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DeWine Bill to Continue Fish and Wildlife Restoration in Great Lakes Passes House

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Contact: Andrew Langworthy

U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH), Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, announced that he had successfully negotiated an agreement to pass his bill, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2006. The bill passed the House of Representatives by voice vote late last night. The bill is cosponsored by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. The companion legislation in the House was introduced by Rep. Dale Kildee (R-MI) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). The bill doubles the amount of available funding from $8 million to $16 million and will continue providing needed resources to restore native fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes.

"The Great Lakes are threatened by pollution, habitat loss, and invasive species, and this bill would provide resources to states and tribes to preserve and protect this unique natural resource for future generations," said Senator DeWine. "I am pleased that my colleagues in the House realized that by reauthorizing the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, we are providing the necessary resources and new tools to move restoration in the right direction."

This measure was first enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 1998 to coordinate the management, protection, and restoration of fish and wildlife resources with the Great Lakes Basin. Senator DeWine's bill would reauthorize the program, ensuring that both fish and wildlife are included throughout the program and that the Act is consistent with the goals of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The grants and regional projects would authorize up to $14 million per year. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would maintain a website for states and tribes on which grants they awarded, priorities proposed for funding in the Service budget, and actions taken in support of Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.

This bill reauthorizes the state and tribal grants program. It also provides a new authority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take on regional projects based on recommendation by states and tribes for the regional benefit of fish and wildlife.

This bill reauthorizes the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services Fishery Resource Offices and the Great Lakes Coordination Offices. It would also instruct the Service to update the 1995 Great Lakes Fishery Resources Restoration Study, a comprehensive study of the status and needs of the fish and wildlife resources of the Great Lakes Basin, as necessary.

The Great Lakes harbor a wide variety of fish and wildlife. More than 140 fish species and 500 species of migratory birds are found in the Basin. The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater, cover more than 94,000 square miles, and drain more than twice as much land. Over 30 of the Basin's biological communities - and more than 100 species - are globally rare or found only in the Great Lakes Basin.

Senator DeWine has a long history of working to protect and restore the Great Lakes, including authorizing the Corps of Engineers to spend additional funds to construct the permanent dispersal barriers to block Asian carp and sponsoring the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act and the Great Lake Collaboration Implementation Act, which make improvements in the Great Lakes Watershed. In 2002, he sponsored the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a program that recently provided $25 million for cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Ashtabula River.

The bill must be passed by the Senate and then go to the President for his signature.

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