WASHINGTON — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will suspend its proposal to limit boating activities at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, a decision hailed as a “victory for Lake Havasu” by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar.
Gosar had been one of the more vocal critics of the FWS’ draft recreational boating compatibility determination, which would have extended no-wake areas and restricted motorized boating and some other recreational activities in an area of the wildlife refuge.
“Today, the people of Lake Havasu City and its stakeholders scored a monumental victory in the fight against bureaucratic overreach,” Gosar said in a release distributed by his Washington office. “Standing together, as a unified community, we were able to block a terrible proposal put forth by the Fish and Wildlife Service that aimed to close significant areas on Lake Havasu to tubing, waterskiing, fishing and wakeboarding. Ultimately, the service could not hide from the thousands of voices demanding that the will of the people be heard.”
The decision by Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, came three days after the close of a public comment period — a period that had been extended by 30 days following the furor the proposals generated when they were released in the compatibility determination April 12.
“This victory should put all overreaching federal agencies on notice: the
American people are done with big government overreach,” Gosar said. “We refuse to tolerate lawless, unelected bureaucrats imposing their own political agenda on our communities.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain, who also announced the decision in a release from his office, was equally ecstatic.
“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,” McCain said. “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.”
According to a release from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Tuggle’s decision means that the compatibility determination will not go forward at this time. It doesn’t mean that the proposal is completely off the table.
“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 Tuggle. “I have decided to withdraw the current draft CD at this time to allow for further discussions with the community and other stakeholders.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has pledged to maintain an open line of communication with the public; the agency was criticized for not doing that prior to the release of the April 12 recommendations.
“A Memorandum of Understanding will provide the framework for ongoing dialogue with the community and interested parties,” according to the USFWS statement. “A representative from the service’s Southwest Regional Office will lead the coordination effort with city officials and other vested parties and develop possible collaborative measures that ensure natural resource conservation is managed consistently with compatible recreational uses. This coordination will provide the foundation for the Service to develop a revised draft CD to share with the public.”