Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, 44188-44191 [2014-17788]

Download as PDF 44188 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 146 / Wednesday, July 30, 2014 / Notices technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. Overview of This Information Collection (1) Type of Information Collection: Extension of a currently approved information collection. (2) Title of the Form/Collection: Suspicious/Criminal Activity Tip Reporting. (3) Agency form number, if any, and the applicable component of the Department of Homeland Security sponsoring the collection: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (4) Affected public who will be asked or required to respond, as well as a brief abstract: Primary: Individuals or households. (5) An estimate of the total number of respondents and the amount of time estimated for an average respondent to respond: Average burden per response (in hours) Number of respondents Form name/form number 66,000 ....................................................... 20 .............................................................. 118,000 ..................................................... Homeland Security Investigations Tip Form ................................................................ Bulk Cash Smuggling Center Contact Form ............................................................... Suspicious Activity Tip Line ......................................................................................... (6) An estimate of the total public burden (in hours) associated with the collection: 22,363 annual burden hours. Dated: July 25, 2014. Scott Elmore, Program Manager, Forms Management Office, Office of the Chief Information Officer, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security. [FR Doc. 2014–17964 Filed 7–29–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9111–28–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Fish and Wildlife Service Steve Reagan, (662) 323–5548 x225 or Steve_Reagan@fws.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [FWS–R4–R–2014–N108; FXRS12650400000S3–123–FF04R02000] Introduction Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment INTER-AMERICAN FOUNDATION Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments. Sunshine Act Meetings SUMMARY: TIME AND DATE: AGENCY: August 11, 2014, 9 a.m.– 10 a.m. Inter-American Foundation, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW., 12th Floor North, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20004. PLACE: Meeting of the Board of Directors, Open to the Public. STATUS: MATTERS TO BE CONSIDERED: • Approval of the Minutes of the March 31, 2014, Meeting of the Board of Directors • Management Report • Dates for Meetings in 2015 • Adjournment mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES CONTACT PERSON FOR MORE INFORMATION: Paul Zimmerman, General Counsel, (202) 683–7118. Paul Zimmerman, General Counsel. [FR Doc. 2014–18053 Filed 7–28–14; 4:15 pm] BILLING CODE 7025–01–P VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:48 Jul 29, 2014 Jkt 232001 0.16 0.16 0.10 We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Oktibbeha, Winston, and Noxubee Counties, Mississippi, for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we describe the alternative we propose to use to manage this refuge for the 15 years following approval of the final CCP. DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments by September 29, 2014. ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by contacting Steve Reagan, Refuge Manager, by U.S. mail at 13723 Bluff Lake Rd., Brooksville, MS 39739. Alternatively, you may download the document from our Internet Site at http://southeast.fws.gov/ planning under ‘‘Draft Documents.’’ Comments on the Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to the above postal address or by email to Laura Housh, Planner, 13723 Bluff Lake Rd., Brooksville, MS 39739; or laura_housh@fws.gov. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (SDHN NWR), started through a notice in the Federal Register on January 15, 2013 (78 FR 3024). For more about the refuge and our CCP process, please see that notice. SDHN NWR is located within three counties (Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and Winston) in east-central Mississippi, and is approximately 17 miles southsouthwest of Starkville and approximately 120 miles northnortheast of Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. The refuge is currently 48,219 acres. The primary establishing legislation for the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is Executive Order 8444, dated June 14, 1940. Established as Noxubee NWR in 1940, the refuge was subsequently renamed Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR by Public Law 112–279 on February 14, 2012. Background The CCP Process The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd–668ee) (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, E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 146 / Wednesday, July 30, 2014 / Notices legal mandates, and our policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify wildlifedependent recreational opportunities available to the public, including opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 years in accordance with the Administration Act. Priority resource issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include Fish and Wildlife Populations, Habitat Management, Resource Protections, Visitor Services, and Refuge Administration. CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge (Alternatives A, B, and C), with Alternative C as our proposed alternative. A full description of each alternative is in the Draft CCP/ EA. We summarize each alternative below. Alternative A: Current Management (No Action) Under this alternative, no major changes to our biological, public use and administrative management practices would occur from their current levels. The refuge would continue to actively manage for waterfowl habitat. Forested bottomland habitats would receive little to no active management. Habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers would continue as the refuge’s highest priority. Habitats would not be managed for historic conditions but maintained to favor a pine dominated forest type. Law enforcement efforts would remain the same. Visitor services would continue at current levels. