The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today released the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan (DCCP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) for Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) and the Oxford Slough Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), both in southeastern Idaho. This plan describes a vision for the Refuge and presents three alternatives for management of the Refuge and WPA over the next 15 years.
The proposed action in the draft plan is to implement Alternative 3, the Service’s Preferred Alternative, which includes:
• Providing a range of healthy, productive wetland habitats for wildlife by managing water to simulate natural “drought,” “normal,” or “flood” scenarios;
• Gradually reducing haying on Bear Lake NWR and the Oxford Slough WPA from the current 3,533 acres to 1,492 acres over 15 years, and restoring native habitats on retired hay units; and
• Providing a variety of compatible wildlife-dependent public uses, including wildlife observation and photography; environmental education and interpretation; and fishing. Current hunting and fishing programs would continue: waterfowl, upland game hunting and fishing on Bear Lake NWR and waterfowl, upland game and big game hunting and trapping on the Oxford Slough WPA.
“The planning process is a way for the Service and interested parties to evaluate management goals and objectives that will ensure the best approach to wildlife and habitat conservation, while providing for compatible wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities,” said Tracy Casselman, Project Leader of the Southeast Idaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Bear Lake NWR and the Oxford Slough WPA.
The Service invites the public to review the document and participate in the planning process. Copies of the plan are available for review in the references section of the Bear Lake County Library in Montpelier, Idaho, and the Larsen-Sant Public Library in Preston, Idaho. The full document may be accessed online at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/ID/docsbearlake.htm. Compact discs can also be requested from the Refuge office at (208) 847-1757. Please direct questions or comments to Annette de Knijf, Bear Lake Refuge Manager.
The 18,169-acre Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, near the community of Montpelier, Idaho, consists of a 16,000-acre marsh, as well as wet meadows, uplands, croplands and five miles of riparian stream corridor. Approximately 100 species of migratory birds nest at Bear Lake NWR, including large concentrations of colonial-nesting waterbirds. The Refuge also manages the 1,015-acre Thomas Fork Unit, located 20 miles to the east of the Refuge on the Idaho/Wyoming border. The Unit provides breeding habitat for greater sandhill cranes and high quality stream habitat for Bonneville cutthroat trout. Oxford Slough WPA is the only waterfowl production area in the Service’s Pacific Northwest region. The 1,878-acre WPA abuts the small town of Oxford in the Cache Valley. Oxford Slough WPA provides valuable nesting habitat for waterfowl, white-faced ibis and Franklin’s gulls, and foraging habitat for many species of waterbirds.
The CCP was prepared together with an EA, which evaluates the potential environmental consequences of each alternative. All public uses have also been reviewed for compatibility with the refuge’s purposes.
“Public comment on the Draft CCP is welcome,” Bear River Refuge Manager Annette de Knijf said. “We invite review by tribal, state and local governments, agencies, organizations, and the public.”
If you or your organization is interested in meeting with refuge staff, please contact Annette de Knijf at 208-847-1757. More information about the planning process and the refuge is available at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning/main/docs/ID/docsbearlake.htm. Comments may be mailed to Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 9, Montpelier, ID 83254; faxed to the Refuge office at (208) 847-1757; or e-mailed to FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov (please put “Bear Lake NWR CCP” in the subject line). Please submit comments by October 27, 2012.