National Fish Habitat Action Plan
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is an unprecedented attempt to address an unseen crisis for fish nationwide: loss and degradation of aquatic habitat. The plan was born in 2001 when an ad hoc group supported by the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council explored the notion of developing a partnership effort for fish on the scale of what was done for waterfowl in the 1980s through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The waterfowl plan has worked wonders during the past two decades to boost waterfowl populations by forming strong local and regional partnerships to protect key habitats. In 2004 the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents all state wildlife agencies, voted to lead the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries are principal Federal partners. A number of partnerships, including the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership, and the Western Trout Initiative have emerged as models of the kind of grassroots action envisioned in the action plan.
Southeast Region Funding
Two Southeast Region Fish Habitat Partnerships currently receive Service funding from the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. The Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (SARP) annually receives around $600K to address high priority, on-the-ground fish habitat conservation projects, while the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV) receives about $100K. Individual project funding has ranged from around $5K to $150K. Average project funding is generally around $40K.
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has adopted four interim strategies to conserve fish habitats. These include: 1) Identify and protect intact and healthy waters; 2) Restore natural variability in river and stream flows and water surface elevations in natural lakes and rivers; 3) Reconnect fragmented river, stream, reservoir, coastal and lake habitat to allow access to historical spawning, nursery and rearing grounds; and 4) Reduce and maintain sedimentation, phosphorus and nitrogen runoff to river, stream, reservoir, coastal and lake habitats to levels within 25% of the expected natural variance in these factors or above numeric State Water Quality Criteria. Proposals directed toward either Fish Habitat Partnership should directly address at least one of these strategies.
Potential fish habitat projects should first be discussed with either Tom Sinclair in the Regional Fisheries Office (404-679-7324) or with Tripp Boltin at the Wadmalaw Island Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Office (843-819-1229). This initial review will help to minimize your project development investment and also work to improve your project’s chances of being funded. Once this informal review is completed, fish habitat projects can be submitted to a Fisheries Field Office or the Regional Fisheries Office anytime during a fiscal year. A one-page request form that describes the project and a pre-project photo are all that are initially required for projects addressing SARP objectives. Information from this form and the photo are then loaded into the Fisheries Operational Needs System (FONS) for further consideration.
Requests for project funding from the EBTJV must contain the one-page request form and pre-project photo, along with a rather lengthy application that is submitted directly to the Joint Venture. Application instructions and the application can be found on the EBTJV website.
The Southeast Region has funded a variety of fish habitat projects through each of the Fish Habitat Partnerships over the last three years that funding has been available. SARP projects have created or restored spawning habitat for rare, migratory fishes; enhanced reservoir littoral zones; created oyster reefs, and restored stream bank, mussel bed, and salt marsh habitat. EBTJV projects have removed or excluded exotic salmonids from historical brook trout streams, transplanted Southern Appalachian brook trout, and restored large woody debris to many miles of stream.
Bennet Bayou Marsh Restoration
During October of each year, submitted projects are evaluated as to their overall priority with regard to a set of scoring criteria specific to the Fish Habitat Partnership. SARP criteria can be found here and those for the EBTJV can be found here.
A final report and a set of photos documenting the work performed are required at the time of project completion. This report should be a basic narrative of how and why the project was implemented. Any monitoring and evaluation results should also be included in this document. The report should be of sufficient detail to address the project’s how and why, but it is not expected to be a dissertation on every project aspect. Brevity is encouraged. A very short annual interim report detailing the work accomplished within a fiscal year is also required for projects that extend beyond the fiscal year in which they were funded.