ON THE HORIZON: August 2019, Issue 19

Posted by WAFWA on August 1, 2019
Resources Legacy Fund is once again partnering with the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) through the Open Rivers Fund to reconnect parts of the Upper Bear River in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The continued partnership will benefit Bonneville cutthroat trout, recreational fishing, and ranchers who divert water for irrigation. The partnership will ultimately fund ten restoration projects that will remove nine diversion dams, four additional barriers and restore stream and riparian habitat. This year’s grant of $432,000 is the second grant received by WNTI since last summer. The projects funded through the Open Rivers Fund are expected to be completed by September 2020. The Open Rivers Fund is a 10-year, $50 million program of Resources Legacy Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It supports local community efforts to remove obsolete dams, modernize infrastructure, and restore rivers across the West. Resources Legacy Fund works with donors to create significant outcomes for the environment and for people.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Director Mike Fowlks was elected President of WAFWA at the annual summer meeting, which was held July 11-16 in Manhattan, Kansas. Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Director J.D. Strong was elected Vice President.  The President and Vice President along with Curt Melcher (OR), Dan Prenzlow (CO), Ed Schriever (ID), Tony Wasley (NV), and Kelly Hepler (SD), who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, will comprise WAFWA’s restructured Executive Committee. WAFWA members voted to amend the organization’s bylaws, including adding a provision that allows for the hiring of an executive director to be accountable for all WAFWA operations. Other changes to the bylaws include a provision requiring an annual election for organization officers. “The bylaw changes were critical to allow us to align the governance of our association with our newly completed strategic plan,” said WAFWA President Mike Fowlks. “We needed clearly defined guidance for leadership to move the association forward into a new era of conservation.”
In March, WAFWA’s executive committee voted to undertake a review and audit of the mitigation framework that is part of the Lesser Prairie-chicken Range- wide Conservation Plan. The review is part of the commitment in the WAFWA Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), which is required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Audit results were presented to WAFWA directors at WAFWA’s annual summer meeting. The audit’s key finding is that the mitigation program lacks the appropriate administration funds to continue operating in its current form and some components of the mitigation framework may need to be amended to ensure financial and ecological sustainability moving into the future. As a result, WAFWA directors approved a motion which affirmed WAFWA’s intention to continue to hold the lesser prairie-chicken CCAA, while directing WAFWA staff to partner with USFWS, industry, landowners and other stakeholders to realign the CCAA to insure financial and ecological sustainability and regulatory assurances for the lesser prairie-chicken.New industry enrollments in the plan have been suspended since March and will remain suspended until further notice. The suspension of enrollments will not affect the status of any certificates of inclusion held by current enrollees associated with the CCAA. Companies currently enrolled in this program should continue submitting new development projects for mitigation and otherwise ensuring compliance with the CCAA. All landowners who are participating in the plan will be compensated on schedule later this year for their conservation efforts, as outlined in the landowner agreements with WAFWA. WAFWA Acting Executive Director Chris Moore will be leading the efforts to chart a course of action over the next several months. 
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has honored conservation professionals from several western states with awards commending their work to conserve fish and wildlife resources. The awards were announced July 15 at WAFWA’s annual conference.Virgil Moore, retired Director of Idaho Fish and Game was honored with WAFWA’s most prestigious award, the Phillip W. Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award. Moorewas recognized for his more than four decades of leadership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and his innumerable contributions to WAFWA. Utah Investigator Wade Hovinga was honored with WAFWA’s Pogue-Elms Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award for his innovative approach to wildlife crime investigations. Hovinga is a Conservation Officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and some of his high-profile cases have received nationwide press coverage and significantly raised awareness of the consequences of intentionally violating wildlife laws. Colin Gillin was honored with WAFWA’s Professional of the Year Award for his tireless dedication to wildlife management and health. Gillin is the State Wildlife Veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), but his contributions are felt across the country. He serves on myriad committees providing important contributions on national issues such as cervid ranching, chronic wasting disease, white-nose syndrome, high path avian influenza and elk hoof disease. 
WAFWA released its 2018 Annual Report last month and the report is now available online.

The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) has awarded $19,750 out of its small grant program for five projects in six states, which will be matched by $115,800 in other public and private funding. More than $135,550 in conservation efforts benefitting western native trout will occur as a result.“We’re very grateful to our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rocky Mountain Flyathlon, RepYourWater, Basin+Bend, California Fly Fishers Unlimited, Sierra Pacific Fly Fishers, and all our individual donors for supporting our 2019 Small Grants Program,” said Therese Thompson, WNTI Project Coordinator. “The community-based projects were selected because of their emphasis on citizen science and outreach to help address challenges facing the restoration and recovery of western native trout.”

Colorado State University (CSU) is launching a new online graduate certificate program. The Communications for Conservation program is tailored for conservation professionals such as fish and wildlife agency employees and other resource managers and environmental scientists who are seeking to improve their communications skills. The graduate-level education courses recognize that many conservation jobs and career fields require public outreach, media relations, and social media engagement on technical, scientific, and policy information, yet training for such careers typically lacks attention toward communications knowledge and skills.

WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) was recently featured in ArcNews, a publication produced by Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), an international supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications. The article detailed how CHAT’s open data site is supporting fish and wildlife conservation efforts in North America.

When it comes to the “people of the sage,” there is a name that comes up often, no matter who you talk to or which conservation challenge you’re talking about: San Stiver. San Stiver is the Sagebrush Initiative Coordinator for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). San was recently profiled in the SageWest Newsletter.