[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 56 (Thursday, March 22, 2012)]
[Pages 16854-16856]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-6892]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2011-N196; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Delaware and 
Philadelphia Counties, PA; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (we, the Service), 
announce the availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment (CCP/EA) for John Heinz National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR) at Tinicum, located in Delaware and Philadelphia Counties, 
Pennsylvania, for public review and comment. The draft CCP/EA describes 
our proposal for managing the refuge for the next 15 years.
    Also available for public review and comment are the draft findings 
of appropriateness and draft compatibility determinations for uses to 
be allowed upon initial completion of the plan, if alternative B is 
selected, and the draft habitat management plan. These are included as 
appendix B and appendix C, respectively, in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your comments no later than 
April 23, 2012. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local news 
media, via our project mailing list, and on our regional planning Web 
site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/John%20Heinz/ccphome.html.

[[Page 16855]]

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Email: northeastplanning@fws.gov. Please include ``John Heinz NWR 
Draft CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Lia McLaughlin, 413-253-8468.
    U.S. Mail: Lia McLaughlin, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 215-365-3118 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at 8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19152. [For more 
information on locations for viewing or obtaining documents, see 
``Public Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION.]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gary Stolz, Refuge Manager, phone: 
215-365-3118, or Lia McLaughlin, Planning Team Leader, phone: 413-253-
8575; email: northeastplanning@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for John Heinz NWR. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 
25285; May 7, 2010).
    John Heinz NWR was established in 1972 to preserve and restore the 
natural area known as Tinicum Marsh, to promote environmental 
education, and to afford visitors an opportunity to study wildlife in 
its natural habitat. The total approved acquisition boundary 
encompasses 1,200 acres along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. 
Currently, John Heinz NWR includes 993 acres of freshwater tidal marsh, 
open water, grassland, and forest habitats. It is an important 
migratory stopover for birds along the Atlantic Flyway, and provides 
habitat for State-listed threatened and endangered species such as the 
red-bellied turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris). The refuge offers unique 
opportunities for environmental education and interpretation in an 
urban setting. Visitors to the refuge also participate in wildlife 
observation, photography, and fishing.


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, 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 pre-planning for the John Heinz NWR CCP in January 2010. 
In April 2010, we distributed our first newsletter and press release 
announcing our intent to prepare a CCP for the refuge. In May through 
June 2010, we had a formal public scoping period. The purpose of the 
public scoping period was to solicit comments from the community and 
other interested parties on the issues and impacts that should be 
evaluated in the draft CCP/EA. To help solicit public comments, we held 
two public meetings at the refuge during the formal public scoping 
period. Throughout the rest of the planning process, we have conducted 
additional outreach by participating in community meetings, events, and 
other public forums, and by requesting public input on managing the 
refuge and its programs. We received comments on topics such as the 
potential effects of climate change, improving biological connectivity, 
invasive species control, environmental contaminants, environmental 
education programs, and other public uses of the refuge.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, the Pennsylvania Game 
Commission, other governmental partners, and the public, raised several 
issues. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated three 
alternatives in the draft CCP/EA. Here we present a brief summary of 
each of the alternatives; a full description of each alternative is in 
the draft CCP/EA.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    Alternative A (current management) satisfies the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirement of a ``No 
Action'' alternative, which we define as ``continuing current 
management.'' It describes our existing management priorities and 
activities, and serves as a baseline for comparing and contrasting 
alternatives B and C. It would maintain our present levels of approved 
refuge staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in place. 
We would continue to focus on providing native tidal marsh habitat for 
migrating and nesting wading birds; wintering marshbirds, waterfowl, 
and shorebirds; and other wildlife. We would also continue to actively 
control invasive species, manage grassland habitats, and maintain dikes 
and water levels in the impoundment. Our environmental education 
program would continue to focus on providing training for teachers so 
they could guide field trips on refuge property.

Alternative B (Focus on Environmental Education for Urban Youth)

    This alternative is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines 
the actions we believe would most effectively achieve the refuge's 
purposes, vision, and goals, and respond to the issues raised during 
the scoping period. Under alternative B, we would expand our freshwater 
tidal marsh restoration efforts, implement additional forest habitat 
restoration and management efforts, and increase monitoring efforts for 
species and for climate change effects. Our environmental education 
program would focus on expanding staff-led and volunteer-led programs 
for urban youth. We would also develop environmental education programs 
that focus on this audience, and work to develop long-term 
relationships with schools and school districts. We would work to 
expand environmental interpretation opportunities and infrastructure on 
the refuge as well.

Alternative C

    Alternative C would focus on restoring degraded forests and 
converting specific grassland areas to shrubland habitat. As in 
alternative B, we would emphasize invasive species management, 
freshwater tidal marsh restoration, and monitoring for climate change 
adaptation. However, under alternative C, we would delay much of these 
efforts to more fully assess the potential effects of climate change 
and propose restoring all of the impoundment to tidal marsh. Under 
alternative C, environmental educational programming would concentrate 
on providing high school

[[Page 16856]]

and college-level programs focused on encouraging and training the next 
generation of conservation professionals and environmentally concerned 
citizens. We would also focus on playing a more regional role in 
conservation efforts.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/John%20Heinz/ccphome.html.
     Public Library: the Northeast Regional Library, located at 
2228 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19149, during regular 
library hours.

Submitting Comments/Issues for Comment

    We are seeking substantive comments, particularly on the following 
     Issue 1--Our environmental education program;
     Issue 2--Management and restoration options for the 
refuge's impoundment; and,
     Issue 3--Partnership opportunities.
    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document;
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the EA;
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA; and/or
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the EA.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and finding of no significant 

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: January 25, 2012.
Wendi Weber,
Regional Director, Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Hadley, MA 01035.
[FR Doc. 2012-6892 Filed 3-21-12; 8:45 am]