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SG-W:/ Fwd: Federal wetlands program (was: [migreens] Duh-bya Not Just A Liar)

Does anyone know for sure if Michigan landowners are eligible for the 
programs (wetland, forest, wildlife habitat) described in the article 
below? Anyone in Washtenaw taking advantage of them or anyone spreading 
the word about them? Do our legislators support these programs?


---------------- Begin Forwarded Message ----------------
Date:        04/06  8:46 PM
Received:    04/06  6:05 PM
From:        John Gear, jmgear@acd.net
Reply-To:    migreens@yahoogroups.com

But a fool as well.


Friday, April 6, 2001
By KATHIE DURBIN, Columbian staff writer

The Bush administration plans to end the popular Wetlands Reserve 
which pays landowners to set aside some of their land for fish and 

Last year, then-candidate George W. Bush praised such public-private 
partnerships during a Northwest campaign stop.

"Instead of ignoring local efforts, we will encourage them," Bush said in 
September while standing beside the Skykomish River with a salmon habitat 
restoration project as a backdrop. He vowed to make such cooperative 
projects a keystone of his administration's salmon strategy.

But his administration's 2002 budget, to be released Monday, eliminates 
funding for all Department of Agriculture conservation programs that 
next year. That includes the Wetlands Reserve Program, confirmed Gordon 
Franklin, Clark County conservationist for the Natural Resources 
Conservation Service, which administers the program.

In fact, the wetlands program will run out of money this year unless 
Congress approves a short-term appropriation as it did last year, federal 
officials said.

Also scheduled for termination are the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program 
and the Forestry Incentive Program. Like the wetlands program, both pay 
landowners to conserve and restore their land.

Northwest officials familiar with the wetlands program, authorized in the 
1990  Farm Bill and greatly expanded in 1996, say its value is only now 
becoming apparent as landowners face new federal requirements to protect 
habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead.

"This has been the most popular program nationwide that we have had in a 
long time," Franklin said. "The Wetlands Reserve Program is the answer 
the private landowner who is affected by requirements to protect salmon 

Added Steve Donovan, Vancouver-based regional biologist for Ducks 
Unlimited: "For the local area, this program has probably done more to 
protect habitat for endangered salmon than anything else we are 

One attraction of the program is that it allows landowners to continue to 
hunt waterfowl on their land. Another is that it is entirely voluntary.

The Bush administration may not realize how important the wetlands 
has been in the regional effort to protect salmon habitat, Franklin said.

"They may see it as a program that is just giving away money," he added.

This year, the program will spend $164 million to protect 140,000 acres 
wetlands nationwide.

In Southwest Washington alone, 19 landowners who want to take part in 
the  program have applications pending, Franklin said. Statewide, 92 
landowners signed up for the program between 1998 and 2000, and more than 
13,000 acres of wetlands have been protected at a cost of $19.5 million.

"We have a large backlog of people waiting to get funded," said Rachel 
Maggi, Western Washington biologist for the conservation service. The 
had hoped to get $500,000 in program funding this year, but recently 
learned that its allocation has been cut to half that, Maggi said.

There are three ways to participate in the program:

                                  * A landowner can offer to sell a 
permanent easement. After the land is evaluated and an appraisal is 
completed, the federal government may pay up to $2,500 per acre (in 
Washington) for the easement. The program also provides federal money to 
pay for restoration.

                                 * A landowner can sell a 30-year 
easement.  In that case, the program pays up to $1,250 per acre.

                                  * A landowner can choose not to sell an 
easement but to make the land available for restoration, contributing 25 
percent of the cost and agreeing to maintain the improvements for 10 

                                  "We don't just walk away from these 
lands," Franklin said. "We plant trees and help with site preparation. 
tough to plant trees in reed canary grass that's eight feet tall."

Nationwide, the wetlands program has  been so popular that by last year 
had protected nearly all of the 975,000 acres authorized in the 1996 Farm 
Bill, said Terry Riley, director of conservation for the Wildlife 
Management Institute in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit research institute 
is funded by arms and ammunition manufacturers.

In response to the burgeoning demand, Congress last year approved 
legislation that allowed the program to expand by 100,000 acres in 2001 
provided emergency funding to pay for the expansion. That new cap will be 
reached this year, Riley said.   Without another expansion, a backlog of 
eligible projects covering 560,000 acres of wetlands on more than 3,000 
farms and ranches nationwide will go unfunded.

"I think, generally speaking, legislators really want to keep the 
Reserve program," Riley said.

In Clark County, partners in the program have included the Washington 
Department of Fish and Wildlife, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation, 
Ducks Unlimited. The program has been used to protect wetlands at La 
Bottoms and the Vancouver Lake lowlands, as well as estuaries of the 
and Chinook rivers near the mouth of the Columbia.

"When word gets out about this program, landowners come out of the 
woodwork,"  Donovan of Ducks Unlimited said. "It is a  huge part of our 
restoration program in Oregon and Washington. Our engineers are involved 
designing projects, bringing landowners to the agencies and helping to do 
the restoration projects on the ground. It will be a real loss."

The Vancouver-based nonprofit Columbia Land Trust, which buys 
environmentally sensitive land to protect it, does not work directly with 
the Wetlands Reserve Program but does work with private landowners who 
up for the program, said Glenn Lamb, the trust's executive director.

In the lower Columbia estuary, where the trust recently acquired 871 
of critical salmon habitat and won state grants that will enable it to 
nearly 800 acres more, "the Wetlands Reserve Program has been the most 
valuable program that landowners have had available," Lamb said. "It 
land that was originally part of the estuary, has since been diked and 
drained, but is still at best  marginal farmland because it is so wet. 
Landowners can retain ownership but be compensated for protecting it for 

The farmers he has worked with see the program as one way to head off 
restrictions on the use of their property, Lamb said.

"When we met with farmers at the Grays River Grange, they said, 'Look, we 
know that salmon need some help. We may or may not agree that it is 
by too much logging, or dams, or hatcheries, or by our farms, but the 
of the matter is that we all need to pitch in. If we don't all band 
together, we are going to be hit by some stiff limitations on what we can 
do with our land.' " 

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