[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 132 (Wednesday, July 10, 2013)]
[Pages 41418-41420]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-16311]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2013-N034; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Harney County, OR; Record of 
Decision for Final Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of the record of decision (ROD) for the final 
environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Malheur National Wildlife 
Refuge (Refuge). We completed a thorough analysis of the environmental, 
social, and economic considerations and presented it in our Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and EIS, which we released to the 
public on December 21, 2012.

DATES: The Regional Director, Pacific Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, signed the ROD on January 24, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may view or download a copy of the CCP/ROD at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning, or request a copy of the CCP/ROD by any 
of the following methods:
    Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Malheur NWR DCCP/EA'' 
in the subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Tim Bodeen, Project Leader, (541) 493-2405.
    U.S. Mail: Tim Bodeen, Project Leader, Malheur National Wildlife 
Refuge, 36391 Sodhouse Lane, Princeton, OR 97221.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call the Refuge at (541) 493-2612 to 
make an appointment to review or pick up a copy of the CCP/ROD during 
regular business hours.
    Printed copies of the CCP/ROD are also available for review at 
Harney County Library, 80 West ``D'' St., Burns, OR 97720.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Bodeen, Project Leader, Malheur 
National Wildlife Refuge, phone (541) 493-2612.



    With this notice, we complete the CCP process for Malheur Refuge. 
We started this process through a Federal Register notice (74 FR 31046; 
June 29, 2009). We released the Draft CCP/EIS to the public, and 
requested comments on it in a notice of availability in the Federal 
Register (76 FR 55937, September 9, 2011). We also announced the 
availability of the final CCP/EIS in the Federal Register (77 FR 75644, 
December 21, 2012).
    The Refuge was established on August 18, 1908, by President 
Theodore Roosevelt, as the Lake Malheur Bird Reservation; it was 
originally set aside to prevent plume hunters from decimating colonial 
nesting bird populations. The Refuge protected unclaimed lands 
encompassed by Malheur, Mud, and Harney Lakes ``as a preserve and 
breeding ground for native birds.'' The Refuge boundary was expanded in 
1935 to include the Blitzen Valley, and again in 1941 to include the 
Double-O Unit. Refuge purposes include ``a refuge and breeding ground 
for migratory birds and other wild life . . .'' and ``for use as an 
inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory 
    The Refuge consists of more than 187,000 acres of open water 
(marsh, river, and stream), wetlands, springs, riparian areas, 
irrigated meadows, grain fields, and shrub-steppe uplands. With its 
abundance of water in an otherwise arid landscape, the Refuge attracts 
a significant number of birds from the Pacific Flyway during spring 
migration. The Refuge is included in several flyway and regional bird 
conservation plans, and is designated an Important Bird Area by the 
National Audubon Society. However, populations of breeding waterfowl 
and waterbirds on

[[Page 41419]]

Refuge lakes and wetlands have dropped substantially from historic 
levels. The decline is widely attributed to high populations of 
nonnative common carp in Harney Lake and adjacent water bodies.
    We announce the availability of the Refuge's Final CCP/ROD in 
accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 CFR 
1506.6(b)) requirements. We completed a thorough analysis of impacts on 
the human environment in the final CCP/EIS. The CCP will guide us in 
managing and administering the Refuge for the next 15 years. 
Alternative 2, as we described in the final CCP/ROD, is the foundation 
for the CCP. Implementing the CCP is subject to the availability of 
funding and any other compliance regulations.


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 (Improvement 
Act), 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 (NWRS), consistent with 
sound principles of fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal 
mandates, and our policies. In addition to outlining broad management 
direction for conserving wildlife and habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation.
    The Refuge engaged a diverse stakeholder base during the CCP 
process. Collectively, we are committed to ongoing collaboration 
throughout implementation of the CCP, integrating science and active 
adaptive management, and improving the health of the aquatic ecosystem. 
In collaboration with our stakeholders, we will review and update the 
CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Improvement Act.

