[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 78 (Tuesday, April 22, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 21641-21643]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-8618]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2008-N0014; 40136-1265-0000-S3]


Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, Anson and Richmond Counties, NC

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the availability 
of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment 
(Draft CCP/EA) for Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge for public review 
and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we describe the alternative we 
propose to use to manage this refuge for the 15 years following 
approval of the Final CCP. The primary purpose of this 8,443-acre 
refuge is to protect migratory birds. Major habitats include bottomland 
hardwoods, upland pine forests, mixed pine-hardwoods, croplands, 
grasslands/old fields, managed wetlands, and open water. The refuge 
also has 1,306 acres in a conservation easement.
    Significant issues identified by the public, intergovernmental 
partners, and the Service include: Need for comprehensive wildlife and 
habitat management; lack of baseline data; threats to threatened, 
endangered, and imperiled species; impacts of increasing human 
population; need for increased partnerships and interagency 
coordination; spread of exotic species; impacts to water quantity and 
quality; need for improved environmental education and interpretation; 
need for a cultural resource management plan; and the need for 
maintaining quality hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent 
public use activities.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by May 22, 2008. We will hold a public meeting. We will announce the 
upcoming meeting in the local news media.

ADDRESSES: Requests for copies of the Draft CCP/EA should be addressed 
to: Jeffrey Bricken, Refuge Manager, Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, 
5770 U.S. Highway 52 North, Wadesboro, NC 28170. The Draft CCP/EA may 
also be accessed and downloaded from the Service's Internet Web site 
http://southeast.fws.gov/planning. Comments on the Draft CCP/EA may be 
submitted to the above address or via electronic mail to Jeffrey_
bricken@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeffrey Bricken at 704/694-4424.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Pee Dee National 
Wildlife Refuge. We started the process through a notice in the Federal 
Register on November 7, 2006 (71 FR 65122).

[[Page 21642]]

Background

The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee), which amended the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966, 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 plan for achieving refuge purposes and 
contributing toward the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, 
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, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 
years in accordance with the Improvement Act and NEPA.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge and chose 
Alternative C as the proposed alternative.

Alternatives

    A full description of each alternative is in the Draft CCP/EA. We 
summarize each alternative below.

Alternative A: Current Management (No Action)

    Wildlife and habitat management on the refuge would stay at current 
levels. We would continue to survey, maintain habitats, and limit 
disturbance to threatened and endangered species, including the red-
cockaded woodpecker and the Schweinitz's sunflower, as well as State-
listed species. We would minimize erosion and runoff to protect stream/
diadromous fishes and freshwater mussels. We would survey, monitor, and 
maintain habitat to benefit migratory birds, including waterfowl, 
shorebirds, wading birds, and landbirds. Impoundments would be drained 
annually to control aquatic weeds. There would be incidental feral hog 
control as part of the deer hunt, but no coyote management. Forest 
management activities would maintain upland pine and bottomland 
hardwood habitats. We would manage 300 acres of flooded crop 
impoundments, moist-soil units, and a greentree reservoir. 
Approximately 1,200 acres of croplands would be farmed under a 
cooperative program.
    Management of warmwater fish species on the refuge would be limited 
to a survey performed by partners, but there would be no management of 
herpetological species. Management of water quantity would include 
monitoring and controlling water levels in impoundments and the 
greentree reservoir. In addition, we would provide minimum flow 
requirements for the Pee Dee River to Progress Energy during Federal 
relicensing meetings for two Pee Dee River dams. There would be no 
active management for water quality on the refuge. Resource protection 
would be maintained at current levels. We would seek to acquire land 
from willing sellers within the approved refuge acquisition boundary. 
Approximately 1,300 acres would continue to be protected in easement. 
Conservation gaps and corridors would not be addressed. Law enforcement 
patrols would protect historical and archaeological resources.
    The visitor services' program would continue at the current level. 
Deer/feral hog, turkey, and small-game hunting opportunities would be 
maintained at current levels. No waterfowl hunting would be permitted. 
Fishing opportunities would be maintained. As part of wildlife 
observation and photography, we would maintain a 2.75-mile wildlife 
drive, three hiking trails (3.5 miles total), ~25 miles of public 
gravel roads, and an observation blind. Horseback riding would continue 
on public roads via special use permits. We would conduct 28 
environmental and interpretive programs annually. Friends Group 
membership and volunteer levels would remain the same.
    The refuge staff presently consists of five positions: Refuge 
manager, assistant refuge manager, office assistant, engineering 
equipment operator, and park ranger. The assistant refuge manager 
position is scheduled for abolishment under Alternative A. There would 
be limited intergovernmental coordination under this alternative.
Alternative B: Migratory Bird Emphasis
    We would focus management on the needs of trust resources (i.e., 
listed species and migratory birds). We would increase habitat 
restoration efforts to support these species, and more areas would be 
seasonally closed to limit their disturbance. Survey and monitoring 
efforts for stream/diadromous fishes and freshwater mussels would 
increase, and we would work with partners to protect upstream lands in 
the watershed for priority aquatic species. A water quality program 
would be implemented. Management of migratory birds would be increased 
as the moist-soil unit acreage would be expanded. Exotic species 
control would benefit trust species. Upland and bottomland forest 
management would focus on the needs of listed species and migratory 
birds. Cropland acreage would be reduced to make way for old fields 
planted with native warm season grasses. We would work with partners to 
conduct herpetological and fish surveys, and to ensure that water 
quantities and qualities support trust species.
    Under this alternative, resource protection efforts would increase. 
Land acquisition and archaeological resource efforts would be the same 
as under Alternative A. However, we would work with partners to 
identify conservation gaps and wildlife corridors to protect listed 
species and migratory birds. GIS databases would be established for 
easement properties to evaluate their contribution to listed species' 
objectives.
    Visitor services would be increased. If needed, we would consider 
implementing a specific hunt program for feral hogs to control their 
population. Fishing opportunities would be the same as under 
Alternative A. We would seasonally close key areas to the public to 
limit disturbance to trust species, but would install additional photo-
blinds and work to improve boat access to the Pee Dee River. We would 
develop on- and off-site education and interpretive programs, focusing 
messages on trust resources and the minimization of human impacts. We 
would work to acquire an environmental education facility. We would 
train staff, volunteers, and teachers to incorporate interpretive 
themes into programs. Friends Group membership and volunteer levels 
would be increased and focused on the needs of listed species and 
migratory birds.
    Administration would expand with increased staffing levels; the 
following staff would be required in addition to the current staff: 
Assistant refuge manager (position scheduled for abolishment under 
Alternative A), biologist, forestry technician, maintenance worker (2), 
and park ranger.
Alternative C: Biodiversity and Biological Integrity Emphasis (Proposed 
Alternative)
    We would emphasize wildlife and habitat diversity, with management 
activities being expanded. Habitats would be improved to support listed 
species. Some key areas would be seasonally closed to the public to 
limit

