FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 25, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright



SENATOR ANNOUNCES ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE IN COASTAL SOUTH CAROLINA

Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) recently announced the designation of a new national wildlife refuge in coastal South Carolina's Georgetown, Horry, and Marion counties. The approved land acquisition area for the new Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge covers approximately 49,800 acres of wetlands and upland forests between the Intracoastal Waterway and U.S. Highway 701 north of Winyah Bay.

"The creation of the Waccamaw refuge is an important step forward in preserving South Carolina's priceless natural resources. The decision that has been made today will create another gem on the South Carolina coast that future generations will enjoy for decades to come," Sen. Hollings said.
Hollings' announcement came shortly after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Regional Director Noreen K. Clough signed decision documents, Wednesday, June 25, 1997, formally approving the establishment of the refuge.

According to Clough, the refuge will protect and manage a diversity of habitats within an important coastal river ecosystem for the benefit of a wide array of fish and wildlife. This includes migratory birds, anadromous fish, and forest wildlife, and many plants and animals associated with bottomland hardwood habitats as well as threatened and endangered species, Clough said. She noted that the refuge will also provide compatible wildlife-dependent recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

USFWS Southeast Regional Director Noreen Clough signs decision documents approving the establishment of the refuge.

The refuge's approved acquisition area contains extensive freshwater tidal wetlands, large contiguous blocks of bottomland hardwood forests, and upland forests of longleaf and loblolly pine and mixed oak hardwoods. The area, Clough said, is recognized as a key area in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and provides valuable breeding habitat for wood ducks and wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl.

The area's wetland and upland forests also provide habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers, bald eagles, and wood storks, all federally listed threatened and endangered species. Another endangered species, the shortnose sturgeon, inhabits the area's rivers and waterways.

Clough noted that in recent years coastal landscape conservation has been highly successful in South Carolina and since 1990, more than 150,000 acres of wetland and upland habitats have been permanently protected in this state either by perpetual conservation easements or by fee-title land purchases by public agencies and private organizations.

Clough attributes the creation of this new refuge to the cooperative efforts of the Winyah Bay Focus Area Task Force, a regional coalition of federal and state agencies, industry, conservation organizations and citizens. Task Force members include private landowners, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Historic Ricefields Association, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the South Carolina Waterfowl Association, Brookgreen Gardens, the International Paper Company and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Formal planning efforts for this refuge were first undertaken by the Service in early 1995. In June of that year, the first in a series of public meetings was held in the local area to gather public comments in connection with the preparation of an environmental impact statement.

A draft environmental impact statement released to the public in May 1996 was followed by additional public meetings, which resulted in revisions to the document. A final environmental impact statement was released to the public in May 1997, recommending the establishment of the refuge.

"It has been the incredible energy, enthusiasm, hard work and vision of this group of people that has brought to fruition the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge will protect a threatened and irreplaceable coastal river ecosystem for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans and the wildlife and plants that depend upon it for survival," Clough said.

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Release # R97-62


1997 News Releases

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