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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Awards $70 Million in Grants to Support Land Acquisition and Conservation Planning for Endangered Species


July 14, 2003

Patricia Fisher, 202-208-5634
Don Morgan, 703-358-2061
Tom MacKenzie, Southeast Region, 404/679-7291

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today awarded more than $70 million in grants to 29 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plant species. The grants will benefit a variety of species in the Southeast including the endangered red- cockaded woodpecker in Arkansas and North Carolina and endangered mussels in Tennessee. Agencies in five southeast states (Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida) have been selected for grant funding.

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

"Today's grant awards recognize the important work that States and their partners are doing to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species. Grants are an important tool in our efforts to empower local governments and citizens as they seek to develop voluntary conservation partnerships that provide real benefits to listed species," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The Section 6 grant programs include the $6.6 million Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program, the $51.1 million Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, and the $12.7 million 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.

"As someone who has worked for decades at the State and local level on behalf of wildlife conservation, I know these grants really help," said Fish and Wildlife Service director Steve Williams. "They provide not only a financial boost to grantees but also provide encouragement by supporting on-the-ground efforts."

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). 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 330 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect covering approximately 30 million acres, and some 320 more are being developed.

In Riverside County, California, a $6.25 million grant will enable the State and its partners to acquire and protect important interconnected habitat to support the Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). This HCP will cover more than 100 Federal and State listed species, including the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, endangered least Bell's vireo and Stephen's kangaroo rat. The plant communities found in the area, such as Riversidean sage scrub and riparian habitat are representative of the original, native habitats of the region. Preserving these areas as open space will also enable them to be used for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and mountain biking.

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 northern Idaho, a $563,000 HCP Planning Assitance Grant will help the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) work with the Service and other stakeholders to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan to minimize any impacts of IDL activities to listed species. The HCP will provide conservation benefits to listed threatened and endangered species, including grizzly bear, bull trout, lynx, and the critically endangered woodland caribou, while providing the State of Idaho with assurances that important land management practices can continue. Both Idaho and the species will benefit from this HCP. IDL will be able to fulfill its mandate to maximize the long term return from these endowment lands to the beneficiaries with certainty regarding compliance with the Endangered Species Act, and the conservation of listed species will be enhanced.

The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories for acquisition of habitat for endangered and threatened species in support of 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 example, a grant of nearly $1.7 million will enable the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Nature Conservancy to acquire portions of the Kyles Ford mussel shoal along the Clinch River, an area believed to be among the most biologically diverse endangered mussel habitats on Earth. The parcel that will be acquired is home to 10 Federally endangered mussel species. By acquiring property along the river corridor, instituting buffer strips, stabilizing stream banks and preventing runoff and sedimentation, this project will mark a significant step in efforts to permanently protect the Clinch River, its habitats, and fauna, and to recover these rare mussel species.

For more information on the 2003 grant awards for these programs see the Service's Endangered Species home page at

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 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 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.

For a complete list of all the states go to:

Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants by State:


  • Potlatch and Plum Creek (Union, Ashley, Drew, Bradley and Calhoun Counties, Arkansas) - A $250,000 grant award will help acquire and protect 1,680 acres of shortleaf-loblolly pine habitat adjacent to acreage covered by two other Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), and will contribute to the recovery of the federally listed endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The habitat will be managed to encourage growth in the existing population of woodpeckers and in its range. In addition, protection of habitat on this acreage will allow juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers to disperse from the conservation areas to the nearby Warren Prairie Natural Area, where habitat management to attract red-cockaded woodpeckers is planned for the next two years. The acquisitions compliment the present conservation initiatives and requirements of the HCPs.



  • Georgia Statewide Conservation Plan for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on Private Land (Georgia Statewide) - A $2 million grant will help project partners acquire permanent conservation easements on up to 7,900 acres in four tracts currently managed as quail habitat. The tracts are some of the most important remaining properties for conservation in the Red Hills region, a priority area for the conservation of longleaf pine and wiregrass. It also provides the habitat for the largest red-cockaded woodpecker population found on private land (and sixth largest overall in the world), two of the best remaining old growth longleaf sites, and some of the best remaining native groundstory vegetation in the southeast. Acquisition of easements on these tracts will ensure the maintenance and protection of key components of the Red Hills area.


Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants by State:


  • Etowah River Basin (Cherokee, Lumpkin, Pickens, and Forsyth Counties, Georgia) $355,634 - A $355,634 grant will help develop a comprehensive habitat conservation plan covering the Etowah River basin allowing county and municipal development agencies to authorize projects while contributing to the conservation of numerous aquatic species in the Etowah River basin.

Recovery Land Acquisition Grants by State:


  • Pondberry and red-cockaded woodpecker land acquisition (Clay, Jackson, Monroe Counties) - A $288,930 grant will provide funding for targeted land acquisitions harboring populations of endangered pondberry where they currently have no protection, and will also provide a buffer to protect a large population at the Stateline Sand Ponds Natural Area. The recovery plan for the pondberry lists 36 extant populations distributed in 6 states. The major threat to the continued existence of pondberry is alteration or destruction of its habitat through land clearing, drainage modification, or timber harvesting. Additional habitat will be protected at the Pine City Headwater Swamp Conservation Area for potential reestablishment efforts. Acquisition of additional lands in Arkansas suitable to support stable populations of pondberry and/or to provide buffers to currently protected populations will be important to the recovery of this plant and will protect it from further loss of habitat. The acquisitions will also protect the last remaining breeding group of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and provide it with the potential for population growth.


  • Warm Mineral Springs Creek Protection Program (Sarasota County) - A $455,835 grant will help acquire lands adjacent to Warm Mineral Springs Creek and identify management procedures to protect the endangered West Indian manatees that use the area as a refuge. Acquisition of a 32.5 acre parcel will allow the County to control access and protect manatees within the creek and its critical warm water refuge. The site is a winter/cold weather refuge for up to 100 manatees. It is one of the largest refuges in southwest Florida and possibly the only naturally occurring mineral spring. The manatee recovery plan identifies land adjacent to Warm Mineral Spring in Sarasota County as property that should be considered for acquisition due to its importance as manatee habitat. The surrounding scrubby flatwoods support foraging habitat for gopher tortoises and Florida scrub-jays. Several listed plant species occur, including the golden leather fern, bromeliads, and the Florida coontie.

North Carolina

  • Acquisition of the Beck Tract (Onslow County) - A $556,150 grant will help acquire 2,432 acres of longleaf pine habitat to provide perpetual protection to an essential habitat corridor linking two forested sections of Camp Lejeune. The acquisition will provide foraging habitat and future nesting habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). Having this parcel under appropriate management will also facilitate RCW recovery efforts on the base by preventing further encroachment and land use conversion. The area has been identified as having good foraging habitat and having potential to provide good nesting habitat within 30 to 40 years. Protection of this habitat will enable project partners, including the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Nature Conservancy and U.S. Marine Corps, to establish additional breeding groups within the area=s primary core recovery population and to create a more contiguous land mass for this population. This proposed site also has a good probability of supporting the rough leaved loosestrife. Camp Lejeune is listed as one of the nine known population centers for this endangered plant in its recovery plan.


  • Asher Farm Tract - Clinch River (Hancock County) - A $1.685 million grant will help acquire and protect a significant portion of the shoal along the Clinch River at Kyles Ford, which harbors the most diverse mussel community in Tennessee. The Clinch River is one of the last major strongholds of Cumberlandian mussel fauna, and the Nature Conservancy=s scientific planning process has identified Kyles Ford mussel shoal as the most biologically diverse, endangered mussel habitat on Earth. The 850-acre parcel that will be acquired is home to 10 federally listed mussel species. By acquiring property along the river corridor, instituting buffer strips, stabilizing stream banks and preventing runoff and sedimentation, this project will mark a significant step in efforts to permanently protect the Clinch River, its habitats, and fauna. The acquisition includes almost 3 miles of river front and 850 acres of adjacent riparian frontage to the Clinch River.
  • Large-flowered skullcap Land Acquisition (Hamilton County) - A $562,500 grant will help acquire a large tract of land along the Cumberland Plateau stream gorge that harbors populations and habitat for the threatened Virginia spiraea, large-flowered skullcap, and bald eagle. The parcel will connect to an even larger area of conservation lands, including a Forest Legacy project area and the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area. The acquisition encompasses approximately 1,500 acres of privately owned timber land that has been protected voluntarily as a Registered State Natural Area. In 2001, a total of 321 plants was found in two populations of large-flowered skullcap. In 2002, a total of 1,005 plants was found in four populations. Placing this property in public ownership will help the Service reach its recovery goals and will likely contribute to the future delisting of this plant.


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