The U.S. Senate has given final congressional approval to legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) to name the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge for the late Sam D. Hamilton, the Starkville native and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who passed away almost two years ago.
Cochran and Harper in early 2011 introduced companion bills (S.266 and HR.588) to designate the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge as the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. The House approved HR.588 on Nov. 14 and the Senate followed suit late Wednesday night. The bill now goes to President Obama to be signed into law.
"Mississippi's natural beauty inspired Sam Hamilton's appreciation for natural resources and wildlife habitat preservation. The renaming of the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge for Sam Hamilton honors his service to the nation and to Mississippi," Cochran said. "I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate and House for agreeing to this appropriate tribute."
"Sam Hamilton had a long and personal history with the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, where he caught his first fish at age 5 and began his conservation career at age 15. Renaming this refuge in Sam's honor is a fitting tribute to his remarkable career and commitment to wildlife conservation," Harper said.
Hamilton died on Feb. 20, 2010. At the time, he was director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hamilton had a 30-year career with the agency and was recognized following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for his work to restore coastal wetland and wildlife habitats. He had also been recognized for his efforts to promote restoration of the Florida everglades.
Before graduating from Mississippi State University, Hamilton worked with the Youth Conservation Corps on the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.
Located in east-central Mississippi, the Noxubee Refuge covers 48,000 square acres and is a resting and feeding area for migratory birds.
Cochran introduced similar legislation in March 2010 and gained support for it from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who recalled Hamilton as a consensus builder on cooperative conservation projects. That legislation was not enacted before the end of the 111th Congress, but was renewed in February in the 112th Congress. S.266 was approved by the Senate in February 2011 and forwarded to the House. The House Committee on Natural Resources approved S.266 in June 2011 and then HR.588 on Nov. 10, 2011.
Cochran, who serves on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, is vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is a member of the subcommittee that funds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Interior Department agencies