[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 179 (Thursday, September 17, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 47815-47820]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-22379]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R4-R-2009-N104; 40136-1265-0000-S3]


Buck Island, Green Cay, and Sandy Point National Wildlife 
Refuges, U.S. VI

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability: draft comprehensive conservation plan 
and environmental assessment; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of a draft comprehensive conservation plan and 
environmental assessment (Draft CCP/EA) for Buck Island, Green Cay, and 
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuges for public review and comment. In 
this Draft CCP/EA, we describe the alternative we propose to use to 
manage these three refuges for the 15 years following approval of the 
final CCP.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by October 19, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send comments, questions, and requests for information to: 
Mr. Michael Evans, Refuge Manager, Sandy Point National Wildlife 
Refuge, 3013 Estate Golden Rock, Christiansted, VI 00820; telephone: 
340/773-4554. The Draft CCP/EA is also available at the Service's 
Internet Site: http://southeast.fws.gov/planning/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Michael Evans; telephone: 340/773-
4554; e-mail: michael_evans@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Introduction

    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for Buck Island, 
Green Cay, and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuges. We started the 
process through a notice in the Federal Register on March 12, 2007 (72 
FR 11046).

Background

    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 strategy 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, 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.

[[Page 47816]]

    All three refuges are located in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Buck 
Island NWR is situated several miles south of the island of St. Thomas 
and the city of Charlotte Amalie. Green Cay NWR is a small island 
located several hundred yards north of the island of St. Croix and east 
of the city of Christiansted. Sandy Point NWR is situated on the 
southwestern tip of the island of St. Croix. These three refuges are 
part of the larger Caribbean Islands NWR Complex.
    Buck Island NWR was established in 1969. The refuge consists of the 
entire 45-acre island. The refuge extends to sea level and does not 
include submerged or marine habitat. In 1969, we obtained approximately 
35 acres of the island from the U.S. Navy. In 1981, we obtained an 
additional 9 acres from the U.S. Coast Guard. In 2004, the final 
parcel, 0.92-acre, which included the historic iron lighthouse, was 
obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard. The purpose for establishment of 
the refuge was its particular value in carrying out the national 
migratory bird management program.
    The off-shore islands around St. Thomas support a number of 
critical seabird and migratory bird roosting, breeding, and nesting 
sites. Some of these off-shore islands have been impacted by varying 
degrees of development and habitat alteration, making remaining islands 
even more critical for use by migratory birds. Although Buck Island 
NWR's natural plant and wildlife communities have been severely 
impacted by human activity, the island has major potential for habitat 
restoration, enhancement and support of migratory bird populations, and 
maintenance of existing wildlife populations, both endemic and 
migratory. The refuge is home to two rare reptiles endemic to the 
``Puerto Rican Bank,'' the geological area containing Puerto Rico, 
Culebra, St. Thomas, and the British Virgin Islands--the Antillean 
skink and Puerto Rican racer. The island also provides nesting habitat 
for the magnificent frigatebird, the red-billed tropicbird, and the 
laughing gull.
    Green Cay NWR, in St. Croix, was established in 1977 to protect the 
federally endangered St. Croix ground lizard. The refuge consists of 
the entire 14-acre island of Green Cay. The establishing purpose was to 
conserve fish or wildlife listed as threatened or endangered species. 
The refuge extends only to sea level and does not include any of the 
submerged marine habitat, including coral reefs. Outcrops of lava, 
tuffs, and breccias are prominent terrestrial geological features. 
Archaeological conch shell middens (e.g., discarded conch shells) once 
occurred on the shoreline. Estimated to contain as many as 33,000 
shells, these middens demonstrated 1,000 years of human use or 
occupancy, dating back to as early as 1020 A.D.
    Green Cay NWR provides critical habitat for the largest remaining 
natural population of the St. Croix ground lizard. Its extirpation from 
the main island of St. Croix, just several hundred yards away, is 
generally attributed to the modification and loss of shoreline habitat, 
resulting from human activities and the introduction of predators, such 
as rats, cats, and dogs. The introduction of the exotic Indian mongoose 
likely completed the elimination of the species from St. Croix. As a 
result, this species is one of the rarest reptiles in the world and is 
unique to St. Croix island ecosystems.
    Sandy Point NWR, in St. Croix, includes 383 acres, with no 
inholdings. The refuge's establishing purpose was to conserve fish or 
wildlife (including plants) listed as threatened or endangered species. 
The refuge was established in 1984 when 340 acres were purchased from 
the West Indies Investment Company. The land was purchased specifically 
to protect the nesting habitat of endangered leatherback sea turtles. 
An additional 43 acres have been acquired since that time to protect 
the Aklis archaeological site and a stand of the endangered Vahl's 
boxwood tree.
    Sandy Point NWR provides critical nesting habitat for three species 
of federally threatened and endangered sea turtles. The leatherback and 
hawksbill sea turtles are federally listed as endangered species, and 
the green sea turtle is federally listed as a threatened species. These 
same sea turtle species are also protected under Territory of the U.S. 
Virgin Islands regulations.
    The leatherback is the largest sea turtle species in the world, and 
the largest nesting population within U.S. jurisdiction occurs on Sandy 
Point NWR. The leatherback sea turtle recovery program began on Sandy 
Point NWR, with tagging efforts in 1977, and has since developed into 
one of the most unique, long-term sea turtle research and recovery 
efforts in the world. The program is a cooperative effort between 
partnering agencies, researchers, non-governmental organizations, and 
volunteers. This work has resulted in a leatherback sea turtle 
population that has grown consistently over the last 27 years, and a 
scientific database that has documented this population growth. This 
unique database is critical for leatherback sea turtle population 
recovery world-wide.
    Significant issues addressed in the Draft CCP/EA include: (1) 
Protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species; (2) 
habitat management and restoration; (3) appropriate and compatible 
levels of public use; (4) protection of cultural and historic 
resources, including archaeological sites (Sandy Point and Green Cay 
NWRs); (5) historic structures (Buck Island NWR); (6) invasive species 
management; and (7) funding and staffing.

