The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced nearly $79.2 million in grants to help conserve and permanently protect nearly 56,000 acres of habitat for 55 listed and at-risk species across 13 states through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF). The grants will be matched by over $49.3 million in partner funds.
“Using science as our guide, the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative is about pursuing a collaborative and inclusive approach to conservation. The significant funding announced today furthers our promise to conserve and restore America’s lands and waters for the benefit of all,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I applaud the Service’s continued effort to work hand-in-hand with states and private landowners to improve habitat and connectivity.”
Authorized by Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, CESCF grants contribute millions annually to support implementing state and territorial programs to conserve and recover federally listed and at-risk species on non-federal lands. This approach to conservation, done in cooperation with states, willing landowners and local partners, furthers species conservation and economic development.
CESCF land acquisition funding to states is awarded through two nationally competitive grant programs: the Recovery Land Acquisition Grant Program, which provides funds for the acquisition of habitat in support of Service-approved recovery plans; and the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Land Acquisition Grant Program, which provides funds to acquire habitat for listed and at-risk species to complement conservation strategies of approved HCPs.
Examples of projects approved this year include:
- The state of California will receive $11 million under the HCP Land Acquisition Grant Program to enable the acquisition of 384 acres of the Banning Ranch property located in West Newport Beach where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean. The last large parcel of unprotected coastal open space remaining in Southern California, Banning Ranch supports a mix of coastal wetland, riparian woodland, coastal bluff sagescrub, shortgrass grassland and vernal pool communities. The property complements the County of Orange Central and Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan by conserving land contiguous with the HCP Reserve and benefitting covered listed species such as the coastal California gnatcatcher, least Bell’s vireo, San Diego fairy shrimp and Pacific pocket mouse.
- The state of Maine will receive $4,164,975 under the Recovery Land Acquisition Grant Program to support the acquisition of the 26,740-acre Pleasant River Headwaters Forest tract located in Maine’s 100-Mile wilderness region. In partnership with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Appalachian Mountain Club will restore complete ecosystem functionality and permanently protect Atlantic salmon habitat on the property, contributing significantly to recovery goals identified in the Atlantic Salmon Recovery Plan.
- The states of Oregon and Nevada will receive a total of $3,437,000 under the Recovery Land Acquisition Grant Program to support the acquisition of the 3,345-acre Disaster Peak Ranch straddling the state border in Malheur County, Oregon and Humboldt County, Nevada. This cross-jurisdictional and multi-agency partnership will promote the recovery of Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT), a federally listed species. Acquisition of the Disaster Peak Ranch and subsequent restoration efforts will help achieve delisting criteria identified in the species’ recovery plan by enabling the establishment of an interconnected meta-population within the Quinn LCT Management Unit. The property is in ecologically high functioning condition and is expected to remain climate-resilient in the future.
- The state of Hawaii will receive $3 million under the HCP Land Acquisition Grant Program to support the acquisition and permanent protection of the Na Wai Eha Watershed Forest property located on the island of Maui. Acquisition of the 11,020-acre property will complement ongoing mitigation efforts for listed species covered by habitat conservation plans for three wind facilities including the Hawaiian goose, Hawaiian hoary bat and Hawaiian petrel.
Earlier this year, the Service also approved approximately $8.2 million in grant awards in support of HCP planning efforts across 17 states under the HCP Planning Assistance Grant Program. Funding awarded through this program may be used to support the development, renewal or amendment of HCPs. Eligible activities include document preparation, public outreach, baseline species surveys, habitat assessments, inventories and environmental compliance.
A complete list of CESCF projects approved in fiscal year 2021 is available online. To learn more about the CESCF grant programs, please visit the Service’s Grants page.
The ESA provides a critical safety net for North America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more, visit the Service’s Endangered Species page.