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Region 3 External Affairs Provides Talking Points for Director Hall
10 Region, January 16, 2007
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Rachel F. Levin, External Affairs, provided talking points for Director Dale Hall for his Jan. 19 announcement of the National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grants.  Hall delivered the remarks at an event at the Field Museum in Chicago, alongside Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

Text of the remarks:

And now I'd like to turn my attention to another Service program that is having an impact in areas like metropolitan Chicago - our National Coastal Wetlands Grant program.

 

When you think of coastal wetlands you probably envision the rocky coastlines of New England, the pounding surf of the Pacific Northwest, or the Louisiana marshlands on the Gulf of Mexico.  The Midwest does not naturally spring to mind in this vision.

 

But the Great Lakes coast is one of the most diverse and spectacular coastlines in North America.  The binational Great Lakes basin -- representing the world's largest fresh water system and the nation's fourth longest coastline -- supports the livelihood and activities of 10 percent of the U.S. and 25 percent of the Canadian populations.

 

The environmental and economic vitality of the Great Lakes depends on the ecological state of the lakes, including fish and wildlife communities and wetland habitats.  The Service is dedicated to working with our partners to conserve habitat along the Great Lakes coast and the thousands of miles of coastline throughout the United States.

 

One way we do that is through our National Coastal Wetlands Grants program.  Each year we award grants to U.S. states and territories to help conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands.  Since 1992, we have awarded more than $180 million in grants through a competitive process to provide the states with a means of addressing their conservation priorities in coastal areas.

 

As with so many of this nation's most successful conservation efforts, sportsmen and -women play a key role in coastal wetlands conservation.  The Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant program is funded with money generated from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels.  The sport-fishing and boating industries, through this tax, are critical partners in the conservation of America's coastal resources.

 

For 2007 alone, we are awarding more than $17 million in grants to 14 states to conserve coastal wetlands.  I am pleased to be able to announce that one of these grants has been awarded to the state of Illinois - some $400,000 to enhance coastal habitat and remove invasive species on 240 acres of dune and swale communities within the ecological coastal wetland complex of Illinois Beach State Park and Spring Bluff Nature Preserve.

 

This grant represents the fruits of hard work by a number of partners, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pleased to be able to help with the restoration of the largest contiguous tract of natural coastal habitat in Illinois.

 

Let me begin by thanking all the partners in this project: the State of Illinois and Lt. Governor Quinn; the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,  the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Friends of Illinois Beach, and Johns Manville.

 

These two adjacent sites, owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Lake County Forest Preserve District, contain over 3,500 acres of original Lake Michigan dune and swale habitat. These rare natural communities support more than 500 kinds of plants and 300 kinds of animals, including 4 species that are currently protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and 50 more that carry similar protections under State law.  These are truly special places.

 

These habitats are threatened by one of the most serious problems facing the Great Lakes region today - invasive species.  This grant will leverage the work of the local partners in controlling invasive species at these sites, and hopefully help secure their future for the millions of residents of the Chicago metropolitan area who come here every year to re-connect with nature.

 

I am also pleased to be able to support the priority work of our State partners.  This coastal wetland area was identified as a priority in the State of Illinois' Wildlife Action Plan, and I am committed to getting behind those plans so that federal and state governments keep moving in the same direction.

 

I think it's fitting we've awarded a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant to one of the country's most urbanized areas.  And that's because the Chicago metro area harbors world-class natural resources.  There are 250,000 acres of the Midwest's best remaining examples of tallgrass prairie, oak woodlands, wetlands, and of course, coastal communities. 

 

Even the most highly developed coastal areas such as right here around Northerly Island provide critically important habitat for migratory birds, and I'm pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service has been able to support the fine work of the City of Chicago in making these urban lakefront habitats better for birds.

 

And, working tirelessly for these resources we have one of the country's most successful conservation partnerships in Chicago Wilderness.  This network of over 200 organizations, agencies and corporations is a shining example of how to come together in the name of cooperative conservation

 

I'd like to quickly emphasize the importance of doing this kind of work in areas like metro Chicago.  We have all the elements we need right here to foster development of a cultural foundation for conservation.  We have the natural elements, and we have the people whom we serve.  For our efforts to be ultimately successful, we need a citizenry that counts conservation as a part of its core value system. 

 

We're very excited about the restoration of Illinois Beach State Park and Spring Bluff Nature Preserve also because it is part and parcel of our collective interest in the long-term conservation of the resources of the Great Lakes Basin.   Restoration of these coastal communities helps advance the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, which encompasses the conservation priorities identified by all the states in the Great Lakes basin.

 

I look forward to working with all the partners in the future.  I offer my support, my encouragement, and my enthusiasm in making this project a success.

No contact information available. Please contact Larry Dean, 612-713-5313, larry_dean@fws.gov


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