CCP Alternatives, Including Our Proposed Alternatives

    We developed four alternatives for managing Sandy Point NWR, and 
two alternatives each for managing Green Cay and Buck Island NWRs. For 
Sandy Point NWR, we chose Alternative D as the proposed alternative. 
For both Green Cay and Buck Island NWRs, we chose Alternative B as the 
proposed alternative. A full description of each alternative is found 
in the Draft CCP/EA. We summarize each alternative below.

Sandy Point NWR

Alternative A--Current Management (No Action Alternative)

    Under Alternative A, Sandy Point NWR would continue to be managed 
as it is today. Wildlife management, habitat management, public use, 
and visitor services would remain unchanged. The overall management 
emphasis of the refuge would continue to be the recovery of populations 
of threatened and endangered animals.
    With regard to recovery efforts on behalf of the endangered 
leatherback sea turtle, we would maintain the seasonal beach closure 
now in effect, as well as saturation tagging and nest management. 
Nighttime beach closures to protect adult leatherback turtles and nests 
and monitoring of nesting turtles would also continue. We would 
maintain current nest management efforts and the flexible seasonal 
closure on the entire beach during prime turtle nesting season to 
optimize hatchling production on the beach.
    Existing hawksbill and green sea turtle recovery programs would be 
continued. We would maintain both tagging of hawksbill and green sea 
turtles during the leatherback sea turtle nesting season, as well as 
regular daytime track surveys of both species. Brown pelican recovery 
efforts would continue by protecting roosting sites and minimizing 
potential for disturbance by visitors. We would

