[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 20 (Thursday, January 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 4952-4953]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-01849]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-HQ-R-2013-N246; FXRS12650900000-145-FF09R20000]


Draft Strategic Growth Policy for the National Wildlife Refuge 
System

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose a

[[Page 4953]]

policy to implement a strategic approach to the growth of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System, System). The National Wildlife 
Refuge System Administration Act (Administration Act), as amended by 
the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, requires that we 
``plan and direct the continued growth of the System in a manner that 
is best designed to accomplish the mission of the System.'' This draft 
policy instructs the Refuge System to focus its protection measures on 
priority conservation features in order to ensure that our limited 
resources are directed to make the greatest contribution to the 
conservation of species in a strategic, cost-effective, and transparent 
manner. It ensures the growth of the System reflects our vision towards 
managing functional landscapes, enhancing our scientific rigor, 
improving our effectiveness, and involving our partners and the 
American people. We propose to incorporate this draft policy as Part 
602, chapter 5 of the Fish and Wildlife Service Manual.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your written comments by 
March 3, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this draft policy by any of the 
following methods:
    U.S. Mail or Hand Delivery: Sarena Selbo, Division of Natural 
Resources and Conservation Planning, National Wildlife Refuge System, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 600A, 
Arlington, VA 22203;
    Email: nwrsstrategicgrowthpolicy@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sarena Selbo, at the address above, or 
telephone: (703) 358-2664.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The draft guidance document which is the 
subject of this notice is available at: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/planning/StrategicGrowth.html.

Background

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 amends 
the Administration Act (16 U.S.C. 668dd-ee) and provides an organic act 
for the Refuge System. It states that the Refuge System mission is to 
``administer a national network of lands and waters for the 
conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the 
fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit 
of present and future generations of Americans.'' It requires us to 
``plan and direct the continued growth of the System in a manner that 
is best designed to accomplish the mission of the System'', ``to 
fulfill the mission of the System, as well as the specific purposes for 
which [the] refuge was established'', and to ``ensure timely and 
effective cooperation and collaboration with Federal agencies and State 
fish and wildlife agencies during the course of acquiring and managing 
refuges.'' We cannot fulfill our mission in the face of unparalleled 
challenges related to climate and non-climate stressors unless we 
provide consistent direction for adding lands and waters to the System 
in a science-based, cost-effective, and transparent manner. Based on 
statutory requirements, we developed a draft policy for Strategic 
Growth of the Refuge System.

Draft Policy

    The purpose of the draft policy is to provide guidance for the U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service to implement a strategic approach to the 
growth of the National Wildlife Refuge System including: national 
wildlife refuges and other areas managed by the Refuge System. It 
prioritizes acquisitions within existing refuge boundaries, expanding 
existing refuges, and establishing new refuges. As well, the draft 
policy focuses protection measures on priority conservation features to 
ensure our limited resources make the greatest contribution to the 
conservation of species in a strategic, cost-effective, and transparent 
manner. This policy ensures strategic growth of the System and reflects 
our vision towards managing for functional landscapes, enhancing our 
scientific rigor, improving our effectiveness, and involving our 
partners and the American people.
    This draft policy is consistent with the biological planning and 
conservation design components of Strategic Habitat Conservation, the 
Service's science-based, adaptive management framework for determining 
where and how to deliver conservation efficiently to achieve specific 
biological outcomes. The draft policy identifies threatened and 
endangered species, migratory birds of conservation concern, waterfowl, 
or the surrogate species that represent them, as priority conservation 
features.
    The draft policy requires application of the best available science 
to incorporate elements of conservation design in the identification of 
priority conservation areas, which support priority conservation 
features, to contribute in achieving measurable conservation targets 
such as population objectives. This draft policy ensures projects 
discuss vulnerability to climate change and other non-climate stressors 
(e.g. habitat fragmentation, invasive species, etc.), describe how the 
Refuge System will mitigate stressors to ensure the project's 
resiliency, are arranged in a geographically efficient manner to 
safeguard ecological processes across the landscape, and complement the 
resilience of other conservation areas.
    This draft policy identifies how the Service Director will receive 
project proposals, potential outcomes of Director project review, and 
how designated representatives at the local level, the refuge managers, 
must interact, coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate with State fish 
and wildlife agencies in the acquisition and management of refuges.

Request for Public Comments

    We seek public comments on the draft Strategic Growth policy, and 
will consider comments and any additional information we receive during 
the comment period (see DATES). You may submit comments to any of the 
places cited in ADDRESSES.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email 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: January 9, 2014.
Dan Ashe,
Director, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2014-01849 Filed 1-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P