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Monday - August 18, 2003

NEW BERN - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that ALLAN WHITE BALLANCE appeared in federal court in New Bern, N. C., on Monday, August 18, 2003, and pled guilty to the unauthorized removal of water from the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. Chief U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle presided. BALLANCE, 74, of Route 1, Fairfield, N. C., was charged in a Criminal Information filed by the United States Attorney's Office on May 15, 2003.

He could receive a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment, a fine of $100,000.00, and a supervised release term of one year. In accordance with his plea agreement with the government, BALLANCEhas already paid restitution in the amount of $27,875.00 to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service--$3,500.00 to repair the road, vegetation, and earthen damage on the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, and $24,375.00 for the cost of the illegally taken water. His sentencing date has not been set.

According to testimony and evidence presented in court,BALLANCE unlawfully entered the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge on or about October 20, 2001, built an earthen dam, and pumped water from the refuge and otherwise damaged refuge property.

Based upon various factors--standing water in BALLANCE'simpoundment, its 10-acre size, the amount of water necessary for saturation, and weather conditions--refuge authorities estimated that BALLANCE pumped an amount between 6.5 and 8.2 million gallons of water off refuge property from October 20, 2001, through October 24, 2001. As a result of his illegal activity, authorities noted that one of the refuge's impoundments was completely drained.

The Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Reserve, located in Hyde County, N. C., was purchased by the United States government in 1934 and consists of 50,000 acres of water, marsh, and woods. The dominant feature of the refuge is Lake Mattamuskeet, which is 18 miles long, seven miles wide, and fairly shallow. It is the largest natural lake in North Carolina.

The primary mission of the refuge is to protect and enhance waterfowl habitat within its boundaries and to provide a secure and protected area for wintering populations of migratory birds. Because the refuge is in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, it provides a valuable wintering area for the waterfowl using this migration route. Over 800 species of wildlife and birds make the refuge their home for all or part of the year, including thousands of Canada geese, snow geese, and tundra swans. In addition, the refuge provides a habitat for endangered species, such as the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. In furtherance of its mission, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service established impoundments on the edge of Lake Mattamuskeet to ensure that migratory birds and waterfowl would have places of refuge where water and food are available.

U. S. Attorney Whitney noted that on March 14, 2003, the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its Centennial Anniversary--100 years of conserving and protecting a variety of habitats and animal species.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is handling the case for the government.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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