[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 76 (Thursday, April 19, 2012)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 23425-23429]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-9345]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

15 CFR Part 922

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 1


Revisions of Boundaries, Regulations and Zoning Scheme for 
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Revisions of Fish and Wildlife 
Service and State of Florida Management Agreement for Submerged Lands 
Within Boundaries of the Key West and Great White Heron National 
Wildlife Refuges and Regulations; Intent To Prepare a Draft 
Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement; Notice of 
Scoping Meetings

AGENCY: Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), National Ocean 
Service (NOS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 
Department of Commerce (DOC) and National Wildlife Refuge System, Fish 
and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Conduct Scoping Meetings for the Revision 
of Boundaries, Regulations and Zoning Scheme for Florida Keys National 
Marine Sanctuary and Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife 
Refuges; and to Prepare an Environmental Assessment or Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as 
amended, (NMSA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration 
Act of 1966 as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries 
(ONMS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 
and the National Wildlife Refuge System of the Fish and Wildlife 
Service (FWS) have initiated a review of Florida Keys National Marine 
Sanctuary (FKNMS or sanctuary) boundaries, regulations and zoning 
scheme. This review of existing regulations and marine zoning may 
result in changes to regulations, marine zoning, such as altering 
boundaries of current zones, creating new zones, or amending the 
regulations that apply to individual zones, and possibly sanctuary 
boundaries. The review will also include the FWS's Backcountry 
Management Plan and associated regulations, as authorized by the FWS 
and State of Florida Management Agreement for Submerged Lands within 
Boundaries of the Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife 
Refuges, to evaluate substantive progress toward implementing the 
backcountry management goals for the refuges.

DATES: All comments on issues related to the boundaries, regulations 
and zoning scheme of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the 
agreement for submerged lands within boundaries of the Key West and 
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges and associated regulations 
will be considered if received on or before June 29, 2012. See 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below for the dates, times, and 
locations of the public scoping meetings.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, FDMS 
Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2012-0061.
     Mail: Sean Morton, Sanctuary Superintendent, Florida Keys 
National Marine Sanctuary, 33 East Quay Road Key West, Florida 33040 
and Anne Morkill, Refuge Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 28950 
Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key, FL 33043.
     Instructions: All comments received are a part of the 
public record and will be generally posted to http://www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying 
Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by 
the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential 
business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. 
NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter N/A in the required fields 
to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will be 
accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect, or Adobe PDF file 
formats only.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sean Morton, Sanctuary Superintendent, 
FKNMS, Telephone: (305) 809-4700 x233 or Anne Morkill, Refuge Manager, 
USFWS, Telephone: (305) 872-2239 x209.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In accordance with the National Marine 
Sanctuaries Act, as amended, (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) and the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 
668dd-668ee) as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997, the Office of National Marine

[[Page 23426]]

Sanctuaries (ONMS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration (NOAA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System of the 
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have initiated a review of Florida Keys 
National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or sanctuary) boundaries, regulations 
and zoning scheme. Collectively, NOAA and FWS will make revisions to 
the sanctuary boundaries, regulations and zoning scheme and backcountry 
management agreement as necessary to fulfill the purposes and policies 
of the NMSA, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection 
Act (FKNMSPA; Pub. L. 101-605), and the National Wildlife Refuge System 
Improvement Act of 1997 (NWRSIA; Pub. L. 105-57). The review is being 
undertaken in response to several factors, including community interest 
in examining management and conservation strategies, the need to adapt 
sanctuary and refuge management to changing conditions such as emerging 
threats to resources, recent scientific findings showing degraded 
habitat and how resources may be improved with various long-term 
management efforts, and legal requirements. More information about this 
process can be found at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/review/welcome.html.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

