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USFWS Awards Millions in Conservation Grants to States

by CBB Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - July 18, 2003

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday awarded more than $70 million in grants to 29 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plant species.

The grants will benefit species ranging from the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker in the Southeast to the threatened spectacled eider in Alaska.

The grants under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act announced by Interior Secretary Gale Norton included numerous awards to the states that comprise the Columbia/Snake river basin -- Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon.

The grants will enable states, working in partnership with private landowners, conservation groups and other agencies and organizations, to initiate conservation planning efforts, and to acquire and protect habitat to support the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

"Today's grant awards recognize the important work that states and their partners are doing to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species," Norton said. "Grants are an important tool in our efforts to empower local governments and citizens as they seek to develop voluntary conservation partnerships that provide real benefits to listed species."

Nationally, the Section 6 grant program awards included $6.6 million in HCP Planning Assistance, $51 million in HCP Land Acquisition, and $12 million in Recovery Land Acquisition.

"As someone who has worked for decades at the state and local level on behalf of wildlife conservation, I know these grants really help," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams. "They provide not only a financial boost to grantees but also provide encouragement by supporting on-the-ground efforts." "The Pacific Region has the highest number of endangered species in the nation," said Dave Allen, regional director. "These three grant programs will help reduce potential conflicts between the conservation of threatened and endangered species and land development and use." Under the Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Program, the USFWS provides grants to states or territories for land acquisitions associated with approved Habitat Conservation Plans. Grants do not fund any mitigation required of an HCP permittee, but are instead intended to support acquisitions by states or local governments that complement actions associated with the HCP. A HCP is an agreement between a landowner and the agency 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 that will minimize and mitigate the impact of the taking. A 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 330 Habitat Conservation Plans currently in effect covering approximately 30 million acres, and some 320 more are being developed. The Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Program provides grants to states and Territories to support the development of HCPs, through funding of baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities. The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories for acquisition of habitat for endangered and threatened species in support of approved recovery plans. Acquisition of habitat to secure long term protection is often an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species. -- Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grants in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington include: Montana The Plum Creek Thompson-Fisher and Bull River/Lake Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (Flathead and Sanders Counties) will receive a $1 million Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant to enable project partners to purchase a conservation easement on 4,400 acres of Plum Creek Timber lands in the Thompson River Valley to maintain the fish and wildlife habitat values and public access to 86,000 acres of corporate timberland in perpetuity while allowing for continued commercial timber harvest and other consistent resource management activities.

The conservation easement would maintain or improve current fish and wildlife values by removing the threat of subdivision and development and protect in perpetuity prime habitat for the grizzly bear, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, Canada lynx, bald eagles, golden eagles, black bears, mountain lion, fisher, upland game birds, and big game ungulates including moose, elk, white-tail deer, mule deer and, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. These lands are contiguous with 34,824 acres of conservation easement lands acquired with grant funds obtained in 2001 and 2002.


Yakima River Wildlife Corridor - Phase II (Kittitas County, WA) - A $1,849,720 grant will be used by a partnership including the Cascades Conservation Partnership, the Trust for Public Lands, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to acquire and protect more than 1140 acres of mature riparian and conifer forests in the Cascade Mountain Range, along Snoqualmie Pass. Habitat acquisition achieved by this project will help ensure the protection of habitats necessary for wildlife movement across Interstate 90.

Cedar River Watershed HCP (King County, WA) - A $1.5 million grant will ensure the protection of 300 acres of riparian habitat along a corridor on the Cedar River, near the city of Seattle. Acquisition of numerous parcels from willing sellers will extend conservation benefits from the protected upper watershed, which supplies Seattle's drinking water, down through the lower third of the watershed, where development pressure intensifies. Salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout and bald eagles, as well as other resident wildlife will benefit from the acquisition of these habitats, which represent the best of what remains in the rapidly-urbanizing lower Cedar River watershed. Partners include King County, Seattle Public Utilities, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Washington Department of Natural Resources HCP (Washington State) - A $9,959,400 grant will help the Washington Department of Natural Resources and other partners acquire more than 3,400 acres of mature conifer forest on the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas, providing benefits to many fish and wildlife species. Northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, bald eagles, bull trout, and salmon all use the lands to be acquired. Protection of these lands for conservation will provide linkages between high quality habitats, protect nesting murrelets and owls, and expand protection from already-conserved areas.

-- Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington include:


Greater Priest Lake Multi Species HCP (Bonner and Boundary counties) - A $563,000 grant will assist the Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as they work with other stakeholders to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan to minimize the impact of any IDL activity in northern Idaho on listed species. The HCP will likely provide conservation benefits to listed threatened and endangered species, including grizzly bear, bull trout, lynx, and the critically endangered woodland caribou, while providing the State of Idaho with assurances for any "take" of these species that might occur incidentally to its lawful activities. Both Idaho and the species will benefit from this HCP. IDL will be able to fulfill its mandate to maximize the long term return from these endowment lands to the beneficiaries without fear of violating the Endangered Species Act, and the conservation of listed species will be enhanced.


