[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 109 (Tuesday, June 8, 1999)]
[Pages 30537-30540]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-14440]



National Park Service

Record of Decision, General Management Plan and Environmental 
Impact Statement, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw County, Michigan

SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969, as amended, and the regulations promulgated by the 
Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1505.2), the Department of the 
Interior, National Park Service, has prepared a Record of Decision on 
the Final General Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement 
for Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw County, Michigan.

DATES: The Regional Director, Midwest Region approved the Record of 
Decision, on May 11, 1999.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Superintendent, Isle Royale National 
Park, 800 E. Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI 49931-1895, telephone 906-



    The National Park Service has prepared the Final General Management 
Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/FEIS) for Isle Royale National 
Park, Michigan. The GMP/FEIS proposes management direction for the park 
for the next 15-20 years and documents the anticipated effects of the 
proposed action and other alternatives on the human environment, 
including natural and cultural resources. This Record of Decision is a 
concise statement of the decisions made, other alternatives considered, 
the basis for the decision, the environmentally preferable alternative, 
and the mitigating measures developed to avoid or minimize 
environmental harm.


    After careful consideration of environmental impacts, costs, 
comments from the public, agencies, and tribes, and engineering 
evaluations, the National Park Service recommends

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for implementation the proposed action evaluated in the final general 
management plan/environmental impact statement.

Summary of the Selected Action

    The goal of the selected alternative, which was identified as the 
proposed action in the Final Environmental Statement, is to meet the 
diverse expectations and needs of Isle Royale visitors while 
emphasizing the natural quiet that is fundamental to wilderness 
experiences. All park areas will be available to all visitors, so long 
as users participate in ways that are consistent with the access, 
facilities, and opportunities provided. Management zones will provide 
guidance for managing specific areas for desired visitor experience and 
resource conditions (see p. 30 of the GMP/FEIS).
    Campgrounds will be designed and access provided to separate 
motorized and non-motorized uses in a few areas; certain docks will be 
removed or relocated, for example, and some new campgrounds will be 
provided. A variety of uses will be available that will be fairly 
evenly distributed across the island. Use limits may become necessary 
in some management zones to prevent overcrowding and maintain quiet and 
solitude. Quiet/no-wake water zones will be established to reduce noise 
and wake impacts in numerous areas. Other regulations aimed at reducing 
sound associated with humans will also be implemented.
    Partnerships will be sought to maintain the docks and cultural 
resources at Barnum and Washington Islands. Potential adaptive public 
overnight use of these historic sites and former commercial fishing 
sites at Crystal Cove, Wright Island, and Fisherman's Home will be 
considered. When the Passage Island, Isle Royale, and Rock of Ages 
lighthouses are transferred to the NPS, partners will be sought to help 
stabilize, maintain, and interpret them and their surroundings.
    Existing motel units at Rock Harbor will be reconfigured and made 
more rustic. Existing Housekeeping cabins will be retained; a few new 
rustic cabins will be added. Utility systems and other concession 
infrastructure at Rock Harbor will be brought into compliance with 
State and Federal standards. The dining room, concession laundry, and 
public laundry at Rock Harbor will be discontinued; most other 
concession services will remain. Unless the concessioner is subsidized 
through a new congressional appropriation, prices of services might 
rise to the point that concessions services may be unviable.
    In addition to the actions described above, the following actions 
are part of the selected alternative and alternatives B, C, and E 
(described in the next section). Actions related to natural resources: 
complete baseline inventories of natural resources, expand monitoring, 
develop fisheries management and water resource management plans, and 
establish research and wolf management advisory boards. Actions related 
to cultural resources: complete inventory and documentation of 
resources, expand monitoring, research specific cultural history gaps, 
and cooperate with partners to set standards for and carry out 
shipwreck preservation. Except in alternative C, historic structures 
would generally be retained if they were eligible for the National 
Register and a potential use was identified. Actions related to 
interpretation, information, and education: develop a comprehensive 
interpretive plan, improve visitor information facilities, strengthen 
education outreach, and develop interpretive media supportive of park 
emphasis statements. Other actions: develop a wilderness and 
backcountry management plan and a commercial services plan, limit 
charter fishing permits, prohibit personal watercraft, and perform a 
study to develop and evaluate options for improving the mainland 

