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E-M:/ Follow-up on Wildlife Funding Crisis looming



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

It has been pointed out the the press release posted previously doesn't
provide enough information about the cause of the crisis in funding.  My
apologies, and I will try to remedy that here.

The federal Pittman Robertson Act provides a significant amount of the funds
for every state's wildlife management programs.  In Michigan over 30% of the
Wildlife Division's budget comes from P-R, around $7 million per year.  The
funds are made available to the states when they submit qualifying
applications, usually for five year programs, to the US Fish and Wildlife
Service Office of Federal Aid.  

About 2 1/2 years ago the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in
Michigan realized that P-R funds in Michigan and everywhere else in the nation
have apparently never been required by US FWS Off of Fed Aid to conform with
federal laws requiring environmental review and public input into activities
either done by or paid for by federal money.  This realization came when
Sierra Club members reviewed the 1995 P-R grant application on which MDNR
Wildlife Division was seeking public review.  This $35 million, five year
project included many activities that clearly rose to the level of requiring
environmental review under NEPA, but had been predetermined by USFWS as being
categorically excluded from any environmental review.  In a nutshell, for the
last 2 1/2 years Sierra Club in particular has been pushing the agencies to
bring the programs into compliance with the law, while assuring that funding
for DNR activities be applied to appropriate activities under the law, and
that funding not be interrupted.

Last summer, MDNR and USFWS agreed that the state would terminate its current
five year project, rewrite applications and go through the proper review for
these projects.  Termination date was September 30, 1997, the end of the
fiscal year. In August the MDNR sought comment four draft project
applications, and received a number of comments. In October two project
applications, out of what was apparently now seven applications, were
finalized and implemented (Operations and Maintenance and Hunter Access
Program), but the vast majority of the funding was tied to applications that
have as yet not resurfaced for public review.  Because the MDNR cannot be
funded without approved grants from USFWS, none of the activities they have
undertaken since Oct 1 will be reimbursable, and although they may be able to
write grants that will allow them to lay claim to most of the remaining funds,
that is not guaranteed.

It is not at all clear why the hangups have occurred -- apparently there is a
major disagreement between MDNR and USFWS about what is allowed to be funded.
I have heard rumors that the DNR Director and Regional Director for USFWS met
about a month ago as this crisis was getting more intense and vowed that a
resolution would be reached, but as of today there is no public word of any
resolution on the horizon.  Even if the agencies agree, they must still follow
the legally required environmental review and public participation steps, and
so delays may run significantly longer.

In the spring issue of the Wild Earth Journal there will be an article that I
have written going into the details of this controversy.  I hope this helps
explain it better!!

Anne Woiwode



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