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Secretary of the Interior Presents Regional Conservation Award to North Carolina Landowner

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton

Interior Secretary Gale Norton celebrated Earth Day today at the 154- acre Kuenzler Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Secretary Norton highlighted the nationally recognized U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program which provides landowners with a means of restoring and protecting wildlife habitat on their property.

"Since the program's creation in 1987, thousands of landowners have restored more than 640,000 acres of wetlands, 1 millions acres of habitat and 4,700 miles of streams", said Secretary Norton. "President Bush has proposed a 24 percent budget increase for this program which will allow other landowners to do exactly what the Kuenzler family has done here in North Carolina", she continued.

In addition to the $4,000 grant provided by the Service to help restore the wetland on their property, the Kuenzlers worked with other private and federal agencies to protect all of their land from development (Project details pdf version). After touring the Kuenzler property, Secretary Norton presented landowner Jutta Kuenzler with the Southeast Regional Director s Conservation Award.

"It was Jutta s husband s vision to protect the family farm from development and restore a wetland that had been drained for agricultural use", said John Ann Shearer, State Coordinator for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

According to Shearer, the late Dr. Edward Kuenzler, was a professor of ecology at the University of North Carolina and over the years had used his farm as a classroom for his students.

Secretary Norton giving Award to Jutta Kuenzler

"After he died unexpectedly, Jutta, who still lives on the property, and her children continued on with the project", Shearer said. She has also hosted two conservation field days in which other land owners, university students, faculty and the media could see the benefits of the program.

While it was the Secretary of the Interior who highlighted this project, the project would not have been possible had it not been for the strong partnerships of several public and private agencies. The Triangle Land Conservancy, the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have all worked well together to make the process a positive experience for the landowner and her family.

"Many landowners feel that they want to do something to protect their land and enhance the wildlife, but they don t know how to do it.", said Shearer "The Secretary's respect for and commitment to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is really exciting for the program. I am looking forward to talking with more landowners about opportunities for restoration on their land. "

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 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 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.

Secretary Norton with John Ann Shearer (USFWS) and Brent Bogue (USDA) at wetland site
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