Wildlife refuge expansion proposed
by Courtney Stevens
Aug 28, 2013 | 1416 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bolivar County hunters and fisherman may begin to experience some difficulties come hunting season.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to expand the White River National Wildlife Refuge to connect existing conservation lands, provide sustainable wildlife habitat and offer more public opportunities to hunt, fish and observe wildlife.

According to the proposal brochure, some of the benefits are protecting wildlife, improving long-term watershed health and stability, and offer environmental education.

While the public benefits in several way, many Bolivar County hunters are concerned with the fact that the proposed expansion will cover every piece of land on the Arkansas side of the river from just south of the mouth of the Arkansas River to just north of the mouth of the White river.

In a letter to the editor, concerned reader Marty Couey said, "not only will you need a Refuge Permit, you will only be allowed to hunt Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday until noon and you will have to have everything packed up and be gone by 1 p.m.

"It basically ruins the ability for Bolivar County hunters to hunt," Couey said as he explained the amount of time necessary to get onto the river and to a hunting spot safely.

This expansion will then limit hunters, fishers, and any basic outdoorsman looking to enjoy the area to certain days of the week, as well as requiring a permit.

"There are many things the wildlife refuge needs to take into consideration to accommodate Mississippi hunters," said Couey.

"The service is currently developing a DRAFT Land Protection Plan and associated Environmental Assessment which will go through at least a 30-day Public Comment Period where we will invite the public to comment on all aspects of the proposed plan," said Tina Chouinard, natural resource planner.

"We would also plan to hold public meetings and I will encourage a meeting in Bolivar County, Miss.

"If there's a lot of opposition to any sort of refuge expansion then the director of the fish and wildlife service would pull back the reigns, or even congress," said Chouinard.

"We do an entire scoping and outreach. Our mailing list was over 2,000 individuals. We identify all major land owners and send news releases and dates for meetings," said Chouinard.

Chouinard also said that they have heard from many residents of Bolivar County and are "putting together a proposal to look at the comments made."

To contact the White River Expansion Proposal send an email whiteriverexpansion@fws.gov or call 731-432-0981.