Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Bear Lake County, ID and Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area, Franklin and Bannock Counties, ID; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, 59639-59641 [2012-23676]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 189 / Friday, September 28, 2012 / Notices Dated: September 24, 2012. Erika C. Poethig, Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. opportunity for nominee submissions, the Department is extending this nomination period for an additional 15 days. The new nomination and comment period ends October 11, 2012. If you have already submitted your nomination materials, you are not required to resubmit. [FR Doc. 2012–23900 Filed 9–27–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P Dated: September 25, 2012. Paul A. Mussenden, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources Revenue Management. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Office of the Secretary [Docket No. ONRR–2012–0003] [FR Doc. 2012–23940 Filed 9–26–12; 11:15 am] 15-Day Extension of Call for Nominations for the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Advisory Committee BILLING CODE 4310–T2–P Office of Natural Resources Revenue, U.S. Department of the Interior. ACTION: Notice. Fish and Wildlife Service DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AGENCY: [FWS–R1–R–2012–N095; 1265–0000–10137– S3] The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) published a request for nominees and comments on July 27, 2012. Subsequently, DOI published a 30-day extension of this nomination period. This Federal Register Notice extends the nomination and comment period end date by an additional 15 days. SUMMARY: Nominations will be accepted through October 11, 2012. ADDRESSES: You may submit nominations to the Committee by any of the following methods. • Mail or hand-carry nominations to Ms. Shirley Conway; Department of the Interior; Office of Natural Resources Revenue; 1849 C Street NW—MS 4211; Washington, DC 20240. • Email nominations to Shirley.Conway@onrr.gov or EITI@ios.doi.gov. DATES: Ms. Shirley Conway, Office of Natural Resources Revenue; telephone (202) 513–0598; fax (202) 513–0682; email Shirley.Conway@onrr.gov. Mailing address: Department of the Interior; Office of Natural Resources Revenue; 1849 C Street NW.—MS 4211; Washington, DC 20240. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On July 27, 2012, the Department published in the Federal Register a notice of establishment of the United States Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG). This notice also included a request for nominees and comments under a standard 30-day period. In response to feedback and public requests, the Department extended this period for an additional 30 days to September 26, 2012. To maximize the srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:28 Sep 27, 2012 Jkt 226001 Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Bear Lake County, ID and Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area, Franklin and Bannock Counties, ID; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. AGENCY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of our draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR, Refuge), 7 miles south of Montpelier, Idaho; the Refuge-managed Thomas Fork Unit (Unit) in Montpelier; and the Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in Oxford, Idaho, for public review and comment. The Draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for managing the Refuge for the next 15 years. DATES: To ensure consideration, we need to receive your written comments by October 29, 2012. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, requests for more information, or requests for copies by any of the following methods. You may request a hard copy or a CD–ROM of the documents. Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ‘‘Bear Lake NWR CCP’’ in the subject line. Fax: Attn: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, 208–847–1757. U.S. Mail: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, Bear Lake NWR, Box 9, Montpelier, ID 83254. Web site: http://www.fws.gov/ bearlake/refuge_planning.html; select ‘‘Contact Us.’’ SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 59639 In-Person Drop-off, Viewing or Pickup: You may drop off comments during regular business hours at Refuge Headquarters at 322 North 4th St. (Oregon Trail Center), Montpelier, ID. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, 208– 847–1757. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Introduction With this notice, we continue the CCP process at Bear Lake NWR and Oxford Slough WPA. We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 35829; June 23, 2010). Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge Bear Lake NWR was established in 1968 and is located in Bear Lake County, near the community of Montpelier, in southeast Idaho. The Refuge lies in Bear Lake Valley at approximately 5,925 feet in elevation in the historic location of Dingle Swamp. The Thomas Fork Unit is a 1,015-acre tract of land managed by the Refuge and situated at an elevation of 6,060 feet, approximately 20 miles east of Montpelier, Idaho, along U.S. Hwy. 30, near Border, Wyoming. The Unit’s eastern boundary is the Wyoming State line. It contains upland and wet meadows used by sandhill cranes, and stream habitat important to the conservation of Bonneville cutthroat trout. The Refuge is composed of a 16,000acre emergent marsh, 1,200 acres of uplands, 550 acres of wet meadows, and 5 miles of riparian streams. Approximately 100 species of migratory birds nest at Bear Lake NWR, including large concentrations of colonial waterbirds, and many other species of wildlife utilize the Refuge during various periods of the year. In the early 1900s, the Telluride Canal Company substantially modified the natural hydrology of the former Dingle Swamp by diverting Bear River to flow into Bear Lake for irrigation storage. The indirect effects were numerous and significantly altered the hydrology and ecological processes of the Bear Lake Watershed. Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area Oxford Slough is the only waterfowl production area in the Service’s Pacific Northwest region. It is located 10 miles north of Preston, Idaho, abutting the small town of Oxford in the Cache Valley. Oxford Slough is the drainage for Oxford and Deep Creeks, as well as other streams and creeks in the surrounding mountain ranges. Oxford Slough WPA provides valuable foraging habitat for species such as cranes, geese, E:\FR\FM\28SEN1.SGM 28SEN1 59640 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 189 / Friday, September 28, 2012 / Notices Franklin’s gulls, and white-faced ibis, and nesting habitat for many shorebird species. Background The CCP Process The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd–668ee) (Refuge 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 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, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, and our policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify compatible 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 Refuge Administration Act. Public Outreach srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES We began public outreach in June 2010 by publishing a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register announcing our intent to prepare a CCP/EA and inviting public comments; in addition, we distributed Planning Update 1 to our mailing list and public outlets. On July 1, 2010, we held a public scoping meeting in Montpelier, Idaho, to meet with the public and obtain comments. The meeting was announced through local media outlets, on the Refuge’s Web site, and in Planning Update 1. The initial public scoping period ended on July 23, 2010, and all comments were considered and evaluated. In November 2010, we distributed Planning Update 2, which included a summary of the comments we received, a planning schedule, and a description of the CCP’s scope. CCP Alternatives We Are Considering During the public scoping process, we, along with other governmental agencies, Tribes, and the public, raised several issues which our Draft CCP/EA addresses. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized below: VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:28 Sep 27, 2012 Jkt 226001 Alternative 1 (No-Action) This alternative represents current management. Wildlife and Habitat: Under Alternative 1, the current emphasis on consistent availability of quality wetlands and croplands would continue. High-quality marsh habitat would continue to be provided for waterfowl and colonial waterbirds. Management would primarily occur on Refuge lands, but the Refuge would continue to seek cooperative agreements and partnerships to improve habitats and promote the application of best management practices for farming, haying, pesticide application, and water management. The Refuge’s meadows and uplands would be cooperatively hayed and farmed to provide forage and short-grass habitat for migratory birds such as the sandhill crane and Canada goose. Farming would occur on approximately 214 acres annually at Bear Lake, Thomas Fork, and Oxford Slough WPA. Approximately 3,500 acres of wet meadow, upland meadow, and shallow emergent habitat (including about 90 percent of meadow habitat at Bear Lake NWR) would be hayed annually to provide green browse for migratory birds and other wildlife. Public Use: Bear Lake NWR and Oxford Slough WPA would remain open to public use. The Thomas Fork Unit would remain closed to all public use. 7,450 acres (40 percent) of Bear Lake NWR would be open for waterfowl hunting during the State season. Two accessible hunting blinds would continue to be available at Bear Lake NWR from October to January. To facilitate waterfowl hunting, motorized and non-motorized boats would still be allowed September 20 to January 15 in the Salt Meadow, the