[[Page 47817]]

continue to monitor, manage, protect, and enhance least tern nesting 
sites on the refuge.
    We would continue to conserve, enhance, and restore habitats for 
various landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds. However, due to staffing 
limitations and the need for management priorities, there would not be 
active management for, or surveys of, reptiles, amphibians, bats, or 
invertebrates. In order to control invasive animal species, we would 
continue with selective trapping of non-native mammals, such as dogs, 
cats, mongoose, and rats, as needed to protect indigenous fauna.
    We would continue to manage habitats. Existing dry forest habitats 
would continue to be protected. We would continue to protect the small 
population of Vahl's boxwood (Buxus vahlii) on the refuge. However, 
there would be no active management of other endangered plants and no 
active monitoring of sea level rise and its effects on beach and lagoon 
habitats. Invasive plants would continue to be controlled periodically.
    We would continue to manage cultural resources, particularly the 
significant Aklis archaeological site, consistent with section 106 of 
the National Historic Preservation Act. No excavation associated with 
construction would be permitted at or near the site; however, no 
additional efforts would be undertaken to prevent further natural beach 
erosion from affecting the site.
    Public uses and visitor services on the refuge would not change. 
Shoreline fishing would be permitted on the refuge during its open 
hours. Existing opportunities would continue for controlled observation 
of nesting leatherback turtles and hatchlings, as well as limited 
opportunities for bird watching. Environmental education and 
interpretation would be maintained, including the turtle watch 
education program.
    We would complete and open the new refuge headquarters to the 
public as a visitor contact station. Beach access would continue from 
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, outside of the seasonal closure for 
leatherback sea turtle nesting. We would continue the existing 
education and outreach programs, such as the sea turtle watch program, 
Youth Conservation Corps program, periodic news releases, news media 
interviews, Web site content, school visits, and informal face-to-face 
contact with refuge visitors.
    We would maintain the current permanent staff of two (refuge 
manager and refuge biologist) and a fluctuating number of temporary 
employees. Existing facilities and equipment would be maintained and 
replaced when necessary, but there would be no expanded facilities, 
infrastructure, and equipment.

Alternative B--Expanded Visitor Opportunities

    Alternative B would emphasize expanded visitor opportunities and 
public use. The refuge would eliminate its seasonal beach closure (and 
allow the public to frequent the beach year-round on weekends during 
daylight hours), but continue saturation tagging of leatherback 
turtles, though with reduced nest management. We would continue 
nighttime beach closures to protect turtles and nests from poaching and 
predation, and we would also continue to monitor nesting turtles.
    The refuge would continue with nighttime closures to protect sea 
turtles and nests and to monitor nesting turtles. To protect hawksbill 
and green sea turtles, we would continue tagging during the leatherback 
sea turtle nesting and monitoring season and we would also continue 
regular daytime track surveys.
    Some visitor access to the vicinity of brown pelican roosting sites 
would be permitted, such as watercraft in the Salt Pond. Similarly, 
some visitor access to the vicinity of least tern nesting sites would 
also be permitted, but the refuge biologist would continue to monitor 
and manage tern nests.
    Under Alternative B, as under Alternative A, we would continue to 
conserve, enhance, and restore habitats for landbirds, shorebirds, and 
waterbirds. Unlike Alternative A, some visitor access to the vicinity 
of feeding and nesting habitats would be permitted.
    There would be no active management for, or surveys of, reptiles, 
amphibians, bats, or invertebrates on the refuge under Alternative B, 
just as under Alternative A. We would, however, continue with selective 
trapping of non-native mammals as needed to protect indigenous fauna.
    With regard to habitat management, Alternative B is almost 
identical to Alternative A. The refuge would implement custodial 
management of its dry forest habitat, that is, there would be no effort 
to restore native forest biodiversity. Concerning wetlands, watercraft 
would be allowed in a portion of the Salt Pond. We would continue to 
protect Vahl's boxwood specimens, but there would be no active 
management of other endangered plants and no active monitoring of sea 
level rise associated with climate change and global warming. 
Nonetheless, we would continue to periodically control invasive 
vegetation.
    We would continue to manage cultural resources, particularly the 
Aklis archaeological site, consistent with section 106 of the National 
Historic Preservation Act. The refuge manager and at least one other 
staff person would continue to provide law enforcement as a collateral 
duty.
    We would adopt and begin to implement a Visitor Services Plan. This 
plan would provide more specific direction on increasing visitor 
services and facilities to accommodate expanded public use. Shoreline 
fishing opportunities would be expanded. Likewise, there would be 
expanded opportunities for wildlife observation and photography by 
constructing one or more trails, observation deck(s), and camera 
blind(s). Environmental education and interpretation opportunities 
would also increase.
    Within the 15-year life of the CCP, we would expand the 
headquarters and visitor contact station or a nearby site into a full-
fledged visitor center, including exhibits and a theatre. Concerning 
beach access, we would allow pedestrian access to the beach from 10 
a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends during the entire year; the beach would 
continue to be closed weekdays because of our inability to patrol it 
during that time.
    Adding a park ranger position would allow us to increase education 
and outreach efforts. We would collaborate with the Virgin Islands 
Network of Environmental Educators in these efforts. We would also 
expand the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) program to include more 
participants. In addition, we would expand our partnerships and 
encourage development of a Friends of Sandy Point NWR organization--a 
volunteer organization that could assist the refuge in a number of 
ways.
    Under Alternative B, we would add a park ranger to address expanded 
outreach and environmental education and interpretation programs.

