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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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" .