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E-M:/ Isle Royale Record of Decision
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- Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 14:50:00 -0400 (EDT)
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[Federal Register: June 8, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 109)]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
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
After careful consideration of environmental impacts, costs,
comments from the public, agencies, and tribes, and engineering
evaluations, the National Park Service recommends
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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,
[FR Doc. 99-14440 Filed 6-7-99; 8:45 am]
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