Rep. Meehan Announces Refuge Addition (MA)

SUDBURY, MA, 3/17/2003?- The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is hosting a celebration today to mark the hundredth anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The event, which begins at 10:30 AM in Sudbury, features remarks by special guest U.S. Representative Marty Meehan.

A highlight of the event will be the announcement of a new addition to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge plans to purchase the 52-acre Kennelly Farm on West Street in Billerica, which includes critical habitat for vulnerable populations of grassland nesting birds. Thanks to the strong support of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Congress allocated $2.6 million in federal funding for the purchase from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, is assisting the Refuge with the purchase. TPL has negotiated an agreement to buy the land as an addition to the Refuge for $2.6 million from its current owner, Charlie Kennelly, by the end of June.

The celebration will also feature the burial of a centennial time capsule – a steel cylinder, containing a variety of Refuge-related materials, which will be opened by future Refuge stewards in March, 2103 – and the unveiling of the new Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge postage stamp, which event attendees will be able to purchase from an official, U.S. Postal Service-staffed stamp cancellation station. An informal Refuge headquarters open house will also be held, and refreshments will be served.

President Theodore Roosevelt started the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1903 when he set aside Pelican Island, along the Florida Atlantic coast, as a safe haven for birds. Since then, 540 refuges, comprising 95 million acres of protected land and water, have been set aside -more- Refuge Centennial, page 2 for the present and future benefit of wildlife and the people that enjoy these natural places. Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge has been a part of the Refuge System since 1944. The Great Meadows NWR currently protects more than 3,700 acres in the Sudbury and Concord River Valleys. There are 9 other National Wildlife Refuges in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in addition to Great Meadows NWR.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is one of a several programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations across the nation. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, open space, and historic sites. Since TPL was founded in 1972, it has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide, including land at 51 National Wildlife Refuges in 22 states.