Federal grant will advance conservation of imperiled wildlife on Washington and Oregon prairies

By eBird Northwest Team November 6, 2017
Oregon Vesper Sparrow (c) K Schneck (72ppi 3xXx)

Oregon Vesper Sparrow (c) K. Schneck

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $499,997 to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for conservation of Northwest prairie species and their habitat through its competitive State Wildlife Grant program. This will benefit the rare Oregon Vesper Sparrow and other imperiled species of the oak-grassland systems west of the Cascades.

Federal funds for the project (entitled Conservation of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and Pollinators in Washington and Oregon Prairie Habitat) will be matched by $369,863 in non-federal dollars from state agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Project partners include the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, American Bird Conservancy, Center for Natural Lands Management, Greenbelt Land Trust, Institute for Applied Ecology, Metro, San Juan County Land Bank, and Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The Willamette Valley-Puget Sound-Georgia Basin ecoregion is a mosaic of prairie, oak savanna, and wet prairie that extends from southwestern British Columbia, through western Washington and into western Oregon. These habitat types have experienced a dramatic decline in extent and quality as a result of altered fired regimes, encroachment, and land use conversion. Consequently, many native prairie-associated species are now rare or declining due to habitat loss and degradation.

This grant will enable the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its partners to address some of the most significant needs for conservation and recovery of prairie SGCN and pollinators in the ecoregion. The project is expected to directly benefit 14 SGCN identified in Washington and Oregon State Wildlife Action Plans, including grassland birds (Streaked Horned Lark, Oregon Vesper Sparrow, Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark), butterflies (Taylor’s checkerspot, Fender’s blue, island marble, hoary elfin, Puget Sound fritillary, Propertius duskywing, valley silverspot, Oregon branded skipper), bees (western bumble bee), and mammals (Mazama pocket gopher). Through a combination of habitat restoration, management, and monitoring at 10 high priority sites, the project will implement over 50 strategic actions identified in these plans.

State Wildlife Grants help states focus conservation efforts on sensitive or imperiled fish and wildlife species in a proactive manner, before recovery becomes more difficult and costly. An explicit goal is to prevent listings under the Endangered Species Act. For more information about State Wildlife Grants, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s webpage. To learn more about SGCN and state conservation priorities in the Northwest, visit the Washington State Wildlife Action Plan and the Oregon Conservation Strategy.