    The NMSA (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) authorizes the Secretary of 
Commerce to designate and protect areas of the marine environment with 
special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, 
ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, 
educational, or esthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries. 
Management of national marine sanctuaries has been delegated by the 
Secretary of Commerce to NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries 
(ONMS). Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) was designated 
by Congress in 1990 through the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary 
Protection Act (FKNMSPA, Pub. L. 101-605). FKNMS extends approximately 
250 statute miles southwest from the southern tip of the Florida 
peninsula, and is composed of both state and Federal waters. The 
sanctuary's marine ecosystem supports over 6,000 species of plants, 
fishes, and invertebrates, including the Nation's only living coral 
reef that lies adjacent to the continent. The area includes one of the 
largest seagrass communities in this hemisphere. The primary goal of 
the sanctuary is to protect the marine resources of the Florida Keys. 
Other goals of the sanctuary include facilitating human uses that are 
consistent with the primary objective of resource protection as well as 
educating the public about the Florida Keys marine environment.
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a 
federal agency within the Department of Commerce, administers FKNMS. 
With 60 percent of its protected area located in Florida state waters, 
the sanctuary is jointly managed by NOAA and the State of Florida under 
a co-trustee agreement. Under this agreement, NOAA's primary management 
partner is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). 
Any amendments to the management plan will be submitted and reviewed 
pursuant to the State of Florida's clearinghouse process. Any 
amendments to sanctuary regulations require the approval of the 
Governor on behalf of and with the approval of the Florida Trustees 
(the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida act as the Board of 
Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund) in order to be 
effective in State waters and submerged lands, except for merely 
editorial amendments, technical corrections, and emergency regulations.
    In FKNMS, NOAA regulates the following: Injuring coral; fishing; 
discharges and deposits; impacts to the seafloor, including from 
dredging and dumping; discharges of sewage from vessels; vessel 
operations, including personal watercraft and airboats, that cause 
injuries to resources, humans or property; anchoring on coral; wakes 
near residential shorelines; vessel operations near diving/use of dive 
flags; releasing exotic species; damage to markers, buoys and 
scientific equipment; injuring historical resources; use of explosives 
and electric charges; harvest of marine life species except as allowed 
by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and 
activities in specified zones. Information on sanctuary regulations can 
be found online at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/regs/welcome.html?s=management.
    The types of zones currently in place in the sanctuary are: 
ecological reserves, sanctuary preservation areas, wildlife management 
areas, existing management areas, and special-use areas. A more 
detailed description of sanctuary zones can be found online at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/zones/types.html. In addition, the FKNMS revised 
management plan is available for download at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/mgmtplans/2007.html.

Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges

    In the Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges, 
the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) may implement restrictions to 
minimize wildlife disturbance and habitat destruction in state waters 
from non-wildlife-dependent activities under a joint management 
agreement with the State of Florida for submerged lands. The FWS 
protects backcountry resources in state waters with limits on access/
operation of vessels, jet skis, and air boats; buffer zones; water 
skiing; and aircraft water landings. The FWS backcountry management 
plan is available for download at http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/backcountry.html. Additional information about the management goals and 
objectives for the Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife 
Refuges is described in the Lower Florida Keys National Wildlife 
Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan, available for download at 
http://www.fws.gov/southeast/planning/CCP/LowerFLkeysFinalPg.html.
    NOAA and the FWS anticipate that completion of the revised 
boundaries, regulations, zoning scheme, backcountry management plan and 
concomitant documents will require approximately forty-eight months 
from the date of publication of this notice of intent. This joint 
review process will occur concurrently with a public process under the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). This 
notice confirms that NOAA and FWS will coordinate their 
responsibilities under section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act (NHPA, 16 U.S.C. 470) with the ongoing NEPA process, 
pursuant to 36 CFR 800.8(a). Therefore, the NEPA documents and public 
and stakeholder meetings associated with this process are also intended 
to meet the section 106 requirements.

Sanctuary Advisory Council

    Sanctuary advisory councils are community-based advisory groups 
established to provide advice and recommendations to the 
superintendents of the national marine sanctuaries. Councils also serve 
as liaisons between their constituents in the community and 
sanctuaries. Sanctuary advisory councils provide advice about sanctuary 
operations and projects, including education and outreach, research and 
science, regulations and enforcement, and management planning. They are 
particularly critical in helping a

[[Page 23427]]

sanctuary during reviews of regulatory actions such as this zoning 
review. Council members provide expertise on both the local community 
and sanctuary resources, strengthen connections with the community, and 
help build increased stewardship for sanctuary resources.
    The advisory council for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has 
recommended the following goals and objectives to the sanctuary 
superintendent for this review:
    A. To improve the diversity of natural biological communities in 
the Florida Keys to protect, and, where appropriate restore and enhance 
natural habitats, populations and ecological processes overall and in 
each of these subregions Tortugas, Marquesas, Lower, Middle, and Upper 
Keys.
    1. Reduce stresses from human activities by establishing areas that 
restrict access to sensitive wildlife populations and habitats.
    2. Protect large, contiguous, diverse and interconnected habitats 
that provide natural spawning, nursery, and permanent residence areas 
for the replenishment and genetic protection of marine life and protect 
and preserve all habitats and species.
    3. Improve/maintain the condition of the biologically structured 
habitats including:

a. Coral Reef
    i. Inshore Patch Reef
    ii. Mid-Channel Patch Reef
    iii. Offshore Patch Reef
    iv. Reef Margin/Fore Reef
    v. Deep Reef
b. Seagrass Bed
c. Hardbottom
d. Coastal Mangrove

