For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 22, 2004
Fact Sheet: President Announces Wetlands Initiative on Earth Day
Today's Presidential Action
President Bush celebrated Earth Day in Wells, Maine, where he
visited with volunteers helping protect a wetland that is home to
abundant wildlife and helps cleanse water reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
New figures released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
show that, for the first time in history, America has reversed the
annual net loss of wetlands on our farms. The United States was losing
almost 500,000 acres of wetlands per year 30 years ago, but today, that
loss is down dramatically. Overall, we are nearing the national goal
of "no net loss" of wetlands reaffirmed by President Bush in 2002.
The President announced an aggressive new national goal -- moving
beyond a policy of "no net loss" of wetlands to have an overall
increase of wetlands in America each year. The President's goal is to
create, improve, and protect at least three million wetland acres over
the next five years in order to increase overall wetland acres and
quality. To meet this goal, the President called on Congress to pass
his FY 2005 budget request, which includes $4.4 billion for
conservation programs that include funding for wetlands -- an increase
of $1.5 billion (53%) over FY 2001. The FY 2005 budget proposes to
spend $349 million on our two key wetlands programs -- the Wetlands
Reserve Program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants
Program -- which is an increase of more than 50% over FY 2001 for those
This year, Earth Day falls during the middle of National Volunteer
Week, and President Bush commended the nearly 400 volunteers at Wells
National Reserve, and thousands of volunteers nationwide, for their
ethic of stewardship that is helping to preserve our precious natural
Background on Today's Presidential Action
President Bush's Strategy For Increasing Wetlands Acres and
Restore, Improve, and Protect: Through a combined effort, the
Departments of the Interior, Agriculture and Transportation, EPA, Army
Corps of Engineers, and NOAA will, over the next five years:
Restore and create at least 1 million acres of wetlands;
Improve the quality of at least 1 million acres of wetlands;
Protect at least 1 million acres of wetlands.
The benefits of these outcomes
will be enhanced by further efforts to improve associated uplands and
river habitat so that, for example, ducks not only will have the
wetland they need for food, but good dry land habitat nearby for
Better Tracking of Wetland Programs:
Complete the next National Wetlands Inventory by the end of 2005, instead of the current 2010 due date, and move to more frequent reviews beginning in 2006;
Improve interagency coordination on remote sensing and ground
level data collection on gain, loss, and quality;
Gain further experience and develop useful protocols for measuring wetland outcomes.
Enhance Local Collaboration:
The Bush Administration places a premium on and is implementing cooperative conservation efforts as a better way to achieve and sustain success.
The Department of the Interior today announced a new tool for
working in cooperation with local landowners to protect wetlands
through a simplified process in the Prairie Pothole region of the
Northern Plains states.
Moving to an Increase in Wetland Acres and Quality from No Net
Loss policy. Wetlands benefit fish and wildlife, reduce flooding,
improve water quality, and provide fishing, bird-watching, hunting, and
educational opportunities to millions of Americans. The lower 48
states currently contain 110 million acres of wetlands.
In January 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its
National Wetlands Inventory which found that the rate of wetland losses
had dropped dramatically to an estimated annual net loss of 58,500
acres of wetlands, down from an estimated 290,000 acre annual net loss
during 1975 to 1984, and an estimated 458,000 acre annual net loss
during 1955 to 1974.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its National
Resource Inventory of non-federal lands in the lower 48 states covering
the period 1997 to 2002, which found agricultural land accounted for a
net gain of roughly 26,000 wetland acres per year.
The President successfully expanded and enhanced the incentive and
partnership programs for restoring, improving, and protecting wetlands
as a first step in putting the Nation on a path to increasing
wetlands. Most significantly, this effort included securing historic
funding for 2002 Farm Bill conservation programs that over 10 years
would deliver $40 billion of conservation funds, reauthorizing the
NAWCA partnership programs, enhancing fish and wildlife partnership
programs and developing new, cooperative conservation programs.
The President's FY 2005 budget requests more than $4 billion for
conservation programs that include wetlands, notably the Farm Bill
Wetlands Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation
Technical Assistance Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and
Environmental Quality Incentives Program ($1.4 billion more than FY
2001 enacted); $54 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation
Act Grants Program ($14 million more than FY 2001 enacted); $50 million
for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program ($13 million more than
FY 2001 enacted) and $13 million for the Coastal Program ($3.7 million
more than FY 2001 enacted).
The increases in these and other programs included in the
Initiative will leverage significant additional matching funds
from state, localities, the private sector, and conservation,
recreation, and sportsmen organizations.
In order to protect against losses in the regulatory permitting
program for impacts caused by highway construction or private
development, the Administration initiated a new Mitigation Action Plan
to achieve and monitor success of restoring wetlands to offset any
necessary loss. In December 2003, the President reiterated his
commitment to assuring no net loss, following a Supreme Court ruling
that removed federal regulatory protection of certain isolated
wetlands. His FY 2005 budget includes an additional $5 million to help
states address the gap created by the Court.
About Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Reserve is
part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve, a partnership
program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) and the coastal states. The Reserve hosts about 45,000 visitors
each year and includes 1600 acres of diverse coastal northeast habitat
types, beaches, dunes, salt marshes, open fields, forest, rivers, and
fresh water wetlands.
Two wetlands restoration projects are underway at the Reserve.
The Drakes Island community salt marsh project is restoring
hydrology and enhancing 77 acres of salt marsh habitat, and received
the Coastal America's Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership
Award. The Wheeler marsh restoration project improved 15 acres of
salt marsh and intertidal mudflats through the partnership of the Town
of York, NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited.
Volunteers are crucial to the operation of the Wells Reserve with
almost 400 volunteers logging thousands of hours every year assisting
Reserve programs. Volunteers answer the call to service on Reserve
advisory committees, while others greet visitors, maintain grounds, and
patrol trails. The President created the USA Freedom Corps more than
two years ago to facilitate volunteer service across the country.
Among the broad portfolio of citizen service, the USA Freedom Corps is
engaging individuals and organizations in opportunities to conserve and
protect our parklands, our forests, our rivers and streams, our
beaches, and to create safe and meaningful experiences for enjoyment of
our treasured natural resources.