Put ’em To Work — on Conservation

State and federal fish and wildlife agencies facing steep budget cuts will be happy to hear about a new grant initiative from the Obama Administration that seeks to put youth to work on conservation jobs across the nation. “America’s Great Outdoors: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists,” has a two-fold goal: Getting important conservation work done, and exposing more of America’s youth to the outdoors.

The initial phase of the grant program, to be administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, will leverage $1 million in existing funding from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, with at least $1 million in matching funds from corporations, foundations and other non-Federal partners to provide critical financial support for conservation jobs and job training programs.

Over the past two years, Federal agencies and partners have provided more than 50,000 young people with paid work and service learning opportunities on public lands and waters.

The initial grants include programs in California, Alaska and Maryland. More information here.

Some Good News, Especially for Estuary Programs

Sportsmen conservation groups were claiming at least temporary victories after most of the anti-environment policy riders that worried sportsmen’s groups were deleted from the final omnibus spending bill during Senate-House negotiations. Those same groups, however, feel certain the lobbying forces that pushed against fish and wildlife habitat protections all year will be back in 2012.

That didn’t dampen the smiles over some particularly good news for some major wetlands ecosystems:

• Gulf of Mexico funding jumped from $4.5 million to $5.5 million.

• Everglades restoration, the largest ecosystem restoration project in the federal budget, made it out with only minor cuts, getting $142 million, down from $155 million in 2011 and $180 million in 2010.

• Chesapeake Bay restoration gained $3 million, up from $54.4 million to $57.4 million.