[[Page 21643]]

disturbance to threatened, endangered, and imperiled species. Survey 
and monitoring efforts for stream/diadromous fishes and freshwater 
mussels would be increased. We would work with partners to protect 
upstream watershed areas outside the refuge, and a water quality 
program would be implemented to further protect priority aquatic 
species. We would document the presence or absence of Schweinitz's 
sunflower on the refuge and establish populations. For migratory birds, 
we would intensively survey and monitor and would increase the acreage 
of moist-soil units. Sweetgum trees would be thinned in areas of the 
bottomland hardwood forest to favor mast-producing species.
    Exotic species control efforts would focus on maintaining 
biodiversity. If needed, a specific feral hog hunt would be implemented 
to reduce the impacts of this invasive species to refuge biodiversity. 
We would work with the State to determine the impacts of coyotes. 
Upland habitats would be managed for biodiversity and GIS databases 
would be developed for these areas. Some flooded crop impoundments 
would be replaced with moist-soil units to increase multi-species use. 
Additional acreage of grassy fields would be planted with native warm 
season species. Cooperative farming would be maintained at current 
levels. Herpetological and fish surveys and monitoring efforts would 
increase, and we would ensure that management practices do not 
adversely impact these species.
    Under the proposed action, resource protection efforts would be 
expanded. Signage along the refuge boundary would be maintained, and we 
would seek to acquire land from willing sellers within the approved 
acquisition boundary. We would develop GIS databases for easements and 
ensure that they are managed according to refuge biodiversity 
objectives. We would work with partners to protect conservation gaps 
and corridors to support wildlife and habitat diversity.
    We would expand visitor services. Turkey hunting would be expanded 
to include areas in Richmond County. Deer hunting opportunities would 
be increased. Small game hunting opportunities would remain the same. 
We would implement quail population monitoring to determine the number 
of hunting days and bag limits. To improve fishing opportunities, we 
would increase boat access to the Pee Dee River and consider additional 
stocking of fish in refuge ponds. Three additional photo-blinds would 
be installed, and we would evaluate the potential for additional 
birding trails. We would continue to allow horseback riding on public 
roads via special use permits. We would develop on- and off-site 
education and interpretive programs with messages focused on 
biodiversity and the minimization of human impacts. We would train 
staff, volunteers, and teachers to incorporate interpretive themes into 
programs. An on-site environmental education center would be built. We 
would develop an outreach plan to increase awareness of the 
archaeological and historical resources on the refuge. We would 
increase and focus Friends Group and volunteer efforts to support 
wildlife and habitat diversity. Administration would expand to include 
maintenance programs in support of biodiversity and biological 
integrity. In addition to current staff, we would add the following 
positions over the 15-year life of the CCP: Assistant refuge manager 
(position scheduled for abolishment under Alternative A), biologist, 
forestry technician, maintenance worker (2), and park ranger.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying 
information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends for the Draft CCP/EA, we will analyze 
the comments and address them in the form of a Final CCP and Finding of 
No Significant Impact.

    Authority: This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, Public Law 
105-57.


    Dated: December 31, 2007.
Jon Andrew,
Acting Regional Director.

    Editorial Note: This document was received at the Office of the 
Federal Register on April 16, 2008.

[FR Doc. E8-8618 Filed 4-21-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P