[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 76 (Wednesday, April 20, 2011)]
[Pages 22140-22141]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-9541]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2010-N267; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Parker River and Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuges, Essex 
County, MA; Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent; announcement of public meetings; request for 


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), intend to 
prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental 
assessment (EA) for Parker River and Thacher Island National Wildlife 
Refuges (NWR). We provide this notice in compliance with our CCP policy 
to advise other Federal and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of 
our intentions, and to obtain suggestions and information on the scope 
of issues to consider in the planning process. We are also announcing 
public meetings and requesting public comments.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
May 20, 2011. We will hold public meetings and other scheduled events 
throughout the CCP planning process. We will announce opportunities for 
public input in local news media throughout the CCP process.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods.
    E-mail: [email protected]. Include ``Parker River CCP'' in 
the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attention: Graham Taylor, at 978-465-2807.
    U.S. Mail: Parker River NWR, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, 
MA 01950.
    In-Person Drop-off: You may drop off comments during regular 
business hours or call for an appointment (978-465-5753) at Parker 
River NWR, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Carl Melberg, Planning Team Leader, at 
978-443-4661, or [email protected].



    With this notice, we initiate our process for developing a CCP for 
Parker River and Thacher Island NWRs, in Essex County, Massachusetts. 
This notice complies with our CCP policy to: (1) Advise other Federal 
and State agencies, Tribes, and the public of our intention to conduct 
detailed planning on these refuges, and (2) obtain suggestions and 
information on the scope of issues to consider in the environmental 
document and during development of the CCP.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Administration Act), as amended by the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to develop 
a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose for developing a 
CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year

[[Page 22141]]

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 Administration Act.
    Each unit of the NWRS was established for specific purposes. We use 
these purposes as the foundation for developing and prioritizing the 
management goals and objectives for each refuge within the NWRS 
mission, and to determine how the public can use each refuge. The 
planning process is a way for us and the public to evaluate management 
goals and objectives that will ensure the best possible approach to 
wildlife, plant, and habitat conservation, while providing for 
wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities that are compatible with 
each refuge's establishing purposes and the mission of the NWRS.
    Our CCP process provides participation opportunities for Tribal, 
State, and local governments; agencies; organizations; and the public. 
At this time, we encourage input in the form of issues, concerns, 
ideas, and suggestions for the future management of Parker River and 
Thacher Island NWRs.
    We will conduct the environmental review of this project and 
develop an EA in accordance with the requirements of the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.); NEPA regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508); other appropriate 
Federal laws and regulations; and our policies and procedures for 
compliance with those laws and regulations.

Parker River and Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuges

    Parker River NWR was established in 1942 to provide feeding, 
resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds. The refuge occupies 
4,653 acres on Plum Island, a 9-mile-long barrier island off the 
northeastern coast of Massachusetts, and is a vital stopover site along 
the Atlantic Flyway for waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. The 
primary purpose of Parker River NWR is to preserve and manage habitat 
for a diversity of species, particularly migratory birds and wintering 
American black ducks. A focus of management is to serve as a land 
management, research, and demonstration area for salt marsh systems. 
Adjacent to the refuge, and at the extreme southern tip of Plum Island, 
is the 77-acre Sandy Point State Reservation. This park's only overland 
access is through the refuge.
    Parker River NWR staff also administer Thacher Island NWR, an 
unstaffed satellite refuge off the coast of Rockport, Massachusetts. 
Thacher Island NWR encompasses the northern 22 acres of the 50-acre 
island, and was established in 1972 to provide feeding, resting, and 
nesting habitat for migratory birds. The refuge is managed to protect 
migratory birds, endangered species and other wildlife and their 

Scoping: Preliminary Issues, Concerns, and Opportunities

    We have identified preliminary issues, concerns, and opportunities 
that we may address in the CCP. We have briefly summarized these issues 
below. During public scoping, we may identify additional issues.
    Concerns about the management of several key habitats on the 
refuges include the protection of the beach/dune for Federally 
endangered piping plovers and roseate terns, and marsh habitat for 
saltmarsh sparrows, bitterns and rails, all of which are species of 
conservation concern. Manmade impoundments provide freshwater wetlands 
for priority bird species, but these modified habitats are threatened 
by sea level rise. The feasibility of their long-term maintenance, in 
comparison to restoring native habitats, will be evaluated. A recent 
sea level rise study predicts that Plum Island's natural and cultural 
resources are imminently threatened. Management of native grasslands 
and maritime shrub, which currently require prescribed fire and 
mechanical treatments for restoration and maintenance, will also be 
evaluated. Water quantity and quality issues on the refuge and in the 
surrounding watershed are additional habitat issues.
    Concerns about the management of the barrier island system as a 
unit involves issues of public access, visitor use, and vehicle 
``carrying capacity'' in relation to the adjacent State reservation's 
differing management and enforcement of recreation. Parking lot and 
seasonal beach closures to protect key refuge and adjacent State 
reservation resources result in traffic and visitor use challenges. 
Also complicating management is the ability of the refuge to provide 
quality compatible use, as general beach use often precludes wildlife-
dependent priority public uses.
    Many partnerships are in place and other key opportunities exist 
with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, as 
well as with refuge neighbor Massachusetts Audubon Society, which 
provides programming and tours on the refuge. These relationships, 
however, also raise issues related to refuge visibility and visitor and 
community awareness of refuge ownership and management.

Public Meetings

    We will give the public an opportunity to provide input throughout 
the planning process at public meetings and other scheduled events. You 
can obtain schedules and meeting information from the planning team 
leader or project leader (see ADDRESSES). You may also send comments 
anytime during the planning process by mail, e-mail, or fax (see 
ADDRESSES). There will be additional opportunities to provide public 
input once we have prepared a draft CCP.

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.

    Dated: April 8, 2011.
Wendi Weber,
Acting Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, MA 
[FR Doc. 2011-9541 Filed 4-19-11; 8:45 am]