ON THE HORIZON-Issue 5- April 2017

Posted by WAFWA on April 1, 2017
On March 31, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service its third annual report detailing achievements under the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan. Among other highlights, WAFWA reported on the purchase of an ecologically significant piece of property in Kansas, which permanently protects nearly 30,000 acres of high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado and is administered by WAFWA. It was endorsed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013, and as part of the conservation effort, the states agreed to report annually on the overall progress of the plan.

“As we close out our third year of implementation, we’re really hitting our stride”, said Alexa Sandoval, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “We are encouraged that despite an oil and gas industry downturn, support for this collaborative conservation approach remains strong. We commend all of our partners for their participation in the range-wide plan.” The Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) and WAFWA have formalized their partnership with a cooperative agreement that will maximize conservation efforts in the West. Both organizations share a commitment to delivering conservation through partnerships, working across jurisdictional boundaries, sharing information, and strengthening the work of their partners. Under the agreement, five IWJV positions are now hosted within WAFWA’s organization to enhance collaborative efforts. Initial focus is on sagebrush habitat conservation, a high priority for both IWJV, WAFWA and many other conservation partners. Along with the science piece of the sagebrush effort, a comprehensive communications and outreach effort is also being developed. In another milestone that will strengthen partnerships, WAFWA was accepted into the Great Basin Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU) last month. This provides an enhanced opportunity for WAFWA to engage and partner with universities and federal agencies throughout the Great Basin region. The Great Basin CESU is part of a larger 17-unit consortium across the United States comprised of more than 400 nonfederal partners, including academic institutions, tribes, state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations and 15 federal partnerships. The CESU’s function to link federal agencies and institutions to increase access to more facilities and expertise that any one institution would have on their own. As WAFWA continues to build collaborative conservation efforts, this will generate additional opportunities to apply for acceptance into other CESU units in the future. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a grant to WAFWA to restore habitat to benefit the lesser prairie-chicken. The grant, which totals $197,309.25, is being funded through NFWF’s ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation and Innovation Program. The NFWF grant will fund restoration work on up to 1,000 acres of private land that will connect larger fragmented pieces of prairie-chicken habitat.Contiguous tracts of good habitat create better conditions for the bird. “The range-wide plan calls for us to focus our efforts as strategically as possible,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “By connecting good bird habitat, more acreage will be available for the birds to thrive.” The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) is a WAFWA initiative that works collaboratively in the protection and conservation of 21 native trout and char species across the western U.S. These species have long been considered as biologically, recreationally, and culturally important to the West and its people. With few exceptions, native trout populations have declined across the West as their habitat has become fragmented and their streams have become infiltrated with non-native fish. It is the charge of WNTI to restore, conserve, protect, collaborate, and educate on behalf of the West’s native trout. With that in mind, WNTI has launched an online story map to better communicate about the conservation work underway to protect native trout.