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National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 10-16, Celebrates Important Role of Conservation
Festivals, Boat Tours, and Nature Walks Among Activities in Southeast

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2004

Contacts:
Tom MacKenzie, (404) 679-7291, cell: (678) 296-6400
Cindy Hoffman, 202-208-3008

 

Whether its hunting, fishing or wildlife watching, thousands of Americans will flock to national wildlife refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week October 10-16. Visitors will celebrate the National Wildlife Refuge System’s pivotal role in offering outdoor recreational opportunities as well as showcasing the conservation and recovery of wildlife species on refuges across the country. Here in the Southeast, Refuges are offering festivals, exhibits, boat tours, and nature walks.

Bald eagles, whooping cranes and the California condor are some of the endangered and threatened species that have been helped back from the brink of extinction by the work of Service biologists on national wildlife refuges. Nearly 260 threatened or endangered species are found on national wildlife refuges, where they often begin their recovery or hold their own against extinction.

“Wildlife refuges are critically important tothe conservation of fish and wildlife, whether one is thinking of ducks and geese or the recovery of the bald eagle and the California condor,” U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams said. “Refuges prove their value every day. Some of the best conservation work is done on refuges. “We work hard everyday to raise awareness and promote access to our refuges for hunting, fishing, bird watching, photography, education, and other outdoor opportunities. There is no better place to reconnect with both wildlife and the family than on a wildlife refuge.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System, established in 1903, has 544 national wildlife refuges nationwide. There are 125 refuges in the Southeast. Across the country, the National Wildlife Refuge System includes more than 3,000 waterfowl production areas and spans approximately 100 million acres. It provides habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, more than 1,000 fish, and countless species of invertebrates and plants.

At the same time, the National Wildlife Refuge System offers unparalleled wildlife-dependent recreation. It has more than 890 trails covering approximately 2,500 miles, open to the public for wildlife observation and photography. Hunting is offered on 308 refuges; fishing is available on 270 refuges. Additionally, hundreds of environmental education programs are offered on refuges across the country.

But nowhere is the work of national wildlife refuges more important than in the recovery and protection of endangered and threatened species. The California condor, for example, dropped to a low of just 22 birds in 1983. Today, more than 240 condors soar in the wild, nearly 100 of which were raised in captivity on California refuges dedicated to the birds’ recovery.

“We are fortunate to have the National Wildlife Refuge System as both an incubator and protector of endangered species and as a place where we can find such traditional recreation as hunting and fishing,” Williams said. “I look forward to celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week on a refuge – seeing a new generation enjoy our outstanding natural resources.”

Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge. People living in metropolitan areas can usually find a national wildlife refuge just an hour’s drive from home.

“We encourage people to use National Wildlife Refuge Week as a chance to discover wildlife refuges. Look for one near your home,” National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Bill Hartwig said. “Today it’s more important than ever to reconnect with our natural heritage. So take advantage of the hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching
opportunities on a refuge near you.”


Events at Southeastern refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week follow:

Refuge Week Events 2004 – Southeast Region

Friday, October 8 – Sunday, October 10

Georgia:
Coastal Georgia Refuges Complex, Jekyll Island:
2nd Annual Georgia's Colonial Coast Birding & Nature Festival. Field trips to 15 different natural areas in coastal Georgia, including several of Georgia's national wildlife refuges. Registration is required for field trips and seminars conducted by field biologists. "The Rookery", an interactive exhibit hall located in the Jekyll Island Convention Center, will offer children's programs, live raptor shows, and over 50 exhibitors including nature artists, photographers, conservation organizations, and optics companies. http://www.coastalgeorgiabirding.org

Saturday, October 9

Arkansas:
White River NWR, St Charles:
2nd Annual White River Wildlife Festival, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
kids activities, exhibits, see new exhibit hall.

Georgia:
Okefenokee NWR
, Folkston:
Okefenokee Festival, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Annual festival, events at the historic Chesser Island Homestead. Arts and crafts, community parade, food throughout the day in Folkston. Special sunset boat tour.

Florida:
Florida Panther NWR, Naples:
Open House, Starting at 8 AM
Refuge staff and volunteers will provide swamp buggy tours, a photography workshop, and canoe tours through wild orchid habitat during the annual Open House. Currently closed to the public, this special event allows the public to enjoy a rare glimpse at this unique and beautiful refuge. Reservations are required. Please call 239-353-8442 x 233 on October 5, from 8 am until noon.

Florida:
Ten Thousand Islands NWR
, Naples:
Bird Walk, 8 AM
Join the biologist on a bird walk along a one- mile gravel trail through a fascinating wetland marsh. This walk will provide opportunities to view a variety of wetland and upland bird species. The leisurely hike will last about 2.5 hours. Reservations are required. Please call 239-353-8442 x 233 on October 5, between 8 am – noon.

Florida:
St. Marks NWR:

Reading and Sculpture Dedication. Book reading by the authors for a new environmental book, "Between Two Rivers" and dedication of a new great blue heron sculpture.

