Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Mark Pfeifle
For Immediate Release:Feb. 20,2004

Largest Single-Site Grant to a State:

Interior Approves $6 Million LWCF Grant
for Ohio's Plans for North Bass Island Park


Washington, D.C. - Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today announced approval of more than $6 million in matching grants to the state of Ohio to protect North Bass Island, the last large, undeveloped island left on Lake Erie. The grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the largest single-site grant to a state in the history of the LWCF program. It will support the state's plans to create parkland and outdoor recreation opportunities on the island. Located in Ottawa County, North Bass Island once was largely in use for vineyards and is owned by one distillery.

"The North Bass Island grant is a solid example of President Bush's commitment to supporting conservation and recreational opportunities in our nation's park areas," said Secretary Norton. "These awards of LWCF funds to state and locally sponsored projects will improve recreational opportunities for Americans."

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will use the LWCF grant to acquire approximately 357 acres on North Bass Island. Future development will include campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming, boating and fishing facilities, trails, hunting and natural areas.

An additional 234 acres of island property are being acquired -- including 68 acres from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds, 127 acres from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and 39 acres from the state of Ohio. A total of approximately 591 acres of the island's 676 acres will be acquired. protecting 2.5 miles of undeveloped shoreline and important coastal wetland habitat. The nonprofit Conservation Fund is helping to facilitate the land's protection.

The Paramount Distillers, Inc., through its Meier's Wine Cellars subsidiary, has negotiated a selling price below appraised value. Although grapes have been grown on the island since the mid-1800s, less than a quarter of the tillable acreage remains in grape cultivation and there are no wineries on the island.

The LWCF provides funding for federal acquisition of authorized national parks and other conservation and recreation areas, as well as providing matching funds to state agencies and local communities known as state-side grants. The LWCF state-side grants help state and local governments acquire, develop or improve and maintain high-quality outdoor recreation areas and open space for all Americans to enjoy.

Congress enacted the LWCF in 1964 to provide conservation funds derived from receipts from oil and gas drilling on the nation's Outer Continental Shelf. The law authorizes up to $900 million a year in LWCF funding.

Since its inception, federal grant obligations totaling $3.4 billion have been matched by state and local contributions, for a total LWCF grant investment of $6.8 billion. The Administration proposed Fiscal Year '05 budget provides full funding for the LWCF including $660.6 million to the Department of the Interior. (The Department's request, combined with the request for the U.S. Forest Service, would bring total government-wide LWCF funding to $900.2 million.) Interior's $660.6 million would include $153.3 million for land acquisition and $507.3 million specifically for cooperative conservation partnership programs-of which $93.8 million is provided for the state grant program.

"Conservation today depends increasingly on partnerships across a mosaic of land ownerships," Secretary Norton said. "Interior cannot manage federal lands successfully unless it works with adjacent landowners, states, tribes, communities and nonprofit partners." The President's budget proposal includes $507.3 million to expand opportunities for cooperative conservation programs -which represents a 20 percent increase.


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