[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 213 (Monday, November 4, 2013)]
[Pages 66056-66058]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26365]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2013-N146; BAC-4311-K9]

Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Carlton Pond 
Waterfowl Production Area, Penobscot, Kennebec, and Waldo Counties, ME; 
Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan

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 Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and 
Carlton Pond Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), located in Penobscot, 
Kennebec, and Waldo Counties, Maine. The CCP describes how we will 
manage the refuge and WPA for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the CCP by any of the

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following methods. You may request hard copies or a CD-ROM of the 
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/Sunkhaze%20Meadows/ccphome.html.
    Email: Send requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. Please include 
``Sunkhaze Meadows NWR and Carlton Pond WPA Final CCP'' in the subject 
line of the message.
    U.S. Mail: Lia McLaughlin, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    Fax: Attn: Lia McLaughlin, 413-253-8468.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 207-594-0600 to make 
an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during regular business 
hours at Maine Coastal Islands NWR, 9 Water Street, Rockland, ME 04841. 
For more information on locations for viewing or obtaining documents, 
see ``Public Availability of Documents'' under SUPPLEMENTARY 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Beth Goettel, Refuge Manager, 207-594-
0600 (phone), or Lia McLaughlin, Planning Team Leader, 413-253-8575 
(phone); northeastplanning@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Sunkhaze Meadows 
NWR and Carlton Pond WPA. We started this process through a notice in 
the Federal Register (76 FR 14984; March 18, 2011). We released the 
draft CCP and EA to the public on April 23, 2013, announcing and 
requesting comments in a notice of availability in the Federal Register 
(78 FR 23949).
    Currently, Sunkhaze Meadows NWR is comprised of three units: the 
Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, the Benton Unit, and the Sandy Stream Unit. The 
Sunkhaze Meadows Unit is the largest of the three, at 11,485 acres, 
located in the town of Milford, Penobscot County. The Benton Unit is a 
334-acre former dairy farm in the town of Benton in Kennebec County. 
The Sandy Stream Unit is a 58-acre parcel in the town of Unity in Waldo 
County. Sunkhaze Meadows NWR was established in 1988 to preserve the 
Sunkhaze Meadows peat bog (now the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit) and to ensure 
public access to this unique environment. Sunkhaze Meadows NWR includes 
more than 3,450 acres of freshwater wetland-peatland that provides 
breeding and migrating habitat for waterfowl and other wetland species.
    Carlton Pond WPA is 1,068 acres, including about 784 acres of 
managed emergent marsh and open water habitats. It is located in the 
town of Troy in Waldo County. The area was acquired by the Service in 
1966 to protect the waterfowl and other wildlife associated with this 
area in central Maine. Carlton Pond WPA has historically provided good 
nesting habitat for waterfowl and other birds. It is also one of the 
few areas in Maine that provides nesting habitat for the black tern, 
which is State-listed as endangered. Many other bird species that use 
Carlton Pond WPA have been listed by the Partners in Flight 
organization as species that are declining.
    Sunkhaze NWR and Carlton Pond WPA offer an abundance of wildlife 
observation and photography opportunities and environmental education 
and interpretation programs. Visitors to the refuge and WPA also 
participate in outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, hunting, 
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 (NWRS), 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 Maine Department of 
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the town of 
Milford, other 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. All alternatives include measures to control invasive 
species, monitor and abate diseases affecting wildlife and plant 
health, and protect cultural resources. Because portions of Sunkhaze 
Stream and its tributaries have been found eligible for listing under 
the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, all of the alternatives also include 
completing a Wild and Scenic River Study. In addition, there are 
several actions that are common to both alternatives B and C. These 
include establishing climate change monitoring, expanding partnerships, 
and expanding cultural resource protection and interpretation.

