Remarks by Director Jamie Rappaport Clark, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service at: The Nature Conservancy's book launch for Precious Heritage

John and Mary . . . you are both terrific! At a time when conservationists are faced with urban sprawl, population growth, and invasive species, you've delivered exactly what we need to save the best of what's left.

With this book and your billion-dollar announcement, you've given us the knowledge and the financial commitment to guide conservation in this new century.

I'd like to share with everyone just one example to illustrate just how powerful the information contained in this book is. Its a story about a field biologist, a prairie, and a dream come true.

Once the great prairies of America were vast grasslands, with thundering herds of buffalo, the shadows of eagles gliding in the grass, and colorful, fluttering butterfly wings, mixing among the reds, yellows, and purples of flowers. Today, in places like Iowa, 99 percent of that prairie is gone.

At one of our National Wildlife Refuges near Des Moines, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist named Pauline Drobney remembers her grandfather telling of the great, vast tallgrass prairies. She dreams of seeing them like he did, and if she looks out of her office window, she almost can. That is because at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, we are RESTORING the native tallgrass prairie ecosystem.

When Pauline started the project, the first thing she did was tap into the power of the Iowa Heritage Program. That helped her locate places where seed could be collected to replant native grasses and flowering plants at Neal Smith. When one considers that it takes 10 pounds of seed to replant one acre of prairie, and that some of these rare seeds cost 125 dollars an ounce, one can see how this was a tremendous help in a time of tight budgets and scarce resources.

But Pauline relied on the Heritage Program for much more. She also depended on them for technical advice. And, because the tallgrass prairie ecosystem spans 11 states, she didn't limit herself to the Iowa Heritage Program. She also tapped into the expertise of the Illinois and the Missouri programs, as well as others.

At Neal Smith, we now have prairie grasses growing 12 feet high. We have rare Henslow's sparrows singing. We have a small herd of elk. And we have 40 bison, including 10 new calves born at the refuge last year.

And the Heritage Programs made it possible by giving us vital assistance at the most important phase of the project . . . the very beginning.

By tapping into the power of Heritage Programs, Pauline increased their effectiveness by much more than the sum of their parts. Now we have this book, "Precious Heritage," that brings the power of all Heritage Programs together for the very first time.

Just imagine what we can do now!