Initiative 3 - Improving Wildlife Habitat Conservation

Text from the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan, 2008, Page 13

image of elk sparring, Credit: USFWS

Background

The states have long been recognized as having primary responsibility for the conservation of resident fish and wildlife. Existing federal statutes—Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Sikes Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, among others—require coordination between federal agencies and state fish and wildlife agencies during project planning processes and throughout project implementation.

Land and resource management projects conducted by federal agencies on federal lands can significantly affect the ability of states to attain or sustain fish and wildlife population goals—this is particularly the case in the western United States where federal lands account for a significant proportion of the land area of most states.

A number of conservation challenges exist that can be addressed by Executive Order 13443. For example, landscape fragmentation brought about by suburban and urban development on formerly wild or agricultural lands is a leading cause of wildlife habitat loss and degraded habitats throughout the United States. Wildlife habitat quality on millions of acres of public and private land is threatened by insect infestation, disease, and the spread of invasive plant species. Reduced levels of vegetation management on lands throughout the country have resulted in reduced availability of young forest habitats and disturbance-dependent forest types such as aspen-birch and, to a lesser degree, oak. These habitats and forest types are important to many species of game and nongame wildlife.

Habitat conservation on private lands is a key to sustaining populations of game and non-game wildlife—this is particularly the case in the eastern United States where most lands are in private ownership. State Wildlife Action Plans, regional bird conservation plans, and game bird conservation plans have documented the loss of biodiversity in the eastern United States due to declines in shrub lands and young forest habitats.

Enhanced cooperation between federal and state agencies could facilitate better public understanding of the role of active management in wildlife conservation and improve public support for the management of disturbance-dependent habitats and associated wildlife. Where big game populations are now contributing to deteriorating range conditions, these populations should be reduced to levels that will allow important early-successional habitats to successfully regenerate.

Farm Bill conservation programs provide financial incentives for landowners to establish and maintain important wildlife habitats by withdrawing lands from crop and forage production. Payment rates through these programs must be a competitive alternative to income from agricultural production or landowners will be unlikely to set aside significant acreages for wildlife habitat enhancement. Recent
interest in biofuels has significantly changed these economic considerations. Grain-based and cellulosic ethanol offer opportunities to increase our nation’s energy security and benefit rural economies. However, the development of these new sources of energy on a finite land base must be balanced with the demonstrated wildlife habitat benefits derived from existing conservation programs.

SCC White Paper Goals and Recommendations

  • Enhance and improve federal, state, and tribal interagency coordination and staff training on issues and authorities related to habitat conservation and hunting.
  • Develop baseline data and use it to set goals and measure and monitor results.
  • Ensure that federal and state fish and wildlife management agencies have the infrastructure and capacity needed to be successful in research, educational outreach, habitat and population monitoring, and on-the-ground habitat management activities for both public and private lands.
  • Facilitate multi-jurisdictional and/or multi owner conservation and access projects on a landscape scale. An example might be access to more refuge lands.

Actions for Initiative 3 - Improving Wildlife Habitat Conservation

Supporting documentation and findings

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