September 20, 2006 - Issue: Vol. 152, No. 118 — Daily Edition109th Congress (2005 - 2006) - 2nd Session
PARTNERS FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 152, No. 118
(House of Representatives - September 20, 2006)
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[Pages H6797-H6799] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] PARTNERS FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE ACT Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the Senate bill (S. 260) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve fish and wildlife habitats through the Partners For Fish and Wildlife Program. The Clerk read as follows: S. 260 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ``Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act''. [[Page H6798]] SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE. (a) Findings.--Congress finds that-- (1) approximately 60 percent of fish and wildlife in the United States are on private land; (2) it is imperative to facilitate private landowner- centered and results-oriented efforts that promote efficient and innovative ways to protect and enhance natural resources; (3) there is no readily available source of technical biological information that the public can access to assist with the application of state-of-the-art techniques to restore, enhance, and manage fish and wildlife habitats; (4) a voluntary cost-effective program that leverages public and private funds to assist private landowners in the conduct of state-of-the-art fish and wildlife habitat restoration, enhancement, and management projects is needed; (5) durable partnerships working collaboratively with willing private landowners to implement on-the-ground projects has lead to the reduction of endangered species listings; (6) Executive Order No. 13352 (69 Fed. Reg. 52989) directs the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency to pursue new cooperative conservation programs involving the collaboration of Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, private for-profit and non-profit institutions, non-governmental entities, and individuals; (7) since 1987, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has exemplified cooperative conservation as an innovative, voluntary partnership program that helps private landowners restore wetland and other important fish and wildlife habitat; and (8) through 33,103 agreements with private landowners, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has accomplished the restoration of 677,000 acres of wetland, 1,253,700 acres of prairie and native grasslands, and 5,560 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat since 1987, demonstrating much of that success since only 2001. (b) Purpose.--The purpose of this Act is to provide for the restoration, enhancement, and management of fish and wildlife habitats on private land through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a program that works with private landowners to conduct cost-effective habitat projects for the benefit of fish and wildlife resources in the United States. SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS. In this Act: (1) Federal trust species.--The term ``Federal trust species'' means migratory birds, threatened species, endangered species, interjurisdictional fish, marine mammals, and other species of concern. (2) Habitat enhancement.-- (A) In general.--The term ``habitat enhancement'' means the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a habitat to change a specific function or seral stage of the habitat. (B) Inclusions.--The term ``habitat enhancement'' includes-- (i) an activity conducted to increase or decrease a specific function for the purpose of benefitting species, including-- (I) increasing the hydroperiod and water depth of a stream or wetland beyond what would naturally occur; (II) improving waterfowl habitat conditions; (III) establishing water level management capabilities for native plant communities; (IV) creating mud flat conditions important for shorebirds; and (V) cross fencing or establishing a rotational grazing system on native range to improve grassland nesting bird habitat conditions; and (ii) an activity conducted to shift a native plant community successional stage, including-- (I) burning an established native grass community to reduce or eliminate invading brush or exotic species; (II) brush shearing to set back early successional plant communities; and (III) forest management that promotes a particular seral stage. (C) Exclusions.--The term ``habitat enhancement'' does not include regularly scheduled and routine maintenance and management activities, such as annual mowing or spraying of unwanted vegetation. (3) Habitat establishment.--The term ``habitat establishment'' means the manipulation of physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a project site to create and maintain habitat that did not previously exist on the project site, including construction of-- (A) shallow water impoundments on non-hydric soils; and (B) side channel spawning and rearing habitat. (4) Habitat improvement.--The term ``habitat improvement'' means restoring, enhancing, or establishing physiographic, hydrological, or disturbance conditions necessary to establish or maintain native plant and animal communities, including periodic manipulations to maintain intended habitat conditions on completed project sites. (5) Habitat restoration.-- (A) In general.--The term ``habitat restoration'' means the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of returning the majority of natural functions to the lost or degraded native habitat. (B) Inclusions.--The term ``habitat restoration'' includes-- (i) an activity conducted to return a project site, to the maximum extent practicable, to the ecological condition that existed prior to the loss or degradation, including-- (I) removing tile drains or plugging drainage ditches in former or degraded wetland; (II) returning meanders and sustainable profiles to straightened streams; (III) burning grass communities heavily invaded by exotic species to reestablish native grass and plant communities; and (IV) planting plant communities that are native to the project site; (ii) if restoration of a project site to its original ecological condition is not practicable, an activity that repairs 1 or more of the original habitat functions and that involve the use of native vegetation, including-- (I) the installation of a water control structure in a swale on land isolated from overbank flooding by a major levee to simulate natural hydrological processes; and (II) the placement of streambank or instream habitat diversity structures in streams that cannot be restored to original conditions or profile; and (iii) removal of a disturbing or degrading element to enable the native habitat to reestablish or become fully functional. (6) Private land.-- (A) In general.--The term ``private land'' means any land that is not owned by the Federal Government or a State. (B) Inclusions.--The term ``private land'' includes tribal land and Hawaiian homeland. (7) Project.