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Alternative B: Focus on Waterfowl and Federally Listed Species This alternative emphasizes active habitat management actions that would benefit the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) and waterfowl. Visitor service programs and facilities in support of the six priority public uses (i.e., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, interpretation, and environmental education) would be much reduced below those levels for Alternatives A and C. Non-wildlife dependent public uses would be phased out. Under this alternative, the refuge would favor management that restores historic forest conditions. The refuge would maintain and, where appropriate, restore the VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:48 Jul 29, 2014 Jkt 232001 biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the refuge. This alternative would provide approximately 1 million Duck Energy Days (DEDs) over a 110-day period yearly, through the possible combination of managed moist soil units, planted agricultural crops that can be flooded, aquatic vegetation and invertebrates within refuge lakes, and seasonally flooded greentree reservoirs (GTRs) which provide mast crops and invertebrates. Wood duck breeding opportunities would be enhanced. Silvicultural treatments within bottomland hardwood habitats would receive low priority, but may be used to promote recruitment of red oak species within the overstory of those flooded forested habitats used by waterfowl. Manipulation of water level would be the primary tool used to produce the desired shrub-scrub cover. The refuge would participate in wood duck banding programs. Bottomland forests would benefit forest-breeding birds. Active manipulation of habitats for the benefit of forest-breeding birds would be at a priority lower than that required for RCW and waterfowl. The number of redcockaded woodpecker clusters would be based on continuous pine habitat as defined by historic conditions and the optimal partition size of 308 acres based on the 100-year rotation. A new refuge target goal would be 27 RCW clusters. All RCW partitions would be managed according to the RCW Recovery Plan. Forested habitats would be actively manipulated to produce a forest reflective of historic conditions. No additional, non-historic pine habitats would be maintained or converted for support of the RCW to pine. Refuge staff and possibly contractors would continue to scientifically monitor RCWs through nest and fledge checks. Quantitative monitoring would be limited to RCWs, and other wildlife would be monitored through simple reconnaissance. Efforts would be made to prevent the establishment of exotic invasives and pest species. Water levels in all greentree reservoirs (GTRs) would be managed through water manipulation so that no more than two GTRs would be purposefully flooded for wintering waterfowl habitat yearly. All old fields and the Morgan Hill Prairie Demonstration Area would no longer be maintained. Other than in areas where forests are being restored to their historic condition, the refuge would actively manage forested habitats to maintain the desired wildlife habitat for federally listed species and waterfowl. Upland forests would be managed for historic conditions and, when PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 44189 applicable, management would emphasize needed habitat for federally listed species. Comprehensive, refuge-wide surveys would be opportunistically sought, but individual cultural resource surveys for only specific projects or sites would be the standard. Partnerships would be developed with other agencies, institutions, and ethnic groups (e.g., Choctaw Nation, African American groups, etc.), to accomplish tasks and seek ideas and means to improve management of cultural resources. Efforts would be made to acquire additional lands in the Approved Acquisition Boundary through feesimple title and timber for land exchange. The two existing Research Natural Areas (RNAs) would continue to be recognized as if under the Society of American Foresters (SAF) designation, but research objectives and management strategies would remain undeveloped. Improvements to the existing law enforcement program would be based on recommendations provided by the Office of the Chief of Refuge Law Enforcement (LE), Southeast Region, following a program review. The existing hunting programs would be reduced through reductions in staff and facility support. The visitor center would be closed on weekends. The picnic area and nearby public restrooms would be closed. Fish habitat would not be enhanced for increased recreational uses. Wildlife observation and photography opportunities would be reduced through the reduced availability and maintenance of viewing facilities, such as boardwalks and nature trails. Special use events requiring substantial planning and resources to host would be discontinued. Some of the secondary gravel roads would be closed to vehicles. Signage and information available to the public would be reduced. Public use staff would be eliminated and replaced with biological or forestry technicians. No off-site interpretive programs would be offered. Refuge staff would not participate in Environmental Education; it would be solely dependent on the currently structured partnership with Starkville School District and volunteers. The staff would be held at 13 or fewer employees, with organizational changes made to increase field staff, including law enforcement officers and biological and forestry technicians. Facilities and equipment would all be placed on a priority list and maintained when funding allowed. Closing or removal of poorly maintained assets would occur. The collection of fees for permitted E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 44190 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 146 / Wednesday, July 30, 2014 / Notices human access to key areas used by waterfowl to reduce disturbance during critical life cycle stages. Forest-breeding Alternative C: Focus on Wildlife, Habitat bird populations would be enhanced Diversity, and Experiencing Nature through improved nesting, brooding, (Proposed Alternative) and foraging opportunities by This alternative will manage refuge application of active habitat resources to optimize native wildlife manipulation techniques within populations and habitats under a bottomland hardwood forested habitats balanced and integrated approach, not and streamside management zones. only for federally listed species (RCW) Even and uneven aged silviculture, and migratory birds, but also for other including selective thinning, patch cuts, native species such as white-tailed deer, group tree selections, clearcuts, timber wild turkey, Northern bobwhite, stand improvements, chemical paddlefish, and forest-breeding birds. treatments, and other methods, could be This alternative also provides used to ensure hardwood species opportunities for the six priority public