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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

February 25, 2003

Jacqueline Richy, 303-236-8155, x236

NORTON ANNOUNCES $890,500 IN GRANTS TO NORTH DAKOTA TO SUPPORT CONSERVATION FOR IMPERILED SPECIES ON PRIVATE LANDS

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton announced today that North Dakota will receive $890,500 in grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a new partnership program to assist private landowners in conserving and restoring the habitat of endangered species and other at-risk plants and animals.

The grants, under the administration’s new Landowner Incentive Program, will support innovative partnerships in North Dakota. The state, landowners or non-profit groups must put up at least 25 percent of the cost of projects. With these grants, North Dakota will be able to provide technical and financial assistance to interested landowners.

"In North Dakota and across America, wildlife conservation must be a partnership between the government and the people," Norton said. "This is especially true with threatened and endangered species, half of which depend on private lands for the majority of their habitat. These grants will enable states to work with landowners and defray the costs of habitat improvements for imperiled species on their land."

North Dakota will match the federal grants with $304,000 of its own. The state’s Game and Fish Department will provide technical and financial assistance to private-landowners to protect, restore, or enhance prairie habitat on about 38,000 acres of sagebrush habitat/short-grass prairie, 40,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie and wetlands, and 15,000 acres of tall-grass prairie and wetlands. As a result of these efforts, the agency expects 45 wildlife species and 81 plant species currently classified as at risk to benefit. The grants will be administered through the agency’s Habitat Plot Program, which has enrolled 96,890 acres involving 345 producers since 1998.

Nationwide, the Interior Department is providing $34.8 million in grants to states under the LIP program, which supports the administration’s overall Cooperative Conservation Initiative. This initiative includes a number of conservation grant programs to assist states, tribes, conservation organizations, private landowners and others in conservation projects and programs. President Bush proposed $113.2 million for the Cooperative Conservation Initiative in his Fiscal Year 2004 budget.

"These grants are the catalysts to support efforts of local partners to come up with new and better ways to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife species," said FWS Director Steve Williams. "Through this program, the Service is pooling its resources with private landowners and state wildlife agencies to ensure these species have sufficient habitat."

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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.

- FWS -

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