Speech: Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Last edited 09/05/2019

Remarks of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Trenton, Michigan

Joined by Congressman John Dingell Becky Humphries, Ducks Unlimited

Detroit River distinguishes itself as the only international wildlife refuge in our system and exemplifies the ideal of working partnerships, both here in the United States, but also with our neighbors in Canada.

These lands also carry the special honor of being a Wetland of International Importance, the only site in Michigan with that distinction.

This Refuge is a prime example of an economic driver for the region that brings visitors and contributes to the outdoor industry, with activities like fishing, hiking and boating.

Last year, President Obama unveiled the America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a conservation and recreation ethic for the 21st Century and to reconnect Americans, especially our young people, to the land, water, and wildlife around them.

One of the aims of America's Great Outdoors is to establish great urban parks and wildlife areas throughout the nation so that every child in America is within walking distance of a green space.

With more than 5 million people living in and around Detroit's metro region, this refuge offers a critical link to the great outdoors.

With each tract of land being restored to natural habitat, more Americans will have the opportunity to connect with land, water, and wildlife close to home—be it watching shorebirds tiptoe on the water's edge or native wildflowers swaying in the wind.

Another priority of the America's Great Outdoors initiative is to work with communities and partners across our nation to empower them in their on-going conservation efforts. What we are doing here today symbolizes the power of the community-driven partnerships and serves as a model of what we'd like to do around the nation with this initiative.

The Detroit International Wildlife Refuge already includes over 5,700 acres of islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands. Today we are adding two tracts - the 28 acre Blanchett tract and the 47 acre Holloway tract – that will increase the total amount of land protected by 75 acres.

The Blanchett tract was a joint effort with Ducks Unlimited to enhance coastal wetland habitats. DU provided $70,000 to fund part of the acquisition. The Blanchett is part of the larger Brancheau complex where the FWS and DU have previously partnered to protect and enhance wetland habitat.

The 47-acre Holloway tract is strategically located in Erie Marsh and is adjacent to Michigan DNR state game area lands that are part of the Erie State Game Area, and in close proximity to The Nature Conservancy's Erie Marsh preserve. This acquisition will provide the FWS an opportunity to further partner with key stakeholders in the Great Lakes Region. The acquisition was from a private party, using $87,100 of Detroit River Highway Funds.

The Blanchett and Holloway acquisitions help put the refuge front and center as the National Wildlife Refuge System steps up to meet the goals of America's Great Outdoors initiative and give the American public more opportunities to connect with the natural world.

Here in Detroit, we see real and tangible progress in restoring a river corridor that will be an engine for economic revitalization.

But in Washington today, progress here on the ground is being undone by the House of Representatives.

Today legislation put forward by House Republicans would jeopardize America's investments in its parks, wildlife refuges, and the protections for the places people love most.

The House mark would cut the highly popular and effective Land and Water Conservation Fund by 90 percent. It would entirely eliminate our support for states and communities that are protecting endangered species and their habitat. And it cuts wetlands conservation in half.

All of us agree that we need to put our Nation's fiscal house in order. That's why we are proactively cutting nearly a billion dollars from Interior's budget over the next decade, including half a billion dollars in information technology.

But today's proposed cuts from conservation come at a great cost to the conservation legacy of America.

America's national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands generate a third of a trillion dollars of economic benefits for local communities - and support two million jobs.

So we can measure the costs of these proposed heavy handed cuts in conservation in very real terms, we're talking about lost jobs and lost opportunities in America's communities.

Just ask the town of Monroe, Michigan that wants to make America's newest national park unit, River Raisin National Historic Battlefield, an engine for local economic growth, but needs basic investments in signs and trails to get going.

Or just ask a local outfitter what would happen if his customers discovered that the best game habitat nearby has disappeared.

But we can also measure the costs of the House's attack on America's land, water, and wildlife in other ways.

In the Prairie Potholes of South Dakota - America's "duck factory" - it's losing more and more of the wetlands that sportsmen depend on throughout the country.

At Sleeping Bear Dunes, it's missing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect 196 acres of undisturbed woodlands that a willing seller wants to set aside forever.

And for towns and cities in every state, the House Republican budget could mean halting progress on 9 out of 10 new ball fields, open spaces, and parks that - for four decades - have been supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

These are missed opportunities for our economy and for our children and grandchildren.

Now: there are ways to find deep and meaningful savings in our budget. We must make cuts and we are making cuts.

That's why we have launched the largest information technology reform in the federal government. It will save us half a billion dollars over ten years.

In the last year, we've also cut our contracting expenses by more than a quarter of a billion dollars. That's four times more than House Republicans want to spend on land and water conservation next year.

On top of that, we've cut back on administrative expenses by nearly a hundred million dollars in the last year, and we're going to cut another hundred million dollars in the coming year.

We are making these cuts – smart cuts – so that we can make the investments we need to make to keep America's proud conservation legacy alive and strong.

That's the right way to cut costs and cut the deficit.

So it's up to us – hunters, anglers, business owners, and cities like Detroit that want to attract businesses, revitalize their rivers, and make their communities more livable – to stand up and join the fight.

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