Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morris County, NJ; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, 27634-27636 [2014-10673]


[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 93 (Wednesday, May 14, 2014)]
[Pages 27634-27636]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office []
[FR Doc No: 2014-10673]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R5-R-2013-N188; BAC-4311-K9-S3]

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morris County, NJ; 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 a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (CCP/EA) for Great Swamp National Wildlife 
Refuge (NWR), located in Morris County, New Jersey, for public review 
and comment. The draft CCP/EA describes our proposal for managing the 
refuge for the next 15 years.
    Also available for public review and comment are the draft findings 
of appropriateness and draft compatibility determinations for uses to 
be allowed upon initial completion of the plan, if alternative B is 
selected. These are included as appendix C in the draft CCP/EA.

DATES: To ensure consideration, please send your comments no later than 
June 30, 2014. We will announce upcoming public meetings in local news 
media, via our project mailing list, and on our Regional planning Web 

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments or requests for copies or more 
information by any of the following methods. You may request hard 
copies or a CD-ROM of the documents.
    Email: Please include ``Great Swamp 
Draft CCP'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attention: Bill Perry, 413-253-8468.
    U.S. Mail: Bill Perry, Natural Resource Planner, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035.
    In-Person Drop-off, Viewing, or Pickup: Call 973-425-1222 extension 
116 to make an appointment (necessary for view/pickup only) during 
regular business hours at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, 32 
Pleasant Plains Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920. For more information on 
locations for viewing or obtaining documents, see ``Public Availability 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Koch, Refuge Manager, 973-425-
1222 extension 156 (phone), or Bill Perry, Planning Team Leader, 413-
253-8688 (phone), (email).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Great Swamp NWR. 
We started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (75 FR 
41879) on July 19, 2010.
    Great Swamp was established by an act of Congress on November 3, 
1960, and formally dedicated in 1964, primarily under the authorities 
of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-711) and the 
Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (U.S.C. 715-715s, 45 Stat. 
1222) as amended, ``for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other 
management purpose, for migratory birds.'' The refuge currently 
encompasses 7,768 acres and has an approved acquisition boundary that 
would allow for refuge expansion to a maximum of 9,429 acres. Great 
Swamp NWR is located approximately 26 miles from New York City and is 
an area that is heavily suburbanized. The refuge provides vital 
brooding, nesting, feeding, and resting habitat for a variety of 
migratory bird species, including waterfowl. Although established 
primarily for migratory birds, the refuge's mosaic of forested 
wetlands, emergent wetlands, and various successional stages of upland 
vegetation provides habitats for a diversity of wildlife species.


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, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal mandates, and our 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify 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 started pre-planning for the Great Swamp NWR CCP in 2008. In 
July 2010, we distributed our first newsletter and press release 
announcing our intent to prepare a CCP for the refuge. In July and 
August 2010, we had a formal public scoping period. The purpose of the 
public scoping period was to solicit comments from the community and 
other interested parties on the issues and impacts that should be 
evaluated in the draft CCP/EA. To help solicit public comments, we held 
two public meetings at the refuge during the formal public scoping 
period. Throughout the rest of the planning process, we have conducted 
additional outreach by participating in community meetings, events, and 
other public forums, and by requesting public input on managing the 
refuge and its programs. We received comments on topics such as refuge 
maintenance, public use and access, natural resource management, 
endangered and threatened species, hunting and animal welfare, and 
regional or global environmental issues, including water quality, air 
quality, and climate change. We have considered and evaluated all of 
the comments we received and addressed them in various ways in the 
alternatives presented in the draft CCP/EA.

[[Page 27635]]

CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process, we, the New Jersey Division of 
Fish and Wildlife, other governmental partners, and the public raised 
several issues. To address these issues, we developed and evaluated 
four alternatives in the draft CCP/EA. A full description of each 
alternative is in the draft CCP/EA. All alternatives include measures 
to control invasive species, monitor and abate diseases affecting 
wildlife and plant health, construct additional facilities to improve 
administrative infrastructure, protect cultural resources, facilitate 
or conduct biological research and investigations, develop an offsite 
interpretive program, and improve inventory and monitoring programs.
    There are other actions that differ among the alternatives. The 
draft CCP/EA describes each alternative in detail and relates it to the 
issues and concerns that arose during the planning process. Below, we 
provide summaries for the four alternatives.