A $75,000 Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Program Grant will help fund development and implementation of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Habitat Conservation Plan to protect habitat in Glacier and Flathead Counties, Montana. This HCP will benefit a large number of species in a geographic area that includes a wild and scenic river corridor and is adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness.

While the emphasis is on minimizing and mitigating the effects of railroad operations on grizzly bears, these efforts will also minimize effects on other predators including gray wolves, Canada lynx, bobcats, wolverines, black bear, and mountain lions. Additionally, efforts to enhance habitat will benefit a variety of other species including bald eagles, bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, moose, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, beaver, mink, otter and waterfowl. This HCP will foster existing positive working relationship among industry, governmental and conservation interests that was developed through the formation of the Great Northern Environmental Stewardship Area.


Agate Desert Multi-species Vernal Pool HCP/WCP (Jackson County, OR) - A $143,000 grant will be used to develop an HCP, coordinated with a State Wetland Conservation Plan, for the vernal pool wetlands in the urban core of the Agate Desert north of Medford, Oregon, in and around the unincorporated town of White City. These plans would provide the framework for the coordinated conservation of three federally listed species (threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp and two endangered plants associated with vernal pools) and a host of other rare species associated with the unique vernal pools. Coordinated planning will reduce degradation and loss of this unique habitat.

HCP/EIS for Western Snowy Plover in Oregon (Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln, Lane, Douglas, Coos, and Curry counties, OR) - A $200,000 grant will help the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department develop an HCP/EIS that not only provides for the conservation of the western snowy plover, but also takes into account the importance of some 230 miles of sandy ocean beaches for human recreation. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has jurisdiction over most coastal beaches, including much of the critical habitat essential for the conservation and recovery of the species.


Family Forest Habitat Conservation Plan for Lewis County (Lewis County, WA) - A $389,259 grant will fund development of an HCP providing a programmatic, multi-landowner approach for small family forests seeking management flexibility and an alternative from state forest practices rules. The HCP is expected to provide equal or better conservation than current state forest practice rules, and cover private lands in Lewis County.

Washington Forests and Fish HCP (Statewide) - A $1,127,047 grant will be used to complete the HCP planning process. This HCP would result in obtaining federal assurances for Washington State's forest practices rules. Conservation benefits are expected for aquatic and riparian species on 10.3 million acres of non-federal forest lands.

Washington State Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance (Statewide) - A $121,304 grant, will support an HCP planning effort, funded in part by activities undertaken in both fresh and saltwater areas regulated and leased by Washington State's Department of Natural Resources, covering more than 2.4 million acres in 39 counties. The HCP has the potential to complement riparian and aquatic protection provided by state forest practices rules, and to ensure environmental protection while encouraging direct public use and access of aquatic lands.

Broughton Land Company Native Fish HCP (Columbia County, WA) - A $24,200 grant will be used to help finalize the development of an HCP covering more than 38,000 acres of farm, forest, and range lands in eastern Washington state. These privately owned lands contain several miles of streams supporting bull trout, steelhead, and chinook salmon. HCP conservation measures will improve stream and riparian conditions.

Dungeness CIDMP/HCP (Clallam and Jefferson counties, WA) - A $70,000 grant will help project partners develop an HCP associated with a pilot Comprehensive Irrigation District Management Plan (CIDMP). Together, the CIDMP and the HCP will provide conservation benefits for federally listed fish while meeting the long-term water needs of irrigation districts. Significant aquatic habitat improvements would be realized through improvements to irrigation infrastructure, operations, and maintenance, which would result in increased stream flows.

-- Recovery Land Acquisition Grants by State:


Asotin Creek (Asotin County) - A $600,000 grant will help the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation acquire and protect 8,500 acres of quality steppe grassland and 5.5 miles of riparian habitat in southeastern Washington. This strategic acquisition, surrounded by federal and State lands, will contribute to the implementation of recovery plans for threatened bull trout, bald eagle, and other species. It will also benefit chinook salmon, Columbia spotted frog and the State-listed sharp-tailed grouse.

Ebey's Landing (Island County) - A $1.5 million grant will help fund a land acquisition that will result in the permanent protection of one of the last eleven golden paintbrush populations in the world. The 33-acre site is one of the three largest extant habitats for this species, with the greatest potential for meeting recovery goals for the species. Threats to the species are imminent. Project partners include the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, Washington Natural Heritage Program, and Department of Natural Resources.

CBB Staff
USFWS Awards Millions in Conservation Grants to States
Columbia Basin Bulletin, July 18, 2003

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