Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

For Immediate Release                                              

August 23, 2011

Fish Habitat Benefits from More Than $3 Million in Funding

Contact:

Scott Roth 303.236.4219; Scott_Roth@fws.gov
Leith Edgar 303.236.4588; Leith_Edgar@fws.gov


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will provide more than $3.4 million to support 84 fish habitat projects in 38 states across the nation under the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP). An additional $9.8 million in partner contributions, over $13.2 million in total, will go toward restoring and enhancing stream, lake and coastal habitat, as well as improving recreational fishing and helping endangered species.

The funding is provided for priority projects identified through seventeen Fish Habitat Partnerships established under the NFHAP. The partnerships strategically direct funding and other resources to habitat improvement projects offering the highest long-term conservation returns for aquatic species.

Aquatic ecosystems are especially vulnerable to changes in climate. Healthy habitats can help fish and other aquatic life to withstand flows and temperatures that have been altered due to climate change. Forty of the projects, supported by $2 million of Service funds, will improve stream flow, remove barriers or acquire scientific information needed for long-term protection against the effects of climate change.

“The Service is pleased to work side-by-side with our partners to improve habitat for fish. These projects represent the mutual priorities of broad locally-based partnerships,” said Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More than 40 percent of U.S. fish populations are currently considered declining, half of the waters in the U.S. are impaired, and fragmented conservation efforts are not reversing these declines. Besides climate change, principal factors contributing to these declines include: habitat destruction and fragmentation, toxic substances, invasive species, harmful algal blooms and altered thermal regimes.

By helping stem these declines NFHAP projects provide fishing opportunities for the public, and enhance economies and quality of life in local communities. 

Highlights of this year’s funding for NFHAP Partnership projects include:

North Dakota (Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership) - $15,000 in Service funds and $45,000 in partner funds will remove a lowhead dam on the Tongue River, reopening 5 miles of habitat to fish and other aquatic species.
Utah (Western Native Trout Initiative) - Chalk Creek, Utah and its major tributaries represent one of the largest pieces of habitat in the historic range of Bear River cutthroat trout. The Richens irrigation diversion occupies a key location within the Chalk Creek system and blocks upstream fish migration of fish to important native habitat. Fish in the system also have a high likelihood of entrainment in the ditch associated with the diversion. Funding allows project partners to replace the outmoded diversion with a new rock and concrete structure that will facilitate upstream fish movement. A rotating drum fish screen will be installed in the irrigation ditch to eliminate fish entrainment. This cooperative project has been funded by two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs: National Fish Habitat Action Plan, Western Native Trout Initiative and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Additional cooperation and funding has been provided by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Trout Unlimited. The demanding job of day-to-day operation of the fish screen will be handled through the generosity of private landowner, Mr. Gerald Richens with special maintenance and repair needs completed by Trout Unlimited.
Montana (Western Native Trout Initiative) - The Jocko River watershed in northwestern Montana has been substantially disturbed by agriculture, irrigation, livestock grazing, transportation infrastructure, and residential and commercial development. In 2008 the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes began an effort that targeted the lower 22 miles of the river for restoration. The goal of the project was to re-establish the natural river processes that existed before the watershed was disturbed and to re-establish natural linkages between the terrestrial, riparian, and aquatic parts of the ecosystem. The Tribes have achieved half of their restoration goal and have restored important habitat for bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout. Along with the restoration effort, the Tribes included an outreach effort to educate the public and youth on the importance of river ecology for not only imperiled fishes, but for all terrestrial and aquatic species that utilize the system, including human resource users. This effort includes production of an interactive and educational DVD for middle and high school students. It highlights the ecology of the river, the importance of the aquatic communities and the interaction of the river ecology with native culture and traditions. The Service's recently became involved in the project as a source of funding for additional river-mile restoration along the boundary of the National Bison Range via the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and Western Native Trout Initiative partnership.

For a complete listing of funded projects, please visit: www.fws.gov/fisheries/fwco/nfhap.

NFHAP is a national investment strategy to maximize the impact of conservation dollars on the ground. Under the plan, federal, state and privately-raised funds are the foundation for building regional partnerships that address the nation’s biggest fish habitat issues. This comprehensive effort will treat the causes of fish habitat decline, not just the symptoms.

For more information about the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, its partnerships and programs please visit: www.fishhabitat.org

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 http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/
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