Other Alternatives Considered

    Alternative A--Alternative A (the status quo or no-action 
alternative) would continue current management at Isle Royale National 
Park. It provides a baseline for evaluating the changes and related 
environmental effects of the other alternatives. Park managers would 
continue to provide for visitor use and would respond to natural and 
cultural resource management concerns according to current policy and 
legal requirements and as funding allowed. There would be no change in 
management direction.
    Alternative B--Alternative B would separate uses by concentrating 
facilities and services at the ends of the island and by creating an 
increasingly primitive wilderness experience toward the middle of the 
island. Visitors would find a full range of facilities and services and 
a more structured experience at Rock Harbor and Windigo, the primary 
access points to the island, which would both require some increased 
development. A more primitive wilderness experience with quiet and 
solitude would be found toward the center of the island, where most 
facilities and amenities would be removed. Limits on the number of 
visitors there would probably be necessary.
    In addition to orientation and interpretation offered at the 
Houghton headquarters, a broad range of services would be available at 
both ends of the island. Rock Harbor and Windigo would offer a full 
range of orientation information and services. No formal interpretation 
would be offered in the middle of the island.
    Some cultural resources in developed and frontcountry zones could 
be preserved through adaptive use for lodging, interpretation, or 
operations. Cultural resources toward the middle of the island would be 
documented and allowed to deteriorate.
    Additional staff and housing might be needed at Windigo to operate 
expanded sewer and water treatment facilities. The Amygdaloid Island 
ranger station would remain, but the Malone Bay station in the middle 
of the island would be removed.
    Alternative C--Most of the island would be truly primitive. 
Emphasis would be placed on providing superlative wilderness 
experiences, solitude, and escape from the intrusions of the modern 
world. Facilities and development would be scaled back and evidence of 
management activities would be minimal. Party size would be limited to 
a maximum of six people for overnight use on the island.
    Visitation would be managed through a reservation system. Permits 
could be issued on a first-come, first-served basis, or a lottery 
system would be used. Various systems would be carefully evaluated 
before one was chosen.
    Emphasis would be placed on providing orientation and 
interpretation at the Houghton headquarters and other ferry staging 
areas. Additional information would be provided in written materials. 
No interpretive media or formal programs would be offered on the island 
because they could intrude on the wilderness character.
    Ferry service would be provided to Rock Harbor and Windigo only. 
Water taxi service would be eliminated.
    Consistent with the concept of this alternative, all cultural 
resources would be documented and allowed to decay. No stabilization or 
preservation of these resources would be attempted. The Coast Guard 
would continue to maintain navigational aids, and the National Park 
Service would continue to maintain access to these areas; however, when 
the lighthouses are turned over to the National Park Service, they 
would be documented and allowed to decay. Lighthouses could be 
maintained, however, by the Coast Guard or some other entity.

[[Page 30539]]

    Alternative E--Most facilities would remain and services would 
continue, but a few changes would be made to better separate uses and 
increase interpretation. To provide better quality experiences without 
restricting activities, visitor numbers would be controlled at 
substantially lower levels than exist now (10,000 to 13,000 people per 
year). This would mean that approximately 5,000 to 8,000 fewer visitors 
per year would be accommodated than in recent years.
    Visitation to the island would be managed through a reservation 
system. A limited number of permits could be issued per year on a 
first-come, first-served basis, or there could be a lottery system or 
some other method. Various reservation systems would be carefully 
evaluated before one was chosen.
    Interpreted sites would remain, and historic structures at Wright 
Island, Crystal Cove, and Fishermans Home could be adaptively used for 
additional interpretation of park cultural themes. Interpretation and 
environmental education could be provided at the west end of the park 
at Washington and Barnum Islands. The Rock Harbor and Windigo areas 
would remain the primary visitor orientation points.
    Historic structures and landscapes would be preserved in priority 
order according to significance. The historic commercial fishery sites 
at Wright Island, Crystal Cove, and Fishermans Home would be stabilized 
and adaptive uses would be sought to provide for their continued 
preservation and interpretation. When the National Park Service 
received title to the lighthouses owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, 
partners interested in preserving the structures would be considered.

Environmentally Preferable Alternative

    The environmentally preferable alternative is defined as ``the 
alternative or alternatives that will promote the national 
environmental policy as expressed in section 101 of the National 
Environmental Policy Act. Ordinarily, this means the alternative that 
causes least damage to the biological and physical environment; it also 
means the alternative that best protects, preserves, and enhances 
historic, cultural, and natural resources'' (``Forty Most Asked 
Questions Concerning Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) National 
Environmental Policy Act Regulations,'' 1981).
    The environmentally preferable alternative is the selected action. 
This alternative best meets the full range of national environmental 
policy goals as stated in NEPA's Section 101. The selected action (1) 
maximizes protection of natural and cultural resources while 
maintaining a wide range of neutral and beneficial uses of the 
environment without degradation; (2) maintains an environment that 
supports diversity and variety of individual choice; (3) achieves a 
balance between human population and resource use; and (4) improves 
resource sustainability.
    Alternative C, as described in the Final GMP/EIS, could potentially 
provide additional protection for natural resources beyond that 
included in the selected action, primarily through scaling back human 
activities and facilities. Alternative C does not protect historic and 
cultural resources, however, nor does it provide for a diversity of 
human choice.
    The selected alternative provides the appropriate balance and 
flexibility necessary to protect the cultural heritage and traditional 
recreational uses at Isle Royale, as well as natural and cultural 
resources. This approach is also vital to maintaining relationships 
between gateway communities and Isle Royale National Park, a critical 
element in the successful implementation of the proposed action and 
realization of its beneficial effects on the environment.

