Annual Report

The 2011 MoBCI Grant Program; We Escaped With Only a Few Feathers Missing From Federal Budget Deficit Reductions

by Gene Gardner, Missouri Department of Conservation

To say that 2011 was a challenging year to secure federal grant funds would be a gross understatement!  For a complete picture of this past year’s challenges, read Amy Buechler’s article “State Wildlife Grants are in Trouble!” in this Newsletter.  As the war to reduce federal budget spending rages on between our Congressional members in Washington, DC, funding for fish and wildlife conservation continues to be one of the casualties!  Most of the federal grant programs (e.g., North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, Cooperative Endangered Species Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund) were reduced significantly from previous year’s allocations.  As Amy Buechler has explained, the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, which is where MoBCI grant funds originate, was reduced to $63 million nationally for Federal FY11; Missouri is eligible to receive only about $931,000 in reimbursements from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service FY11 appropriations.  Since the reimbursement amount from the previous fiscal year sets the project budget totals for MoBCI grants in the next (future) fiscal year, the total MoBCI grant funding for FY12 had to be reduced by almost $30,000 below our $112,000 approved level.  However, after applying matching cash funds from Partners for Fish and wildlife (USFWS), matching cash funds from National Wild Turkey Federation, and one private donation, we are still able to provide $98,500 for bird conservation projects in Missouri, not much less than the previous two years (see Table 1 below).  Although we got our feathers ruffled pretty good, we didn’t lose many feathers in our grant project cap.

This reduction is due, in large part, to U.S. Congress’ efforts to reduce the federal deficit (i.e., Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011; PL 112-10).  We hoped that Congress would re-authorize FY11 SWG funding at $90 million during the Continuing Resolution being worked on at the time, which would have given Missouri nearly $1.5 million in apportionment.  We did not anticipate an actual 38% reduction in reimbursements for FY11.  However, it is important that people understand that Missouri (and other states) would have received $0.00 in funding through the zeroed-out SWG program in FY2011 if it were not for the tremendous level of advocacy and support for SWG funding expressed to our eleven Congressional representatives through members of our Missouri Teaming With Wildlife Coalition – over 300 member organizations strong!!  This advocacy provided the moderate level of funding we received!

 

Year  

             

Number   Projects Requested

 

Funding   Requested

 

Number Projects Approved 

MoBCI   Grant Funds Issued

 

Funded   Projects Match

 

2004

20

 $        292,014

16

$     249,788

 $       353,989

2005

19

 $        259,417

12

 $     151,788

 $       333,994

2006

11

 $      165,842

7

 $     114,000

 $       189,386

2007

16

 $        233,931

9

 $       142,100

 $       249,858

2008

12

 $        170,483

8

 $     126,933

 $       186,293

2009

8

 $        119,000

7

 $     115,500

 $       184,000

2010

17

 $        259,650

8

$     102,300

 $       252,210

2011

12

 $        198,762

8

 $       106,000

 $       190,996

2012

11

 $        182,587

6

 $         98,500

 $       136,000

TOTAL

126

 $   1,881,686  

81

 $  1,206,909  

 $    2,076,726

 Table 1. Summary of Annual MoBCI Grant Program Awards from 2004-2012.

2012 Grant Awards

Once again, the 2011 grant cycle (MDC FY2012) was competitive one, with 11 grant proposals submitted for consideration ($182,587 in funding requested; see Table 1 above).  The demand for support for on-the-ground management of our natural communities is still very prevalent, but not getting the funding that we need just delays management projects and that has a negative effect on fish and wildlife.  However, once again, our bird conservation partnerships pulled through this year to fund the highest priority habitat work.  The MoBCI Steering Committee originally selected eight projects to fund this year, but two projects were cancelled by their project leaders.  Therefore, MoBCI has approved funding for six bird conservation projects ($98,500 in awards).  Due to Congressional adjustments in SWG appropriation, $66,700 (funding for four projects) will be made available to the successful grantees immediately, but $16,000 (funding for two projects) will receive funding after January 1, 2012, if additional support becomes available during a mid-year budget re-allocation.

Savanna and open woodland Restoration in Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa

MoBCI Grant $20,000:  Matching Funds $20,000

Partnering Organizations:  National Wild Turkey Federation (lead), Audubon Society of Missouri, Partners for Fish & Wildlife/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Tallgrass Prairie Region (BCR 22) in northern and western Missouri and the Central Hardwoods Region (BCR24) in southern and eastern Missouri was marked by a broad and dynamic oak-dominated savanna.  Threats to this landscape of the eastern tallgrass prairie include urbanization, recreational development, and agricultural expansion.  Management to provide bird habitat on 90% of Missouri’s private landscape is imperative.  For this project, partners will work directly with private landowners and provide cost-share incentives for habitat management on private lands.  The NWTF and its project partners, including MDC private Lands Conservations, will work to coordinate implementation planning and cost share reimbursement for habitat enhancement practices that favor the restoration and maintenance of savanna and open woodland habitat types.  Bird species that will benefit most from oak savanna and open woodlands management include eastern kingbird, brown thrasher, field sparrow, redheaded woodpecker, Baltimore oriole, and bobwhite quail.

