[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 134 (Friday, July 11, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 39979-39981]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-15631]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R8-R-2008-N0064; 80230-1265-0000-S3]


Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Clark, Lincoln, and Nye 
Counties, NV

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments: draft 
comprehensive conservation plan/environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan/Environmental 
Impact Statement (CCP/EIS) for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex for public review and comment. The Desert National Wildlife

[[Page 39980]]

Refuge Complex is composed of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, 
Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge 
and Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. The CCP/EIS, prepared pursuant 
to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, and in 
accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
describes how the Service will manage the Refuges for the next 15 
years. Draft compatibility determinations for several existing and 
proposed public uses are also available for review and public comment 
with the Draft CCP/EIS.

DATES: Written comments must be received at the address below on or 
before September 9, 2008.

ADDRESSES: For more information on obtaining documents and submitting 
comments, see ``Review and Comment'' under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. 
For public meeting location see ``Public Meetings.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cynthia Martinez, Project Leader, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, 4701 North Torrey Pines, Las Vegas, NV 
89130, phone (702) 515-5450 or Mark Pelz, Chief, Refuge Planning, 2800 
Cottage Way, W-1832, Sacramento, CA 95825, phone (916) 414-6504.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    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 and photography, environmental education and 
interpretation.
    We initiated the CCP/EIS for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge 
Complex in August 2002. At that time and throughout the process, we 
requested, considered, and incorporated public scoping comments in 
numerous ways. Our public outreach has included a Federal Register 
notice of intent published on August 21, 2002, agency and Tribal 
scoping meetings, five public workshops, planning updates, and a CCP 
Web page. We received over 400 scoping comments during the 60-day 
public comment period.

Background

    Ash Meadows Refuge was established in 1984 under the authority of 
the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. It comprises 23,000 
acres of spring-fed wetlands, mesquite bosques, and desert uplands that 
provide habitat for at least 24 plants and animal species found nowhere 
else in the world. The Refuge is located 90 miles northwest of Las 
Vegas and 30 miles west of Pahrump.
    Desert Refuge was originally established in 1936 by Executive Order 
No. 7373 and subsequently modified by Public Land Order 4079, for the 
protection, enhancement and maintenance of wildlife resources including 
bighorn sheep. Located just north of Las Vegas, Nevada, the 1.6 million 
acre refuge is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the lower 48 
states.
    The Moapa Valley Refuge was established September 10, 1979, under 
the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1969, as amended, to 
secure habitat for the endangered Moapa dace. The Refuge is located on 
116 acres in northeastern Clark County. Due to its small size, fragile 
habitats, on-going habitat restoration work, and unsafe structures, the 
Refuge is currently closed to the general public.
    The Pahranagat Refuge was established in 1963, under the authority 
of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, as amended, to protect habitat 
for migrating birds in the Pahranagat Valley. The 5,382-acre refuge 
consists of marshes, meadows, lakes, and upland desert habitat. It 
provides nesting, resting, and feeding areas for waterfowl, shorebirds, 
wading birds, and song birds including the endangered southwestern 
willow flycatcher.

Alternatives

    The Draft CCP/EIS identifies and evaluates three alternatives for 
managing Ash Meadows and Moapa Valley Refuges and four alternatives for 
managing Desert and Pahranagat Refuges for the next 15 years. The 
alternative for each Refuge that appears to best meet the refuge 
purposes is identified as the preferred alternative. The preferred 
alternatives were identified based on the analysis presented in the 
Draft CCP/EIS, which may be modified following the completion of the 
public comment period based on comments received from other agencies, 
Tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, or individuals.

Alternatives for Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

    Under Alternative A, the no action alternative, we would continue 
to manage the Refuge as we have in the past. We would implement habitat 
restoration plans that have already been completed. No major changes in 
habitat management would occur. The existing wildlife observation, 
photography, environmental education, and interpretation programs would 
remain unchanged.
    Under Alternative B, we would plan and implement springhead, 
channel, and landscape restoration on about two thirds of the Refuge. 
Surveys and monitoring for special status species would be expanded as 
would efforts to control invasive plants and animals. Environmental 
education, interpretation and wildlife observation opportunities would 
be improved and expanded and a new visitor contact station and 
headquarters facility would be constructed.
    Under the preferred alternative, Alternative C, we would seek to 
restore springheads, channels and floodplains throughout the Refuge. 
Surveys and monitoring, habitat protection, pest management, and 
research would also be substantially expanded. Environmental education, 
interpretation, and wildlife observation programs would be similar to 
but slightly less than Alternative B.

Alternatives for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge

    Under Alternative A, the no action alternative, we would continue 
current management for bighorn sheep and other species. We would also 
continue to offer limited opportunities for wildlife observation and 
photography, environmental education, and interpretation at Corn Creek. 
Existing backcountry recreation opportunities would continue to be 
offered including bighorn sheep hunting, hiking, camping, horseback 
riding, and backpacking. In addition, under this and all other 
alternatives, we would design and construct a visitor center and 
administrative offices at Corn Creek and continue to protect the 
wilderness character of the 1.4 million acre proposed Desert 
Wilderness.
    Under Alternative B, wildlife management programs would be similar 
to Alternative A, with minor improvements, including expanded surveys 
for bighorn sheep and installation of post and cable fencing along the 
southern boundary. This

