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Interior Secretary Gale Norton Announces Nearly $12 Million in Grants to Southeast Region to Support Conservation for Species of Greatest Conservation Need


March 10, 2004

Elsie Davis, 404-679-7107

Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced today that states in the Southeast Region will receive nearly $12 million in grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under State Wildlife Grants. Nationally, the Service will award 61.2 million in wildlife grants to state and territorial wildlife agencies.

The State Wildlife Grant program is designed to assist states in the development and implementation of programs that benefit wildlife, including species not fished or hunted, and their habitats. The funds are made available through annual appropriations.

“We are proud of our conservation partnerships with state wildlife agencies,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director. “These state wildlife grants benefit non-game species and highlight our cooperative conservation approach because the States are able to tailor their conservation efforts to meet local needs.”

As an integral part of the program, states have committed to the development of a Statewide comprehensive strategy. To aid in these efforts states are identifying the species of greatest conservation need, conducting non-game species surveys to fill in data gaps, and identifying conservation actions for the benefit of the State’s fish and wildlife.

Some examples of ongoing State Wildlife Grant activities include:

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: An Alabama Non-Game Symposium was held in July 2002 that formed the foundation for the Alabama Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. In-depth accounts were prepared for 250 species judged to be of "highest" or "high" conservation concern. Each of these species was then assigned to a primary habitat and the habitats ranked based on number of species of concern and degree of imperilment. This process produced a list of 12 habitats that encompassed most of the species of concern, and included management recommendations for these 12 habitats. This work will be extended in the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy to include more in- depth management and monitoring recommendations and identification of specific sites.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: In addition to a direct investment in manpower, infrastructure, and partnerships needed to develop a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 27 separate biological research and inventory studies have been funded in an effort to obtain the baseline data necessary to support an inclusive, effective plan. Information from these studies, when analyzed in the context of the issues and challenges facing Arkansas' wildlife and its ecosystems, will form the basis of a strategy that will lead the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and its partners in preserving the state's natural biological diversity.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources: A wide variety of conservation projects have been funded with the State Wildlife Grants program. These include: acquisition of important habitat such as a 1,208-acre addition to Zahnd Natural Area, Walker County; restoration and enhancement of important non-game wildlife habitats on state-owned Wildlife Management Areas and Natural Areas; conservation of southeastern American kestrel; conservation of rare amphibians and reptiles (bog turtle, flatwoods salamander, striped newt, and gopher frog); coordination of conservation efforts for diadromous fish; a study of the ecology and management needs of swallow-tailed kites; status and survey assessments of freshwater mussels and snails; and development of a comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy for Georgia.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: The establishment of population survey and monitoring projects for various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians fish, mollusks that have, and will continue to provide current information on the status and trends for numerous species. To assure that this information is useful, a data management system is being developed to track population changes, assess management effectiveness, and identify important conservation needs and habitats of all these animal groups. It has allowed the establishment of state chapters of Partners in Flight and Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to provide a concerted effort among all interests to foster conservation of these important groups.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: Projects that have been funded so far with State Wildlife Grants include a survey of several rare or declining species of fish, reptiles and amphibians, and birds. The fish survey will help the Department of Natural Resources biologists to document the health of a major river in the Piedmont portion of the state that is undergoing rapid change due to urbanization and hydropower operations. Other studies are producing information needed by private landowners and state land managers to improve habitat for the gopher tortoise, Swallow-tailed Kite, and Swanson's Warbler, all species that could disappear from the state without special attention. The grants are also funding a major planning project that is bringing experts and interested members of the public together to produce a comprehensive plan to meet the conservation needs of all the state's wildlife.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency: Projects have primarily been directed toward the development of a regional and statewide Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan and coordination efforts, as well as, GIS based model development. Other activities include herpetological, small mammal and shorebird distributional surveys. Conservation projects include land bird habitat improvements, watershed land use analysis and other riparian conservation projects.

Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources:Among the funded projects are the Virgin Islands Tree Boa Project and the Ameiva Polops Project. The Virgin Islands Tree Boa project is a study of the age-specific survivorship, growth, activity patterns, habitat preferences, and reproductive biology of a reintroduced population of the federally endangered tree boa at an offshore release site near St. Thomas and /St. John; and to select additional suitable offshore sites for future releases. To benefit the Ameiva Polops ground lizard, a study of its current population status, ecology, and habitat requirements will aid the recovery of this federally endangered ground lizard. This species’ populations only exist on three offshore islands near St. Croix. A feasibility study will be conducted for translocating a portion of the population to an additional offshore site (Buck Island) that was recently eradicated of rats and mongoose.

Allocations to each state are based on a combination of land area and population. The total of each Southeastern state’s 2004 grant allocation follows:

State: Amount:
$      950,854
Arkansas 714,925
Florida 2,592,298
Georgia 1,515,288
Kentucky 821,523
Louisiana 928,044
Mississippi 703,052
North Carolina 1,455,766
Puerto Rico 306,009
South Carolina 757,142
Tennessee 1,060,816
Virgin Islands 153,004


$11, 958,721

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. The Federal Assistance program grants hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to its partnering State fish and wildlife agencies to conserve fish and wildlife resources.

Photo: Jayme Waldron, a grad student with Clemson University, with a gopher tortoise that has had a transmitter glued on its shell. Photo from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.Photo: Jayme Waldron, a grad student with Clemson University, with a gopher tortoise that has had a transmitter glued on its shell. Photo from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.




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