From monitoring swallow-tailed kites along the coast to surveying rare fishes in highland rivers, the federal State Wildlife Grants Program has funded wildlife conservation across Georgia since 2000. Yet most Georgians never knew it.
Next week, the state Department of Natural Resources will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of State Wildlife Grants with events highlighting wildlife stories and successes the grants helped make possible.
Public events Sept. 10-11 will offer close-ups of rare creatures and special habitats, like bog turtles at Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell and pitcherplants at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area near Moultrie. It’s all part of Teaming with Wildlife Week. Teaming with Wildlife is a national coalition and the leading advocate of State Wildlife Grants.
Linda May, environmental outreach coordinator for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, said the goal is raising awareness. The State Wildlife Grants Program “is very crucial to the work we do,” May said.
The grants fund work benefiting wildlife and their habitats, specifically the 90 percent of our nation’s species not hunted, fished for or on the Endangered Species List. The focus: Keep common species common and prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, protecting them and their habitats before they become too rare and more costly to protect.
The stable funding for state fish and wildlife agencies has been critical to the recovery and conservation of many species, fulfilling a responsibility to save them for future generations.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that in the current economic climate, “the program ensures that states will have the necessary resources to help conserve their highest priority wildlife, plants and habitats – an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.”
State Wildlife Grants have been used for land conservation such as the acquisition of Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Bainbridge; habitat restoration, including more prescribed burning to benefit longleaf pine ecosystems; and research, such as sandhills surveys and habitat assessments that could help keep the gopher tortoise – Georgia’s state reptile – off the endangered species list.
Nongame Conservation Section Chief Mike Harris said the work is done strategically, guided by the State Wildlife Action Plan. This comprehensive plan required for State Wildlife Grants and developed by Georgia scientists, sportsmen and the public guides DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity.
State Wildlife Grants also draw matching money and work from conservation partners. The overall impact is at least double the roughly $1.5 million Georgia receives each year.
Jerry McCollum, president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, which helped found the state Teaming with Wildlife coalition, noted that the grants program is not guaranteed. Congress decides funding annually. “For sportsmen and conservationists in Georgia … a constant vigil is required,” McCollum said.
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