Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
CARLSBAD FWO: Land Acquired within the Willow Hole and Whitewater Floodplain Conservation Areas inCoachella Valley
California-Nevada Offices , October 7, 2010
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Willow Hole Conservation Area of the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, Calif. (Jon Wilcox/CA Wildlife Conservation Board)
Willow Hole Conservation Area of the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, Calif. (Jon Wilcox/CA Wildlife Conservation Board) - Photo Credit: n/a
 Whitewater Floodplain Conservation Area of the Coachella Valley MSHCP in Riverside County, Calif. (USFWS/Mary Beth Woulfe)
 Whitewater Floodplain Conservation Area of the Coachella Valley MSHCP in Riverside County, Calif. (USFWS/Mary Beth Woulfe) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Mary Beth Woulfe and Stephanie Weagley, Carlsbad FWO

Federal, state, and local partnerships have come together to acquire approximately 555 acres of land in the Whitewater Floodplain and the Willow Hole Conservation Areas located within the western portion of the Coachella Valley in southern California.  This acquisition will help to conserve the endangered Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard’s habitat and the distinctive sand transport system it depends upon. 


The newly acquired land supports the area’s unique biological diversity and provides for protection and management of numerous sensitive species and habitat identified in the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Coachella Valley MSHCP).  In addition to the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, other wildlife and plants include the Coachella Valley round-tailed ground squirrel, Palm Springs pocket mouse, Coachella Valley giant sand-treader cricket, Coachella Valley Jerusalem cricket, and the Coachella Valley milk-vetch. 


The successful outcome of this acquisition required the commitment of every partner.  In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (CFWO), the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy was instrumental in working with the local landowners within the Coachella Valley to facilitate the acquisition of the properties.  Other invaluable partners included the Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Game, Coachella Valley Conservation Commission, and the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and Region 8 Office.  


“This acquisition is a result of important collaborative partnerships created to conserve habitat in the Coachella Valley,” said Section 6 Coordinator Mary Beth Woulfe.  “Section 6 grants awarded over the past  several years were required to successfully acquire these lands.  The Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard Habitat Conservation Plan and the Coachella Valley MSHCP were awarded funding through the Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Land Acquisition and Recovery Land Acquisition grant programs.  Both the Section 6 grants awards and the matching funds from our partners allowed for the permanent conservation of land for the benefit of species for future generations.”


In 2006, the CFWO and the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) were awarded over $3.1 million Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard HCP Land Acquisition grant and an $800,000 Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard Recovery Land Acquisition grant.  Then in 2009, CFWO and CDFG were awarded a $6 million Coachella Valley MSHCP Land Acquisition grant through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund to acquire vital habitat benefiting the endangered Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard and other sensitive species.  Our partners provided various matching funds/donations to help complete these acquisitions.  


The two grants from 2006 have been completely expended and a portion of the $6 million has been spent to acquire land that will be permanently conserved and managed consistent with the Coachella Valley MSHCP.


Authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund distributes funds to the State’s to acquire lands through the Nontraditional Land Acquisition Grant Program.  This program was established to help reduce potential conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land use.


Under the HCP Land Acquisition Program, the Service provides grants to States and Territories for land acquisition associated with approved HCPs and the Recovery Land Acquisition Program provides grants that support the recovery of listed and proposed species. 


The Coachella Valley MSHCP was developed in concert with the State of California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program, and is designed to address urban growth in California while protecting listed and sensitive species.  Sensitive natural communities addressed under the Coachella Valley MSHCP/NCCP occur on the lands acquired for conservation and benefit the implementation of the NCCP.  


The Coachella Valley MSHCP is a strategic habitat conservation planning mechanism that covers land within the Coachella Valley in eastern Riverside County.  Through cooperative partnership efforts and landscape-level conservation and planning, successful natural resource conservation can be achieved in perpetuity and enjoyed by all.



Contact Info: Stephanie Weagley, 805-644-1766, stephanie_weagley@fws.gov
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