Department Of Interior

Speech Prepared for Delivery
By The Honorable Gale Norton
Secretary of the Interior
June 17, 2003
Outdoor Writers Association of America

It is a pleasure to be here in Columbia, MO. among so many journalists and in this city where the University is renowned for producing esteemed writers and news reporters. I actually thought about attending college here.
It reminds me of my undergrad years at the University of Denver. I was a journalism major-before I began focusing on law school.
I was the news editor at the college paper, The Denver Clarion. I made all of $12 an issue-paychecks like that made the transition to public service a snap. I was also a copy editor. To this day, I still make my staff crazy with spelling and grammar edits.
Since becoming Secretary of the Interior, I have slogged through Florida Everglades with water above my knees-while park rangers warned us to "watch out for alligators." I have shivered through a minus 75 wind chill on Alaska's North Slope and I've been to the Grand Canyon in the heat of August where the sun seemed to concentrate its power on me.
My most recent outdoor experience was hiking and then camping under the stars in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
I've loved every minute of those visits. It is such a privilege to be outdoors and to experience the diversity and beauty of this great nation-all as a part of my job.
Can you imagine being the first in our fledgling country to discover the majesty and vastness of this continent traveling by foot, mule and boat as Lewis and Clark did?
I was pleased to see several speakers at this conference are addressing the theme of the Corps of Discovery since Missouri played such an integral part in its beginnings. Did you know that on this date in 1804, the Lewis and Clark party camped about 70 miles from here?
The Lewis and Clark saga is riveting. I'm fascinated by the fact that all but one member who started the trek returned safely. This included Sacagawea,

She reminds me of a comparison I've seen about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was said that Fred Astaire was the more famous of the movie dancing duo. But Ginger always said she danced every step that Fred did-but she had to dance in four-inch heels and backwards.
It is hard to imagine this tiny Indian woman made the trek across the continent with the Corps while she was either pregnant or carrying an infant child. That qualifies as a lot more of a handicap than four-inch heels. But Lewis and Clark still always get top billing.
You could say the Corps of Discovery was the first Department of the Interior. Arguably, they were the beginning of our US Geologic Service mapping, and the precursors to Fish and Wildlife biologists. They learned about diverse Tribes long before there was a Bureau of Indian Affairs.
There were differences of course. The Corps originally requested a Congressional appropriation of $2500, and ended up spending more than $38,000. We would never do that at Interior. There were cost overruns even in those days.
As this year marks the beginning of the three-year commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, I hope you, as outdoor writers will encourage Americans to learn about the daring and magnitude of what these explorers accomplished.
We estimate that over the course of the bicentennial some 35 to 40 million Americans will retrace at least a portion of the famous route. The University of Missouri for example, offers a Lewis and Clark river cruise to its alumni.
Each region, each member of the Corps and each site they traversed, has a story waiting to be retold by a dedicated writer. Here is a favorite Lewis & Clark trivia question: Did you know one member of the expedition later served as a United States senator?
George Shannon, the youngest member of the expedition, became a U.S. Senator. That was somewhat ironic, since he was the team member who was always getting lost. Somehow I don't think I'll be pointing that out at the next Senate hearing I attend.
But as outdoor writers, I know you rarely have time to concentrate on the details of history-no matter how interesting. So let me turn to the present.
Today, there are 21 wildlife refuges established along the Lewis and Clark route-not because of the history, but because of the migratory bird flyway.
President Bush, who is himself an avid hunter and fisherman, strongly supports the refuge system. In the last two years, he has proposed an $80 million increase in the Refuge System's operating budget. If Congress approves the increase, that refuge budget will be more than double what it was in 1997.
But refuge funding doesn't just come from appropriated funds. You know that much of the funding for acquisition of lands comes in no small part, from the Duck Stamp program.
Of course, the excesses of market hunters in President Roosevelt's era, one hundred years ago, were the catalyst for declaring the first refuge at Pelican Island in Florida. Market hunters killed so many waterfowl that the Nation had to act.
Yet today, it is the partnership of hunters that provides the funds to purchase land and expand our refuges. That first refuge was about 3 acres. Today we have 540 National Wildlife Refuges that cover 95 million acres. If they could all be gathered together in one spot they would equal an area twice the size of Florida.
The Department of the Interior wants to cement our partnership with America's sportsmen and women. It is their strong conservation ethic and financial support that have been the backbone of wildlife conservation for more than a century.
We also are working to strengthen our partnerships with State agencies and the rest of the wildlife conservation community, including industry, non-government organizations, private landowners, nature photographers, birdwatchers, or others who enjoy fish and wildlife.
The need to strengthen our ties to states is why the President chose Steve Williams to be Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Steve ran a State Fish and Wildlife program in Kansas and understands the issues from that perspective.
Steve is also a hunter and an angler-and I like it that he wears cowboy boots to staff meetings in a town that corners the market on wingtips.
Steve strongly believes that fishing and hunting remain vital to the future of conservation. He says fishing and hunting allow parents and kids to bond. Both sports strengthen our ties to the natural world. They instill a lasting respect for the outdoors. He tries to instill those values in his children, and believes in them for yours.

