August 27, 2003
gives nearly 16,000 acres to the Conservation Fund Ending Mining Plans
on Those Lands
Atlanta, GA - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today welcomed the planned donation of about 5,000 acres of important habitat to be incorporated into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. Acquisition of the 5,000-acre parcel, part of a total of about 16,000 acres donated by DuPont to The Conservation Fund, will preclude development of a proposed titanium mine on the northeastern boundary of the refuge.
In commemoration of the centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System, The Conservation Fund plans to transfer the approximately 5,000-acre parcel, which is located inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge acquisition boundary, to the Service. The Fund will work with the State of Georgia and local community to determine the most appropriate long-term steward of the remaining lands.
"I applaud the partnership of DuPont and The Conservation Fund," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "Their action will protect thousands of acres of sensitive lands and ensure the continued preservation of the unique Okefenokee ecosystem. These kinds of partnerships demonstrate the kind of cooperation and citizen-driven stewardship the Bush Administration envisions for the 21st Century.”
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is recognized worldwide for its extraordinary natural beauty and unique ecosystem and is one of only 19 sites in the United States to be listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Established in 1936 to preserve the 438,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge encompasses approximately 391,000 acres. In 1974, to further ensure the protection of this unique ecosystem, the interior 353,981 acres of the refuge was designated a National Wilderness Area. The swamp remains one of the oldest and most well preserved freshwater areas in America and the world.
“DuPont deserves our thanks for recognizing the ecological significance of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Swamp,” said Steve Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This gift to the American people is a tremendous contribution to conservation and will enhance the protection and management of this ecological treasure.”
DuPont had intended to mine titanium ore from the site adjacent to the refuge after acquiring the land in 1991 and 1996. Following years of negotiations with local officials and interest groups stemming from the controversial nature of the proposed mine, DuPont agreed to retire mineral rights without compensation and donate its land to The Conservation Fund for placement into permanently protected status.
“We thank The Conservation Fund for working closely with DuPont to help bring about this great step for conservation,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Regional Director for the Southeast Region. “We are proud to manage these lands for wildlife and people to enjoy for generations.”
Hamilton went on to say that DuPont should be especially recognized for sacrificing its own economic interests and committing to the needs of the local community and ecological integrity of the swamp.
International Paper will retain timber and recreational rights on the donated acreage through 2081, a situation that is not uncommon on other Service lands. The Service and International Paper have longstanding agreements established to protect wildlife resources, some in place on this property, and will continue to work together in the future.
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, which encompasses
542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other
special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries,
64 fishery resource offices and 81 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.
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