News Release
Southeast Region

 

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Boosts State Endangered Species Conservation Efforts with $32 Million in Grants

Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina receive grants

July 9, 2013

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A Florida panther.

A Florida panther

Photo credit: Larry W. Richardson, USFWS

 

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced nearly $32 million in grants to 20 states to help advance their collaborative efforts to conserve America’s rarest species. The cooperative grants will provide vital support to efforts by partnering state wildlife agencies and conservation organizations to improve the health of the land and water that supports these species and scores of communities across the nation.

Issued through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act), these competitive grants enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat that benefits threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants.

“Our nation’s most effective conservation efforts are partnerships in which federal, state and local governments work hand-in-hand with private landowners and other stakeholders,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “The cooperative grants announced today will make it possible to build these voluntary partnerships to conserve the vital habitat of diverse threatened and endangered species. In addition, many of these partnerships provide direct benefits to people, such as improving water quality and supporting jobs and economic growth.”

“Private landowners play a vital role in conserving our most imperiled species, but they need our help,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “These grants provide a lifeline to species on the brink by fostering partnerships between federal, state and local governments, private organizations, and individuals, empowering them to develop creative solutions that drive critical conservation and recovery efforts.”

The grant funding is provided through programs established to help advance creative partnerships for the recovery of imperiled species. This year, the fund will allocate approximately $8 million in grants through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program; $14.2 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, and $9.4 million through the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program.

“State wildlife agencies often provide a last line of defense in efforts to conserve species under the federal endangered species act,” said Jeff Vonk, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Department Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. “These grants will help state fish and wildlife agencies fund critical science-based conservation to ensure the vitality of our nation's fish and wildlife resources and help keep threatened species from the brink of extinction.”

A complete list of the 2013 grant awards under these programs (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number 15.615) is available online at: www.fws.gov/endangered/grants/index.html.

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are agreements between a landowner and the Service that allow a landowner to undertake otherwise lawful activities on their property, even if they may impact listed species. In return, the landowner agrees to conservation measures designed to minimize and mitigate the impact of those actions. HCPs may also be developed by a county or state to cover certain activities of all landowners within their jurisdiction and may address multiple species.

Under the HCP Land Acquisition Grants Program, the Service provides grants to states or territories for land acquisitions that complement the conservation objectives of approved HCPs.

For example, the State of Washington, will receive $2 million to acquire 2,400 acres in Asotin County, including one mile of the Lower Grande Ronde River and three miles of tributaries that support federally listed bull trout as well as steelhead, interior redband trout, Pacific lamprey and many other aquatic species. This acquisition is part of a larger, multi-phased landscape-level project that will eventually protect 13,000 acres of habitat lands and 15 miles of streams. The project is bordered on the north by Forest Service lands and on the south and east by Bureau of Land Management lands. This is a rare opportunity to purchase a large, ecologically intact and diverse landscape that also will protect uplands and other habitats that support, species such as elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and golden eagles.

The HCP Planning Assistance Grants Program provides grants to states and territories to support the development of HCPs through funding of baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach and similar planning activities.

For example, the State of California will use a grant of $410,818 to support the development of an HCP for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta Region. The delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast and supports 750 plant and animal species, 126 of which are sensitive or listed as threatened or endangered. The delta is also critical to California’s economy, as it serves as the “hub” of the State’s water infrastructure, supplying drinking water for two-thirds of Californians and irrigation water for over 7 million acres of highly productive agricultural lands. The Bay Delta HCP is being developed as a long-term comprehensive plan that will conserve and manage key species and natural communities in perpetuity while providing reliable water supplies for the State’s myriad uses.

The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for endangered and threatened species with approved recovery plans. Habitat acquisition to secure long term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.

One of this year’s grants will provide $190,301 to enable the State of Nebraska to acquire and restore 184 acres of habitat for the reintroduction of the endangered Salt Creek tiger beetle. Protecting additional habitat is critical for avoiding extinction of this highly-imperiled species, which numbers only a few hundred individuals. This effort will also protect and restore eastern saline wetlands, which are the most limited and endangered wetland type and vegetation community in all of Nebraska.

The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Endangered Species Program, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

List of Grants in the Southeast Region

Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants by State:

Florida

Statewide Habitat Conservation Plan for Florida Beaches (35 Coastal Counties-Statewide) $735,098. This grant will assist stakeholders develop a plan to assimilate acquired data into a detailed draft of the HCP. Activities in the coastal area and their threats to listed species will be also be analyzed. The goal of the HCP is to allow for ongoing beach structure protection measures while limiting and mitigating the adverse effects to nesting loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, green, and hawksbill sea turtles, five beach mouse subspecies, and shorebirds, including wintering piping plover. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is leading this effort in conjunction with builders groups, municipalities, and others.