In the last three years, we have started 44 new hunting and fishing programs in our refuges, and Steve continues to look for new opportunities. When the Comprehensive Conservation Plans come in from the refuges with a recommendation for no hunting or fishing, Steve simply asks, "Why?"
There are refuges where hunting and fishing are not appropriate and managers should have the option to ban such activities. But it is not the answer for all refuges.
Steve is committed to expanding hunting and fishing wherever they are compatible with the refuge system's wildlife conservation mission, and I support his efforts.
Last September, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced new hunting and fishing programs on seven national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Montana, Wisconsin and Virginia. They also increased opportunities for hunting and fishing at eight other refuges.
The work you do in promoting the outdoor life is more important every year. Something like one in four Americans is overweight and that includes at least 15 percent of our children.
For too many of our youth, fish is something you see in a new animated film called "Finding Nemo." Hunting is done on a computer game-and too often people are the prey. An entire generation seems to think true wilderness is found on the television show, "Survivor."
Fewer Americans than ever can say they have slept under the stars. Even in our National Parks, people are visiting, but few take time to get off the beaten path. Last year there were 277 million visitors to all of our National Parks. Only 12 million actually camped overnight and many of them were in recreational vehicles.
Everyone is familiar with the National Parks, so let me highlight some other recreational opportunities at Interior.
The Bureau of Reclamation provides recreational facilities in the West, especially for watersports. The Bureau has 310 recreation areas and more than 300,000 campsites nationwide. Those areas include swimming beaches and 800 boat ramps. The recreation sites are managed by either the National Park Service or State parks and recreation departments in partnership with the Bureau.
The Bureau of Land Management also offers a wealth of recreational opportunities-more than 200,000 miles of fishable streams, 2 million acres of lakes and reservoirs, and millions of acres open to hunting and other active recreation.
Let me turn to the financial side of Interior's programs for a few minutes.
Hunters and anglers have always contributed to wildlife conservation in personal ways. But their contribution through taxes is huge for conservation at both the National and State levels. I've already mentioned the Duck Stamp program, but there is also the Federal Aid Program for Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration. It is one of the most successful user-pays programs ever.
This small Federal tax on hunting, fishing, and boating equipment generates substantial revenue for state conservation programs. That program is up to $676 million. The tax is returned to the states by formula.
In the last two years the Fish and Wildlife Service has worked closely with its state partners to improve the administration of this program. We are pleased to see it back on track and efficiently and effectively returning funds to State Wildlife agencies. Under my watch those funds will be spent for their intended purposes.
Let me give you an example here in Missouri of how these funds are used. Back in 2000 Missouri opened the doors to the Lost Valley Hatchery. The Sport Fish Restoration Program helped fund the design and construction of this facility.
It is intended to produce most of the fish needed for the Missouri Department of Conservation sport fish programs. It includes a visitor center that helps in educating residents about the role of hatcheries in fisheries management.
The facility cost $21 million. Nearly $16 million of that came from the federal aid program. It is believed to be the single largest capital improvement project ever undertaken within the program.
Fish hatcheries are an issue that is important to you. I support the President's budget. But before it becomes the President's budget, we often have conversations with the Office of Management and Budget.
One of my discussions with that office was over their broad-brush assessment of the fisheries program for fiscal year 2004. They had decided on reductions in funding for a program they believed was faltering because of a lack of strategic planning.
But this fell at a time that the fisheries program was working on a new vision statement and a new strategic plan for meeting the goals of the program.
We were able to show organizational and strategic improvement to the Office of Management and Budget. That encouraged them to fund the National Fish Hatchery System above the level of $50 million at which it had operated for years.
Consequently, the President's budget for 2004 includes a 16 percent increase to $58 million. The additional money will be used to restore and expand hatcheries and for hatchery science.
Another issue affecting fish is invasive species. There is an increase of $1 million in the budget request for studying and eradicating invasive species.
I came across one of the ugliest examples of invasive species last summer when I met the snakehead fish in Maryland near Washington, DC. We contained the fish to a pond and destroyed it. We were also able to ban its trade and import under the Lacey Act. We stopped it in its tracks. Note I said "in its tracks." That would be a strange way of putting it, except that this singular fish could move on land from one body of water to another.
I liked Steve William's description: He said, "This fish eats all the other fish in a pond, then crawls out and over to the next pond, where it also eats all the fish." He concludes that the snakehead fish is perfect for Washington, D.C.
