Speech of Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark at the Chesapeake Ecosystem Unified Plan Signing Ceremony

Thank you, Carol.

It is with confident resolve that I join you here today to reaffirm our commitment to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we are particularly proud of what we have accomplished here. We have worked with you on Physteria, fishery issues, and assisted with the enforcement of stewardship mandates.

The agreement we are signing today continues and expands our leadership role as stewards of the Chesapeake's wildlife and natural habitat, particularly in the areas of stream restoration, conservation landscaping on Federal lands, and control of invasive species. Combating alien species is a topic that I have made a Service-wide priority. The spread of these species and the subsequent displacement of native wildlife is up there with habitat fragmentation as the biggest threats to ecosystem health.

Now, with the President's Clean Water Action Plan, we are encouraged to protect watersheds by looking at them in their entirety, from the mountain top to the river delta, and to forge new partnerships with state and local governments to protect the resource. This will be tremendously useful in efforts to control alien species, because, in effect, this advocates an ecosystem approach.

Within the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the Fish and Wildlife Service manages 14 National Wildlife Refuges, which collectively add up to 56,500 acres. That's dwarfed when put in the context of the big picture: an ecosystem that stretches from Cortland, in upstate New York, to Suffolk, Virginia. Now, I believe that as conservationists interested in preserving the nation's wildlife, we need to look at the big picture. And that is why the Fish and Wildlife Service practices an ecosystem approach that addresses the interconnectedness of resource issues. This approach has a basic premise: we can not do it alone. To save the Chesapeake -- indeed, to save any watershed -- we must reach out to others in the area and collaborate with them to meet our mutual needs. Working together, we know we can succeed.

We did it at Kenilworth Marsh in 1993, when, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, we restored 32 acres of marsh on National Park Service land.

We are doing it again at Kingman Lake -- another Park Service property -- where we will restore 41 acres of wetlands. On that project, we are joining not only with the Corps of Engineers and the Park Service, but with the Geological Survey, the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, universities and private sector researchers.

At Poplar Island, we are teaming up with the Corps of Engineers and other federal and state partners to restore 1,100 acres of wetland and upland habitat, with associated restoration of waterbird nest sites, aquatic reefs, and submerged aquatic vegetation.

And at Little Falls Dam -- just a few miles up the Potomac from here -- we are poised to open 10 miles of spawning habitat for American shad by building a fishway. Once again, we are doing it with the Army Corps of Engineers and several other federal, state and private partners. We hope that this project will restore the recreational shad fishery that once flourished below Great Falls.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay and Susquehanna River Ecosystems Team, we joined with state agencies, nonprofit groups, academic institutions, and other federal agencies to ascertain the status of the Atlantic sturgeon and keep it off the Endangered Species list.

One last success story -- there are just so many of them -- at Bloodsworth Island, together with the Navy, we added artificial heron nesting platforms to make up for the trees lost at the mid-bay islands.

What we have done for Chesapeake Bay will serve as a model for future conservation projects. Our shared experiences at the Chesapeake Bay demonstrate that together we can succeed. We have proud accomplishments to celebrate today, and I look forward to continuing our efforts and celebrating more in the future.

We are just getting started!

Thank you.