Making an investment in water conservation

Helena Independent Record

by Alana Listoe

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Helena Sunday morning to announce that Montana’s fish and wildlife will receive $3 million in Recovery Act projects.

Salazar said much of the work planned has been long awaited.

“When you look at some of these dollars that are now going to go into some of these projects, they are going to create jobs in Montana, but they are also going to make sure that the water in Montana is protected,” Salazar said.

The announcement, made at a special press conference at the Capitol, aims to create jobs and promote the conservation of Montana’s fish and wildlife.

The projects include $630,000 to the National Bison Range to replace the Failed Mission Creek West Bridge; $550,000 to the Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge to remediate the Hailstone Reservoir from salinity contamination; $249,000 for the Ennis Fish Hatchery to install a photo voltaic system expected to generate up to 75 percent of the station’s energy use; $540,000 to the Creston Fish Hatchery to rehabilitate hatchery building and property, replacing asbestos siding, installing new energy efficient window, replacing the roof among other maintenance; and $200,000 to Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge to replace the Sparrow Pond Trail Bridge and repair or replace the Elk Lake Road kiosk and the Refuge shop building. Other projects in Montana include $120,000 for the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge; $406,000 for the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge; $111,000 for the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge; $50,000 for the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge; and $22,000 for Bowdoin.

The funding is part of a major investment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in more than 770 projects nationwide through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to build visitor centers, improve infrastructure and bolster conservation at national wildlife refuges and hatcheries. These projects represent needs identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its capital planning process.

Salazar said community members will benefit from the work and investment for decades to come. He recognized the presence of hunters and anglers, people who love the outdoors and those whose heritage has been grounded in the landscape. Salazar said there’s a great importance of connecting people to the landscape that is very present in Montana.

Salazar noted the importance of maintaining the landscape not only for heritage, but for economics.

“It’s important to recognize we generate millions and millions of jobs and dollars through tourism,” he said. “When you think about what the hunting and fishing does for Montana, in terms of the number of jobs created here, it is a very significant contribution to the economy, so these investments will go a long way.”

This was Salazar’s inaugural visit to Montana as the Secretary of the Interior. He was joined by Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Brian Schweitzer in the press conference held in the Governor’s Reception Room.

“Throughout this region we all know water is our most valuable resource and it’s a constant challenge to manage that water in a way that makes sense to the people of this state and the people of this country,” Tester said. “As we say in Montana, whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting. And, that’s because water is so critically important.”

Tester thanked Salazar for his assistance in helping to manage Montana’s water resources.

“It is essential for human existence and it is crucial for economic development,” he said.

Schweitzer said that this generation will be the one that gets to hand Montana to the next generation in better condition than it was found because Salazar is helping to lead a restoration of the West.

“We will create thousands of jobs, billions of dollars worth of enterprises will be created and families for another two generations will be working to clean up the Rocky Mountain West,” Schweitzer said.

The news came just days after the announcement that Montana will receive more than $33.2 million from the federal stimulus bill to improve access and services and create jobs in national parks, historic sites and recreation areas. Those sites include the Big Hole National Battlefield, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Glacier National Park, Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site and Yellowstone National Park.

Mary Sexton, director of the Department of Natural Resources is pleased about the influx of money Montana is expected to receive.

“It’s significant when you talk in the aggregate,” Sexton said. “It’s a great opportunity for Montana. It will benefit communities, interest groups, industry and businesses.”

Sexton said she believes the money will go a long way in the success of water projects.

Tester said he’s pleased about the funding coming to Montana from the Job’s Bill for the fish and wildlife activities in Montana.

“It’s helping us manage God’s infrastructure,” he said.

The public will be able to follow the progress of each project by following the link at the end of this story online