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FOR RELEASE: February 11, 2004

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking proposals
from states and U.S. territories interested in acquiring land or conducting
conservation planning for endangered species. Congress has appropriated
$71million for fiscal year 2004 to support grants awarded under the
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

      "These grant programs are important not only because they fund
projects that protect irreplaceable habitat for threatened and endangered
species, but also because they are the building blocks for ensuring strong
conservation partnerships among states, territories, private organizations,
landowners and the Service," said Service Director Steve Williams.

      As authorized under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, these grants are
available to states and territories to support their participation in a
wide array of voluntary conservation projects for listed species, as well
as for species that are either proposed or candidates for listing.  By law,
the state or territory must have a current cooperative agreement with the
Service and contribute 25% of the estimated program costs of approved
projects, or 10% when two or more states or territories undertake a joint
project.  The grants are expected to be awarded in summer 2004.

The Service is seeking proposals for the following three grant categories
under the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund:

Recovery Land Acquisition Grants  -  These grants provide 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 Planning Assistance Grants  - These grants provide
funds to states and territories to support the development of Habitat
Conservation Plans (HCPs), through the support of baseline surveys and
inventories, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning

HCP Land Acquisition Grants  - These grants provide funds to states and
territories to acquire land associated with approved HCPs.  Grants do not
fund the mitigation required of an HCP permittee; instead, they support
acquisitions by the State or local governments that complement actions
associated with the HCP.

Some examples from the fiscal year 2003 program of how these grants are
making a difference include:

?  Along the Clinch River in Hancock County, Tennessee, a significant
portion of the Kyles Ford shoal, which harbors the most diverse mussel
community in Tennessee, is being acquired and protected with funding
provided through a Recovery Land Acquisition grant. The Clinch River is one
of the last major strongholds of Cumberlandian mussel fauna, and the Kyles
Ford mussel shoal has been identified as the most biologically diverse
mussel habitat on Earth; at least 10 federally listed mussel species occur
on the shoal.

?  A Recovery Land Acquisition grant is providing funds to the North Dakota
Game and Fish Dept, American Foundation for Wildlife, The Conservation
Fund, and the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust to acquire approximately
1,387 acres at the confluence of the
Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers to protect and enhance habitat for the
federally endangered pallid sturgeon. This land shelters the last
stronghold and best remaining habitat for the pallid sturgeon and supports
several imperiled fish species. It has one of the strongest populations of
paddlefish as well as healthy populations of imperiled sicklefin and
sturgeon chub.  The acquisition will also provide improved management
opportunities for the federally listed least tern and piping plover.

?   A Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grant in Riverside County,
California, will benefit more than 100 Federal and State listed wildlife
species by supporting efforts to conserve habitat in large, interconnected
blocks.  These species include the federally threatened coastal California
gnatcatcher and the federally endangered least Bell's vireo and Stephen's
kangaroo rat. The plant communities found in the area, including sage scrub
and riparian habitat, are representative of the original, native habitats
of the region. The additional public benefits of maintaining these areas as
open space include various recreational purposes such as hiking and
mountain biking.

?   In Monroe County, Indiana, a Habitat Conservation Land Acquisition
grant will support the acquisition of a 293 acre parcel that is home to
Coon and Grotto caves. These caves provide winter shelter for hibernating
endangered Indiana bats. Since 1985, when winter disturbances to the caves
were removed, the winter population of Indiana
bats has increased steadily to more than 20,000 in the two caves combined.
This acquisition will not only protect the critical winter habitat, but
also ensure protection for fall swarming, spring staging, and summer
foraging for Indiana bats. Other known state-listed species to benefit
through this acquisition include the bobcat, a cave crayfish, and two cave

?   With the help of a Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance grant, the
Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, in Pima County, Arizona, will develop a
watershed-wide habitat protection and restoration plan in cooperation with
the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Arizona State Land Department,
and Arizona Department of Water Resources.
Altar Valley harbors one of the last intact Sonoran savanna grasslands in
southern Arizona, as well as riparian and Madrean oak woodland habitats,
and is home to 24 species of concern, including five federally listed
species.  The Altar Valley provides habitat for the cactus ferruginous
pygmy owl and is important for the recovery of Pima pineapple cactus. It is
the largest unfragmented landscape in eastern Pima County, encompassing
approximately 700,000 acres on the US/Mexico border.

?   A Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance grant will help fund the
development of an Habitat Conservation Plan in Pocahontas County, West
Virginia, to benefit the federally endangered West Virginia Northern Flying
Squirrel and federally threatened Cheat Mountain Salamander. The project
will determine the presence or absence of the West Virginia northern flying
squirrel along the western slope of Cheat Mountain; develop a habitat
quality ranking and define the breeding season for West Virginia northern
flying squirrels; survey for the Cheat Mountain salamander in areas covered
by the focused Habitat Conservation Plan; and use satellite imagery to
identify squirrel and salamander habitat.

The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund appears as number
15.615 in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.  For more information
about these grants contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of
Consultation, Habitat Conservation Planning, Recovery and State Grants,
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203, 703-358-2106.
Information also can be accessed at http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national
fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services
field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the
Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores
nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat
such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation
efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds
of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to
state fish and wildlife agencies.






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