$1M awarded to local conservation projects

LIHUE — Endangered birds on Kauai are singing the praises of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last week, the federal agency awarded a pair of grants totaling nearly $1 million to local conservation projects.

More than $508,000 will go toward developing an island-wide Habitat Conservation Plan for incidental take of the federally endangered Nene, or Hawaiian Goose. In addition, the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program will receive more than $445,000.

“These grants will be used on a local level to incorporate endangered species conservation into land use planning, and thus facilitate economic development,” wrote Lasha-Lynn Salbosa, the conservation initiative coordinator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

The money is among nearly $32 million in federal funds divvied out in 20 states to “help advance their collaborative efforts to conserve America’s rarest species,” according to a FWS release.

“Our nation’s most effective conservation efforts are partnerships in which federal, state and local governments work hand-in-hand with private landowners and other stakeholders,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in the release. “The cooperative grants announced today will make it possible to build these voluntary partnerships to conserve the vital habitat of diverse threatened and endangered species.”

The money to the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program will assist in the development an HCP to address incidental take of listed species from light attraction and utility line collisions, according to the release. The HCP will cover the three federally listed species (Hawaiian petrel, Newell’s shearwater and green sea turtle), as well as the band-rumped storm petrel and a host of endangered plants.

Ninety percent of the world’s Newell’s shearwater population breeds on Kauai, and the number of birds has declined by 75 percent since the early 1990s, states the release. The green sea turtle was recently added to the covered species based on new information indicating that coastal lights have resulted in the take of nesting sea turtles.

The island-wide Nene project will develop an HCP for incidental take associated with agriculture, public/air safety and residential homes, as well as implement effective take avoidance and minimization strategies, states the release.

Kauai supports the only self-sustaining population of Nene, and individuals are increasingly found foraging and nesting in agricultural areas, residential areas and golf courses, exposing them to a number of threats.

“The mitigation developed in the HCP will provide a net recovery gain for the species, and core areas where birds can safely forage and breed will be identified and managed,” the release states. “Public outreach and education funded as part of this grant will help offset growing tension among farmers whose crops are being damaged by Nene.”  

In addition to the Kauai grants, FWS awarded $578,000 toward acquiring 635 acres of forested land on Oahu that is critical habitat for the endangered Elepaio, an endemic Hawaiian songbird, and 11 plant species.

A complete list of the 2013 grant awards is available online at www.fws.gov/endangered/grants/index.html.

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