Highlights Economic Benefits of Landscape-Level Partnerships in Speech to "Conserving the Future" Conference
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced a new initiative that will spur collaborative efforts to protect vital wildlife habitat through community-based coalitions of private landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies.
The Landscape Stewards program, a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will leverage up to $200,000 to support coalition-based conservation efforts beginning next year. Each grant will be matched by equal contributions from the coalition partners.
"By stretching limited resources and partnering with communities and other organizations, we can find innovative ways to encourage wise stewardship across entire landscapes," said Secretary Salazar.
"In recent decades, we've seen inspiring examples of ranchers, farmers and other private landowners working with government to ensure protection of large, rural landscapes and the abundance of fish and wildlife," he said. "These types of community-driven efforts can generate tremendous results, and can be an economic engine for rural communities and businesses that benefit from hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation."
Salazar made the announcement during remarks to "Conserving the Future" Conference, a gathering of 1,200 professional and citizen conservationists to ratify a new vision to guide the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade.
The Landscape Stewards program is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to create a 21st Century conservation ethic and reconnect Americans, especially young people, to the natural world.
In his remarks, Salazar noted that coalitions have had significant success in protecting broad landscapes that cross jurisdictional boundaries. Many issues facing national wildlife refuges -- from invasive species to the protection of threatened and endangered species -- cross individual property lines as well as county and state lines.
Salazar said the program aims to replicate the success of award-winning coalitions such as the Blackfoot Challenge, which unites more than 50 partners -- including federal agencies, foundations and corporations -- in protecting the natural resources and rural lifestyle of the Blackfoot River Valley in western Montana.
The 1.5-million-acre watershed, including prairie grasslands, sagebrush steppe, coniferous forest and wetlands, provides habitat for wildlife that inhabited the area when Lewis and Clark traveled up the Blackfoot River in 1806. Challenge partners have reintroduced native species, restored stream tributaries and removed hundreds of miles of fish passage barrier. The protected area includes the Blackfoot Valley Conservation Area, comprised of lands entirely protected by perpetual conservation easements acquired from willing sellers.