Polk County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Polk County) $277,029. This grant will assist in initiating planning for a county-wide HCP for scrub habitats benefitting the Florida scrub-jay, eastern indigo snake, sand skink, blue-tailed mole skink, and other dry scrub species. Implementation of an HCP in Polk County marks a significant step forward for scrub conservation in the heart of Florida’s central ridge that can be linked to similar efforts in neighboring counties.

East Collier County Multiple-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Collier County) $615,408. This grant will assist planning for the first area-wide HCP to cover the endangered Florida panther. Expected results include production of a draft HCP and environmental impact statement. Implementation of this HCP will provide the first such conservation plan in the panther’s primary recovery zone. The plan represents a collaborative effort among many private stakeholders with ranching, development, and conservation interests.

Georgia

Lower Flint River Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (15 Southwest Georgia Counties) $263,458. This grant will assist in the second year of planning for a basin-wide HCP for aquatic habitats used by federally-listed mussels such as the shinyrayed pocketbook, oval pigtoe, Gulf moccasinshell, purple bankclimber, and fat threeridge. Other aquatic species to benefit include fifteen fish, mussel, reptile, and amphibian species of state management concern. Increasing demands for water resources in this vital agricultural area combined with recent droughts have made clear the need for proactive conservation planning in this region.

Tennessee

Development of a Habitat Conservation Plan by City of Crossville and Cumberland County, Tennessee (Cumberland County) $645,366. This grant will assist in the ongoing development of the Cumberlands region-wide HCP to protect aquatic resources. Several mammals, mussels, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and aquatic invertebrates will benefit from this effort to develop protective measures in an ecologically-diverse region that is beginning to experience increased development and resource extraction issues. The HCP will provide management prescriptions and regulatory guidelines to minimize and mitigate development effects on the target species and habitats. With the plan in operation, regulatory processes for the covered municipalities will be streamlined. Listed species include the Indiana bat, gray bat, spotfin chub (a fish species), purple bean (a freshwater mussel), and Cumberland rosemary and Virginia spiraea (plant species).

Recovery Land Acquisition Grants by State:

Arkansas

Building a Conservation Corridor for the Recovery of Federally-Listed Species, Saline River (Ashley County) $1,342,687. This grant will enable the acquisition of 1,611 acres of important riparian and upland habitat adjacent to the Saline River to directly benefit two federally-listed endangered freshwater mussels, the winged mapleleaf and pink mucket. This acquisition will also benefit the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and serve to protect the rabbitsfoot, a mussel recently proposed for listing as threatened. This acquisition will help further achievement of the recovery criteria for these species by protecting known population locations and will increase protection of the most important section of the Saline River for mussels west of the Mississippi River.

Florida

Listed Species Recovery on the Lake Wales Ridge Conservation Easement for the Robinson Property (Highlands County) $854,364. This grant will enable the acquisition of a conservation easement on 565 acres on the Lake Wales Ridge to protect scrub habitat important for the federally threatened Florida scrub jay and sand skink as well as the gopher tortoise, a Federal candidate species. The conservation easement will help achieve recovery criteria for the Florida scrub jay and sand skink, expand an existing conservation area, and provide connectivity among existing managed lands.

Georgia

Acquisition of the Ironstob-Braswell Mountain Tract within the Raccoon Creek Basin, a Tributary to the Etowah River (Paulding County) $1,000,000. This grant will enable the acquisition of 1,000 acres along Raccoon Creek in the Etowah basin to benefit two federally-listed fish, the endangered Etowah darter and the threatened Cherokee darter. Raccoon Creek has been identified as essential habitat for the long-term survival of these fish and the acquisition of this tract will help meet recovery objectives for these species. Permanent protection of this tract will also provide important connectivity to other protected areas and benefit a number of other rare aquatic and terrestrial species in the watershed.

North Carolina

Conservation of Habitat for the Spotfin Chub, Littlewing Pearlymussel, and Appalachian Elktoe (Macon County) $142,500. This project will acquire 39 acres with approximately 2,600 feet of frontage on the Little Tennessee River in western North Carolina to benefit three federally-listed aquatic species: the threatened spotfin chub, the endangered littlewing pearlymussel, and the endangered Appalachian elktoe. Acquisition of this land will help achieve the highest priority recovery goals for these species by protecting important habitat and reducing the threat of increased sedimentation.

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. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast.  Connect with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws, and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.

 

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Last updated: July 10, 2013