Measures To Minimize Harm

    All practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm that 
could result from implementation of the selected action have been 
identified and incorporated into the selected action. They are 
presented in detail in the GMP/FEIS. They include, but are not limited 
to, resource monitoring and management; visitor use monitoring and 
management; commitments for additional resource surveys and 
consultation prior to Park Service construction, and proposals for 
additional research and data collection as outlined in the plan. 
Additional mitigation measures are discussed on pp. 24 and 25, and in 
the Consultation and Coordination section (pp. 128-134) of the GMP/
    Due to the programmatic nature of the general management plan, 
specific development projects will be reviewed as necessary for 
compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, National 
Historic Preservation Act, and other applicable Federal and State laws 
and regulations prior to project clearance and implementation. Specific 
measures to minimize environmental harm will be included in 
implementation plans called for by the GMP/FEIS. These include 
fisheries management and water resource management plans, a study to 
develop and evaluate options for improving the mainland headquarters, a 
comprehensive interpretive plan, a wilderness and backcountry 
management plan, and a commercial services plan.

Basis For Decision

    The selected alternative best supports the park's purpose, 
significance, and wilderness status, and accomplishes the statutory 
mission of the National Park Service to provide long-term protection of 
park resources while allowing for appropriate levels of visitor use and 
means of visitor enjoyment. The selected alternative also does the best 
job of addressing issues identified during public scoping while 
minimizing environmental harm. Other factors considered in the decision 
were public and resource benefits gained for the cost incurred, and 
extensive public comment.

Public Involvement

    Public involvement for the General Management Plan began with a 
workshop for representatives of key stakeholders in February 1994. In 
July 1995 the planning team met on the island to discuss preliminary 
planning issues. Team members spoke about the planning effort at two 
public programs on the island. The planning team also met with park 
staff members (those not on the planning team) to solicit their input. 
Newsletter #1, published in November 1995, introduced the planning 
project and process to the public.
    In Newsletter #2 the public was asked to review draft purpose and 
significance statements and a list of preliminary planning issues. 
Nearly 300 responses were received and 50-60 people attended each 
public meeting in Duluth, Minnesota, and Houghton and Lansing, Michigan 
to provide additional comments.
    Newsletter #3, published in June 1996, summarized public input to 
date and presented revised purpose and significance statements, park 
emphasis statements, revised issue statements, potential management 
zones, and possible alternative concepts. There were again a large 
number of responses and the results were reported in November 1996 in 
Newsletter #4.
    Using the public input, the planning team developed the alternative 
concepts in more detail and presented them with maps in Newsletter #5 
in February 1997. Public meetings were held in Ann Arbor and Houghton, 
Michigan and Duluth, Minnesota, to present the management alternatives 
for public comment in March 1997. There was significant response to the 
newsletter and 75 to 150 people attended each meeting. Using

[[Page 30540]]

that input the planning team developed a preliminary preferred 
alternative, which was presented in Newsletter #6 in July 1997.
    The Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement 
was produced and distributed for public review in March 1998. Public 
meetings were held in April 1998 at St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota, and 
Houghton and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Approximately 75-150 people attended 
each of the meetings. Additionally, nearly 600 responses were received 
by mail or on the Internet. The preferred alternative was subsequently 
revised and the Final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact 
Statement was distributed in November 1998.
    Sixteen (16) letters commenting on the GMP/FEIS were received. 
There were few new ideas expressed in the letters; similar comments 
(with NPS responses) were incorporated into the GMP/FEIS. Concerns 
related to the following general topic areas were expressed: separation 
of uses (including concerns about non-motorized zones), concessions 
services at Rock Harbor (including concerns about affordability and 
accessibility of overnight accommodations), and dock removal and 
replacement. The National Park Service has heard these concerns, and 
responded to them in the ``Summary of Public Comments'' section of the 


    A notice of availability for the Final General Management Plan/
Environmental Impact Statement for Isle Royale National Park was 
published in the Federal Register on November 3, 1998, and the 30-day 
no-action period ended on December 3, 1998.
    The above factors and considerations justify the selection of the 
final plan, as described in the ``Proposed Action'' section of the 
Final Environmental Impact Statement. The final general management plan 
is hereby approved.

    Dated: May 21, 1999.
William W. Schenk,
Regional Director.
[FR Doc. 99-14440 Filed 6-7-99; 8:45 am]