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E-M:/ Wildlife Refuge Bill Passes Senate, President Likely to Sign into Law

Title: Wildlife Refuge Bill Passes Senate, President Likely to Sign into Law

Wildlife Refuge Bill Passes Senate

Kaptur-Dingell Legislation will Expand Refuges to Protect Lake Erie Shoreline; President Likely to Sign into Law

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved legislation (H.R. 289) authored by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and John D. Dingell (D-MI) that will expand the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge along the Lake Erie shoreline.  The new areas will be administered for the conservation, management and restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources.  The Senate version of the measure was sponsored by Ohio Senators George Voinovich (R-OH) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Michigan Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. 

"This area is a prime waterfowl migration corridor.  It's a very special ecosystem, with significant conservation values for sportsmen, boaters and birders," said Dingell.  "This innovative legislation will do much to facilitate public-private partnerships for sound, responsible conservation and it will create convenient outdoor recreational opportunities."

"As we celebrate the expansion of the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge today, we are mindful that we make an investment in the future of ecotourism in our region at the same time we polish the jewel that is Ohio's only national refuge complex," said Kaptur.  "The Ottawa Refuge is a key gem in the beautiful emerald necklace around the western basin of Lake Erie." 

More than 65 species of fish live in Lake Erie and the Detroit River, including millions of walleye.  The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that hundreds of thousands of ducks stop in the Lake Erie Basin to rest and feed during their annual fall migration from Canada.

Landowners will have the opportunity to enter into cooperative management agreements, sell and even donate land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who will manage the refuge lands for public recreation, wildlife observation, hunting and fishing.  The bill encourages public-private partnerships for conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat along the Lake Erie shoreline while placing special emphasis on the protection of private property rights.

"I am confident that through sponsoring the expansion of these refuges, the Ohio and Michigan Senators, Mr. Dingell and I are following the directives of President Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Park System, who said, 'There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country,'" said Kaptur.

"The Lake Erie shoreline is an invaluable resource that is essential to our economy, provides numerous recreational opportunities, and is central to our quality of life," continued Dingell.  "We are today one step closer.  When our Refuge bill is signed into law, we will have delivered another substantial environmental achievement the residents of Southeastern Michigan and Northern Ohio."

As America marks the centennial anniversary of America's National Wildlife Refuges, studies have shown that the Refuge System is now, more than ever, a destination point for people as well as wildlife.  Americans are visiting the National Wildlife Refuge System with their feet, their fishing rods, their duck calls and their cameras in record numbers, infusing more than $700 million into local economies.

One hundred years ago on March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established America's first National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in Florida.  That legacy has grown into the largest federally protected system of public lands and waters in the world.  The National Wildlife Refuge System includes more than 540 refuges spanning 95 million acres throughout all 50 states.  The Kaptur-Dingell bill will add to this enormous legacy of conservation success. 

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