May 31, 2001
Rachel Levin, 202/208-5634
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment
for several draft policies that provide guidance on public recreation and
educational activities and conserving wilderness on the National Wildlife
The draft policies, originally published in the Federal Register on
January 16, 2001, largely complete the Service's development of an
extensive body of policy necessary to implement the National Wildlife
Refuge System Improvement Act, the system's first organic legislation,
which was signed into law in 1997. The comment period has been re-opened
in order to give State natural resource agencies and the public further
opportunity to submit comments.
The public now has until June 14, to comment on the following draft
- The proposed General Recreation Policy which provides general guidance
for managing recreational and educational uses on units of the refuge
- Six draft policies, Hunting, Sport Fishing, Wildlife Watching,
Wildlife Photography, Environmental Education, and Interpretation, which
update and replace the Service's existing policy on recreation, providing
specific guidance on the "priority public uses" given preference over all
other uses in the Improvement Act.
- The draft Appropriate Refuge Uses Policy, which spells out a process
for evaluating uses other than those six priority uses on refuge lands.
- The draft Wilderness Stewardship Policy updates existing wilderness
management guidance and reconfirms the Service's commitment to managing
wilderness to accomplish the purposes of the refuge. This draft policy
spells out how wilderness will be handled during the preparation of
Comprehensive Conservation Plans, and the proper management of the priority
public uses in wilderness areas, among other items.
- The draft Mission, Goals, and Purposes policy clarifies the
interaction between the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the
goals of the refuge system, and the purposes for which each refuge was
- The statement in the Federal Register Notice announcing the re-opening
of the public comment period regarding resubmission of comments received
between April 19 and before May 15, 2001 is in error. Comments received
during this period will be accepted as is, and do not have to be
resubmitted in order to be considered.
Full text of the proposed policies can be found on the Internet at
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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 535 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.
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/.