Department Of Interior

News Header

Hugh Vickery

(202) 501-4633
Deputy Secretary Griles Highlights President Bush's Conservation Initiatives in Visit to New Mexico

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steven Griles visited New Mexico this week to highlight key conservation initiatives in President Bush's 2005 budget that will benefit fish and wildlife and natural resource conservation in the "Land of Enchantment." This includes significantly higher funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's High Plains Partnership and a number of grant programs to assist New Mexicans in conservation projects.

"New Mexicans have a proud tradition of caring for the land and its wildlife," Griles said. "The President's budget request recognizes that the most important thing we can do for conservation is to empower communities and people by giving them the resources and tools they need to get the job done."

The President's budget proposes $507 million in conservation spending. Within the request is $130 million for the Cooperative Conservation Initiative, known as CCI, a 25 percent increase over last year. Through CCI activities, Interior's land managers are joining with communities, non-profits, states and citizens who care about the land to remove invasive species, reduce stream bank erosion, and enhance habitat for threatened and endangered species.
For example, the budget includes $5 million in new funds for the High Plains Partnership. Declining species and their habitats are helped through voluntary partnerships on private lands in New Mexico and 10 other western states. Although the program has been around since 1999, it has never been formally funded.

"In New Mexico and other states, we will use the High Plains Partnership funding to restore about 34,000 additional acres of uplands, 1,000 acres of wetland, and 1,000 acres of riparian habitat in 2005," Griles said. "We will also work closely with states, communities, landowners and others to address the habitat needs of declining species before they reach the point of needing to be listed as threatened or endangered, including sage grouse and lesser prairie chicken."

Specific examples of the types of projects the funding will support in New Mexico include detailed inventories of range and habitat conditions on ranches and implementation of practices such as cross fencing, livestock water facility development, and shrub management, coupled with rest-rotational grazing regimes, that are tailored to the needs of both the landowner and wildlife.

"The philosophy of consulting, communicating and cooperating is so strong in this partnership that we have 150 landowners on a waiting list to implement on-the-ground conservation projects." said H. Dale Hall, director of the Service's Southwest Region, who accompanied Griles on a tour of restoration projects near Albuquerque.

Griles also highlighted President Bush's commitment to helping communities in New Mexico and across the West meet their water needs, including $21 million to help develop conservation, efficiency, and water-marketing projects that will help avoid future water supply crises. For example, the funding will be available to states and communities to invest in desalination technology, water-saving techniques for irrigation systems, and strategies to improve water management and stretch existing water supplies, including water-marketing projects.

In addition, Griles said that Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman have announced plans to work with Southwestern states and communities on a strategic initiative to control tamarisk, an invasive plant that has infested millions of acres in the region, damaging wildlife habitat, complicating water management, and causing severe ecological and economic problems. The two secretaries jointly chair the National Invasive Species Council with Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans.

Invasive species are infiltrators that invade lands and waters beyond their historic range and monopolize the landscape. The cottonwood forests and native vegetation lining New Mexico's rivers are being overtaken with thick stands of invasive tamarisk. The effort will formally begin with a three-day conference, March 31 to April 2 in Albuquerque to identify collaborative opportunities that make the most effective use of collective resources.

"At Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro, for example, we have been removing saltcedar and Russian olive on thousands of acres using fire, water and mechanical methods," Griles said. "The land is being planted with smartweed and other plants that the snow geese and sandhill cranes use."

Griles also highlighted other key conservation initiatives in the President's budget. These include the following:

  • An increase of nearly $20.4 million for a total of $50 million for Landowner Incentive Grants that provide state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies grant funds needed to establish or expand habitat protection and restoration programs on private land for "at risk" species.

  • An increase of nearly $2.6 million for a total of $10 million for Private Stewardship Grant programs that provide cost-share grants to landowners for wildlife conservation.

  • An increase of nearly $10.9 million for a total of $80 million for the state and tribal Wildlife Grants Fund that aids wildlife conservation on State and Tribal lands.

  • " An increase of more than $16 million for a total of $54 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund that provides matching grants to private or public organizations and individuals to carry out wetlands conservation projects in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

  • Increases of more than $8.4 million for a total of $90 million for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund that helps states increase participation in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for candidate, proposed and listed species. The states award these funds to private landowners and groups for conservation projects.


Selected News Releases