer maintain much of the 
grasslands and shrublands on the refuge, allowing them to naturally 
transition to forest. We would remove all three of the refuge's 
impoundments on Peverly Brook and restore these areas to native stream 
habitat. We would also expand our visitor services program by creating 
new trails and opening up more of the refuge to public use. Under this 
alternative, management of the Karner blue butterfly easement would be 
similar to alternative B.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Great Bay NWR from 
February 10 to March 19, 2012 (77 FR 7176). During the comment period, 
we received 25 written responses. We evaluated all of the substantive 
comments we received, and include a summary of those comments and our 
responses to them, as appendix K in the final CCP.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, we 
have made several minor changes to alternative B, including adding or 
revising several management strategies. These changes are described in 
the FONSI (appendix L in the final CCP) and in our response to public 
comments (appendix K in the final CCP).
    We have selected alternative B to implement for Great Bay NWR, with 
these minor changes, for several reasons. Alternative B comprises a mix 
of actions that, in our professional judgment, work best towards 
achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, NWRS policies, and 
the goals of other State and regional conservation plans. We also 
believe that alternative B most effectively addresses key issues raised 
during the planning process. The basis of our decision is detailed in 
the FONSI (appendix L in the final CCP).

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain the final CCP, including the FONSI, as 
indicated under ADDRESSES.

    Dated: August 29, 2012.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2012-23799 Filed 9-26-12; 8:45 a.m.]