Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary-For Immediate Release Hugh Vickery
Feb. 3, 2003 202-208-6416

President’s Budget Proposes $25.5 Million
Increase for National Wildlife Refuges

Second Major Increase in Two years

President Bush marked the 100th anniversary of America’s National Wildlife Refuge System by proposing a $25.5 million increase in the system’s budget for FY 2004, the second major increase in two years.
Last year, the President proposed an historic $56.5 million budget increase for the refuge system, which was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903 and now includes 95 million acres on 540 refuges in all 50 states.
The $402 million request for FY 2004 would represent more than a doubling of the refuge systems’ budget since 1997. The total budget request for the Fish and Wildlife Service is $1.3 billion.
“President Bush’s strong support of the refuge system in his 2004 budget request will ensure the system continues to be the world’s premier network of lands dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation for the next 100 years,” said Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton.
“This budget will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to tackle the maintenance backlog in the system and improve the management of refuges for both the health of wildlife and the enjoyment of the American people.”
“Our national wildlife refuges are national treasures,” Norton said. “The President’s budget request will help ensure that future generations of Americans will have the opportunity to treasure them as we do.”

Highlights of the President’s proposal for the refuge system include:

$5 million for recently established or expanded refuges to address operating needs at recently established and expanded refuges, including Vieques NWR, and Don Edwards San Francicisco Bay Complex in California.
$8 million for other priority staffing and project needs.
$3 million for challenge cost share, as part of Cooperative Conservation Initiative.
$2.1 million for invasive species eradication.
$2 million for comprehensive conservation plans.
$1.6 million to strengthen law enforcement.
$500,000 for chronic wasting disease.

The budget includes an increase of $2 million for annual maintenance to facilitate continued implementation of a new maintenance management system. This brings the total for refuge maintenance to $109.1 million to continue progress in addressing deferred maintenance.
The National Wildlife Refuge System now includes 95 million acres on 540 refuges in all 50 states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin a year-long celebration of the refuge system centennial on March 14 at the first refuge, Pelican Island, in Florida. In response to decimation of migratory bird populations on the island to provide feathers for ladies’ hats, Roosevelt signed an executive order setting aside the island as a sanctuary.
The National Wildlife Refuge System provides sanctuary for 700 species of birds, 200 species of fish, 220 species of mammals, and 250 reptile and amphibian species. These species include more than 250 threatened or endangered plants and animals. The system also provides Americans with countless opportunities for wildlife-related recreation including fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching. Last year, 39 million people visited refuges. The refuge system receives substantial support from 30,000 volunteers and 200 community-based groups.


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