diversity, red oak recruitment into the uses (i.e., hunting, fishing, wildlife overstory, and forest structure for the observation, wildlife photography, benefit of a diversity of wildlife. The interpretation and environmental education) and other wildlife-dependent number of red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) clusters would be based on activities found appropriate and continuous pine habitat as defined by compatible with the purpose for which historic conditions and the optimal the refuge was established. partition size of 308 acres based on the Under this alternative, the refuge 100-year rotation. Mathematically this would favor management that restores suggests that the maximum number of historic forest conditions while clusters feasible on the refuge is 38. achieving refuge purposes. This However, due to natural habitat alternative would provide variation within the management units, approximately 1 million Duck Energy habitat loss between the circular Days (DEDs) over a 110-day period partitions, habitat loss due to inholding, yearly, through the possible and edge effects due to bordering lands combination of managed moist soil or hardwood habitats, the optimal units, planted agricultural crops that number and new refuge target goal can be flooded, aquatic vegetation and would be 27 RCW clusters. All RCW invertebrates within refuge lakes, and partitions would be managed according seasonally flooded greentree reservoirs to the RCW Recovery Plan. Habitat which provide mast crops and manipulations used to benefit RCWs invertebrates. Wood duck breeding opportunities would be enhanced using could include silvicultural practices (e.g., active forest management, wood duck nest boxes, but greater emphasis would be placed on protecting including but not limited to manual or mechanized pre-commercial thinning, trees with natural cavities throughout commercial biomass thinning, the bottomland forests. Trees found mulching, firewood cutting, timber with existing cavities and those having stand improvements, herbicide, unique wildlife values would be irregular shelterwood, shelterwood, protected from timber harvest. Active seedtree, patch cuts, afforestation, manipulation of habitats and populations would occur as necessary to reforestation, and free thinning), prescribed fire, raking, mowing, creation maintain biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health. Silvicultural of new artificial cavities, maintenance of treatments within bottomland hardwood suitable cavities, midstory reduction habitats would receive low priority, but (chemical and/or mechanical control), integrated pest management, use of may be used to promote recruitment of restrictor plates on cavities, snake red oak species within the overstory of exclusion devices, and kleptoparasite those flooded forested habitats used by waterfowl. The refuge would attempt to control. In order to sustain forest resources for future RCW habitat, increase brood survival of waterfowl by managing shallow water aquatic habitats harvesting of existing mature forests as to produce and sustain protective shrub- part of regeneration efforts within present and future partitions would scrub cover with fringe area of the occur. No additional, non-historic pine refuge’s lakes. Manipulation of water habitats would be maintained or level would be the primary tool used to converted for support of the RCW to produce the desired shrub-scrub cover. pine. Refuge staff and possibly The refuge would participate in wood contractors would continue to duck banding programs and try to scientifically monitor RCWs through obtain refuge quotas as assigned by the nest and fledge checks. Additional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national quantitative monitoring of a broad suite Migratory Bird program, and limit mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES quota deer and waterfowl hunts would be continued. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:48 Jul 29, 2014 Jkt 232001 PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 of wildlife and their habitats will be sought through Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), universities and volunteers and participate in the Refuge System’s Inventory and Monitoring program for development of standardized survey methods, cataloging and analyzing refuge information. Efforts would be made to prevent the establishment of exotic invasive, and pest species. Deep-water habitats within Bluff Lake would be created through dirt excavation to ensure consistency in recreational fisheries resources (i.e., crappie, bass, and sunfish). Excavated soil from the creation of the deepwater habitat would be used to create islands within the lake to serve as bird rookery sites. Other existing water control structures on Bluff Lake and in areas upstream of the lake would also be modified or removed to allow fish passage. Paddlefish and Gulf Coast Walleye would benefit from the restoration. Additional ephemeral pools for amphibians would be artificially created throughout the refuge through excavation in areas where excess water impedes road maintenance or threatens sedimentation of streams. The Morgan Hill Prairie Demonstration Area would remain but be reduced by more than 50 percent in size and the remaining area would be restored into habitats similar to that indicated by historic conditions. Existing old fields that would not be a direct benefit to federally protected species or waterfowl would continue to be managed as old field sites for the benefit of native grassland species. Old fields that would be a direct benefit to federally protected species or waterfowl would be restored to historical species compositions through natural regeneration or the manual planting of trees. No new field sites would be created. Active forest management including silvicultural treatments, prescribed fire, chemical and/or mechanical midstory reduction would occur throughout the refuge’s habitats to achieve desired historic forest conditions, greater habitat diversity and forest structure to benefit RCW, forest interior birds and a wider range of native wildlife. Upland forests would be managed for historic conditions and when applicable management would emphasize providing the needed habitat for federally listed species. If needed to support federally listed species, active forest management would occur using a variety of techniques including timber harvest, prescribed fire, chemical and/or mechanical midstory reduction. To protect cultural resources, completing a comprehensive, refuge- E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 146 / Wednesday, July 30, 2014 / Notices wide survey of archeological