Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright 202-208-6416
For Imediate Release: May 2, 2003
Lou Good 432-477-1103

Interior Secretary Norton Says Rio Grande River Agreement is a Classic Example of Citizen Stewardship
This precedent-setting agreement establishes key element
of wild and scenic river management plan

SAN ANTONIO--Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton accompanied, by National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, participated in a signing ceremony today to highlight the first official agreement between a private landowner and Big Bend National Park. The agreement would allow limited public use of private land along the Lower Canyons stretch of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. The agreements are an important part of the new management plan for the river.

"Local citizens working together with all stakeholders for the good of the community is a classical example of citizen stewardship and my Four C's at work," Norton said. "This is a precedent-setting agreement that establishes the key element of the management plan for the Rio Grande River Wild and Scenic River. We appreciate the personal time, hard work and dedication that all the stakeholders have demonstrated throughout this process."

Secretary Norton is firmly committed to a process she calls the Four C's: they are consultation, cooperation, communication- all in the service of conservation.

In exchange for allowing limited public use, the agreement details NPS responsibilities along that stretch of the river, including managing all public use and protecting the values for which the river was originally designated wild and scenic in 1978. Those values include recreational uses, such as floating, camping, fishing and hiking, as well as monitoring and protecting archeological sites; working to reduce or eliminate exotic species, such as tamarisk and nutria; and working to improve water quality and quantity.

"This important agreement is about local citizens working together to find the common ground necessary to protect these breathtaking, beautiful areas, NPS Director Mainella said. "The signing today shines the spotlight on more than three years of hard work among all of the stakeholders involved in putting together the management plan."

The first landowner to sign was San Antonio resident Paul G. Silber Jr., longtime rancher and owner of the Bullis Gap Ranch in the Lower Canyons. Signing for NPS was Big Bend National Park Superintendent Frank J. Deckert.

The stakeholders in this agreement include representatives from state and local government, outfitters, private paddlers, landowners and NGOs. All participated in bringing about the agreement signed today.

"It would be hard to put into words Paul Silber's contributions to resolving the thorny issues raised by public use of private land on the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River," Superintendent Deckert said. "Paul helped all of us not only to understand the issues, but how to find satisfactory solutions to them. Without his conscientious efforts, I doubt we'd be here today."

Originally designated wild and scenic in 1978, the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River is a nearly 200- mile stretch of the river that begins in Big Bend National Park and ends at the Terrell/Val Verde county line. Over half of the river flows through private land on the United States side.

The original planning effort in the early 80's was unsuccessful due in large part to the failure of NPS to reach agreement with the private landowners on public-use issues. Planning efforts began again in 2000 with the formation of the Rio Grande Partnership Team. The team consists of representatives from all of the stakeholders on the river and all meetings are open to the public. Official agreements with private landowners are a key element of the new plan.

The NPS manages both the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River and the Rio Grande along the park's boundary for recreation and preservation. The management plan should be completed by the end of this year.



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