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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


 July 22, 2004

Contacts: Heather Johnson 303-236-4316
                  Barb Perkins 303-236-4588 


When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) thinks about heroes in the conservation community, private landowners often rise to the top of that list.  In fact, private landowners in Montana and Nebraska were recently awarded National Wetlands Conservation Awards, through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program), for their conservation efforts in the development, restoration and enhancement of wetlands in their local communities.   

The National Runner Up – Group award was given to Ralph and Toone Burchenal, and their ranch managers, at the Two Creek Ranch in Ovando, Montana.  They received this award based on four years of diverse habitat restoration work on their ranch.  The Burchenals worked with the Partners Program, and other important conservation partners, to enhance and restore 692 acres of prairie potholes, shrub-scrub, fen, and wet meadow wetlands; restore over 7 miles of riparian habitat with a grazing management system; restore connectivity to 15 stream miles, by removing fish passage barriers; and develop an extensive invasive species management program.  The Ranch also has a 3,700-acre perpetual conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.  (Photos available upon request.) 

 “The owners and managers of this ranch clearly understand that wildlife and livestock can co-exist.  The Two Creek Ranch hosts many wildlife species of concern, such as grizzly bear, bald eagle, bull trout, and black tern,” stated Ralph Morgenweck, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region in Denver. 

The Service also awarded a Regional Award to Platte River Basin Environments (PRBE), Inc.  They received this award based on 10 years of conservation work on over 3,000 acres of wetlands, and associated uplands, near Scottsbluff, Nebraska. These valuable wetlands support many high priority migratory bird species, such as canvasback, long-billed curlew, and Swainson’s hawk.  The PRBE, Inc. is a grassroots group of partners involved in land acquisition who also raised more than $3 million in cash and in-kind services to accomplish restoration and enhancement.   

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 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. 

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