sites would be the goal as well as individual cultural resource surveys as needed for specific projects or sites. Partnerships would be developed with other agencies, institutions, and cultural groups (e.g., Choctaw Nation, African American groups, etc.), to seek ideas and possible share staff positions. The refuge would improve management and interpretation of the refuge’s cultural resources. Conservation partnerships would be developed with neighboring landowners and worked through partnerships to have the greatest impact on maintaining or restoring the biological integrity of the local community. Fee title acquisition from willing sellers will focus on lands within the existing approved acquisition boundary that will most efficiently assist the refuge in meeting the purposes for which it was established and the mission of the Service. Under this alternative the two RNAs would no longer remain under this designation and would be managed as part of the larger surrounding units of similar type and managed for their historic conditions. A second Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer would be established in combination with possible collateral duty officer positions to assist in protecting natural and cultural resources along with public safety. The current level of visitor services programs would be expanded for the general public and attempts made to provide more access for users with disabilities and youth. The Service would develop a week-long, large game (turkey and deer) hunt program to provide increased opportunities for disabled hunters in exchange for a week reduction in the general gun deer and turkey seasons. Deer hunting opportunities overall would be increased. The Service would work with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to develop family hunting and fishing opportunities. Fishing opportunities would be expanded to include year-round designated bank fishing areas on Bluff and Loakfoma Lakes. Other wildlifedependent uses and their supporting facilities would be maintained and enhanced through upgrades or additional facilities. Alternative funding mechanisms, such as a general user fee under the Fee Program, and partnerships would be used to spread costs of programs across all users possibly eliminating the need for separate hunting related fees. The existing visitor services programs would be increased. This alternative would VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:48 Jul 29, 2014 Jkt 232001 establish a ‘‘Connecting People with Nature’’ area to consolidate activities and users requiring greater support to enjoy wildlife observation activities. Existing activities that are not considered wildlife dependent uses such as a picnicking area and off-road mountain biking, would not be allowed but more opportunities for bicycling, walking and connecting with nature would be offered through designed trails with increased accessibility for disabled Americans. All existing wildlife dependent uses and the supporting facilities would be maintained and, if resources are available, enhanced through possible increase and better maintenance in overlooks, boardwalks, and trails. An effort would be made to increase visitor safety and enjoyment through establishment of parking areas, improved management of vehicle flow, creation of paved walking and biking trails, and roadside bike lanes along Bluff Lake and Loakfoma Roads. Refuge regulatory and informational signs would receive priority. Partnerships to conduct environmental education and off-site activities and increase volunteer involvement in all its programs would be established. More effort would be placed toward developing cooperative programs sponsored through the Friends. The current staff of 13 employees would be reorganized under this goal of reaching an optimal staff level of 18 as recommended within the 2008 Final Report for the Staffing Model for Field Stations. This alternative would continue participation in the existing Fee Program. Changes within the program would include establishment of a general access pass for all users to assist in the maintenance and development of public use programs and facilities (e.g., Daily Pass, Weekly Pass or Annual Pass). Current federal duck stamps and other congressionally authorized entrance fee passes would be accepted as a refuge access pass. Next Step After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and address them. 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 PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 44191 cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Authority This notice is published under the authority of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et seq.). Dated: June 24, 2014. Jeffrey M. Fleming, Acting Regional Director. [FR Doc. 2014–17788 Filed 7–29–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–55–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Ocean Energy Management [OMB Number 1010—New] Information Collection: Social Indicators in Coastal Alaska: Arctic Communities Survey; Submitted for OMB Review; Comment Request MMAA104000 ACTION: 30-Day notice. To comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is notifying the public that we have submitted an information collection request (ICR) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval. The ICR pertains to a new survey to be conducted in northern coastal Alaska communities. This notice provides the public a second opportunity to comment on the paperwork burden of this collection. DATES: Submit written comments by August 29, 2014. ADDRESSES: Submit comments on this ICR to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior at OMB– OIRA at (202) 395–5806 (fax) or OIRA_ submission@omb.eop.gov (email). Please provide a copy of your comments to the BOEM Information Collection Clearance Officer, Arlene Bajusz, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 381 Elden Street, HM–3127, Herndon, Virginia 20170 (mail) or arlene.bajusz@boem.gov (email). Please reference ICR 1010–New in your comment and include your name and return address. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Arlene Bajusz, Office of Policy, Regulations, and Analysis at arlene.bajusz@boem.gov (email) or (703) 787–1025 (phone). You may review the ICR online at http://www.reginfo.gov. Follow the instructions to review Department of the Interior collections under review by OMB. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 146 (Wednesday, July 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44188-44191]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17788]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2014-N108; FXRS12650400000S3-123-FF04R02000]


Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi; 
Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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

SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee 
National Wildlife Refuge in Oktibbeha, Winston, and Noxubee Counties, 
Mississippi, for public review and comment. In this Draft CCP/EA, we 
describe the alternative we propose to use to manage this refuge for 
the 15 years following approval of the final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by September 29, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may obtain a copy of the Draft CCP/EA by contacting 
Steve Reagan, Refuge Manager, by U.S. mail at 13723 Bluff Lake Rd., 
Brooksville, MS 39739. Alternatively, you may download the document 
from our Internet Site at http://southeast.fws.gov/planning under 
``Draft Documents.'' Comments on the Draft CCP/EA may be submitted to 
the above postal address or by email to Laura Housh, Planner, 13723 
Bluff Lake Rd., Brooksville, MS 39739; or laura_housh@fws.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Reagan, (662) 323-5548 x225 or 
Steve_Reagan@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Sam D. Hamilton 
Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (SDHN NWR), started through a notice 
in the Federal Register on January 15, 2013 (78 FR 3024). For more 
about the refuge and our CCP process, please see that notice.
    SDHN NWR is located within three counties (Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and 
Winston) in east-central Mississippi, and is approximately 17 miles 
south-southwest of Starkville and approximately 120 miles north-
northeast of Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. The refuge is 
currently 48,219 acres. The primary establishing legislation for the 
Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge is Executive Order 8444, dated June 
14, 1940. Established as Noxubee NWR in 1940, the refuge was 
subsequently renamed Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR by Public Law 112-279 
on February 14, 2012.