    4. Increase abundance and condition of selected key species 
including corals, queen conch, long spined sea urchin, apex predatory 
fish, birds and sea turtles.
    B. To facilitate to the extent compatible with the primary 
objective of resource protection, all public and private uses of the 
resources of these marine areas not prohibited pursuant to other 
authorities.
    1. Minimize conflicts among uses compatible with the National 
Marine Sanctuary.
    2. Prevent heavy concentrations of uses that degrade Sanctuary 
resources.
    3. Provide undisturbed monitoring sites for research and control 
sites to help determine the effects of human activities.
    4. Achieve a vibrant ecologically sustainable ecosystem and 
economy.
    a. Apply the best available science and balanced, conservation 
based management.
    The sanctuary advisory council has also recommended the following 
guiding principles to the sanctuary superintendent for this review:
    1. The regulation/zoning review of Florida Keys National Marine 
Sanctuary should be conducted with the recognition that there are 
bordering and overlapping marine management regimes in place, and that 
these regimes must be considered when contemplating changes to the 
regulation/marine zoning structure for Florida Keys National Marine 
Sanctuary.
    2. All areas of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary should be 
classified as part of a specific zone, therefore the current 
``unzoned'' area should be classified as a recognized zone type such as 
``general use area'' or ``multiple use area''.
    3. Each habitat type should be represented in a non-extractive 
marine zone in each of the biogeographically distinct sub regions of 
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to achieve replication. The 
subregions identified were the Tortugas, Marquesas, and Lower, Middle, 
and Upper Keys.
    4. Information on resilient reef areas that can serve as refugia 
should be taken into account in zoning changes.
    5. Temporal zoning should be considered as a tool for protecting 
spawning aggregations and nesting seasons.
    6. The size of individual non-extractive zoned areas, the 
cumulative total area included in non-extractive zones, and their 
spatial relationship with one another matter greatly in achieving the 
resource protection purposes of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
    Members of the public are encouraged to contact the current council 
members who represent their areas of interest, as one of the roles of 
the members is to serve as a liaison between the sanctuary and members 
of the community. Contact information for advisory council members can 
be found at: http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/sac/members.html.

Review Process

    In accordance with Section 304(e) of the NMSA, 16 U.S.C. 1431 et 
seq., the NOAA ONMS is initiating a review of the sanctuary boundaries, 
regulations and zoning scheme to evaluate the substantive progress made 
toward implementing the management plan and goals for the sanctuary. In 
accordance with Section 4 of National Wildlife Refuge System 
Administration Act of 1966 (NWRSAA; 16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.), the ONMS 
and the FWS are also jointly initiating a review of the FWS backcountry 
management plan for the Key West and Great White Heron National 
Wildlife Refuges to evaluate the substantive progress made toward 
implementing the goals and objectives. ONMS and the FWS anticipate 
drafting revised boundaries, regulations, zoning scheme, backcountry 
management agreement and concomitant documents as a result of this 
review. The current management plan for FKNMS was completed by NOAA in 
2007. Contained within it is the FKNMS marine zoning action plan. It 
describes the five types of zones in the sanctuary, goals and 
objectives for marine zoning, and implementation strategies and 
actions. This review implements the marine zoning and regulatory action 
plans and strategies of the current management plan. The current FWS 
backcountry management plan and associated agreement for the Key West 
and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges was signed in 1992; it 
may be reviewed and revised every 5 years, although no prior reviews 
have occurred since the original plan was completed and the associated 
management agreement with the State of Florida is due to expire in 
2017. The FWS, FKNMS and the State of Florida are reviewing the 
backcountry management agreement for potential revision and renewal.
    There are several reasons for undertaking this review:
     Community and sanctuary advisory council interest in 
reexamining sanctuary management and conservation strategies, expressed 
during and subsequent to management plan reviews;
     Periodic evaluation of regulations and sanctuary zones 
ensures they continue to function best for dynamic natural resources 
and evolving human uses;
     The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Condition 
Report 2011 shows human actions continue to degrade the habitat and 
living resources of the sanctuary, but habitat and resources may be 
improved with long-term management efforts, regulatory compliance, and 
community involvement;
     Emerging threats to the resources were largely 
unanticipated when the regulations were first issued and need to be 
addressed; and
     Reviews of the sanctuary and refuge backcountry management 
plans are required by law.
    The review process is composed of five primary stages:
    (1) Information collection and characterization, including public 
scoping meetings;
    (2) Recommendation of the advisory council of Florida Keys National 
Marine

[[Page 23428]]

