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Secretary Norton Announces More Than $70 Million in Grants to Support Land Acquisition and Conservation Planning for Endangered Species

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2004

Contacts:
Patricia Fisher, 202-208-5634
Don Morgan,
703-358-2061

 

Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced more than $70 million in grants to 28 states and one territory to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plant species. The grants will benefit species ranging from the Delmarva fox squirrel in the East to peninsular bighorn sheep in the West.

“The strength of our partnership with the states is clearly one of the keys to the Bush Administration’s success in conserving and recovering threatened and endangered species throughout this country,” Norton said. “Today’s grant awards support state efforts to build and strengthen important cost-effective conservation partnerships with local groups and private landowners to benefit wildlife.”

Funded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the grants will 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 $49 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, $8.6 million through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program and $13.5 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.

"These grant programs are some of the many tools we have to help landowners conserve valuable wildlife habitats in the day-to-day management of their lands," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams said. "They help landowners finance the creative solutions to land use and conservation issues that ultimately lead to the recovery of endangered and threatened species."

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. 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 357 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect, covering 458 separate species on approximately 39 million acres, with some 407 additional plans under development, covering approximately 100 million acres.

Among recipients of today's Habitat Conservation Land Acquisition grants is Scotland County, North Carolina with a $1.9 million grant to acquire and manage land that will aid in the recovery of the North Carolina Sandhills West population of the federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. In addition to the woodpecker, the acquisition will enable North Carolina to increase the intensity of restoration and management of the longleaf pine habitat in the area.

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.

Of today’s grants, more than $380,000 will fund Colorado’s efforts in developing a Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve the southwestern willow flycatcher in the San Luis Valley in Alamosa, Conejos, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. The Plan will cover about two million acres and 150 stream miles. Not only will it benefit the flycatcher, but also the bald eagle and the yellow-billed cuckoo.

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 these grants will provide $500,000 for acquisition of lands near the Machias River in Hancock and Washington Counties in Maine. The acquisition of the 47 miles of lakeshore and 13 miles of stream frontage will benefit Atlantic salmon rearing and spawning habitat as well as a bald eagle nesting site.

For more information on the 2004 grant awards for these programs (Catalog of Domestic Federal Assistance Number 15.615), see the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 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 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 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.


Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants in the Southeast by State:

North Carolina

North Carolina Sandhills, Red Cockaded Woodpecker (Scotland County, NC) $1,901,250. The objective of this project is to acquire and manage land that will contribute to the recovery of the North Carolina Sandhills West population of the federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Acquisition of the Rich Tract will provide protection of a critical corridor between two disjunct blocks of the North Carolina Gamelands, and acquisition of the Carrington Tract will add 725 contiguous acres to Block F of the Gamelands, protecting foraging habitat currently used by red-cockaded woodpeckers on Block F. Purchase of these two tracts will help ensure that encroachment of incompatible development around these blocks does not adversely affect the State’s ability to manage its lands for the benefit of both listed and unlisted species. Further, this action will enable the State to increase the intensity of restoration and management of the longleaf pine habitat in this area, particularly with the use of prescribed fire. The project will contribute substantially to fulfilling the recovery strategies developed for the Sandhills population of the red-cockaded woodpecker. Recovery of this population is a high priority for the North Carolina Sandhills Conservation Partnership, which is composed of six parties including the United States Army.

Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants by Southeastern State:

Georgia:

Development of an HCP for Imperiled Aquatic Species of the Etowah River Basin Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, Dawson, Forsyth, Fulton, Lumpkin, Paulding, and Pickens Counties, Georgia) $392,608. The proposed project will complete the planning process for the comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan for the Etowah River Basin in Georgia, ultimately resulting in an incidental take permit. The overall goal of the HCP effort is for each local government to implement growth management and local preservation efforts that ensure the future conservation of aquatic imperiled species in this basin. The incidental take permit will provide county and municipal governments (regulatory agencies) the authority to authorize projects that provide for the conservation of numerous aquatic species in the Etowah Basin while allowing environmentally-acceptable development to proceed. This is the fourth and final stage of planning for this HCP. Specific objectives for this year include: Working with the 20 local governments to implement ordinances and policies that minimize the impact of development on aquatic biota; Working with local governments to revise comprehensive plans to reduce development pressures in sensitive areas; Assisting local governments in putting policies in place for acquisition and protection of sensitive watersheds; Establishing a coordinating body for monitoring, enforcing and funding the implementation of the Etowah HCP; Conducting scientific and economic analyses for supporting the adaptive management aspect of the HCP; Crafting the Environmental Assessment for the Etowah HCP; Completing a draft of the HCP, the incidental take permit and the adaptive management plan; and holding meetings with stakeholder groups and the public and working with the media to facilitate better understanding of HCP implementation.


