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Partners for Fish and Wildlife: A New Name for a Growing Program.

One recent example of the Partners For Fish and Wildlife Program began in 1994, when the FWS New York Field Office launched a project with the Central and Western New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to preserve and enhance French Creek. This stream, which originates in the foothills of the Allegheny Plateau in the southwestern corner of New York State, is one of the most biologically diverse aquatic systems in the northeast. The 1,200 square mile watershed, designated as one of the "Last Great Places" by The Nature Conservancy, is home to 66 species of fish and 25 species of mussels. It supports 98 rare or endangered species of plants and animals, including the clubshell mussel (Pleurobema clava) and the northern riffleshell mussel (Epioblasma torulosa rangiana).

Thus far, the partnership has fenced over 3 miles (4.8 km) of French Creek for four willing landowners in order to limit cattle access along the stream banks. Studies have shown that intensive livestock use of riparian areas can have detrimental effects on the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of streams. In addition, herd health has been shown to improve when livestock use of wet, marshy areas is limited or completely restricted. The fencing along French Creek allows vegetation to grow, which stabilizes the stream banks. As a result, landowners, livestock, fish, and wildlife all benefit.

Approximately 70 percent of the land in the United States is in private ownership. Consequently, a large proportion of the Nation's fish and wildlife are directly affected by the manner in which those lands are used. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been working with private landowners to voluntarily restore and protect fish and wildlife habitats on their properties since 1987 through a program now called Partners for Fish and Wildlife.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program began with an emphasis on restoring wetlands. From the humble start of restoring approximately 2,000 acres (810 hectares) of wetlands in 1987, the program has grown to include native prairie, riparian corridor, and in-stream habitat restoration. For example, in 1997, a total of 33,000 acres (13,350 ha) of wetlands, 53,000 acres (21,450 ha) of native prairie/grasslands, and 450 miles (725 kilometers) of riparian corridors and in-stream habitats were restored through the program. Since the program's inception, an even more remarkable list of accomplishments has emerged. Over a decade, the Partners program has engaged in over 17,500 cooperative habitat restoration agreements with private landowners, and has restored over 363,000 acres (146,900 ha) of wetlands, 282,000 acres (114,125 ha) of prairie grassland, and 1,600 miles (2,575 km) of riparian and instream habitats for wildlife.

To better reflect the program's breadth and diversity, and to emphasize the watershed arid ecosystem approach to conservation the FWS is taking to restore important habitats, the program's name was changed in February 1998 from Partners for Wildlife to Partners for Fish and Wildlife.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program provides both technical and financial assistance to private landowners for restoring the native habitats of Federal trust species--endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, and certain fish and other aquatic species. The purpose of the program is twofold: 1) to make a significant contribution to improving fish and wildlife habitats on private lands by implementing "on-the-ground" habitat restoration projects, and 2) to directly assist private landowners in good stewardship of their lands.

The program operates on a strictly voluntary basis. No funds are provided for purchase, rent, lease, or incentive payments for use of the land for habitat projects. Rather, in exchange for an agreement from the landowner to maintain the habitat project for a specific period of time (at least 10 years, and often longer), the FWS will provide assistance to the landowner in completing the project. The landowner agrees to maintain the project according to the terms of the cooperative agreement but otherwise retains full control of the land. Habitat projects emphasize, to the extent practical, restoration of lost and degraded native habitats to their original ecological communities.

The FWS has been extremely successful in leveraging Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program funds with those from other government agencies, industries, conservation groups, Tribes, and private landowners to make the program more cost-effective. While no minimum cost share is required, the FWS established a goal of obtaining 40 percent of the cumulative project costs from non-Federal sources. To date, the FWS has exceeded this goal by leveraging almost 60 percent of project costs from these other sources. Such partnerships have allowed the various participants to accomplish far more together than would have been possible working on the projects separately.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is being implemented in every State. For more information about obtaining technical or financial assistance, or if you wish to become a Partner, contact the coordinator for your region (or State) from the following list.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Regional Coordinators

National Coordinator: Martha Naley 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 400 Arlington, VA 22203

Region 1: Marilynn Friley 911 North East 11th Avenue Portland, OR 97232-4181

Region 2: Mike McCollum 711 Stadium Drive E, Suite 252 Arlington, TX 76011

Region 3: Dan Stinnett 1 Federal Drive, Federal Building Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4056

Region 4: Ronnie Haynes 1875 Century Blvd. Atlanta, GA 30345

Region 5: Robin Huebel (Farm Bill) Sue Essig (Habitat Restoration) 300 Westgate Center Drive Hadley, MA 01035-9589

Region 6: Rick Dornfeld 134 Union Boulevard, POB 25486 Denver Federal Center Denver, CO 80225

Region 7: Anthony R. DeGrange 1011 East Tudor Road Anchorage, AK 99503

Jack Arnold is a Wildlife Biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in the FWS Arlington, Virginia, Headquarters Office.
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Author:Arnold, Jack
Publication:Endangered Species Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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