Background

The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (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,

[[Page 44189]]

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, wildlife photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 
years in accordance with the Administration Act.
    Priority resource issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include Fish 
and Wildlife Populations, Habitat Management, Resource Protections, 
Visitor Services, and Refuge Administration.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternative

    We developed three alternatives for managing the refuge 
(Alternatives A, B, and C), with Alternative C as our proposed 
alternative. A full description of each alternative is in the Draft 
CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative below.

Alternative A: Current Management (No Action)

    Under this alternative, no major changes to our biological, public 
use and administrative management practices would occur from their 
current levels. The refuge would continue to actively manage for 
waterfowl habitat. Forested bottomland habitats would receive little to 
no active management. Habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers would 
continue as the refuge's highest priority. Habitats would not be 
managed for historic conditions but maintained to favor a pine 
dominated forest type. Law enforcement efforts would remain the same. 
Visitor services would continue at current levels.

Alternative B: Focus on Waterfowl and Federally Listed Species

    This alternative emphasizes active habitat management actions that 
would benefit the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) and 
waterfowl. Visitor service programs and facilities in support of the 
six priority public uses (i.e., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, 
wildlife photography, interpretation, and environmental education) 
would be much reduced below those levels for Alternatives A and C. Non-
wildlife dependent public uses would be phased out. Under this 
alternative, the refuge would favor management that restores historic 
forest conditions. The refuge would maintain and, where appropriate, 
restore the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health 
of the refuge.
    This alternative would provide approximately 1 million Duck Energy 
Days (DEDs) over a 110-day period yearly, through the possible 
combination of managed moist soil units, planted agricultural crops 
that can be flooded, aquatic vegetation and invertebrates within refuge 
lakes, and seasonally flooded greentree reservoirs (GTRs) which provide 
mast crops and invertebrates. Wood duck breeding opportunities would be 
enhanced. Silvicultural treatments within bottomland hardwood habitats 
would receive low priority, but may be used to promote recruitment of 
red oak species within the overstory of those flooded forested habitats 
used by waterfowl. Manipulation of water level would be the primary 
tool used to produce the desired shrub-scrub cover. The refuge would 
participate in wood duck banding programs. Bottomland forests would 
benefit forest-breeding birds. Active manipulation of habitats for the 
benefit of forest-breeding birds would be at a priority lower than that 
required for RCW and waterfowl. The number of red-cockaded woodpecker 
clusters would be based on continuous pine habitat as defined by 
historic conditions and the optimal partition size of 308 acres based 
on the 100-year rotation. A new refuge target goal would be 27 RCW 
clusters. All RCW partitions would be managed according to the RCW 
Recovery Plan. Forested habitats would be actively manipulated to 
produce a forest reflective of historic conditions. No additional, non-
historic pine habitats would be maintained or converted for support of 
the RCW to pine. Refuge staff and possibly contractors would continue 
to scientifically monitor RCWs through nest and fledge checks. 
Quantitative monitoring would be limited to RCWs, and other wildlife 
would be monitored through simple reconnaissance. Efforts would be made 
to prevent the establishment of exotic invasives and pest species. 
Water levels in all greentree reservoirs (GTRs) would be managed 
through water manipulation so that no more than two GTRs would be 
purposefully flooded for wintering waterfowl habitat yearly. All old 
fields and the Morgan Hill Prairie Demonstration Area would no longer 
be maintained. Other than in areas where forests are being restored to 
their historic condition, the refuge would actively manage forested 
habitats to maintain the desired wildlife habitat for federally listed 
species and waterfowl. Upland forests would be managed for historic 
conditions and, when applicable, management would emphasize needed 
habitat for federally listed species.
    Comprehensive, refuge-wide surveys would be opportunistically 
sought, but individual cultural resource surveys for only specific 
projects or sites would be the standard. Partnerships would be 
developed with other agencies, institutions, and ethnic groups (e.g., 
Choctaw Nation, African American groups, etc.), to accomplish tasks and 
seek ideas and means to improve management of cultural resources. 
Efforts would be made to acquire additional lands in the Approved 
Acquisition Boundary through fee-simple title and timber for land 
exchange. The two existing Research Natural Areas (RNAs) would continue 
to be recognized as if under the Society of American Foresters (SAF) 
designation, but research objectives and management strategies would 
remain undeveloped. Improvements to the existing law enforcement 
program would be based on recommendations provided by the Office of the 
Chief of Refuge Law Enforcement (LE), Southeast Region, following a 
program review.
    The existing hunting programs would be reduced through reductions 
in staff and facility support. The visitor center would be closed on 
weekends. The picnic area and nearby public restrooms would be closed. 
Fish habitat would not be enhanced for increased recreational uses. 
Wildlife observation and photography opportunities would be reduced 
through the reduced availability and maintenance of viewing facilities, 
such as boardwalks and nature trails. Special use events requiring 
substantial planning and resources to host would be discontinued. Some 
of the secondary gravel roads would be closed to vehicles. Signage and 
information available to the public would be reduced. Public use staff 
would be eliminated and replaced with biological or forestry 
technicians. No off-site interpretive programs would be offered. Refuge 
staff would not participate in Environmental Education; it would be 
solely dependent on the currently structured partnership with 
Starkville School District and volunteers.
    The staff would be held at 13 or fewer employees, with 
organizational changes made to increase field staff, including law 
enforcement officers and biological and forestry technicians. 
Facilities and equipment would all be placed on a priority list and 
maintained when funding allowed. Closing or removal of poorly 
maintained assets would occur. The collection of fees for permitted

[[Page 44190]]

quota deer and waterfowl hunts would be continued.

Alternative C: Focus on Wildlife, Habitat Diversity, and Experiencing 
Nature (Proposed Alternative)