[[Page 39981]]

alternative would also include a substantial expansion in visitor 
services over Alternative A, including a new environmental education 
program, improved roads, a new auto tour route, and new wildlife 
viewing trails.
    Under the preferred alternative, Alternative C, we would expand 
inventory and monitoring for bighorn sheep, special status species, and 
vegetation and wildlife communities throughout the Refuge. Under this 
alternative, we would also use prescribed fire and naturally ignited 
fires in Refuge plant communities where appropriate to restore 
vegetation characteristics representative of a natural fire regime. 
Alternative C would also include fencing along the eastern boundary as 
well as the permanent closure of illegal roads and rehabilitation of 
damaged habitat along the southern and eastern boundaries. Visitor 
services under this alternative would be the same as under Alternative 
B except no auto tour route or wildlife viewing trails would be 
developed.
    Under Alternative D, the wildlife management and inventory and 
monitoring programs would be similar to Alternative C. However, under 
this alternative, visitor services would be scaled back from the other 
alternatives. For example, the visitor center would only be staffed on 
weekends during the off-peak seasons and there would be no road 
improvements on the Refuge.

Alternatives for Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge

    Under Alternative A, the no action alternative, we would continue 
to manage the Refuge as we have in the recent past. Springhead and 
channel restoration work and visitor facilities on the Plummer Unit 
would be completed. The limited inventory and monitoring program would 
also continue. However, the Refuge would remain closed to the public, 
except by special arrangement.
    Under Alternative B, wildlife management programs would be similar 
to Alternative A, with minor improvements, including expanded surveys 
for sensitive species and their habitats, and strategies for removing 
nonnative aquatic species. We would also restore native vegetation 
along the springheads and channels on the Pederson Unit. This 
alternative would also include a substantial expansion in visitor 
services over Alternative A, including opening the Refuge on weekends 
and improved visitor facilities.
    Under the preferred alternative, Alternative C, wildlife management 
would be similar to Alternative B but would include increased 
monitoring and the development of a long term inventory and monitoring 
plan for sensitive species. In addition, we would restore the 
springheads and channels and associated native vegetation on the Apcar 
unit. Under Alternative C, we would expand the Refuge acquisition 
boundary by 1,503 acres and pursue acquisition of the lands within the 
boundary to protect habitat for Moapa dace and other sensitive species. 
Under this alternative, the Refuge would be open to visitors every day, 
the environmental education program would be expanded, and additional 
trails would be constructed.

Alternatives for Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

    Under Alternative A, the no action alternative, we would continue 
to manage Pahranagat Refuge as we have in the recent past. The in-
progress hydrology studies would be completed and a wetland habitat 
management plan would be developed and implemented. Riparian habitat 
would be maintained for the southwestern willow flycatcher and other 
migratory birds. Under this alternative, we would maintain the fishing, 
hunting, wildlife observation, and environmental education and 
interpretation opportunities on the Refuge. The campground would be 
maintained in its current state.
    Under Alternative B, we would expand wildlife management and 
visitor services on the Refuge. We would develop 40 acres of foraging 
habitat for sandhill cranes and waterfowl. Wildlife surveys and efforts 
to control invasive plants would be expanded and a new refugium for the 
Pahranagat roundtail chub would be developed. The visitor contact 
station would be expanded and a new interpretive kiosk would be 
developed. In addition, we would make a small reduction in the hunt 
area to reduce potential conflicts with other refuge uses. The 
campground would also be maintained, but fees would be charged and the 
maximum length of stay would be reduced from fourteen to seven days.
    Under Alternative C, management would be similar to Alternative B, 
with the following exceptions. We would restore 200 acres of riparian 
habitat between Upper Pahranagat Lake and Middle Marsh and develop and 
implement restoration plans for degraded springs on the Refuge. In 
addition, a new visitor contact station, interpretive walking trail, 
and photo blind would also be developed. Under this alternative, we 
would convert the campground to a day use area.
    Under the preferred alternative, Alternative D, management would be 
similar to Alternative C, except we would seek to acquire additional 
water rights for the Refuge to provide more flexibility in wetland 
management. Also, we would restore an additional 5-10 acres of riparian 
habitat and expand the surveying and monitoring programs under this 
alternative. Visitor services would be similar to Alternative C except 
we would convert the campground to a walk-in day use area.

Public Meetings

    The locations, dates, and times of public meetings will be listed 
in a planning update distributed to the project mailing list and posted 
on the Refuge Complex Web site at http://www.fws.gov/desertcomplex/.

Review and Comment

    Copies of the Draft CCP/EIS may be obtained by writing to the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Mark Pelz, CA/NV Refuge Planning 
Office, 2800 Cottage Way, W-1832, Sacramento, CA 95825-1846. Copies of 
the Draft CCP/EIS may be viewed at this address or at the Desert 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 4701 North Torrey Pines, Las Vegas, 
NV 89130. The Draft CCP/EIS will also be available for viewing and 
downloading online at http://www.fws.gov/desertcomplex/
publicreview.htm.
    Comments on the Draft CCP/EIS should be addressed to: Mark Pelz, 
Chief, Refuge Planning, 2800 Cottage Way, W-1832, Sacramento, CA 95825-
1846. Comments may also be faxed to (916) 414-6497 or if you choose to 
submit comments via electronic mail, visit http://desertcomplex.fws.gov 
and use the ``Guest Mailbox'' provided at that site.
    At the end of the review and comment period for this Draft CCP/EIS, 
comments will be analyzed by the Service and addressed in the Final 
CCP/EIS. 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.

    Dated: July 2, 2008.
Ken McDermond,
Acting Regional Director, California and Nevada Region, Sacramento, 
California.
 [FR Doc. E8-15631 Filed 7-10-08; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P