This is a joint press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2002
Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources honored Senator Mitch McConnell for his leadership in migratory bird conservation at a special ceremony to dedicate the new headquarters of the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in Benton, Kentucky.
The inaugural presentation of the “Kentucky Warbler Migratory Songbird Conservation Award” was given to the Senator McConnell for his assistance in establishing the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a vital link in the migration route of many imperiled neotropical migratory birds and provides resting, nesting, and nursery grounds for many of those species.
“Senator McConnell has been instrumental in the protection of habitat for migratory songbirds through his longstanding support and involvement with the establishment of the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We appreciate his continued support and commitment to our National Wildlife Refuge System and the efforts of the Service to protect fish and wildlife resources.”
The “Kentucky Warbler Migratory Songbird Conservation Award” is the first by the Service and the State of Kentucky to honor a state conservation leader. The agencies plan to give this award every year to a Kentucky conservationist.
“The legislation Senator McConnell sponsored protects wildlife in the refuge area and protects the interests of farmers and adjacent landowners,” said Tom Bennett, Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
“More than 70 conservation groups wrote letters to support our first National Wildlife Refuge which provides critical habitat for all kinds of wildlife. It’s a great asset to Kentucky,” Bennett concluded.
The Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge was created by legislation, which was introduced on March 13, 1996 by Senator McConnell. Senator McConnell shepherded the legislation through Congress and was instrumental in getting it passed. In addition, the Senator has worked to get initial funding to acquire land within the refuge acquisition boundaries. To date, Senator McConnell has helped to secure $8 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition.
The Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge solely within the boundaries of the State of Kentucky. A small portion of Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is in the Southwestern tip of Kentucky; the majority is in Tennessee. The first track of land was purchased on August 19,1998 officially establishing the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. To date, 45 tracks encompassing 7,000 acres have been added to the refuge to protect 225 different species of migratory birds. When complete the refuge will consist of approximately 18,000 acres.
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 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
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