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State Wildlife Grants program kicks off for 2011

As I See It

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Media contact: Chairman Rodney Barreto

Keeping common species common is the battle cry for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Wildlife Legacy Initiative. This program creates strategic approaches for conserving all of Florida's wildlife, from the fish in fresh and salt water to the invertebrates that remain unseen to the naked eye.

There are many ways the initiative works behind the scenes to prevent any new species from ever having to be listed as threatened by extinction. First, it develops the state's Wildlife Action Plan, the strategy that manages all wildlife in Florida. Second, it develops and maintains partnerships so resources can be pooled to conserve wildlife throughout the state. Finally, this is the place where Florida's State Wildlife Grants program is administered.

These grants, funded by the federal government, provide the opportunity for some very important conservation work and research by the FWC and our partners. This year's grant application period started Aug. 20. Applications will be taken through 5 p.m. Oct. 15. Grants will be awarded in February, and selected projects will begin on July 1, 2011.

This is a milestone year as the State Wildlife Grants program celebrates 10 years of providing funding to states for managing and conserving wildlife. Teaming with Wildlife Week, Sept. 4-12, celebrates this occasion by highlighting some of the projects over the past decade that have benefitted from these funds. These projects not only keep common species common throughout the United States, but conserve all species so they don't become so rare that the price to protect them becomes too costly economically, socially and environmentally.

The State Wildlife Grants program crosses state boundaries as well to work throughout the entire habitat of a species. A project begun in 2008, to restore the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker, involves the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida as well as the federal government. Grant funds cover the cost of restoring sandhill habitat that has disappeared in the southeastern United States at an alarming rate in the past half-century. Not only does the restoration conserve the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker, but all other species dependent on the ecosystem benefit. Project activities include prescribed fires and thinning dense pine stands.

Another 2008 project, headed by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, resulted in the discovery of a new species of invertebrate. The Auburndale scrub scarab was discovered by a volunteer, and its known habitat is only in a very small patch of scrub in Polk County. This gives scientists hope that there are more species out there yet to be discovered, which points to healthy habitats and thriving species.

A project completed last year, studied the impacts of coral bleaching across the South Florida reef tract from Martin County to the Dry Tortugas. This project provided further detail on the genetic makeup of the two species of coral studied. Its data will assist scientists in the future as the stresses on our coral systems become greater.

Grant applications this year must be relevant to the Florida's State Wildlife Action Plan and address a conservation threat to a priority habitat or address the needs of a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Priority habitats include coral reef, sandhill, scrub, softwater stream, spring and spring run, and seagrass. Preference will be given to projects that address multiple Species of Greatest Conservation Need and climate change. In addition, projects must be collaborative in nature and contain a non-federal match of 35 percent.

Each year Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative gives out dozens of grants to worthy projects that are feasible, logical and have a high probability of success. This program stands for the very best of what we can do as wildlife managers to ensure the future sustainability of our fish and wildlife resources.

Here's the chance for our partners to come together in a win-win situation for Florida's species. Doing something now to conserve our common species will prevent the high price we'll have to pay in the future to keep a species from going extinct. To find out more about Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative and Florida's State Wildlife Grants program, go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeLegacy.



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