Grants Worth $70 Million Awarded For Species Conservation
Atlantic salmon, bald eagles, and northern spotted owls–these and dozens of other threatened and endangered species will benefit from more than $70 million in grants that will be awarded to 28 states and one territory by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The grants will be used to support conservation planning and acquire habitat.
The largest grant goes to the state of Washington for three projects. Some $10,050,700 will be used to acquire lands on 3,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat in both eastern and western Washington state. Conservation benefits will be secured by the purchase of old growth timber occupied by northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets in the west, and the protection of rare pine forests and diverse canyon habitats in the east.
In California’s Riverside County $5,180,000 will purchase habitat within the Alberhill area to support the El Sobrante Landfill Habitat Conservation Plan. The purchase conserves occupied habitat in large, interconnected blocks to benefit species two birds – the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher, and the endangered least Bells vireo – as well as Stephens kangaroo rat.
The plant communities found in the area such as Riversidean sage scrub and riparian habitat are representative of the region’s original, native habitats. The Alberhill area has one of the densest populations of the coastal California gnatcatcher in the western Riverside County.
The public will be able to use this open space for such pursuits as hiking, mountain biking, birdwatching and photography.
Smaller grants will be used to acquire and protect lands and water that are crucial to the preservation of endangered and threatened species.
Scotland County, North Carolina will receive a $1.9 million grant to acquire and manage land that will aid in the recovery of the North Carolina Sandhills West population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
This acquisition is intended to allow North Carolina to increase the intensity of restoration and management of the longleaf pine habitat in the area.
One of the grants will provide $500,000 for acquisition of lands near the Machias River in Hancock and Washington counties in Maine. The acquisition of the 47 miles of lakeshore and 13 miles of stream frontage will benefit Atlantic salmon rearing and spawning habitat as well as a bald eagle nesting site.
More than $380,000 will fund Colorado’s efforts in developing a Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve the southwestern willow flycatcher in the San Luis Valley in Alamosa, Conejos, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. The plan will cover about two million acres and 150 stream miles. It will also benefit the bald eagle and the yellow-billed cuckoo.
While the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service explains on every critical habitat designation it has made – all forced under court order – “the designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species,” in Thursday’s announcement the Interior Department says, “Acquisition of habitat to secure long-term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.”
Funded through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, the grants will enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.
The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund this year provides $49 million through the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, $8.6 million through the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program, and $13.5 million through the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program.
The three programs were established to help reduce potential conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land development and use.
A Habitat Conservation Plan is an agreement between a landowner and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows the landowner to incidentally take a threatened or endangered species in the course of otherwise lawful activities when the landowner agrees to conservation measures to minimize and mitigate the impact of the taking.
A Habitat Conservation Plan may also be developed by a county or state to cover certain activities of all landowners within their jurisdiction and may address multiple species.
There are more than 357 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect, covering 458 separate species on approximately 39 million acres, with some 407 additional plans under development, covering approximately 100 million acres.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.