[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 31 (Wednesday, February 15, 2012)]
[Pages 8890-8892]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3477]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N261; FXRS12650400000-123-FF04R02000]

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, KY; Draft Comprehensive 
Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


[[Page 8891]]

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Clarks River National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Graves, Marshall, and McCracken Counties, 
Kentucky, for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we 
describe the alternative we propose to use to manage this refuge for 
the 15 years following approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by March 16, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by contacting Ms. 
Tina Chouinard, via U.S. mail at 49 Plainsbrook Place, Jackson, TN 
38305, or via email at tina_chouinard@fws.gov. Alternatively, you may 
download the document from our Internet Site at http://southeast.fws.gov planning under ``Draft Documents.'' Comments on the 
Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to the above postal address or email 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Tina Chouinard, at 731/432-0981 



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Clarks River NWR. 
We started the process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
August 29, 2008 (73 FR 50981). For more about the refuge and our CCP 
process, please see that notice.
    Clarks River NWR is located in western Kentucky, an area also known 
as the Jackson Purchase. The refuge averages approximately 2 to 3 miles 
wide, extends about 20 miles from near Paducah, Kentucky, to just south 
of Benton, Kentucky. Due to the meandering nature of the Clarks River, 
the refuge acquisition boundary protects about 40 river miles.
    Clarks River NWR was established in 1997. The acquisition boundary 
currently approved by Congress is approximately 19,605 acres, of which 
8,634 acres have been purchased. The lands are distributed among 
counties as follows: Graves County (56 acres), Marshall County (5,970 
acres), and McCracken County (2,608 acres). Lands are purchased on a 
willing-seller basis only. Clarks River NWR was established under the 
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986 (16 U.S.C. 3901) for the 
development, advancement, management, conservation, and protection of 
fish and wildlife resources.
    Approximately 74 percent of the land associated with the Clarks 
River NWR is forested, 22 percent is agricultural land, and 2 percent 
is freshwater marsh/shrub swamp. The refuge is made up of managed 
impoundments, native warm-season grasses, and disturbed lands such as 
roads and utility corridors. Refuge lands are managed for all plants 
and animals that occur in the area of western Kentucky, with a primary 
emphasis on migratory songbirds and waterfowl, game species, and listed 
species. Refuge goals and objectives are achieved through forest 
management, cooperative farming, habitat restoration, water management, 
and prescribed fire.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (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 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Administration 
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: (1) 
Baseline wildlife surveys; (2) bottomland hardwood and riparian forest 
management; (3) land protection; (4) comprehensive hydrological study 
of the Clarks River; (5) enhancement of wildlife-dependent visitor 
services programs; (6) increase in permanent staff; and (7) 
compatibility determinations.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge 
(Alternatives A, B, and C), with Alternative B as our proposed 
alternative. A full description of each alternative is in the Draft 
CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative below.

Alternative A: Current Management (No Action)

    The No Action Alternative, which would maintain current management 
approaches, was developed using anticipated conditions in the area of 
Clarks River NWR over the next 15 years. This alternative assumes that 
conservation management and land protection programs and activities 
that are currently being undertaken by the Service and other Federal 
agencies, as well as by State, local, and private organizations, would 
continue to follow past trends. Species of Federal responsibility, such 
as threatened and endangered species and migratory birds, would 
continue to be monitored at present levels. Acquisition of lands for 
the refuge would occur when funding is appropriated and willing sellers 
offer land that is identified as quality habitat.
    Wildlife population monitoring and surveying would be focused 
primarily on waterfowl and mammal species. Additional species 
monitoring would occur opportunistically as partnerships and funding 
are available. Restoration efforts would continue as small, 
experimental projects instead of larger projects that promote longer-
lasting benefits.
    The biological environment would remain protected, but certain 
systems could suffer if not systematically monitored using focal 
species as indicators. Management under Alternative A would not 
adversely impact socioeconomic values of the area, but the refuge would 
not achieve its potential to provide the public with needed educational 
and wildlife-dependent recreational activities.
    The public use programs of fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, 
wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation 
would continue at present levels and with current facilities. Public 
use programs would not change or increase with demand and would not be 
adapted based on the impacts to refuge resources.
    In general, under Alternative A, management and administrative 
decisions and actions would occur when triggered by demands and sources 
outside the refuge, with little deliberation and planning being 
accomplished ahead of time. This alternative, included for the purpose 
of comparison to baseline conditions, is not considered to be the most 
effective management strategy for achieving the vision and goals of the 

