Tuesday, September 7, 2004
Updated: March 9, 6:15 PM ET
Landmark fish, wildlife accord signed by Interior
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times, August 2004

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A historic agreement will help sustain and enhance fish and wildlife across 5.5 million acres of property currently owned by International Paper (IP) in nine Southern states.

"The Aquatic Resources Conservation and Management Partnership Agreement is the first comprehensive agreement the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has signed with a corporation to foster conservation of aquatic species, habitats and ecosystems," said FWS Director Steve Williams.

"It lays the groundwork for future conservation of aquatic species in other habitats across the United States."

The 10 year agreement, signed by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, specifies that the FWS will provide technical assistance as International conducts ecological surveys and conservation projects to help recover imperiled aquatic species and restore habitat.

"This landmark agreement is a model of how voluntary partnerships with landowners can achieve far more for the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitat than the government can by itself," Norton said.

"With the stroke of the pen, the Interior Department and International Paper are committing to work together to conserve imperiled aquatic ecosystems across an area larger than the state of Massachusetts."

IP's George O'Brien added: "International Paper is pleased to be involved in the first agreement of its kind to focus on protection, recovery and management of aquatic resources across a broad area."

Largemouth and smallmouth bass will benefit, of course, from this cooperative approach, but so will imperiled species, such as the boulder darter, the flattened musk turtle, the Black Warrior waterdog, dwarf wedge mussel and many more.

The lakes, rivers and wetlands of the Southeast United States feature the highest diversity of freshwater mussels and temperate freshwater fish in the world. Unfortunately, roughly 30 percent of the 500 native species of fish are considered imperiled, and about 75 percent of the 270 species of mussels are in need of some form of conservation.

Cooperative actions between FWS and IP will include the following:

Identify areas on IP land to survey for the presence of imperiled aquatic species.

Implement and measure the effectiveness of Best Management Practices to protect water quality during timber harvest and other forest operations.

Support propagation programs for imperiled aquatic species.

Reintroduce imperiled aquatic species on IP property where habitat is suitable.

Publicly promote awareness of the needs of imperiled aquatic species.

"The protection agreement will extend beyond International Paper forestlands to promote awareness of the need for conservation of aquatic species and habitats within the private sector through a series of workshops," continued Dr. Sharon Haines, IP's director of sustainable forestry and forest policy.

"The protection agreement will make a tremendous difference for aquatic species throughout the South."

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