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North Carolina Man Sentenced for Theft of Water from Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 22, 2004

Contact:
Shari Brewer, 404/679-7291


On Tuesday, January 12, 2004, Allen White Ballance was sentenced for illegally removing water from Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge located in Hyde County, North Carolina. In addition to the $28,000 that Ballance already paid in restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in accordance with his plea agreement, he was sentenced to 6 months of supervised probation and received a $10,000 fine.

"This successful investigation represents the commitment of the Special Agents of the Service's Office of Law Enforcement to apprehend and bring to justice those who would unlawfully abuse the natural resources protected under the National Wildlife Refuge System," said Thomas M. Riley, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region.

A drought occurred in the area during the fall of 2001. According to testimony and evidence presented in court, Ballance unlawfully entered the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge on or about October 20, 2001, built an earthen dam, pumped water from the refuge and damaged refuge property. Based upon various factors B standing water in Ballance's impoundment, its 10-acre size, the amount of water necessary for saturation, and weather conditions B refuge authorities estimated that Ballance pumped an amount between 6.5 and 8.2 million gallons of water off refuge property from October 20, 2001, through October 24, 2001. As a result of his illegal activity, authorities noted that one of the refuge's impoundments was completely drained in order to transfer the water to Ballance's adjacent private hunting club.

National wildlife refuges are lands dedicated to wildlife. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge contains prime habitat for wintering waterfowl. Ballance pilfered water from the refuge to benefit his adjacent property. The refuge impoundment which was drained had been previously managed to provide food and sanctuary habitat for migratory waterfowl. During the peak of the season, an estimated 8,000 to 11,000 ducks utilized the pond every day. After Ballance drained the impoundment, not a single duck was observed using the area during the entire winter season. Because of the drought, there was no water available to the refuge to re- flood the impoundment, and the waterfowl were forced to seek shelter elsewhere, placing them at a higher risk of mortality.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan. Chief U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina Terrence W. Boyle presided over the proceedings.

 


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://southeast.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/.



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Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286


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