U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service | Southeast Region News Release
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Febuary 2, 2001


Dario Bard 202/219-7499,

Christine Eustis 404/679-7287

On Friday, February 2, Americans have special cause to celebrate World Wetlands Day. Over the past decade, our nation's rate of wetlands loss has declined by 80 percent. The decline is documented in a Fish and Wildlife Service report titled Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States, 1986 to 1997. The good news is tempered, however, by the data analysis, which shows that the nation is still losing 58,500 acres per year. Forested wetlands and emergent wetlands have seen the greatest losses, while the acreage of open water ponds, which are not as biologically rich, are on the rise.

Often called "nature's sponges," wetlands offer important values and functions. They protect water quality by filtering out pollutants, provide natural flood control by absorbing excess water, buffer coastal areas from erosion, offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities, and provide habitat for many of the world's bird species and more than 40 percent of the threatened and endangered species in the United States.

The theme of this year's World Wetlands Day is "A world to discover." Many of the world's most vital wetlands in the U.S. are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of lands dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation. These lands offer Americans a wide array of recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, boating, bird watching, hiking, and many other activities in the great outdoors. On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Fish and Wildlife Service invites all Americans to come out and enjoy a slice of America's wild heritage. Visiting a national wildlife refuge is an excellent way to celebrate our accomplishments as a nation. Five of our 120 refuges in the Southeast are recognized as wetlands of international importance:

  • Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida The world's first wildlife refuge, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 on a five-acre island. Now, The 5,000-acre refuge, located near Sebastian, provides habitat for marine turtles and a host of migratory birds, including its namesake. Recreational opportunities include fishing, boat tours, and wildlife observation and photography.
  • Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia and Florida: Established in 1937, this 396,0000-acre refuge has swampland that is 6,000 to 8,000 years old. The Indians coined the term ?Okefenokee? which means ?land that trembles when you walk on it.? Visitors to Okefenokee enjoy freshwater fishing and may see Florida sandhill cranes; wood storks (an endangered species); white ibis; red-cockaded woodpeckers (an endangered species); gopher tortoises (a threatened species); and white-tailed deer. The refuge is located within four counties: Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties in Georgia and Baker County in Florida.
  • Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana: A sanctuary for wintering waterfowl, Catahoula is in a flat river floodplain intersected by streams, ridges, and bayous. Established in 1958, this refuge is located in east-central Louisiana, northeast of Alexandria. About 50,000 to 75,000 mallards, pintails, wood ducks and ring-neck ducks will winter at Catahoula. About 175 bird species, including herons, egrets, marsh and wading birds, are commonly seen on the refuge.
  • White River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas: White River hosts the largest concentration of wintering mallard ducks in the Mississippi Flyway. The 160-000-acre refuge, located in four counties, has 356 natural and manmade lakes. Ninety miles of the White River lie within this refuge. White River was established in 1935, and its headquarters is located in Dewitt. A sanctuary for wintering waterfowl, up to 350,000 birds may winter at the refuge. It also hosts several species of migratory songbirds, at least four bald eagle nests, and a black bear population.
  • Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas: Established in 1986, Cache River is a 5,000–acre refuge primarily known as a wintering area for mallards. Several species of waterfowl, songbirds, and wading birds may be seen seasonally, and deer, coyotes, and beavers make their home on the refuge. Located in east-central Arkansas, the refuge is within the 10-year floodplain of the Cache River from its confluence with the white River near Clarendon to Grubbs, Arkansas.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 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.

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

2001 News Releases

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