Leahy And U.S. Interior Secretary Salazar Tour Vermont’s Natural Places, Examine Economic Impact Of Interior Programs

(MONDAY, August 15) -- U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined Senator Patrick Leahy in Vermont Monday to announce several new Interior Department initiatives in Vermont aimed at boosting recreation-related economic development and advancing the President’s American’s Great Outdoors initiative.  During the visit, Salazar and Leahy were also briefed on key land and wildlife conservation projects.

At Bibens Ace Lakeshore Hardware in Colchester Salazar announced an expanded role for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in restoring the fisheries of Lake Champlain, especially with sea lamprey control.  The USFWS has partnered with Vermont and New York for 20 years in a highly successful sea lamprey control program.  As a result of the program, salmon and lake trout fishing in Lake Champlain have greatly improved with size records being broken several times in recent years.  Leahy and Salazar announced a cooperative agreement that further commits the USFWS to take a still larger role in supporting the program.  Leahy said this strengthened partnership will boost the program’s sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness.

Leahy, a senior member of the Interior Department's funding panel in the Senate, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, said, "It's a pleasure to welcome my good friend Secretary Salazar to Vermont and to show him just a little of what the Green Mountain State has to offer.  The Interior Department is a partner with Vermont on many of our legacy issues.  The agencies that Ken oversees -- the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS -- are all making vital contributions to conservation, outdoor recreation and disaster preparedness in Vermont.  The projects that we announced today will take us even farther in building Vermont's economy and protecting the ecosystems and cultural heritage on which our economy depends."

Leahy also announced that he again has secured federal funds through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) to support the USFWS work on sea lamprey control and other fishery restoration work on Lake Champlain.  He chairs the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees the GLFC budget.

While at the hardware store Salazar and Leahy, joined by Governor Peter Shumlin, also announced final approval of the management plan for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.  This National Heritage Area, to be overseen by the National Park Service (NPS) and the Lake Champlain Basin Program, will provide federal financial and technical support to protect and promote the heritage and cultural resources of the Champlain Valley.  Leahy co-wrote legislation establishing the Heritage Area with former Senator Jim Jeffords, and Salazar gave final approval to the plan this summer.

Both initiatives are expected to generate significant economic activity in Vermont.  The National Park Service forecasts that the state can expect $50 million in new business each year related to the National Heritage Area.  The improved Lake Champlain fishery is already generating more recreation and tourism in Vermont, with launches jammed most days during the summer and with lines at the cash registers at the Bibens hardware store and other bait and tackle shops.  They said these encouraging figures and trends are tangible evidence of the direct and indirect economic benefits of conservation and restoration activities.

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[For further information on the Sea Lamprey control cooperative agreement contact Dave Tilton of USFWS at 872-0629, and for information on the National Heritage area contact Bill Howland of LCBP at 372-3213.]

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