The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is distributing $56.5 million to state fish and wildlife agencies through the State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program to support conservation and stewardship efforts for imperiled wildlife and their habitats. These grant funds are allocated to all states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia according to a congressionally mandated formula based on population size and geographic area. SWG projects complement the conservation benefits from investments made through President Biden’s and the America the Beautiful initiative, demonstrating commitment to conserving our nation’s natural resources and wild places.
“State wildlife agencies are essential partners in protecting America’s natural resources and wild places,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “These funds support our state wildlife agency partners and their vital proactive stewardship work, boosting the Service’s nationwide conservation efforts.”
Through the SWG Program, state wildlife agencies can help accelerate the recovery of endangered species and help prevent others from listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior is celebrating the ESA's importance in preventing imperiled species' extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.
Since 2001, the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program has distributed over $1.2 billion to states, territories and the District of Columbia through the SWG Program to support a variety of conservation needs including research, species restoration and habitat management. Projects must implement strategies to conserve species identified as priorities in each State Wildlife Action Plan, together creating a nationwide conservation network to facilitate proactive protection of important and imperiled species, such as pollinators and migratory birds, and their habitats.
- In Georgia, the Department of Natural Resources has used SWG Program funding to support the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative, a collaborative effort of private organizations and state and federal agencies focused on protecting tortoise populations and their habitats. The gopher tortoise is considered a keystone species in Georgia with over 300 other species depending on the tortoise for survival. These tortoises dig burrows up to 10 feet deep and 40 feet long that shelter them from extreme temperatures, fire and predators. The burrows provide a home for the tortoise and for hundreds of other species including the eastern indigo snake, gopher frog and pine snake. Due in part to Georgia’s proactive habitat management and restoration efforts and similar efforts conducted through Florida's Gopher Tortoise Program, the Service determined in October 2022 that the Eastern Distinct Population Segment of the gopher tortoise is not warranted for listing as threatened or endangered.
- For many years, SWG Program funding has supported a wide variety of conservation actions for lake sturgeon populations in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers. The species, the oldest and largest native species in the Great Lakes, has experienced significant declines for decades due to historic overfishing, water quality degradation and related threats. Among other states, Michigan and New York have used SWG Program funding to support coordination with partners, research and monitoring and restoration activities for this iconic fish. Continued conservation actions for the species will ensure steady recovery and help reduce the need for potential future federal listing under the Endangered Species Act.
- Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game recently used SWG Program funds, along with matching resources, to study migration patterns, population and demography of lesser yellowlegs in Alaska and northern Canada. This migratory shorebird is in steep decline due in part to high rates of harvest in Latin America. ADF&G worked with a wide variety of partners including universities, federal agencies, the Department of Defense, and international organizations to survey wetlands, collect migration data, study nest success and incorporate new information into demographic models. The new information is essential for the development of effective management strategies for this at-risk species.
SWG Program funds must be used to address conservation needs described within State Wildlife Action Plans. The program provides matching grants for the development and implementation of state programs and supports priority-setting for species and habitats. These priorities benefit wildlife, especially at-risk or imperiled species, often referred to as species of greatest conservation need. This collaborative approach to conservation facilitates partnerships among universities, industry, nonprofit conservation organizations and private landowners.
Learn more about the SWG Program and view the complete 2023 SWG Program apportionment at https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/state-wildlife-grants-swg