The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed North Carolina's newest national wildlife refuge, a 23,000-acre sprawl protecting some of the nation's rarest habitats, Southern Appalachian bogs.
The proposal, which needs approval by the Fish and Wildlife director, takes a different approach from most federal refuges. It would be scattered across up to 30 different sites in 11 western North Carolina counties. And at least part of it would be held through easements or leases instead if outright purchases.
As always, the plan hinges on whether money is available and landowners willing to protect their land. The Nature Conservancy is among the groups that have already worked for years to protect some bogs, giving the proposal a head start.
The wildlife service will spend the next year soliciting public reaction and evaluating the proposal before sending the findings to Washington in 2013. Written comments are being taken now and information sessions will be held in Hendersonville, West Jefferson, Franklin and Boone.
North Carolina has 10 national wildlife refuges covering nearly 420,000 acres. Only one, Pee Dee in Anson and Richmond counties, is in the western half of the state.