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Posted at 2:43 PM ET, 01/31/2011

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to host meetings on conservation plans for wildlife refuges

By Jennifer Buske

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a series of public hearings this week about a proposed 15-year plan to manage wildlife and public access to Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck and Featherstone Wildlife Refuge in Fairfax and Prince William counties, respectively.

The meetings will be held at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Potomac Community Library, 2201 Optiz Blvd., Woodbridge. Another meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Friday at Gunston Elementary School, 10100 Gunston Rd., Lorton.

Featherstone was established in 1979 to protect wetland habitat, however the 325-acre refuge has been closed to the public due to a lack of a "safe and legal" public access points and parking, officials with the fish and wildlife service said.

The Mason Neck refuge was established in 1969 to protect the bald eagle and currently is home to various waterfowl, shorebrirds and other native species, wildlife service officials said. The refuge currently has a wildlife observation area for the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has drafted a comprehensive conservation plan that is up for review and details how Featherstone could be opened to the public and how recreational services could be expanded at Mason Neck without disturbing the wildlife.

Featherstone, along with Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck, make up the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge complex.

To view the complete conservation plan click here.

People can also submit comments to Nancy McGarigal, c/o the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 300 Westgate Center Dr., Hadley Mass., 01035. She also can be reached by phone, 413-253-8562, fax 413-253-8468 or e-mail Submissions should include "Mason Neck and Featherstone NWRs" in the subject line.

To obtain a hard copy of the plan, contact the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 14344 Jefferson Davis Hwy., Woodbridge, 22191 or call 703-490-4979.

By Jennifer Buske  | January 31, 2011; 2:43 PM ET
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