Alternative C--Exclusive Biological Program Emphasis

    Under Alternative C, we would exclusively emphasize the biological 
program. Visitor services would be downplayed and public use reduced in 
order to focus on the refuge's primary purpose of restoring local 
populations of threatened and endangered species. The most salient 
feature of this alternative is a year-round refuge closure. Except for 
the headquarters and visitor contact station near the refuge entrance, 
the refuge would be closed to the public all

[[Page 47818]]

year, as is the case at Green Cay NWR, in order to protect highly 
sensitive species of fauna.
    With regard to recovery efforts on behalf of the endangered 
leatherback sea turtle, this alternative would be identical to current 
management direction (Alternative A). We would maintain and extend the 
beach closure now in effect, as well as saturation tagging nest 
management. Nighttime beach closures to protect adult leatherback sea 
turtles and nests and monitoring of nesting turtles would also 
continue. We would maintain current nest management efforts, as well as 
the beach closure to optimize leatherback hatchling production.
    To encourage recovery of the hawksbill and green sea turtles, we 
would begin saturation tagging and nest management, in addition to the 
year-round closure.
    Efforts on behalf of brown pelican recovery would be the same as 
under Alternative A. In addition, we would implement a year-round 
refuge closure to increase least tern nesting by greatly reducing the 
potential for disturbance. The year-round refuge closure would also 
reduce the potential for disturbance of landbirds, shorebirds, and 
waterbirds. In addition, we would upgrade the quality and increase 
native biodiversity of upland forests and wetlands to benefit 
landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds.
    We would begin to conduct status surveys for reptile and amphibian 
species of special concern, including bats and invertebrates. Bats 
would further benefit from habitat enhancement and installation of 
artificial nest structures. We would implement refuge-wide control of 
non-native animals to protect indigenous fauna.
    Alternative C would accelerate efforts to restore the structure, 
function, and diversity of dry forest habitat. We would begin to 
actively monitor status and trends on Salt Pond as they affect 
mangroves, wetlands, and wildlife habitat. We would not only protect 
existing stands and specimens of Vahl's boxwood, but would also conduct 
recovery activities, such as nursery germination and planting. With 
respect to other endangered plants, we would investigate the potential 
for establishing a Catesbaea melanocarpa population on the refuge.
    We would actively cooperate with the U.S. Geological Survey and 
other agencies to develop and implement protocols for monitoring sea 
level rise and its impacts on habitats. Also, we would develop and 
begin to implement a step-down management plan on invasive plant 
control.
    Alternative C would continue to protect cultural resources, 
particularly the Aklis archaeological site, consistent with section 106 
of the National Historic Preservation Act.
    Visitor services would be sharply reduced. Except for the 
headquarters and visitor contact station, the refuge would be closed to 
all public uses, including the priority public uses of the Refuge 
System (e.g., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife 
photography, and environmental education and interpretation). 
Environmental education and interpretation, while eliminated on the 
refuge proper, would continue off-refuge (e.g., schools and other 
facilities) or in the visitor contact station.
    No visitor center would be necessary under Alternative C, and we 
would implement and enforce a year-round beach closure. However, we 
would increase education and outreach efforts, and in part reorient 
them to explain the value of a complete refuge closure. We would also 
collaborate with the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators. 
The YCC program would be continued, but operations would be restricted 
to biological programs related to habitat enhancement and wildlife 
population recovery.
    Under Alternative C, developing partnerships and volunteers would 
be the same as under Alternative B. We would expand existing 
partnerships and encourage development of a Friends of Sandy Point NWR 
organization. Staffing would be the same as under Alternative A. We 
would maintain a permanent, full-time staff of two and fluctuating 
temporary staff. In terms of facilities and equipment, Alternative C 
would add a maintenance facility.

