A group of public and private organizations will gather in Helena Oct. 1 to discuss a federal program helping to fund the conservation of fish and wildlife species not typically managed by the states.
At the informal luncheon, hosted by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks at the Great Northern Hotel, representatives from more than 40 private organizations and state and federal agencies will discuss the requirements state's like Montana must satisfy to participate in the federal State Wildlife Grants program.
Over the past three years, state fish and wildlife agencies received a total of $195 million in federal funds to address the management of species with the greatest conservation needs. Montana received $3.2 million since 2001. Congress recently approved an additional $75 million for the states in 2004, with Montana's share estimated to be about $1.2 million.
In Montana, SWG-funded programs include: prairie fish surveys, native Arctic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout restoration; studies on native sauger genetics and sauger movements in the Yellowstone River; studies on the population status of native burbot; wolf and grizzly bear recovery and management planning; black-tailed prairie dog conservation; inventories of small mammals and reptiles in and near sagebrush habitats; and more.
Among the issues to be discussed at the luncheon are ways to expand participation in fish and wildlife funding to best meet SWG's 50-percent state-match requirement; directions states must follow to continue receiving funds, including how the funds can be used and the roles of agencies and private organizations. One of the requirements directs the states to complete a comprehensive fish and wildlife plan by October 2005.
"The plans will provide an opportunity for states like Montana to consider the benefits and challenges of including often overlooked and under funded species in a comprehensive fish and wildlife program," said T.O. Smith, who will coordinate the planning effort for FWP.
Smith said the short-term federal programs are in part modeled on the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act and the 1950 Dingell-Johnson Act, landmark fish and wildlife restoration legislation that helped to fund the recovery of the nation's sport fish and game species and that continue to fund state management, recreation, and education programs. "We see this as an opportunity to build valuable partnerships, and perhaps gain more secure, long-term funding that will prove as important and revolutionary as the federal sport fish and wildlife restoration acts," he said.
FWP will hold similar meetings across the state for the public and natural resource professionals over the next year. For information contact Smith at 406-444-3889, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.