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Date:    2/3/98 12:08 AM

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For release February 1, 1998                 Hugh Vickery  202-208-5634
President Clinton is proposing a record $1.42 billion budget for the 
Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Fiscal Year 1999, 
including $826.3 million, an 11-percent increase, in appropriated funding 
to support the Service's endangered species, national wildlife refuges, 
migratory bird, fisheries, land acquisition, construction and other programs.
"The President's budget reflects how important the work of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service is to the American people," Interior Secretary Bruce 
Babbitt said. "Americans have an unmatched love and appreciation of fish 
and wildlife and this budget recognizes the need to actively manage these 
priceless resources if they are to remain healthy.
"From the conservation of endangered species to management of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, the President's budget represents a 
strong commitment to the work of the Service to conserve fish and 
wildlife for the benefit of all."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency with 
responsibility for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and 
wildlife and their habitats.  The Service manages the National Wildlife 
Refuge System, which includes 512 national wildlife refuges and covers 
nearly 93 million acres, as well as 64 national fish hatcheries.
The agency also enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory bird 
populations, conserves and restores wildlife habitat, administers the 
Endangered Species Act, and oversees the Federal Aid program that funnels 
Federal excise taxes on angling and hunting equipment to state fish and 
wildlife agencies.
"The Service's priorities in the coming year include the effective 
management of the Endangered Species Act, continued improvement in the 
health of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and healing of our 
Nation's degraded rivers and other aquatic ecosystems," said Service 
Director Jamie Rappaport Clark.  "The President's budget addresses each 
of these priorities."
The proposed budget calls for $675.8 million for the Service's resource 
management programs, an $80.9 million or 13.6 percent increase over 1998 
The Administration proposes to increase overall funding for the National 
Wildlife Refuge System $25.9 million, or 11.7 percent, to $246.4 million. 
Within this amount, $199.8 million will be for refuge operations, an 
increase of $15 million over FY 1998.
This will help fund 232 new projects at 152 refuges and wetland 
management districts to recover endangered species; restore or improve 
more than 54,000 acres of habitat; serve 1.1 million new visitors; expand 
partnerships with public and private organizations; and hire 87 refuge 
management, biological, and maintenance staff.
The President is also requesting $46.6 million for refuge maintenance, 
which is $10.9 million, or 30 percent, above FY 1998 appropriations.  
This will help reduce the system's longstanding maintenance backlog by 
supporting approximately 200 maintenance projects at 140 refuges and 
wetland management districts.
The President's budget also includes $60.5 million for land acquisition 
that will add more than 43,000 acres to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The budget proposes $112.9 million for the Service's Endangered Species 
program, an increase of $35.8 million, or 46 percent.  The additional 
funding will support more effective implementation of the Act, strengthen 
partnerships with other public agencies and private interests, and 
increase the flexibility and certainty provided to private landowners.
The new funding will be used to further Administration policies that take 
advantage of the flexibility built into the Act to balance conservation 
with economic development and to begin implementing any new statutory 
requirements Congress might include in reauthorization of the Act.  The 
budget calls for an additional $2.5 million, or a 44 percent increase, 
for the Candidate Conservation program to better manage threats to 
declining species and their habitats before they require listing as 
threatened or endangered.
To date, the Service has entered into 40 candidate conservation 
agreements with private landowners and state and local governments, 
benefitting more than 200 species and preventing the listing of 5 
species.  In FY 1999, the Service expects to implement additional 
agreements that will help protect 80 more species and preclude the 
listing of 20 new species.
The proposed budget for listing activities would climb $2.3 million, or 
44 percent, to $7.5 million to address increasing numbers of listing 
actions and litigation caseloads.
The consultation budget would increase $12.6 million, or 53 percent, to 
$36.5 million, allowing the Service to review more than 40,000 Federal 
actions and conduct 1,750 programmatic consultations affecting endangered 
species. Another primary use of the increase would be to establish an 
additional 100 to 175 habitat conservation plans, agreements with 
landowners that allow economic development to continue while conserving 
endangered species. The total number of HCPs -- both established and new 
-- will cover hundreds of species on more than 9 million acres.
The President's budget for endangered species recovery efforts would 
increase $13.4 million, or 31 percent, to $55.8 million to support "Safe 
Harbor" agreements, develop recovery plans, and support reclassification 
and delisting
actions.  The Service expects 150 Safe Harbor agreements will be in some 
stage of development or implementation during FY 1999.  These agreements 
provide private landowners with assurances that voluntary conservation 
actions taken on their land will not lead to further restrictions on 
economic development in the future.
Included in the endangered species budget is $2 million to meet the 
candidate conservation, listing, consultation, and recovery needs for the 
Mexican spotted owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, and other wildlife 
and plant species native to the Southwest under the Southwest Ecosystem 
Initiative, a cooperative agreement with the Agriculture and Defense 
Departments. The budget also provides additional funding for the Platte 
River and Columbia River Basin programs.
The President also is proposing a $3 million, or 50 percent, increase in 
assistance to the states for habitat conservation planning land 
acquisition under the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund.
The Administration is proposing to increase funding for the Service's 
Fisheries program by $4.4 million, or 6 percent.  The additional funds 
would be used to support the Southwest Ecosystem Initiative, aquatic 
nuisance species control, aquatic habitat restoration projects, and 
projects to improve fish passage in streams and rivers.
The Administration also is proposing an increase of $5.7 million, or 10 
percent, to $64.9 million for the Service's habitat conservation 
programs. An additional $900,000 would be used to address an additional 
40 to 50 major water development projects that are scheduled for 
relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  The budget 
would designate an additional $2.5 million for Partners for Fish and 
Wildlife, a program to help private landowners voluntarily restore 
wetlands on their property as part of the Clean Water and Watershed 
Initiative. An additional $1 million is requested to assess how 
pesticides and other contaminants are affecting wildlife and habitat on 
national wildlife refuges.
Meanwhile, the budget proposes a $1.3 million increase, or 7 percent, for 
the Service's migratory bird management programs. This includes $300,000 
to support the Southwest Initiative, $400,000 to begin implementing the 
recent amendments to the U.S.-Canada migratory bird protocol, and 
$200,000 to address the problem of overabundant populations of snow geese 
and the ecological damage they are doing to their arctic nesting grounds.
In addition, the budget includes a $3 million, or 26 percent, increase 
for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, as part of the Clean 
Water and Watershed Restoration Initiative, to support voluntary 
partnerships to conserve and restore wetland ecosystems throughout North 
America.  The $14.7 million budget would generate an estimated $29 
million in matching funds from partners and allow acquisition, 
restoration, or enhancement of 245,000 acres of wetlands.
News releases are also available on the World Wide Web at
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