Alternative D--Enhanced Biological and Visitor Service Programs 
(Proposed Alternative)

    Alternative D would endeavor to enhance both the biological and 
visitor service programs at Sandy Point NWR. This alternative is our 
proposed alternative.
    Recovery efforts for the endangered leatherback sea turtle would be 
the same as under Alternative A. We would maintain the seasonal beach 
closure now in effect, as well as saturation tagging and nest 
management. Nighttime beach closures to protect adult leatherback sea 
turtles and nests and monitoring of nesting sea turtles would also 
continue. We would maintain current nest management efforts and the 
flexible seasonal closure on the entire beach, during the prime sea 
turtle nesting season, to optimize leatherback hatchling production on 
the beach.
    Alternative D would pursue both hawksbill and green sea turtle 
recovery by implementing saturation tagging and nest management. Unlike 
Alternative C, Alternative D would not entail year-round beach closure, 
but would maintain the current schedule.
    We would continue to protect pelican roosting sites by minimizing 
the potential for disturbance by visitors. Alternative D would manage 
least terns by continuing to monitor, manage, protect, and enhance 
least tern nesting sites on the refuge; the aim would be to increase 
the number of least terns nesting here through various steps.
    Alternative D would benefit landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds 
by upgrading the quality and increasing the native biodiversity of 
upland forests and wetlands to benefit landbirds. Alternative D would 
not implement a year-round refuge closure to reduce potential for 
disturbance of these species.
    We would begin to conduct status surveys for reptile and amphibian 
species of special concern. The presence or absence of bats would also 
be surveyed, and we would undertake habitat enhancement and 
installation of artificial nest structures for bats. We would begin to 
conduct status surveys for invertebrates. Refuge-wide control of non-
native animals to protect indigenous fauna would be carried out as 
needed.
    We would accelerate efforts to restore the structure, function, and 
diversity of dry forest habitat. We would begin to actively monitor 
status and trends on the Salt Pond as they affect mangroves, wetlands, 
and wildlife habitat. We would not only protect existing stands and 
specimens of Vahl's boxwood, but would also conduct recovery 
activities, such as nursery germination and planting. With respect to 
other endangered plants, we would investigate the potential for 
establishing a Catesbaea melanocarpa population on the refuge.
    We would actively cooperate with the U.S. Geological Survey and 
other agencies to develop and implement protocols for monitoring sea 
level rise and its impacts on habitats. Also, we would develop and 
begin to implement a step-down management plan on invasive plant 
control.
    We would continue to manage cultural resources, particularly the 
Aklis archaeological site, consistent with section 106 of the National 
Historic Preservation Act. In addition, under this alternative and 
within 15 years of CCP

