MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 19, 2013

Cave wildlife refuge seeks public input


— With lands scattered throughout seven counties in the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma, the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) consists of approximately 4,000 acres of mature oak, hickory and pine forest, with intermittent streams and unique limestone cave and karst formations. The refuge’s sole purpose for managing and protecting these lands is to prevent extinction of and to recover federally listed cave species, such as the Ozark big-eared bat, gray bat, Ozark cavefish, and Delaware County cave crayfish. Sustainable management of the forest surrounding these caves provides important foraging habitat for bats, nesting and breeding habitat for resident and migratory birds, and helps purify water of toxins before it freely enters the limestone caves.

The refuge is encouraging the public to get involved in the future conservation of these lands. The Refuge seeks public input and comment on its Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment, available for public review.

The Draft Plan can be downloaded at: www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/Plan/plansinprogress.html.

The next area public meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Cherokee Nation Headquarters Community Ballroom.

Comments will be accepted until March 8. To submit comments or to request a CD or hard copy of the Draft Plan document, contact Sarah Catchot, Natural Resource Planner at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NWRS, Division of Planning, P.O. Box 1306, Albuquerque, NM 87103 or; 505/248-7411 or email sarah_catchot@fws.gov.

Any individuals who comment during this process, as well as those who previously submitted comments, become part of the public record for this project. The service must release names, if requested, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act of 1974.