Congress Called on to Pass Legislation for to Protection of Delmarva Fox Squirrel

(09/09/1999) - Annapolis, MD - Today, GREEN along with Defenders of Wildlife, Anne Arundel Sierra Club, Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage, Maryland Interfaith Coalition for the Environment, and Maryland PIRG, released "Saving America's Geography of Hope: Why Congress Must Protect Our Land and Ocean Legacy." The report profiles the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and habitat for the Delmarva fox squirrel as well as more than 40 other special places that could be protected if Congress passes strong conservation funding legislation.

The report, authored by the State PIRGs, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Marine Conservation, Trust for Public Land, World Wildlife Fund, Scenic America, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks and Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society and The National Trust for Historic Preservation, illustrates the kinds of special places that could be protected if strong conservation funding legislation became a reality.

"Millions of acres of America's natural heritage have been degraded, destroyed and developed. All across the country, historic structures are in disrepair, parks are closing, farmland and open space are disappearing, and wildlife is declining," declared Mike Hoffman, Conservation Chair for the Anne Arundel Sierra Club. "We are losing the wild and special places that environmental writer Wallace Stegner called our 'geography of hope,'" added Hoffman.

"As is indicated in 'Saving America’s Geography of Hope', predictable and adequate funding dedicated to non-game wildlife and biodiversity conservation is esential to the recovery of species such as the federally Endangered Delmarva fox squirrel native to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and hundreds of other imperiled species," says Mike Slattery, Director of the Wildlife and Heritage Division at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Congress is currently considering several different versions of conservation legislation to fund a variety of programs benefitting our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, historic sites, coastal and marine ecosystems, and wildlife. The two main proposals are the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) of 1999 (S.25/H.R. 701), introduced by Senators Frank Murkowski (AK) and Mary Landrieu (LA) and Representatives Don Young (AK) and Billy Tauzin (LA), and Permanent Protection for America's Resources 2000 (Resources 2000 - S.446/H.R. 798), introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) and Representative George Miller (CA).

Unfortunately, there are some members of Congress who are pushing to include a number of environmentally damaging provisions, or "poison pills," into final legislation. These poison pills, many of which are found in the introduced version of CARA, include incentives for increased offshore oil and gas drilling, the use of coastal funds for environmentally destructive activities, and new restrictions on federal land acquisition already authorized by law.

"Congress and the Administration have an amazing opportunity in front of them. Success will mean a legacy of protected wildlands, coastal areas and open space, including the preservation of the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. Failure will mean a legacy of clearcuts, coastlines choked with oil spills, undrinkable water, and imperiled or extinct wildlife," said Mary Beth Beetham, Legislative Associate at Defenders of Wildlife.

"We call on Rep. Gilcrest to support strong conservation funding legislation and oppose the inclusion of such poison pills as new restrictions on federal land acquisition or the creation of incentives for offshore drilling. The time has come to save America's geography of hope," Beetham added.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270