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Utah's Endangered Species Reduction Fund is providing $5.5 million to fund 60 projects that will help wildlife recover

DWR press release

SALT LAKE CITY – A total of $5.5 million was allocated for dozens of wildlife projects at the recent annual meeting of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Endangered Species Mitigation Fund on April 23.

The Endangered Species Mitigation Fund was established in 1997 to provide funding for species and projects that proactively help prevent listing under the Endangered Species Act in Utah. The Utah Wildlife Action Plan identifies species and habitats that need protection and also helps prioritize funding decisions.

“Proactive conservation helps keep Utah’s native species healthy,” said Paul Thompson, deputy chief of the DWR’s Habitat Division. “Healthy populations do not require protection under the Endangered Species Act, which in turn keeps management decisions at the state level and reduces additional federal regulatory and economic restrictions that may accompany Endangered Species Act listing.”

Around 60 projects will be funded by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund in the next fiscal year (from July 1, 2024 to June 30, 2025). The $5.5 million is an increase from previous years as the Utah Legislature approved $2 million in additional funding during the 2024 legislative session.

“It’s difficult to get funding to protect species that aren’t hunted or fished,” Thompson said. “Those of us in Utah who are working to better understand and keep populations of our lesser-known species healthy are fortunate that our state legislature had the foresight to establish the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund to help conserve biodiversity Utah.”

Projects funded each year are selected and approved by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund Advisory Board, a seven-member committee comprised of diverse interest groups and organizational representatives.

This year the funds will be distributed as follows:

  • Programs and recovery efforts to support Utah species currently listed as endangered
  • Species Act, including Utah prairie dog, June sucker, Colorado pike minnow, razorback sucker, bonytail, Virgin River chub, sore-finned turtle, Mojave desert turtle, and several plant species. Approximately 45% of total funding goes toward recovery efforts for these species.
  • Conduct studies to better monitor Utah's native species populations so they can be managed more effectively to prevent additional listings under the Endangered Species Act. This year, two projects are being co-funded with the Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner to better understand the species that use the Great Salt Lake. These two projects will conduct comprehensive surveys for Wilson's falaropes, red-necked falaropes and the snowy plover.
  • Additional projects are designed to help biologists better understand other native species and improve their habitats, including projects focused on Utah's spring snails, western toad (also known as common toad), green sucker, blue-headed sucker, round-tailed chub, flannelmouth sucker, pygmy rabbit and the Gunnison sage focus on capercaillie, Gunnison prairie dog, jay, black rose finch and other native bats, plants and pollinator insects.
  • Matching federal wildlife grants, expanding funding even further to assist with additional conservation projects that benefit Utah's native species.

Since 1997, the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund has:

  • Completed more than 650 projects that benefit native fish and wildlife species.
  • Dedicated more than $85 million to protect native species.
  • Helped restore populations of various species, achieve two deletions and three downlists under the Endangered Species Act (from Endangered to Endangered status), and prevent more than 20 species from being added to the Endangered Species Act list be included.

These recently allocated funds and projects are in addition to the record $4.8 million in conservation permit funding allocated earlier this month for wildlife research and habitat projects. Both funding programs utilize Utah's Watershed Restoration Initiative, a partnership program of the Utah Department of Natural Resources that serves as a central portal for funding and tracking the completion of habitat projects.

Learn more about the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund on the DWR Wild podcast.

Anna Harden

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