Revitalization of Southwestern Missouri Prairies

MoBCI Grant $20,000:  Matching Funds $23,516

Partnering Organizations:  Missouri Prairie Foundation (lead), Audubon Society of Missouri, Missouri Native Plant Society, Missouri Master Naturalists, The Nature Conservancy of Missouri, Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, and Missouri Department of Conservation.

Funding for this project will be used to control invasive species that threaten the biological integrity of more than 3,000 acres of prairie and other grassland communities in southwestern Missouri.  Invasive species to be controlled include sericea lespedeza, tall fescue, and invasive shrubs and trees.  Control of invasive species will be done through herbicide applications, prescribed fire, and may also include cutting and chemical treatment of stumps of woody growth.  A prairie revitalization crew under the supervision of MPF and MDNR or MDC staffs, will control invasive species on 20 or more prairie and grassland tracts on public and private land.  Bird species documented as breeding within these prairie habitats that will benefit from this project include Henslow’s sparrow, greater prairie-chicken, northern harrier, dickcissel, eastern meadowlark, grasshopper sparrow, northern bobwhite, field sparrow, upland sandpiper, and Bell’s vireo.  Success will be determined through vegetation monitoring and breeding bird survey updates, including updates to the SPARKS and CACHE bird occurrence databases.

Invasive Species Control and Natural Community Restoration at Cuivre River State Park

MoBCI Grant $6,700:  Matching Funds $7,823

Partnering Organizations:  Cuivre River State   Park (lead), St. Louis Audubon Society, Missouri Master Naturalists, Bodine Aluminum Corporation, and Missouri Department of Conservation.

The purpose of this project is to continue to control serious exotic invasive species such as garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle in the floodplain of Big Sugar Creek, including Lincoln Hills Natural Areas and Big Sugar Creek Natural Area.  In addition, upland savanna/woodland habitat will be restored with the control and removal of invasive woody plants, like exotic European buckthorn, autumn olive, and native species like shingle oak and sassafras.  CuivreRiverState Park contains some of the last few prairie remnants in the entire St. Louis region.  This project will allow the woodland and savanna to be thinned and exotic species to be removed.  Also, some areas that were too thick to apply prescribed fire in the past will be thinned, so that they can have fire management applied in the near future.  Improvements to floodplain habitats along Big Sugar Creek will benefit resident nesting species that are PIF priority species like the Cerulean warbler, Kentucky Warbler, yellow-throated warbler, Acadian flycatcher, Louisiana waterthrush and yellow-billed cuckoo.  Restoring savanna habitat by thinning and removing invasive species will benefit species like the northern bobwhite, red-headed woodpecker, eastern wood pewee, great crested flycatcher, and field sparrow.

Romine Pine Forest Restoration Project

MoBCI Grant $20,000:  Matching Funds $20,440

Partnering Organizations:  Gary Romine (lead), Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Missouri Department of Conservation.

A 108 acre native pine-oak complex will be restored on private property in Carter County, Missouri.  The private landowner has worked with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; USFWS) to restore this tract of pine and oak woodlands that were in great need of restoration.   Establishment of pine will be completed through tree plantings and forest stand improvement.  Also, an adaptive forest management plan for the 108 acre tract will be developed through further coordination with USFWS and MDC staff.  Nine priority species of birds that have been identified as high priority by PIF and other Regional plans will benefit from this project.

River Hills Forest Habitat Project

MoBCI Grant $6,000:  Matching Funds $6,000

Partnering Organizations:  Missouri Ruffed Grouse Chapter/Quail and Upland Wildlife Forever (lead), Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon Society of Missouri, and Missouri Department of Conservation.

The River Hills Project area includes portions of Callaway, Montgomery and Warren counties in central Missouri.  A partnership was formed in 2000 to regenerate oak/hickory forest habitat in these three counties that focused on encouraging landowners to conduct management practices that promote young oak/hickory forest regeneration.  Cost-share assistance is provided to landowners to implement practices that improve young forest habitat, including woodland improvement and edge enhancement.  Dense young forest and edge habitat would be expected to benefit local birds such as ruffed grouse and northern bobwhite quail, but migratory song birds that would benefit include American woodcock, Bell’s vireo, Bewick’s wren, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler, and many more species.  Private landowners control the majority of forestland in Missouri, so it is essential that they participate in wildlife management activities that will improve habitats and populations of wildlife species.  A habitat evaluation project has been conducted and the data is being analyzed to assess the success of the project activities since 2000.

Ozark Forest and Glade Bird Habitat Restoration

MoBCI Grant $10,000:  Matching Funds $10,000

Partnering Organizations:  The Nature Conservancy Missouri Chapter (lead) and Missouri Department of Conservation.

Fire-adapted woodlands are one of the most endangered natural community types in the Ozarks Highlands, and the best conservation outcomes in woodland management come from working at the landscape level.  This project would work on restoration of the forested lands in the Chilton Creek Preserve, Thorny Mountain Preserve, and Shut-In Mountain Fens as the highest priority sites.  Although these lands were originally high-quality pine/oak woodlands, altered fire regimes and land use have degraded bird habitat on these sites.  Populations of several priority species such as the Louisiana waterthrush, Kentucky warbler, whippoorwill and others will benefit from this management effort directed toward restoring and enhancing native woodland and glade habitat at these high priority places.

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