|For Immediate Release
May 5, 1998
Contact: Diana M. Hawkins
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE TO ACQUIRE ADDITIONAL LANDS
FOR BIG BRANCH MARSH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced plans to acquire about 1,770 acres of additional fish and wildlife habitats for Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Louisiana.
The proposed refuge additions, announced by the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam D. Hamilton, consist of several tracts of land located near or adjacent to the current refuge boundary in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. These sites include:
The St. Tammany State Wildlife Management Area, a 1,300-acre tract that runs along the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain adjacent to the refuge's western and southwestern boundaries. The Service would protect and manage this tract as part of Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge under a cooperative management agreement with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
A 110-acre privately-owned tract located one-quarter mile north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and State Highway 434 near Lacombe, Louisiana. This tract was operated as a school and retreat center in the past and is locally known as the "Holy Redeemer" property. It contains several buildings and nature trails that can be renovated to provide an administrative headquarters, visitor center, and environmental education facility for the refuge.
Three other privately owned tracts of 40, 70, and 250 acres, respectively, all of which lie adjacent to the refuge's northern boundary. These three tracts contain wooded upland habitats that are threatened by residential development. The Service would acquire these tracts through fee title purchases from willing sellers.
The Service has completed a second supplemental environmental assessment that recommends the acquisition of these lands as additions to Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The additional lands would be protected and managed for the benefit of many species of fish and wildlife, including wading birds, shorebirds, resident and migratory waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, and white-tailed deer. The Holy Redeemer property, in particular, would provide a much-needed administrative office for the refuge staff. It would also provide a visitor center and environmental education facility for the enjoyment of refuge visitors.
"The addition of these lands to Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge will protect a greater diversity of fish and wildlife habitats and provide a visitor center and environmental education facility for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans," said Hamilton. "The project is being made possible through the cooperation of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and several private landowners who have offered to sell their lands to the Fish and Wildlife Service. These lands will be purchased with monies appropriated through the Land and Water Conservation Fund."
"We are also grateful for the previous land donations that were made by the Richard King Mellon Foundation in cooperation with the Conservation Fund, which established Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 1994," added Hamilton. "We look forward to the Conservation Fund's continued participation in land acquisition activities at the refuge. We also want to thank the many conservation groups and local citizens who have supported and embraced this new refuge and its expansion plans."
Copies of the second supplemental environmental assessment for the refuge additions are now available to the public and can be obtained by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Realty, 1875 Century Boulevard, Atlanta, Georgia 30345 or by telephone at 1-800-419-9582.
Release #: R98-030
1998 News Releases