DARBY-Ohio Continues Its Support for Refuge in EIS Statement

The following statement was sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Darby Creek Association's comments on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge.

DARBY-Ohio continues its enthusiastic support for the proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge as described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. We encourage the USFWS to create this Refuge as soon as possible. The need for urgency is underscored by recent developments in the watershed:

The following points are key to our support for the Refuge:

A. Continued Commitment to Key Refuge Goals

DARBY-Ohio’s support has always been and remains contingent on the USFWS maintaining its commitment to its original Key Goals for the project. We find the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be consistent with these goals:

1. To Protect Threatened Species in the Watershed.

2. To Protect Migratory Birds & Habitat.

3. To Provide Public Use Opportunities. (Public use compatible with the Refuge’s objectives will probably include hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife education and interpretation.)

4. To Ensure above goals are achieved while respecting agriculture as an existing desirable land use.

We also applaud the USFWS clarification of its relationship with landowners with its "Landowner Bill of Rights" at the beginning of the document.

B. Public Involvement

DARBY-Ohio considers the Draft Environmental Impact Statement another example of how USFWS has listened to feedback gained in the public comment process. The exhaustive process of public meetings has been captured in the document and the "Landowner Bill of Rights" addresses one of the primary concerns expressed by some people. The document also addresses concerns raised in the public comment process regarding the possible spread of disease.

Also in response to public comment, the USFWS refuge proposal continues to incorporate an innovative program that will foster farmland preservation. DARBY-Ohio considers this an important statement that wildlife and agriculture can co-exist and work cooperatively. With over half the area proposed as a special watershed conservation area, DARBY-Ohio notes that people involved in agriculture can choose to have their way of life protected for subsequent generations.

Another important aspect of the Draft EIS is its consideration of many possible alternatives regarding the Refuge. We support the USFWS choice of Alternative 2 as the Preferred Alternative. As we have stated before, we belief Alternative 2 responds to feedback that the plan focus as much as possible on streamside protection while including a major farmland preservation component.

C. Focus on Sprawl as a Primary Threat

DARBY-Ohio believes urban sprawl is the primary threat to the continued health of the Darby Creeks.

USFWS has appropriately focused on this issue as indicated by the following quotes from the Draft EIS:

DARBY-Ohio agrees with USFWS that current local planning controls are "unlikely" to deter the threat of sprawl in the Darby watershed.

D. Need for Farmland Preservation

DARBY-Ohio agrees with USFWS that agriculture is preferred over urban development as an existing land use. We note that the plan highlights the threat of sprawl toward farmland and how this threat is particularly acute in Ohio and especially in the Darby watershed.

We find it significant that the US Department of Agriculture has reviewed the project under its Farmland Protection Policy Act and has determined that the Refuge proposal is not in violation of this Act.

About Darby-Ohio

DARBY-Ohio announced its formation on August 5, 1999. DARBY-Ohio stands for Darby Alliance for the Refuge on Behalf of the Youth of Ohio. It is a statewide coalition of environmental and conservation groups united together to support the most important ecological restoration project ever proposed in central Ohio: the establishment of the proposed Little Darby National Wildlife Refuge along Little Darby Creek.

DARBY-Ohio believes this Refuge is the BEST way to allow everyone to experience this National Scenic River. We say we are working on behalf of youth because this is a long-term project that will protect natural resources and farmland from long-term development pressures. The Refuge is the best way to guarantee that Darby Creek National Scenic River will be protected for subsequent generations.

DARBY-Ohio’s members include the Ohio Environmental Council, Columbus Audubon Society, and the Darby Creek Association. DARBY-Ohio has gained formal comments in support of the Refuge by the following groups and municipalities representing nearly 1 million Ohioans:

Municipalities: City of Columbus, the City of Dublin, the City of Gahanna and the City of Upper Arlington.

Hunting/Fishing Groups: Pheasants Forever - Ohio Council, The Ohio Smallmouth Alliance, Ducks Unlimited - Ohio Chapter.

Land-Conservation Groups: The Nature Conservancy, Tinkers Creek Land Conservancy, Loveland Greenbelt Community Council, Northside Greenspace, Inc.

Citizen Activist Groups: Citizen Speak Out, Rural Action, Citizens Protecting Ohio.

Park Systems: Erie Metroparks

Environmental Groups: Sierra Club-Ohio Chapter, Buckeye Forest Council, Central Ohio Green Education Fund

Watershed Conservation Groups: The Hocking River Commission, Kokosing Scenic River Association, Olentangy River Valley Association, Sandusky Scenic River Advisory Council, Sugar Creek Protection Society, Friends of Blacklick Creek, Friends of the Lower Olentangy

Scientific Associations: Ohio Lepidopterists

One of two major ecological goals for the refuge is to protect endangered aquatic species such as the clubshell mussel, once found in both the Big and Little Darby Creeks but now only in the Little Darby. Little Darby Creek is a National Scenic River containing many endangered species. This asset should be protected for current and future generations to appreciate. At present there is almost no public access to this national treasure. The wildlife refuge would provide access while still preserving the creek’s beauty and biological diversity for all future generations.