Elizabeth Slown, 505-248-6909
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the acquisition of more than 1,735 acres of important migratory bird habitat on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in nine states – including 50 acres of wetland habitat within the established boundaries of Trinity River NWR in Liberty County, Texas.
The Cabinet-level commission, chaired by Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Craig Manson, approved funds of $3 million to acquire the land. All acquisitions had been previously approved by the affected states.
"The land acquisitions approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission will protect important habitat, ensuring that the National Wildlife Refuge System continues to provide vital nesting, breeding, feeding and resting places for migratory bird populations," said Steven Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge system. "By working with state, public and private partners, the Commission continues to make sure that the 95 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System remains the world's premier network of public lands dedicated to wildlife conservation."
Other National Wildlife Refuge System acquisitions approved by the Conservation Commission are:
Maryland: Acquisition of 500 acres of marsh and other wetland habitat to protect wintering areas for migratory waterfowl within the boundaries of Blackwater NWR in Dorchester County.
Arkansas: Acquisition of 50 acres of wetlands to protect waterfowl habitat in Bald Knob NWR in the White County.
Washington: Purchase of 331 acres of waterfowl habitat in Klickitat County within the approved boundaries of Conboy Lake NWR.
Tennessee: Purchase of 161 acres of waterfowl habitat in Lower Hatchie NWR, Lauderdale and Tipton Counties.
California: Purchase of a total of 119 acres of wetlands in the approved border of North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area, Colusa NWR, Colusa County.
New Jersey: Purchase of 78 acres within the boundaries of Wallkill River NWR, Sussex County.
Wyoming: Lease of 320 acres of riparian habitat within the previously approved boundaries of Cokeville NWR, Lincoln County.
South Carolina: Exchange and purchase of 227 acres of waterfowl habitat to be added to Savannah NWR in Jasper County.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission also approved 30 grants that will foster wetland restoration, protection and enhancement projects in Mexico and the United States under the auspices of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Grant funds of nearly $21 million will be combined with $128 million in partnership money. The commission acts as overseer for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
During the commission’s meeting on March 14, Williams acknowledged the historic occasion of the Refuge System’s 99th birthday that day, and noted the significance of efforts to honor the upcoming centennial anniversary of the refuge system in 2003.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 established the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to approve land to be purchased for the National Wildlife Refuge System with monies from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The fund is supported by revenue collected from Federal Duck Stamp sales, import duties collected on arms and ammunition, right-of-way payments to the refuge system, and receipts from national wildlife refuge entry fees.
The commission meets three times a year to approve funding proposals. Commission members are Interior Secretary Norton, Senators Thad Cochran and John Breaux; Representatives. John Dingell and Curt Weldon; Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman; and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov