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Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Staff Receives Interior Award for Excellence of Service


October 17, 2002

Kyla Hastie, 404/679-7133
Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

The staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston, Georgia today received a Citation for Excellence of Service from Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. The award was presented for effectively managing wild fires in and around the refuge during April through June of this year, when fire burned more than one-third of the 396,000-acre refuge.

“We are proud of the exemplary professionalism and skill that the entire refuge staff displayed in battling the wild fires on their refuge,” said Service Director Steve Williams, who presented the award.

“Their work prevented the spread of the fire to private- and state-owned property, and no one was injured. In fact, the accomplishments of the refuge staff and their community partners have created a national model for managing wild fires,” continued Williams.

“While fighting these fires, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge staff and the community displayed outstanding planning, cooperation and teamwork,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “They met the challenge of conserving refuge and adjacent lands, and relations between the refuge and the community have been strengthened by their success.”

Working with the Okefenokee Refuge staff to battle the fire was the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners (GOAL), a group of more than 15 private and corporate landowners that was formed in 1994. Other partners were the U.S. Forest Service, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and the Florida Division of Forestry. Together, these organizations prepared for the fires to approach the swamp boundary, and plowed more than 21,000 acres of firebreaks and more than 250 miles of Swamp Edge Break. They also effectively coordinated aircraft operations, suppressed spot fires, and mopped up firelines.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1937, is located in four counties - Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties in Georgia and Baker County, Florida. Its swamp is estimated to be 6,000 to 8,000 years old. The Indian name, Okefenokee, means “Land that trembles when you walk on it.” Over 400,000 people visit the refuge annually to enjoy fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, wildlife observation, photography, and wilderness canoe trails.

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 that encompasses 540 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. In March 2003, the Service will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System.



NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them - - via e-mail - - at the Service’s Southeast Regional home page at Our national home page is located at: .


NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at Our national home page is at:

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

2001 News Releases

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