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E-M:/ Wildlife Funding Crisis looming

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

TO ENVIRO MICH Subscribers:

Below is a press release relating to a pending crisis in the funding of the
DNR Wildlife Division. 

For Immediate Release                   Contact:  Anne Woiwode   517-484-2372
February 26, 1998                             or Marvin Roberson 906-523-4428

Sierra Club calls for Agencies to Solve Wildlife Funding Crisis

The Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter is calling on federal and Michigan wildlife
agencies to resolve disputes that are holding up almost $7 million of funding
this year from the federal Pittman Robertson Fund for wildlife programs in
Michigan.  As of next Sunday, March 1, the statewide conservation organization
says, the delay in funding for year one of the majority of the five year, $35
million programs, will have reached five months past the intended program
startup date of October 1, 1997.   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office of Federal Aid (FWS) administers the Pittman Robertson Fund,
while the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division (MDNR)
depends on these funds for more than 30% of their budget.

"The delay threatens wildlife programs that benefit hunters, bird watchers and
other outdoor enthusiasts, and hurts identification and protection efforts
for rare and sensitive species," according to Anne Woiwode, Sierra Club
Program Director. "We are now almost half way through Fiscal Year 1998 and
with each passing day Sierra Club's concern grows that these delays will
force layoffs of essential MDNR staff and the suspension of critical MDNR
wildlife programs."

"The only important question now is how are FWS and MDNR going to fix the
problems so that appropriate funding can once again flow to the state," says
Tim Flynn, Chair of Sierra Club's Michigan Forest Biodiversity Committee.
"Even if agreements are struck between these two agencies today, federally
required consideration of public input and environmental effects means that
it will likely be many additional months before the state will have access to
those funds.  Keeping the doors open and the Wildlife Division doing its work
is a crucial challenge and both FWS and the MDNR must let the public know what
is going on."

The sixty year old Pittman Robertson Program (officially known as the Federal
Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program) was created to distribute funds to the
states through matching grants for restoration of wildlife habitat for all
birds and mammals.  The program is funded by an excise tax on the sale of
ammunition, firearms, archery equipment and other associated equipment, and
requires states to dedicate all the hunting fees they collect for these
purposes as well.  The funds in dispute are earmarked for the State of
Michigan, but the delays have raised questions as to whether or not the MDNR
will be able to access all of the funds earmarked for FY 98.

The Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter has followed the Pittman Robertson program
closely since 1995 after concluding that federal laws requiring public review
and consideration of environmental effects had never been properly applied to
this enormous program.  For the last two and one half years Sierra Club
leaders have been demanding that the FWS and MDNR comply with the law, while
supporting efforts to assure a continued flow of Pittman Robertson funds to
the MDNR Wildlife Division for devotion to legitimate projects.

The Sierra Club is a national organization with 14,000 members in the Mackinac
Chapter, the statewide chapter for Michigan.  The purposes of the
organization are to protect, explore and enjoy the wild places of the earth.
The Michigan Forest Biodiversity Program of the Sierra Club is dedicated to
promoting public participation in and requiring ecological consideration in
the management of our state's 7 million acres of public forest lands.


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