August 20, 2013
MADISON - Imperiled species in Wisconsin such as the wood turtle, northern cricket frog and eastern meadowlark will benefit from $1.5 million in federal grants aimed at preserving species with low, declining or endangered populations.
The biggest portion of funds coming to Wisconsin will go to help private landowners maintain and restore prairies and oak savannas on their properties in Wisconsin's Driftless Area to benefit more than 30 species of concern.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the grant awards Aug. 16. Eleven states received $5.1 million, with projects led by the Department of Natural Resources or in which DNR is a partner garnering more than one-third of the federal dollars.
Dan Ashe, Fish and Wildlife Service director, said that the winning projects "are receiving funding because they are tied to well-thought-out conservation plans that identify the highest-priority areas where we can make the biggest difference for imperiled species."
Erin Crain, director of DNR's Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation is pleased with the awards and says it continues DNR staff's long history of securing competitive federal grants to get work done in Wisconsin. "These projects are central to our ability to support rare species and landowners who wish to manage their properties to preserve native Wisconsin landscapes," she says.
One DNR grant will help manage public and private lands within the Driftless Area, the western and southwestern portion of the state that escaped the last glacial period and as a result supports a variety of rare plant and animals and is characterized by rugged topography, springs, cold-water streams and rock outcroppings.
The bulk of the $500,000 grant award will allow DNR's Landowner Incentive Program to continue providing funds to landowners for on-the-ground management benefiting rare and declining species and includes brush control, prescribed burning and management of invasive species.
Minnesota is a partner in the project and regional and national conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture also have identified the mixed open woodlands, grasslands and waterways of the Driftless Area as key lands for conservation. The project will result in 800 acres of improved oak savanna, woodlands, and prairies benefiting more than 30 species of greatest conservation need.
Two others grants that Wisconsin will benefit from involve many state partners, including one to enable states to develop long-term conservation strategies for up to 40 snake species potentially impacted by a fungal skin disease. The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game is the lead agency in this effort, which also involves New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Tennessee, Minnesota and Illinois as well as Wisconsin.
A third grant Wisconsin will benefit from seeks to improve habitat for a number of rare turtle species. The grant was awarded to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and also involves Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. Conservation actions will primarily benefit the imperiled wood turtle and the rare smooth softshell turtle, with ancillary benefits to the Blandings turtle and other turtle Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Actions include nest site management, reduction of adult turtle mortality through establishment of road and bridge crossings, habitat restoration.
All 50 states and six territorial wildlife agencies have approved State Wildlife Action Plans that collectively provide a nationwide blueprint for actions to conserve species with the greatest conservation need. Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) have low and/or declining populations and are in need of conservation action. Included are species already listed as endangered or threatened and those on the Wisconsin Natural Heritage working list.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dawn Hinebaugh, DNR, 608-266-5243; Rori Paloski DNR, 608-264-6040