U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service boosts state endangered species conservation efforts

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tuesday announced nearly $32 million in grants to 20 states to help advance their collaborative efforts to conserve America’s rarest species. The cooperative grants will provide vital support to efforts by partnering state wildlife agencies and conservation organizations to improve the health of the land and water that supports these species and scores of communities across the nation.
Issued through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act), these competitive grants enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat that benefits threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants.
“Our nation’s most effective conservation efforts are partnerships in which federal, state and local governments work hand-in-hand with private landowners and other stakeholders,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The cooperative grants announced today will make it possible to build these voluntary partnerships to conserve the vital habitat of diverse threatened and endangered species. In addition, many of these partnerships provide direct benefits to people, such as improving water quality and supporting jobs and economic growth.”
“Private landowners play a vital role in conserving our most imperiled species, but they need our help,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “These grants provide a lifeline to species on the brink by fostering partnerships between federal, state and local governments, private organizations, and individuals, empowering them to develop creative solutions that drive critical conservation and recovery efforts.”
The grant funding is provided through programs established to help advance creative partnerships for the recovery of imperiled species. This year, the fund will allocate approximately $8 million in grants through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program; $14.2 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, and $9.4 million through the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program.
“State wildlife agencies often provide a last line of defense in efforts to conserve species under the federal endangered species act,” said Jeff Vonk, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Department Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “These grants will help state fish and wildlife agencies fund critical science-based conservation to ensure the vitality of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources and help keep threatened species from the brink of extinction.”
A complete list of the 2013 grant awards under these programs (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 15.615) is available online at: www.fws.gov/endangered/grants/index.html.
Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are agreements between a landowner and the Service that allow a landowner to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property, even if they may impact listed species. In return, the landowner agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of those actions. HCPs may also be developed by a county or state to cover certain activities of all landowners within their jurisdiction and may address multiple species.
Under the HCP Land Acquisition Grants Program, the Service provides grants to states or territories for land acquisitions that complement the conservation objectives of approved HCPs.
For example, the State of Washington, will receive $2 million to acquire2,400 acres in Asotin County, including one mile of the Lower Grande Ronde River and three miles of tributaries that support federally listed bull trout as well as steelhead, interior redband trout, Pacific lamprey and many other aquatic species. This acquisition is part of a larger, multi-phased landscape-level project that will eventually protect 13,000 acres of habitat lands and 15 miles of streams. The project is bordered on the north by Forest Service lands and on the south and east by Bureau of Land Management lands. This is a rare opportunity to purchase a large, ecologically intact and diverse landscape that also will protect uplands and other habitats that support, species such as elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and golden eagles.
The HCP Planning Assistance Grants Program provides grants to states and territories to support the development of HCPs through funding of baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach and similar planning activities.
For example, the State of California will use a grant of $410,818 tosupport the development of an HCP for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta Region. The delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast and supports 750 plant and animal species, 126 of which are sensitive or listed as threatened or endangered. The delta is also critical to California’s economy, as it serves as the “hub” of the State’s water infrastructure, supplying drinking water for two-thirds of Californians and irrigation water for over 7 million acres of highly productive agricultural lands. The Bay Delta HCP is being developed as a long-term comprehensive plan that will conserve and manage key species and natural communities in perpetuity while providing reliable water supplies for the State’s myriad uses.
The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for endangered and threatened species with approved recovery plans. Habitat acquisition to secure long term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.
One of this year’s grants will provide $190,301 to enable the State of Nebraska to acquire and restore 184 acres of habitat for the reintroduction of the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle. Protecting additional habitat is critical for avoiding extinction of this highly-imperiled species, which numbers only a few hundred individuals. This effort will also protect and restore eastern saline wetlands, which are the most limited and endangered wetland type and vegetation community in all of Nebraska.
The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.
Contact: Gavin Shire

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