Shaheen, Hassan Seek Increased Funding for Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

May 10, 2018

**In New Hampshire, Conte Refuge Funds Protect More Than 7,400 Acres of Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson, Whitefield, Carroll and Columbia**

(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of Senators in sending a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking to double federal conservation funds for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge—a unique refuge dedicated to protecting more than 36,000 acres within parts of the Connecticut River watershed through New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont. Preservation of the Conte Refuge is critical to the economic vitality and environmental health of the Connecticut River watershed and surrounding region, including environmentally significant land in Jefferson, Whitefield, Carroll and Columbia, New Hampshire.

The letter, addressed to FWS Acting Director Greg Sheehan, seeks a total of $3.5 million for Conte Refuge preservation in Fiscal Year 2020, double the current $1.75 million allocation. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) representing the four states bordering the preserve joined Senators Shaheen and Hassan in sending the funding request.

“The Conte Refuge plays an important role in the economic, recreational, and community vitality of the Connecticut River watershed and surrounding region. As you know, based on FWS research, national Wildlife Refuges generate about $4 in economic activity for every $1 the government invests in them. In New England, outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver, generating more than $39.4 billion in consumer spending and 319,000 jobs across the four watershed states. The Connecticut River watershed is also accessible to a large and diverse group of citizens, with more than 70 million individuals within a day’s drive of the watershed,” the letter states.

“The US Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Conte Refuge, has been a critical partner for many organizations and communities throughout the Connecticut River watershed. We are very grateful to the Senate delegations in all four states who have provided such consistent leadership in ensuring that the Refuge has had the resources to pursue initiatives that enhance this river’s extraordinary resources,” said Kim Lutz, Director of the Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut River Program.

The full letter can be read below:

May 8, 2018

Mr. Greg Sheehan

Acting Director

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1849 C Street Northwest, Room 3358

Washington, D.C. 20240-0001

Dear Acting Director Sheehan:

As United States Senators from the four states encompassing the boundaries of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, we are writing to commend the exceptional conservation work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) with regard to the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and its partnership approach across this large watershed-based New England working landscape.

As Fiscal Year (FY19) 2019 LWCF spending levels are solidified and you consider priorities for your FY20 appropriations request, we urge you to request substantially increasing funding over previous fiscal years for Conte Refuge which is a unique and critical refuge. FWS agency staff and non-governmental partner groups in the Friends of Conte coalition have identified over $14 million in projects as current and available priority opportunities within the Refuge for permanent conservation.

The Conte Refuge plays an important role in the economic, recreational, and community vitality of the Connecticut River watershed and surrounding region. As you know, based on FWS research, national Wildlife Refuges generate about $4 in economic activity for every $1 the government invests in them. In New England, outdoor recreation is a significant economic driver, generating more than $39.4 billion in consumer spending and 319,000 jobs across the four watershed states. The Connecticut River watershed is also accessible to a large and diverse group of citizens, with more than 70 million individuals within a day’s drive of the watershed.

The Conte Refuge also presents a unique opportunity to leverage and integrate Federal and non-federal funding opportunities because of the many local, state, federal, and private sector partnerships in this watershed. Members of the land trust community throughout the watershed routinely assist the Refuge in identifying potential properties, working with landowners toward federal ownership, and securing funds from other sources, thereby lowering staff time and costs to FWS. These land trusts have also added a combined total of more than 350,000 acres of conservation across the watershed.

There are also numerous federal, state, university, and non-governmental partners working to further habitat restoration, scientific research, and community outreach in the refuge. These partners are contributing to the knowledge base so that better conservation decisions can be made. For example, partners are working with FWS and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on restoration projects, such as dam removals, culvert replacements, stream flow enhancements, and floodplain restoration. Not only are these actions and associated lessons-learned good for the environment; they are good for the economy. In a recent Massachusetts study, it was determined that the average economic output of a restoration project generated a 75% return on investment and creates or maintains 12.5 full-time-equivalent jobs for every $1 million spent.

As such, we urge you to recommend strong funding of at least $3.5 million for the Conte Refuge in the FY20 budget to enable permanent conservation of high priority lands in the Refuge that are currently available and at risk. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you during the appropriations process.

Sincerely,