Americans have four new wildlife refuges to celebrate this month! Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced the designation of four new Wildlife Refuges that span five states and diverse ecosystems. Refuge designation for these critical lands and waters will protect them as important pieces of America’s natural heritage for the economic benefit and recreational enjoyment of generations to come. The new Refuges are:
- Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area in Kansas,
- Dakota Grassland Conservation Area in North Dakota and South Dakota,
- Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania and
- Tulare Basin Wildlife Management area in California.
These new refuges are supported by diverse interests, which was highlighted by a bipartisan group of senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) who spoke at the announcement event about the importance of conservation in their states.
All four new National Wildlife Refuge designations illustrate the value of conservation easements to large landscape protection. By protecting land for private owners while ensuring the long term protection of habitat, the Department of Interior is utilizing a valuable tool that brings people together in support of conservation.
The designation of these new Wildlife Refuges came just a day before Secretary Salazar announced the release of the first five state plans included in the Obama Administration’s America’s Great Outdoors: 50-State Report. The report is a state-by-state plan, which features a total of 100 locally-supported initiatives to reconnect Americans with the great outdoors.
The first five states for which the initiatives were announced are Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Among the initiatives that are spotlighted in these first few states, one stood out to The Wilderness Society as being particularly noteworthy.
In North Carolina, Elk Knob and the Long Hope Valley, a periglacial area that encompasses mountain bogs, grasslands, swamps and forests, has been named as a target initiative area. The conservation of this rich natural landscape represents a commitment to the protection of the 10 high-quality natural communities, 37 rare plants and eight rare animal species in the area. Conserving this 2,200-acre tract will add to previously preserved land in the area to comprise more than 50,000 acres of uninterrupted habitat.
The new National Wildlife Refuge designations and the launch of the 50-State Report mark the next steps forward with the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and a great stride for the conservation of our national heritage.