[[Page 47819]]

approval, we would develop and begin to implement a Cultural Resources 
Management Plan.
    The refuge manager and at least one other staff person would 
continue to provide law enforcement as a collateral duty in Alternative 
D. Public use and visitor services would expand somewhat, though not as 
much as under Alternative B, with its visitor emphasis. A Visitor 
Services Plan would be prepared. Shoreline fishing opportunities would 
expand. Two other priority public uses of the National Wildlife Refuge 
System (e.g., wildlife observation and wildlife photography) would also 
expand. The refuge would develop an accessible trail and observation 
deck, with expansive views of the Salt Pond.
    Both environmental education and interpretation would increase. We 
would aim to develop environmental education and interpretation 
opportunities around the new refuge headquarters and visitor center, 
which would be constructed in the vicinity. We would also establish an 
interpretive trail near the visitor contact station and visitor center 
and would expand the information and educational opportunities 
available at both facilities.
    Alternative D would continue to allow access to the beach from 10 
a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, outside of seasonal closure for leatherback 
sea turtle nesting. If staffing permits, this alternative would also 
provide pedestrian access to the beach during the week from 9 a.m. to 5 
p.m., outside of the seasonal closure for turtle nesting.
    We would continue the existing education and outreach program, such 
as the turtle watch program, YCC program, periodic news releases, news 
media interviews, Web site content, school visits, informal face-to-
face contact with refuge visitors, and continuing development of the 
visitor contact station. Education and outreach efforts would increase. 
We would collaborate with the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental 
Educators to augment and extend our efforts related to the resources of 
the refuge and the issues it faces.
    The YCC program would be maintained for two months during the 
summer. We would aim to expand the YCC program to include more 
participants than the 4 to 5 at present. Existing partnerships would 
continue, and we would attempt to expand on existing partnerships and 
encourage development of a Friends of Sandy Point NWR organization.
    Alternative D would maintain the permanent, full-time staff of two 
and fluctuating temporary staff and add a total of four permanent, 
full-time positions to include an assistant refuge manager, a park 
ranger, a maintenance worker, and an administrative assistant. We would 
maintain the new headquarters, greenhouse, road, storage facilities, 
three vehicles, farm tractor, one zodiac, and one Navy johnboat. Within 
15 years of CCP approval, Sandy Point NWR would add a visitor center 
distinct from, but close to, the refuge headquarters and maintenance 
facility.

Green Cay NWR

Alternative A--Continue Current Management (No Action Alternative)

    Under Alternative A, current management direction would be 
maintained at Green Cay NWR. To promote recovery of the endangered St. 
Croix ground lizard, we would continue existing programs of 
reforestation and rat and invasive plant control and population 
monitoring. We would also maintain closure of the island to public 
access to avoid the accidental direct mortality and habitat degradation 
this might cause.
    With regard to brown pelicans and white-crowned pigeons, we would 
continue to monitor, protect, and minimize disturbance to rookery and 
nesting sites.
    Habitat recovery efforts would proceed as at present. As resources 
permit, we would continue to reforest the island, using native tree 
species. An important part of habitat recovery would involve control of 
invasive species of plants and animals that damage habitat.
    Under Alternative A, we would continue to manage Green Cay NWR's 
cultural resources consistent with section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act.
    To conduct outreach and education, we would continue to maintain 
the refuge Web site, distribute information, maintain limited signage 
on the island identifying it as a national wildlife refuge closed to 
the public, and conduct periodic presentations off-refuge.

Alternative B--Proposed Alternative

    In general, Alternative B would maintain all programs of 
Alternative A and build on or expand them. This is the Service's 
proposed alternative for managing Green Cay NWR.
    To promote recovery of the endangered St. Croix ground lizard, as 
under Alternative A, Alternative B would continue existing programs of 
reforestation and rat and invasive plant control and population 
monitoring. We would also maintain closure of the island to public 
access to avoid the accidental direct mortality and habitat degradation 
this might cause. In addition, Alternative B would develop a habitat 
restoration plan within 3 years of CCP approval, with the aim of 
improving habitat for the ground lizard.
    With regard to brown pelicans and white-crowned pigeons, we would 
continue to monitor, protect, and minimize disturbance to rookery and 
nesting sites. On behalf of both of these bird species, we would 
accelerate reforestation efforts to increase optimal nest sites.
    Habitat recovery efforts would proceed, but at an accelerated rate 
from the present one. We would also aim to increase the rate of 
reforestation so as to complete 100 percent of the area intended for 
reforestation by the end of the 15-year planning period. An important 
part of accelerating habitat recovery would be to increase the control 
of invasive plants and animals. We would also evaluate the 
effectiveness of different methods of control to ensure that what we 
are doing works and to make modifications in the approach as indicated.
    Under Alternative B, we would continue to manage Green Cay NWR's 
cultural resources consistent with section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act. Also, we would develop and begin to implement a 
Cultural Resources Management Plan.
    To conduct outreach and education, we would continue to maintain 
the refuge Web site, distribute information, maintain signage on the 
island identifying it as a national wildlife refuge closed to the 
public, and conduct periodic presentations off-refuge. Under 
Alternative B, these efforts would be augmented by installing larger 
signs that could be seen and read from a greater distance, expanding 
outreach efforts to nearby hotels, and considering alternatives to 
visitation within the refuge itself, such as offering or promoting boat 
and kayak tours around the island.

