U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Expand Conservation

Posted By on January 6, 2017

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks public input on its proposal to expand the acquisition boundary for Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge.

“The Roanoke River corridor offers  important bottomland hardwood habitat to many species of birds, mammals, fish and plants,” said Matt Connolly, manager of Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge.  “This proposed expansion would offer the Service opportunities to work with local landowners to conserve the lower Roanoke River ecosystem and provide refuge for animals in the event of increased pressure from population growth and sea level rise.”

The Service currently manages 20,978 acres along the river where it focuses conservation efforts for bottomland hardwood forests and associated habitats.  Animal species that are of particular concern include Cerulean warbler, Prothonotary warbler, Swainson’s warbler, Great Blue heron, Anhinga, Wood duck and Black duck.  The river is an important habitat for American sturgeon and Striped bass as well. 

Service work in these areas follows a two-pronged strategy: supporting interested landowners in their land management and acquiring land for Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge through purchase and donation from willing landowners. This proposal would increase the area in which the Service can work with willing landowners in the southern reaches of the Roanoke River from Roanoke Rapids to the Albemarle Sound.

This proposal is to expand the acquisition boundary of Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge.  A refuge acquisition boundary is an area in which the Service can acquire interest in property either through fee title purchase or through easements or cooperative agreements. 

Being within an acquisition boundary does not change any landowner rights or responsibilities unless and until a landowner decides to sell all, part or an interest their property to the Service. 

Landowners still manage their land as they always have and may sell to anyone they choose at any time.  Boundary expansion areas allow Service managers to have conversations with landowners interested in selling their land or exploring options like easements or cooperative agreements.  Without being included in the acquisition boundary the Service cannot explore those options.

The refuge acquisition boundary currently includes 33,000 acres with the Service owning 20,978 acres. The Service is considering adding an additional 250,000 acres to the acquisition boundary with authorization to purchase up to 50,000 acres and purchase easements up to 100,000 acres.  However, exact acreage of the proposed expansion is yet to be determined, as the Service considers the extent of rare species populations, conservation efforts by other organizations, and landowner interest.

The refuge currently falls within Bertie County, North Carolina.  The expansion would include areas within Bertie, Washington, Martin, Halifax and Northampton counties. 

The Service is currently seeking public input on the proposed expansion.  There will be five open houses across the region to receive comments and answer questions about the proposed expansion. 

Open House Schedule:

Monday Jan 23rd

Halifax County: 6:00 pm -8:00 pm

TJ Davis Recreation Center

400 E. 6th Street

Roanoke Rapids, NC

Tuesday Jan 24th

Martin County: 6:00 pm -8:00 pm

Martin County Extension Office

104 Kehukee Park Rd

Williamston, NC

Wednesday Jan 25th

Bertie County: 6:00 pm -8:00 pm

Windsor Community Building

201 S. Queen Street

Windsor, NC

Thursday Jan 26th

Northampton County: 6:00 pm -8:00 pm

Northampton Recreation Center

9536 NC HWY 305

Jackson, NC

Friday Jan 27th 

Washington County: 6:00 pm -8:00 pm

Washington County Extension Office 

128 E. Water Street

Plymouth, NC

Comments may also be emailed to roanokerivernwr@fws.gov; mailed to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 430, Windsor, NC 27983; or telephoned to 252-794-3808.

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Posted by Matt Artz

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