Bush administration proposes habitat investment | SummitDaily.com

Bush administration proposes habitat investment

Associated Press Writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. ” Wyoming is the main focus of the Bush administration’s proposed $22 million initiative to restore and protect wildlife habitat in seven western states.

More than half the money, $11.5 million, will be directed to southwest Wyoming, where intense natural gas development is affecting the habitat of sage grouse, antelope, deer, moose, elk and other species.

“The budget proposal reflects the importance of Wyoming nationally,” Steven Hall, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, said.

Congress would have to approve the appropriation.

The initiative in Wyoming would bring together seven state and federal agencies to help reclaim land affected by natural gas development and study how the development is affecting wildlife in the Green River Basin, which encompasses about 15 million acres.

Details of the program were to be released Friday afternoon by state and federal officials, including Gov. Dave Freudenthal, BLM state director Bob Bennett and U.S. Fish and Wildlife regional director Mitch King.

Southwest Wyoming contains an estimated 83 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. It also is home to an estimated 100,000 deer, 100,000 pronghorn antelope, 1,400 big horn sheep and nine threatened or endangered species.

Under the Bush administration proposal, the BLM would get $4.5 million, to help restore landscape in southwest Wyoming, with special focus on sagebrush, mountain shrub, aspen and riparian areas. The U.S. Geological Survey would receive $5 million to assess the health of habitats, monitor habitat changes caused by development and gather information to forecast future energy development and plan for habitat conservation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would get another $2 million to work with private landowners to conserve species and restore habitat on private land.

Other agencies that would participate in the Wyoming project include the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The administration seeks money for similar projects in New Mexico ($3.5 million), Utah ($2 million), Idaho, Oregon and Nevada ($1.9 million), and Colorado ($1.3 million).

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