Department Of Interior
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Feb. 6, 2004
Deputy Secretary Griles Highlights President Bush's Conservation Initiatives in Visit to New Mexico
Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steven Griles visited New Mexico this week to highlight key conservation initiatives in President Bush's 2005 budget that will benefit fish and wildlife and natural resource conservation in the "Land of Enchantment." This includes significantly higher funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's High Plains Partnership and a number of grant programs to assist New Mexicans in conservation projects.
"New Mexicans have a
proud tradition of caring for the land and its wildlife," Griles
said. "The President's budget request recognizes that the most
important thing we can do for conservation is to empower communities
and people by giving them the resources and tools they need to get the
The President's budget proposes
$507 million in conservation spending. Within the request is $130 million
for the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, known as CCI, a 25 percent
increase over last year. Through CCI activities, Interior's land managers
are joining with communities, non-profits, states and citizens who care
about the land to remove invasive species, reduce stream bank erosion,
and enhance habitat for threatened and endangered species.
"In New Mexico and other
states, we will use the High Plains Partnership funding to restore about
34,000 additional acres of uplands, 1,000 acres of wetland, and 1,000
acres of riparian habitat in 2005," Griles said. "We will
also work closely with states, communities, landowners and others to
address the habitat needs of declining species before they reach the
point of needing to be listed as threatened or endangered, including
sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken."
Specific examples of the
types of projects the funding will support in New Mexico include detailed
inventories of range and habitat conditions on ranches and implementation
of practices such as cross fencing, livestock water facility development,
and shrub management, coupled with rest-rotational grazing regimes,
that are tailored to the needs of both the landowner and wildlife.
"The philosophy of consulting,
communicating and cooperating is so strong in this partnership that
we have 150 landowners on a waiting list to implement on-the-ground
conservation projects." said H. Dale Hall, director of the Service's
Southwest Region, who accompanied Griles on a tour of restoration projects
Griles also highlighted President
Bush's commitment to helping communities in New Mexico and across the
West meet their water needs, including $21 million to help develop conservation,
efficiency, and water-marketing projects that will help avoid future
water supply crises. For example, the funding will be available to states
and communities to invest in desalination technology, water-saving techniques
for irrigation systems, and strategies to improve water management and
stretch existing water supplies, including water-marketing projects.
In addition, Griles said
that Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann M.
Veneman have announced plans to work with Southwestern states and communities
on a strategic initiative to control tamarisk, an invasive plant that
has infested millions of acres in the region, damaging wildlife habitat,
complicating water management, and causing severe ecological and economic
problems. The two secretaries jointly chair the National Invasive Species
Council with Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans.
Invasive species are infiltrators
that invade lands and waters beyond their historic range and monopolize
the landscape. The cottonwood forests and native vegetation lining New
Mexico's rivers are being overtaken with thick stands of invasive tamarisk.
The effort will formally begin with a three-day conference, March 31
to April 2 in Albuquerque to identify collaborative opportunities that
make the most effective use of collective resources.
"At Bosque del Apache
National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro, for example, we have been
removing saltcedar and Russian olive on thousands of acres using fire,
water and mechanical methods," Griles said. "The land is being
planted with smartweed and other plants that the snow geese and sandhill
Griles also highlighted other key conservation initiatives in the President's budget. These include the following:
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