Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 will soon be put to use improving numerous federal wildlife refuges across the United States.

There was $280 million allocated for “830 projects to build visitors centers, improve infrastructure, and bolster conservation at national wildlife refuges and hatcheries across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, announced on April 26. “Projects include $115 million for construction, repair and energy efficiency retrofit projects at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facilities, and $165 million for habitat restoration, deferred maintenance and capital improvement projects.”

Of this total, $200,925,000 will be spent on refuge system projects, according to agency officials.

“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a tremendous opportunity for us to make significant gains in wildlife conservation, facility improvements, ‘green’ construction, and the next generation of conservation leaders through youth employment,” said Gregory Siekaniec, assistant director for the Refuge System. “We will be completing projects that provide wildlife values, create jobs, are completed within the allotted time, and help us achieve some of our conservation goals and objectives much sooner that we had anticipated.

Benefits to the refuges and the millions of people which use these areas each year will occur by providing “enhanced visitor experiences, restored and enhanced wildlife habitats, reduced carbon footprint, leadership by example in green construction, youth employment in conservation, and work for American citizens,” he added.

There were funds allocated to refuges in each of the United States of America. Examples of the millions of dollars allocated to particular states include:

Alaska: 10,081,000; including Alaska Maritime, Izembek, and Kenai national wildlife refuges
California: 22,357,000; Don Edwards San Francisco Bay, Lower Klamath, and Sacramento NWRs
Colorado: $9,380,000; Alamosa and Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWRs
Hawaii: $8,636,000; Hakalua Forest, Hawaiian Islands, and Kilauea Point NWRs
North Carolina: $10,904,000; Mattamuskeet, Pea Island, and Pocosin Lakes NWRs
North Dakota: $8,399,000; Audubon and J. Clark Salyer NWRs
New York: $10,604,000; Long Island or Shawanguk Grasslands NWRs; at the latter refuge, wetlands will be restored by removal of runways and taxiways
Tennessee: $12,617,000; Chickasaw, Cross Creeks, Reelfoot and Tennessee NWRs
Texas: $16,629,000; Hagerman, Laguna Atascosa, Lower Rio Grande Valley and McFaddin NWRs
Washington: $14,408,000; Nisqually, Turnbull and Willapa NWRs
Note: There are other typically other refuges within each state that will receive funds in addition to those listed.

Funding in three categories will provide distinct benefits, Siekaniec said. He also indicated how projects were selected.

Facilities

“This is an opportunity to construct some of the much needed visitor facilities that we have been interested in for quite some time. We can build using a standard design, green energy technology, strive for LEED certification, vacate costly leases in some cases that free up operating funds, reduce our maintenance backlog in some cases by building new, and provide lasting value to the American public through visitor service programs and more efficient management of refuge resources. In most cases we should be able to demonstrate a move towards reducing our overall carbon footprint as well.”

“Construction projects were identified from a known list of needed visitor and administrative facilities using the general guidance of providing lasting value to the American people, can be completed with the allotted window, creates jobs via contracting with private firms, and does not incur large operations and maintenance needs in the future.”

“Maintenance projects were selected from the backlog of deferred projects that are supported by our tracking of facility and infrastructure needs. Annually we identify new projects and incorporate a certain dollar value into a 5 year plan that is used as a budgeting tool.

Habitat

“This is a tremendous opportunity to complete some of the larger habitat projects that we typically cannot afford with annual appropriated funding.”

“Habitat projects are from both the deferred list if they are infrastructure needs such as dike rehabilitation, water control structures, fencing for land protection etc. (capital improvements), and from the refuge operation needs list if they are restoration of tidal marsh, remove predators from nesting islands, restore grassland habitats, install irrigation system to produce forage on the elk refuge in lieu of feed supplements, or ‘new’ projects that do not have a deferred element to them.”

Energy

“We had no inkling that an opportunity to get serious about alternative energy would be forthcoming. Many refuges have been investigating the options in wind, solar, and geothermal energy but were moving slowly because you can only do so much with the annual appropriation.”

“Green energy projects were a combination of deferred maintenance needs and a call for innovative and new ideas to reduce our carbon footprint and incorporate alternative energy practices into our facility operations.

Opportunities for National Refuges

“Congress has provided the National Wildlife Refuge System with an opportunity to assist with the economic recovery of our nation with much needed on-the-ground conservation and facility improvement projects. It’s now up to us to meet the expectations of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. I’m looking forward to projects getting under way and to an enhanced refuge system that continues to provide lasting value for America.”

“Projects will get started within the next couple of weeks as we allocate the funding to the Regional Offices across the country,” Siekaniec said.

Funds provided to the other bureaus of the Department of Interior were:

  • Bureau of Reclamation: $ 950,000,000
  • National Park Service: $750,000,000 on nearly 800 projects
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs: $ 500,000,000
  • Bureau of Land Management: $ 320,000,000
  • United States Geological Service: $140,000,000

Overall, the Department of Interior received $3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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