CONTACT:
Steve Weber (603) 271-2461
John Kanter (603) 271-2461
Liza Poinier (603) 271-3211
February 27, 2003

Federal Grants Sustain N.H. Wildlife Programs

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire will receive a $582,000 federal wildlife grant as part of the omnibus appropriations bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush last week. The funds represent New Hampshire's share of $65 million designated for use by U.S. states, territories and American Indian tribes through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, intended to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats around the country. The federal funds must be matched by contributions at the state level; New Hampshire accomplishes this match through a combination of individual donations, conservation revenue from the sale of moose license plates and $50,000 in state general funds.

New Hampshire's entire Congressional delegation -- U.S. Senators Judd Gregg and John E. Sununu and U.S. Representatives Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley -- voted to approve the appropriations bill.

"We're especially thankful for the tremendous, active support for the wildlife grant program from Sen. Gregg and Rep. Bass," says William S. Bartlett Jr., N.H. Fish and Game's Acting Executive Director. "They have proven themselves to be real champions for wildlife and habitat. The new federal funds will allow us to broaden our partnerships with conservation organizations throughout the state as we work to protect New Hampshire's wildlife."

Sen. Gregg was instrumental in the passage of the wildlife grants program this year. Three years ago, Gregg helped to establish the program, and he continues to be one of its strongest supporters in Congress. In a letter urging increased funding for this year's wildlife measure, Gregg wrote, "For decades, such federal funding has focused primarily on -- and been largely responsible for -- enormously successful programs ensuring conservation and sustainable use of wildlife species across America. Now, with state budgets facing tremendous shortfalls, the need for this funding has never been greater."

Rep. Bass submitted a floor statement to request additional resources for the wildlife grants and other conservation efforts. He stated, "As many know, I am a strong and consistent supporter of [the State Wildlife Grants] program, which works to preserve wildlife and save endangered species. Through the State Wildlife Grants Program, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is able to...identify and heal declining species that, unchecked, would require 'emergency room' care to avoid their extinction. Clearly, preventative measures save the wildlife and also taxpayer dollars eventually required for heroic measures."

"Sen. Gregg and Rep. Bass have shown a true commitment to New Hampshire's wildlife values," notes Steve Weber, Wildlife Division Chief for Fish and Game. "Their strong, consistent support of the State Wildlife Grants Program and all kinds of related conservation efforts has made -- and will continue to make -- a real difference for New Hampshire's future."

In its first years, the federal grant program has allowed New Hampshire's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program to take the lead in developing the state's first-ever Comprehensive Wildlife Plan. Based on scientific research, the plan will offer a comprehensive picture of the state's wildlife conservation priorities by identifying individual species and their habitats most in need of conservation. It will provide valuable guidance for landowners, communities, land trusts and agencies on how to conserve and manage for wildlife and their habitat.

"Our primary role is to help communities determine where they have significant wildlife habitats," says John Kanter, coordinator of the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program for the state. Examples of significant habitats include areas that provide habitat for endangered or threatened species; natural buffers of vegetation along rivers and lakes; or forest tracts that have no major roads or developments, especially in areas of increasing human population growth.

The endangered Karner blue butterfly, one of the many species helped by State Wildlife Grants Program-funded projects.

The new grant funds will also allow the state to implement more projects that help to protect, improve or restore critical wildlife and their habitats. One such project, begun in the grant program's first year, was the formation of a partnership among the N.H. Fish and Game Department, the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, conservation organizations, towns, cities and landowners to protect wildlife habitat along the rapidly developing Merrimack River Corridor. The river cuts through the center of New Hampshire and supports an array of habitats that sustain bald eagles, migratory songbirds and Karner blue butterflies, plus many fish and aquatic species.

"Implementing conservation actions now is biologically easier and less costly than trying to help restore species after they are endangered," says Kanter. "Look at the peregrine falcon -- the species has recovered in New Hampshire, but it took a lot of time and effort that might have been avoided if we'd planned ahead." For decades, bald eagles and other birds were severely harmed by widespread use of the pesticide DDT; in fact, peregrine falcons were completely wiped out east of the Mississippi River because of DDT use. "This serves as an example of the value of comprehensive wildlife conservation programs," remarks Kanter. "If one had existed at the time, biologists would have detected declines and discovered the source of the problem -- and stopped it -- long before it reached crisis proportions and cost millions of dollars to repair."

The Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, which is not supported with Fish and Game funds, works to coordinate species and habitat protection efforts for wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped. Since its establishment in 1988, the Nongame Program has been sustained by private donations, a share of moose plate program money and state matching funds. Kanter says the private donations are "the foundation of the whole program," and are critical to its continued success. The State Wildlife Grants Program money, Kanter remarks, "Provides exciting new opportunities to restore, protect and connect with wildlife in New Hampshire."

For more information on Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, click here.

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