Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Malta, MT; Comprehensive Conservation Plan, 36571-36573 [2011-15551]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 120 / Wednesday, June 22, 2011 / Notices 36571 INDIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM FISCAL YEAR 2010 AWARD RECIPIENTS—Continued Amount funded Name/address of applicant Tamaya Housing Incorporated, Cordelia Guerrero, Executive Director, 51 Jemez Canyon Dam Road Ste. 201–F, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004. Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma, Honorable Donald L. Patterson, President, 1 Rush Buffalo Road, Tonkawa, OK 74653. United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Honorable George Wickliffe, Chief, P.O. Box 746, Tahlequah, OK 74465. Utah Paiute Housing Authority, Jessie Laggis, Executive Director, 665 North, 100 East, Cedar City, UT 84720. Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Debby Carlson, Grants Manager, 919 Hwy 395 South, Gardnerville, NV 89410. Wells Indian Colony Band of Te-Moak Tribe, Honorable Paula Salazar, Chairwoman, P.O. Box 809, Wells, NV 89835. White Earth Band of the MN Chippewa Tribe, Honorable Erma Vizenor, Chairperson, P.O. Box 418, White Earth, MN 56591. Wyandotte Nation, Honorable Leaford Bearskin, Chief, 64700 E. Highway 60, Wyandotte, OK 74370. Yerington Paiute Tribe, Lee Shaw, Development Coordinator, 171 Campbell Lane, Yerington, NV 89447. [FR Doc. 2011–15508 Filed 6–21–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R6–R–2010–N194; 60138–1265– 6CCP–S3] Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Malta, MT; Comprehensive Conservation Plan We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce that our draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental assessment (EA) for Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex is available. This draft CCP/EA describes how the Service intends to manage this refuge complex for the next 15 years. DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments on the draft CCP/EA by July 25, 2011. Submit comments by one of the methods under ADDRESSES. ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any of the following methods. E-mail: bowdoin@fws.gov. Include ‘‘Bowdoin NWR Complex’’ in the subject line of the message. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:40 Jun 21, 2011 Jkt 223001 Housing Construction ........... Construct 4 homes. 800,000 Public Facility Infrastructure Infrastructure Water-Sewer. 800,000 Public Facility Community Center. Training Center. 900,000 Housing Rehabilitation .......... Rehabilitation of 24 units. 535,000 Public Facility Center ............ Wellness Center. 605,000 Public Facility Center ............ Multi Purpose Community Center Phase II. 600,000 Public Facility Community Center. Health Building. 369,000 Housing Rehabilitation .......... Housing Rehabilitation. 605,000 Public Facility Center ............ Construct a Community Center. Fax: Attn: Laura King, Planning Team Leader, 406–644–2661. U.S. Mail: Laura King, Planning Team Leader, c/o National Bison Range, 58355 Bison Range Road, Moiese, MT 59824. Information Request: A copy of the CCP/EA may be obtained by writing to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300, Lakewood, Colorado 80228; or by download from http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/ planning. Laura King, 406–644–2211, ext. 210 (phone); 406–644–2661 (fax); or laura_king@fws.gov (e-mail); or David C. Lucas, 303–236–4366 (phone): 303– 236–4792 (fax): or david_c_lucas@fws.gov. The 85,713-acre Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex (refuge complex) is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is located in the mixed-grass prairie region of north-central Montana, within an area known as the prairie pothole region. The refuge complex oversees management of five national wildlife refuges: Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge and four unstaffed satellite refuges—Black Coulee, Creedman Coulee, Hewitt Lake, and Lake Thibadeau National Wildlife Refuges. In addition, the refuge complex also manages the four-county Bowdoin Wetland Management District (district), which has nine waterfowl production areas in Blaine, Hill, Phillips, and SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: PO 00000 Frm 00060 Project description 605,000 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: SUMMARY: Activity funded Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Valley Counties along with conservation easements that protect approximately 40,159 acres of wetlands and grasslands. While the five national wildlife refuges and the wetland management district were established under different authorities, the primary purpose is to provide migration, nesting, resting, and feeding habitat for migratory birds in their wetlands and uplands. Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge has been designated as an important bird area through a program administered by the National Audubon Society. The four satellite refuges have both fee title and private lands within their boundaries. These lands are encumbered by refuge and flowage easements giving the Service the right to impound water, control the uses that occur on that water, and control any hunting and trapping. Access to these privately owned areas is by landowner permission only. The refuge complex provides opportunities for the public to enjoy compatible wildlife-dependent public use activities including hunting, limited fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. A full-time staff of five employees and various summer temporaries manage and study the refuge habitats and maintain visitor facilities. Domestic livestock grazing, prescribed fire, and haying are the primary management tools used to maintain and enhance upland habitats. Water level manipulation is used to improve wetland habitats. Invasive and E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 36572 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 120 / Wednesday, June 22, 2011 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES nonnative plant species are controlled and eradicated. Large, intact, native prairie communities can still be found throughout the refuge complex providing nesting habitat for over 29 species of resident and migratory birds. Native grazers such as pronghorn, white-tailed deer, and mule deer browse and graze the uplands. Four wetland classes are found on the refuge complex: Temporary, seasonal, semipermanent, and permanent and include both freshwater and saline wetlands. There are more than 10,000 acres of wetlands in the refuge complex. These wetlands have a diverse distribution of sizes, types, locations, and associations. The chemistry of surface waters in these wetlands