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Dean Willson hunts for monarch butterflies during the Monarch Butterfly Tagging Workshop at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in 2015. The refuge is seeking public comment on a compatibility determination for new visitor uses.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a draft Compatibility Determination for visitor uses of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.

The draft document lays out a plan for possible increased uses of the refuge for wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation uses at the refuge on designated roads, trails, overlooks and facilities.

A proposed new "watchable wildlife driving trail" would be developed in the refuge's Hidden Marsh as part of a larger trail connecting the refuge with the nearby Montezuma Audubon Center.

Similarly, the Sandhill Crane Unit's east dike would be developed as a multi-use trail for pedestrian, bicycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing when connected with the Erie Canalway Trail.

Both self-directed exploration and programs conducted by refuge staff or in cooperation with partners are proposed.

According to the document, the additions are being proposed as the Refuge Improvement Act considers wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation as priority uses that refuges must facilitate.

The availability of educational programs and a chance to connect with wildland ecology would also allow for the public to become more aware of the problems facing natural resources, the effect the public has on wildlife and the Service's work in conservation.

With a total estimated cost of $15,500 for costs such as road maintenance and program development, the refuge currently has the resources necessary to develop the proposals, according to the draft.

The document can be found online at fws.gov/refuge/montezuma and the public comment period is open from Feb. 12 - 25. Comments should be addressed to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, 3395 US Route 20 East, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Attn: Big 4 CD. Comments may also be sent to andrea_vanbeusichem@fws.gov.

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