SWG Fund Approved for Projects

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved four projects that will study or help species of concern and manage globally-significant habitats in-state. Funded from an allocation provided by the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program, administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Aid Program, the projects will cost a combined $265,000.

The SWG program focuses on endangered species prevention and ensuring that common species remain common. To be eligible for SWG appropriations from the federal government, Pennsylvania developed a “Wildlife Action Plan” that focuses on species with low and declining populations and species that are in great need of proactive conservation, by monitoring more abundant species for which Pennsylvania bears a special responsibility in their long-term conservation, and by incorporating habitat-level management rather than case-by-case, species-specific intervention.

“The SWG program has made Pennsylvania a better place for many species of concern and provided managers with important background to improve resource management programs,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “This work, conducted largely by both local and national partners to our agency, has accomplished great good for wildlife and the environment. But there’s much more work to do, and the cost of doing that research and intervening usually becomes more expensive with each passing year. That’s why the SWG program is critical to Pennsylvania. It makes an important difference for some species before it’s too late.”

The U.S. Congress has recently reauthorized the SWG Program, from which Pennsylvania annually receives about $2 million.

Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan can be viewed on the internet by going to the Game Commission’s Web site by clicking on “Wildlife” in the left column, and then selecting “Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan” in the “Wildlife Grants & Programs” box.

The projects approved by the Board today are as follows:

ASSESSING RISKS OF WIND ENERGY DEVELOPMENT FOR PRIORITY SPECIES, INCLUDING GOLDEN EAGLES: This $70,000 project will collect information on where and how America’s unique eastern population of golden eagles migrates through Pennsylvania, and use these data to provide statewide maps assessing the relative risk to eagles, and other birds of prey, from development of wind power plants. These maps will provide a critical tool for managers and legislators to guide safe development of wind power throughout the state and to prevent a rare species from becoming endangered. The work is headed by Todd Katzner of the National Aviary.

UTILIZATION OF WET SCRUB-SHRUB-DOMINATED HABITAT TYPES BY WILLOW FLYCATCHERS AND OTHER PRIORITY BIRD SPECIES: The willow flycatcher is a Wildlife Action Plan species of concern, also identified by Partners in Flight as a species of concern at the continental scale. This $80,000 project will determine if the willow flycatcher and other WAP priority species utilize specific wet thicket habitat types by comparing habitat characteristics of sites where species were observed with those unused. Understanding habitat selection patterns and the ability to identify potential breeding areas for the willow flycatcher and other wet-thicket priority species is crucial to their management. The project is headed by Ephraim Zimmerman with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

CASPARIS MINE BAT HIBERNACULUM GATING PROJECT: This $15,000 project will protect hibernating bats from harassment by reinforcing an earthen barrier at the mine entrance and installing a bat gate. The mine will then be more favorable for use by Indiana and other bat species, as well as provide additional habitat for Allegheny woodrats. (The work will be led by Christopher W. Sanders of Sanders Environmental Inc.)

RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT OF GLOBALLY SIGNIFICANT PENNSYLVANIA BARRENS HABITATS: This $100,000 project will implement WAP priorities to restore and manage globally-significant ridgetop, mesic-till and serpentine barrens sites in Pennsylvania, as well as use the priorities to leverage additional management and provide basic information for private landowners and public agency partners on management needs and techniques on both private and public lands. The Nature Conservancy will implement management recommendations and establish monitoring programs for barrens vegetation communities and invertebrate, bird and mammal priority species as defined in WAP to adapt management techniques that will maximize benefits to these priority species and habitats. The work will be headed Todd Sampsell of The Nature Conservancy.

In related action, the Board also approved a contract with the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) through the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA) to allow WMI to annually coordinate Northeast Wildlife Teamwork Strategy projects that will help species and habitats of greatest conservation need. Many of the species, habitats and conservation actions targeted in the regional strategy are covered in the Wildlife Action Plans for participating Northeast states. This partnership will strengthen efforts to develop, coordinate, fund and implement multi-state regional conservation projects.

WMI has agreed to provide overall coordination of this effort, and to collect and manage state monies provided to support the cooperative work among the states, as well as raise matching monies for projects. WMI also will take NEFWA identified regional conservation needs, coordinate the solicitation of prospective cooperators and matching funds, develop an annual list of projects, prepare contracts and amendments for approved regional projects and write annual and performance reports.

NEFWA is asking each state in the northeastern United States and the District of Columbia to provide up to four percent of their annual SWG appropriation for funding projects under the regional teamwork strategy. The funding provided through this agreement will not require any net reduction in the Game Fund, and any Game Fund monies used for these projects will be replenished by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the SWG funds.

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