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Deadline for comments for refuge expansion extended

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POSTED December 19, 2012 12:44 a.m.

The deadline for submitting comments to the proposed expansion of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge has been extended until Feb. 1, 2013.

Comments may be forward in three ways:

• Via mail sent to: Richard Smith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, R-8 Refuge Planning, 2800 Cottage Way, W-1832, Sacramento, CA 95825

• Via fax: (916) 414-6497

• Via e-mail: fw8plancomments@fws.gov (under subject, put “San Joaquin River”)

The proposal can be viewed and read online at http://go.usa.gov/YMWY

The plan aims to expand the Refuge north and south of the existing boundaries along the San Joaquin River. It’s a 15-mile stretch to the north to a point west of Manteca, and a stretch of 26 miles to the south with the areas to include portions of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in the Merced and Stanislaus counties.

The proposed expansion offers a unique conservation opportunity to restore and enhance a major migratory corridor through the central part of California for the benefit of migrating birds that use the Pacific Flyway. Many other wildlife species stand to benefit from this plan, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service report.

This effort, if realized, would eventually connect the Refuge with the 160,000-acre Grasslands Ecological Area on the Central Valley with its mosaic habitats in the historic floodplain of the San Joaquin River.

The two-month extension given for comments to the Refuge expansion proposal comes on the heels of two open houses recently held in Lathrop and Modesto during the latter part of November.

Among the concerns brought up by property owners and concerned citizens about the proposed expansion of the Refuge area include access, privacy rights, and the rights of farmers who are going to be potentially affected.

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