[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 209 (Monday, October 29, 2012)]
[Pages 65574-65577]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-26482]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-R-2012-N239; FF06R06000 134 FXRS1265066CCP0]

Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Lake Andes, SD; 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; announcement of meeting; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that our draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental 
assessment (EA) for the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge Complex 
(Complex), which includes Lake Andes NWR (National Wildlife Refuge), 
Karl E. Mundt NWR, and Lake Andes Wetland Management District, is 
available for public review and comment. The draft CCP/EA describes how 
the Service intends to manage these units for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
on the draft CCP/EA by November 28, 2012. Submit comments by one of the 
methods under ADDRESSES. We will hold a public meeting; see Public 
Meeting under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for the date, time, and 

[[Page 65575]]

ADDRESSES: Send your comment or requests for more information by any of 
the following methods.
    Email: bernardo_garza@fws.gov. Include ``Lake Andes NWR Complex 
Draft CCP and EA'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Bernardo Garza, 303-236-4792.
    U.S. Mail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge 
Planning, P.O. Box 25486, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 303-236-4377 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at 134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228.
    Document Request: A copy of the CCP/EA may be obtained by writing 
to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 134 
Union Boulevard, Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80228; or by download from 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bernardo Garza, 303-236-4377, (phone); 
303-236-4792 (fax); or bernardo_garza@fws.gov (email); or David C. 
Lucas, 303-236-4366 (phone); 303-236-4792 (fax); or david_c_lucas@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for the Lake Andes 
NWR Complex. We started this process through a notice in the Federal 
Register (72 FR 27328; May, 15, 2007).
    The Lake Andes NWR Complex encompasses three distinct units: Lake 
Andes NWR, Lake Andes Wetland Management District (WMD), and Karl E. 
Mundt NWR. The Complex lies within the Plains and Prairie Potholes 
Region (Region) in South Dakota, which is an ecological treasure of 
biological importance for wildlife, particularly waterfowl and other 
migratory birds. This Region alone produces approximately 50 percent of 
the continent's waterfowl population. Hunting and wildlife observation 
are the two most prevalent public uses on the Complex, followed by 
fishing and wildlife photography.
    Lake Andes NWR was authorized by Executive Order in 1936 and 
formally established in 1939 to preserve an important piece of shallow 
water and prairie habitats for waterfowl and other water birds. This 
5,639-acre refuge includes Lake Andes, a 4,700-acre lake created by the 
last ice age. The lake's shallow waters and surrounding grasslands 
provide optimal feeding, resting, nesting, and brooding habitats for 
migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds, and also 
songbirds. Water levels in the lake vary from 0 to 12 feet, depending 
entirely on climatic conditions and precipitation, and create a boom-
and-bust fishery dependent on water quality and quantity.
    The Federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund finances the 
acquisition of waterfowl production areas (WPA) and conservation 
easements by providing the Department of Interior with monies to 
acquire migratory bird habitat. The 1958 amendment to the Migratory 
Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act (16 U.S.C. 718) authorized the 
Small Wetlands Acquisition Program and provided for the acquisition of 
lands in addition to the previously authorized habitats. Receipts from 
the sale of Duck Stamps are used to acquire habitat under the 
provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. 715). The Lake 
Andes WMD was established in 1958 to manage lands purchased under these 
two authorities to protect wetland and grassland habitat that is 
critical to our nation's duck population. The District manages 18,782 
acres of grassland and wetland habitats in WPAs distributed within 
Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Charles Mix, Clay, Davison, Douglas, Hanson, 
Hutchinson, Lincoln, Turner, Union and Yankton Counties in southeastern 
South Dakota. All of these WPAs are open to hunting, fishing, wildlife 
observation, trapping, and other forms of compatible wildlife-dependent 
recreation. Approximately 15,000 people visit the WPAs of the District 
each year to engage in these types of outdoor recreational 
opportunities. Additionally, the District protects nearly 80,000 acres 
of grassland and wetland habitats through easements that prevent 
habitat degradation or loss on private lands.
    Karl E. Mundt NWR was established in 1974, under the legislative 
authority of the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. 1534), to protect an 
area hugging the eastern bank of the Missouri River in Gregory County, 
South Dakota, and Boyd County, Nebraska, that supports nearly 300 
endangered bald eagles each winter. While being the first national 
wildlife refuge specifically established for the conservation of bald 
eagles, its riparian forests, prairie, and upland habitats provide 
important resting, feeding, breeding, and nesting sites for a wide 
array of neotropical migratory birds, indigenous turkey, and white-
tailed deer. Haying, grazing, prescribed burning, invasive plant 
control, and prairie restoration are used to maintain riparian and 
upland habitats. Cottonwoods and other native tree species have been 
planted in the past to anchor riverine banks in attempts to safeguard 
important bald eagle roosting sites. In order to reduce disturbance to 
bald eagles, this refuge is currently closed to public use, with the 
sole exception of occasional guided tours.


