New national wildlife refuges in Tennessee, Wyoming created to protect toads, bats, salamanders

Oct 11, 2023, 10:24 AM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Two newly created national wildlife refuges in Tennessee and Wyoming will help protect habitats for threatened and endangered species such as toads, bats, shrimp and salamanders, federal officials say.

The Wyoming Toad Conservation Area and the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee are the result of “decades-long, locally led efforts to conserve habitat for species while maintaining recreational access,” the U.S. Department of Interior said Tuesday in a news release.

The two refuges are the latest additions to the National Wildlife Refuge System, a collection of 570 refuges and 38 wetland districts managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wyoming Toad Conservation Area is in the Laramie Plains of the Wyoming Basin and will provide public access to the Laramie River. Officials say it will help protect the Wyoming toad, an endangered amphibian, while also helping conserve other species including the white-tailed prairie dog and migratory birds.

The Fish and Wildlife service bought 1,078 acres (436 hectares) of land known as Bath Ranch from The Conservation Fund to officially establish the Wyoming refuge, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge will connect land in Tennessee and Alabama that helps protect the river’s watershed in the Cumberland Plateau and one of the largest tracts of hardwood trees remaining in eastern North America.

The refuge in Franklin County features habitats for threatened and endangered species including gray bats, Indiana bats, Tennessee cave salamanders and Alabama cave shrimp. Fifty kinds of freshwater mussels, including some that are found nowhere else in the world, live in the area’s waters, officials said.

Land for the 87-acre (35-hectare) refuge was donated by The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute.

The announcement of the creation of the two refuges comes as part of National Wildlife Refuge Week. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas, with almost all offering free admittance, the Interior Department said. Visits have doubled in the past decade; 67 million visits were recorded last year, officials said.

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New national wildlife refuges in Tennessee, Wyoming created to protect toads, bats, salamanders