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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

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

 

September 27, 2005

Contact: Michael Gale, 202-219-8104
                Don Morgan, 703-358-2061

SECRETARY NORTON ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $70 MILLION IN GRANTS TO SUPPORT LAND ACQUISITION AND CONSERVATION PLANNING FOR ENDANGERED SPECIES

Grants Awarded for Projects In Washington, Iron, and Utah Counties

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced more than $70.5 million in grants to 26 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plant species. The grants, awarded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, will benefit species throughout the United States ranging from mussels to bull trout.

Recovery of threatened and endangered species cannot be accomplished without the active support of private landowners. These grants will enable our State partners to work cooperatively with landowners, communities, and Tribes to restore and protect habitat and undertake other management actions that will benefit dozens of imperiled species across the nation," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the grants 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 $8.5 million through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program; $48.6 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program; and $13.4 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.

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). These HCPs, which are agreements between a landowner and the Service, allow a landowner to incidentally take threatened or endangered species in the course of otherwise lawful activities when that landowner agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of taking. HCPs may also be developed by a county or state to cover certain activities of all landowners within their own jurisdiction; it may address multiple species. There are more than 469 HCPs currently in effect covering 588 separate species on approximately 40 million acres. The grants are targeted to help landowners who want to undertake proactive conservation work on their lands to conserve imperiled species.

Among recipients of today’s Habitat Conservation Land Acquisition grants are two counties in the State of Utah.

Washington County will receive a $10,000,000 grant for land acquisition in conjunction with the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan. Washington County, located in southwestern Utah, is one of the nation’s fastest growing counties. A large portion of the county lies within the Mojave Desert ecosystem in the Virgin River drainage and provides habitat for nine federally-listed threatened or endangered species. The resulting conflicts between economic development and protection of threatened and endangered species have motivated local citizens and county government to join the federal and state agencies and environmental groups in preparing the Washington County HCP. Land acquisition strategies include land exchanges and purchase of private lands from willing sellers. These acquisitions are crucial to the HCPs success and to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the listed species.

Iron County, Utah will also receive a $600,000 grant to support the conservation of Utah prairie dogs. Most of the remaining viable Utah prairie dog colonies occur on private lands; therefore, recovery of the threatened Utah prairie dog is directly reliant on successful implementation of conservation measures on private and municipal lands. Iron County, Utah supports the largest remaining populations and 75 percent of the entire population of Utah prairie dogs. Funding from this grant will provide for land acquisitions and conservation easements with willing sellers to help develop a Utah prairie dog preserve system on private lands. In this scenario, prairie dog habitat lost to development on private lands and within municipal boundaries would be offset by the protection, enhancement, and maintenance in perpetuity of identified Utah prairie dog colonies and linkage habitat on private and municipal lands. The parcel identified for this acquisition is a priority colony sustaining a high density of Utah prairie dogs in a rapidly developing area under immediate threat of development.

An example of other recipients of today's Habitat Conservation Land Acquisition grants is the State of Washington, with a $7,417,805 grant to purchase habitat to support the Plum Creek Central Cascades Habitat Conservation Plan. In Yakima County, permanent habitat protection will be provided for bird, mammal, amphibian, and fish species on approximately 7,000 acres of contiguous mature ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and riparian habitats in the Tieton River Canyon. In Kittitas County, this funding will purchase and permanently protect 297 acres of forested hillside on Amabilis Mountain and adjacent areas that flow into Swamp Lake within the Yakima River Watershed. Protection of these lands would protect the north/south wildlife corridor that runs between Keechelus and Kachess Lakes and provide habitat for marbled murrelet, spotted owl, and numerous terrestrial species. This grant will also result in the purchase of 600 acres in Okanogan County that will be added to a regional conservation project protecting over 6,000 acres and 10 miles of stream frontage of mature conifer and riparian habitat corridors used by 40 priority species including northern potted owls, grizzly bears, gray wolves, lynx, bull trout, and salmon in the Methow River Watershed.

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. In Indiana and Michigan, for example, an $880,000 HCP Planning Assistance Grant will allow planning to begin for a Multi-State Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan to be developed jointly by the Indiana and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources through a 3-year planning process. The plan is needed to efficiently secure incidental take permits to conduct management activities for this endangered butterfly in occupied habitat. A broad stakeholder group is currently working towards recovery of the species as part of the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly working group.

Iron County, Utah will receive a $150,000 Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grant to assist in the development of a new Iron County HCP to establish a network of preserves on private lands that already support Utah prairie dogs. This will involve the identification of priority colonies on both private and Federal lands. Once the colonies are identified, additional lands needed to maintain connectivity and viability of the colonies will be secured through various means. In identifying and preserving these lands, a cooperative approach to species conservation and open space preservation will be achieved.

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. One of this year's grants will provide $438,969 to preserve a portion of the approximately 4,000-acre Corbett Ranch in Willacy County, Texas. The parcel features dense thornscrub that is optimum endangered ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) habitat, and is the largest continuous patch of ocelot habitat remaining on private land in the Rio Grande Valley. This ranch also contains thousands of individuals of endangered Texas ayenia shrub (Ayenia limitaris), which may constitute the largest known population in the United States. Additionally, a portion of the northern shore of La Sal Vieja, one of only three hypersaline inland lakes in South Texas, will be preserved. This lake supports Western snowy plovers, long-billed curlews, and least terns.

The State of Utah will receive two Recovery Land Acquisition Grants.

Utah County, Utah will receive a grant of $448,800 to provide funds to acquire critical habitat for the endangered June sucker. Such purchase will allow partners to restore and protect spawning, young-of-year and juvenile habitat for June sucker while restoring wetland, tributary and lake function on Utah Lake. These actions will benefit multiple native wetland and riparian species and provide non-native control, water quality improvements, and water management. Land would be managed as a natural area over the long term and would be accessible to the public.

Washington County, UT was granted $141,189 to acquire habitat to protect in perpetuity an ecosystem complex for the endangered dwarf bear poppy as well as the threatened Siler pincushion cactus as well as other sensitive species. White Dome Rare Plant Preserve is the last large, privately owned yet unprotected habitat in Utah. It is within the city boundaries of St. George and is part of a block of land covered by a master development plan for residential and commercial development. This area contains approximately 20 percent of all known poppy populations and is essential to the recovery of the species. The land will be managed as a rare plant preserve.

For a complete list of the 2005 grant awards for these programs (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 15.615), see the Services 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 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 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 and Native American tribal 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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