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Migratory Bird Conservation Commission Approves Addition of More Than 15,000 Acres to National Wildlife Refuge System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2001

Contact:
Rachel F. Levin, (202) 208-5631,
Tom MacKenzie, Chief, Media Relations, (404) 679-7291,

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the prices for acquisition of more than 15,000 acres of important migratory bird habitat at its meeting in Washington, D.C., in March. Newly acquired lands will benefit migratory birds and other species on units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in 12 states, from North Carolina to Washington.

The Cabinet-level commission, chaired by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, approved funds of $15 million to acquire the land. All acquisitions had been previously approved by the affected states. The 535-unit refuge system is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"At nearly 94 million acres, our National Wildlife Refuge System remains a world-renowned collection of lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation," said Acting Service Director Marshall Jones. "Working with states and private partners, we will restore and enhance these new refuge system acquisitions to protect prime habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds."

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 established the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to approve land to be purchased for the National Wildlife Refuge System with monies from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The fund is supported by revenue collected from Federal Duck Stamp sales, import duties collected on arms and ammunition, right-of-way payments to the refuge system, and receipts from national wildlife refuge entry fees.

The commission meets three times a year to approve funding proposals. Commission members are Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who serves as chair; Senators John Breaux and Thad Cochran; Representatives. John Dingell and Curt Weldon; Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman; and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

During the commission's meeting on March 14, Secretary Norton acknowledged the historic occasion of the Refuge System's 98th birthday that day, and noted the significance of efforts to honor the upcoming centennial anniversary of the refuge system in 2003. She emphasized the importance of Service efforts to take the opportunity to build public understanding and appreciation for the refuge system, expand partnerships on its behalf, and improve its stewardship and infrastructure.

Also at the meeting, Dan Ashe, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, reinforced the Secretary's message, noting the upcoming establishment of a Centennial Commission to oversee special commemorative projects and products, celebratory activities, and a national conference on the refuge system in 2003. Members of Congress who serve on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission will be automatic members of the Centennial Commission, as called for in the National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Act of 2000.

New National Wildlife Refuge System acquisitions approved by the Conservation Commission are: (BELOW LIST INCLUDED ONLY STATES IN FWS SOUTHEAST REGION)

  • Arkansas: Acquisition of 4,853 acres of riparian and other wetland habitat to protect wintering areas for migratory waterfowl within the boundaries of Cache River NWR in Woodruff, Monroe and Prairie counties. This area in the Lower Mississippi River Valley supports one of the biggest concentrations of wintering mallards in North America, and the refuge is also home to one of the largest remaining expanses of forested wetlands in the Mississippi Valley.
  • Louisiana: Purchase of 8,115 acres northeast of Catahoula NWR. Known as "Bushley Bayou," this tract was once vast, unspoiled bottomland hardwood but today consists of abandoned farm ground, pasture, woods, pond and lakes. The area provides migration habitat for shorebirds and migratory waterfowl, and year-round habitat for wading birds. Acquisition of Bushley Bayou will also allow the Service to expand public use on the refuge, including possible development of waterfowl hunting.
  • North Carolina/Virginia: Acquisition of three tracts totaling 92 acres within the previously approved boundaries of Mackay Island NWR, near the Virginia-North Carolina border in the Currituck Sound area. The purchases will provide high quality habitat for migratory waterfowl, especially greater snow geese, which winter in large concentrations on Mackay Island.
  • Tennessee: Purchase of 643 acres for Chickasaw NWR in Lauderdale County, about 50 miles north of Memphis, to preserve and protect habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The two tracts approved for purchase will be restored to native bottomland hardwood forest, and will serve as habitat for neotropical birds, mallards, wood ducks and other waterfowl.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission also approved 37 grants that will foster wetland restoration, protection and enhancement projects in Canada, Mexico and the United States under the auspices of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Grant funds of nearly $25 million will be combined with $137 million in partnership money. The commission acts as overseer for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 535 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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2001 News Releases

   
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