tends to be dynamic because of interactions among numerous factors, such as the position of the wetland in relation to ground water flow systems, chemical composition of ground water, surrounding land uses, and climate. As part of the central flyway, this concentration of wetlands attracts thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl to the refuge complex. Approximately 25,000 people visit the refuge annually. A 15-mile interpreted auto tour route and nature trail on the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge account for the majority of visitor use. Fishing is only open on McNeil Slough and Beaver Creek WPAs. The remaining complex waters do not support a sport fishery due to high salinity levels or shallow water depth. Excluding Holm WPA, the remaining complex is open to limited hunting of waterfowl and upland game birds. The four satellite refuges (with landowner permission) and the remaining eight WPAs are also open to big game hunting, according to state regulations and seasons. This draft CCP/EA includes the analyses of three different sets of alternatives including three alternatives for managing the refuge complex, two alternatives to evaluate the divestiture of Lake Thibadeau, and five alternatives for addressing the salinity and blowing salts issue on Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. Alternatives for the Overall Management of the Refuge Complex Alternative A, Current Management (No Action). Funding, staff levels, and management activities at the refuge complex would not change. The current staff of five Service employees would continue to manage Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex primarily for migratory birds. The Service would continue to manipulate native grasslands using various management techniques including prescribed fire, haying, and grazing. Approximately 10 VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:40 Jun 21, 2011 Jkt 223001 percent of the uplands would be grazed annually, and there would be minimal monitoring of response. As resources become available, cropland on waterfowl production areas would be restored to native grasses and forbs; however, dense nesting cover would continue to be seeded on highly erodible lands in the wetland management district. The Service would continue to use mechanical and chemical methods to control existing and new infestations of Russian olive. Larger infestations of invasive species such as crested wheatgrass would continue to be given little to no attention due to the extent of infestation and the lack of resources and staff. The Service would continue to attempt to mimic natural conditions on managed wetlands to meet the needs of migratory waterbirds. The 19 ground water wells on and around Bowdoin Refuge would be monitored to collect water quality data for the refuge and the Beaver Creek Waterfowl Production Area. Lake Bowdoin and Dry Lake would continue to be managed as closed basins. Visitor services programs including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation would remain at current levels. Alternative B, the Proposed Action. The Service would conserve natural resources by restoring, protecting, and enhancing native mixed-grass prairie and maintaining high-quality wetland habitat for target migratory and resident birds within the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Invasive and nonnative plants that are causing habitat losses and fragmentation would be controlled or eradicated. Research would be conducted to control crested wheatgrass and restore treated areas. Enhanced wetlands would be managed to mimic natural conditions for wetland-dependent migratory birds during spring and fall migrations and during the breeding and nesting season. Visitor services programs would be enhanced, providing additional opportunities for staff- and volunteerled programs to provide a greater understanding of the purposes of the refuge complex, importance of conserving migratory birds and the unique mixed-grass prairie and wetlands, and an awareness of the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. A sanctuary area would be created for waterfowl on the east 60 percent of the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge during the hunting season, closing this to all foot traffic. A new wildlife observation site would be PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 added on the auto tour route. The Service would investigate the need and consequences of offering a big game hunt at Bowdoin Refuge. The success of these additional efforts and programs would depend on added staff, research, and monitoring programs, including additional operations funding, infrastructure, and new and expanded partnerships. Alternative C. This alternative includes most of the elements in Alternative B. In addition, the Service would increase the water management infrastructure (for example, water delivery systems, dikes, and levees to manipulate individual wetlands) to create a more diverse and productive wetland complex. Biological staff would monitor the level of sedimentation occurring in natural wetlands and plan for its removal to restore the biological integrity of these wetlands. Through partnerships, the Service would increase the acres of invasive species treated annually with an emphasis on preventing further encroachment of crested wheatgrass and Russian olive trees into native grassland. The Service would investigate the feasibility of offering a limited, archery-only, big game hunt at Bowdoin Refuge. The refuge complex would serve as a conservation learning center for the area. Public access would be improved to Creedman Coulee Refuge. Alternatives for Lake Thibadeau National Wildlife Refuge Using a divestiture model, developed by the Mountain-Prairie Region of the Service, the habitat quality and ability of Lake Thibadeau National Wildlife Refuge to meet its purposes and support the goals of the National Wildlife Refuge System, were evaluated. The Service owns less than 1 percent of the lands within the 3,868-acre approved acquisition boundary; the remaining area is private lands encumbered by refuge and flowage easements. These easements give the Service the right to manage the impoundments and the uses that occur on that water and to control hunting and trapping, but these easements do not prohibit development, grazing, or agricultural uses. Due to upstream development in the watershed, the impoundments do not receive adequate water supplies and are often dry enough to be farmed; the surrounding upland areas are also farmed or heavily grazed. This loss or lack of habitat has resulted in the Service’s proposed action to divest this refuge. The Service completed an environmental analysis of two alternatives to address the situation at the Lake Thibadeau