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WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) today announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $300,000 for the protection of lands surrounding the Merrimack River.  These funds will allow the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) to continue its efforts to protect important ecological lands in the Merrimack River watershed.  Since 2004, federal funding secured by Senator Gregg for this initiative has allowed for the protection of 2,260 acres with 6.8 miles of river frontage on the Merrimack River and its tributaries. These funds were included in the Fiscal Year 2010, Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, which is now ready for consideration by the full Senate. Funding for this project is included within the Committee allocation set out for Fiscal Year 2010 funding measures.

Senator Shaheen stated, "Protecting the Merrimack River watershed is extremely important to preserve natural habitats, protect wildlife, and ensure this beautiful part of our state remains a place that draws tourists and residents to enjoy outdoor recreation," said Shaheen. "Conservation efforts like these help preserve our state's distinctive character and natural beauty, and I'm excited for this funding to come through so these project can begin right away."

Senator Gregg, a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Subcommittee, stated, "Over the last five years, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has been carrying out a comprehensive plan to protect the Merrimack River watershed and the environmentally sensitive lands surrounding it.  This effort is critical to ensuring the river and its tributaries can continue to support prime farmlands, important wildlife habitats and recreation opportunities.  I would like to thank SPNHF for its impressive commitment to this project and am pleased this funding will enable the organization to move forward with its efforts."

Jane A. Difley, President Forester, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, stated, "Once again Senators Gregg and Shaheen have stood up for our state's natural resources, advancing the conservation of undeveloped river frontage and upland watershed in the Merrimack River basin. With Senator Gregg's help, the Forest Society in partnership with NOAA and NH Fish & Game, has already protected 2,030 acres of land, buffered 6.3 miles of river frontage on the Merrimack main stem and tributaries, and leveraged $3.5 million in other federal, state, local and private funding. And we're pleased Senator Shaheen has already joined the fight for these important projects in the Senate as well. The $300,000 in new funding would be used to fund additional targeted land protection projects in the Merrimack basin identified by the Forest Society in consultation with NH Fish and Game and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service staff."