[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 66 (Friday, April 5, 2013)]
[Pages 20687-20689]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-07937]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2012-N136: BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge, Nantucket, MA; Final 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our final comprehensive conservation plan (CCP), 
finding of no significant impact (FONSI), and land protection plan 
(LPP) for Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge (NWR, refuge) in 
Nantucket, Massachusetts. Nantucket NWR is part of the Eastern 
Massachusetts NWR Complex, administered from Sudbury, Massachusetts. In 
this final CCP, we describe how we will manage the refuge for the next 
15 years.

ADDRESSES: You may view or obtain copies of the final CCP and FONSI by 
any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or a CD-ROM.
    Agency Web site: Download a copy of the document at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/planning/nantucket/ccphome.html.
    Email: Send requests to northeastplanning@fws.gov. Include 
``Nantucket Refuge CCP'' in the subject line of your message.
    Mail: Carl Melberg, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 73 Weir Hill Road, Sudbury, MA 01776.
    Fax: Attention: Carl Melberg, 978-443-2898.
    In-Person Viewing or Pickup: Call 978-443-4661 to make an 
appointment during regular business hours at the Sudbury office, 73 
Weir Hill Road, Sudbury, MA 01776.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Libby Herland, Refuge Manager, 
Nantucket NWR, 73 Weir Hill Road, Sudbury, MA 01776; 978-443-4661 
(phone); 978-443-2898 (fax); libby_herland@fws.gov (email).



    With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Nantucket NWR. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (64 FR 
9166; February 24, 1999), announcing we were preparing a CCP and 
environmental impact statement (EIS) for all eight refuges in what was 
then known as the Great Meadows NWR Complex. In 2001, we determined it 
was not feasible to prepare a single CCP for all eight refuges, and 
thus prepared another notice in the Federal Register (66 FR 10506; 
February 15, 2001), to indicate that a separate CCP/environmental 
assessment (EA) would be prepared for Great Meadows, Assabet River, and 
Oxbow NWRs. We planned to prepare a separate CCP for the other five 
refuges in the refuge complex, including Nantucket NWR. However, in 
2008, because of the different issues facing those five refuges, the 
Service determined it was more efficient to proceed through the CCP 
process for each refuge separately, and published a notice in the 
Federal Register (73 FR 18806; April 7, 2008), to begin a separate CCP/
EA process for Nantucket NWR. We released the draft CCP/EA for 
Nantucket NWR to the public, announcing and requesting comments in a 
notice of availability in the Federal Register on August 2, 2011 (76 FR 
    The Service established Nantucket NWR in 1973, under an Act 
Authorizing the Transfer of Certain Real Property for Wildlife, or 
other Purposes (16 U.S.C. 667b, Pub. L. 80-537), which authorized the 
U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to transfer the property to the Service because 
of ``its particular value in carrying out the Migratory Bird Act.'' The 
USCG currently maintains control of a 1-acre inholding on the refuge 
that contains the Great Point Lighthouse. Nantucket NWR lies at the 
northern tip of the Coskata-Coatue Peninsula, which is also known as 
Great Point. The peninsula is at the northernmost point of Nantucket 
    The only access to the refuge by land is through The Trustees of 
Reservations' (TTOR) Coskata-Coatue Refuge and Nantucket Conservation 
Foundation (NCF) properties from the south. The refuge erodes and 
accretes constantly, but averages 21 acres in size. The refuge is a 
barrier beach system where two longshore currents meet to form a rip 
current. The refuge is composed of

[[Page 20688]]

beach and dune habitat that supports a diversity of sea and land birds 
of conservation concern, including common and roseate terns, piping 
plover, and American oystercatcher, and Federal trust marine mammals, 
such as gray seals.
    We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the 
final CCP for Nantucket NWR in accordance with National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) requirements. We completed a 
thorough analysis of impacts on the human environment, which we 
included in the draft CCP/EA.
    The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Nantucket NWR 
for the next 15 years. Alternative B, as described for the refuge in 
the draft CCP/EA, and with the modifications described below, is the 
foundation for the final CCP.


    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge Administration Act), as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each NWR. The purpose for 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 (NWRS), 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, and 
environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update 
the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Refuge 
Administration Act.

