FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Joe Robb (812-273-0783) March 15, 2007 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Big Oaks NWR Public Comment Invited on Draft Environmental Assessment of the Cumulative Impacts of the Hunting Program at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is seeking public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment that examines the cumulative impact of the public hunting program at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) located in Jefferson, Ripley, and Jennings Counties in southeastern Indiana. This Environmental Assessment (EA) is part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort to review all public hunting programs on National Wildlife Refuges and Wetland Management Districts to ensure they fully comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The USFWS is further evaluating the opening of Big Oaks NWR to fishing at Old Timbers Lake and hunting of white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and squirrel. The EA examines 3 alternatives: A) proposed action: Hunting and Fishing activities as described in the Hunting and Fishing Plan), B) No action: refuge closed to hunting and fishing, and C) amend the Hunting and Fishing and Public Access Plans to exclude hunting activities in the Day-Use Area. Hunting and fishing was approved in the 2000 Interim Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Big Oaks NWR after a public review period. A plan was approved in 2000 to open the refuge to fishing and hunting in the 2000 season, and the hunting and fishing plan was amended in 2004 to include squirrel hunting following another public comment period. However, this third call for public review of the proposed fishing and hunting opportunities on the refuge is the result of a U. S. District Court interim judgment stating that the USFWS did not adequately consider the cumulative impacts of opening numerous national wildlife refuges to hunting. This EA is being submitted to address these cumulative impacts and correct any existing NEPA deficiencies. Public review and comment is a critical part of the policy development process. All comments received from the public are reviewed and considered before finalizing the Environmental Assessment. “I encourage all interested parties to review the Environmental Assessment, contact the refuge if they have any questions, and then provide us with any comments they feel are appropriate,” said Refuge Manager Joe Robb. Copies of the draft EA may be viewed at the Big Oaks NWR website at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/bigoaks or at the refuge office located on the south-end of the former Jefferson Proving Ground, near Madison, Indiana. Written comments on the EA will be accepted through April 17, 2007. Written comments should be submitted to Dr. Joseph R. Robb at Big Oaks NWR, 1661 W. JPG Niblo Rd, Madison, Indiana 47250. fax: 812-273-0786 or email: email@example.com The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 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. The Service manages the 96-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. 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 Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.