National Wildlife Refuge System; Drain Tile Setbacks
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose new regulations pertaining to wetland easements to bring consistency, transparency, and clarity for both easement landowners and the Service in the administration of conservation easements, pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. The proposed regulations would codify the process by which the Service establishes drain tile setbacks in wetland easement contracts. Setback distances would be calculated based upon the best available science considering soil characteristics, tile diameter, the depth of the tile below the surface, and/or topography sufficient to the easement contract's standard of protection that ensures no drainage of adjacent protected wetland areas. The proposed regulations would apply only to setbacks provided by the Service beginning on the effective date of the final rule.