New Grants To Help Private Landowners Conserve Wildlife Announced as Congress Proposes to Cut Future Funding

On August 26th, Environmental Defense praised the U.S. Department of Interior for awarding more than $7 million in grants to 97 landowners in 39 states who are voluntarily restoring habitat for rare wildlife on their land.

"Private Stewardship Grants are exactly the sort of conservation initiative this country needs," says Tim Male, an ecologist with Environmental Defense. "The grants provide crucial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners to conserve and restore important natural habitats. People all around our country want to make their land a better home for rare wildlife, and this program helps them do just that."

Unfortunately, just as the Administration is announcing 2004 Private Stewardship Grants, Congress has proposed to cut the size of this already small program in half in 2005. The Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to reduce funding by $5 million from President Bush's budget, and proposed cutting funding for the similar state-led Landowner Incentive Program by 70 percent. The fate of the programs may depend upon whatever course of action the U.S. Senate takes.

"Private Stewardship and Landowner Incentives are innovative, incentive-based programs that focus on exactly what many members of Congress always talk about voluntary and cooperative conservation," says Michael Bean, an Environmental Defense attorney. "It is truly bizarre that the House of Representatives now wants to cut funding severely. You would expect them to applaud the programs and increase funding so hundreds of already interested private landowners can participate."

The Private Stewardship Grants Program has been very popular with landowners and received requests for 500 percent more funding than money was available in 2004. More information on the Private Stewardship Grants awarded to 97 landowners today can be found at the Department of Interior website (www.doi.gov).

The related Landowner Incentive Program has provided funding that allowed 48 states to staff and set up their own programs to give grants to private landowners to restore habitat for rare and endangered plants and animals.

For more information on the Private Stewardship Grants Program or Landowner Incentives Program, contact Tim Male, scientist at Environmental Defense at 202-387-3500.

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