[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 34 (Wednesday, February 20, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 9351-9352]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-3079]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service


Availability of Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for 
Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Medicine Lake, MT

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announce that 
the final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Medicine Lake 
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex is available. This CCP, prepared 
pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 
and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, describes how the 
Service intends to manage the Medicine Lake NWR Complex consisting of 
Medicine Lake NWR, the Northeast Montana Wetland Management District 
(WMD), and Lamesteer NWR for the next 15 years.

ADDRESSES: A copy of the CCP or Summary may be obtained by writing to 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 134 Union 
Boulevard, Suite 300, Lakewood, Colorado, 80228, or downloaded from 
http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laurie Shannon, 303-236-4317 (phone); 
303-236-4792 (fax); or laurie_shannon@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Medicine Lake NWR Complex is located 
within the highly productive prairie pothole region of the Northern 
Great Plains, along the western edge of the Missouri Coteau, in 
Northeastern Montana. It is composed of three individual units: the 
Medicine Lake NWR, the Northeast Montana WMD, and the Lamesteer NWR. 
These refuges are managed as one complex, and together they are 
dispersed across four counties and require management of more than 
73,532 acres of Service-owned lands and wetland and/or grassland 
easements or leases on privately-owned land. Medicine Lake NWR 
encompasses about 31,534 acres including 11,360 acres of designated 
wilderness and was established in 1935 as ``* * * a refuge and breeding 
ground for migratory birds and other wildlife'' (Executive Order 7148, 
dated August 29, 1935). The Northeast Montana WMD was established in 
1968 and consists of Waterfowl Production Areas and wetland and 
grassland easements. ``Waterfowl Production Areas may be acquired 
without regard to the limitations and requirements of the Migratory 
Bird Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 715 et seq.), but all of the 
provisions of such Act which govern the administration and protection 
of lands acquired thereunder, except the inviolate sanctuary provisions 
of such Act * * * '' (16 U.S.C. 718 d). Lamesteer NWR, established in 
1942 as an easement refuge, was described as ``800 acres in Wibaux 
County, Montana, as refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and 
other wildlife'' (Executive Order 9166, dated May 19, 1942).
    The refuge complex is home to approximately 280 species of birds, 
38 species of mammals, and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians. Each 
unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System), including 
the Medicine Lake NWR Complex, has specific purposes for which it was 
established and for which legislation was enacted. Those purposes are 
used to develop and prioritize management goals and objectives within 
the Refuge System mission, and to guide which public uses will occur on 
these refuges. The planning process is a way for the Service and the 
public to evaluate management goals and objectives for the best 
possible conservation efforts of this important wildlife habitat, while

[[Page 9352]]

providing for wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are 
compatible with the refuges' establishing purposes and the mission of 
the Refuge System.
    This final CCP identifies goals, objectives, and strategies for the 
management of Medicine Lake NWR Complex that emphasize restoration and 
maintenance of native habitats in vigorous condition for migratory 
birds. The CCP places high importance on the control of invasive plant 
species with partners and integrated pest management. It seeks to 
provide habitats in order to contribute to conservation, enhancement, 
and production of migratory bird species while protecting federally 
listed species.
    The availability of the draft CCP and Environmental Assessment (EA) 
was announced in the Federal Register on August 7, 2007, and made 
available for a 30-day public review and comment period. The draft CCP/
EA evaluated three alternatives for managing Medicine Lake NWR and the 
Northeast Montana WMD, and two alternatives for managing Lamesteer NWR 
for the next 15 years.
    The preferred alternative would conserve the natural resources of 
Northeast Montana by restoring or protecting the native and mixed-grass 
prairie grasslands and maintaining high-quality nesting habitats within 
the refuge complex. The refuge would reduce populations of selected 
species of invasive plants, and control of crested wheatgrass would be 
the management priority. The approved refuge administrative boundary 
would be expanded through willing sellers or buyers by about 722 
hectares (1,784 acres) based on three priority areas. This alternative 
would focus funding for visitor-use resources on developing access and 
improving opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreational uses 
(hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, 
and environmental education) while also encouraging a greater 
understanding and appreciation for the mixed grass prairie ecosystem.
    We selected this alternative because it best meets the purposes and 
goals of the Medicine Lake NWR and the Northeast Montana WMD, as well 
as the mission and goals of the Refuge System. The preferred 
alternative also will benefit federally listed species, shore birds, 
migrating and nesting waterfowl, neotropical migrants, including birds 
of management concern and resident wildlife. Environmental education 
and partnerships will result in improved wildlife-dependent 
recreational opportunities. Cultural and historical resources as well 
as federally listed species will be protected.
    The preferred alternative for Lamesteer NWR would take the refuge 
out of the Refuge System and relinquish the easement to the current 
landowner. The Service's easement requirements would no longer exist, 
and we would divest our interest in the refuge. This would be carried 
out within 15 years.
    Through the CCP process, we evaluated the level of national trust 
resource values represented by Lamesteer NWR to determine if those 
values and associated risks were sufficient to justify continuation of 
the easement. Trust resources are resources that through law or 
administrative act are held in trust for the people by the government. 
We determined that Lamesteer NWR possesses no trust resource values and 
minimal habitat value for wildlife. We have no management authority on 
the uplands surrounding the easement, and public access is by 
permission of the landowner. Further, the dam structure is in need of 
substantial repairs to meet the State of Montana and regional dam 
safety standards. We determined that Lamesteer NWR does not meet the 
goals of the Refuge System or the legislative purpose of the refuge.
    We are furnishing this notice to advise other agencies and the 
public of the availability of the final CCP, provide information about 
the desired conditions for the Medicine Lake NWR Complex, and offer 
details on how we will implement management strategies. Based on the 
review and evaluation of the information contained in the EA, the 
Regional Director has determined that implementation of the Final Plan 
does not constitute a major Federal action that would significantly 
affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 
Section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act. Therefore, 
an Environmental Impact Statement will not be prepared.

    Dated: October 2, 2007.
Gary Mowad,
Acting Deputy Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on February 14, 2008.
[FR Doc. E8-3079 Filed 2-19-08; 8:45 am]
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