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 unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System 
(System). The purpose for developing a CCP is to provide refuge 
managers with a 15-year plan for achieving the purposes for which their 
refuge and/or District was established and contributing toward the 
mission of the 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 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

    We started the CCP for the Lake Andes NWR Complex in August 2006 by 
inviting the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department and six Native 
American tribal governments to participate in the planning process. The 
planning team was assembled in September, and the planning kickoff 
occurred in October of the same year. We developed a mailing list and 
sent a planning update to all the individuals and groups in that list. 
The planning update included basic information on the Complex, the 
planning process, how the public could provide comments and become 
involved in the planning process, and the dates, times, and places of 
the three public meetings we held throughout the Complex in November 
2006. At that time and throughout the process, we requested public 
comments and considered and incorporated them in numerous ways. 
Comments we received cover topics such as invasive plant control on 
Complex lands, increased hunting and fishing

[[Page 65576]]

opportunities, improvement of the water quality and fisheries in Lake 
Andes, public access to Karl E. Mundt NWR, and Complex habitats' 
management tools (e.g., grazing, prescribed fire, tree plantings and/or 
removal, etc.). We have considered and evaluated all of these comments, 
with many incorporated into the various alternatives addressed in the 
draft CCP and the EA.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
this draft CCP, we, State of South Dakota wildlife officials, a 
representative of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, and the public raised 
several 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 below.

                                                                     Alternative B:
                                       Alternative A:  Current    Modified management         Alternative C:
                                       management  (no action)     (proposed action)      Intensive management
Lake Andes' Water and Fishery         Continued Complex staff   Same as Alternative A.   Same as Alternative B.
 Quality.                              participation with and    Additionally, the        Additionally, the
                                       support of the efforts    Complex's staff would    Complex's staff would
                                       of the Charles Mix        investigate the          seek new partnerships
                                       County Lake Andes         possibility of           with landowners within
                                       Restoration               installing additional    the lake's watershed
                                       Organization, such as     fish screens on all      to help improve the
                                       sediment removal, soil    tributaries to the       lake's water and
                                       conservation practices,   lake and under both      fisheries quality.
                                       and control of rough      dikes, and a water
                                       fish population.          delivery system to
                                                                 pump more water onto
                                                                 the lake's South Unit
                                                                 to improve sport
Invasive Plants Control.............  Continue control of       Invasive plant           The Complex's staff
                                       invasive plants on        infestations on Lake     would pursue the
                                       infested wetlands,        Andes NWR, Karl E.       formation of an
                                       uplands, and riparian     Mundt NWR, and high-     invasive plant species
                                       lands, using chemical,    priority WPAs would be   ``strike team'' to
                                       mechanical, and           treated yearly; all      more effectively
                                       biological control        other infestations       control invasive
                                       methods once every 3      will be treated every    plants. Prescribed
                                       years on average.         3 years on average.      fire would be used in
                                                                                          a manner to help
                                                                                          decrease cool-season
                                                                                          grasses in favor of
                                                                                          warm-season native
Monitoring and Research.............  Continue limited          Similar to, but more     Similar to, but even
                                       monitoring of habitat     proactive than,          more proactive than,
                                       conditions and wildlife   Alternative A.           Alternative B.
                                       populations in            Additionally,           Complex staff would
                                       wetlands, uplands, and    monitoring studies and   pursue funding and
                                       riparian areas.           surveys will be          research opportunities
                                       Continue permitting       expanded, and habitat    with universities on
                                       research activities       restoration research     habitat management and
                                       when deemed compatible    led by universities      more effective
                                       with the purposes of      would be actively        surveying
                                       the units of the          encouraged and           methodologies.
                                       Complex.                  pursued.
Prairie Restoration.................  Continued restoration     Similar to Alternative   Same as Alternative B.
                                       and enhancement of tall   A, but the main focus    However, with
                                       and mixed-grass plant     would be the             increased funding and
                                       communities to create a   restoration of a high    staffing, the Complex
                                       mosaic of the required    diversity of native      staff would be able to
                                       elements for waterfowl    grasses and forbs,       treat and restore many
                                       and other grass-nesting   along with the           more acres of land
                                       birds. Previously         pursuance of the         than in Alternative B.
                                       farmed lands would be     purchase of equipment
                                       restored to native        for the collection of
                                       prairie.                  desirable plant seeds
                                                                 and construction of
Public Access to Wildlife-Dependent   Karl E. Mundt NWR to      Similar to Alternative   Same as Alternative B.
 Recreation.                           remain closed to most     A, except that the       Additionally, the
                                       activities, with the      staff would study and    staff would develop
                                       exception of limited      open areas currently     and execute an
                                       staff-guided tours. All   closed to hunting, as    outreach plan to
                                       ``Big 6'' wildlife-       well as provide          expand environmental
                                       dependent recreational    special hunts, if it     education and
                                       opportunities to          is deemed compatible     interpretation
                                       continue on all           and suitable. Boat       opportunities
                                       waterfowl production      launching ramps for      throughout the
                                       areas in the Complex,     the lake's Center and    Complex. Also, we
                                       as well as in the Lake    South Units would be     would build an
                                       Andes' Owens Bay and      improved. The addition   observation tower and
                                       Center Units.             of an outdoor            develop a self-guiding
                                                                 recreation planner and   auto tour route on
                                                                 the remodeling of the    Lake Andes NWR to
                                                                 headquarters building    provide more
                                                                 to include a visitor     opportunities for
                                                                 center and               wildlife observation
                                                                 environmental            and photography.
                                                                 education classroom
                                                                 would allow the
                                                                 expansion of
                                                                 education and
                                                                 Currently closed
                                                                 portions of Lake Andes
                                                                 and Karl E. Mundt NWRs
                                                                 would be opened to
                                                                 wildlife observation
                                                                 and photography, and
                                                                 observation and
                                                                 photography blinds
                                                                 would be provided for
                                                                 the public at
                                                                 appropriate locations
                                                                 on the Complex.

