Grants for the Good of Wildlife
Grants for the Good of Wildlife
State Wildlife Grants Mark 10 Years of Success
By Linda May
To answer that need, Congress established the first comprehensive funding for wildlife conservation in 2000 through the State Wildlife Grants Program. This program has provided millions to state fish and wildlife agencies over the past 10 years. Each state’s annual portion is based on land area and population.
The DNR Wildlife Resources Division applies its share – which has averaged $1.5 million a year – to projects that keep common species common and prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, protecting creatures and habitats before they become too rare and more costly to protect. Requiring states to match the grants assures local ownership and leverages state and private funds for conservation. In this tight-budget era, the State Wildlife Grants Program shows how limited federal dollars can be invested wisely, saving taxpayers’ money in the long run.
To ensure the best use of the grants, Congress charged each state and territory with developing a comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy, also known as a State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP. Georgia’s SWAP, completed in August 2005 by the Wildlife Resources Division, guides the use of State Wildlife Grants and other funds. Wildlife throughout the state benefit from the plan’s five broad conservation practices: facilitating land conservation programs, providing financial and technical assistance to private landowners, increasing the use of prescribed fire for habitat restoration, improving wetland protection and restoration methods, and developing a statewide strategy for controlling invasive exotic species.
The Georgia Land Conservation Program and Conservation Tax Credit Program, created in 2005 and 2006 respectively, have protected about 200,000 acres across the state. In addition, 12,000 acres of state Department of Transportation wetland and stream mitigation lands have been placed under DNR management for wildlife and public recreation. Conservation programs for private landowners also protect wetlands, endangered species, and working farms and forests. (DNR's "Landowner’s Guide to Conservation Incentives in Georgia" was recently updated).
State Wildlife Grants allowed the DNR to increase the capacity of its prescribed fire team, leading to the restoration of thousands of acres of high-priority, fire-dependent natural communities on state lands. On average, 33,000 acres have been burned annually for the past five years. DNR staff and conservation partners also collaborated to create a statewide smoke management plan and form the Georgia Prescribed Fire Council.
While habitat destruction is the main threat to native species, invasive species are the next biggest problem. To combat non-native invaders such as kudzu, Chinese privet, feral hogs and flathead catfish, DNR worked with an advisory committee to develop a statewide invasive species strategy. The department also joined the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Agriculture, and University of Georgia as members of the Georgia Invasive Species Task Force in 2009. The task force and the invasive species strategy provide guidance for assessing and controlling harmful non-native plants, animals and disease organisms, protecting native flora and fauna as well as human health and the state’s economy.
DNR is revising the State Wildlife Action Plan to address new information and conservation challenges. Monitoring and research funded by State Wildlife Grants has provided updated information on the distribution and status of some species and habitats. Also, new threats such as white-nose syndrome in bats have emerged. Recent climate change studies emphasize a greater need to assess the vulnerability of sensitive species and develop strategies to increase their chances of survival. New partnerships and planning initiatives, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, provide opportunities for agencies to assess conservation needs regionally.
Wildlife continue to lose habitat every day across the U.S. State Wildlife Grants help wildlife departments fulfill their responsibility to conserve wildlife and the places they live for future generations. However, this funding is not permanent; it must be approved annually by Congress.
To show your support for continued federal cost-sharing of comprehensive wildlife and habitat conservation in Georgia, help celebrate the 10th anniversary of State Wildlife Grants and the fifth anniversary of Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan in September. DNR is playing host to educational presentations across the state. Topics vary from bog turtle conservation at Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell to a guided walk the same day at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area in south Georgia. Check out the complete schedule.
This is the final article in a five-part series on the State Wildlife Action Plan. Read the entire series here.
Linda May is the environmental outreach coordinator with the Nongame Conservation Section.