CCP Alternatives and the Selected Alternative

    In collaboration with our stakeholders, partners, and the public, 
we identified a number of issues in our draft CCP/EIS. We developed 
Refuge management alternatives to address the issues, and to achieve 
the Refuge's purposes, goals, and objectives; and support the NWRS 
mission. In our draft and final CCP/EIS documents, we fully analyzed 
three alternatives for the future management of the Refuge, they 
included Alternative 1 (current management), Alternative 2 (our 
preferred alternative), and Alternative 3. Alternative 1 satisfies the 
NEPA required ``no action'' alternative, and Alternative 2 was 
identified as the Service's preferred alternative. More details on the 
alternatives are available in the final CCP/EIS.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on the draft and final 
CCP/EIS documents, we selected Alternative 2, our preferred 
alternative, for implementation on the Refuge. Alternative 2 will 
result in the greatest amount of improvements to the Refuge's native 
habitat conditions, will best meet the Service's policies and 
directives, is compatible with Refuge purposes, and will achieve 
balance among the Refuge's management needs and programs.
    Under Alternative 2, our management focus will be to improve the 
aquatic health of Refuge lakes and wetlands, primarily by controlling 
common carp populations. As turbidity caused by carp decreases, and 
vegetation and invertebrate species become more abundant, the 
productivity of Malheur Lake and other water bodies within the Refuge 
(e.g., Boca Lake and Warbler Pond) will improve for a variety of 
waterbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds. With the aid of partners, a 
variety of tools will be used to reduce carp populations, including the 
application of pesticides, chemo-attractants, and chemo-repellants; and 
barrier placements, commercial harvest, angling, water manipulation, 
and other tools. We will also consider the need for continued 
amendments to and construction of additional in-stream traps, screens, 
and fish wheels that allow native fish to pass through the system, 
while impeding carp movement. We will also complete a riverine/wetland 
rehabilitation plan based on assessments of hydrologic, geomorphic, and 
biologic features; and pilot projects will be tested as resources 
become available.
    Wetlands and terrestrial habitats will be managed for the life 
history needs of focal species identified in the CCP, with an emphasis 
on flexibility. Tools will include but not be limited to late summer 
haying and autumn/winter rakebunch grazing to meet the foraging needs 
of early-arriving wildlife species. During the Refuge's growing season, 
tools will include prescriptive grazing, mowing, farming, and extended 
dewatering to reduce invasive plants such as common cattail and reed 
canarygrass and rehabilitate plant communities to desired conditions.
    Viewing overlooks, elevated viewing platforms, and photography 
blinds will be upgraded and developed. The Refuge will maintain and 
replant cottonwoods and other trees and shrubs at six historic sites 
for rare and incidental passerine birds enjoyed by birders. Trails will 
be added, and several trails will be upgraded or built to Architectural 
Barriers Act (ABA) standards. Docent-led Refuge tours will occur 
approximately monthly at various locations, and will include 
opportunities for guided kayak and canoe tours on Malheur Lake. A 
stronger emphasis will be placed on modern media for interpretation. 
The George Benson Memorial Museum will be enhanced, and outdoor 
interpretive panels added. Additional special events, public 
presentations, and EE opportunities will be provided. An EE shelter 
will be built at Refuge Headquarters.
    Increased vehicle access will be provided. Visitors will be able to 
drive year-round to Krumbo Reservoir, along Boat Landing Road near 
Refuge Headquarters, and along the southern portion of East Canal Road 
to the Bridge Creek confluence. Outdoor welcome and orientation panels 
will be provided to guide visitors. Visitor amenities, such as picnic 
tables, shelters, and vault toilets will be upgraded or developed. An 
enlarged visitor contact station and gift shop will be built at Refuge 
Headquarters, and a seasonal contact station will be built at P Ranch.
    The upland game hunt will open approximately three weeks earlier 
than it does currently. The northern part of Malheur Lake and the Buena 
Vista hunt unit will remain open under existing regulations. We will 
more than double the existing waterfowl hunt area, by opening the Buena 
Vista Unit and a portion of Malheur Lake to waterfowl hunting. 
Waterfowl hunting season in the new areas will extend from the fourth 
Saturday in October to the end of the State waterfowl hunting season. 
The existing youth hunt will be promoted, and access at Saddle Butte 
will improve. In partnership with potential users, the Refuge will 
support adding facilities in the Buena Vista hunt unit that are 
accessible to waterfowl hunters with mobility impairments.
    To reduce our administration of unmarked lands within the Boundary 
hunt unit, we will pursue a land exchange with the Bureau of Land

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Management (BLM) to transfer unit lands located west of State Highway 
205 and other small parcels to BLM. Hunting in the unit will likely 
continue unaffected by the potential land exchange.
    Existing fishing opportunities at Krumbo Reservoir, along the upper 
Blitzen River, at the southern portion of East Canal, and at Mud and 
Bridge Creeks will continue, and vehicle access to fishing sites will 
increase. In addition, the Refuge will develop a pedestrian crossing at 
Bridge Creek, and open a late-summer bank fishing opportunity on the 
Blitzen River from Sodhouse Lane to the bridge on Boat Landing Road. 
Information will be available at fishing areas. At Krumbo Reservoir, 
triploid rainbow trout stocking will continue, and a redband trout 
genetic introgression study will be conducted.
    We will improve cultural and paleontological resource programs by 
developing step-down management plans in cooperation with partners. 
Opportunities for American Indians to collect plants for traditional 
uses will expand. Monitoring and inventory of archaeological resources 
and interpretation of historic sites will increase.
    We will pursue sustainable practices, energy independence, and 
carbon negative operations, and emphasize partnerships to maximize 
adaptive management. Our volunteer program will continue, with emphasis 
on increasing recruitment, retention, and return rates. Step-down 
inventory and monitoring plans will be developed, emphasizing focal 
species and national monitoring efforts. We will create a geodatabase 
to track data collected during inventory and monitoring efforts.

    Dated: March 1, 2013.
Richard R. Hannan,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2013-16311 Filed 7-9-13; 8:45 am]