Draft Proposal for Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge Boundary Expansion Available for Public Comment
October 24, 2011
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A baby Mississippi sandhill crane. Photo: USFWS crane cam at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR.
Using input from state agencies, private landowners, conservation groups and other citizens, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced details of a proposed boundary expansion at Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses lands in both Mississippi and Alabama.
The Service would like to expand the Refuge by 8,428 acres. The proposal would help preserve the area’s tremendous biological diversity, supporting the state’s heritage of outdoor activities, like hunting, fishing, and birding.
“Coastal Mississippi and Alabama have a rich heritage of wildlife-related activities that play an important role in the region’s economy,” said Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner. “This proposal gives willing sellers an opportunity to help preserve that heritage for their children, grandchildren, and future generations.”
Areas in the proposed expansion include swamps, wet pine savannas and flatwoods, longleaf pine, riverine corridors, estuarine tidal marshes, near shore coastal waters, and other habitats. These areas are also home to waterfowl, grassland birds, white-tailed deer, American alligators, gray fox, as well as sea trout, flounder, oysters, blue crab, and shrimp. Habitats in this basin are important to nearly half a dozen imperiled species, including the gopher tortoise, and twenty birds of concern.
Lands in the four sections being considered in this proposal are adjacent to the refuge. An initial round of meetings and public forums were held from late April to early July, and the Service used feedback from those meetings to refine the proposal and develop a draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment.
The expansion only gives the Service the flexibility to work with willing sellers, whose options include conservation easements, leases or purchase, depending on the availability of funding. The Service would use available funding from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (funds from the sale of Federal duck stamps) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (royalties from off-shore oil and gas exploration) rather than general tax revenues.
Supporters of this proposal include The Nature Conservancy, Gulf Islands National Seashore, The Conservation Fund, and the Land Trust for Mississippi Coastal Plain.
Details of the proposal, including maps, are in the Draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment that can be viewed at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/GrandBayExpansion
During the 30-day public review and comment period that ends November 28, 2011, the Service will host one public meeting to answer questions and gather comments. The first hour of the meeting will be in an open-house format, during which the Service and its partners will present information and answer questions. Following that, the second phase of the meeting will be held in a town-hall format, where the public can provide oral or written comments.
The meeting will be held:
- November 3, 2011
- 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
- Grand Bay Senior and Community Center, 11610 U.S. Highway 90, Grand Bay, Alabama
Comments also may be submitted in writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail to Kimberly Eldridge, 1875 Century Blvd., Suite 420, Atlanta, GA, 30345; or by fax to 228-497-5407.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.