--The term ``project'' means a project carried out under the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program established by section 4. (8) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior. SEC. 4. PARTNERS FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM. The Secretary shall carry out the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program within the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to provide-- (1) technical and financial assistance to private landowners for the conduct of voluntary projects to benefit Federal trust species by promoting habitat improvement, habitat restoration, habitat enhancement, and habitat establishment; and (2) technical assistance to other public and private entities regarding fish and wildlife habitat restoration on private land. SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS. There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act not more than $75,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2011. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Jones) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Kildee) each will control 20 minutes. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from North Carolina. General Leave Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the bill under consideration. The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from North Carolina? There was no objection. Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I am pleased to support S. 260, the Partners For Fish and Wildlife Act, and compliment the House and Senate authors of this legislation, Representative John Sullivan and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. This is not a new Federal program. It has been administratively managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for over two decades. It is based on the innovative concept that wildlife populations and their habitats can be effectively conserved, managed and restored through voluntary agreements between private landowners and the Federal Government. During the past 20 years, more than 35,000 agreements have been signed throughout the United States. The result has been remarkable with the protection, restoration and enhancement of nearly 2.5 million acres of important fish and wildlife habitat. In specific terms, over 700,000 acres of wetlands, 1.5 million acres of upland habitat and 6,000 miles of riparian and instream habitat have been restored. In addition, over 120,000 acres have been treated for invasive species, and 194 barriers to the fish passage have been removed. What this legislation simply proposes is to build upon the existing successes by converting the line item within the Fish and Wildlife Service budget to a congressionally authorized program. By so doing, we will provide stability to the program, highlight the benefits of public and private partnership, and increase the amount of congressional oversight in the future. [[Page H6799]] S. 260 is strongly supported by the Bush administration to States, private landowners and wildlife conservation organizations. The Partners Program has been a huge success, and we should ensure that this innovative program will flourish in the future. I urge an ``aye'' vote on this legislation. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time. Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Speaker, we support this legislation that will provide a statutory authorization for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. This popular program facilitates cooperation between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and non-Federal organizations to voluntarily protect, conserve and restore habitat important to fish and wildlife. It is our understanding that this legislation ratifies the existing administrative program, and that the service will implement the act under its existing regulations. I urge Members to support S. 260. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time. Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield as much time as he may consume to the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Sullivan). Mr. SULLIVAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of S. 260, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act, which was introduced in the Senate by my friend and fellow Oklahoman, Senator Inhofe. I would like to thank some of the people that work on the staff, Nathan Richmond and the famous Ryan Jackson on the Public Works Committee for all their support. The bill is supported by 34 different sportsmen and conservation groups. I would like to thank my colleagues, Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee Chairman Gilchrest and House Resources Chairman Pombo, for their consideration and leadership on this bill. I was proud to introduce companion legislation, H.R. 2018, in the House last year. Senate bill 260 will authorize the popular Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. The Partners Program provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to voluntarily restore wetlands and other fish and wildlife habitat on their own land. With more than 80 percent of the fish and wildlife in the United States on private lands, S. 260 is needed to encourage public-private landowners in Oklahoma and around our Nation to enter into agreements with the Federal Government to conserve valuable natural habitat and wildlife. Since 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has operated the Partners Program as a separate line item under the President's budget, subjecting these funds to reprogramming within the Fish and Wildlife Services. Senate bill 260 authorizes up to $75 million through fiscal year 2011 to allow this successful program to stabilize and expand. Given that thousands of landowners are eager to participate in the Partners Program, Senate bill 260 couldn't come at a better time. As a sportsman, I believe that it is our responsibility to protect and preserve our natural resources. There are few things I enjoy more than fishing with my kids, and we owe our future generations the same opportunity. Most people think that wildlife conservation and the rights of private landholders are a naturally combative force and are mutually exclusive. The Partners Program is a shining example of how we can protect wildlife and the property of individuals at the same time. The simple fact is the future of our natural resources depends on the conservation of habitat, the successful management of wildlife, and the control of invasive species on private land. Passage of S. 260 today is critical to ensure its continued success. Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I yield back my time. The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Simpson). The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Jones) that the House suspend the rules and pass the Senate bill, S. 260. The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the Senate bill was passed. A motion to reconsider was laid on the table. ____________________