North Carolina:
Pocosin Lakes NWR
, Columbia:
Scuppernong River Festival. Canoeing, kayaking & hands-on activities at visitor center area.

Sunday, October 10

Alabama:
Eufaula NWR:
Indian Summer Arts and Crafts Festival, Downtown Eufaula. Refuge staff at booth with Blue Goose costume informing visitors about refuge system and Eufaula NWR.

Florida:
A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR, Boynton Beach:
Butterfly and Wildflower Walk, 10 a.m. – meet at the Visitor Center parking lot and explore these small wonders. Swamp Stroll, 2 p.m. – Meet at the Visitor Center and take a guided stroll through a cypress swamp

Tuesday, Oct. 12 – Friday, October 15

Tennessee:
Reelfoot NWR, Union City:
Oct 12- Free tours of Grassy Island and LongPoint units at 8:00 am., 11:00 am, 2:00 pm
Oct 13 - Backyard Habitat/Grassy Island Bird Walk at 8:00 a.m.
Oct 14 - Backyard Habitat Stewardship Workshop 8:00 a.m, 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Oct 15 - Kid's Day from 9:00-2:00 p.m. A variety of activities including animal molds, clay, scavenger hunt, nature games, and pond fishing.

Tuesday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct 16

Florida:
J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, Sanibel:
Ding Darling Days, various activities. Schedule at www.dingdarlingdays.com.
Oct 13 – Grand Reopening Event with Director Steve Williams, 10 a.m.
Oct 16 festival, more than 3,000 visitors expected.

Wednesday, October 13-Friday, October 15:

Florida:
St. Vincent NWR
, Apalachicola:
Public Tours of St. Vincent Island. Tour limited to 28 people, must make reservations by calling 850-653-8808.

Thursday, October 14-Saturday, October 16:

Georgia:
Piedmont NWR
, Round Oak:
14th Annual Hunt for Wheelchair-Bound Participants. Volunteers needed to scout hunt spots prior to October 14th, assist hunters during hunt and in the campground and assist with general camp duties.

Saturday, October 16
Florida:
A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR
, Boynton Beach:
Early Bird Walk, 7:30 a.m. – Meet at the Marsh Trail to learn about the various birds on the refuge. Canoeing the Everglades, 8 – 10 a.m. – Meet at the Boat Ramp parking lot. Must bring own canoe and have some experience. Reservations required by calling 561-734-8303.Children’s Story and Craft Hour, 2 p.m. – Meet at the Visitor Center. For children 5-8 accompanied by adult. Reservations required by calling 561-734-8303.

Florida:
Chassahowitzka NWR
, Crystal River:
Tenth Annual Wildlife Refuge Week Celebration, 10:00am - 4:00pm, with a Cherokee Indian blessing ceremony beginning at 9:00am. Free boat tours, wildlife and refuge information, conservation displays, children’s interactive environmental education activities, face painting, and live acoustic music throughout the day.

Louisiana:
Black Bayou Lake NWR
, Farmerville:
“Fall Celebration,” Friends of Black Bayou Lake NWR Event: 9 AM – 2 PM, includes groundbreaking for Wetlands Learning Center at 10:30 am.

Louisiana:
Cat Island NWR
, St. Francisville:
Friends Field Day sponsored by Friends of Cat Island. Tours to the National Champion Baldcypress tree will be given. Hot dogs and sodas will be available, 10AM to 4PM.

Mississippi:
St. Catherine Creek NWR
, near Natchez:
Kid's Fishing Rodeo, 7:00am to 11:00am

Saturday, October 16 & Sunday, October 17

Alabama:
Wheeler NWR
, Decatur:
Southern Wildlife Festival. Annual wildlife art festival held at the local community college. A refuge informational booth will be available, as well as, tours of the refuge. Rangers will present several wildlife programs during the two-day event.

Florida:
Cedar Key and Lower Suwannee NWR
, Chiefland:
Refuge Open House, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Public welcome to tour the Cedar Key Lighthouse and participate in the various activities. Tours of the historic lighthouse, exhibits, touch tanks with marine critters will entertain and enlighten kids and adults alike. Transportation must be obtained from concessionaires or private vessels.

Saturday, October 23

Arkansas:
Big Lake NWR
, Manila:
Community Day, 10:00AM to 2:00PM; the Friends and staff will celebrate with live raptors, poster contest, displays and birding walks.

Florida:
St. Marks NWR:

Monarch Butterfly Festival. Welcome the Monarch Migration through our region. Come find out what wildflowers to plant in your yard. Food and activities 9AM-4PM.

Mississippi:
Yazoo NWR, Hollandale:

Great Delta Bear Affair. Third annual festival. Purpose is to promote black bear conservation as well as local tourism. FWS is one of many community, government, and corporate partners sponsoring event.

November 2-7

Annual Wings Over Water Festival
North Carolina:
Alligator River NWR
in Manteo, and Pocosin Lakes NWR in Columbia:
Canoeing, birding trips, lectures. Visit www.wingsoverwater.org for complete program.


 

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 cointinuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 84 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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