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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                       (Merida, Yucatan, Mexico)
For Immediate Release                                  February 15, 1999


             U.S. Support for Fire Prevention and Restoration
               through the Mexico Nature Conservation Fund

President Clinton announced today an additional $1.22 million in incremental funding toward meeting a $5.75 million pledge of U.S. support for Mexican efforts to improve fire management and provide alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture and logging practices. The U.S. commitment followed last year's devastating wildfires in Mexico, which affected the environment on both sides of our border. The new funding will be provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Mexico Nature Conservation Fund (MNCF), which has agreed to match the U.S. contribution through private fundraising. The funds will be used by Mexican non-governmental organizations and community groups.

Wildfires in Mexico in early 1998 sent a pall of smoke over most of Mexico and parts of Texas and Florida. In September 1998, President Zedillo of Mexico announced a $24.5 million campaign to reestablish natural conditions and prevent future wildfires in 188,000 hectares burned by the fires.

The MNCF is a non-profit Mexican foundation established under a side agreement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1995. The MNCF grants funds to Mexican non-governmental organizations for the conservation and sustainable use of environmentally important areas in Mexico. The fund is the implementing agency for rehabilitation efforts in areas burned by the fires last year. It is also active in reconstruction efforts in the Central American countries devastated by Hurricane Mitch. The MNCF has been capitalized with $20 million from the United States and $7 million from Mexico.

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