|February 7, 2000||Hugh Vickery 202-208-5634|
The record $250 million increase for the Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in President Clinton's $1.75 billion FY 2001 budget proposal will underwrite major improvements in the National Wildlife Refuge System, wildlife law enforcement, and State and community-based habitat conservation efforts.
"President Clinton is leaving a legacy of strong, healthy lands and wildlife for this and coming generations of Americans to enjoy," said Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "The Fish and Wildlife Service is at the heart of the Administration's Lands Legacy Initiative. By providing funds for State Non-Game Wildlife Grants, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and land acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System, President Clinton is helping conserve irreplaceable wildlife habitat for every American who cares about our Nation's living resources."
"The proposed State Non-Game Wildlife Grants mark a real first in national conservation history," Babbitt added. "Never before has Washington offered a dedicated source of Federal funding to the States for them to tailor programs benefitting all wildlife."
The new State Non-Game Wildlife Grants funding will provide $100 million in grants for States, Tribes and U.S. Territories for non-game wildlife habitat restoration and conservation, planning, monitoring and recreation. Under the proposed distribution formula, States will receive slightly more than 90 percent of the funds, allocated by land area and total population. Tribes, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the District of Columbia all would receive a portion of total funds.
The $30 million slated for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund is double the funding enacted in 2000. This fund supports voluntary, public-private partnerships continent- wide to protect and restore wetland ecosystems that serve as habitat for migratory birds and other wetland associated species. To date, nearly 1,000 partners have worked together on more than 700 projects in North America. This request will generate at least $30 million in matching funds and resources to enhance 150,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitat.
The Service also would receive $65 million, a $42 million increase, as part of the Administration's Lands Legacy initiative for the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund. This money is used to underwrite cooperative efforts with States and communities to protect open spaces and wildlife habitat, most of which lies outside of Service jurisdiction. The additional funds would be used as grants to States and communities to assist habitat conservation planning, Safe Harbor Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements and species recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act.
The President's budget also includes a $59.9 million increase in the Service's land acquisition budget, to $111.6 million. This would allow for the acquisition of more than 103,600 acres of land. This total includes $30 million for Everglades land acquisition for ongoing support of Department-wide efforts to protect this ecosystem that contains some of the most diverse habitats on earth.
"The President's proposed budget underscores the Service's commitment to conserving the nature of America," Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark said. "Our National Wildlife Refuge System is a keystone in the nation's wildlife conservation efforts and providing increased funds to meet their operations and management needs helps them fulfill their vital mission. It will also provide the funds for a sorely needed rebuilding of our law enforcement program."
"We are asking for $52 million in 2001, an increase of almost $13 million, to begin a multi-year initiative to rebuild our law enforcement program. Today's law enforcement program is at a critical crossroads with a declining and under-equipped force facing increasingly complex challenges. Changes in technology and the rapid growth of the Internet pose a whole new set of challenges in stemming the illegal trade, unlawful exploitation, and habitat destruction that threaten our planet's wildlife," Clark said.
The Administration proposes to increase overall funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System by nearly $20 million to $282 million. The additional funding will address high-priority conservation and maintenance needs, as well as promote new recreational and educational opportunities for refuge visitors. These projects include concerted efforts to control non-native invasive species, conserve migratory birds and protect coral reefs. In commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, $1 million will be available for visitor services and wildlife improvements on refuges on or near the explorers' trail. Additional recreational programs will focus on volunteer programs to help provide a wide range of conservation and interpretive services. Nearly all refuges are open to visitors; 290 are open for hunting and more than 300 for fishing. Last year, nearly 35 million people visited the Nation's refuges, a figure which the Service expects to increase as the National Wildlife Refuge System approaches its first centennial in 2003.
The President proposes an $82.7 million budget for the Service's fisheries program. The funding will support efforts to operate and maintain fish hatcheries as well as a variety of projects aimed at restoring fish populations such as salmon and steelhead. The budget includes an increase of over $1.2 million for Service hatchery operations. These funds will be used for native fish restoration in the Mississippi Basin and the States of Montana, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Washington; with an increase of $500,000 slated to address deferred maintenance throughout the hatchery system. Other fisheries projects include mimicking natural river flows along California's Trinity River and studies aimed at protecting aquatic species while providing maximum flexibility for water users along the Klamath River. The fisheries request includes $11 million to fully implement the court-ordered Federal takeover of the subsistence fisheries program in Alaska. The Department plans to contract out 60 percent of resource monitoring work with the State and Native Corporations and other organizations.
The budget also proposes $22.8 million to support the Service's migratory bird program, an increase of more than $1 million. The bulk of the increase will be used to expand monitoring and conservation efforts for declining species such as neotropical birds which nest in North America. In addition, the Service will continue to develop science-based strategies to help control overabundant populations of geese and cormorants, which are creating a variety of ecological problems.
The budget also includes $115.3 million for the Service's endangered species program, a net increase of $7 million over the 2000 budget. Additional funding will help implement non- regulatory approaches to reduce threats to species and preclude the need to list species through additional Candidate Conservation Agreements with private landowners, States and local governments. It will also help the Service develop and implement Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) throughout the country.
"We will continue to use the flexibility built into the Act to work with our partners to develop HCPs, Candidate Conservation Agreements, and Safe Harbor agreements that meet the needs of wildlife and humans alike," Clark said.
The Administration also proposes to increase funding of additional habitat conservation programs to $73.6 million, up more than $2 million over FY 1999. These programs help prevent the degradation of key fish and wildlife habitats before listing species that depend on them is necessary and help fund cooperative conservation efforts with private landowners.
The President's budget includes an additional $3.4 million to support the Service's international conservation operations programs. The Service plays a major role in implementing U.S. treaty commitments for migratory birds, endangered species, wildlife trade, Arctic species, and wetlands. The Service will give special attention to bilateral programs with Canada, Mexico, Chile and other Latin American nations. Plus an additional $600,000 will support elephant, rhino, and tiger conservation efforts overseas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System of more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.
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