The FWS recently released the Draft Land Protection Plan to identify the acquisition boundaries for the proposed expansion.
Working with partners, the service outlined approximately 46,600 acres between the refuge and the Mississippi River for restoration, enhancement and management as part of Dahomey NWR.
The refuge was established in 1991 and currently manages 9,691 acres.
The draft is now available for public viewing and comments with a review ending date of April 4.
Requests for a hard copy of the draft can be sent to the plan's FWS contractor, Mike Dawson.
Dawson can be reached at email@example.com or 601-955-1518.
A PDF version is also downloadable at www.fws.gov/dahomey.
"This is still just a proposal at this point," said Dawson. "Public viewing and comments are open until April 4 and then we will sit down and go through all the comments.
"If we have to make changes to the plan based on the responses, we will. Once the plan is approved it will allow us to acquire land from willing sellers."
The main purpose of the draft is to provide landowners and the public with an outline of FWS policies, priorities, and protection methods for land in the project area.
The FWS will also assist landowners in determining whether their property lies within the proposed acquisition boundary.
Dawson emphasized that land would only be bought from sellers looking to part with their land.
"Nobody is pressured into selling," he said. "This is completely a willing seller program. By law we have to offer fair market value."
An approved acquisition boundary does not require landowners to sell.
While the plan will likely be approved after review, Dawson said the FWS budget and price agreements would be the major remaining hurdles.
However, he remains confident acquisitions will be made.
Funding for the land would come from two major resources — a federal migratory bird protection fund and a land and water construction fund.
These reserves differ in amount each year and are awarded based on federal priorities.
The FWS lists three main benefits to the expansion: increase and link available habitat for wintering waterfowl and many other species; maintain and enhance recreational opportunities in the region; and enhance public use opportunities include hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography and environmental education and interpretation.
"The only way we can expand is through the acquisition boundary proposed in the document," added Dawson. "I'm confident there's land out there that will be sold."