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GLIN==> SERVICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REFUGE USE POLICY "COM...




--------------- cc:Mail Forwarded ---------------
From:     NEWS@fws.gov AT FWS
Date:     09/09/99 03:49 PM
To:       fws-news@www.fws.gov AT FWS
Subject:  SERVICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REFUGE USE POLICY "COM...



Subject:
SERVICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REFUGE USE POLICY "COMPATIBILITY
DETERMINATIONS" TO INVOLVE PUBLIC
---------------------------------


Sep tember 9, 1999                        Eric Eckl:  202-208-5636

      SERVICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REFUGE USE POLICY "COMPATIBILITY
        DETERMINATIONS" TO INVOLVE PUBLIC

The public would be formally involved for the first time in decisions on
recreation and other public uses on units of America's 93 million acre
National Wildlife Refuge System under the draft compatibility policy and
regulations released today
by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service will accept written
comments on the proposal through November 7, 1999. This draft policy and
regulation is one of the most significant management and public use
policies for the system.

"National wildlife refuges are places where the needs of
wildlife
come first, but the refuge system welcomes almost 35 million visitors each
year," said Acting Service Director John Rogers. "Compatibility is the tool
refuge managers use to ensure that recreation, educational activities, and
other uses don't interfere with wildlife conservation within the refuge
system."

As required by the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act,
the revised draft policy outlines a standard process to review the impacts
of proposed and existing public use. Managers would have to consider the
mission of the entire refuge system along with the purposes of their
individual
refuges
in the review. The actual standard   defined as a use that will
not "materially interfere with or detract from" these
conservation goals   would not change. Public uses that are
determined to be incompatible will not be allowed.

"During these reviews, refuge managers will take steps to
notify
and involve the public such as posting notices at the refuge visitors
centers and in local newspapers," Rogers said. "Using
a
more coordinated approach with our neighbors and partners will strengthen
our ability to conserve wildlife on a much broader
scale."

The 1997 law also established "priority public uses"-- hunting, fishing,
wildlife observation and photography, environmental
education and interpretation   that are especially welcome on
refuges and receive preference over other uses. Under the
revised
policy, refuge managers would be encouraged to seek resources
to
offer these activities if they were determined to be otherwise compatible.

In addition to recreation, the policy would also apply to activities
conducted as part of a wildlife or habitat
management
program, such as cooperative farming of grain crops that
provide
feed for migrating birds. The proposed policy would not allow making a
proposed refuge use compatible through replacement of lost habitat values
or other compensation. For example,
interest
proposing rights-of-way through refuge lands will no longer
have
the option to purchase new habitat to make up for impacts from their
activities.

As before, the compatibility policy does not apply to private property
within refuge boundaries, and does not affect the
terms
of conservation easements and other agreements between the Service and
private landowners. In Alaska, however, the compatibility policy does apply
to the village lands in
national
wildlife refuges in Alaska withdrawn under section 22(g) of the Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act. These lands were deeded to Alaska Native
Village Corporations with specific restrictions, called covenants, on their
sale and use.

In addition to satisfying a legal requirement, revising the compatibility
policy represents a major step towards
realization
of Fulfilling the Promise, a long-term road map developed by
the
Service and its partners last year as guidance for
strengthening
the National Wildlife Refuge System. Fulfilling the
Promiseenvisions National Wildlife Refuges
as "Models of Land
Management... which foster broad participation in natural resource
stewardship."

The full text of the proposed compatibility policy and regulations can be
found in the September 9, 1999 Federal Register, on the Internet at
www.refuges.fws.gov, or are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Division of Refuges, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington,
Virginia, 22203; telephone 703-358-1744.  Written comments can be provided
to
the
Chief, Division of Refuges, at the same address, via fax on
703-
358-2248, or via the Internet to Compatibility_Policy_Comments@fws.gov and
Compatibility_Regulations_Comments@fws.gov though November 7, 1999.

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 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of
small
wetlands,
and other special management areas.  It also operates 66
national
fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance 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.
                             -F W S-

============================================================
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Questions concerning a particular news release or item of information
should be directed to the person listed as the contact. General comments or
observations concerning the content of the information should be directed
to Mitch Snow (Mitch_Snow@fws.gov) in the Office of Public Affairs.

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