U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced over $50 million in funding to states through the State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program. The funds will support state conservation efforts of non-game fish and wildlife.
The SWG Program is the only federal program with the explicit goal of preventing endangered species listings.
“Collaborative conservation is a joint effort,” said Secretary Ryan Zinke. “When the federal and state governments work together, we can achieve the best outcomes. This funding is an investment in the future of our wildlife. When we can recover species before they are listed under the Endangered Species Act, that means more federal resources for the other species that need it most.”
The SWG Program helps states implement approved State Wildlife Action Plans, which list species and habitats in need of assistance. All 50 state and U.S. territorial wildlife agencies have these plans, which include detailed strategies to proactively protect species in greatest conservation need.
“By working with local communities and other partners, state wildlife agencies serve as the foundation for protecting the nation’s wildlife and natural resources legacy,” said Service Acting Director Jim Kurth. “The State Wildlife Grant program, which benefits game and nongame species, supports these crucial state efforts.”
Examples of how SWG Program funds are being used include:
Using SWG funds, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will map connectivity corridors for a wide array of species. Many species, from migratory birds to furbearing mammals to big game, move throughout the landscape to complete their lifecycles. The tools produced through this project will improve species and habitat connectivity in Oregon through conservation-based design of residential and industrial developments, providing wildlife crossings along highways, careful siting of renewable energy development, open space conservation, and maintenance or restoration of important migratory stopover sites.
Sustained commitment to large-scale, community-level species monitoring is an essential part of the California Wildlife Action Plan. Using SWG program funds for monitoring, the California Department of Fish and Game will improve its ability to detect average annual species population declines as small as 2 percent for up to 70 wildlife species throughout a 20-year period. Targeted species include black bear, bobcat and mule deer, among many others. These data and results will benefit species conservation efforts as well as habitat conservation planning initiatives by identifying locations where the state’s conservation dollars can have the greatest impacts.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), with support from the SWG program, will document the population status, habitat usage and potential threats to the red-crowned parrot, which is present only in the lower Rio Grande Valley near Brownsville, Texas. Due to habitat loss and other threats, the species is in danger of requiring protection under the Endangered Species Act and is a current Service-listed candidate species. TPWD will build a network of local constituents engaged in monitoring and conservation of the bird and develop management recommendations for minimizing identified threats.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources recently used SWG funds to determine if thermal stress reduces striped bass population fitness. Understanding striped bass sensitivity to increases in water temperature is critical for effective, long-term management of the state’s diverse aquatic environment. A healthy striped bass fishery also enhances angler satisfaction while supporting the significant economic benefits of South Carolina’s sport fishing industry.
The Service is a key supporter of the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project, part of a nationwide effort to address the needs of declining wildlife populations. Several freshwater mussels, such as the recently listed yellow lance mussel in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, are considered by the Service to be threatened or endangered. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has taken a proactive approach to mussel conservation by releasing native captive-bred mussels into river systems they originally inhabited. Landowners, partner organizations, public land managers and many others have voluntarily used the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project to guide conservation work that benefits wildlife habitat and state residents.
SWG Program grants are administered by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and are allocated to states and territories according to a congressionally mandated formula based on population and geographic area. Grant funds must be used to address conservation needs, such as research, wildlife surveys, species and habitat management, and monitoring identified within State Wildlife Action Plans. The funds may also be used to update, revise or modify a state’s plan.