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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

July 14, 2003

Janet Mizzi (HCP Land Acquisition Grants) 303-236-7400 ext 280
Patty Worthing (HCP Recovery Land Acquisition Grants)
303-236-7400 ext 251
Sharon Rose (303) 236-7917 ext 415

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE AWARDS $70 MILLION IN GRANTS TO SUPPORT LAND ACQUISITION AND CONSERVATION PLANNING FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES

Montana - Two Habitat Conservation Projects Receive Grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today awarded more than $70 million in grants to 29 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plant species. The grants will benefit species ranging from the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the Southeast to the threatened spectacled eider in Alaska.

Funded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and authorized by Section 6 of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the grants will enable States, working in partnership with private landowners, conservation groups and other agencies and organizations to initiate conservation planning efforts, and to acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

"Today’s grant awards recognize the important work that States and their partners are doing to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species. Grants are an important tool in our efforts to empower local governments and citizens as they seek to develop voluntary conservation partnerships that provide real benefits to listed species," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

A Habitat Conservation Plan is an agreement between a landowner and the Service that allows the landowner to incidentally take a threatened or endangered species in the course of otherwise lawful activities when the landowner agrees to conservation measures to minimize and mitigate the impact of the taking. A Habitat Conservation Plan may also be developed by a county or state to cover certain activities of all landowners within their jurisdiction and may address multiple species. There are more than 330 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect covering approximately 30 million acres, and some 320 more are being developed.

Under the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Program, the Service provides grants to States or Territories for land acquisitions associated with approved Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). Grants do not fund any mitigation required of an HCP permittee, but are instead intended to support acquisitions by the State or local governments that complement actions associated with the HCP.

In Montana, the Plum Creek Thompson-Fisher and Bull River/Lake Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (Flathead and Sanders Counties) will receive a $1 million Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant to enable project partners to purchase a conservation easement on 4,400 acres of Plum Creek Timber lands in the Thompson River Valley to maintain the fish and wildlife habitat values and public access to 86,000 acres of corporate timberland in perpetuity while allowing for continued commercial timber harvest and other consistent resource management activities. The conservation easement would maintain or improve current fish and wildlife values by removing the threat of subdivision and development and protect in perpetuity prime habitat for the grizzly bear, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, Canada lynx, bald eagles, golden eagles, black bears, mountain lion, fisher, upland game birds, and big game ungulates including moose, elk, white-tail deer, mule deer and, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. These lands are contiguous with 34,824 acres of conservation easement lands acquired with grant funds obtained in 2001 and 2002.

The Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Program provides grants to States and Territories to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans, through funding of baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities.

A $75,000 Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Program Grant will help fund development and implementation of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Habitat Conservation Plan to protect habitat in Glacier and Flathead Counties, Montana. This HCP will benefit a large number of species in a geographic area that includes a wild and scenic river corridor and is adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness. While the emphasis is on minimizing and mitigating the effects of railroad operations on grizzly bears, these efforts will also minimize effects on other predators including gray wolves, Canada lynx, bobcats, wolverines, black bear, and mountain lions. Additionally, efforts to enhance habitat will benefit a variety of other species including bald eagles, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, moose, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, beaver, mink, otter and waterfowl. This HCP will foster existing positive working relationship among industry, governmental and conservation interests that was developed through the formation of the Great Northern Environmental Stewardship Area.

The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories for acquisition of habitat for endangered and threatened species in support of approved recovery plans. Acquisition of habitat to secure long term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.

For example, a grant of nearly $1.7 million will enable the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Nature Conservancy to acquire portions of the Kyles Ford mussel shoal along the Clinch River, an area believed to be among the most biologically diverse endangered mussel habitats on Earth. The parcel that will be acquired is home to 10 Federally endangered mussel species. By acquiring property along the river corridor, instituting buffer strips, stabilizing stream banks and preventing runoff and sedimentation, this project will mark a significant step in efforts to permanently protect the Clinch River, its habitats, and fauna, and to recover these rare mussel species.

Nationally, the Section 6 grant programs include the $6.6 million Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program, the $51.1 million Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, and the $12.7 million Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program. The three programs were established to help reduce potential conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land development and use.

"As someone who has worked for decades at the State and local level on behalf of wildlife conservation, I know these grants really help," said Fish and Wildlife Service director Steve Williams. "They provide not only a financial boost to grantees but also provide encouragement by supporting on-the-ground efforts."

For more information on the 2003 grant awards for these programs see the Service’s Endangered Species home page at http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/index.html.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

-FWS-

 


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