Tribune-Courier General Manager
BENTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week announced details of the proposed expansion of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the release of the draft 15-year management plan.
A series of meetings will begin this week to answer the public’s questions and gather comments. In Marshall County, the meeting is set for this Thursday night at the Marshall County High School Cafeteria from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m.
The proposed expansion of the NWR would seek land protection partnerships to achieve a congressionally authorized expansion of a total of 34,269 acres within the Clarks River Floodplain. Of that total, approximately 10,000 acres is within Marshall County, according to Michael Johnson, Refuge Manager. He said the remaining bulk of the proposed acquisition area is within Graves County.
Johnson said the NWR is working with the state to realign the refuge boundaries utilizing the local road systems adjacent to the existing refuge. The proposed expansion area was created focusing on road systems in Marshall, Graves and McCracken counties.
According to informational material provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the goals of the expansion are to make it easier for the public to hunt, fish, photograph and learn about the natural work at the refuge; add upland habitat that is crucial to wildlife within the floodplain and to protect more contiguous bottomland hardwood forests and aquatic habitats in the lower Clarks River watershed.
If approved, the plan will draw funding for land acquisition from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which are not derived from traditional tax revenues.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to reach a decision on the proposal sometime in July.