Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is located 28 miles east of Monida in Beaverhead County in southwestern Montana. This 47,756-acre Refuge sits at 6,670 feet above sea level and lies east of the Continental Divide near the uppermost reach of the Missouri drainage. The Refuge was established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Historically, management focused on protecting and enhancing the trumpeter swan population at the Refuge. In the 1930s, the Refuge was their last known breeding location. Today, swans can still breed in the valley, but the intensive management of swan populations (through feeding and raising young) has been altered in favor of allowing the swans to thrive under mostly natural conditions.
The Refuge has one of the most naturally diverse areas in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge boasts the largest wetland complex within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as well as expansive tracts of grassland and sagebrush-steppe habitats and a small amount of mid-elevation forested areas. These habitats support over 200 species of birds, including peregrine falcons, bald eagles, short-eared owls, sandhill cranes, sage grouse, and numerous species of waterfowl and waterbirds. Common mammalian species include Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mule and white-tailed deer, badger, coyote, and red fox. In addition, wolves and grizzly bears have been documented using the Refuge in recent years. There is also a remnant population of native adfluvial Arctic grayling that occurs on the Refuge.
A full-time staff of five employees and various summer temporaries manage and study the Refuge habitats and maintain visitor facilities. Domestic livestock grazing and prescribed fire are the primary management tools used to maintain and enhance upland habitats. Currently, four grazing cooperators are using Refuge lands. Water level manipulation occurs in some areas of the Refuge to improve wetland habitats.
Approximately 12,000 people visit the Refuge annually. Two Refuge roads and three county roads that pass through the Refuge account for the majority of visitor use. The Refuge is open to limited fishing with the majority of fishing occurring on Red Rock Creek. In addition, the Refuge is open to limited hunting of ducks, geese, coots, and moose. Elk, pronghorn, moose, mule deer and white-tailed deer are also hunted on certain areas of the Refuge according to State regulations and seasons. This draft CCP/EA identifies and evaluates four alternatives for managing the Refuge for the next 15 years.
Under Alternative A, funding staff levels and management activities at the Refuge would not change. Refuge habitats would continue to be managed utilizing water control structures, cattle grazing, prescribed fire, and various methods to control invasive species. There would be limited monitoring of habitat and wildlife response. The Refuge would continue to divert water from streams and impound water using all Service installed dikes, diversions, and structures. Wildlife dependent compatible priority uses, for example, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and interpretation, would continue to occur at current levels. Hunting for big game and waterfowl would continue to be permitted on the Refuge. There would continue to be minimal outreach and education programs due to the poor county access roads and remote location. There would be minimal resources to adequately update signs, informational kiosks, and brochures as well as improve hiking trails, access roads, and campgrounds. There would be five full-time staff assigned to the Refuge.
Alternative B, the Proposed Action, acknowledges the importance of naturally functioning ecological communities on the Refuge. However, changes to the landscape (
Alternative C acknowledges the importance of a naturally functioning ecosystem. Management action emphasis would be placed on allowing wetland and riparian habitats to
Alternative D further acknowledges the importance of a naturally functioning ecosystem. Management action emphasis would be placed on the restoration of all natural processes including the restoration of all wetland and riparian habitats. The Refuge would participate in State initiatives to reintroduce bison should they become designated as wildlife in Montana. Monitoring of habitat and wildlife response to management actions would be greatly expanded. Habitat and wildlife objectives would be clearly stated in step-down management plans. The Refuge will place emphasis on creating a wilderness setting in all areas away from the Refuge headquarters. Visitor services programs would be maintained or expanded while promoting a wilderness experience with little or no signage and interpretation. Moose hunting would be eliminated. Boundaries for big game hunting areas would be adjusted to reduce confusion, provide additional opportunities, and reduce illegal road hunting. Fishing would be expanded and following State regulations, visitors would be encouraged to keep nonnative fish species that have impacted native adfluvial Arctic grayling. Idlewild Road, the associate boat ramp, and the north entrance spur roads would be closed to public vehicle access to reduce maintenance costs. Both Refuge campgrounds would be closed.
All public comment information provided voluntarily by mail, by phone, or at meetings (
This document was received in the Office of the Federal Register on September 23, 2008.