[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 13 (Tuesday, January 21, 2014)]
[Pages 3399-3400]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-01013]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-R-2013-N223; FXRS1266066CCP0S3-134-FF06R06000]

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Great Falls, 
Montana; 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 Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex. In 
this final CCP, we describe how we intend to manage the refuge complex 
for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: You will find the final CCP and the FONSI on the planning 
Web site: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/ccp/mt/bnl/bnl.html. A limited number of hard copies are available. You may 
request one by any of the following methods:
    Email: toni_griffin@fws.gov. Include ``Benton Lake NWR Complex'' 
in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Toni Griffin, Planning Team Leader, 303-236-4792.
    U.S. Mail: Toni Griffin, Planning Team Leader, Suite 300, 134 Union 
Boulevard, Lakewood, CO 80228.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Toni Griffin, 303-236-4378 (phone); 
303-236-4792 (fax); or toni_griffin@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Benton Lake 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which we began by publishing a notice 
of intent in the Federal Register (73 FR 48237) on August 18, 2008. For 
more about the initial process and the history of this refuge, see that 
notice. We released the draft CCP and EA to the public, announcing and 
requesting comments in a notice of availability (77 FR 19309) on March 
30, 2012. The 60-day comment period ended on June 1, 2012. A summary of 
public comments and the agency responses is included in the final CCP.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
(16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Administration Act), requires us to develop a 
CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose in developing a CCP 
is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year strategy 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 Service 
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 Administration Act.
    Each unit of the NWRS was established for specific purposes. We use 
these purposes as the foundation for developing and prioritizing the 
management goals and objectives for each refuge within the NWRS 
mission, and to determine how the public can use each refuge. The 
planning process is a way for us and the public to evaluate management 
goals and objectives that will ensure the best possible approach to 
wildlife, plant, and habitat conservation, while providing for 
wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are compatible with 
each refuge's establishing purposes and the mission of the NWRS.

Additional Information

    The final CCP may be found at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/ccp/mt/bnl/bnl.html. The final CCP includes detailed 
information about the planning process, refuge, issues, and management 
alternative selected. The Web site also contains the draft CCP, which 
includes an EA, prepared in accordance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) (43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The EA/FONSI includes 
discussion of alternative refuge management options. The Service's 
selected alternative is reflected in the final CCP.
    The selected alternative for the complex focuses on achieving self-
sustaining systems with long-term productivity. Management efforts 
would focus on supporting and restoring ecological processes, including 
natural communities and the dynamics of the ecosystems of the northern 
Great Plains and northern Rocky Mountains in relationship to their 
geomorphic landscape positioning. Conservation of native landscapes 
would be a high priority, accomplished by protecting habitats from 
conversion, using a combination of partnerships, easements, and fee-
title lands, and through active management and proactive enforcement of 
easements. Management actions such as prescribed fire, grazing, and 
invasive species control would be used to support the resiliency and 
sustainability of Service-owned lands throughout the refuge complex. 
Whenever possible, habitat conditions would be allowed to fluctuate 
with climatically driven wet and dry cycles, which are essential for 
long-term productivity. The success of these efforts and programs would 
depend on added staff, research, and monitoring programs, operations 
money, infrastructure, and new and expanded partnerships.
    Benton Lake Refuge wetland units will be managed to focus on the 
importance of restoring the health and long-term sustainability of the 
wetland basin and include efforts within the Lake Creek and Muddy Creek 
watersheds. Flexible water management will occur, which will affect the 
amount, duration, and location of artificially provided water (pumped 
water) within the wetland basin. Management will strive to provide some 
waterfowl hunting and fall/spring migration habitat for at least 11 out 
of 15 years, and basin-wide drawdowns

[[Page 3400]]

will occur no more than 4 out of 15 years (with no more than 3 
consecutive years of basin-wide drying). An adaptive resource 
management approach will be applied that may modify these wet and dry 
cycles to ensure progress towards achieving habitat objectives. Wetland 
basin infrastructure may be modified to enhance water conservation and 
efficient delivery. The Pumphouse and all water rights will be 
regularly exercised and maintained. Managing grasslands and other 
wildlife dependent public uses (wildlife observation and photography, 
environmental education and interpretation, and upland game bird 
hunting) on the refuge will occur as resources allow. A detailed 
description of objectives and actions included in this selected 
alternative is found in chapter 4 of the final CCP.

    Dated: December 3, 2013.
Matt Hogan,
Acting Regional Director, Mountain-Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region.
[FR Doc. 2014-01013 Filed 1-17-14; 8:45 am]