CCP Alternatives, Including the Selected Alternative

    Our draft CCP/EA (76 FR 46317) addressed several key issues, 
     Providing habitat protection and management for federally 
endangered and threatened species and other protected wildlife.
     Maintaining a balance between resource protection and 
beach access, and determining compatibility for recreational uses.
     Increasing education and interpretation of the resources, 
and increasing communications about management decisions.
     Cooperating in land management with adjacent land managers 
and planning for future land acquisition opportunities.
     Creating a protocol for ensuring cultural resource 
    To address these issues and develop a plan based on the refuge's 
establishing purposes, vision, and goals, we evaluated three 
alternatives for Nantucket NWR in the draft CCP/EA. The alternatives 
for Nantucket NWR have some actions in common, such as protecting the 
beach and dune habitat and the bird species of conservation concern 
using this habitat, providing wildlife-dependent priority public uses 
when compatible, reducing impacts from climate change, protecting 
cultural resources, and distributing refuge revenue sharing payments to 
the town of Nantucket, Massachusetts. There are other actions that 
differ among the alternatives. The draft CCP/EA describes each 
alternative in detail and relates them to the issues and concerns that 
arose during the planning process. Below, we provide summaries for the 
three alternatives evaluated in the draft CCP/EA.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    This alternative is the ``No Action'' alternative required by the 
National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq). It defines 
our current management activities, including those planned, funded, or 
underway, and serves as the baseline against which to compare 
alternatives B and C. This alternative describes current refuge 
programs on the 21-acre refuge for habitat management, fish and 
wildlife inventories and monitoring, administrative infrastructure and 
staffing, and visitor services. Under this alternative, TTOR would 
continue to provide onsite management of Nantucket NWR, and the Service 
would continue its passive management role and minimal presence on the 
refuge. The remote location of the refuge, along with limited staffing 
and funding resources, restricts our ability to maintain a consistent 
presence, or to actively oversee and implement management actions. 
Instead, we would continue to coordinate with TTOR for installing 
symbolic fencing and implementing beach closures to protect breeding 
and staging birds and seal haul-out sites on the refuge.
    Under alternative A, the Service would maintain oversight, but 
visitor services programs would continue to be implemented primarily by 
partners, such as TTOR. Priority public uses, such as wildlife 
observation, photography, environmental education, interpretation, and 
fishing are currently allowed on the refuge and would continue where 
beach access is permitted. Hunting is the only priority public use that 
is not allowed on the refuge due to the refuge's small size and habitat 
types. Under this alternative, all staff would continue to be stationed 
at the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex headquarters in Sudbury, 
Massachusetts. We would continue discussions to pursue a partnership 
agreement with TTOR, which would include resource management, visitor 
use, and shared funding sources to help contribute to refuge 

Alternative B (Enhanced Wildlife and Visitor Services Emphasis)

    This is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines the actions 
we believe would best achieve the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, 
and the intent of NWRS policy on Biological Integrity, Diversity, and 
Environmental Health (601 FW 3). This alternative would also best 
respond to the issues that arose during the planning process. 
Alternative B would improve our management of refuge habitats and 
species of conservation concern, with increased Service presence on the 
existing 21-acre refuge, and on the additional 2,036 acres proposed for 
Service acquisition from willing sellers in fee or easement, or as a 
no-cost transfer from other Federal agencies. It strives to provide a 
balance between habitat and species conservation and public use and 
access. It would enhance partnerships with local conservation 
organizations and civic groups.
    Under this alternative, the Service would take a more active role 
in habitat and species management on the refuge, targeting the 
protection of dynamic coastal beach and dune systems and the species 
that rely on them for critical nesting, resting, foraging, and staging 
habitat. The additional protection proposed may result in increased 
public recreational access restrictions or closures on the refuge 
during certain seasons or in some years.
    We would also continue to work closely with TTOR, NCF, and our 
other partners to accomplish biological program priorities with an 
emphasis on landscape-level conservation and more consistent management 
between peninsula partners. A draft LPP, which requires Director's 
approval before it can be implemented, was included as Appendix G in 
the draft CCP/EA. The LPP proposes that 2,036 acres of high resource 
value be acquired for the refuge if willing sellers are available.

[[Page 20689]]

    Under alternative B, we would establish public use zones that would 
allow some increased public use opportunities in certain areas where 
wildlife are less likely to be disturbed, with an emphasis on providing 
fishing, wildlife observation, environmental education, and 
interpretation. An increase in opportunities would also be accomplished 
by working with partners to monitor wildlife use and offer visitor 
programs. We propose to add a part-time, year-round visitor services 
specialist and a full-time biologist stationed on Nantucket Island, and 
a new law enforcement officer stationed at Monomoy NWR in Chatham, 

Alternative C (Emphasis on Wildlife Diversity and Natural Processes)

    This alternative would focus on managing wildlife diversity and 
natural coastal processes. It would emphasize species and habitat 
protection on the refuge through actions such as not allowing over-sand 
vehicles for fishing access on most of the refuge during April 1 
through September 15. Staff would monitor and evaluate nesting success 
and productivity for priority bird species of conservation concern. 
Alternative C includes expanding current management and staffing over 
the next 15 years on the refuge. It would also involve targeted fee and 
easement acquisition of excess and surplus Federal lands and other key 
conservation properties on Nantucket Island as opportunities arise. 
Visitor services would be similar to those under alternative B, except 
for the longer, more restrictive over-sand vehicle closure zones. 
Similar to alternative B, this alternative proposes a joint visitor 
facility with TTOR and NCF, as well as increased visitor services 
programming and opportunities through partners.


    We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Nantucket NWR from 
August 2 to October 1, 2011 (76 FR 46317). During the comment period, 
we received 38 written responses. We evaluated all of the substantive 
comments we received, and include a summary of those comments, and our 
responses to them, as Appendix J in the final CCP.

Selected Alternative

    After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, we 
have made several minor changes to alternative B. These changes are 
described in the final CCP in the FONSI (Appendix L) and in Appendix J.
    We have selected alternative B to implement for Nantucket NWR, with 
these minor changes, for several reasons. Alternative B comprises a mix 
of actions that, in our professional judgment, work best towards 
achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals; NWRS policies; and 
the goals of other State and regional conservation plans. Our ability 
to achieve conservation goals is further enhanced with the land 
protection plan (LPP) included in alternative B. The LPP was approved 
by the Service's Director on January 15, 2013. We also believe that 
alternative B most effectively addresses key issues raised during the 
planning process. The basis of our decision is also detailed in the 

Public Availability of Documents

    You can view or obtain the final CCP, including the FONSI, as 
indicated under ADDRESSES.

    Dated: February 18, 2013.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2013-07937 Filed 4-4-13; 8:45 am]