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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi, both R-Wyo., are helping to boost Wyoming funding for projects to improve Yellowstone National Park, irrigate reservation land, control grizzly bears, manage ecosystems, treat water and map soil. These and other initiatives that the state will benefit from are included in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006.

The Senate passed H.R. 2361, a $26.21 billion Interior Appropriations package by a vote of 94-0 today. Both senators voted in favor of the bill and worked to ensure that Wyoming, with nearly half of its land federally owned, was given due consideration.

Thomas said, “Because nearly half of the land in Wyoming is federally owned, Interior Appropriations funding is particularly important to our land management needs. The bill funds all of the land management agencies – it impacts our wildlife, our oil and gas development, and the open space we value so much in Wyoming. Multiple-use of our public lands is an extremely important aspect of getting the most for our money,” he said.

“This bill covers the spectrum of needs in Wyoming from grizzlies to irrigation and all corners of the state will reap the benefits. These projects are important to communities, parks and the natural resources of our state. Years of drought have shown us just how precious one of Wyoming’s resources, water, is and this appropriations bill provides funding to improve its use both for agricultural and municipal benefit,” said Enzi.

One of the top priorities for Thomas was to increase the funding level for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which comes from Interior. In addition, he has been a champion for efforts to improve and maintain Wyoming’s national parks as the chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee.

Enzi negotiated language that would allow the Wind River Irrigation Project (WRIP) to be eligible for funds under a $10 million package for irrigation projects on reservations in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. The funds would be available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and used to reconstruct existing irrigation projects to benefit the Eastern Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, among others. Thomas and Enzi have both requested funding for WRIP over the last several years.

Other projects and funding championed by the senators included in this year’s bill are:

- $250,000 for the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Project to assess the area and better manage the wildlife

- $1.114 million for the Yellowstone Grizzly Conservation Strategy to help provide management and monitoring of the bear and move forward with the potential delisting of the animal

- $1 million for the City of Cheyenne's Wastewater Treatment Plants Upgrade

- $160,000 to the Bureau of Land Management for soil survey mapping in Wyoming to study how soil will react with coal bed methane water discharge

- Over $26 million for Yellowstone National Park improvements including about $4.2 million for the Madison Wastewater facilities, about $11.2 for the Old Faithful Inn and about $11 million to replace the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

The appropriations process is the final step in the budgeting process and is when actual dollars are allocated to specific programs.

The House passed its Interior Appropriations bill on May 19 by a vote of 329-89. The Senate Interior Appropriations bill will now go to a conference committee for reconciliation with the House version. The appropriations projects and amounts are not final until the conference report is approved by both houses and signed by the President.