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Letter urges boost in funding for refuges

By TIMES WIRES
Published December 18, 2006


This is the text of the Dec. 12 letter sent to the Secretary of the Interior urging more funding for Florida wildlife refuges:

Dear Secretary Kempthorne,

We are writing to address the current crisis facing Florida's National Wildlife Refuges. National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) face a $102-million shortfall, which could result in the reduction of 69 staff positions.

This insufficient funding will leave 12 refuges in Florida without staff, and this shortfall prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from adequately managing and restoring wildlife habitat, safely maintaining facilities and providing quality recreational programs. For example:

-Pelican Island NWR in Indian River County, the nation's first refuge, will no longer be able to provide environmental and outreach programs.

-Ding Darling NWR in Sanibel Island will no longer be able to staff the visitor center on a regular basis and provide educational programs.

-Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR, commonly known as the gateway to the Everglades, will undergo a reduction in their water quality monitoring and invasive plant control programs.

-Merritt Island NWR will undergo a reduction in their scrub jay management program.

-Florida Keys NWR Complex will suffer adverse effects to the sea turtle survey.

-Crystal River NWR will have to reduce manatee surveys, which compromises the refuge's ability to protect manatees.

-Chassahowitzka NWR will undergo a reduction to the Whooping Crane Recovery program.

Because of major funding shortfalls for staff, our refuges are no longer able to support their most basic mission.

The Refuge System in Florida needs a $575,000 increase each year just to retain current services. An example of the impact on the local community is evidenced at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

For every dollar spent in the refuge's budget, approximately $7 is generated in recreational expenditures to the local economy and over $500,000 of local tax revenues are generated through recreational expenditures.

Again, we urge you to increase funding for Florida refuges when you make your Fiscal Year 2008 funding request.

Without adequate funding for our refuges, the wildlife that depend on these important habitats and the public that values these treasures for recreation and education will suffer.

Thank you for your consideration on this important matter.

Sincerely,

The letter was signed by the following Florida members of Congress: Ginny Brown-Waite, Connie Mack, Corrine Brown, Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, Adam Putnam, Alcee Hastings, Robert Wexler and Kendrick Meek.