Defenders Of Wildlife Condemns Navy's Flawed Decision to Build a Landing Field Near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

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Navy Stubbornly Calls for Landing Field Near Large Concentrations of Birds

(02/23/2007) - Washington, D.C. -- Today the Navy released a flawed environmental impact statement supporting its decision to build a landing field near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. The report maintains the Navy’s preferred site despite stating that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found increasing bald eagle and red wolf populations, both threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, in the immediate area. The report also states that the Navy would discourage waterfowl on more than 17,000 acres of farmland by converting land to crops and grasses that foraging waterfowl avoid.

"Just as they have done for the past four years, the Navy has come to its own predetermined conclusions, despite clear evidence that building a landing field near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is not justifiable, safe or consistent with the Navy’s intended goals," stated Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "The Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge had record numbers of snow geese and tundra swans this year. Scheduling nearly 30,000 yearly fighter jet landings smack dab in the middle of the wintering area for tens of thousands of these birds is a recipe for disaster."

Today's report comes after a district court ruling in 2005 found that the Navy's initial environmental impact statement was flawed and filled with inaccurate assessments on how the landing field would affect surrounding wetlands. The court ordered the Navy to prepare the supplemental environmental impact statement, released today, to address the serious problems found in its original planning document.

"Despite mounting scientific evidence, previous judicial decisions and overwhelming public opposition, the Navy continues to waste money and time on a site that is clearly inappropriate," declared Schlickeisen. "No matter which way the Navy tries to spin the information, the fact remains that the proposed site is bad for wildlife, bad for pilots, bad for farmers and local residents and bad for taxpayers. Just imagine the unbearable disturbance of fighter jets buzzing over homes at night, not to mention the tremendous impact on tundra swans, snow geese, red wolves and other wildlife."

There are a number of alternative sites that do not pose unacceptable risks to pilots or cause irrevocable harm to birds, wildlife and the wild places they call home. Pocosin Lakes Refuge was created to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl. Over 100,000 waterfowl are present for significant portions of each year on this federally protected land. The refuge and surrounding area also support the only wild population of endangered red wolves in the country. Last year, red wolf pups were born on the end of the proposed runway site. Other alternative sites the Navy publicly stated it would re-examine would not put the lives of pilots at risk or destroy the integrity of a federally protected wildlife refuge.

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Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 500,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues.

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Contact(s):

Deborah Bagocius, (202) 772-0239

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