    This alternative will manage refuge resources to optimize native 
wildlife populations and habitats under a balanced and integrated 
approach, not only for federally listed species (RCW) and migratory 
birds, but also for other native species such as white-tailed deer, 
wild turkey, Northern bobwhite, paddlefish, and forest-breeding birds. 
This alternative also provides opportunities for the six priority 
public uses (i.e., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife 
photography, interpretation and environmental education) and other 
wildlife-dependent activities found appropriate and compatible with the 
purpose for which the refuge was established.
    Under this alternative, the refuge would favor management that 
restores historic forest conditions while achieving refuge purposes. 
This alternative would provide approximately 1 million Duck Energy Days 
(DEDs) over a 110-day period yearly, through the possible combination 
of managed moist soil units, planted agricultural crops that can be 
flooded, aquatic vegetation and invertebrates within refuge lakes, and 
seasonally flooded greentree reservoirs which provide mast crops and 
invertebrates. Wood duck breeding opportunities would be enhanced using 
wood duck nest boxes, but greater emphasis would be placed on 
protecting trees with natural cavities throughout the bottomland 
forests. Trees found with existing cavities and those having unique 
wildlife values would be protected from timber harvest. Active 
manipulation of habitats and populations would occur as necessary to 
maintain biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health. 
Silvicultural treatments within bottomland hardwood habitats would 
receive low priority, but may be used to promote recruitment of red oak 
species within the overstory of those flooded forested habitats used by 
waterfowl. The refuge would attempt to increase brood survival of 
waterfowl by managing shallow water aquatic habitats to produce and 
sustain protective shrub-scrub cover with fringe area of the refuge's 
lakes. Manipulation of water level would be the primary tool used to 
produce the desired shrub-scrub cover. The refuge would participate in 
wood duck banding programs and try to obtain refuge quotas as assigned 
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national Migratory Bird program, 
and limit human access to key areas used by waterfowl to reduce 
disturbance during critical life cycle stages. Forest-breeding bird 
populations would be enhanced through improved nesting, brooding, and 
foraging opportunities by application of active habitat manipulation 
techniques within bottomland hardwood forested habitats and streamside 
management zones. Even and uneven aged silviculture, including 
selective thinning, patch cuts, group tree selections, clearcuts, 
timber stand improvements, chemical treatments, and other methods, 
could be used to ensure hardwood species diversity, red oak recruitment 
into the overstory, and forest structure for the benefit of a diversity 
of wildlife. The number of red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) clusters would 
be based on continuous pine habitat as defined by historic conditions 
and the optimal partition size of 308 acres based on the 100-year 
rotation. Mathematically this suggests that the maximum number of 
clusters feasible on the refuge is 38. However, due to natural habitat 
variation within the management units, habitat loss between the 
circular partitions, habitat loss due to inholding, and edge effects 
due to bordering lands or hardwood habitats, the optimal number and new 
refuge target goal would be 27 RCW clusters. All RCW partitions would 
be managed according to the RCW Recovery Plan. Habitat manipulations 
used to benefit RCWs could include silvicultural practices (e.g., 
active forest management, including but not limited to manual or 
mechanized pre-commercial thinning, commercial biomass thinning, 
mulching, firewood cutting, timber stand improvements, herbicide, 
irregular shelterwood, shelterwood, seedtree, patch cuts, 
afforestation, reforestation, and free thinning), prescribed fire, 
raking, mowing, creation of new artificial cavities, maintenance of 
suitable cavities, midstory reduction (chemical and/or mechanical 
control), integrated pest management, use of restrictor plates on 
cavities, snake exclusion devices, and kleptoparasite control. In order 
to sustain forest resources for future RCW habitat, harvesting of 
existing mature forests as part of regeneration efforts within present 
and future partitions would occur. No additional, non-historic pine 
habitats would be maintained or converted for support of the RCW to 
pine. Refuge staff and possibly contractors would continue to 
scientifically monitor RCWs through nest and fledge checks. Additional 
quantitative monitoring of a broad suite of wildlife and their habitats 
will be sought through Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), 
universities and volunteers and participate in the Refuge System's 
Inventory and Monitoring program for development of standardized survey 
methods, cataloging and analyzing refuge information. Efforts would be 
made to prevent the establishment of exotic invasive, and pest species. 
Deep-water habitats within Bluff Lake would be created through dirt 
excavation to ensure consistency in recreational fisheries resources 
(i.e., crappie, bass, and sunfish). Excavated soil from the creation of 
the deepwater habitat would be used to create islands within the lake 
to serve as bird rookery sites. Other existing water control structures 
on Bluff Lake and in areas upstream of the lake would also be modified 
or removed to allow fish passage. Paddlefish and Gulf Coast Walleye 
would benefit from the restoration. Additional ephemeral pools for 
amphibians would be artificially created throughout the refuge through 
excavation in areas where excess water impedes road maintenance or 
threatens sedimentation of streams. The Morgan Hill Prairie 
Demonstration Area would remain but be reduced by more than 50 percent 
in size and the remaining area would be restored into habitats similar 
to that indicated by historic conditions. Existing old fields that 
would not be a direct benefit to federally protected species or 
waterfowl would continue to be managed as old field sites for the 
benefit of native grassland species. Old fields that would be a direct 
benefit to federally protected species or waterfowl would be restored 
to historical species compositions through natural regeneration or the 
manual planting of trees. No new field sites would be created. Active 
forest management including silvicultural treatments, prescribed fire, 
chemical and/or mechanical midstory reduction would occur throughout 
the refuge's habitats to achieve desired historic forest conditions, 
greater habitat diversity and forest structure to benefit RCW, forest 
interior birds and a wider range of native wildlife. Upland forests 
would be managed for historic conditions and when applicable management 
would emphasize providing the needed habitat for federally listed 
species. If needed to support federally listed species, active forest 
management would occur using a variety of techniques including timber 
harvest, prescribed fire, chemical and/or mechanical midstory 
reduction.
    To protect cultural resources, completing a comprehensive, refuge-

