U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today applauded the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reevaluate the proposed 279,000-acre expansion of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge.
“I have consistently made clear to the FWS that the proposed acquisition is an egregious and unjustified overreach by the federal government that is unacceptable,” said Shelby. “Today’s announcement indicates that the FWS now agrees that the scope and enormity of the proposed acquisition is not only disproportionate, but also lacking any legitimate justification.”
The FWS proposed a massive expansion of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. The service currently is authorized to buy land in a 7,600-acre area in Bibb County and owns 3,600 acres. The proposal would expand the acquisition area by 106,415 acres. On an additional 173,380 acres, the service would be able to buy development rights to create conservation easements along the Cahaba River.
On September 28, Senator Shelby met with Steve Miller, manager of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, and Department of the Interior officials regarding the proposed expansion of the wildlife refuge. Senator Shelby reiterated his concerns that the FWS failed to properly solicit input from landowners and stakeholders, and has neglected to consider the effects the expansion may have on impacted parties and the local economy.
According to the Alabama Forest Owners’ Association, expansive land acquisition would cost $22.8 million in payroll contributions annually, $778,958 in state tax contributions each year, and 702 jobs. Additionally, the federal government would be required to pay the affected counties in perpetuity for the acquired properties.