enhancement along Great Lakes is billsí objective Toledo Blade
PORT CLINTON - Ongoing efforts to protect some of the most
valuable coastal wetlands along Lake Erie could be enhanced
if a pair of congressional bills are approved.
The bills would extend the boundaries for which the federal
government can attempt to expand the sprawling Ottawa National
Wildlife Refuge Complex, an 8,316-acre region that includes
the Cedar Point, Ottawa, and West Sister Island preserves
east of Toledo.
Money for acquiring large chunks of property or accepting
donations of land likely would have to come from separate
appropriations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had
a land-acquisition program for years, but has been limited
in scope to 5,000 acres in Lucas, Erie, Ottawa, and Sandusky
counties, officials said.
Bills introduced by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo)
and U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) would give the
agency a wider area for negotiations with property owners,
including the Lake Erie islands.
Miss Kaptur said in a prepared statement Tuesday she is
hopeful her bill, introduced in the House in May, will come
up for a final vote before Congress adjourns. A subcommittee
held a hearing on it in July.
Mr. Voinovich introduced a bill Tuesday in the Senate. The
senatorís press secretary, Scott Milburn, described it as
companion legislation to Miss Kapturís bill that was introduced
to "facilitate passage" of what might come out of the House.
Jim Leach, a supervisor in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceís
Midwest regional office in Fort Snelling, Minn., said the
agency welcomes efforts to help expand the refuge.
"Surely, weíre in support of any wetlands protection," Dan
Frisk, refuge manager, said.
Ohio trails only California in terms of wetlands loss. The
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge complex is ranked as one
of the nationís top birder sites. It draws 120,000 visitors
a year and has an estimated impact of $5.6 million a year
on the local economy, officials said.
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