Buck Island NWR

Alternative A--Continue Current Management (No Action Alternative)

    Under Alternative A, current management direction would be 
maintained at Buck Island NWR. Staff for the refuge would continue to 
be based out of Sandy Point NWR on St. Croix.
    There would continue to be no active management of the Antillean 
skink, Puerto Rican racer, or other herptiles. Nor would there be 
active management of the magnificent frigatebird and the red-billed 
tropicbird.

[[Page 47820]]

    We would continue to monitor for rat reinvasions, after having 
eliminated rats from the island several years ago in an active trapping 
program. Other than controlling invasive species such as rats, we would 
not conduct any active habitat restoration on the island. There would 
be no active control program for invasive plant species.
    We would continue to manage cultural resources, particularly the 
historic lighthouse, consistent with section 106 of the National 
Historic Preservation Act.
    We would continue to maintain the refuge Web site, distribute 
information, maintain limited signage on the island, and make periodic 
presentations off-refuge, primarily on St. Thomas.
    Partnerships and volunteers would remain important to the refuge. 
We would continue to cooperate with the Virgin Islands Department of 
Planning and Natural Resources on joint wildlife and habitat management 
efforts for Buck Island and adjacent Capella Island.

Alternative B--Proposed Alternative

    In general, Alternative B would maintain all programs of 
Alternative A and build or expand upon them. This is our proposed 
alternative for managing Buck Island NWR.
    Under Alternative B, we would strive to provide more active 
management of the island's indigenous wildlife, particularly species of 
concern. Within 5 years of CCP approval, we would draft and begin to 
implement an inventorying and monitoring plan for the Antillean skink, 
Puerto Rican racer, magnificent frigatebird, and red-billed tropicbird.
    We would continue to monitor for rat reinvasions. To pursue and 
promote habitat recovery on Buck Island, we would develop and begin to 
implement a habitat restoration plan within 5 years of CCP approval. We 
would aim to increase control of invasive plants and animals and 
evaluate the effectiveness of different methods of control.
    Under this alternative, we would continue to manage cultural 
resources, particularly the historic lighthouse, consistent with 
section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. However, within 
5 years of CCP approval, we would also evaluate the condition and 
safety of the historic lighthouse and decide on the feasibility of 
preservation or restoration. In addition, we would develop and begin to 
implement a Cultural Resources Management Plan.
    With regard to conducting outreach and education, we would continue 
to maintain the refuge Web site, distribute information, maintain 
limited signage on the island, and make periodic presentations off-
refuge.
    Partnerships and volunteers would remain important to the refuge. 
We would continue to cooperate with the Virgin Islands Department of 
Planning and Natural Resources on joint wildlife and habitat management 
efforts for Buck Island and adjacent Capella Island. Also, Alternative 
B would expand cooperative education and interpretive efforts with the 
city of Charlotte Amalie and ecotourism companies, which bring visitors 
to offshore waters to explore coral reefs. We would also explore 
development of a Friends Group to provide a more active management 
presence on the island.

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, e-mail 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, Public Law 105-57.

    June 22, 2009.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director.
[FR Doc. E9-22379 Filed 9-16-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-55-P