[[Page 44191]]

wide survey of archeological sites would be the goal as well as 
individual cultural resource surveys as needed for specific projects or 
sites. Partnerships would be developed with other agencies, 
institutions, and cultural groups (e.g., Choctaw Nation, African 
American groups, etc.), to seek ideas and possible share staff 
positions. The refuge would improve management and interpretation of 
the refuge's cultural resources. Conservation partnerships would be 
developed with neighboring landowners and worked through partnerships 
to have the greatest impact on maintaining or restoring the biological 
integrity of the local community. Fee title acquisition from willing 
sellers will focus on lands within the existing approved acquisition 
boundary that will most efficiently assist the refuge in meeting the 
purposes for which it was established and the mission of the Service. 
Under this alternative the two RNAs would no longer remain under this 
designation and would be managed as part of the larger surrounding 
units of similar type and managed for their historic conditions. A 
second Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer would be established in 
combination with possible collateral duty officer positions to assist 
in protecting natural and cultural resources along with public safety.
    The current level of visitor services programs would be expanded 
for the general public and attempts made to provide more access for 
users with disabilities and youth. The Service would develop a week-
long, large game (turkey and deer) hunt program to provide increased 
opportunities for disabled hunters in exchange for a week reduction in 
the general gun deer and turkey seasons. Deer hunting opportunities 
overall would be increased. The Service would work with the Mississippi 
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to develop family hunting 
and fishing opportunities. Fishing opportunities would be expanded to 
include year-round designated bank fishing areas on Bluff and Loakfoma 
Lakes. Other wildlife-dependent uses and their supporting facilities 
would be maintained and enhanced through upgrades or additional 
facilities. Alternative funding mechanisms, such as a general user fee 
under the Fee Program, and partnerships would be used to spread costs 
of programs across all users possibly eliminating the need for separate 
hunting related fees. The existing visitor services programs would be 
increased. This alternative would establish a ``Connecting People with 
Nature'' area to consolidate activities and users requiring greater 
support to enjoy wildlife observation activities. Existing activities 
that are not considered wildlife dependent uses such as a picnicking 
area and off-road mountain biking, would not be allowed but more 
opportunities for bicycling, walking and connecting with nature would 
be offered through designed trails with increased accessibility for 
disabled Americans. All existing wildlife dependent uses and the 
supporting facilities would be maintained and, if resources are 
available, enhanced through possible increase and better maintenance in 
overlooks, boardwalks, and trails. An effort would be made to increase 
visitor safety and enjoyment through establishment of parking areas, 
improved management of vehicle flow, creation of paved walking and 
biking trails, and roadside bike lanes along Bluff Lake and Loakfoma 
Roads. Refuge regulatory and informational signs would receive 
priority. Partnerships to conduct environmental education and off-site 
activities and increase volunteer involvement in all its programs would 
be established. More effort would be placed toward developing 
cooperative programs sponsored through the Friends.
    The current staff of 13 employees would be reorganized under this 
goal of reaching an optimal staff level of 18 as recommended within the 
2008 Final Report for the Staffing Model for Field Stations. This 
alternative would continue participation in the existing Fee Program. 
Changes within the program would include establishment of a general 
access pass for all users to assist in the maintenance and development 
of public use programs and facilities (e.g., Daily Pass, Weekly Pass or 
Annual Pass). Current federal duck stamps and other congressionally 
authorized entrance fee passes would be accepted as a refuge access 
pass.

Next Step

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments and 
address them.

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.

Authority

    This notice is published under the authority of the National 
Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd et 
seq.).

    Dated: June 24, 2014.
Jeffrey M. Fleming,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 2014-17788 Filed 7-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P