FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 1998
Maggie O'Connell 912) 496-7366, Ext. 232Vicki M. Boatwright (404) 679-7287



U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE AGREES TO

DUPONT REQUEST TO RENEW HYDROLOGIC STUDIES

ON OKEFENOKEE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has renewed a permit allowing E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company to resume monitoring of water levels, quality, and flows on the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Georgia. At the same time, the Services strongly reiterates its continuing opposition to the company's plan to develop a titanium surface mine along Trail Ridge on the refuge's eastern boundary.

DuPont abruptly suspended its activities on the refuge in April, 1997, following a public statement by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt vigorously opposing the proposed mine in this ecologically sensitive area because of the detrimental hydrological alterations, wetlands destruction, water and air quality degradation, and negative endangered species and aesthetic impacts that would likely result.

In agreeing to DuPont's request for the permit renewal, the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam D. Hamilton, said, "We've renewed this permit because it is our responsibility to treat DuPont as we would any other public entity. I want to make it very clear, however, that the Service remains opposed to mining along Okefenokee's eastern boundary. Data from this or any other study will not alter our opposition to mining activities next to the refuge."

"The Service is obligated to protect the priceless natural resources of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and to provide protection to wetlands and federally listed species on Trail Ridge. Because of the complexity of this area's hydrogeologic system, it is our judgment that the mining project will impact the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Mary's and Suwannee rivers. Considering the uniqueness of this vast wilderness and its scientific, historic and aesthetic important importance to scientists and visitors from around the world, the Service considers the proposed titanium mine to be an inappropriate neighbor to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. We will not agree to any activity that compromises the health and integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp."

Under the renewed permit, DuPont will be allowed minimal water monitoring on the refuge. A proposal by DuPont to survey wildlife, soils and vegetation within the refuge was turned down because of the lack of a detailed study proposal and well-stated purposes for these surveys.

Research activities on National Wildlife Refuges require an annual submission of a study proposal for review by the Service. Permits may be refused or revoked because of a determination of incompatibility with the purposes of the refuge or unsatisfactory compliance with the conditions of the permit. Issuance of a permit does not imply Service agreement with the purposes or conclusions of the research.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages 511 national wildlife refuges covering 92 million acres, as well as 65 national fish hatcheries.

The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, administers the Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes Federal excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies. This program is a cornerstone of the Nation's wildlife management efforts, funding fish and wildlife restoration, boating access, hunter education, shooting ranges, and related projects across America.

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Release #: R98-012


1998 News Releases

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