COLUMBIA — What the Big Muddy Wildlife National Fish and Wildlife Refuge will look like in 2025 is open for public input Monday.
The future of the refuge, which currently manages about 11,000 acres of public land and is run through the National Fish and Wildlife Service, will soon be put into writing in a 15-year comprehensive conservation plan.
Other Regional Public Meetings
Open forums 3-8 p.m.Tuesday: St. George Church Basement Hall, 613 E. Main St., Linn Wednesday: Commercial Trust Bank basement meeting room, 119 N. Main St., Fayette Thursday: Arrow Rock State Historic Site Museum Auditorium, Arrow Rock Dec. 10: Ray County Library, 215 E. Lexington St., Richmond Dec. 11: Waverly City Hall, 111 E. Kelling Ave., Waverly Dec. 12: Chesterfield City Hall Council Chambers, 690 Chesterfield Parkway West, Chesterfield
Members of the Fish and Wildlife Service will be on hand to discuss topics including hunting and hiking and habitat restoration and management at the five-hour open forum.
“Hopefully we can talk to people individually,” said Tim Haller, a ranger from the Big Muddy Refuge. “We want people to come in and give us their opinion.”
This and six other regional meetings are the only major public comment events before a draft of the plan is written.
The 15-year management plan is the first of its kind for the Big Muddy Refuge, which was created in 1994.
One of the hot topics expected to be discussed at the meeting is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ shallow-water habitat construction projects, several of which are on the Big Muddy Refuge’s land.
“We are gearing ourselves to give feedback about the mitigation projects,” Haller said.
A charged standoff about restoration at the Jameson Island site in the Big Muddy Refuge’s holdings near Arrow Rock erupted earlier this year between the Corps and the Missouri Clean Water Commission.
Habitat improvement still ranks first on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s priority list for its 15-year plan.
The Big Muddy Refuge hopes “to improve the habitat that’s been lost in the Missouri River floodplain,” Haller said.
A close second on their list is increasing public use and enjoyment of the refuge.
“We want our lands to be accessible,” he said. “People are looking for public hunting opportunities.”
Hunting is the most popular activity on many of their units, Haller added. Hiking, wildlife watching and fishing are also common and could become a larger part of the refuge depending on feedback from the Monday meeting.
After the series of public meetings, the Fish and Wildlife Service will incorporate the public’s comments into a draft of its comprehensive plan. Eighteen to 24 months down the road, there will be an opportunity for public review of the draft. By 2010, the plan should be put into action.
“It will be our guiding bible to go by,” Haller said.
Once the plan goes into effect, revisions can be made. But, Haller said, any changes will need to go through approval and evaluation processes.
Wedge Watkins, the Big Muddy Refuge’s biologist, said he is looking forward to these meetings as a chance to share information, both about opportunities the Refuge holds for the public and what the public would like the Wildlife Refuge to offer in the future.
For more information about the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge’s comprehensive conservation plan, go to here.