Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
With this notice, we finalize the CCP process for Great Bay NWR. We started this process through a notice of intent in the
The Service established Great Bay NWR in 1992 to protect the natural diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants within its boundaries, protect federally listed species, preserve and enhance water quality and aquatic habitats, and fulfill the United State's international treaty obligations relating to fish and wildlife resources. The refuge is located in the town of Newington in southeastern New Hampshire, on the eastern shore of the tidally influenced Great Bay Estuary. Prior to its establishment, refuge lands were part of the former Pease Air Force Base. The 1,103-acre refuge is the largest parcel of protected land on Great Bay Estuary, and includes a rich diversity of habitat types including oak-hickory forests, grasslands, shrub thickets, freshwater and saltwater wetlands, open water, and rocky shoreline.
Great Bay NWR also includes the Karner blue butterfly conservation easement in Concord, New Hampshire. The 29-acre conservation easement is managed for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, and also supports other rare moths and butterflies. It primarily consists of a mix of open pitch pine/scrub oak, pine-hardwood, and other shrubland habitat.
We announce our decision and the availability of the FONSI for the final CCP for Great Bay NWR in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321
The CCP will guide us in managing and administering Great Bay NWR for the next 15 years. Alternative B, as described for the refuge in the draft CCP/EA, and with the modifications described below, is the foundation for the final CCP.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 668dd-68ee) (Refuge Administration Act), as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to develop a CCP for each NWR. The purpose for developing a CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for achieving refuge purposes and contributing to the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), 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.
Our draft CCP/EA (77 FR 7176) addressed several key issues, including:
• Managing a diversity of habitat types, including grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, and forest to benefit Federal and State species of concern.
• Protecting the water quality of the Great Bay Estuary.
• Providing more public access opportunities on Great Bay NWR.
• Balancing the protection of historic resources with wildlife and habitat conservation.
To address these issues and develop a plan based on the refuge's establishing purposes, vision, and goals, we evaluated three alternatives for Great Bay NWR in the draft CCP/EA. These alternatives have some actions in common, such as controlling invasive species, monitoring wildlife diseases, protecting the rocky shore, reducing impacts from climate change, protecting cultural resources, and distributing refuge revenue sharing payments to the town of Newington, New Hampshire. There are other actions that differ among the alternatives. The draft CCP/EA describes each alternative in detail and relates them to the issues and concerns that arose during the planning process. Below, we provide summaries for the three Great Bay alternatives evaluated in the draft CCP/EA.
This alternative is the “No Action” alternative required by NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321
This is the Service-preferred alternative. It combines the actions we believe would best achieve the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, and is consistent with the intent of NWRS policy on Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health (601 FW 3). This alternative would also best respond to the issues that arose during the planning process.
Alternative B would improve our management of refuge habitats to benefit species of conservation concern in the Great Bay area and coastal New Hampshire. In particular, we would emphasize habitat for priority species such as migratory waterfowl, wading birds, forest-dependent songbirds, New
This alternative would enhance our visitor services programs. We would improve our trails, create new interpretive materials, expand on the existing volunteer program, and offer visitors more opportunities to learn about the refuge's history, its resources, and its surrounding area. We would also evaluate an expansion of hunting opportunities to include wild turkey and a fall bow season for deer. These expanded programs would be possible through increased staffing and a new refuge headquarters/visitor contact facility.
On the Karner blue butterfly easement, we would enhance our partnership with NHFG to help manage habitat on the easement to support this species' recovery. We would also expand the easement's visitor services program by installing new interpretive signs and trails, offering guided walks, and updating our Web site.
Alternative C primarily relies on ecosystem processes, such as natural disturbances, to affect the diversity and integrity of refuge habitats. In particular, we would no longer maintain much of the grasslands and shrublands on the refuge, allowing them to naturally transition to forest. We would remove all three of the refuge's impoundments on Peverly Brook and restore these areas to native stream habitat. We would also expand our visitor services program by creating new trails and opening up more of the refuge to public use. Under this alternative, management of the Karner blue butterfly easement would be similar to alternative B.
We solicited comments on the draft CCP/EA for Great Bay NWR from February 10 to March 19, 2012 (77 FR 7176). During the comment period, we received 25 written responses. We evaluated all of the substantive comments we received, and include a summary of those comments and our responses to them, as appendix K in the final CCP.
After considering the comments we received on our draft CCP/EA, we have made several minor changes to alternative B, including adding or revising several management strategies. These changes are described in the FONSI (appendix L in the final CCP) and in our response to public comments (appendix K in the final CCP).
We have selected alternative B to implement for Great Bay NWR, with these minor changes, for several reasons. Alternative B comprises a mix of actions that, in our professional judgment, work best towards achieving the refuge's purposes, vision, and goals, NWRS policies, and the goals of other State and regional conservation plans. We also believe that alternative B most effectively addresses key issues raised during the planning process. The basis of our decision is detailed in the FONSI (appendix L in the final CCP).
You can view or obtain the final CCP, including the FONSI, as indicated under