Cahaba Wildlife Refuge plan reconsidered

Published 9:06 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Plans to expand the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, which would have brought the protected area into Chilton County, are being reconsidered.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take six months to review all options concerning the expansion.

Many landowners have been critical of the Service, saying the department didn’t provide enough information or seek proper public input about the proposal. Others have questioned the expansion’s economic impact.

“Our number one priority is to work in tandem with landowners, community and business leaders, the state, our conservation partners, and others, who are interested in the future of Cahaba Wildlife Refuge and the protection of these extraordinary natural resources for generations to come,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Moving forward, we are committed to doing a better job collaborating with citizens throughout the Cahaba River basin.”

The expansion would have included property in western Chilton County along County Road 204, County Road 203 and County Road 73. The refuge was established in 2002 and contains more than 3,600 acres in Bibb County. The proposal would have expanded the acquisition area by 106,415 acres within Chilton, 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,” according to proposed expansion plans.

Sen. Richard Shelby praised the decision to re-evaluate the proposal.

“I have consistently made clear to the FWS that the proposed is an egregious and unjustified overreach by the federal government that is unacceptable,” said Shelby, in a press release. “(Monday’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.”