WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today President Bush will sign the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act into law to enhance efforts of private landowners to protect species and restore habitat. Senator James Inhofe sponsored this law and Congressman Richard Pombo supported it in the House. They were both instrumental in its passage and in this major breakthrough towards a partnered approach to conservation. The Partners Act provides a Congressional authorization for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a successful private-lands conservation program popular with landowners and conservationists alike.
The law authorizes the Department of the Interior, through the Partners Program, to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private lands to improve fish and wildlife habitats.
“This law formalizes a program that exemplifies cooperative conservation,” said Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. “The program puts financial and technical resources into the hands of willing landowners to help them manage their lands for imperiled plant and animal species. Next year we will celebrate the program’s 20th year. The law represents a perfect anniversary gift for this conservation success story.”
In August 2004, President Bush signed an Executive Order on Cooperative Conservation asking all agencies to strengthen their efforts to work together and with Tribes, states, local governments, and landowners to achieve conservation goals. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act affirms the Fish and Wildlife Service’s dedication to cooperative conservation and its commitment to work with private landowners to further the country’s conservation goals while honoring individual rights. This new law will provide stability, highlight the successes of private partnerships and habitat conservation, and recognize the importance of the Partners Program.
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program is a cornerstone in the Service's cooperative conservation efforts – working with private landowners to restore valuable habitat for fish and wildlife. Since the creation of the Program in 1987, it has helped conserve fish and wildlife resources on nearly 800,000 acres of wetlands, 2,000,000 acres of uplands, and 7,000 miles of riparian and stream habitats through nearly 40,000 formalized partnership agreements.
Program successes range in scale. One project led to the creation of four small, emergent wetlands and enhancement of a remnant of native prairie on a 16-acre tract of land in Texas. As a result of the landowner’s efforts, and with the help of the Partners Program, thousands of migratory birds now stop over at the property each year during their annual migration. The landowner refers to the Partners Program as “the most rewarding and landowner-friendly (conservation) program of them all.”
A large corporate partnership supported by the Partners Program helped protect 13,000 acres of rainforest and wetlands on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The Partners Program also provided matching funds to a local agricultural operation to protect sensitive lands under their care, with a focus on native plants and wildlife.
The Service is moving the program to the next phase with public input on priority areas and tasks. By identifying and restoring vital areas of habitat, the Partners Program supports recovery plans for threatened and endangered species and helps prevent future listings of species. Through the Partners Program, the Fish and Wildlife Service works collaboratively with many nonprofit conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, as well as Tribes, states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead federal agency responsible for conserving and protecting the nation’s fish and wildlife resources. The Service strives to fulfill this responsibility through the establishment of innovative programs that offer opportunities for the Service to partner with private landowners to protect species and enhance their habitat. With the vast majority of this habitat in private ownership, these partnerships are central to conservation success.