Rainbow SubImpoundment, and the Rainbow Units, as well as in the Merkley Lake Unit, and the Mud Lake Unit as far south as the buoys. The Refuge would remain open for small game and upland bird hunting (gray partridge, grouse, ring-necked pheasant, and cottontails). On Bear Lake NWR, the Outlet Canal north of the former Paris Dike and Paris Dike south to its former location, and the area north of the Lifton Pumping Station would remain open to pole-and-line fishing for carp, perch, and trout, and bow fishing for carp. Oxford Slough WPA would remain open to hunting and trapping in accordance with State regulations. There are no fishing opportunities at the WPA. PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Alternative 2 Wildlife and Habitat: This alternative would decrease emphasis on waterfowl production, and increase emphasis on maximizing all waterbird productivity, through intensively manipulating seasonal water levels to mimic the varied hydrology of the historic Dingle Swamp. The Refuge would still provide sizeable emergent marsh habitats for waterfowl and colonial birds through the summer and fall, but there would be a substantial increase in temporarily flooded (spring and fall) wetlands. All grain farming (214 acres) and haying (3,533 acres) would be discontinued in the first year (2013) of CCP implementation. Former cropland and hayed areas would be restored to native wet meadow or grassland communities and flooded in spring and fall to provide seasonal and temporary wetlands for waterbirds. The Refuge would study the feasibility of reducing sediment loads in the Mud Lake Complex and make recommendations by 2020 to reduce the sedimentation rate of Bear River water diversions and to better exclude carp from Refuge wetlands. Upland and riparian management activities would increase considerably from Alternative 1. Public Use: On Bear Lake NWR, increased emphasis would be placed on nonconsumptive, compatible wildlifedependent recreation compared to Alternative 1, while making modest improvements to hunting and fishing opportunities. Bear Lake NWR hunting areas would alternate every five years from the east side (current hunt area, 7,450 acres) to the west side of the Outlet Canal (the Bloomington and Bunn Lake units, currently closed to hunting, 5,800 acres). An additional accessible hunting blind (3 total) and increased Youth Hunt opportunities would be provided. Upland hunting would continue as in Alternative 1. Fishing opportunities would be increased by allowing boat access to the Mud Lake Unit from September 1 until freeze-up. Improved signage and small piers or fishing platforms would be constructed along the Outlet Canal north of the Paris Dike. As in Alternative 1, the Thomas Fork Unit would remain closed to all public access, and Oxford Slough WPA would remain open to hunting and trapping. Within 5 years of CCP completion, plans for a combined Refuge office and visitor contact station on or near the Refuge would be completed, and funding would be sought to construct these facilities. Up to eight vehicle turnouts with interpretive panels would be constructed along Merkley Lake E:\FR\FM\28SEN1.SGM 28SEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 189 / Friday, September 28, 2012 / Notices srobinson on DSK4SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Road, overlooking the Mud Lake Unit. A boardwalk and observation platform would be constructed on the southeast border of the Refuge along North Beach Road. A step-down plan for these facilities would be completed within 2 years of CCP completion. A new staff position would be dedicated to public outreach, and developing and delivering on-site interpretive and environmental education programs to local schools and community groups. Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative) Wildlife and Habitat: Alternative 3, the Service’s Preferred Alternative, would emphasize partially restoring long-term habitat function, providing an acceptable range of natural habitat variability, increasing habitat resilience in the face of external stress, and increasing the long-term vigor of wildlife populations. While the Refuge would continue to provide breeding and fall migration habitat for waterfowl, the emphasis would be on providing a range of habitats, not only for waterfowl, but other migratory waterbirds. Management actions and water-level manipulations would simulate natural ‘‘drought,’’ ‘‘normal,’’ or ‘‘flood’’ scenarios, and provide a variety of permanent, semi-permanent, seasonal, and temporary wetland habitats. The acreage of each habitat would vary annually within each unit, but the total Refuge acreage of each habitat would remain the same from year to year. Compared to Alternative 1, there would be a moderate increase in spring and fall seasonal and moist soil wetland habitats. Approximately 154 acres of small grain and legume crops would continue to be cultivated for waterfowl and other key wildlife species. Haying would be reduced to 1,492 acres (44 