Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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CARLSBAD FWO: Five Area Projects Received Over $14 Million in Grant Awards in 2011
California-Nevada Offices , December 8, 2011
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By Mary Beth Woulfe and Stephanie Weagley, Carlsbad FWO

 More than $14 million in grants were received in 2011 for habitat acquisition and conservation planning projects within the Carlsbad Fish & Wildlife Office’s (CFWO) area of responsibility through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF).

The five projects that received grant funding include:

• Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)
($6 million) - fully funded;
• San Diego County Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) ($6 million) - fully funded;
• Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Measure M2 NCCP/HCP ($732,000) - fully funded;
• Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan NCCP/HCP ($1 million) - fully funded; and
• Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Recovery Land Acquisition grant ($500,000) - partially funded

Authorized under section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the competitive grants enable the state to work with private landowners, conservation groups, and other agencies to initiate cost-effective conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plants.

The CESCF provided grant funding through three programs established to help advance creative partnerships for imperiled species conservation recovery. They programs are: Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, Habitat Conservation Plan Planning Assistance Grants Program, and the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program.

Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are agreements between a landowner and the Service designed to conserve and protect federally listed and unlisted species while allowing for development activities. The CFWO and its state partners worked together to develop these plans under the state’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCP) or California Endangered Species Act.

Each project’s grant will help support species and habitat conservation in the following ways:

HCP Land Acquisition Grants Program: The Coachella Valley MSHCP grant will result in the acquisition of additional conservation lands to the preserve system by securing key regional wildlife linkages and sand transport areas as well as preserving core habitat areas. The land acquisition will benefit 20 species, including seven federally listed species such as Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, desert tortoise, and Peninsular bighorn sheep.

HCP Land Acquisition Grants Program: The San Diego County MSCP grant will result in the acquisition of 250-600 acres of land that will greatly enhance the existing San Diego County MSCP by securing key regional wildlife linkages and preserving core habitat in four targeted areas. The acquisitions will benefit 31 listed and unlisted species, including the San Diego fairy shrimp, arroyo toad, least Bell’s vireo, coastal California gnatcatcher, southwestern willow flycatcher, and bald eagle. Furthermore, the proposed acquisition areas support a mosaic of high quality riparian, vernal pool, and upland habitats that support numerous listed and unlisted species covered by the San Diego County MSCP. The acquisitions will also support a larger landscape conservation initiative and greatly enhance the conservation goals through the connection of the largest intact blocks of publicly-owned and managed land within San Diego County.

HCP Planning Assistance Grants Program: The OCTA/Measure M2 NCCP/HCP grant supports the development of a comprehensive holistic, rather than piecemeal, conservation program in order to provide higher-value environmental benefits, while allowing freeway projects to be implemented. The plan will conserve and enhance key connections between existing conservation areas and provide additional live-in habitat, buffering proposed covered species from natural and stochastic variation. The plan also includes maintaining opportunities for dispersal and genetic exchange and provides wildlife and plants the opportunity to shift their distribution in response to climate change and other disturbances such as fire. The OCTA/Measure M2 NCCP/HCP will cover an estimated 22 plant and animal species, including coastal California gnatcatcher, Santa Ana sucker, pallid bat, and Coulter's matilija poppy.

HCP Planning Assistance Grants Program: The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan HCP/NCCP (DRECP) project will support the initiation of a conservation strategy for covered natural communities and species in desert ecosystems, while allowing for the development of utility-scale renewable energy projects. It will exclusively address the environmental impacts of large-scale development of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technologies, as well as associated transmission facilities proposed throughout the deserts in southern California. The planning area covers 23.4 million acres in the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, the extent of the Sonoran Desert in California. Currently, the DRECP identifies 87 species to be covered under the plan. A few species that will benefit from this HCP include the quino checkerspot butterfly, arroyo toad, California condor, and the desert tortoise.

Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program: The Peninsular bighorn sheep Recovery Land Acquisition grant will acquire and permanently protect highly-developable habitat for the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, endangered triple-ribbed milk-vetch, and potential habitat for the endangered desert slender salamander, a species known to occur in close proximity to the proposed acquisition parcels. Land will be acquired in private in-holdings that are vulnerable to development in two separate areas, both within the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains National Monument boundary administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and along State Highway 74, adjacent to the California Department of Fish and Game’s Carrizo Canyon Ecological Reserve. The acquisitions will help eliminate pending development threats and will ensure that this important area for bighorn sheep and the other three species remains intact.

“The Service is committed to fulfilling its commitments to support regional planning and species recovery even during the tough economic times, said Mary Beth Woulfe, CFWO Section 6 Coordinator. “These grant awards will enable us to continue taking action to protect imperiled species and their habitats while allowing for economic development.”

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