CAHABA WILDLIFE REFUGE EXPANSION STALLS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced a six-month delay in its proposal to vastly expand the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.
FWS sought to expand the Cahaba River Wildlife Refuge from 3,600 acres to 106,415 acres. The service also wanted to establish an additional 173,380-acre conservation area adjacent to the refuge by purchasing conservation easements and leases. Those plans met staunch opposition from area landowners who told FWS officials there was no proof that such an expansion was needed nor was there proof that private landowners were not already taking steps to protect the refuge area.
Opponents said they felt blind sided by the plan's scope, fearing it amounted to a fed eral land grab that would hinder private property rights and stifle forestry and mining.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby described the proposal as an "egregious and unjustified overreach by the federal government" and said the "scope and enormity of the proposed acquisition is not only disproportionate, but also lacking any legitimate justification." Sen. Shelby also said, as a senior member of a committee that controls federal spending, that he would oppose any government money going to buy land in the expanded boundaries.
FWS previously had extended the public comment period on the proposed expansion until Dec. 6.
Sen. Shelby said he hopes the delay turns into a reversal. "I wholeheartedly oppose the expansion and think this proposal should be dropped altogether," Shelby told the Birmingham News. "I hope the six-month re-evaluation will show Fish and Wildlife Service the error of their ways and they will completely abandon this proposal."