|The Mountain-Prairie Region|
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Lakewood, Colorado 80228
Contact: Karen Miranda 303-882-1161 (cell)
Pat Jamieson 406-644-221, x207
National Bison Range and Walt Disney Executive Announce
upcoming National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial
during Annual Roundup
Moise, MT - The National Bison Range welcomes special guest Kym Murphy of the Walt Disney Company to participate in this years Annual Bison Roundup October 7 and 8. The roundup is one of about 20 special events occurring on refuges across the nation celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week, and announcing the upcoming Centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which will be marked March 14, 2003.
As Corporate Vice President of Environmental Policy, Mr. Murphy is a member of the Centennial Commission appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to work in support of the wildlife and environment. Murphy has long been involved with wildlife and environmental issues both on a personal and professional level.
"We are celebrating Refuge Week and marking the kickoff of a year long celebration of Americas Best Kept Secret, our National Wildlife Refuges," said Murphy.
"We have one man to thank for bringing us these great places, and that is President Theodore Roosevelt. You see, 100 years ago, our wildlife resources were in trouble." he said. At that time, Roosevelt established the first refuge at Pelican Island, Florida, as a federal bird preserve.
One hundred years later, President Bushs 2003 budget proposal is expected to be the largest budget increase in the history of the refuge system. In addition, the Secretary of the Interior has proposed $1.9 million for the 2004 budget to environmental education projects.
The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of habitats that ensure the survival of wildlife when their natural homes are threatened. Today, the System includes 540 refuges and more than 3,000 waterfowl production areas that together equal an area the size of Montana. The National Bison Range was added to the system 94 years ago, after Roosevelt himself visiting the West and saw bison populations dwindling around the turn of the century.
"Its no wonder that his passion for these great beasts would lead him to create this wonderful and unique refuge. Thanks to his forward thinking, bison still graze western grasslands on refuges in Montana, Nebraska and Oklahoma. But now, instead of roaming freely, these herds are maintained through careful management by dedicated refuge staff," said Murphy.
During the roundup this week, bison are being corralled, weighed, branded and sorted. Excess animals that have accumulated in the herd during the year are often donated to States or Native American tribes, used for breeding stock, or sold to the public by sealed bid. Removing excess bison each year is a means to effectively manage forage they consume on the grasslands.
The only roundup in the refuge system open for public viewing, the event is part of the routine work used to monitor herd health and reduce herd size each year. Over 3500 people are expected to attend from western Montana, as well as eastern Washington State, including 1000 students and teachers who will participate in an education program to learn about the refuge and roundup.
Refuge staff, along with Murphy, are providing the program to student groups throughout the 2-day event. Murphy will also be assisting Range Manager Dave Wiseman with the job of sorting bison at the round pen.
As event coordinator, Wiseman is in charge each year of running all roundup operations. Last Thursday, he directed staff and volunteers using horses to move bison in from the range, in groups of 100-200 at a time, to prepare for the roundup. He estimated about 450-500 animals total, but added the exact number would not be know until the count was done at the end of the roundup process.
For more information on the 2002 Annual Bison Roundup and the National Bison Range, see http://www.r6.fws.gov/ea/infopackets/bisonrange/ and http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov.
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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