Little Darby Creek Escapes Designation as Wildlife Refuge

By National Center for Public Policy Research | July 7, 2008 | 8:21pm EDT

(Editor's Note: The following is the 60th of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research. will publish an additional story each day.)

About 30 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio, lie the Big and Little Darby Creeks and the farmland they traverse. The area is approximately 100 miles long, 35 miles wide and covers eight counties. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed buying about 57,000 acres in the area in 1997 for the purpose of creating a wildlife refuge and to protect Little Darby Creek.

Landowners, many of them farmers, were opposed to selling their land for a refuge. They claim Founding Father George Washington gave the land to veterans of the Revolutionary War as part of the Proclamation of Virginia Military Land Grants. The Proclamation granted homesteads to "the Revolutionary War Veterans, their heirs and assigns in perpetuity" and included land along the Darby Creeks.

A group called Stewards of the Darby (SOD) was formed to oppose the refuge. The SOD claims the refuge would displace 7,500 people, 4,000 of them taxpayers. SOD spokeswoman Julie Smithson claims the FWS, in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society and Rivers Unlimited, "identified a need for 166,000 more additional acres for mid-migration for an estimated 25.7 million ducks."

SOD rallied against the FWS's plan, conducted local hearings and received federal congressional attention, after which the FWS withdrew the refuge proposal in October 2002. In doing so, the FWS praised the "conservation-minded farmers" for their practices, which a spokesman said protected the natural heritage of the area.

Sources: Julie Smithson, Stewards of the Darby

Copyright 2003, National Center for Public Policy Research

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