ON THE HORIZON: February 2017, Issue 4

Posted by WAFWA on February 1, 2017
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has finalized permanent conservation agreements with a private landowner to conserve 1,781 acres of high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat in south-central Kansas. This is the first permanent conservation easement in the mixed-grass prairie region secured as part of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan. The conserved acreage is all native rangeland currently being managed for livestock production, and this historical use will continue. The transactions includes a conservation easement purchased by WAFWA and held by Pheasants Forever that legally restricts future development and activities that would be detrimental to the habitat for the bird. All other property rights associated with historical use of the land will be retained by the private landowner.

This conservation easement is another milestone in the successful implementation of the range-wide plan and will permanently secure important habitat that the birds need to thrive, said Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Program Manager. We appreciate the collaboration with Pheasants Forever, our industry partners who are funding this effort, and the conservation-minded landowner who has made this possible.WAFWA’s mid-winter meeting in Arizona in early January brought together more than 200 conservation professionals from across the country. Attendees included directors, commissioners and staff from western fish and wildlife agencies, as well as federal officials and representatives from key conservation organizations. Attendees discussed dozens of conservation issues and challenges across the West. A big focus was the future of major conservation efforts in a new administration in Washington D.C. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies updated WAFWA members on priorities for the upcoming congressional session, including the new Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which seeks to modernize fish and wildlife conservation funding by dedicating a portion of existing federal energy and mineral development revenues towards state-based work directed at species of greatest conservation need. Other legislative priorities include re-authorization of the Farm Bill, which emphasizes voluntary incentive-based conservation on private land. For more information about the effort to enhance fish and wildlife conservation funding:There are hundreds of different data sets that document the relative health of fish and wildlife habitat across the West. State and federal agencies, university research projects and many other sources have contributed to a vast store of knowledge about the habitat that supports western fish and wildlife.

WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) pulls state-vetted knowledge together into one system to make scientific information readily available to guide development decisions. CHAT analyzes the best available data to provide a ranking of habitat quality based on a number of categories, such as species of concern, wildlife migration corridors, and intact landscapes. This guides development decisions that will be good for both wildlife and for people.

The tool was created under the auspices of the Western Governors’ Association and turned over to WAFWA to manage in 2015. Over the past year, more than 400 users a month have logged in to access this wealth of information. A key feature of CHAT is its use of a standard mapping grid that links data to a one square-mile hexagon. The hexagon grid allows data from different projects, regions and scales to be incorporated into the same framework, facilitating data integration while obscuring sensitive data points. The CHAT will allow for the best decision-making possible in determining low impact utility corridors and energy production areas, as well as helping target conservation efforts. For more information, go to http://www.wafwachat.org/ or contact Mike Houts at mike.houts@wafwa.org