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Federal government wants 160,000 acres in 4 states for wildlife refuge

MONTPELIER — The US Fish and Wildlife Service would like to acquire more than 160,000 acres of land in states along the Connecticut River — including Massachusetts — as part of its mission to protect land and wildlife in a refuge that runs from near the Canadian border to Long Island Sound.

The land would be in 22 locations in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It would be added to the 37,000 acres already part of the Sylvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and located within the 7.2 million-acre Connecticut River watershed.

The proposal to acquire the land is part of the service’s preferred alternative of four that are part of a draft conservation plan and environmental impact statement that was made public on Monday, opening a public comment period that will run through the middle of November.


‘‘We feel these are the important areas for protection,’’ said Andrew French, manager of the refuge, which was established in 1997 to conserve, protect, and enhance native plant, fish and wildlife in the Connecticut River watershed.

The goal of the refuge is to conserve habitat, environmental education, and recreation while working with other federal, state, and local governmental agencies and private organizations.

French emphasized the service, which wants to begin a long-term process to acquire the land, would purchase land only from willing sellers at fair market value.

‘‘This is a long-term plan,’’ French said. ‘‘We are talking many decades.’’

The new management plan the service prefers also would manage habitat for a variety of species and continue to support public uses such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and environmental education.

French said the refuge’s first acquisition after its creation was the 3.8-acre Third Island in the river in Deerfield, Mass. He said the service is currently authorized to acquire up to 100,000 acres.


Other alternatives being considered as part of the draft plan released Monday were maintaining the current management practices, focusing management on working with others without increasing the amount of land the refuge is authorized to acquire, and expanding the boundaries of the refuge but with less active habitat management.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled 13 information meetings about the management plan and four public hearings between Aug. 31 and Nov. 12.