New Texas Wildlife Refuge in the Planning Stages
ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, July 14, 2004 (ENS) - Staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southwest Region are studying the feasibility of establishing a national wildlife refuge along the Neches River in Anderson and Cherokee Counties, Texas and will hold two public workshops to discuss the idea.
The refuge would be limited to about 25,000 acres and would conserve bottomland hardwood wetland forests in the floodplain of the Neches River, the Service says.
The area is important habitat for migratory waterfowl, other migratory birds, and resident wildlife that are dependent on riverine wetlands.
These workshops are in an open house format so interested people are invited to drop in at their convenience.
The purpose of the workshops is to exchange information and answer any questions that people may have as well as listen to the community's ideas, issues, and concerns about the proposed refuge.
Those issues and concerns will be addressed in an environmental assessment that the Service will prepare as a result of the study. The public will be able to comment on that environmental assessment when it is released in a few months. The Service will consider those comments in determining whether to create a new national wildlife refuge on the Neches River.
At the workshops the Service will describe the proposal and discuss issues such as the Service's planning process and schedule; the Service's policy of purchasing lands from willing sellers at market value; the Refuge Revenue Sharing Act and annual payments in lieu of taxes to county governments for lands owned by the Service.
The Service will also discuss its land conservation process, including the availability of alternatives to land acquisition, such as cooperative agreements and cost-sharing partnership programs on private lands.
Landowners who have property within the study area are assured that being within either a study area, or an approved refuge boundary, does not affect their ownership or their right to use their land in any way. Neither does it affect a landowner's decision to sell to an entity other than the Service.
"If the Service were to establish a wildlife refuge in this area, we would only seek lands or conservation easements or cooperative partnerships with willing sellers," said Dom Ciccone, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the Service's Southwest Region.
The Neches River begins about two miles above Rhine Lake between the cities of Canton and Van and flows on its 416 mile journey southward to the Sabine River just above the gulf at Port Arthur. The Neches feeds two major lakes, B.A. Stienhagen and Palestine, and is fed by numerous navigable creeks, creating many fishing opportunities.
One workshop will be held in Jacksonville on Tuesday, July 20, at the Summers Norman Activity Center, 526 East Commerce from 3 to 9 pm. The second will be held the next day in Palestine on Wednesday July 21, from 3 to 9 pm at the Civic Center, corner of Loop 256 and Highway 287.
For those who cannot attend a workshop, or would rather communicate with the Service in another way, they may contact Jeannie Wagner-Greven, Refuge Planner, at 505-248-6633, or by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at 505-248-6874.
The Service manages 20 national wildlife refuges in Texas ranging from high plains grassland habitats in the panhandle, to the subtropical lands along the Rio Grande to the coastal marshes and bayous on the Gulf of Mexico.
Commentary on above story:
The above story appears in this morning's Environment News service
. It might be a good idea to convey the Darby and Klamath Basin experiences
to the local people in the target area...particularly on just what
the willing seller business is all about. Local and county officials
might also have their eyes opened by talking to their counterparts
in counties that already have heavy federal ownership levels...particularly
where the massive shortcomings of the PILT program are concerned.
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