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(For the week of October 5, 2009)
National Wildlife Refuge Week
by James L. Cummins
This year, National Wildlife Refuge Week will be celebrated from October 11 through October 17. During this week, wildlife enthusiasts throughout Mississippi will join with millions of others across America in celebrating the diversity and resources of our national wildlife refuges.
National wildlife refuges are dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats. They also offer a wide range of wildlife-dependent recreation – from hunting and fishing to wildlife observation, environmental education, nature interpretation and wildlife photography. They are great places to teach our children the importance of making a lifelong commitment to our nation's natural resources.
Refuges in Mississippi include Coldwater, DaHomey, Grand Bay, Hillside, Holt Collier, Noxubee, Panther Swamp, St. Catherine's Creek, Sand Hill Crane, Tallahatchie, Theodore Roosevelt, Yazoo, Morgan Brake and Matthew's Brake.
Waterfowl populations are some of the highest they have been in over a decade and Mississippi's deer population is over 1.7 million. That's more deer per acre than any other state. Many boat ramps have been constructed and thousands of acres in public lands added to our wildlife management areas and national wildlife refuges in the last 10 years.
Our wildlife populations would not be so good and we would not have the opportunity to enjoy them on our public lands if it were not for our congressional delegation, the Mississippi Legislature and members of Mississippi's conservation organizations, such as Wildlife Mississippi, Ducks Unlimited, The Conservation Fund, the Trust For Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, the Mississippi Legislative Sportsman's Caucus and the Mississippi Land Trust. They have provided the vigilance and leadership to make sure our refuges are maintained under sound conservation practices to benefit both wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts. But not to be forgotten are our superb biologists and law enforcement personnel.
If you visit a national wildlife refuge during National Wildlife Refuge Week, you can enjoy birding tours, fishing and hunting events, hiking and educational activities for kids. These refuges also offer opportunities all year long. With national refuges in every state and within an hour's drive of most major metropolitan areas, nearly all of us can find unsurpassed opportunities to hunt, fish, photograph and watch wildlife.
For more information about national wildlife refuges, call 1-800-344-WILD (9453) or visit www.fws.gov. Enjoy our refuges and remember the work it took to make them happen.