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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


February 25, 2003

Jacqueline Richy, 303-236-8155, x236


Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton announced today that Montana will receive $1.49 million 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 Montana. The state, landowners or non-profit groups must put up at least 25 percent of the cost of projects. With these grants, Montana will be able to provide technical and financial assistance to interested landowners.

"In Montana 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."

Montana will match the federal grants with $1.5 million of its own. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will use the grant to implement the Sagebrush Initiative, a new voluntary sign-up program developed as part of Montana’s Upland Game Bird Habitat Enhancement Program. The program is designed to provide incentive payments to private landowners for long-term protection of approximately 217,000 acres of sage grouse-occupied habitat. In addition to the protection afforded sage grouse, six other sagebrush obligate species and 46 sagebrush associated species, including 15 wildlife species of concern, and a host of other species that utilize sagebrush for cover and food will also benefit from this program.

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.

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