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Saving the nation's wetlands: two organizations offer help

Call it a bonanza for hard-pressed environmentalists. A new $50 million conservation program to save the nation's dwindling wetlands was announced here Jan. 12 by the Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit conservation organization, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The effort, called the National Wetlands Conservation Project (NWCP), will be funded initially by the Mellon Foundation's $25 million grant, the largest single grant ever made by a private philanthropy for conservation purposes. The conservancy has pledged to match the foundation's gift.

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During the next five years, the NWCP will purchase some of the endangered wetland sites along the nation's rivers, swamps, and coastal areas. Already, the NWCP has reached an agreement with the Northwest Florida Water Management District to acquire wetlands along the lower 18 miles of the Escambia River in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.

Environmentalists who helped establish the protection project say the NWCP also will focus on improving cooperation between public and private sectors on conservation issues.

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