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Cooperative Conservation with the States
Photo Credit: NOAA
by Lisa Manning
The states play an essential role in conserving and recovering plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Congress recognized this fact in section 6 of the ESA, "Cooperation with the States." Section 6 authorizes federal agencies to engage in cooperative conservation agreements with state natural resource agencies and to provide financial assistance for state endangered species programs. Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implement section 6 to conserve and recover species under their respective jurisdictions.
Although small in relation to the FWS program, which receives approximately $80 million in annual appropriations and includes agreements with all states, the NMFS section 6 program has grown significantly over the past five years in terms of the number of states involved. NMFS first received dedicated funding (just under $1 million) for the section 6 program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 and has received an appropriation every year since. The original 6 NMFS cooperative agreements in 2003 have more than doubled to 14, including agreements with Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington. NMFS is actively developing partnerships with other states, and as the number of state partners continues to increase, so too will the number of conservation actions for listed and candidate species.
Using section 6 funding, NMFS instituted and administers the Protected Species Cooperative Conservation (PSCC) Grant program, which has provided $4.7 million in federal funding to support research, management, and outreach. From FY 2003 to FY 2008, this grant program funded conservation actions for just over a dozen listed and candidate species, including the Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi), elkhorn coral (Acropora palmate), sea turtles, smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), and shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum) and Atlantic sturgeons (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus).
One successful effort funded through a PSCC grant is a project the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (HDLNR) is conducting to conserve and manage the Hawaiian monk seal, one of the world’s most critically endangered marine species. Threats facing this species include reduced prey availability, interactions with fisheries (e.g., entanglement), human disturbance, disease, and marine pollution. In FY 2007, the HDLNR received a $153,000 PSSC grant for management of monk seals on the island of Kaua‘i, where human interactions with monk seals is a continuing problem, and to further develop the agency’s community-based response network. PSCC funding also supports state-wide education and outreach efforts to promote stewardship of marine wildlife and to minimize adverse interactions between people and protected marine species. As part of the project, HDLNR is also developing a conservation plan to minimize and mitigate the incidental take of monk seals and sea turtles in state-managed fisheries, a problem of growing concern in Hawaii.
Photo Credit: USFWS
A small-scale, cost-effective management project also achieving success is Shortnose sturgeon. USFWS the effort conducted in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to reduce injury and mortality of endangered leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) resulting from boat collisions. The USVI Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) documented an increase in the number of injured and stranded leatherbacks during recent nesting seasons in the area of Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge, the largest nesting beach for leatherbacks in the United States. Although there are already speed restrictions in this area, most boaters are unaware of these restrictions or the presence of leatherbacks so close to shore. To address this issue, the DFW has partnered with the West Indies Marine Animal Research and Conservation Service to install marker buoys around the Sandy Point Refuge, establish a "no-wake" zone, and promote the awareness of leatherback presence in this area to local fishermen and recreational boaters.
These projects and more than four dozen others funded through the PSCC Grant Program are a vital component of the NMFS species recovery program. As more state partnerships are formed through the ESA section 6 program, and as additional funding becomes available, more listed and candidate marine species will benefit. Ultimately, these efforts will help to restore imperiled species and make ESA protection unnecessary.
Dr. Manning, a biologist with the NMFS Office of Protected Resources in Silver Spring, Maryland, can be contacted at 301-713-1401.
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