News Release

California Landowners Receive $742,000 For Endangered Species Conservation

May 1, 2007

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Telephone: 703-358-2220
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced grants totaling $742,000 to private landowners and groups in California to undertake conservation projects on their land for endangered, threatened and other at-risk species. The Private Stewardship Grants Program will benefit species ranging from the federally endangered Santa Catalina fox to coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead in Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

Administered by the Service, each of the nine grants awarded today require at least a 10 percent match in non-federal dollars or in-kind contributions.

"We are seeing tremendous benefits to wildlife by partnering with private landowners," said H. Dale Hall, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Each year, these private stewardship grants pay dividends in the effort to preserve imperiled species and their habitats. It is heartening to see how much progress we can make when we work together."

Among recipients of today's grants is Vino Farms, Inc., in San Joaquin County. Vino Farms, Inc., an award-winning sustainable farm, produces more than 10,000 acres of premium winegrapes in California and has contracted with River Partners to implement a restoration plan for the native riparian plan community on the lower Mokelumne River watershed. Vino Farms is a signatory to a regional Safe Harbor Agreement for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and will use these grant funds to maximize the recovery potential for the beetle, the endangered least Bell's vireo, and 15 other at-risk bird species.

Now in its fifth year, the Private Stewardship Grants Program provides federal grants on a competitive basis to individuals and groups engaged in voluntary conservation efforts on private lands that include species protected by the Endangered Species Act, candidate species or other at-risk species. Under this program, private landowners as well as groups working with private landowners submit proposals directly to the Service for funding to support these efforts. Nationally, the program awarded 7.2 million in grants to landowners in 36 states in 2007.

The Private Stewardship Grant program is one of a variety of tools under the ESA that help landowners plan and implement projects to conserve species. Other cooperative measures under the ESA include Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, and Candidate Conservation Agreements. These grants and cooperative agreements provide incentives to foster citizen participation in the stewardship of our nation's natural resources.

California Grant recipients include:

Grasshopper Valley Sagebrush Steppe Restoration (Application by the Pit Resource Conservation District) - Lassen County, California - ($108,325*) - At least 20 rare grassland species will benefit from this invasive species removal project. Restoration of sagebrush habitat will benefit the greater sage grouse. Mechanical removal of juniper on approximately 500 acres will improve wildlife habitat, improve water quality, reduce fire hazards, and increase soil moisture. Landowners involved in this project will maintain the improvements for 20 years.

Mattole River Flow Program: Water Storage and Forbearance for Threatened Species Recovery ( Application by Sanctuary Forest, Inc.) - Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, California - ($55,000*) - Sixteen private landowners will voluntarily forego water extractions on the Mattole River during summer low flows for this project that will benefit listed aquatic species. Five miles of critical stream habitat will be improved for threatened coho, Chinook, and steelhead by supplying an alternative water source for nearby water users. Other species benefiting include river lamprey, western tailed frog, southern torrent salamander, foothill yellow-legged frog, and western pond turtle. FWS funds will contribute less than 10 percent of the total project costs.

Mattole River Eastern Sub-basin Aquatic Habitat Restoration Project (Application by the Mattole Restoration Council) - Humboldt County, California - ($95,000*) - This project will replace three undersized culverts on private lands off of Wolf, Buck, and Deer Lick creeks to allow for full fish passage and reduction of sediment loads into the creeks. The project will benefit three federally threatened fish: Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead. It will also benefit rare species such as pacific lamprey, foothill yellow-legged frog, northern red-legged frog, tailed frog, and southern torrent salamander.

Removal of Non-native Invasive Plants at Martin Dunes on the Monterey Bay State Seashore (Application by The Big Sur Land Trust) - Monterey, California - ($60,000*) - This project will eradicate two non-native, invasive plant species, ice plant and European beachgrass, from 125 acres at Martin Dunes, a private section of the Monterey dunes seashore complex. Removal of these non-natives will contribute to the goal of their complete eradication along the Monterey Bay Seashore and create important habitat connectivity. Rare species that will directly benefit from this activity are the endangered Smith's blue butterfly, Monterey gilia, Menzie's wallflower, and the threatened western snowy plover, the threatened Monterey spineflower as well as the rare California legless lizard.

Catalina Listed Species Restoration and Protection Project (Application by the Catalina Conservancy) - Los Angeles County, California - ($175,000*) - The three phases of this project will benefit six rare species on the island. Phases include vaccination of the endangered Santa Catalina fox against the detrimental canine distemper virus (CDV), eradication and control of invasive plant species, and plant propagation and outplanting. CDV had nearly wiped out the Santa Catalina fox in 2004, and inoculation against future outbreaks will help recover the population. Four priority invasive plant species will also be eradicated from the island. Five rare plant species that will benefit from this project: the endangered Santa Cruz rock-cress and Catalina mahogany, the threatened rush-rose and the rare Catalina manzanita and oak.

Ventura River Preserve Habitat Restoration of Rice Creek and Ventura River Uplands (Application by Ojai Valley Land Conservancy) - Ventura County, California - ($81,675)-The goal of this project, led by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, is removal of invasive non-native plant species along Rice Creek and Ventura River Uplands, as well as the restoration of Rice Creek's natural channel and ecosystem. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is working to enhance native habitats along the Ventura River and Rice Creek, increase habitat connectivity for the California red-legged frog, provide additional riparian habitat for the Least Bell's vireo and Southwestern willow flycatcher, and support the aquatic habitats of the Southern steelhead trout and Tidewater goby.

Riparian Habitat Restoration for the Federally Threatened Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle and Other At-risk Species in the Mokelumne Watershed - (Application by Vino Farms, Inc.) - San Joaquin County, California - ($60,000*) - Vino Farms, Inc., an award-winning sustainable farm, produces more than 10,000 acres of premium wine grapes in California and has contracted with River Partners to implement a restoration plan for the native riparian plan community on the lower Mokelumne River watershed. Vino Farms is a signatory to a regional Safe Harbor Agreement for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and will use these funds to maximize the recovery potential for the beetle, the endangered least Bell's vireo, and 15 other at-risk bird species.

Restoration of Santa Cruz Tarplant and Coastal Prairie on Tarplant Hill in Watsonville (Application by Watsonville Wetlands Watch) - Santa Cruz County, California - ($35,000*) - Watsonville Wetlands Watch is initiating a three-year effort to restore and enhance 4.5 acres of native coastal prairie essential to the recovery of the Santa Cruz tarplant. The group is committed to maintain the site in perpetuity and to provide conditions that create a self-sustaining population from what is currently only an aging seed bank. These efforts will also benefit the burrowing owl, northern harrier, loggerhead shrike, and federally threatened California red-legged frog.

Saving Sonomas Sunshine: Reintroduction of Two Endangered Vernal Pool Plants at the The Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Canyon Ranch - (Application by Audubon Canyon Ranch) - Sonoma County, California - ($72,370*) - The Audubon Canyon Ranch was founded in 1962 with a grassroots crusade to protect and preserve the open space of Marin and Sonoma Counties with the added mission to maintain properties as sanctuaries for native plants and animals. This funding will assist the Ranch in enhancing two degraded vernal pools systems in order to reestablish the endangered Sonoma sunshine and dwarf downingia, a species of conservation concern in California.

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