COMMERCE CITY, CO - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar toured Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge today to inspect construction and maintenance projects that possibly could be funded under President Obama's recovery and reinvestment plan to create jobs and economic growth while benefitting the refuge and its wildlife.
Such projects might include the construction of a new "green" visitor center to serve the growing number of visitors to the Arsenal, development of an expansive bus tour route for visitors; and enhancements to the Arsenal's existing bison management infrastructure.
"The President's recovery and reinvestment plan will help pump life into our economy by creating jobs for working Americans but it will also pump life into our national wildlife refuges, national parks and other public lands by allowing us to undertake much-needed maintenance and improvement projects for visitors and wildlife alike," Salazar said.
The Arsenal, a former Superfund site located just east of downtown Denver, was built to manufacture chemical weapons to be used in World War II as a war deterrent. It is now one of the premier urban wildlife refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Since his time serving as Colorado's Attorney General, Secretary Salazar has been a leader in efforts to protect open space along the "Northeast Greenway" in the Denver Metro area. The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a core component of the Greenway.
Salazar's visit to the Arsenal was his first return to his home state of Colorado since becoming Secretary of the Interior. U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, officials from Northeast Greenway Corridor local governments, and other community partners joined Salazar on the tour.
Service officials briefed the Secretary about "shovel ready" construction projects at the Arsenal and at other Service facilities in Colorado aimed at advancing the agency's conservation mission while stimulating the nation's economy.
"The transformation of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal from Superfund site to wildlife refuge, and its integration into broader open space efforts along the Northeast Greenway, is a proud product of years of collaborative work among stakeholders," Salazar said. "I am pleased the Fish and Wildlife Service is ready to undertake conservation projects at the Arsenal and beyond that would help reenergize our nation's economy."
Fish and Wildlife Service officials also briefed Salazar about other conservation-related stimulus possibilities, including improvements to units of the National Fish Hatchery System and habitat restoration projects in Colorado and the other states in the agency's Mountain-Prairie Region. Possible projects in Colorado include an auto tour route at Monte Vista NWR in the San Luis Valley; energy retrofits at Arapaho NWR, in Jackson County and Leadville NFH; an effluent system at Hotchkiss NFH; fish passage projects in the Upper Colorado River System on the Western Slope; and new infrastructure at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center, north of Ft. Collins.
The projects at the Arsenal and throughout Colorado, if approved by Congress, would infuse millions of dollars into the economy.
"The Service stands ready, here in Colorado and across the nation, to support the Secretary's efforts to put Americans back to work for conservation," said the Service's Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Stephen Guertin.
The 27-square-mile refuge is one of the largest Superfund sites in the country. After World War II ended, some of the facilities were leased to private industry for the production of industrial and agricultural chemicals. The Arsenal later became a site for chemical agent demilitarization programs. Since 1985, the site's sole mission has been environmental remediation. In 1987, the Arsenal was listed on EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.
Currently, the Arsenal is nearing the completion of an extensive and safe environmental cleanup of the site's soil, structures and groundwater. Cleanup plans were developed and approved by the U.S. Army, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Colorado, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Shell Oil Company. Once the cleanup is complete, the remainder of the Arsenal's vast open spaces will officially transition to one of the largest urban national wildlife refuges in the nation.
At present, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers 12,000 acres of the site as a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the nation's premier network of lands and waters managed for the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. The Arsenal is part of the larger Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes Rocky Flats NWR, west of metropolitan Denver, and Two Ponds NWR, in north-central metro Denver.
The site now provides sanctuary for more than 330 species of wildlife, including bison, burrowing owls, bald eagles and other raptors, as well as migratory waterfowl and resident species such as mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes, and badgers. The cleanup is approximately three-quarters complete and is expected to conclude in 2011.