Refuge: E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 120 / Wednesday, June 22, 2011 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES (1) Lake Thibadeau Refuge Alternative 1—Current management (no action); (2) Lake Thibadeau Refuge Alternative 2—Divestiture (proposed action). Alternatives for Salinity and Blowing Salts on Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge The principle sources of water for the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge are precipitation, floodwater from Beaver Creek, ground-water seepage, water deliveries from the Milk River Project, and irrigation return flows. The last three sources of water add dissolved solids (salinity) to the refuge waters, particularly Lake Bowdoin, a closed basin. In addition, the refuge and adjoining lands are underlain by glacial till and shale containing high concentrations of soluble salts. The Milk River Project water rights for Bowdoin refuge are limited and insufficient to improve wetland water quality. As water evaporates from Lake Bowdoin, salts have become concentrated and water salinity has increased. Historically, two methods have been used to improve Lake Bowdoin’s water quality and reduce salinity levels: (1) Discharges of saline water into Beaver Creek; and (2) managing Dry Lake as an evaporation basin for Lake Bowdoin’s water. Neither of these methods is acceptable due to impacts from windblown salts and saline water discharge. As a consequence, evaporation has continued to increase salinity levels in Lake Bowdoin to levels that will eventually negatively impact the diversity of aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. Waterfowl production will also be negatively affected, particularly if more suitable freshwater areas are not available or significantly reduced during the breeding season. The Service hopes to address the salinity and blowing salts issue by developing a water management system on Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex that would protect the environment and mitigate current and future salt-dust-blowing concerns for neighboring properties, while providing quality water and wildlife habitat for migratory birds. A benchmark for achieving this goal would be to meet the Service’s salinity objective of sustaining a brackish water quality level of approximately 7,000 mg/L of total dissolved solids (salts) in Lake Bowdoin. The Service developed and analyzed five alternatives to address the salinity and blowing salts issue for Lake Bowdoin in the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge including (1) current management (no action), (2) Evaporation ponds and removal of salt residue, (3) Flushing by Beaver Creek, (4) VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:40 Jun 21, 2011 Jkt 223001 36573 Underground injection and flushing by Beaver Creek (proposed action), and (5) Pumping to the Milk River. The Service has identified salinity and blowing salts alternative 4 as the best option (proposed action) for addressing this issue based on the effectiveness of treatment, environmental and social consequences, and cost. for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8339 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. Public Availability of Comments SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 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. The environmental review of this project will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500–1508); other appropriate Federal laws and regulations; Executive Order 12996; the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997; and Service policies and procedures for compliance with those laws and regulations. Dated: August 25, 2010. Hugh Morrison, Acting Regional Director. The purpose for which the withdrawal was first made requires this extension in order to continue to protect the recreational values of the Kenai River Recreation Area, the Russian River Campground Area, and the Lower Russian Lake Recreation Area. The withdrawal extended by this order will expire on October 1, 2031, unless as a result of a review conducted prior to the expiration date pursuant to Section 204(f) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, 43 U.S.C. 1714(f), the Secretary of the Interior determines that the withdrawal shall be further extended. It has been determined that this action is not expected to have any significant effect on subsistence uses and needs pursuant to Section 810 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. 3120. [FR Doc. 2011–15551 Filed 6–21–11; 8:45 am] Order BILLING CODE 4310–55–P By virtue of the authority vested in the Secretary of the Interior by Section 204 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, 43 U.S.C. 1714, it is ordered as follows: Public Land Order No. 6884 (56 FR 49847 (1991)), as corrected (56 FR 56275, (1991)) which withdrew approximately 1,855 acres of National Forest System land from settlement, sale, location, or entry under the general land laws, including the United States mining laws (30 U.S.C. ch 2), but not from leasing under the mineral leasing laws, to protect recreational values of the Kenai River Recreation Area, the Russian River Campground Area, and the Lower Russian Lake Recreation Area, is hereby extended for an additional 20-year period until October 1, 2031. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management [LLAK–963000–L1410000–FQ0000; AA–5964, AA–3060, AA–5934] Public Land Order No. 7770; Extension of Public Land Order No. 6884; Alaska Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: Public Land Order. AGENCY: This order extends the duration of the withdrawal created by Public Land Order No. 6884, for an additional 20-year period. The extension is necessary to continue to protect the recreational values of the United States Forest Service’s Kenai River Recreation Area, the Russian River Campground Area, and the Lower Russian Lake Recreation Area. DATES: Effective Date: October 2, 2011. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert L. Lloyd, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska State Office, 222 West Seventh Avenue, #13, Anchorage, Alaska 99513; 907–271–4682. Persons who use a telecommunications device SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 9990 Authority: 43 CFR 2310.4. Dated: June 7, 2011. Wilma A. Lewis, Assistant Secretary—Land and Minerals Management. [FR Doc. 2011–15484 Filed 6–21–11; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–JA–P E:\FR\FM\22JNN1.SGM 22JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 120 (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 36571-36573]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-15551]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R6-R-2010-N194; 60138-1265-6CCP-S3]


Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Malta, MT; 
Comprehensive Conservation Plan

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce 
that our draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental 
assessment (EA) for Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex is 
available. This draft CCP/EA describes how the Service intends to 
manage this refuge complex for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
on the draft CCP/EA by July 25, 2011. Submit comments by one of the 
methods under ADDRESSES.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments or requests for more information by any 
of the following methods.
    E-mail: bowdoin@fws.gov. Include ``Bowdoin NWR Complex'' in the 
subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Laura King, Planning Team Leader, 406-644-2661.
    U.S. Mail: Laura King, Planning Team Leader, c/o National Bison 
Range, 58355 Bison Range Road, Moiese, MT 59824.
    Information Request: A copy of the CCP/EA may be obtained by 
writing to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Refuge Planning, 
134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300, Lakewood, Colorado 80228; or by 
download from http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Laura King, 406-644-2211, ext. 210 
(phone); 406-644-2661 (fax); or laura_king@fws.gov (e-mail); or David 
C. Lucas, 303-236-4366 (phone): 303-236-4792 (fax): or david_c_lucas@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 85,713-acre Bowdoin National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex (refuge complex) is part of the National Wildlife Refuge 
System. It is located in the mixed-grass prairie region of north-
central Montana, within an area known as the prairie pothole region. 
The refuge complex oversees management of five national wildlife 
refuges: Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge and four unstaffed satellite 
refuges--Black Coulee, Creedman Coulee, Hewitt Lake, and Lake Thibadeau 
National Wildlife Refuges. In addition, the refuge complex also manages 
the four-county Bowdoin Wetland Management District (district), which 
has nine waterfowl production areas in Blaine, Hill, Phillips, and 
Valley Counties along with conservation easements that protect 
approximately 40,159 acres of wetlands and grasslands. While the five 
national wildlife refuges and the wetland management district were 
established under different authorities, the primary purpose is to 
provide migration, nesting, resting, and feeding habitat for migratory 
birds in their wetlands and uplands. Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge 
has been designated as an important bird area through a program 
administered by the National Audubon Society. The four satellite 
refuges have both fee title and private lands within their boundaries. 
These lands are encumbered by refuge and flowage easements giving the 
Service the right to impound water, control the uses that occur on that 
water, and control any hunting and trapping. Access to these privately 
owned areas is by landowner permission only.
    The refuge complex provides opportunities for the public to enjoy 
compatible wildlife-dependent public use activities including hunting, 
limited fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental 
education, and interpretation. A full-time staff of five employees and 
various summer temporaries manage and study the refuge habitats and 
maintain visitor facilities. Domestic livestock grazing, prescribed 
fire, and haying are the primary management tools used to maintain and 
enhance upland habitats. Water level manipulation is used to improve 
wetland habitats. Invasive and

