Speech by the Director, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the: North American Wetlands Conservation Council

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be in this great country with all of you today.

I would like to begin by thanking our hosts, the Instituto de Ecologia and the Universidad de Veracruz, for their generous hospitality. Mil gracias!

Also, I would like to welcome visiting officials from the national and local wildlife managing agencies of Mexico: the Instituto Nacional de Ecologia not to be confused with our host and the Estado de Veracruz. Bienvenidos!

This is my first trip to Mexico as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and I am especially looking forward to meeting my Mexican counterparts and learning about this country's approach to conservation.

In the days to come, as we venture into the Mexican wilderness, we will be greeted by familiar sights. Whether we have traveled to Veracruz from other parts of Mexico or from the U.S. or Canada, there is a chance that wherever we call home we might have seen the colorful green winged teal or heard the distinct voice of the bullfrog. The fortunate among us might have witnessed the flight of the White pelican or the acrobatics of bottle-nosed dolphins off our shores. These are just a few of the creatures that constitute our shared natural heritage. In a sense, it is they that have brought us together in Jalapa today. All of us here recognize that we have an international responsibility when it comes to conserving habitat for the wildlife of our common continent.

To that end, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council has made important contributions to the goals of the many conservation accords signed by our three countries. The Council has been remarkably successful in fostering international partnerships. These are partnerships that not only cross national lines, but also bring together nongovernmental groups, private landowners, corporations, and many other partners. These partnerships have helped acquire, restore, or enhance more than 3 million hectares of wetlands and associated uplands in the United States and Canada. In Mexico, more than 4 million hectares have been affected in large biosphere reserves through conservation education and management plan projects.

This past fiscal year has been the best ever for the Council. The U.S. Congress appropriated 11.7 million dollars for 1998. And it looks like it is going to keep getting better; 15 million dollars have been appropriated for next year's projects. Personally, I have made migratory bird conservation efforts one of my priorities for this year.

That means we have to continue to deliver. We should all be proud of what the Council has accomplished. In many areas, we have surpassed the original goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. But we still have much more to do. The plan's goals are being updated this year . . . you can expect them to become more ambitious. But the Council's record of successes gives us all encouragement for the future.

In our visits to the La Mancha and Alvarado projects we will get to see a slice of that successful record. And maybe if we're lucky, a slice of the natural wonders that transcend our nationalities, that gives all of us, as North American conservationists, the inspiration to carry on.

Thank you.