Alternative A (Current Management)

    Alternative A (current management) satisfies the National 
Environmental Policy Act (40 CFR 1506.6(b)) requirement of a ``no 
action'' alternative, which we define as ``continuing current 
management.'' It describes our existing management priorities and 
activities, and serves as a baseline for comparing and contrasting 
alternatives B, C, and D. It would maintain our present levels of 
approved refuge staffing and the biological and visitor programs now in 
place. We would continue to manage for and maintain a diversity of 
habitats, including freshwater wetlands, impoundments, scrub-shrub, 
grasslands, wet meadows, and forests on the refuge. The refuge would 
continue to provide an active visitor use program that supports 
environmental education and interpretation, hunting, fishing, and 
wildlife observation and photography.

Alternative B (Enhance Biological Diversity and Public Use 

    This alternative is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines 
the actions we believe would most effectively achieve the refuge's 
purposes, vision, and goals, and respond to the issues raised during 
the scoping period. This alternative emphasizes management of specific 
refuge habitats to support viable populations of focal species whose 
habitat needs benefit other species, especially those of conservation 
concern. We would continue to maintain a diversity of forest, non-
forested, open water, grassland, and scrub-shrub habitats. However, 
habitats would be reconfigured and maintained to create large (greater 
than 50 acres) contiguous patches to promote wildlife use, increase 
connectivity, decrease fragmentation, and increase maintenance 
efficiency and reduce associated costs. This alternative emphasizes 
habitat for priority bird species and federally listed species, 
including the bog turtle and Indiana bat.
    This alternative would also enhance the refuge's public use 
opportunities, and place more emphasis on connecting with communities 
in nearby urban areas. It would expand the hunt program by permitting 
archery for deer and opening the refuge to turkey hunting. It would 
also improve wildlife viewing and photography opportunities in a 
variety of habitats, expand visitor center hours, and increase the 
number of environmental education and interpretation programs on- and 
off-refuge. It attempts to balance public use with resource protection.

Alternative C (Emphasis on Maximizing Natural Regeneration)

    Alternative C emphasizes allowing natural succession or 
regeneration to occur to the maximum extent practical. We would 
maximize core forest habitats while maintaining large (i.e., greater 
than 50 acres) contiguous patches of actively managed grasslands and 
scrub-shrub habitats. This alternative would guide management to 
restore, where practical, the distribution of natural communities of 
the Great Swamp that would have resulted from natural processes without 
the influence of human settlement or management intervention. This 
alternative recognizes that refuge habitats and wildlife populations 
are not ecologically independent from the surrounding landscape, and 
that by taking a long-term regional perspective, the refuge can best 
contribute to higher conservation priorities at greater scales. This 
alternative continues to provide actively managed habitats in select 
areas to maintain wildlife viewing and photography opportunities for 
refuge visitors, as well as vital habitat for the refuge's species of 
conservation concern. Although some open water habitat would be 
eliminated, the refuge would continue to maintain open water habitat 
for waterfowl use. Under this alternative, the public use program would 
be similar to alternative A; however, under this alternative, we would 
eliminate less-used or dead-end trails in the wilderness area.

Alternative D (Focus on Expansion of Priority Public Uses)

    Alternative D emphasizes expanding wildlife-dependent priority 
public uses on the refuge. Public use and access would be maximized to 
the greatest extent practical, while minimizing impacts to wildlife. We 
would expand refuge infrastructure, including construction of new 
trails, observation towers, signage, and parking lots; expand hunting; 
and allow fishing in select areas of the refuge. This alternative would 
maximize public outreach, enhance and develop new environmental 
interpretation and education programs, aggressively expand 
partnerships, and increase staff presence at programs and events. In 
general, refuge habitats would be managed similarly to alternative B; 
however, this alternative would increase open water habitat to improve 
public viewing opportunities.

Public Availability of Documents

    In addition to any methods in ADDRESSES, you can view or obtain 
documents at the following locations:
     Our Web site:

Submitting Comments

    We consider comments substantive if they:
     Question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of the 
information in the document.
     Question, with reasonable basis, the adequacy of the EA.
     Present reasonable alternatives other than those presented 
in the EA.
     Provide new or additional information relevant to the EA.

Next Steps

    After this comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them in the form of a final CCP and, if appropriate, a finding 
of no significant impact.

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.

[[Page 27636]]

    Dated: April 7, 2014.
Deborah Rocque,
Acting Regional Director, Northeast Region.
[FR Doc. 2014-10673 Filed 5-13-14; 8:45 am]
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