[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 195 (Wednesday, October 8, 2003)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58124-58125]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-25485]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Notice of Availability of Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
and Environmental Assessment for Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, 
Muleshoe, TX and Grulla National Wildlife Refuge, Arch, NM

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces that a 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Analysis 
(EA) for the Muleshoe and Grulla National Wildlife Refuges is available 
for review and comment. This CCP/EA, prepared pursuant to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, describes how the Service 
intends to manage these refuges over the next 15 years.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before November 24, 
2003.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Carol Torrez, Biologist/Natural Resource 
Planner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, 
New Mexico, 87103-1306, Telephone: (505) 248-6821, Fax: (505) 248-6874. 
Comments may also be sent via electronic mail to: carol_torrez@fws.gov
    The draft CCP/EA is available on compact diskette or hard copy, and 
may be obtained by writing, telephoning, faxing, or e-mailing Carol 
Torrez at the above listed address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carol Torrez, Biologist/Natural 
Resource Planner, 505-248-6821 or Harold Beierman, Refuge Manager, 806-
946-3341.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Public Involvement

    The draft CCP/EA is available for public review and comment for a 
period of 45 days. Copies of the document can be obtained as indicated 
in the ADDRESSES section. In addition, documents will be available for 
public inspection during normal business hours (8-4:30) at the Muleshoe 
NWR Headquarters Office, 20 miles south of Muleshoe, Texas, off Highway 
214, and at the following libraries:

Muleshoe Public Library, 322 West 2nd Street, Muleshoe, Texas 79347,
Lamb County Library, 232 Phelps Avenue, Littlefield, Texas 79339,
Cochran County Love Memorial Library, 318 South Main Street, Morton, 
Texas 79346,
City of Portales Library, 218 South Avenue B, Portales, New Mexico 
88130.

    A public meeting to receive comments on the Draft CCP/EA will be 
held at the Muleshoe NWR Headquarters Office during the open comment 
period (in November 2003). Special mailings, newspaper articles, and/or 
other media announcements will be used to inform the public of the date 
and time of the meeting.
    All comments received from individuals become part of the official 
public record. Requests for such comments will be handled in accordance 
with the Freedom of Information Act and the Council on Environmental 
Quality's NEPA regulations [40 CFR 1506.6 (f)].

Background

    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 et seq.) requires a CCP. The purpose in 
developing CCPs 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, consistent with sound principles 
of fish and wildlife science, conservation, legal mandates, and Service 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, the 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 these CCPs at least every 15 years in accordance with 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as 
amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321-
4370d).
    The Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge was established on October 
24, 1935 by the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 
U.S.C. 712d) `` * * * for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds.'' Located in the south plains 
of west Texas, the 5,809 acre refuge is comprised of three shallow 
playa lakes and almost 5,000 acres of native short to mid-grass 
prairie. Only small areas of refuge land have been farmed. Much of the 
refuge grasslands are pristine examples of what the surrounding area 
was like before agricultural development. Management efforts focus on 
enhancing and restoring native grassland and wetland communities for 
sandhill cranes, waterfowl, other migratory birds, and resident 
wildlife.
    The Grulla National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 6, 
1969 by the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (45 Stat. 
1222, as amended; U.S.C. 715) ``* * * for a migratory bird refuge 
primarily for the benefit and use of the lesser sandhill crane.'' 
Located on the High Plains of eastern New Mexico adjacent to the Texas 
state line, this 3,236 acre refuge consists of a 2,330 acre shallow 
lake (Salt Lake) and 906 acres of native grasses and shrubs. The 
boundary of this refuge is very irregular and runs through the lake bed 
in several places. Only one access point is currently available to the 
public and the Service. The refuge provides outstanding wildlife 
habitat and viewing opportunities when Salt Lake holds

[[Page 58125]]

water; however, these opportunities are limited by local precipitation. 
Opportunities for active management of this refuge have been limited 
due to its remote location, lack of resident staff, and access issues. 
Future management efforts will focus on improving access and public 
wildlife viewing opportunities.
    The Draft CCP/EA addresses a range of topics including habitat and 
wildlife management, public use opportunities, invasive species 
control, and administration and staffing for the refuges. The key 
refuge issues and how they are addressed in the plan alternatives are 
summarized below. Alternative A is the current management, or what is 
currently offered, at the refuge. Alternative B is the proposed action. 
Under Alternative C, refuge habitats would be managed solely by the 
uses of prescribed fire. Under Alternative D, management of refuge 
habitats would be accomplished through mechanical means such as haying 
or mowing. Alternative E would call for no active management on the 
refuge.
    Habitat management activities: Alternative A: Grazing has 
historically been the primary grassland management tool used on the 
refuge. Efforts to use prescribed fire and control invasive species 
have been limited. Alternative B: The managed grazing program would be 
modified and integrated with prescribed fire and mechanical vegetative 
manipulation to encourage ecological integrity, promote native prairie 
restoration, control invasive plant species, and provide/enhance 
habitat for grassland birds and other resident wildlife. Alternative C: 
Grazing would be discontinued. Prescribed fire would be the primary 
tool used to manage refuge habitats and control invasive plants. 
Alternative D: Grazing would be discontinued. Mechanical means such as 
haying and mowing would be used to manage refuge grassland habitats and 
control invasive plant species. Alternative E: No active management of 
grassland habitat. Habitats would be allowed to evolve into climax 
conditions. Limited use of biological controls would be used as an 
experiment to control invasive plant species.
    Improvements to public use opportunities: Alternative A: The public 
use program would remain at current levels and no new facilities would 
be developed on the refuge. Hunting would continue to be prohibited. 
Alternative B: The public use program would increase and/or enhance 
educational and outreach activities, recreational opportunities 
(including consideration of hunting opportunities), community 
involvement, and improve facilities. Alternative C: The public use 
program would be similar to Alternative B. Alternative D: The public 
use program would be similar to Alternative B. Alternative E: The 
public use program would be discontinued.
    Refuge Land and Boundary Protection: Alternative A: There would be 
no acquisition and no exploration of possible refuge boundary 
expansion. Alternative B: Land protection would be accomplished through 
partnerships with adjacent owners. Refuge boundary expansion would only 
occur as a means to improve access to the public and would be 
considered under a separate public process. Any mention of acquisition 
is conceptual in nature only. Alternative C: Same as Alternative B. 
Alternative D: Same as Alternative B. Alternative E: Same as 
Alternative A.

    Dated: August 15, 2003.
Geoffrey L. Haskett,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, 
New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 03-25485 Filed 10-7-03; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P