I've been talking about additional budget moneys from the Administration that will help in the fight against invasive species and improving hatcheries and refuges.
But the money I'm most excited about is in the accounts that encourage partnerships in conservation.
Let me give you an example. Back in 1985 when the waterfowl population plummeted, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan was established. Its success depends on the strength of partnerships, called Joint Ventures, involving federal, state, provincial, tribal and local governments, businesses, conservation organizations and individual citizens.
Since 1986, 15 joint venture partners have spent more than $1.5 billion on habitat conservation projects. They have leveraged funds from private, state and federal sources to protect, or enhance more than 6 million acres of U.S. wetlands, grasslands, forests and riparian habitat. That's an area the size of New Jersey.
President Bush's proposed budget for 2004 includes an increase of $3 million over the amount spent in 2003. If approved, the amount will fully fund the North American Waterfowl Management Plan for the first time ever, at around $10 million. The increase will allow joint ventures to operate at a level that will achieve their long-term waterfowl population and habitat objectives.
This is just one element of spending under what we call the Cooperative Conservation Initiative. The proposed budget for 2004 is almost half a billion dollars at Interior.
This administration has made a financial commitment to promote the goals of cleaner air, purer water and better conserved land. Altogether the President has requested $30 billion for conservation of the environment among three agencies, Interior, Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. That is a $1 billion increase over last year.
That budget includes $3.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture just for farm conservation another $400 million for technical assistance to support the programs.
Interior's half a billion dollars for cooperative conservation includes existing programs like Partners for Fish and Wildlife. It also includes new programs like Private Stewardship Grants and Landowner Incentive Programs.
The entire half billion dollars supports a belief that providing private landowners and local communities and organizations with the tools and expertise to conserve wildlife habitat is the way conservation will be done in the future.
The Landowner Incentive grants this year provided almost $35 million to states, tribes and territories to make cost-share grants to landowners who voluntarily participate in the protection of habitat for endangered or threatened species. Private Stewardship Grants are similar but they directly assist individuals or groups to conserve habitat on private lands. Almost $10 million has been awarded under that program this year.
Private landowners are in the best position to know what is right on their land.
Here is an example from Grand County in Colorado where Gregory Horstman is helping landowners build breeding ponds on their property for the boreal toad, a species listed as endangered under state law.
Three years ago, Horstman convinced the Pole Creek Golf Club to let him use water from their water hazards to create breeding ponds. When the ponds proved successful, he got permission from six local landowners to build 12 ponds on their land.
Toad populations are rebounding. With the help of a private stewardship grant, he is putting in 10 more ponds on private lands.
No government regulation is requiring these landowners to take part. It is entirely voluntary, and successful because of it.
This is the heart of cooperative conservation. Instead of dictating to landowners how to conserve species and protect habitat on their land, the government needs to empower them through grants and voluntary partnerships.
One last important program for habitat conservation is the Healthy Forest Initiative. Last year's fire season, among the worst in the past four decades, saw more than 88,000 fires burn more than 7 million acres.
We believe the truly catastrophic fires were made so by the devastating drought and the fuel load that has built up in our forests. For example, when Lewis & Clark trekked through the West, 25 to 35 trees once grew on each acre of ponderosa pine forest. Now more than 500 trees are often crowded together in unhealthy conditions.
The fires played havoc with habitat. That is one reason the President established his Healthy Forest Initiative to try to do something about the fuel overload on some 190 million acres of public lands. There is legislation pending in Congress and both the Interior and Agriculture departments have made administrative changes to speed up the process of fuels treatment.
An example of fuels treatment helping habitat is the removal of conifer trees that have invaded meadows and riparian areas and are competing with aspen trees, grasses or other native vegetation. This helps create small openings that diversify habitats. We put sagebrush in to help improve sage grouse habitat.
Congress has received letters of support for the President's initiative from more than 60 groups interested in habitat conservation: everything from the Boone & Crockett Club, the American Fly fishing Trade Association, and the Bowhunting Preservation Alliance to the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Ruffled Grouse Society. We look forward to working with these groups to restore the health of our forest ecosystems.
Earlier in my remarks, I talked about the important work you do in promoting outdoor life. I hope you will think of Steve Williams and me as your partners-partners in working to expand hunting and fishing programs-partners in getting children to put down their video games and turn off the television.
We need to continue to strengthen conservation opportunities so future generations will know the difference between a spectacular outdoor world and something called "Survivor" .

Thank you.