From the US Fish and Wildlife Service we know that native bees and other American pollinators continue to need everyone’s help. Through a grant from the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, we awarded more than $778,000 to benefit endangered bumblebees. This funding supports the development of a nationwide conservation plan to secure and maintain habitat for six endangered bumblebee species on potentially millions of acres of utility, energy, and transportation lands in the lower 48 states. The plan will be developed in collaboration between the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Partners will provide matching funds for a total project amount of $1.04 million.
By the end of 2024, partners will submit national agreements under the Endangered Species Act to guide bumblebee conservation for service approval. Voluntary conservation measures in the agreements aim to maintain and expand high-quality habitats that provide diverse foraging and nesting habitats, while reducing threats from habitat degradation, pesticides, disease and climate change. This effort builds on the already existing program for the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Guarantees for the Monarch Butterfly on Energy and Transportation Lands.
To develop these agreements, the partners will lead facilitated conversations between the US Fish and Wildlife Service; state and local highway agencies; and utilities and energy companies. The safe harbor agreements would target the rusty-patched bumblebee and Franklin’s bumblebee, which are federally endangered. Candidate conservation agreements with safeguards would benefit several other species facing population declines, including the American bumblebee, variable cuckoo bumblebee, western bumblebee, and Suckley’s cuckoo bumblebee. An intended outcome is an application that may result in a survival enhancement permit issued with a final agreement. Survival Enhancement Permits are issued to non-Federal landowners participating in a safe harbor agreement or candidate conservation agreement with safeguards. Landowners who participate in these voluntary agreements take steps to benefit the species while receiving assurances that they will not be subject to additional regulatory restrictions as a result of their conservation actions.
A safe harbor agreement is a voluntary agreement involving private landowners or other non-federal landowners whose actions contribute to the recovery of federally listed endangered or threatened species. The agreement with the Service provides participating landowners with formal assurances that they will not have to undertake additional management activities beyond the actions they are already undertaking to contribute to the recovery of listed species.
Candidate conservation agreements with safeguards are formal, voluntary agreements between the Service and landowners to conserve habitats that benefit species at risk. This conservation agreement is for non-federal partners only and provides assurances to participants (in the form of a “survival enhancement permit”) that no additional conservation measures will be required of them if the covered species later moves to listed under the Endangered Species Act. .
If approved by the Service, owners and managers who carry out eligible activities on land for public, energy and transport services can enroll in the program created through the agreement and voluntarily commit to measures that contribute to the conservation of the species covered in exchange for formal assurances. . Depending on location, this project could reduce the need for registered partners to submit individual permit applications for review, potentially benefiting small rural businesses and local highway authorities.
The use of Endangered Species Conservation Fund grants to develop candidate conservation agreements with safeguards and safe harbor agreements is new this year as grant criteria have been expanded. Overall, the Service also approved more than $9.1 million in grants to eight states and Guam under the Conservation Planning Grant Program. Funding awarded through this program may be used to support the development, renewal, or amendment of habitat conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, and candidate conservation agreements with safeguards. Eligible activities include document preparation, public outreach, species reference surveys, habitat assessments, inventories, and environmental compliance. This year’s awards will support 15 conservation planning efforts covering 135 listed, candidate and at-risk species.
The Endangered Species Act provides a critical safety net for North America’s native fish, wildlife, and plants. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover endangered species. Learn more about our Endangered Species Program.
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