[[Page 8892]]

Alternative B: Optimize Wildlife-Dependent Public Use and Management 
(Proposed Alternative)

    The proposed alternative, Alternative B, would emphasize management 
of the natural resources of Clarks River NWR based on maintaining and 
improving wetland habitats, monitoring targeted flora and fauna 
representative of the surrounding Clarks River watershed, and providing 
quality public use programs and wildlife-dependent recreational 
activities. All species occurring on the refuge would be considered, 
and certain targeted species would be managed for and monitored in 
addition to species of Federal responsibility. These species would be 
chosen based on the criteria that they are indicators of the health of 
important habitat or species of concern. Information gaps in knowledge 
of the refuge's aquatic species would be addressed.
    Restoration efforts, habitat management, a prescribed fire program, 
and forest management would reflect best management practices 
determined after examination of historical regimes, soil types and 
elevation, and the current hydrological system. Management actions 
would be monitored for effectiveness and adapted to changing 
conditions, knowledge, and technology. A habitat management plan would 
be developed to plan future habitat projects and evaluate previous 
    Overall public use would be monitored to determine if any negative 
impacts are occurring on resources from overuse. Education programs 
would be reviewed and improved to complement current management and 
current staffing. Public use programs would be updated to support and 
teach the reasons behind management actions, and to provide quality 
experiences to visitors. The refuge headquarters would be developed to 
provide more visitor services. In an increasingly developing region, a 
balanced wildlife-dependent recreational program would be a focus under 
this alternative. A new visitor center would be constructed. 
Archaeological resources would be surveyed.
    The refuge currently has fee-title ownership of about 8,634 acres 
with an approved acquisition boundary of 19,605 acres. Lands are 
purchased on a willing-seller basis only. Alternative B includes a 
proposed expansion of 34,269 acres and would bring the total refuge 
acquisition boundary to approximately 53,874 acres, and would protect 
lands along the east and west forks of the Clarks River. Land 
acquisitions within the existing and proposed expanded acquisition 
boundaries would be based on importance of the habitat for target 
management species. We would offer interpretation of refuge wildlife 
and habitats, as well as demonstrate habitat improvements for 
individual landowners.
    In general, under Alternative B, management decisions and actions 
would support wildlife species and habitat occurring on the refuge 
based on well-planned strategies and sound scientific judgment. Quality 
wildlife-dependent recreational uses and environmental education and 
interpretation programs would be offered to support and explain the 
natural resources of the refuge.
    This alternative would add six new positions to current staffing in 
order to protect resources, provide visitor services, and attain goals 
of facilities and equipment maintenance in the future. The biological 
environment would improve as adaptive and best management practices are 
utilized. Socioeconomic values should also increase as we offer 
increased wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities. Areas such as 
this are beneficial to local ecotourism trade and residents searching 
for natural landscapes and associated benefits.

Alternative C: Maximize Wildlife-Dependent Recreation and Management

    Alternative C would emphasize maximizing wildlife-dependent 
recreational uses on the refuge. The increase of nine staff members in 
addition to the existing employees would support public use activities, 
including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, 
and environmental education and interpretation. In general, the focus 
would be on expanding public use activities to the fullest extent 
possible, while conducting only mandated resource protection, such as 
conservation of threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and 
archaeological resources.
    All management programs for conservation of wildlife and habitat, 
such as monitoring, surveying, and researching, would support species 
and resources of importance for public use enhancement. Emphasis would 
be placed more on interpreting and demonstrating these programs than 
actual implementation. Providing access with trails would be maximized, 
as well as providing public use facilities throughout the refuge. 
Federal trust species and archaeological resources would be monitored 
as mandated, but other species targeted for management would depend on 
which ones the public is interested in utilizing. Habitat restoration 
efforts would be based on public use demands and criteria rather than 
determined through methods using a strategic habitat conservation 
    With the majority of staff time and funds supporting a public use 
program, wildlife-dependent recreation and environmental education and 
interpretation could be more successful than in the other alternatives. 
Land acquisitions within the approved acquisition boundary would be 
based on importance of the habitat for public use. The refuge 
headquarters and visitor center would be developed for public use 
activities such as interpretation and outreach.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them.

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.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-57).

    Dated: January 4, 2012.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-3477 Filed 2-14-12; 8:45 am]