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Public Comments Sought on Wilderness Designation

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   December 16th, 2011 · No Disqus Comments ·
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· Maui Business

US Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System. Photo courtesy of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

By Sonia Isotov

The US Fish and Wildlife Service  (FSW) is seeking public comments on a proposed federal “Wilderness” designation for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System and a process for Federal land-managing agencies to recommend wilderness areas to Congress.  Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act, is untrammeled, undeveloped, and natural, and offers outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation.

Kakahaia National Wildlife Refuge and Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge are part of the Maui National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Photo credit USFWS

FWS is required to assess Refuge lands for these criteria at least every 15 years. As part of that process, public comments are being sought for planning a wilderness review and legislative environmental impact statement (LEIS) for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

The Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex is composed of 22 National Wildlife Refuges, encompassing over 54 million acres of land and marine areas dedicated to the conservation of the unique wildlife in Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

Refuges that contain units that meet the minimum criteria for wilderness include:

  • Mariana Arc of Fire
  • Howland Island
  • Baker Island
  • Jarvis Island
  • Rose Atoll
  • Kingman Reef
  • Palmyra Atoll
  • Midway Atoll
  • Hawaiian Islands
  • O‘ahu Forest;
  • Hakalau Forest.

The wilderness review and LEIS process will allow the Complex to further analyze these areas for their practicability to be managed as wilderness, including an analysis of which specific portions, if any, of the Refuges should be recommended to Congress for wilderness designation.

The scoping period for this project is 45 days.  Scoping comments should be submitted no later than January 30, 2012 via:

  • Email: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov
  • Fax: Attn: Matthew Ching, (808) 792-9585
  • US Mail: Matthew Ching, Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 300 Ala Moana Blvd. Rm 5-231, Honolulu, HI 96813

The Service estimates that the Draft LEIS will be available in April 2012.  A Notice of Availability will be published in the Federal Register upon publication of the Draft LEIS.  Information about the wilderness study and LEIS planning are available at http://www.fws.gov/pacificislandsrefuges/wilderness.html.

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