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 and WPA staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in 
place. We would continue to focus on preserving the freshwater wetland-
peatland complex on the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit, which provides habitat 
for breeding waterfowl. We would also continue to maintain the open 
water and emergent marsh habitat at Carlton Pond WPA, the grassland 
habitat at the Benton Unit, and the shrubland and riparian habitat at 
the Sandy Stream Unit. Public use activities, such as wildlife 
observation, photography, hiking, snowmobiling, and hunting, would 
continue to be allowed. We would continue to rely on volunteers to lead 
environmental education and interpretation programs.

Alternative B (Service-Preferred Alternative)

    This alternative combines the actions we believe would most 
effectively achieve refuge and WPA purposes, vision, and goals; the 
NWRS mission; and respond to issues raised during public scoping. Under 
alternative B, we would focus on the preservation of the wetland-
peatland complex and mature forest within the Sunkhaze Meadow Unit. In 
contrast to alternative A, this alternative includes more inventory and 
monitoring, as well as research and active management (if warranted) to

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benefit rare habitats on the refuge. We would continue shrubland 
habitat management at the Sandy Stream Unit and would expand grassland 
management at the Benton Unit if feasible. Management of Carlton Pond 
WPA would remain unchanged, focusing on providing habitat for breeding 
black terns and waterfowl. We would work to enhance public use 
activities, such as providing additional parking areas and improving 
maintenance of some existing public trails. Our environmental education 
and interpretation program would be improved by providing Service-led 
environmental education programs, in addition to programming conducted 
by partners and the Friends of Sunkhaze Meadows.

Alternative C (Increased Shrubland Young Forest Habitat and Increased 
Public Use)

    Under alternative C, we would continue to focus on the preservation 
of the peatland-wetland complex at the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit. However, 
in contrast to alternatives A and B, this alternative includes shifting 
management of some mature forest and grasslands to shrubland and young 
forest habitat within the Sunkhaze Meadow Unit and Benton Unit to 
benefit species that rely on these habitats. Management of the Sandy 
Stream Unit and Carlton Pond WPA would be similar to alternative B. 
Under alternative C, we would also work closely with partners to 
increase and enhance authorized public uses, such as expanding the 
trails at the Benton Unit and providing more environmental education 
and interpretation programming.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP and EA for Sunkhaze Meadows 
NWR and Carlton Pond WPA from April 23 to May 31, 2013 (78 FR 23949). 
During the comment period, we received 17 sets of responses including 
comments from public meetings, faxes, 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 G in the final 

Selected Alternative

    We have selected alternative B for implementation, with the 
following modifications:
     Under objective 4.1, we agreed to maintain the Spur Trail 
off of the Johnson Brook Trail in the Sunkhaze Meadows Unit.
     We clarified that we will provide wood duck nesting boxes 
from existing supplies upon request, as long as volunteers continue to 
clean, maintain, and monitor use of the boxes. After the existing 
supply of boxes is depleted, we will phase out artificial wood duck 
nesting boxes as they deteriorate, or will remove the boxes if 
volunteers are no longer able to maintain them (see strategies under 
objective 2.1).
     We added a strategy under objective 6.1 that we will 
explore the feasibility of, and interest in, including the Benton Unit 
in a regional trail system upon request.
     We modified a strategy under objective 7.2 to include 
specific reference to working with universities, as well as other 
partners, to identify research and monitoring projects and needs at 
each refuge unit to foster partnerships.
     We modified language in the boating compatibility 
determination for Carlton Pond WPA to include monitoring for potential 
conflicts with other authorized public uses on the WPA (e.g., hunting), 
and will modify this and other compatibility determinations if 
    We have selected alternative B to implement for Sunkhaze Meadows 
NWR and Carlton Pond WPA, 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 and 
WPA'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 H in the final CCP).

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following location:
     Public Libraries: The Old Town Public Library, located at 
46 Middle Street, Old Town, ME 04468, and the Dorothy Webb Quimby 
Library, located at Unity College, 90 Quaker Hill Road, Unity, ME 04988 
during regular library hours.

    Dated: September 27, 2013.
Wendi Weber,
Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-26365 Filed 11-1-13; 8:45 am]