FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2002
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing changes in the commercial waterfowl guiding program for hunters at White River National Wildlife Refuge in DeWitt, Arkansas. The proposed changes are contained in a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) available to the public beginning today.
The Service proposes to limit the number of commercial guides on the refuge and to assign guides to specific zones. According to Refuge Manager Larry Mallard, the reasons for the proposed changes are to reduce conflicts among commercial guides, and between commercial guides and non-guided hunters; and to provide for a safe, high quality waterfowl hunting experience for the public.
Three possible alternatives to addressing these issues and their potential impacts on the environment are evaluated in the EA. The Service believes the preferred alternative, the proposed action, is a balanced approach to addressing the demands for commercial guide services, while meeting the growing needs of non-guided hunters.
Revisions in the guiding program are required to comply with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (PL 105-57) and its "compatibility" requirements. The Act requires that compatibility determinations be made at each refuge to ensure that all public uses of the refuge do not conflict with the purpose of the refuge or the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System; or interfere with the six priority public uses established by the Act. These six uses are hunting, fishing, education, interpretation, photography, and wildlife observation.
The draft EA, which contains the "Guiding Prospectus" and the compatibility determination, is available for public review and comment now through June 15, 2002. A copy can be obtained by contacting White River National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 308, DeWitt, Arkansas 72042. Comments may be sent to the refuge manager at the same address. The draft EA, questions and answers, an executive summary, and a refuge map can also be accessed at: http://southeast.fws.gov/whiteriver/.
There will also be two public meetings to receive public comment on the draft EA. The first will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, 2002, at the DeWitt High School, located at 1614 South Grandview Drive, DeWitt, AR. The second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, at the Stuttgart Campus of Phillips Community College, located at 2807 Highway 165 South, Stuttgart, AR. Refuge staff will be available onsite prior to the meetings, from 4-6 p.m., to informally answer questions and receive comments about the draft EA. A formal presentation and receipt of comments on the draft EA will take place from 7-8:30 p.m.
Implementation of the revised guiding program is planned for the 2002/2003 waterfowl season.
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 that encompasses more than 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.
Draft Environmental Assessment
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286