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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy Dedicate Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge



May 2, 2004

Tom MacKenzie, US Fish and Wildlife Service, at 404-679-7291
Jill Austin, The Nature Conservancy, at 321-689-6099
Michael Sznajderman, Alabama Power, at 205-257-4155


Grant Will Aid in Habitat Restoration Work

West Blocton, AL -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with The Nature Conservancy of Alabama, today dedicated the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge near West Blocton, Alabama.

In an afternoon ceremony at the refuge, Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton joined Jeff Danter, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, Senator Jeff Sessions, and Representative Spencer Bachus in dedicating and recognizing the refuge.

"It is a pleasure for me to help dedicate the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge," said Hamilton. "This refuge, with its incredibly diverse population of aquatic species, provides an important opportunity to protect a unique river ecosystem. It could not have come about without the hard work of a great many people."

The refuge was established through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy of Alabama and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve and manage a unique segment of the biologically significant Cahaba River and to protect a number of threatened and endangered species living there.

"It has been an honor for The Nature Conservancy to work in partnership to bring this important habitat into permanent protection," said Danter. "This is an investment in conservation that will benefit not only Alabama today but future generations."

The dedication ceremony also included the presentation of a grant to The Nature Conservancy of Alabama for restoration of 185 acres of longleaf pine at the refuge. The grant was awarded as part of the Longleaf Legacy program, a partnership which began in August 2003 between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Southern Company and its operating companies, which include Alabama Power. This five-year program is focused on restoring the South’s signature longleaf pine ecosystem to conserve biological diversity and sequester carbon.

“The Longleaf pine community used to stretch across the Southeast, from Virginia to Texas. Today, only a small fraction of this very important ecosystem remains,” said Willard Bowers, vice president of Environmental Affairs for Alabama Power. “We and Southern Company are proud to play a role in helping to rebuild this diverse habitat and protect the numerous species that rely on it.”

The Cahaba River stretches for almost 200 miles and is Alabama’s 1ongest free-flowing stream. The river currently supports 64 rare and imperiled plant and animal species, 13 of which are found nowhere else in the world.

The Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge was authorized by Congress on October 19, 2000, through legislation sponsored by Congressman Spencer Bachus and then Congressman (now Governor) Bob Riley. The refuge was established with 1,200 acres of land on September 25, 2002, and has since expanded to its current size of 2,997 acres. This represents almost 90 percent of the land that is in the approved acquisition boundary for the refuge.

The Nature Conservancy helped acquire all the land to date and has been working with many partners to create a habitat management plan and a public use plan for the site.

A draft public use plan was released at the ceremony and will be available for public review and comment. Copies of the draft plan can be obtained by writing to Steve Miller, Refuge Manager, at Cahaba River NWR, PO Box 5087, Fort McClellan, AL 36205.

"On refuges, wildlife comes first, but opportunities for public use are also important," Miller said. "Today, we are pleased to release the Draft Public Use Plan for the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. The plan identifies public uses for the refuge that are compatible with the refuge's mission…uses such as wildlife photography, bird watching, hiking, canoeing, hunting, and fishing…which allow people to appreciate and enjoy its natural wonders."

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.

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, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations.

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