Jeffrey Fleming, FWS, 404-679-7287 or 404-274-6693 (cell)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it is acquiring 1,800 acres of land for the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge with $2.43 million in Federal Duck Stamp funds to benefit waterfowl and a host of other wildlife species including the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
The Service and the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved $1,944,000 from this year's Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp program) to acquire 1,440 acres of the former Ray Coleman Howell Farm at Cache River NWR presently owned by The Nature Conservancy. An additional $486,000 MBCF funding has been made available that will acquire an additional 360 acres and is pending execution of the purchase agreement by the Service.
?The Federal Duck Stamp program has made it possible for the Service and its partners to conserve vitally important wetland habitats for the benefit of waterfowl,? said Sam Hamilton, the Service's southeast regional director. ?This acquisition at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is no different. But one of the reason's this program is so important to the Service's national wildlife refuge system is because the land conservation it makes possible benefits so many other wildlife species, not the least of which is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.?
?The restoration of the entire corridor of the Cache River is extremely important to the habitat of many wildlife species, not only the Ivory-billed Woodpecker,? Arkansas Game and Fish Commission director Scott Henderson said. ?This purchase gives outdoorsmen more opportunity to enjoy the natural resources of Arkansas,? he added.
?The successful history of conservation in the Big Woods of Arkansas is a result of great partnerships ? federal and state agencies working with other organizations, local communities, hunters and landowners,? said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. ?And this addition to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is the latest success story ? one that will add habitat for waterfowl as well as the ivory-bill and other species that live in these magnificent woods.?
Today?s announcement came as the Service and the Commission held a second round of town hall meetings in Brinkley and Stuttgart to outline progress with the recovery effort and answer questions.
The Coleman Farm is located within the acquisition boundary approved by the MBCC on June 21, 2005. A large portion of this tract falls within the 10-year floodplain of the Cache River and already has been completely restored through the Natural Resources Conservation Service?s Wetland Reserve Program by the previous landowner. Restoration of those lands includes planting of bottomland hardwoods, construction of moist soil containment areas, and enhancements to the hydrological functions of the land.
With at least 24 species of waterfowl utilizing the Lower Mississippi Valley during winter migration, the area supports one of the largest concentrations of mallards anywhere in North America during this time period. It is considered by most to be the single most important wintering area for mallards in North America, and some of the most important for pintails, teal, Canada geese, and other migratory waterfowl.
The recent rediscovery on the refuge of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a bird long thought extinct, highlights the benefits that these crucial waterfowl habitats provide to other species as well.
When the late Rex Hancock, an avid waterfowler, and other Arkansans worked to establish the Cache River NWR in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they set in motion an effort by waterfowl hunters to play a key role in the conservation and restoration of some of the Lower Mississippi Valley's most important bottomland hardwood habitat in the Cache River and White River ecosystem. Since 1986 when the Cache River NWR was established, three of every four acres of refuge land acquired 46,000 acres has been purchased with revenue from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps. In the 71-year history of the Federal Duck Stamp, more than $200 million in duck stamp funds have been spent to conserve valuable wetland habitat to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife.
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 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.