[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 60 (Thursday, March 28, 2013)]
[Pages 19000-19002]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07237]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N170; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Cayuga, Seneca, and Wayne 
Counties, NY; 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 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the environmental 
assessment (EA) for Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located 
in Cayuga, Seneca, and Wayne Counties, New York. In this final CCP, we 
describe how we will manage the refuge for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies by any of the following 
methods. You may request a hard copy or a CD-ROM of the document.
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Montezuma/ccphome.html.
    Email: Send requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. Please include 
``Montezuma NWR Final CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Mail: Lia McLaughlin, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Fax: Attention: Lia McLaughlin, 413-253-8468.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 315-568-5987 to make an 
appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at 3395 Route 5/20 East, Seneca Falls, NY 13148-9778.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tom Jasikoff, Refuge Manager, 315-568-
5987 (phone), or Lia McLaughlin, Planning Team Leader, 413-253-8575 
(phone); email: northeastplanning@fws.gov.



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Montezuma NWR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 
25286; May 7, 2010). We released the draft CCP and EA to the public, 
announcing and requesting comments in a notice of availability in the 
Federal Register (75 FR 25286; May 22, 2012).
    Montezuma NWR was established in 1938 to provide nesting, feeding, 
and resting habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Situated 
in Seneca, Wayne, and Cayuga Counties, the refuge currently encompasses 
9,809 acres. Refuge habitats include emergent marshes and shallow water 
mudflats, open water, bottomland floodplain forest, old fields, 
shrublands, croplands, grassland, and successional forest. The refuge 
is part of the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, an area identified by the 
Service, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 
(NYSDEC), and other partners for its role in the conservation of 
migratory birds, particularly waterfowl. The refuge's public use 
program provides wildlife-oriented

[[Page 19001]]

educational and recreational opportunities compatible with refuge 
management objectives. Public use facilities and programs include 
several trails, a visitor center, observation towers and platforms, 
fishing access sites, a hunting program, educational programs and 
materials, guided tours, and other special programs.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Montezuma 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 and EA.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Montezuma NWR 
for the next 15 years. Alternative B, as described in the refuge's 
draft CCP and 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-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.

CCP Alternatives, Including the Selected Alternative

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

Management Alternatives

Alternative A (Current Management)
    Alternative A satisfies the NEPA 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 managing impoundments to provide emergent marsh and open water 
habitats for migrating and nesting wading birds, marshbirds, waterfowl, 
shorebirds, and other wildlife. We would also continue to actively 
control invasive species, manage grassland habitats, and improve 
riparian and other forested habitats. We would continue to provide 
opportunities for all six priority public uses: hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and 
Alternative B (Service-preferred Alternative)
    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, emergent marsh management 
would remain a priority on the refuge. We would focus efforts on 
improving existing emergent wetland habitat and restoring additional 
acres, and re-establishing wetland and riparian forests, where 
feasible. More upland forest would be promoted through succession or 
planting native species. Additionally, we would continue to manage 
about 400 acres of shrublands, and grassland management would focus on 
creating larger patches with less edge, resulting in fewer grassland 
acres overall. Opportunities for visitors to participate in priority 
public uses would increase. Added trails, viewing areas, and 
photography blinds would support additional opportunities for wildlife 
observation and photography. We would develop a formal, curriculum-
based environmental education program. Environmental interpretation 
would be enhanced through updated interpretive displays and associated 
services. The refuge would be opened to new hunting opportunities, and 
we would provide more accessible sites. Fishing opportunities would be 
increased by providing additional access to canal waters for anglers.
Alternative C (Less Active Habitat Management)
    Under alternative C, most emergent marsh habitat on the refuge 
would be allowed to convert to bottomland floodplain forest. Only the 
Main Pool, Tschache Pool, and Visitor Center Wetland impoundments would 
be maintained. Newly acquired lands would not be converted to 
impoundments. Natural succession would play a larger role in shaping 
vegetative communities on the refuge compared to alternatives A and B. 
We would allow most early successional habitats in the uplands to 
revert to forests. Compared to alternative A, opportunities for 
visitors to participate in priority public uses would increase under 
this alternative, but not to the extent proposed under alternative B. 
We would develop a few additional sites to support wildlife observation 
and photography. Interpretation would be somewhat increased with the 
expansion of the visitor contact station. Interpretive messages would 
be changed, reflecting the different focus of refuge management. 
Hunting opportunities would increase, similar to alternative B; 
however, waterfowl hunting would remain unchanged. Fishing 
opportunities would be the same as alternative B.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP and EA for Montezuma NWR 
from May 22 to June 21, 2012 (77 FR 25286). During the comment period, 
we received 36 sets of responses, including comments from public 
meetings, a phone call, email, and letters. 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

    We have selected alternative B for implementation, with the 
following modifications:
     We increased the amount of shrubland we intend to maintain 
to 396 acres (similar to alternative A), which is about 100 acres more 
than originally proposed under alternative B of the draft CCP and EA.
     We included additional information in chapter 4, under 
``Protecting Land and Proposed Land Expansion,'' to explain that we 
will evaluate newly acquired lands for their potential for habitat 
restoration (i.e., emergent marsh, forest, shrubland, grassland).

[[Page 19002]]

     We have added estimates of hazard abatement surveys to 
table 4.1, and have revised the cost estimates for demolition.
     We added a section titled ``Alternatives Considered but 
not Fully Developed'' to the final hunt program EA (appendix E), which 
includes a discussion on closing the refuge to hunting.
     We modified the land protection plan (appendix F) to 
incorporate climate change information from the CCP and estimated 
numbers of migratory birds and breeding marshbirds that could use 
emergent marsh habitats, once lands have been acquired and restored. We 
also revised the land protection plan and final CCP to clarify which 
parcels are existing refuge lands, which have been previously added to 
the refuge's approved acquisition boundary but not purchased, and which 
would be included in the refuge expansion.
     We corrected the final fire management plan EA to show 
that alternative B is both the current management (the no action 
alternative) and the preferred-alternative.
    We have selected alternative B to implement for Montezuma NWR, with 
these minor changes, for several reasons. Alternative B incorporates a 
combination of actions that, in our professional judgment, work best 
towards achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, Service 
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, and at the following location:
     Public Library: the Seneca Falls Library, located at 47 
Cayuga Street, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, during regular library hours.

    Dated: February 21, 2013.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-07237 Filed 3-27-13; 8:45 am]