Sanctuary on revised boundaries, a revised zoning scheme and associated 
regulations, with possible working groups and public workshops;
    (3) Preparation and release of draft revised boundaries, zoning 
scheme, backcountry management agreement, environmental evaluation, 
and, if appropriate, regulations or amendments to current regulations;
    (4) Public review and comment on the draft boundaries and zoning 
scheme, proposed regulatory amendments, and other documents mentioned 
above; and
    (5) Preparation and release of final revised boundaries, zoning 
scheme, backcountry management agreement, environmental evaluation, 
and, if appropriate, regulations.
    NOAA and the FWS anticipate that the completion of the boundaries, 
zoning scheme, backcountry management agreement and concomitant 
documents will require approximately forty-eight months.
    At this time, NOAA and FWS are opening a public scoping period to:
    1. Solicit public comments on the boundaries, regulations and 
zoning scheme of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; and the 
submerged lands within the boundaries of the Key West and Great White 
Heron National Wildlife Refuges and associated regulations; and
    2. Help determine the scope of issues to be addressed in the 
preparation of boundaries, a zoning scheme, a backcountry management 
agreement, and an environmental assessment or environmental impact 
statement (EIS), pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA).
    To that end, NOAA and FWS will conduct a series of scoping meetings 
in the Florida Keys and south Florida to collect public comment. These 
scoping meetings will also help determine the scope of issues to be 
addressed in the preparation of an environmental assessment or EIS 
pursuant to the NEPA, 43 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The public scoping meeting 
schedule is presented below.

Public Scoping Meetings

    The public scoping meetings will be held on the following dates and 
at the following locations beginning at 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted:

1. Marathon, Florida

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
    Monroe County Government Center, Emergency Operations Center/Board 
of County Commissioners Meeting Room, 2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon, 
FL 33050.

2. Key Largo, Florida

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
    Key Largo Library, 101485 Overseas Hwy., Tradewinds Shopping 
Center, Key Largo, FL 33037.

3. Key West, Florida

Thursday, June 21, 2012
    Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Grand Key Resort--Key West Tortuga 
Ballroom, 3990 S. Roosevelt Blvd., Key West, FL 33040.

4. Miami, Florida

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
    Florida International University, Modesto A. Monique Campus Graham 
University Center, Room GC 243, 11200 SW. 8th St., Miami, FL 33199.

5. Fort Myers, Florida

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
    Joseph P. Alessandro Office Complex, Rooms 165 C and D, 2295 
Victoria Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33901.

Consultation Under National Historic Preservation Act

    This notice confirms that NOAA and the FWS will coordinate their 
responsibilities under section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act (NHPA, 16 U.S.C. 470) with the ongoing NEPA process, 
pursuant to 36 CFR 800.8(a) including the use of NEPA documents and 
public and stakeholder meetings to also meet the section 106 
requirements. The NHPA specifically applies to any agency undertaking 
that may affect historic properties. Pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(1)(1), 
historic properties includes: ``any prehistoric or historic district, 
site, building, structure or object included in, or eligible for 
inclusion in, the National Register of Historic Places maintained by 
the Secretary of the Interior. The term includes artifacts, records, 
and remains that are related to and located within such properties. The 
term includes properties of traditional religious and cultural 
importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and that 
meet the National Register criteria.''
    In coordinating its responsibilities under the NHPA and NEPA, NOAA 
and the FWS intend to identify consulting parties; identify historic 
properties and assess the effects of the undertaking on such 
properties; initiate formal consultation with the State Historic 
Preservation Officer, the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation, 
and other consulting parties; involve the public in accordance with 
NOAA's NEPA procedures, and develop in consultation with identified 
consulting parties alternatives and proposed measures that might avoid, 
minimize or mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties and 
describe them in any environmental assessment or draft environmental 
impact statement.

Condition Report

    In preparation for this review, NOAA has produced a Florida Keys 
National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report 2011. The Condition Report 
provides a summary of resources and their conditions; pressures on 
those resources; the current condition and trends of water, habitat, 
living resources; maritime archeological resources; human activities 
that affect those resources; and management responses to pressures that 
threaten the integrity of the marine environment. The report serves as 
a supporting document for the review process, to inform constituents of 
the current status of sanctuary resources.
    An electronic copy of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary 
Condition Report 2011 is available to the public on the Internet at: 
http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/science/condition/fknms/welcome.html.

Scoping Comments

    Scoping meetings provide an opportunity to make direct comments to, 
and share information with, NOAA and the FWS on the boundaries, zones, 
and regulations of the entire sanctuary, and the management of and 
regulations for resources associated with the submerged lands of the 
Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges. We encourage 
the public to participate and welcome any comments on the scope, types, 
and significance of issues related to the sanctuary's boundaries and 
zoning scheme, the FWS's backcountry management plan, and associated 
regulations. In particular, we are interested in hearing about the 
public's view on the potential management within specified zones in the 
sanctuary/submerged lands with the two refuges for the next ten to 
fifteen years.

    Authority:  This notice is published under the authority of the 
National Marine Sanctuaries Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq; 
16 U.S.C. 470), the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act 
of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.); and National Historic 
Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470).


[[Page 23429]]


    Dated: April 6, 2012.
Daniel J. Basta,
Director for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

    Dated: April 3, 2012.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Regional Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-9345 Filed 4-18-12; 8:45 am]
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