Public invited to comment on management of the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

From press reports

Future management of the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) will be the topic of public discussion at three public scoping meetings in January.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started work on a long-term management plan for the Refuge, a process expected to take two years. Staff will prepare a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), which is a practical guide for managing the Refuge over the next 15 years. The scoping meetings are part of a process being followed for the new CCP which will ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as directed by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations. The public scoping meeting details are:

• 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Noxubee Civic Center in Macon; • 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Lake Tiak O’Khata Conference Center in Louisville; and • 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Shriner’s Club in Starkville.

In addition to handouts and poster materials, staff will be available to answer questions. Participants will be able to submit comments and sign up for a mailing list to receive information about the CCP.

Public comments are welcome at any point in the two-year process.

The CCP provides a unique opportunity for the Service to involve individuals and local communities in the long-term management of a National Wildlife Refuge. The Service invites the public to provide comments to the following questions, as well as comments about any other issue, opportunity or concern they may have for the Refuge:

1. What makes Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR special or unique for you? 2. What do you value most about the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR? 3. What would you like to see the future hold for Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee NWR?

The Refuge was established in 1940 primarily for the purpose of protecting migratory birds and other wildlife and their habitats. The Refuge lies in the central section of the East Gulf Coastal Plain. It currently encompasses 47,152 acres, with an additional 6,138 acres in the approved acquisition boundary. The Refuge is situated in three Mississippi counties (northeastern Winston, southern Oktibbeha, and northwestern Noxubee) in the northeast portion of Mississippi. The Noxubee River, a tributary of the Tombigbee, flows through the central portion of the Refuge from west to east.

Management on the Refuge emphasizes habitat benefiting waterfowl and migratory birds. Direct management of the red-cockaded woodpecker and the pine habitat which this species depends is also occurring. The Refuge has a very active public use program and provides a large number of visitor opportunities including those associated with hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education, and interpretation. The Refuge maintains a modern visitor center and has hosted visitors from 48 states and 7 countries.

For more information about the planning process, please contact Michelle Paduani, Natural Resource Planner, USFWS or Steve Reagan, Project Leader, USFWS, at (662) 323-5548. Comments may be submitted via mail to Refuge Manager, 2970 Bluff Lake Road, MS 39739, or e- mailed to michelle_paduani@fws.gov.

Please note: Federal government mailing lists must be released to the public upon request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act of 1974.

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.