The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking proposals from states and U.S. territories interested in obtaining federal financial assistance to acquire land or conduct planning efforts for endangered species conservation.


For fiscal year (FY) 2011, the President's budget request for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund includes approximately $85 million in grant funding for conservation planning activities and habitat acquisition benefitting federally protected species. Proposals must be submitted to the appropriate Service regional offices by January 18, 2011.


The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund is authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act and provides grants to states and territories to support participation in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for species on the federal list of threatened and endangered species, as well as for species that are either candidates or have been proposed for listing. These projects range from species status surveys, public education and outreach, habitat acquisition and restoration, captive propagation and reintroduction to nesting surveys, genetic studies and development of conservation plans.


The Service is seeking proposals under the following three Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund categories: Recovery Land Acquisition Grants – These grants provide funds to states and territories for acquisition of threatened and endangered species habitat in support of approved and draft species recovery plans. Acquiring habitat in order to secure long-term protection is often the critical element in a comprehensive recovery effort for a listed species.


One example from last year's grants is an $800,000 award to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to acquire a 413-acre tract to protect nesting habitat of the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo. Acquisition of the property is also expected to benefit the endangered Tobusch fish-hook cactus. Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants – These grants provide funds to States and Territories to support the development of Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs).


The purpose of an HCP is to ensure adequate protection of suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species, while at the same time providing for economic growth and development. These grants provide support for baseline surveys and inventories, document preparation, outreach, and similar planning activities.


For example, the state of Maine received a total of $173,250 in FY 2010 funding to begin Phase I of a programmatic HCP for Maine's forestry program, wastewater program, and state water rules that covers over 17.8 million acres of forestland and approximately 45,000 miles of streams and rivers. The project is intended to protect the Atlantic salmon, over which the Service has joint jurisdiction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and will have implications for many other anadromous fish species.


HCP Land Acquisition Grants – Thesegrants provide funds to states and territories to acquire land associated with approved HCPs. They do not fund mitigation required of an HCP permittee, but rather, support acquisitions by the state or local governments of habitat that complement actions associated with the HCP.


For example, one of last year's recipients was the State of Montana, which received a $6,000,000 grant to acquire 3,600 acres in the Northern Rocky Mountains. This purchase will complement the Plum Creek Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan, protecting high-quality riparian habitat for bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish.


By law, the state or territory must have a current cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and contribute at least 25% of the estimated program costs of approved projects, or 10% when two or more states or territories undertake a joint project.