[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 50 (Wednesday, March 14, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 15121-15122]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-6124]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2011-N262; FXRS12650400000S3-123-FF04R02000]


Final Land Protection Plan and Final Environmental Assessment for 
Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

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SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our Final Land Protection Plan (LPP) and Final 
Environmental Assessment (EA) for the recently established Everglades 
Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Conservation Area in 
Polk, Osceola, Highlands, and Okeechobee Counties, in central and south 
Florida. The LPP and EA were prepared with input from Federal, State, 
and local agencies; Native American tribal nations; various non-
governmental organizations; and the public. We established the refuge 
and conservation area to support a connected conservation landscape; to 
provide quality habitats for native wildlife diversity and at-risk 
species; to enhance water quality, quantity, and storage; and to 
provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the LPP and EA are available on CD or in hard 
copy, and you may obtain a copy by writing to: Mr. Charlie Pelizza, 
Refuge Manager, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, 4055 Wildlife 
Way, Vero Beach, FL 32963. Alternatively, you may download the document 
from our Internet Site: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/evergladesheadwaters.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Cheri M. Ehrhardt, Natural 
Resource Planner, at 321/861-2368 (telephone), or Mr. Charlie Pelizza, 
Refuge Manager, at 772/581-5557, extension 1 (telephone).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In developing the LPP for the Everglades 
Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area, we evaluated three alternatives 
with different approaches to conservation within the Kissimmee River 
Basin landscape.

Alternative A--No Refuge and No Conservation Area (No Action 
Alternative)

    Alternative A would represent no change from current conservation 
in this landscape. In this alternative we would not create a new 
refuge, no designated acquisition boundary would be developed, and no 
conservation area would be created. Habitat protection and management 
would continue by existing organizations and government programs. The 
landscape within the Study Area boundary contains approximately 421,000 
acres of conservation lands protected by agricultural easements; 
private conservation organizations; and State, Federal, and municipal 
ownership and management. We would not pursue new opportunities for 
refuge-based wildlife-dependent public uses, partnerships, or 
scientific research.

Alternative B--Refuge Only Approach

    This alternative would propose an acquisition boundary of up to 
50,000 acres containing portions of identified priority habitats; would 
focus the bulk of the refuge within mostly contiguous areas; and would 
complement existing State, Federal, and municipal conservation within 
this landscape. We would use a suite of conservation tools to protect 
land, including fee-title acquisitions and conservation easements. This 
alternative would protect important wildlife habitat within the 
landscape, serving both common and rare wildlife species. It would 
offer opportunities for wildlife management, compatible wildlife-
dependent public uses, and new refuge-based partnerships and scientific 
research. Public use opportunities would include hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education 
and interpretation.

Alternative C--Conservation Partnership Approach (Preferred 
Alternative)

    Alternative C is our Preferred Action; the alternative to be used 
for implementation. Alternative C protects 150,000 acres, with up to 
100,000 acres conserved through conservation easements or other less-
than-fee-title methods and up to 50,000 acres conserved through fee-
title and less-than-fee-title means. This alternative is considered to 
be the most effective management action for serving the outlined 
vision, purposes, and goals to enhance conservation in this Kissimmee 
River Basin landscape. It will conserve up to 150,000 acres containing 
portions of priority habitats. To best complement existing State, 
Federal, and municipal conservation within this landscape, we 
identified: (1) A Conservation Focal Area of approximately 130,000 
acres, within which we will have the authority to acquire up to 50,000 
acres for the refuge, and (2) a Conservation

[[Page 15122]]

Partnership Area, within which we will have the authority to acquire 
less-than-fee-title interest of up to 100,000 acres as a Conservation 
Area.
    The Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area will help to 
protect and restore one of the great grassland and savanna landscapes 
of eastern North America, conserving one of the nation's prime areas of 
biological diversity. It will also help to address the threats from 
habitat fragmentation and urban development, altered ecological 
processes, and impacts from global climate change. We will work with 
willing landowners to create a 100,000-acre Conservation Area through 
conservation easements or other less-than-fee-title means, and a 
50,000-acre national wildlife refuge.
    The authorities which established the Everglades Headwaters NWR and 
Conservation Area are the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act [16 U.S.C. 668dd(a)(2)], Endangered Species Act (16 
U.S.C. 1534), Emergency Wetlands Resources Act [16 U.S.C. 3901(b), 100 
Stat. 3583], Migratory Bird Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 715d), Fish and 
Wildlife Act [16 U.S.C. 742f(a)(4)], and Refuge Recreation Act [16 
U.S.C. 460k-460k-4].
    Working with conservation land managers across this landscape, we 
will: (1) Manage the refuge and work with the landowners participating 
in the conservation area to support a more connected and functional 
conservation landscape that will provide effective habitat connections 
between existing conservation areas and allow habitats and species to 
shift in response to urban development pressures and global climate 
change; (2) provide a wide range of quality Kissimmee River Basin 
habitats to support migratory birds, Federal- and State-listed species, 
State-designated species of special concern, and native wildlife 
diversity; (3) contribute to water quality, water quantity, and water 
storage capacity of the upper Everglades watershed, to complement 
Everglades restoration goals and objectives and water quality and 
supply for central and south Florida; and (4) provide opportunities for 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and 
environmental education and interpretation, while increasing knowledge 
of and support for conservation of the important grassland and savanna 
landscape of the headwaters of the Everglades.
    Several uses were evaluated in the interim compatibility 
determinations and determined to be compatible for the refuge. These 
uses include hunting, fishing, environmental education and 
interpretation, wildlife observation and photography, research, off-
road vehicle use (on designated roads and trails in support of hunting 
and research), camping, hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, and 
grazing. We are working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Commission to establish a memorandum of understanding to create a State 
wildlife management area for hunting on properties acquired for the 
refuge.
    On September 8, 2011, we published a Federal Register notice (76 FR 
55699) announcing the proposed establishment of the Everglades 
Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, and the 
release for public review and comment of the Draft Land Protection Plan 
and Draft Environmental Assessment in accordance with National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6 (b)) requirements. On October 
26, 2011, we published a Federal Register notice (76 FR 66321) 
announcing the extension of the comment deadline to November 25, 2011.
    Based on the documentation in the LPP and EA, we signed a Finding 
of No Significant Impact and subsequently approved the establishment of 
the Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area. Interim 
compatibility determinations and a Conceptual Management Plan were 
released with both the draft and final documents. The Conceptual 
Management Plan will serve as an interim management plan until a 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan and/or appropriate step-down management 
plans have been developed.

Authority

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

     Dated: January 10, 2012.
Mark J. Musaus,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2012-6124 Filed 3-13-12; 8:45 am]
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