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WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, praised Jeff Neal of Tulsa, Okla. who today received a Private Landowner Partner Award from Lynn Scarlett, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Mamie Parker, the USFWS’s Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation. Mr. Neal owns 1,600 acres near Indianola, Okla. where he has restored more than 600 acres of degraded wetlands for migratory birds and other wildlife habitat through the USFWS’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
“I offer my sincerest congratulations to Mr. Neal for winning this award and for his impressive accomplishments in our state,” Senator Inhofe said. “I have said before that conservation programs should create positive incentives to protect species and should hold sacred the rights of private landowners. Mr. Neal’s success sets an example for the rest of the country, and itself proves the success of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. We see the best results when private citizens and their government work together.”
Mr. Neal was nominated for the award by fellow Oklahoman Jontie Aldrich who directs the Partners Program for the USFWS throughout the state. Both Mr. Neal and Mr. Hall, at the time Southwest Regional Director for the USFWS, testified at a field hearing convened by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in April 2005 at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa regarding the successes of the Partners Program. Since that time, Senator Inhofe introduced legislation to authorize the program for the first time since its creation nearly two decades ago to provide additional funding and stability. Senator Inhofe’s bill, S. 260, passed unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, as well as the full Senate, and is awaiting action in the House of Representatives.
Since 1987, the Partners Program has created numerous valuable partnerships throughout Oklahoma and the entire United States. Through over 35,000 agreements nation-wide with private landowners, the Partners Program has restored over 700,000 acres of wetlands, 1.5 million acres of prairie and native grasslands, and nearly 6,000 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat. Since 1990, the USFWS has provided over $3.5 million and private landowners have contributed over $12.6 million to restore over 124,000 acres of habitat in Oklahoma through over 700 individual voluntary agreements with private landowners. Partners Program agreements are funded through contributions from the USFWS and voluntary participating private landowners.