Multi-State – Tennessee and Kentucky:

Development of a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Northern Cumberlands Region (Tennessee and Kentucky) $272,500. The project will result in the initiation of planning for a comprehensive Habitat Conservation Plan for the Northern Cumberlands Area, including the Tennessee and Cumberland River watersheds, that will lead ultimately to an incidental take permit. The permit will allow the States of Tennessee and Kentucky, working with partners, to implement conservation measures to minimize and mitigate impacts to rare and imperiled species while allowing authorized activities such as timber harvest and coal mining to occur. The HCP will focus on both terrestrial and aquatic species. This area is renowned for its biodiversity and supports many rare plant communities and some of the best remaining habitats for a number of endangered freshwater mussels. The HCP will build upon The Nature Conservancy’s eco-regional planning effort for the Northern Cumberlands. The information from this effort will provide a strong foundation from which to initiate the planning for the HCP. Fifty-nine rare and imperiled species are documented for the project area, and of these, 22 are listed as federally-endangered or threatened. The Plan will focus on a minimum of 15 species including 8 federally endangered freshwater mussels (Cumberland elktoe, Cumberlandian combshell, Oyster mussel, Tan riffleshell, Catspaw, Fine-rayed pigtoe, Alabama lamp mussel, and Little-wing pearlymussel), endangered plants including Purple bean and Cumberland sandwort as well as two bird species, the Cerulean warbler and Golden-winged warbler. Initial planning efforts include establishment of a Steering Committee and an HCP Development Team; completion of a literature review of land use impacts on the imperiled species for those species where knowledge gaps exist; research on impacts of land management activities on imperiled species; GIS analyses to define the priority habitats for the HCP; and, development of an outreach program to engage additional partners, landowners and stakeholders in the HCP process.


Recovery Land Acquisition Grants by Southeastern State:

Georgia:

Acquisition of the Patterson Tract on Holly Creek (Murray County, GA) $950,563. Holly Creek is a tributary to the Conasauga River which is considered globally significant to the conservation of freshwater diversity. Approximately 80 native fish (including three federally listed fish) and 40 native mussel species (nine federally listed mussels) occur in the watershed. Although no federally listed species have yet been documented in the project area, the federally listed endangered blue shiner, southern pigtoe, coosa moccasinshell, and the federally listed threatened fine-lined pocketbook and Alabama moccasinshell are known to occur in the creeks adjacent to the property. The purchase of this tract will contribute to a larger effort to enhance water quality and protection of the Conasauga River watershed by securing land which includes important riparian buffers in the headwaters and by enhancing water quality by guarding against increased siltation.

North Carolina:

Pettiford Creek, Ahearn Tract Land Acquisition (Carteret County, North Carolina) $270,000. The Ahearn Tract (adjacent to recently purchased conservation areas and near Croatan National Forest) is under immediate threat of development. The purchase of this property will complete protection of a 900 acre area bounded on three sides by Croatan National Forest and 2.4 miles of frontage along Pettiford Creek. The purchase will benefit red-cockaded woodpeckers directly by protecting foraging habitat and active clusters on the tract and indirectly through its use as a buffer to existing populations on Croatan National Forest. Biologists believe the site has a high probability of supporting rough-leaved loosestrife, which could benefit from protection and management (such as prescribed burning) on-site. The property also supports a number of rare and candidate species including Bachman’s sparrow, Carolina goldenrod, Venus flytrap, and southern hognose snake.

South Carolina:

Bonneau Ferry Tract (Berkeley County, South Carolina) $1,646,671. The property is part of a larger three-phase project located along the Cooper River. The Cooper River is the primary freshwater migration route for manatees in South Carolina. The Cooper River also supports habitat for the endangered shortnose sturgeon. These species will benefit directly by protection of water quality in the river. Habitat for the shortnose sturgeon may be included in the purchase. Additionally, the larger property and adjacent properties already under protection support bald eagle, foraging and roosting sites for wood stork, and a number of other rare species (including swallow-tailed kite). The purchase of this tract will contribute to the overall acquisition of 10.5 miles of river frontage along Cooper River.

Tennessee

Bellamy Cave Purchase (Montgomery County, Tennessee) $65,500. Bellamy Cave is identified in the Gray Bat Recovery Plan as a priority one site for this species. This cave provides both winter and summer habitat for gray bats with a colony of approximately 91,000 bats in winter and a maternity colony of 35,000 bats in summer. Gray bats are sensitive to human disturbance and the size of this colony makes this cave a high priority. The State will purchase this property to ensure protection and long-term management for this species and others such as the small-footed bat, southern cavefish, and, potentially, Indiana bat.

Land Acquisition of the Lane Farm in Middle Tennessee (Wilson County, Tennessee) $285,750. Acquisition of this property will provide protection for one of the five existing populations of Tennessee coneflower and permit active management and enhancement of a population of leafy prairie-clover. Additionally, the property supports limestone cedar glades, an extremely rare community which provides habitat for many narrowly distributed plant species, including seven state listed plants. The property also contains a small mixed grass barren. In the state of Tennessee, nearly all such barrens have been lost to conversion for agricultural and commercial or residential development.

Arkansas:

An ecoregion approach to recovery of the Ozark big-eared bat and three other federally listed karst dependent species: Phase I (Benton, Marion, Newton and Washington Counties, Arkansas, also includes lands in Oklahoma) $584,237. The funds will purchase tracts in both Oklahoma and Arkansas adjacent to several protected areas that provide foraging habitat or habitat adjacent to foraging habitat for Ozark big-eared bat, gray bat, Indiana bat, and Ozark cavefish. The project will result in the protection of entire cave systems and their watersheds in the Ozark Karst Ecosystem. Acquisition of land adjacent to the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma) will support recovery task 1 in the Ozark big-eared bat Recovery Plan. Acquisition of land near to Slippery Hollow and Garrett Hollow Natural Areas will provide protection of essential surface foraging habitat and movement corridors for the same species. Acquisition of land near to Cave Springs Natural Area will help better protect the recharge zone of a cave which supports over half the world’s population of Ozark cavefish. This property also provides habitat for gray bats. Lands purchased near Edgeman Cave will protect Indiana bat hibernacula.

 


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