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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

 

September 23, 2004
Contacts:  Elise Boeke 801-975-3330, x123
Patricia Fisher 202-208-5634

 SECRETARY NORTON ANNOUNCES OVER $5 MILLION IN GRANTS FOR UTAH TO SUPPORT LAND ACQUISITION AND CONSERVATION PLANNING FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced more than $70 million in grants to 28 states and one territory 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 Delmarva fox squirrel in the East to peninsular bighorn sheep in the West.

 Two of these grants were awarded in Utah: 

·        Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Mojave desert tortoise (Washington County, UT) $4,422,459.  This grant will be used to acquire parcels of Mojave desert tortoise habitat key to the viability of a reserve created under the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).  The reserve is vital to the long term survival and recovery of the desert tortoise and will benefit a suite of other species, including six federally listed species (the bald eagle, southwestern willow flycatcher, Virgin River chub, woundfin, dwarf bear poppy, and Silar pincushion cactus), one proposed endangered plant (Shivwits milkvetch), and at least two dozen BLM species of concern and State of Utah sensitive species.  Purchase of the parcels proposed for acquisition will significantly reduce habitat fragmentation in the reserve. 
 

·        State of Utah Virgin River Confluence acquisition (Washington       County, Utah) $615,000.  The funds will be used to purchase 56     acres of riparian habitat at the Virgin River Confluence essential for the  protection of threatened and endangered species, including woundfin, Virgin River chub, southwestern willow flycatcher, desert tortoise, and bald eagle.  The proposed parcel represents pristine habitat where the Mojave Desert meets the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, and provides habitat for dozens of species unique to the State of Utah.  This project represents Phase III of a project that will eventually protect a 530-acre ecosystem complex of riparian habitats along 3.5 miles of the Virgin River.  To date, the State and its partners have permanently protected 275 acres of this total. 

“The strength of our partnership with the states is clearly one of the keys to the Bush Administration’s success in conserving and recovering threatened and endangered species throughout this country,” Norton said. “Today’s grant awards support state efforts to build and strengthen important cost-effective conservation partnerships with local groups and private landowners to benefit wildlife.”

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

 The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund this year provides $49 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, $8.6 million through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program and $13.5 million through the 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. 

 "These grant programs are some of the many tools we have to help landowners conserve valuable wildlife habitats in the day-to-day management of their lands," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams said.  "They help landowners finance the creative solutions to land use and conservation issues that ultimately lead to the recovery of endangered and threatened species."

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. 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.

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 357 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect, covering 458 separate species on approximately 39 million acres, with some 407 additional plans under development, covering approximately 100 million acres.

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.

 The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for endangered and threatened species in 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 more information on the 2004 grant awards for these programs (Catalog of Domestic Federal Assistance Number 15.615), see the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Grants home page at http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/section6/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 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 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.

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