Critical time for St. Vincent

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 09:01 AM.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to everyone who loves St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge as much as I do.  The island’s protection is at a critical juncture, so I am asking you to join me in speaking up for St. Vincent and all that lives there. 

The Problem:  Because of the national budget sequester, our Refuge is in danger of losing even its current, minimal staffing (only 4 positions for an 18,000-acre island). 

Since 2010, 90 permanent positions in the National Wildlife Refuge System in the Southeast were eliminated, and the regional budgets were reduced by nearly $10 million.  It is very likely that these budgets will continue to decline.

Our Refuge does not have a high profile with the public, so one strategy the USFWS is considering is to relegate St. Vincent into what it euphemistically terms “custodial” status.  This means it may not be open to the public and will most likely have only one or no staff assigned to it.  There will be very minimal or no active management and no proactive work in general. 

I feel sure that without the presence of staff and volunteers on the island, its land and waters will be encroached upon in a variety of ways, not simply left to its own benign intentions.  We know this because even during the brief federal furlough last fall, alligators were killed and poached and duck blinds erected on Refuge property.  Without a staff presence, sea turtles and breeding and wintering shorebirds and seabirds will also go unprotected. The endangered red wolf program may be no more in Florida.  Tours and legal hunting will likely cease.  Fire management will be curtailed or eliminated.

What You Can Do:  We need to let USFWS administrators know that many of us care deeply about this island wilderness and the wildlife it protects.  Your personal voice can make a difference in whether St. Vincent is stripped of its staff and management.

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