The Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of the final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment for the expansion of the Felsenthal and Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuges in Ashley and Union Counties, Arkansas, and Morehouse Parish, Louisiana.

In collaboration with partners, the Service chose to protect and manage
49,103 acres, as the preferred management action to enhance area fish and wildlife resources. The lands, when acquired, will be open for hunting and fishing. Future acreage acquired in the upland pines will benefit endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. Additional bottomland acres will benefit waterfowl*.*

However, due to budgetary constraints, acquisition of lands from willing sellers and expansion of Felsenthal and Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuges may be years away.

The final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment substitutes the originally proposed land in Bradley County, Arkansas, with some potential acquisitions of land from willing sellers in Ashley County, Arkansas, and Morehouse Parish, Louisiana. It excludes nearly 2,000 acres that were originally proposed to be included with the new boundary, as a result of concerns from local landowners and backers.

Also, an additional 1,356 acres were removed from the preferred alternative as the result of an approved minor expansion to Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge. The overall acreage for this landscape conservation plan remained unchanged. The modification allows the Service to maintain the conservation goals for migratory birds, waterfowl, and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

On February 22, 2013, the Service released a draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment to link and expand two national wildlife refuges, Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas and Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. In response to requests, the Service extended the comment period on the Draft Land Protection Plan and accompanying Environmental Assessment from March 22, 2013, to April 22, 2013, and held two public meetings on April 4, 2013, and April 9, 2013, in Crossett and Warren, Arkansas, respectively.

To obtain a copy of the final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment please visit: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2014/020.html

Logo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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