percent of current hayed acres), and 2,041 acres of previously hayed habitats would be restored or rehabilitated to native wet meadow or upland grass habitats by 2027. The Refuge would phase the reduction in haying over three 5-year cycles: 2013–2017; 2018–2022; and 2023–2027. An approximate 60:40 ratio of hayed-to-unhayed meadow would be managed for goose brooding and foraging areas. As in Alternative 2, the Refuge would study the feasibility of reducing sediment loads in the Mud Lake Complex and make recommendations by 2020 to reduce the sedimentation rate of Bear River water diversions and better exclude carp from Refuge wetlands. As in Alternative 2, upland and riparian management activity would increase considerably from Alternative 1. Hunting and Fishing: The waterfowl and upland hunting program at Bear VerDate Mar<15>2010 17:28 Sep 27, 2012 Jkt 226001 Lake NWR would continue to be managed as described in Alternative 1. Compatible fishing opportunities would be expanded through construction of improved signage and small piers or fishing platforms along the Outlet Canal north of the Paris Dike. Fishing would also be allowed from the banks along Merkley Lake Road, consistent with State regulations. As in Alternatives 1 and 2, the Thomas Fork Unit would remain closed to all public access, but compatible hunting and trapping would remain open at Oxford Slough WPA. Opportunities for observation and education would improve as additional facilities are developed, and a more diverse array of wetland habitats allows a wider variety of waterbirds and other species to flourish. Two turn-out parking areas (one with an observation platform and spotting scope) would be constructed along Merkley Lake Road, above the Mud Lake Unit. As in Alternative 2, a boardwalk and viewing platform would be constructed on the southeast border of the Refuge along North Beach Road; plans for a combined Refuge office and visitor contact station on or near the Refuge would be completed within 5 years of CCP completion, and funding would be sought to construct these facilities; a new staff position would be dedicated to public outreach, and developing and delivering on-site interpretive and environmental education programs to local schools and community groups. Public Availability of Documents In addition to the information in you can view copies of the Draft CCP/EA on the Internet at http:// www.fws.gov/bearlake/ refuge_planning.html, and printed copies will be available for review at the following libraries: Bear Lake County Library, 138 North 6th Street, Montpelier, ID 83254; Larsen-Sant Public Library, 109 South 1st East, Preston, ID 83263. ADDRESSES, Next Steps 59641 information from the public, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Dated: May 3, 2012. Jason Holm, Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon. [FR Doc. 2012–23676 Filed 9–27–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Gaming Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of Approved Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact. AGENCY: This notice publishes an extension of Gaming between the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the State of South Dakota. DATES: Effective Date: September 28, 2012. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paula L. Hart, Director, Office of Indian Gaming, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary—Policy and Economic Development, Washington, DC 20240, (202) 219–4066. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Under section 11 of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA), Public Law 100–497, 25 U.S.C. 2710, the Secretary of the Interior shall publish in the Federal Register notice of approved Tribal-State compacts for the purpose of engaging in Class III gaming activities on Indian lands. This amendment allows for the extension of the current Tribal-State Compact until February 20, 2013. SUMMARY: Dated: September 20, 2012. Donald E. Laverdure, Acting Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs. [FR Doc. 2012–23978 Filed 9–27–12; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–4N–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and address them in a final CCP and decision document. Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Gaming Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior. ACTION: Notice of Deemed Approved Amended Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact. Public Availability of Comments AGENCY: 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 identifying SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 This notice publishes the Deemed Approved Amendment to the Tribal-State Compact between the State of Oregon and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians. E:\FR\FM\28SEN1.SGM 28SEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 189 (Friday, September 28, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 59639-59641]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-23676]