[[Page 36572]]

nonnative plant species are controlled and eradicated. Large, intact, 
native prairie communities can still be found throughout the refuge 
complex providing nesting habitat for over 29 species of resident and 
migratory birds. Native grazers such as pronghorn, white-tailed deer, 
and mule deer browse and graze the uplands. Four wetland classes are 
found on the refuge complex: Temporary, seasonal, semipermanent, and 
permanent and include both freshwater and saline wetlands. There are 
more than 10,000 acres of wetlands in the refuge complex. These 
wetlands have a diverse distribution of sizes, types, locations, and 
associations. The chemistry of surface waters in these wetlands tends 
to be dynamic because of interactions among numerous factors, such as 
the position of the wetland in relation to ground water flow systems, 
chemical composition of ground water, surrounding land uses, and 
climate. As part of the central flyway, this concentration of wetlands 
attracts thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl to the refuge 
complex.
    Approximately 25,000 people visit the refuge annually. A 15-mile 
interpreted auto tour route and nature trail on the Bowdoin National 
Wildlife Refuge account for the majority of visitor use. Fishing is 
only open on McNeil Slough and Beaver Creek WPAs. The remaining complex 
waters do not support a sport fishery due to high salinity levels or 
shallow water depth. Excluding Holm WPA, the remaining complex is open 
to limited hunting of waterfowl and upland game birds. The four 
satellite refuges (with landowner permission) and the remaining eight 
WPAs are also open to big game hunting, according to state regulations 
and seasons.
    This draft CCP/EA includes the analyses of three different sets of 
alternatives including three alternatives for managing the refuge 
complex, two alternatives to evaluate the divestiture of Lake 
Thibadeau, and five alternatives for addressing the salinity and 
blowing salts issue on Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge.

