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Bogue Chitto forum held

Hunting, fishing, boating and observation are some of the activities offered at the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking comments to make those work better for the public and possibly add new activities.

Thursday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who manages the refuge, held a public comment meeting at the Pine Grove Baptist Church in the Pine Grove Community. Turnout was large and consisted mostly of people who partake in the many activities in that area.

Refuge Manager Daniel Breaux and Regional Planner Tina Chouinard spoke to those who attended the meeting about the history of refuges and what the priorities of the refuge are. The premise of the meeting was to gather information from the public, specifically those who use the refuge, to form a comprehensive plan for the next 15 years. That plan is set to be presented in 2010 and be implemented no later than 2012, Chouinard said.

The Bogue Chitto refuge was formed in 1980 and consists of 36,502 acres, however the refuge has the option to purchase adjacent land from those willing to sell, adding that land to the refuge, Breaux said. Several endangered species call the refuge home, such as the gopher tortoise and others are of concern, such as several species of birds, lizards and frogs. The park offers several activities including canoeing, camping, hunting, fishing and observational opportunities to conduct photography and bird watching.

While camping is limited to hunters and fishers, and must be in primitive form, there is still a problem with litter on the refuge, Breaux said.

One major change that got a lot of positive feedback from attendees involves reinstatement of lost hunting days due to high waters along the Pearl River. That change is expected to start soon. Breaux said most activities are closed when the river reaches 15.5 feet. If that happens during a future hunting season then those lost days will be made up later in the year. Another change involves allowing chainsaws into the refuge on trial basis. Cutting of live vegetation is still prohibited.

Currently horses, ATVs and commercial guide services are prohibited on the refuge. During the public comment period of the meeting a few attendees requested that the refuge allow horses on the old logging trails. Some other requests from those at the meeting included, adding more hunting days, allowing hog hunting without the use of dogs, implement clear boundaries of Mississippi and Louisiana areas since the states have differing hunting and fishing regulations, allowing hunters to clear briars from their hunting stands and coordinate controlled burns to avoid burning turkey eggs.

Comments will continue to be accepted for the next 45 days by e-mailing tina_chouinard@fws.gov.