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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Public Comment Sought for Proposed Wyoming Toad Conservation Area, Comments Accepted Through 1/5/15

For Immediate Release

November 20, 2014


Wyoming toad.
Wyoming toad. Credit: Sara Armstrong / USFWS.

LAKEWOOD, Colo.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is holding a public meeting on December 4, 2014 to discuss a draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment (draft LPP/EA) for the proposed Wyoming Toad Conservation Area project in Albany County, Wyoming. The proposed project would allow the Service to purchase conservation easements and limited fee-title lands from willing sellers in the Southern Laramie River area whose lands provide important habitat for the endangered Wyoming toad and a variety of other fish and wildlife resources. The meeting begins a 30-day comment period for the proposed project.

Similar efforts by a number of conservation organizations and private landowners have led to the conservation of important wildlife habitat in various locations throughout the Laramie basin. Using a variety of conservation agreements, the Service, Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, Wyoming Game and Fish Departments, and private landowners have worked cooperatively to conserve wetlands and wildlife habitat in Albany County, while maintaining the rural character and agricultural land base of the area. The proposed project seeks to build upon those efforts for the purposes of recovering the endangered Wyoming toad.

“This project is a win-win for wildlife and the local community,” said Project Leader Ann Timberman. “The proposed conservation area will contribute significantly to the recovery of the endangered Wyoming toad, while helping sustain the way of life in a rural ranching community. Lands protected via easements will remain in private ownership and can continue to be grazed, hayed, farmed, or otherwise managed in accordance with current practices.”

The Service has completed an Environmental Assessment to analyze the potential project, as well as a draft land protection plan for the proposed conservation area.

In order to complete the Environmental Assessment, the Service worked with county commissioners, the State of Wyoming, conservation organizations, landowners, and other individuals to collect information about the proposed Wyoming Toad Conservation Area project, wildlife, habitat, and the potential impacts of a fee-title and conservation easement program. The outcome of the Environmental Assessment and the public input received during the comment period will assist in determining whether the Service should proceed with the proposed conservation area.

Copies of the draft CCP/EA may be obtained in two ways:
Writing to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Refuge Planning
134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300
Lakewood, CO 80228

Downloading from: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/planning/ccp/wy/ner/ner.html

The Service is also hosting a public meeting to provide an opportunity for the public to meet with staff and provide input on the draft LPP/EA. Copies of the draft LPP/EA will be available during this meeting. The meeting will take place on December 4, 2014, starting at 5:30 p.m. at:

Albany County Fairgrounds
3520 U.S. Highway 287
Laramie, WY 82051

Comments may be submitted in three ways:

Email:  wtca_comments@fws.gov (Include “Wyoming Toad Conservation Area” in the subject line of the message.)

U.S. Mail:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Attn: Amy Thornburg, Planning Team Leader
134 Union Boulevard, Suite 300
Lakewood, CO 80228

At the public meeting: Service staff will provide forms for the public to submit their comments.

Click here to read the rest of this story. »

Proposed Wyoming Toad Conservation Area  

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Project Background
The proposed project will use conservation easements and limited fee-title purchases from willing sellers to protect wetland, riparian and upland habitat for the Wyoming toad, migratory birds, and other threatened or endangered species. The marshes and open water of the basin support many species of breeding waterfowl, including  American widgeon, blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, northern shoveler, canvasback, northern pintail, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, gadwall, ruddy duck, common merganser, and Canada goose – all of which would benefit from the implementation of the proposed project.

Q. What is a conservation easement?
A.  A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or qualified conservation organization that restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on a property in the future. Conservation easements can be donated or sold by the landowner.  Unlike fee-title acquisition, easements enable the land to stay on property tax rolls because the property remains in private ownership, protecting county tax revenues from these lands. In addition, the cost to secure and manage easements is significantly less than the costs associated with acquiring fee-title lands. Typically, the cost to purchase an easement is about 60 percent less than the cost to acquire the land in fee.

Q. How long will this easement last?
A. Any easement within the conservation area will be perpetual. The Service offers perpetual easements because they are cost-efficient and to provide more attractive tax incentives to landowners.

Q. Why is the project not just conservation easements, why do you need fee-title?
A. It is the Service’s policy to acquire the minimum interest in lands that is necessary to meet conservation objectives. To help meet the objectives for the Wyoming toad that are outlined in the recovery plan (USFWS 2013) up to 10,000 acres are targeted for potential fee-title acquisition. This is the estimated amount of fee-title land needed for successful Wyoming toad recovery. Fee-title acquisition will be limited to lands that can be bought from willing sellers in areas that would facilitate Wyoming toad recovery and promote the reintroduction of toads onto the land. Fee-title ownership provides the strongest habitat protection and allows the greatest flexibility for adaptive management in response to new data or changing conditions.

Funding
Q. Who will pay for this?
A. Conservation easements and fee title purchases from willing sellers would primarily be made through the use of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies. LWCF funds are derived from offshore drilling revenues, not taxpayer dollars. The WTCA project easements and fee-title lands would protect important habitat areas, e.g., wetland, riparian, and uplands used by the Wyoming toad, migratory birds and other wildlife.  

Other Issues
Q. Will this program affect hunting or fishing?
A. Landowners will continue to control all public access to their property, including those with easements. The proposed program will not affect access (including hunting) on private lands.  On lands acquired in fee title, the Service will complete a compatibility analysis to determine if the areas should be opened to public hunting and fishing.

Q. What if the lands are sold later?
A. Service easements “run with land” and remain attached to the deed in the case of resale or transfer in ownership.   Easement holders should inform prospective buyers or future owners about the provisions of the easement.   All easements will be a public record and shown as an encumbrance on the property title in the county courthouse.

Q. Who will manage the program?
A. The proposed program would be administered as part of the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Q. If I put an easement on my land will toads automatically be reintroduced on my land?
A. No. The Wyoming toad will not be automatically introduced onto lands under easement. If a landowner is interested in helping with the recovery of the species, the Service’s Ecological Services office in Cheyenne, Wyoming will work with that landowner to evaluate the possibility of establishing a toad population.

 

– FWS –

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228

303-236-7905

303-236-3815 FAX

www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/



Contacts

Ann Timberman
(970) 723-8209 x3
Ann_Timberman@fws.gov
 
Ryan Moehring
(303) 236-0345
ryan_moehring@fws.gov
 



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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.
Last modified: November 20, 2014
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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