Archives for: June 2012
Eight NWRs in South Carolina conserve more than 161,000 acres of land, water surfaces and wetlands to provide habitat for a wide variety of animals. Seven of the refuges are open to the public for birding and wildlife observation, hiking, boating, fishing, hunting and other recreation compatible with the preservation mandate.
The new page for South Carolina wildlife refuges joins pages for South Carolina National Parks, National Forests and U.S. Corps of Engineers Projects (dams and reservoirs), and directories for camping at National Parks and National Forests in South Carolina.
Carolina Outdoors Guide is a comprehensive directory of federal and state recreation sites in North Carolina, including national and state parks and forests, wild and scenic rivers, National Wildlife Refuges, Corps of Engineers projects, Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs, coastal reserves and more, with separate sections for camping and hiking, plus a links section with more than 50 links to federal and state outdoors resources and various advocacy/support groups connected to preservation and conservation of parks and the natural environment.
No other single source on the Web or in print lists as many federal and state public recreation sites in the Carolinas.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has its eyes on 23,000 acres in the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains that it would like to see become the 12th National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.
The proposed Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge would comprise as many as 30 sites in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties, North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties, Tennessee, the Fish & Wildlife Service says.
The refuge would protect Southern Appalachian bogs, one of the nation’s rarest and most imperiled natural habitats.
"National Wildlife Refuges are lands, managed by or in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, set aside for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants," Rick Huffines, deputy regional chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System, says in a news release. "Given the rarity of these bogs and their importance to plants and wildlife, creating a refuge to conserve them is a natural fit."
Creating the refuge will require fee-simple purchases, conservation easements, leases or cooperative agreements with landowners. Money would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which includes money collected from the sale of offshore oil and gas drilling leases.
The Service is authorized to acquire in fee-title or hold conservation easements on 30 sites covering approximately 23,000 acres containing bogs and surrounding lands among a 45,000-acre area.
"Mountain bogs are ... typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands," the Service says. "Important to wildlife, they’re home to five endangered species and provide habitat for migratory birds and important game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, for which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation.
"In addition to their wildlife importance, bogs provide key services to humans. They’ve a natural capacity for regulating water flow - holding floodwaters like giant sponges then slowly releasing the water, thus decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts."
Parts of the proposed refuge would be too fragile for recreation, but other parts would be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.
The Service is seeking public input about the proposed refuge at email@example.com or U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa St., Asheville, NC 28801, or at 828-258-3939.
The Service is also hosting a series of open houses to receive comments and answer questions:
* June 26, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Henderson County Public Library in Hendersonville.
* June 27, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Ashe County Public Library in West Jefferson.
* July 10, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin.
* July 11, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone.
The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge homepage has a project overview, FAQs, wildlife benefits, a fact sheet and other documents, video and photos about work being done to conserve mountain bogs, and more.
A bill that would overturn the Park Service’s new off-road-vehicle plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was sent to the House floor Thursday, according to published reports. A vote is yet to be scheduled.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., would overturn rules for off-road-vehicle use adopted in January, end a consent decree that dates to 2008, and return management at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the 2007 Interim Protected Species Management Plan, according to the Island Free Press.
Currently, just under 18 of 65 miles of seashore are open to beach driving.
The rules adopted earlier this year gave the National Park Service the discretion to close sections of the beach surrounding nesting shorebirds and sea turtles, and permanently closed some sections of the beach to driving, the Virginian-Pilot said. Safeguarding federally protected species is part of the reason the rules were enacted.
Cape Hatteras businessmen and elected officials complained last winter that the more-restrictive driving rules, which also require higher fees for driving permits, were hard on fishermen and hurt local businesses.
Under the bill, the Secretary of Interior would be able to restrict beach access "to protect species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973" if "peer-reviewed science" and public comment showed it was necessary.
If the bill passes, the interim strategy would remain in place until the Park Service devises another long-term plan that is less restrictive, the Island Free Press said.
Cape Point Campground, one of four campgrounds at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has opened for the season following repairs to flood damage, park officials announced Thursday.
Cape Point, which is in Buxton near the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, has 202 sites. The fee to camp is $20 per night. The campground will close September 3.
National Parks Traveler reported last fall that federal and state wetlands protection laws were hampering efforts to correct drainage problems in the Cape Point area.
Heavy rains last fall, including a drenching from Hurricane Irene, had left standing water in the campground and surrounding portions of Lighthouse Road.
Cape Hatteras' Oregon Inlet, Frisco and Ocracoke campgrounds opened in April and will close in October.
Each of the park's campgrounds accommodates tents, trailers, and motor homes up to 35 feet. Each has rest rooms, drinking water, unheated showers, grills, and picnic tables. No hookups (utility connections) are available.
Pending legislation would allow hunting, trapping and recreational shooting in most National Parks, changing "the fundamental purpose of the National Park System," says a legal analysis commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association.
The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (HR 4089) is meant to prioritize hunting and shooting on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, but its text includes National Parks, according to the law firm of Arnold & Porter, LLP.
"Today, hunting, trapping and recreational shooting are prohibited throughout the National Park System except in places where they have been specifically authorized by Congress," Craig Obey, senior vice president for government affairs at the NPCA says in a news release.
"Under this bill, the law regarding such uses would no longer be closed [to hunting] unless opened, but would instead be open unless closed. National parks were set aside to protect the wildlife that roam and historic sites that preserve our nation’s history — not for using some of America’s most valued treasures as target practice."
North Carolina parks include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is bordered by state game lands and Nantahala National Forest property, both of which allow hunting, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which allows waterfowl hunting. Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina also allows hunting.
The bill would force park managers to undertake "lengthy and potentially costly analyses" to justify closing park units to various activities, yet would open those units without any such analysis, the news release says. "For example, park managers would need to use the 'best science' to justify prohibiting paintball games on the hallowed ground at Gettysburg," the release says.
Additionally, the Congressional Research Service says the bill would open Wilderness Areas to motorized use, oil and gas development, logging and a host of other activities "that would cut the heart out of protective designations like Wilderness Areas," according to Outdoor Life magazine, which supports expanded hunting opportunities in the bill. "In fact, the CRS didn’t have much in terms of kind words for this bill:
Because of imprecise wording in the bill, the full extent of the bill’s impact on the Wilderness Act is unclear. However, it appears that Section 104(e) would not only allow any activity related to fishing, hunting or wildlife conservation to be conducted in wilderness areas, but it may also obviate the primacy of wilderness values in determining permissible activities in wilderness areas."
The bill passed in the House April 17, and has moved to the Senate.
The NPCA is encouraging the public to contact their senators "to prevent this threatening legislation from damaging our National Park System." Take action here.