Clark Corbin

(Idaho Capital Sun) The U.S. Department of Interior announced that $6.2 million in funding has been approved to acquire almost 2,500 acres to add Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho.

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the funding Sept. 13 as part of a larger $50.6 million effort to expand wetlands and upland bird habitat, the U.S. Department of Interior announced in a press release issued earlier this month.

Located 30 miles north of Soda Springs, Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a protected 22,000-acre marsh that hosts the largest breeding population of sandhill cranes in North America.

Acquiring the additional 2,496 acres expands the amount of protected habitat for sandhill cranes, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Christina M. Meister said.

“When considering a potential addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System, the service evaluates the property to determine whether it would be a good addition to the refuge,” Meister said in a written statement. “Having such important migratory bird habitat, this acquisition was a great candidate for consideration by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The commission approved funding for the acquisition, and the service will complete the acquisition next year.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it was unable to disclose information about the landowner.

The funding comes primarily from sales of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, which are commonly known as Duck Stamps, Department of Interior officials said. The Federal Duck Stamp Program was established in 1934 and has provided more than $1.2 billion for habitat conservation in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Along with funding to expand Grays Lake, Fish and Wildlife officials also announced they were using $5 million to acquire 446 acres in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.

“Each of us has a stake in the health of wildlife and wetlands across our country. But protecting them takes collaboration, communication and a steadfast commitment to the local communities who know and depend on these places,” Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said in a written statement.

Waterfowl hunters are required to buy Duck Stamps as an annual license, but anyone can buy a Duck Stamp to contribute to conservation. Current Ducks Stamps serve as a pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an admission fee.

More information is available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.