The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has notified U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that it has suspended its draft proposal to limit recreational boating activities at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge near Lake Havasu in Mohave County, Arizona, following the conclusion of the formal public comment period that ended June 13.
The decision was made after months of protest by the local community, as well as legislative efforts by Senator McCain to block these harmful proposals for the regional economy.
“After reflecting on input we received at public meetings and the great numbers of letters and comments submitted, I have reached the conclusion that more communication is needed before any additional changes are introduced at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, USFWS Southwest Regional Director. “I have decided to withdraw the current draft at this time to allow for further discussions with the community and other stakeholders.”
In addition to withdrawing its proposal, USFWS pledged to continue its dialogue by working closely with local officials in an interagency-community consultation process under a Memorandum of Understanding before taking any additional actions. A representative from USFWS’s Southwest Regional Office will lead the coordination effort with local officials.
“This is a big win for the residents of and visitors to Lake Havasu who enjoy and depend on recreational boating. This decision shows that when communities come together against an agency that has overreached, their voices can be heard,” said Senator McCain. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of local and regional officials, business leaders, and citizens writing, calling, and protesting these misguided restrictions, USFWS heard loud-and-clear that the community will not stand for such unilateral actions. I applaud the entire community for coming together to fight for their interests, and I vow to monitor USFWS’s ongoing dialogue to ensure it honors its pledge to work closely with local leaders before taking any additional actions.”
Immediately following the compatibility determination release, Senator McCain sent a letter to USFWS Director Dan Ashe calling on him to reconsider these proposals, which would have a negative impact on many businesses in the area that rely on boating as a major source of income, and urging USFWS to listen to the concerns of local officials and stakeholders.
Senators McCain and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also filed an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill that would force USFWS to drop its proposed restrictions on recreational boating at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge by preventing the agency from collecting federal boating fuel taxes unless it lifted its proposed boating restrictions. The amendment was ultimately blocked by Senate Democrats.
Most recently, Senator McCain sent a letter to USFWS Director Ashe, insisting that the agency scrap its proposed boating restrictions immediately following the ongoing public comment period for the draft compatibility determination, which was the earliest opportunity the agency had to do so.