WASHINGTON--Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, celebrates as his Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act (S. 260) gained unanimous Senate approval last night. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is the primary program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delivering habitat improvement projects on private land through voluntary agreements with private landowners. Inhofe’s bill authorizes the program for the next five years (2006-2011) providing $75 million each year for increased funding for this proven habitat conservation program. “The ‘Partners’ program has proven results in Oklahoma habitat conservation and today we have added stability to this effective program’s future,” Inhofe said. “The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program is a responsible and true partnership between land owners and the government as projects in the program are financed primarily by the landowner, not the federal government. “These on-the-ground initiatives are the programs that actually succeed in protecting and recovering species, as opposed to the endless and expensive litigation that has become the hallmark of the Endangered Species Act. All conservation programs should create positive incentives to protect species and, above all, should hold the rights of private landowners sacred. We have taken a positive step toward those aims with the Senate’s approval of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.” Since 1987, through 35,039 agreements with private landowners, the Partners Program has accomplished the restoration of 722,500 acres of wetlands, 1,573,700 acres of prairie and native grasslands, and nearly 5,900 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat to date. In Oklahoma alone, the Partners Program has accomplished the restoration and conservation 24,285 acres of habitat through 700 individual voluntary agreements with private landowners. The Partners Program has been a successful voluntary partnership program that helps private landowners restore hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands, prairie and native grasslands, riparian, and in-stream habitat throughout the country. This program has been particularly successful in Oklahoma. The program enjoys broad support in Oklahoma and throughout the country and represents a model conservation program. Senator Inhofe’s bill will now go to the House for consideration where Congressman John Sullivan (R-Tulsa) has introduced companion legislation, HR 2018.