[[Page 65577]]

Funding, Infrastructure, and          No new or added           Staffing and funding     Staffing and funding
 Partnerships.                         infrastructure or         would need to be         would be expanded
                                       equipment or vehicles,    expanded to carry out    beyond Alternatives A
                                       which would be replaced   this plan. The           and B to accomplish
                                       only as needed. Current   existing headquarters    this alternative.
                                       staffing and funding      building would need to   Instead of remodeling
                                       would preclude            be remodeled to          the headquarters
                                       pursuance of new          provide a visitor        building, we would
                                       partnerships.             center and educational   have to build a new
                                                                 facilities, and to       visitor center, as
                                                                 accommodate new          well as seed drying
                                                                 employees. The           and storage
                                                                 maintenance shop and     facilities.
                                                                 storage buildings
                                                                 would need to be
                                                                 remodeled to correct
                                                                 deficiencies and
                                                                 accommodate expanded
                                                                 staffing and

Public Meeting

    Opportunity for public input will be provided at the following open 
house public meeting.

             Date                      Time               Location
October 30, 2012..............  7-9 p.m..........  Lake Andes Community
                                                    Center, 207 West
                                                    Main Street, Lake
                                                    Andes, SD 57356.

Next Steps

    After the public reviews and provides comments on the draft CCP and 
EA, the planning team will present this document, along with a summary 
of all substantive public comments, to the Regional Director. The 
Regional Director will consider the environmental effects of each 
alternative, including information gathered during public review, and 
will select a preferred alternative for the draft CCP and EA. If the 
Regional Director finds that no significant impacts would occur, the 
Regional Director's decision will be disclosed in a finding of no 
significant impact included in the final CCP. If the Regional Director 
finds a significant impact would occur, an environmental impact 
statement will be prepared. If approved, the action in the preferred 
alternative will compose the final CCP.

Public Availability of Comments

    All public comment information provided voluntarily by mail, by 
phone, or at meetings (e.g., names, addresses, letters of comment, 
input recorded during meetings) becomes part of the official public 
record. If requested under the Freedom of Information Act by a private 
citizen or organization, the Service may provide copies of such 


    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA 
Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508, 43 CFR part 46); other appropriate 
Federal laws and regulations; Executive Order 12996; the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997; and Service policies 
and procedures for compliance with those laws and regulations.

    Dated: October 11, 2012.
Noreen E. Walsh,
Deputy Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-26482 Filed 10-26-12; 8:45 am]