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GLIN==> [fws-news] Like Chicago, Houston Joins Interior Department in UrbanConservation Treaty for Migratory Birds

Joining Chicago ... a great opportunity for other Great Lakes cities:

Contacts:  Marene Gustin, Houston Parks and Recreation
Ron Jones, U.S. Fish andWildlife Service,281/286-828
Cindy Hoffman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 202/208-3008
Michele Soho, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 202/857-0166
Joan Moody, Assistant Secy Lynn Scarlett, 202/208-6416

            Assistant Secretary Scarlett Promotes Partnerships:
                   Houston Joins Interior Department  in
               Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds

April 18, 2003.  Today, Houston, Texas became the fourth city in the
nation to sign an Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds.  Backed by
more than $340,000 in grants and in-kind funds, the treaty is a bold
partnership between six Houston-based community organizations, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service), the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation, and ConocoPhillips.

"This treaty is a model of cooperative conservation, of what can be
accomplished when enthusiastic people work with one another," said Lynn
Scarlett, Assistant Secretary for the Department of the Interior.  Scarlett
is visiting various sites of partnership projects in Houston and along the
coast this week.  "Partnerships are important in areas like Houston that
are along the migration route of birds and are vital to the survival of
many species.  In fact, partnerships with private landowners, community
groups, and public agencies are the key to the success of many conservation
projects," Scarlett said. "Our vision is one that Secretary Norton calls
the '4c's'consultation, cooperation, and communication all in the
service of conservation."

Ponds, lakes, native trees and other plant life in city parks can provide
important resting and breeding grounds for thousands of migrating birds
that fly through Houston and other cities every spring and fall. Houston's
location near the upper Texas coastline is in the path of the heaviest
migration on the Central Flyway.  Every year at this time, tens of
millions of birds are making their way across the Gulf of Mexico to the
United States and Canada.  During peak migrations, up to 30,000 birds per
hour cross each mile of shoreline.  More than 250 species of birds that
migrate between North and South America regularly move through the Houston

Thanks to this treaty, several projects will occur across Houston,
including  two signature projects chosen by the city.  Herman Brown Park
will be the site of a series of bird monitoring projects and habitat
enhancement efforts conducted by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and the
Houston Parks and Recreation Department.  The park's unique position on the
central flyway is ideally situated to ensure that  birds are provided a
safe environment along their migration route.

E.R. and Ann Taylor Park is slated to receive improvements that will turn
it into a haven for birds and birding in the southern part of Houston.
Improvements include enlarging the park's pond, adding trail markers and an
observation tower.  Funds will also be used to plant native vegetation in
both parks.  In addition, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department will
coordinate a host of educational activities for youth and adults on the
importance of migratory birds and improving the existing habitats for
neotropical birds.  These programs will take place across Houston.

"Birds are not the only ones that will benefit from our urban treaty
projects.  The citizens of Houston and our visitors will also benefit from
green spaces and a healthy environment," said Mayor Lee P. Brown.

"This is a chance for Houston to show that it is taking marked steps to
enhance its natural environment and make a commitment to migratory birds,"
said Roksan Okan-Vick, AIA director of Houston Parks and Recreation
Department.  "It is a great way for us to show our citizens what incredible
opportunities exist in our parks and what educational initiatives we have
to offer."

Partnerships are the key to conserving migrating birds.  The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service manages 95 million acres of lands through the National
Wildlife Refuge System, much of which is situated on the flyways. But other
important habitat is managed by private landowners.

"In order to conserve adequate habitat along all of the flyways, we must
work in partnership with cities and other private landowners.  Texas is an
unusual state in that 97% is held in private ownership.  Partnerships are
critical to protect the flyways through this important state along the
migration route," said Lynn Scarlett.

 "ConocoPhillips has a long history of supporting habitat and wildlife
conservation and sponsoring environmental education," said Bob Ridge, Vice
President of Health, Safety and Environment for ConocoPhillips.  "We've
learned that teaming up with wildlife experts and dedicated sponsors like
those represented today results in better, on-the-ground programs than we
could accomplish alone."

The Urban Conservation Treaty is supported by a diverse group of local
partners, including the Friends of Herman Park, the Houston Audubon
Society, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, the University of Houston
? Downtown, the Bayou Preservation Association, Inc. and the South Texas
Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America.  In addition, The Nature
Heritage Society and the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory will participate in
the projects.

Urban birds are among the most vulnerable bird groups.  According to the
2002 Breeding Bird Survey conducted by U.S. Geological Survey  in
partnership with the Service, only 31 percent of urban bird species are
estimated to have increasing populations.  Their generally declining
populations are thought to reflect the cumulative effects of habitat loss,
improper pesticide application, and predation by domestic cats.

"As a busy urban center, we need to be aware of the important role birds
play in our environment," said Okan-Vick.  "They serve as pest control,
provide a tremendous educational opportunity and bring an important
aesthetic quality of life to our city.  I am thrilled to have the
opportunity to be a part of this terrific partnership."

The Urban Conservation Treaty program was started in 1999 when New Orleans
became the first Urban Conservation Treaty city.  Chicago followed in 2000
and Philadelphia in 2002.  Portland, OR plans to sign a Treaty in May 2003.
The Service hopes to use these agreements as models for bird conservation
in other cities in the future.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes
hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting
equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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