- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

President Bush yesterday signed legislation to continue an international wetlands-protection program initiated by his father, President George Bush, to sustain migratory birds.
The bill reauthorizes the 1989 North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) for five years to protect rare, threatened and endangered species dependent on wetland ecosystems.
"Through this legislation, the federal government will continue its partnership with landowners, conservation groups and states to save and improve millions of acres of wetlands," Mr. Bush said.
The law authorizes federal money to match donations from sportsmen, state wildlife agencies, conservationists and landowners.
"Together, these funds have restored streams and rivers, re-established native plants and trees, [and] acquired land that is home to more than a third of America's threatened and endangered species," Mr. Bush said.
Nearly 75 percent of the country's wetlands are privately owned, so the government should encourage cooperation with landowners, Mr. Bush said.
"This legislation shows that when government and landowners and conservationists and others work together, we can make dramatic progress in preserving the beauty and the quality of our environment," Mr. Bush said.
The grants carry out wetlands-conservation projects in the United States, Canada and Mexico under a migratory bird treaty.
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance requires the countries to protect wetlands used by migratory birds for breeding, wintering or migration.
The Canadian focus is on protecting, restoring and enhancing critical habitat, while Mexican partners develop training and management programs, and conduct studies on sustainable use of wetlands.
"The act is a true conservation success story and demonstrates what we can do when the government works in partnership with conservation organizations, corporations, tribes, private landowners and other citizens," said Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton.
"In the past decade, we've conserved more than 16 million acres of wetlands in 1,100 projects across the country, with $1.5 billion, or three-quarters of the total funding, coming from private partners," Mrs. Norton said.
The measure was sponsored by Rep. James V. Hansen, Utah Republican and chairman of the House Resources Committee, and Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It passed unanimously in both houses of Congress.
"I'm pleased that one of the final, high notes of my legislative career is having this bill signed into law," said Mr. Hansen, who is retiring from Congress after serving 22 years.
"This bill is critically important to the survival of millions of waterfowl in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It's supported by every conservation group in the country and, in my opinion, reflects the true spirit of conservationism," he said.
John Tomke, president of Ducks Unlimited, attended the signing ceremony and later called the program "one of the most effective conservation programs in history."
Mr. Bush said the legislation is also an "important action" to maintain clean water.


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