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

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2012-N095; 1265-0000-10137-S3]


Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Bear Lake County, ID and 
Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area, Franklin and Bannock Counties, 
ID; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for the Bear Lake National 
Wildlife Refuge (NWR, Refuge), 7 miles south of Montpelier, Idaho; the 
Refuge-managed Thomas Fork Unit (Unit) in Montpelier; and the Oxford 
Slough Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) in Oxford, Idaho, for public 
review and comment. The Draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for 
managing the Refuge for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we need to receive your written 
comments by October 29, 2012.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, requests for more information, or 
requests for copies by any of the following methods. You may request a 
hard copy or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Bear Lake NWR CCP'' 
in the subject line.
    Fax: Attn: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, 208-847-1757.
    U.S. Mail: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, Bear Lake NWR, Box 9, 
Montpelier, ID 83254.
    Web site: http://www.fws.gov/bearlake/refuge_planning.html; select 
``Contact Us.''
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing or Pickup: You may drop off comments 
during regular business hours at Refuge Headquarters at 322 North 4th 
St. (Oregon Trail Center), Montpelier, ID.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Annette de Knijf, Refuge Manager, 208-
847-1757.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    With this notice, we continue the CCP process at Bear Lake NWR and 
Oxford Slough WPA. We started this process through a notice in the 
Federal Register (75 FR 35829; June 23, 2010).

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge

    Bear Lake NWR was established in 1968 and is located in Bear Lake 
County, near the community of Montpelier, in southeast Idaho. The 
Refuge lies in Bear Lake Valley at approximately 5,925 feet in 
elevation in the historic location of Dingle Swamp. The Thomas Fork 
Unit is a 1,015-acre tract of land managed by the Refuge and situated 
at an elevation of 6,060 feet, approximately 20 miles east of 
Montpelier, Idaho, along U.S. Hwy. 30, near Border, Wyoming. The Unit's 
eastern boundary is the Wyoming State line. It contains upland and wet 
meadows used by sandhill cranes, and stream habitat important to the 
conservation of Bonneville cutthroat trout.
    The Refuge is composed of a 16,000-acre emergent marsh, 1,200 acres 
of uplands, 550 acres of wet meadows, and 5 miles of riparian streams. 
Approximately 100 species of migratory birds nest at Bear Lake NWR, 
including large concentrations of colonial waterbirds, and many other 
species of wildlife utilize the Refuge during various periods of the 
year. In the early 1900s, the Telluride Canal Company substantially 
modified the natural hydrology of the former Dingle Swamp by diverting 
Bear River to flow into Bear Lake for irrigation storage. The indirect 
effects were numerous and significantly altered the hydrology and 
ecological processes of the Bear Lake Watershed.

Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area

    Oxford Slough is the only waterfowl production area in the 
Service's Pacific Northwest region. It is located 10 miles north of 
Preston, Idaho, abutting the small town of Oxford in the Cache Valley. 
Oxford Slough is the drainage for Oxford and Deep Creeks, as well as 
other streams and creeks in the surrounding mountain ranges. Oxford 
Slough WPA provides valuable foraging habitat for species such as 
cranes, geese,

[[Page 59640]]

Franklin's gulls, and white-faced ibis, and nesting habitat for many 
shorebird species.

Background

The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge 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 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, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, and our 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify compatible 
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 Refuge Administration Act.

Public Outreach

    We began public outreach in June 2010 by publishing a Notice of 
Intent in the Federal Register announcing our intent to prepare a CCP/
EA and inviting public comments; in addition, we distributed Planning 
Update 1 to our mailing list and public outlets. On July 1, 2010, we 
held a public scoping meeting in Montpelier, Idaho, to meet with the 
public and obtain comments. The meeting was announced through local 
media outlets, on the Refuge's Web site, and in Planning Update 1. The 
initial public scoping period ended on July 23, 2010, and all comments 
were considered and evaluated. In November 2010, we distributed 
Planning Update 2, which included a summary of the comments we 
received, a planning schedule, and a description of the CCP's scope.

