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----- Forwarded by Rich Greenwood/R3/FWS/DOI on 03/22/2001 08:23 AM -----

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended by a month the deadline for
public comment on several draft policies that provide guidance on public
recreation and educational activities and conserving wilderness on the
nearly 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System.

The initial public comment period was to end on March 19, 2001 for the
draft policies on  Appropriate Refuge Uses; Wilderness Stewardship;
National Wildlife Refuge System Mission, Goals and Purposes; and seven
wildlife-dependent recreational uses chapters.  The public will now have 30
additional days, or until April 19, 2001, to comment.  Responses and
comments must be received by April 19, 2001.  This extension was published
in the Federal Register on March 15.

The draft policies were first published in the Federal Register on January
16, 2001.  The full text can be found at
http://bluegoose.arw.r9.fws.gov/new.html under the January 16 header.

The extension comes in response to a request from the International
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a coalition of state natural
resources agencies, who asked the Service for more time so that its
membership could comment on the policies.

"One of the reasons we are extending the comment period for these policies
is to fulfill our commitment to work cooperatively with state fish and
wildlife agencies," said Marshall Jones, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

The proposed General Guidance policy provides refuge managers direction for
managing recreational and educational uses on units of the National
Wildlife Refuge System.  Six draft policies, Hunting, Recreational Fishing,
Wildlife Observation, Wildlife Photography, Environmental Education, and
Interpretation, update and replace the Service's existing policy on
recreation, providing specific guidance on the "priority public uses" given
preference over all other uses in the National Wildlife Refuge System
Improvement Act.

The draft Appropriate Refuge Uses Policy spells out a process for
evaluating uses other than those six priority public uses on refuge lands.

The draft Wilderness Stewardship policy updates existing wilderness
management guidance and reconfirms the Service's commitment to managing
wilderness to accomplish the refuge purposes. This draft policy spells out
how wilderness will be addressed in the preparation of Comprehensive
Conservation Plans, and the proper management of the priority public uses
in wilderness areas, among other items.

The draft National Wildlife Refuge System Mission, Goals, and Purposes
policy clarifies the interaction between the mission of the Fish and
Wildlife Service, the six goals of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and
the purpose(s) for which each refuge was established.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                  - FWS -

Reporters: An "online almanac" of refuge information for journalists and
filmmakers, including the history of the system, a timeline of recent
events and a wide variety of background information, is available at

===========================================================News releases
are also available on the World Wide Web at

Questions concerning a particular news release or item of
information should be directed to the person listed as the
contact. General comments or observations concerning the
content of the information should be directed to Mitch Snow
(Mitch_Snow@fws.gov) in the Office of Public Affairs.

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