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Cahaba refuge could be expanded

Cahaba Wildlife Reserve

Proposed area for Cahaba Wildlife Reserve expansion into Chilton County.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to expand the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, which could affect a portion of western Chilton County.

The purpose of the expansion would be for the protection and management of wildlife habitats in Bibb, Chilton, Jefferson and Shelby counties that are valuable to the Cahaba River.

The expanded area would include property surrounding sections of County Road 204, County Road 203 and County Road 73.

“Right now, we’re just trying to get the word out, especially for the private landowners in that area,” said Brian Smith, county manager of the Alabama Forestry Commission Office.

Smith explained that the Forestry Commission has no stake in the expansion, but he simply wanted to make property owners aware of the plan and how they can voice any questions or concerns.

The refuge was established in 2002 and contains more than 3,600 acres in Bibb County. The proposed plan would not only expand the acquisition boundaries of the existing refuge; it would also establish the Cahaba River Conservation Area within Bibb, Jefferson, Perry and Shelby counties.

Acquisition boundaries are said to contain “areas in which the service may consider negotiations with willing owners for acquisition and interest of land,” as a purpose statement included in the plan reads.

Among most urgent needs for acquiring an interest in the land are: water quality and quantity in the Cahaba River; protection of habitats for mussels, freshwater snails, fish, birds, plants and mammals; and the restoration of longleaf pine habitats within the Cahaba River Watershed.

A public comment period has been extended from now through Sept. 7 of this year. Anyone who wishes to comment is asked to contact Kimberly Eldridge at (404) 679-7207 or by e-mail at Kimberly_Eldridge@fws.gov or by mail at 1875 Century Blvd., Suite 420, Atlanta, GA 30345.

A public comment form may also be printed out online. Just go to forestry.alabama.gov and click on the link under “Advisories” in the top right-hand corner. The link to the form, as well as a downloadable edited version of the plan, is available on the following page.

For copies of the printed plan, contact Refuge Manager Steve Miller at (256) 848-7085 or by e-mail at Stephen_A_Miller@fws.gov or by mail at P.O. Box 5087, Anniston, AL 36205.