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, along with other 
governmental agencies, Tribes, and the public, raised several issues 
which our Draft CCP/EA addresses. To address these issues, we developed 
and evaluated the following alternatives, summarized below:

Alternative 1 (No-Action)

    This alternative represents current management.
    Wildlife and Habitat: Under Alternative 1, the current emphasis on 
consistent availability of quality wetlands and croplands would 
continue. High-quality marsh habitat would continue to be provided for 
waterfowl and colonial waterbirds. Management would primarily occur on 
Refuge lands, but the Refuge would continue to seek cooperative 
agreements and partnerships to improve habitats and promote the 
application of best management practices for farming, haying, pesticide 
application, and water management.
    The Refuge's meadows and uplands would be cooperatively hayed and 
farmed to provide forage and short-grass habitat for migratory birds 
such as the sandhill crane and Canada goose. Farming would occur on 
approximately 214 acres annually at Bear Lake, Thomas Fork, and Oxford 
Slough WPA. Approximately 3,500 acres of wet meadow, upland meadow, and 
shallow emergent habitat (including about 90 percent of meadow habitat 
at Bear Lake NWR) would be hayed annually to provide green browse for 
migratory birds and other wildlife.
    Public Use: Bear Lake NWR and Oxford Slough WPA would remain open 
to public use. The Thomas Fork Unit would remain closed to all public 
use. 7,450 acres (40 percent) of Bear Lake NWR would be open for 
waterfowl hunting during the State season. Two accessible hunting 
blinds would continue to be available at Bear Lake NWR from October to 
January. To facilitate waterfowl hunting, motorized and non-motorized 
boats would still be allowed September 20 to January 15 in the Salt 
Meadow, the Rainbow Sub-Impoundment, and the Rainbow Units, as well as 
in the Merkley Lake Unit, and the Mud Lake Unit as far south as the 
buoys. The Refuge would remain open for small game and upland bird 
hunting (gray partridge, grouse, ring-necked pheasant, and 
cottontails). On Bear Lake NWR, the Outlet Canal north of the former 
Paris Dike and Paris Dike south to its former location, and the area 
north of the Lifton Pumping Station would remain open to pole-and-line 
fishing for carp, perch, and trout, and bow fishing for carp. Oxford 
Slough WPA would remain open to hunting and trapping in accordance with 
State regulations. There are no fishing opportunities at the WPA.

Alternative 2

    Wildlife and Habitat: This alternative would decrease emphasis on 
waterfowl production, and increase emphasis on maximizing all waterbird 
productivity, through intensively manipulating seasonal water levels to 
mimic the varied hydrology of the historic Dingle Swamp. The Refuge 
would still provide sizeable emergent marsh habitats for waterfowl and 
colonial birds through the summer and fall, but there would be a 
substantial increase in temporarily flooded (spring and fall) wetlands. 
All grain farming (214 acres) and haying (3,533 acres) would be 
discontinued in the first year (2013) of CCP implementation. Former 
cropland and hayed areas would be restored to native wet meadow or 
grassland communities and flooded in spring and fall to provide 
seasonal and temporary wetlands for waterbirds. The Refuge would study 
the feasibility of reducing sediment loads in the Mud Lake Complex and 
make recommendations by 2020 to reduce the sedimentation rate of Bear 
River water diversions and to better exclude carp from Refuge wetlands. 
Upland and riparian management activities would increase considerably 
from Alternative 1.
    Public Use: On Bear Lake NWR, increased emphasis would be placed on 
nonconsumptive, compatible wildlife-dependent recreation compared to 
Alternative 1, while making modest improvements to hunting and fishing 
opportunities. Bear Lake NWR hunting areas would alternate every five 
years from the east side (current hunt area, 7,450 acres) to the west 
side of the Outlet Canal (the Bloomington and Bunn Lake units, 
currently closed to hunting, 5,800 acres). An additional accessible 
hunting blind (3 total) and increased Youth Hunt opportunities would be 
provided. Upland hunting would continue as in Alternative 1. Fishing 
opportunities would be increased by allowing boat access to the Mud 
Lake Unit from September 1 until freeze-up. Improved signage and small 
piers or fishing platforms would be constructed along the Outlet Canal 
north of the Paris Dike. As in Alternative 1, the Thomas Fork Unit 
would remain closed to all public access, and Oxford Slough WPA would 
remain open to hunting and trapping.
    Within 5 years of CCP completion, plans for a combined Refuge 
office and visitor contact station on or near the Refuge would be 
completed, and funding would be sought to construct these facilities. 
Up to eight vehicle turnouts with interpretive panels would be 
constructed along Merkley Lake

[[Page 59641]]

Road, overlooking the Mud Lake Unit. A boardwalk and observation 
platform would be constructed on the southeast border of the Refuge 
along North Beach Road. A step-down plan for these facilities would be 
completed within 2 years of CCP completion. A new staff position would 
be dedicated to public outreach, and developing and delivering on-site 
interpretive and environmental education programs to local schools and 
community groups.

Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative)

    Wildlife and Habitat: Alternative 3, the Service's Preferred 
Alternative, would emphasize partially restoring long-term habitat 
function, providing an acceptable range of natural habitat variability, 
increasing habitat resilience in the face of external stress, and 
increasing the long-term vigor of wildlife populations. While the 
Refuge would continue to provide breeding and fall migration habitat 
for waterfowl, the emphasis would be on providing a range of habitats, 
not only for waterfowl, but other migratory waterbirds. Management 
actions and water-level manipulations would simulate natural 
``drought,'' ``normal,'' or ``flood'' scenarios, and provide a variety 
of permanent, semi-permanent, seasonal, and temporary wetland habitats. 
The acreage of each habitat would vary annually within each unit, but 
the total Refuge acreage of each habitat would remain the same from 
year to year. Compared to Alternative 1, there would be a moderate 
increase in spring and fall seasonal and moist soil wetland habitats. 
Approximately 154 acres of small grain and legume crops would continue 
to be cultivated for waterfowl and other key wildlife species. Haying 
would be reduced to 1,492 acres (44 percent of current hayed acres), 
and 2,041 acres of previously hayed habitats would be restored or 
rehabilitated to native wet meadow or upland grass habitats by 2027. 
The Refuge would phase the reduction in haying over three 5-year 
cycles: 2013-2017; 2018-2022; and 2023-2027. An approximate 60:40 ratio 
of hayed-to-unhayed meadow would be managed for goose brooding and 
foraging areas. As in Alternative 2, the Refuge would study the 
feasibility of reducing sediment loads in the Mud Lake Complex and make 
recommendations by 2020 to reduce the sedimentation rate of Bear River 
water diversions and better exclude carp from Refuge wetlands. As in 
Alternative 2, upland and riparian management activity would increase 
considerably from Alternative 1.
    Hunting and Fishing: The waterfowl and upland hunting program at 
Bear Lake NWR would continue to be managed as described in Alternative 
1. Compatible fishing opportunities would be expanded through 
construction of improved signage and small piers or fishing platforms 
along the Outlet Canal north of the Paris Dike. Fishing would also be 
allowed from the banks along Merkley Lake Road, consistent with State 
regulations. As in Alternatives 1 and 2, the Thomas Fork Unit would 
remain closed to all public access, but compatible hunting and trapping 
would remain open at Oxford Slough WPA.
    Opportunities for observation and education would improve as 
additional facilities are developed, and a more diverse array of 
wetland habitats allows a wider variety of waterbirds and other species 
to flourish. Two turn-out parking areas (one with an observation 
platform and spotting scope) would be constructed along Merkley Lake 
Road, above the Mud Lake Unit. As in Alternative 2, a boardwalk and 
viewing platform would be constructed on the southeast border of the 
Refuge along North Beach Road; plans for a combined Refuge office and 
visitor contact station on or near the Refuge would be completed within 
5 years of CCP completion, and funding would be sought to construct 
these facilities; a new staff position would be dedicated to public 
outreach, and developing and delivering on-site interpretive and 
environmental education programs to local schools and community groups.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to the information in ADDRESSES, you can view copies of 
the Draft CCP/EA on the Internet at http://www.fws.gov/bearlake/refuge_planning.html, and printed copies will be available for review 
at the following libraries: Bear Lake County Library, 138 North 6th 
Street, Montpelier, ID 83254; Larsen-Sant Public Library, 109 South 1st 
East, Preston, ID 83263.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in a final CCP and decision document.

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 identifying information from 
the public, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

    Dated: May 3, 2012.
Jason Holm,
Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2012-23676 Filed 9-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P