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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

February 6, 2001
Contact: Mark Wilson - 406-449-5225

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE ANNOUNCES $5 MILLION GRANT TO HELP PURCHASE WILDLIFE  HABITAT IN MONTANA

Montana’s native fishes will receive a $5 million boost from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of $68 million in grants to10 states to help acquire vital habitat for threatened and endangered species ranging from loggerhead turtles in Florida to imperiled songbirds in Texas.

The grant will be used to to acquire a conservation easement on Plum Creek Timber Company riverfront and bench lands within the Thompson and Fisher River basins, as part of the Plum Creek Timber Habitat Conservation Plan. This easement would protect approximately seven miles of habitat for the threatened bull trout. Montana, Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and private landowners are providing the matching funds.

The funds, distributed as part of the Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Acquisition program, will pay up to 75 percent of the cost of 15 land acquisitions in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Non-Federal partners are contributing at least 25 percent of the cost of each project.

Congress created the HCP Land Acquisition program in 1997 to help reduce the conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land development and use. Under the program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides grants to States or Territories for land acquisitions that are associated with approved HCPs.

An HCP is an agreement between a landowner and the Service that allows a landowner to incidently take a threatened or endangered species in the course of otherwise lawful activities when the landowner agrees to conservation measures that will mitigate and minimize the impact of the taking. There are more than 300 HCPs currently in effect, covering approximately 20 million acres, and more than 200 are under development.

"These funds make it possible for states to work with landowners and other citizens to develop habitat conservation plans, setting aside vital habitat to benefit many threatened and endangered animals and plants," said Marshall Jones, the Service’s acting director. "They are excellent examples of how conservation is a partnership between private citizens and local, state, and Federal agencies.."

The lands acquired under the HCP Land Acquisition program are purchased only from willing sellers. They complement but do not replace the conservation responsibilities contained in an HCP.

"The HCP program shows that the Endangered Species Act works," Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie region said. "We are working with thousands of Americans to ensure that people can continue to develop and use land while protecting important habitat for threatened and endangered species."

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 which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource 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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