Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

March 18, 2014

Big Oaks NWS officials welcome comments


The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is examining several public use activities, including the collection of items, at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, Madison, under its mandatory 10-year re-evaluating time period, reports project leader Joseph Robb.

Currently, visitors are assigned to areas on the refuge where wild edible foods and shed deer antlers may be collected. Wild edible foods are hand harvested by picking the products from the plant, gathering what has fallen to the ground or cutting by hand. Blackberries, raspberries, mushrooms, wild asparagus and walnuts are examples of food products found on the refuge. These foods grow in the forest and grasslands and occupy a small percentage of the total upland acreage. Mushrooms are found throughout the refuge mainly in the forested areas. “We currently require gathered mushrooms to be collected in mesh bags to allow dispersal of spores,” Robb reveals.

Shed deer antlers may be found by walking areas on the refuge open to public access. Access to harvest sites is accomplished by walking from a designated roadway. Wild foods and deer antlers are for personal use only and cannot be sold. Entry into closed areas on the refuge is strictly prohibited. No ground disturbing activities will be authorized due to potential hazards associated with munitions from past U.S. Army testing on Jefferson Proving Ground.

The National Wildlife Refuge System’s mission is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. The purpose of Big Oaks NWR is for the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources and to conserve fish, wildlife and plants, including those which are listed as endangered or threatened.

“We would like to know what you think about these refuge uses being evaluated. We are especially interested in information you have or studies you are aware of regarding the effects of such uses. Compatibility determinations have been drafted and are available for public review and comment.”

All comments received by Saturday, March 22, will be considered in the final determinations. “We hope to make a final decision on these uses within 30 days following closure of the public comment period.”

To request a copy of the compatibility determinations, to learn the final decision regarding these public uses or for more information, persons can contact Dr. Joe Robb, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, by mail at 1661 W. JPG Niblo Road, Madison, IN 47250; by telephone at 812-273-0783; or by email at Joe_Robb@fws.gov.