WASHINGTON - The Senate yesterday unanimously passed legislation that would allow the expansion of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. The legislation, which has passed the House, now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.
Under the measure, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge boundaries could be expanded if landowners are willing to sell or donate their holdings or enter into cooperative management agreements with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
With willing landowners, the measure would allow the refuge to expand from Maumee Bay State Park in the west to the refuge's Darby Unit in the east, and south to State Rt. 2, including the Lake Erie Islands.
The refuge, the only national wildlife refuge in Ohio, has 5,700 acres and is a major feeding and nesting area for migrating birds, said Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), who co-sponsored the legislation's Senate version with Sen. Mike DeWine. Senator Voinovich added that the refuge has 130,000 visitors a year and contributes about $5.6 million annually to the local economy.
“As a fisherman, boater, and outdoorsman who has lived on the north coast of Ohio all my life, I'm glad for this chance to help the refuge thrive and to help protect this unique ecosystem and the wildlife that depend on it,” Mr. Voinovich said.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who sponsored the bill's House version, said the expansion is “an investment in the future of eco-tourism in our region. ... The Ottawa refuge is a key gem in the beautiful emerald necklace around the western basin of Lake Erie.”
The legislation also would expand the Detroit Rive International Wildlife Refuge along the Lake Erie shoreline.
“This area is a prime waterfowl migration corridor,'' said Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn), who co-sponsored the House bill with Miss Kaptur.