Alternatives for the Overall Management of the Refuge Complex

    Alternative A, Current Management (No Action). Funding, staff 
levels, and management activities at the refuge complex would not 
change. The current staff of five Service employees would continue to 
manage Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge Complex primarily for migratory 
birds. The Service would continue to manipulate native grasslands using 
various management techniques including prescribed fire, haying, and 
grazing. Approximately 10 percent of the uplands would be grazed 
annually, and there would be minimal monitoring of response. As 
resources become available, cropland on waterfowl production areas 
would be restored to native grasses and forbs; however, dense nesting 
cover would continue to be seeded on highly erodible lands in the 
wetland management district. The Service would continue to use 
mechanical and chemical methods to control existing and new 
infestations of Russian olive. Larger infestations of invasive species 
such as crested wheatgrass would continue to be given little to no 
attention due to the extent of infestation and the lack of resources 
and staff.
    The Service would continue to attempt to mimic natural conditions 
on managed wetlands to meet the needs of migratory waterbirds. The 19 
ground water wells on and around Bowdoin Refuge would be monitored to 
collect water quality data for the refuge and the Beaver Creek 
Waterfowl Production Area. Lake Bowdoin and Dry Lake would continue to 
be managed as closed basins. Visitor services programs including 
hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental 
education, and interpretation would remain at current levels.
    Alternative B, the Proposed Action. The Service would conserve 
natural resources by restoring, protecting, and enhancing native mixed-
grass prairie and maintaining high-quality wetland habitat for target 
migratory and resident birds within the Bowdoin National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex. Invasive and nonnative plants that are causing habitat 
losses and fragmentation would be controlled or eradicated. Research 
would be conducted to control crested wheatgrass and restore treated 
areas. Enhanced wetlands would be managed to mimic natural conditions 
for wetland-dependent migratory birds during spring and fall migrations 
and during the breeding and nesting season.
    Visitor services programs would be enhanced, providing additional 
opportunities for staff- and volunteer-led programs to provide a 
greater understanding of the purposes of the refuge complex, importance 
of conserving migratory birds and the unique mixed-grass prairie and 
wetlands, and an awareness of the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System. A sanctuary area would 
be created for waterfowl on the east 60 percent of the Bowdoin National 
Wildlife Refuge during the hunting season, closing this to all foot 
traffic. A new wildlife observation site would be added on the auto 
tour route. The Service would investigate the need and consequences of 
offering a big game hunt at Bowdoin Refuge. The success of these 
additional efforts and programs would depend on added staff, research, 
and monitoring programs, including additional operations funding, 
infrastructure, and new and expanded partnerships.
    Alternative C. This alternative includes most of the elements in 
Alternative B. In addition, the Service would increase the water 
management infrastructure (for example, water delivery systems, dikes, 
and levees to manipulate individual wetlands) to create a more diverse 
and productive wetland complex. Biological staff would monitor the 
level of sedimentation occurring in natural wetlands and plan for its 
removal to restore the biological integrity of these wetlands. Through 
partnerships, the Service would increase the acres of invasive species 
treated annually with an emphasis on preventing further encroachment of 
crested wheatgrass and Russian olive trees into native grassland. The 
Service would investigate the feasibility of offering a limited, 
archery-only, big game hunt at Bowdoin Refuge. The refuge complex would 
serve as a conservation learning center for the area. Public access 
would be improved to Creedman Coulee Refuge.

