- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has dropped its plans to gradually buy land to nearly double the size of a wildlife refuge in southeast Arkansas, citing a lack of funds and local support.

The federal agency had proposed adding about 125,300 acres to the Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service considers the nearly 161,000-acre refuge to be one of the most important places for wintering waterfowl in North America. It was established in 1935 to protect ducks, geese and other migratory birds and is also home to the only native black bear population in the state.

David Viker of the National Wildlife Refuge System said there wasn’t enough money or support to justify moving forward, especially when the government is working to expand the Cache River and Felsenthal National Wildlife refuges in the state.

Viker said nearly half of the land near the White River Refuge is owned by Anderson Tully Lumber Co. and rented to hunting clubs, whose members wanted the land to remain private, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1nKV2qf ).

“We didn’t want to set up false expectations, and we listened to the public,” Viker said. “If budgets hadn’t reduced and we had overwhelming support, we probably would have gone forward.”

He said it will likely be a long time before the agency considers expanding the refuge again.

In April, the wildlife refuge was renamed for Bumpers, a former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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