USFWS Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grants

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is awarding $37.2 million in grants to 20 states to support conservation planning and acquisition of vital habitat for threatened and endangered species across the nation.

Authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), these competitive grants enable states to work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies to initiate conservation planning efforts and acquire or protect habitat for the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

The grants are funded in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was established by Congress in 1964. The fund promotes access to outdoor recreation resources for present and future generations and provides money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans.

CESCF grant funding is provided through three programs that advance creative partnerships for the recovery of imperiled species: the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants Program, Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants Program, and Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program.

This year, the program will allocate approximately $4.7 million in grants. Under one such grant, the state of Florida will receive $750,000 to complete a statewide HCP for Florida beaches. The goal of this HCP is to allow ongoing beach structure protection measures while limiting and mitigating the adverse effects to nesting loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles, five beach mouse subspecies, and shorebirds, including wintering piping plovers.

Under the HCP Land Acquisition Grants Program, the Service provides grants to states or territories for land acquisitions that complement the conservation objectives of approved HCPs.

Nearly $20.3 million will be allocated under this program in 2015. For example, Washington state will receive $2 million to support the permanent protection of up to 1,014 acres of habitat for federally listed species including bull trout, northern spotted owl, Canada lynx and gray wolf. Acquisition of this land by the state will improve connectivity for 60 species of terrestrial vertebrates, including wolverine, marten and Pacific giant salamander, and enhance the effectiveness of the new fish and wildlife crossing structures on the adjacent I-90 freeway.

The Recovery Land Acquisition Grants Program provides funds to states and territories to acquire habitat for endangered and threatened species with approved recovery plans. Habitat acquisition to secure long-term protection often is an essential element of a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.

One of this year’s grants, which total $12.2 million, will provide $500,000 to New Jersey for the acquisition of up to 48 acres in Morris County to protect critical habitat for the federally listed Indiana bat. The property contains one of only two Indiana bat hibernacula within the New Jersey Highlands.

For a complete list of the 2015 grant awards, see

source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon

Fish larvae that were captured by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists in May 2014 have been confirmed to be pallid sturgeon.

These new genetic identifications add to mounting evidence that critically endangered pallid sturgeon spawned successfully in the Lower Missouri River downstream of Gavins Point Dam, South Dakota.

Although successful spawning by the endangered fish was detected in the Lower Missouri River in 2014, it does not necessarily mean that the species is on its way to recovery.

The three new larvae were 1-3 days old and collected on May 30, 2014 from the main channel of the Missouri River, just above its confluence with the Platte River near Bellevue, Nebraska. The presence of such young larvae may be used to infer where the parents spawned between the Platte and Gavins Point Dam.

The three fish were among hundreds of larval shovelnose sturgeon and paddlefish captured in the 2014 study. Previously reported pallid sturgeon larvae captures in 2014 were of older fish and considerably further downstream.

The pallid sturgeon were positively identified using genetic analyses developed by Jennifer Eichelberger and Dr. Edward Heist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Recent developments by Dr. Heist have resulted in genetic tests that inexpensively screen specimens of sturgeon and paddlefish to identify possible pallid sturgeon.

Other genetic analyses are then used to confirm identification and determine whether sturgeon larvae collected in samples may be closely related, or possibly siblings from a single spawning event. Preliminary analyses indicate that the three specimens are not siblings from a single spawning female.

These findings build on previous efforts under the Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project, a research collaboration among the USGS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Missouri River Integrated Science Program, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

source: U.S. Geological Survey

Animas River Mine Water Spill

In the Midwest, wildlife agencies, scientists, and others are monitoring the Animas River following a release of contaminated mine water.

On August 5, 2015, Environmental Protection Agency workers were conducting an investigation of the Gold King Mine when loose material gave way, spilling the water stored behind the collapsed material into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

The initial EPA estimate of the size of the spill was one million gallons.

On August 8, the president of the Navajo Nation declared a State of Emergency for the San Juan River valley.

On August 9, the City of Durango and La Plata County declared a state of emergency in their jurisdictions due to the contamination of the Animas River.

Also on August 9, EPA officials revised the Gold King Mine discharge estimate to 3 million gallons.

The Colorado Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office has been monitoring the effects of the spill on terrestrial and aquatic wildlife since the incident began.

The 126-mile-long Animas River is a tributary of the San Juan River.

International Migratory Bird Day Events

A wide range of events will be held at U.S. national wildlife refuges and other locations in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day 2015.

USFWS IMBD events include:

Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival
May 7-10, 2015
Homer, AK

Biggest Week in American Birding
May 8-17, 2015
Northwest Ohio

Cache River Nature Fest
May 9, 2015
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL

Wings Over Muscatatuck Bird Festival
May 9, 2015
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, IN

Chincoteague International Migratory Bird Day Celebration
May 9, 2015
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA

Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival
Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Ashland, WI
May 14-16, 2015

Detroit Lakes Festival of Birds
May 14-16, 2015
Detroit Lakes, MN

Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival
May 14-17, 2015
Kenai, AK

Festival of Birds
May 14-17, 2015
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. MN

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival
May 14-18, 2015
Farmington, UT

Down East Spring Birding Festival
May 22-25, 2015
Near Calais, ME

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is an international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Act

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently adopted a resolution supporting a bill that would promote wildlife-related recreation and youth involvement in outdoor activities across the state. Wildlife Commissioners took the action in support of House Bill 640, known as the Outdoor Heritage Act.

The resolution cites the importance of provisions in the bill that focus on private property rights, increased access to public land, additional hunting opportunities and promotion of a wide range of outdoor recreation, including horseback riding, hiking, bird watching, hunting, fishing and boating.

The provisions include creation of a trust fund to engage youth in outdoor activities. The fund would be made possible by $2 donations made during transactions with the Wildlife Commission, such as purchasing hunting and fishing licenses.

The bill would increase hunting opportunities on Sunday on private lands. Currently, only archery and falconry are allowed for hunting on Sunday on private lands. Hunting on Sunday on public lands is limited to military installations under federal jurisdiction.

The resolution states House Bill 640 aligns seamlessly with the goals of the Wildlife Commission’s Strategic Plan, particularly in regard to youth, access and expanded opportunity.

source: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

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