Alternatives for Lake Thibadeau National Wildlife Refuge

    Using a divestiture model, developed by the Mountain-Prairie Region 
of the Service, the habitat quality and ability of Lake Thibadeau 
National Wildlife Refuge to meet its purposes and support the goals of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System, were evaluated. The Service owns 
less than 1 percent of the lands within the 3,868-acre approved 
acquisition boundary; the remaining area is private lands encumbered by 
refuge and flowage easements. These easements give the Service the 
right to manage the impoundments and the uses that occur on that water 
and to control hunting and trapping, but these easements do not 
prohibit development, grazing, or agricultural uses. Due to upstream 
development in the watershed, the impoundments do not receive adequate 
water supplies and are often dry enough to be farmed; the surrounding 
upland areas are also farmed or heavily grazed. This loss or lack of 
habitat has resulted in the Service's proposed action to divest this 
refuge. The Service completed an environmental analysis of two 
alternatives to address the situation at the Lake Thibadeau Refuge:

[[Page 36573]]

    (1) Lake Thibadeau Refuge Alternative 1--Current management (no 
action);
    (2) Lake Thibadeau Refuge Alternative 2--Divestiture (proposed 
action).

Alternatives for Salinity and Blowing Salts on Bowdoin National 
Wildlife Refuge

    The principle sources of water for the Bowdoin National Wildlife 
Refuge are precipitation, floodwater from Beaver Creek, ground-water 
seepage, water deliveries from the Milk River Project, and irrigation 
return flows. The last three sources of water add dissolved solids 
(salinity) to the refuge waters, particularly Lake Bowdoin, a closed 
basin. In addition, the refuge and adjoining lands are underlain by 
glacial till and shale containing high concentrations of soluble salts. 
The Milk River Project water rights for Bowdoin refuge are limited and 
insufficient to improve wetland water quality. As water evaporates from 
Lake Bowdoin, salts have become concentrated and water salinity has 
increased. Historically, two methods have been used to improve Lake 
Bowdoin's water quality and reduce salinity levels: (1) Discharges of 
saline water into Beaver Creek; and (2) managing Dry Lake as an 
evaporation basin for Lake Bowdoin's water. Neither of these methods is 
acceptable due to impacts from windblown salts and saline water 
discharge. As a consequence, evaporation has continued to increase 
salinity levels in Lake Bowdoin to levels that will eventually 
negatively impact the diversity of aquatic vegetation and 
invertebrates. Waterfowl production will also be negatively affected, 
particularly if more suitable freshwater areas are not available or 
significantly reduced during the breeding season.
    The Service hopes to address the salinity and blowing salts issue 
by developing a water management system on Bowdoin National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex that would protect the environment and mitigate current 
and future salt-dust-blowing concerns for neighboring properties, while 
providing quality water and wildlife habitat for migratory birds. A 
benchmark for achieving this goal would be to meet the Service's 
salinity objective of sustaining a brackish water quality level of 
approximately 7,000 mg/L of total dissolved solids (salts) in Lake 
Bowdoin. The Service developed and analyzed five alternatives to 
address the salinity and blowing salts issue for Lake Bowdoin in the 
Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge including (1) current management (no 
action), (2) Evaporation ponds and removal of salt residue, (3) 
Flushing by Beaver Creek, (4) Underground injection and flushing by 
Beaver Creek (proposed action), and (5) Pumping to the Milk River. The 
Service has identified salinity and blowing salts alternative 4 as the 
best option (proposed action) for addressing this issue based on the 
effectiveness of treatment, environmental and social consequences, and 
cost.

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.
    The environmental review of this project will be conducted in 
accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); NEPA 
Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508); other appropriate Federal laws 
and regulations; Executive Order 12996; the National Wildlife Refuge 
System Improvement Act of 1997; and Service policies and procedures for 
compliance with those laws and regulations.

    Dated: August 25, 2010.
Hugh Morrison,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2011-15551 Filed 6-21-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P