[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 67 (Friday, April 6, 2012)]
[Pages 20840-20841]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-8292]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N169; 40136-1265-0000-S3]

Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, LA and MS; Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact 
for Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for Bogue Chitto National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, 
Louisiana, and Pearl River County, Mississippi. In the final CCP, we 
describe how we will manage this refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the CCP by writing to: Mr. Daniel 
Breaux, Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Bayou 
Lacombe Centre, 61389 Highway 434, Lacombe, LA 70445. Alternatively, 
you may download the document from our Internet Site at http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/ under ``Final Documents.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Daniel Breaux, at 985/882-2030 
(telephone), 985/882-9133 (fax), or BogueChitto@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Bogue Chitto NWR. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register on 
February 20, 2009 (74 FR 7913). Please see that notice for more about 
the refuge.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the final CCP and 
FONSI for Bogue Chitto NWR in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 1506.6 (b)) requirements. We 
completed a thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, 
which we included in the draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA).
    Compatibility determinations are also available in the CCP for: (1) 
Wildlife observation/photography; (2) recreational fishing; (3) 
recreational hunting; (4) environmental education and interpretation 
activities; (5) walking, hiking, and jogging; (6) camping; (7) forest 
management; (8) scientific research; (9) kayaking and canoeing; (10) 
boating; (11) nuisance animal control; and (12) bicycling.


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 
    Established in 1980, Bogue Chitto NWR is one of eight refuges 
managed as part of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex (Complex). The refuge headquarters is located about 9 miles 
northeast of Slidell, Louisiana. The 36,502-acre refuge is bisected by 
the Pearl River, with portions in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes, 
Louisiana, and Pearl River County, Mississippi. On the Mississippi side 
of the river, the refuge is bounded by Old River Wildlife Management 
Area (15,400 acres) to the north and by the State of Louisiana's Pearl 
River Wildlife Management Area (35,031 acres) to the south, thereby 
forming nearly an 87,000-acre block of protected forested wetlands and 
adjacent uplands within the Pearl River Basin.
    The public has the opportunity to hunt white-tailed deer, squirrel, 
turkey, waterfowl, and hog. Fishing is also available. Threatened and 
endangered species found on the refuge are: Ringed map turtle 
(Graptemys oculifera), gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), inflated 
heelsplitter mussel (Potamilus inflatus), and gulf sturgeon (Acipenser 
oxyrinchus desotoi). Access is primarily by boat on the Louisiana side, 
with road access available on the Mississippi side. In 2002, the Holmes 
Bayou walking trail was unveiled on the Louisiana side of the refuge. 
This 3/4-mile walking trail offers a unique journey into the interior 
of the refuge's majestic habitat. The Pearl River Turnaround area is 
being developed as a site for education and interpretation, as well as 
a site for the annual youth fishing rodeo.


    We made copies of the Draft CCP/EA available for a 30-day public 
review and comment period via a Federal Register notice on May 27, 2011 
(76 FR 30959). A news release was sent out to four local, State, and 
regional newspapers; six online media outlets; and two local radio 
networks. Copies of the Draft CCP/EA were posted at refuge headquarters 
and on the Service's Internet Web site and more than 100 copies were 
distributed to local landowners; the general public; and local, State, 
and Federal agencies. Respondents representing the Service, the 
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the National Park 
Service, as well as local citizens, submitted written comments by mail 
or email.

[[Page 20841]]

Selected Alternative

    The Draft CCP/EA identified and evaluated three alternatives for 
managing the refuge over the next 15 years. After considering the 
comments we received and based on the professional judgment of the 
planning team, we selected Alternative B for implementation.
    Implementing Alternative B will be the most effective management 
action for meeting the purposes of the refuge. Monitoring and surveying 
will be conducted systematically after assessing which species should 
be targeted, based on their population status and the staff's ability 
to indicate health of important habitat. Restoration efforts, the fire 
program, and forest management will reflect best management practices 
determined after examination of historical regimes, soil types and 
elevation, and the current hydrological system. Management actions will 
be monitored for effectiveness and adapted to changing conditions, 
knowledge, and technology. A Habitat Management Plan will be developed 
for future habitat projects and to evaluate previous actions.
    This alternative identifies Holmes Island as a proposed Wilderness 
Study Area. We will maintain its wilderness character and within 10 
years of the date of the CCP, will prepare a wilderness study report 
and additional NEPA documentation on whether Holmes Island should be 
formally designated by Congress as a unit of the National Wilderness 
Preservation System.
    Public use programs will be updated to educate visitors about the 
reasons for management actions, and to provide quality experiences for 
refuge visitors. The Complex headquarters in Lacombe, Louisiana, will 
provide additional information about the refuge. Options and 
opportunities will be explored to expand visitor contact areas on the 
refuge. In an increasingly developing region, Alternative B will strive 
to achieve a balanced program of wildlife-dependent recreational 
activities and protection of wildlife resources.
    This alternative also proposes to add six positions to current 
staffing dedicated primarily to the refuge in order to continue to 
protect resources, provide visitor services, and attain facility and 
equipment maintenance goals.


    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 105-57.

     Dated: September 27, 2011.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-8292 Filed 4-5-12; 8:45 am]