State wins grants to protect wildlife - $17.1 million from U.S. will help spotted owls, bobcats, trout and more

By LISA STIFFLER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

7/15/03

Olympia, WA - Wild critters squeezed by Washington state's unrelenting development, logging and traffic will get some relief from more than $17.1 million in grants announced yesterday by the federal government.

The money will aid efforts by local governments and environmental groups to preserve land used by endangered species and develop plans to protect those animals and plants.

"Successful conservation must be a partnership between the American people and the government," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in announcing the grants.

The grants -- totaling more than $70 million nationwide -- were awarded under the Endangered Species Act. About $40 million went to states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nebraska and Hawaii.

"The Pacific region has the highest number of endangered species in the nation," said Dave Allen, regional director for U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

In this region, the federal support should provide added protection for such species as the spotted owl, marbled murrelet and gray wolf.

Other beneficiaries include black bears, wolverines, bobcats and lynx, numerous bird species, salamanders, bull trout and salmon, plus plants such as the exotic-looking golden paintbrush.Some of the money will help pay for habitat conservation plans, which try to devise a way for people to still use some land needed by endangered species, potentially harming or killing the animals in the process, in trade for greater protections elsewhere.

The grants will also pay for land used to mitigate damage caused elsewhere, and to buy land important to the survival of threatened species. Local officials said they tried in particular to save chunks of land that act as wildlife corridors.

More than $1.8 million is going to a project to conserve 1,140 acres of land near Interstate 90 and Snoqualmie Pass. The project is a partnership that includes non-profits and state and federal government agencies.

"It's a real significant step toward the goals that we've set up," said David Atcheson, campaign director for The Cascades Conservation Partnership, which is working on the project. "We're really pleased."

The slice of land will help connect northern and southern stretches of the Cascade Range. It's also the site of a project that will try to improve passage over or under the highway.

Groups of animals can be trapped between I-90 and the Columbia River, creating a small genetic pool and putting the population at risk.

Other local projects include:

Buying 3,400 acres of private forest land on the Olympic Peninsula with a grant of nearly $10 million to the state Department of Natural Resources.


Protecting 300 acres along the Cedar River corridor in King County with a $1.5 million grant. This area, home to salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout and eagles, is quickly becoming urbanized.


Buying 33 acres at Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island with a $1.5 million grant -- protecting one of the few populations of golden paintbrush remaining worldwide.


Helping owners of small parcels of forest land in Lewis County create land-management plans with a $390,000 grant.

P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or lisastiffler@seattlepi.com

RELATED STORY:

Washington among 29 states to get conservation grants

By John Heilprin
The Associated Press
Seattle Times

7/15/03

WASHINGTON The Interior Department awarded $70 million in grants yesterday to 29 states to help railroads, utilities, oil and gas drillers and environmental groups find alternative habitats for endangered species threatened by development.
"Whenever possible, we in the federal government must encourage and empower states, local communities, tribes, businesses, citizen groups, private landowners and others to take conservation into their hands," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Most of the grants are based on agreements with private landowners that excuse them from killing or harming individual endangered animals, plants and fish, but only if the long-range recovery prospects for the species aren't diminished. Those habitat conservation plans must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plans were seldom used until Norton's predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, began emphasizing them during the Clinton administration, said Hugh Vickery, an Interior Department spokesman. Vickery said they provide a good balance between environmental and business needs.

Among the grants in Washington state:

Statewide Department of Natural Resources Habitat Conservation Plan: $9.96 million to help the department and other partners acquire more than 3,400 acres of conifer forest on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas, to help many species.

Yakima River Wildlife Corridor in Kittitas County: $1.85 million for a partnership, including environmental groups, the U.S. Forest Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife, to buy and protect 1,140 acres of riparian and conifer forests in the Cascade Range along Snoqualmie Pass.

Cedar River Watershed Habitat Conservation Plan in King County: $1.5 million to protect 300 acres of habitat along a corridor on the Cedar River.

 

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