State Wildlife Grants Receives Support

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Senator James Inhofe pledged his support again this year for the State Wildlife Grants program, the most important new conservation program in the past 50 years for keeping fish and wildlife populations healthy. Fifty-five other Senators and 128 members of the U.S. House of Representatives also signed letters urging continued funding for the program.

“The State Wildlife Grants program is one of our nation’s greatest opportunities to prevent species from needing the emergency care of the Endangered Species Act. Taking action to conserve wildlife before it becomes endangered is environmentally sound and fiscally smart,” Sen. Inhofe said.

The State Wildlife Grants program works by giving each state federal funding for wildlife species not hunted, fished or already endangered. In Oklahoma, the program benefits 82 percent of the wildlife from songbirds – whose populations have declined dramatically over the past 30 years - to horny toads, to wildlife species that occur nowhere else but Oklahoma.

Andy McDaniels, executive director of the Oklahoma Wildlife Federation, was among a team of six Oklahomans who traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with Oklahoma’s Congressmen about funding the program for 2006.

“By supporting State Wildlife Grants, Sen. Inhofe is a true champion for America’s fish and wildlife,” McDaniels said.

In spite of across-the-board budget cuts, Sen. Inhofe says “State Wildlife Grants is a valuable investment in prevention” and supports the President’s budget, which recommends funding the program at $75 million dollars. That would allocate approximately $930,000 to the Wildlife Department in 2006.

McDaniels has spoken to hundreds of sports club members and other citizen throughout Oklahoma. He said they overwhelmingly agree State Wildlife Grants is vital to conserving Oklahoma’s Wildlife.

“There’s annual federal funding for hunted, fished and endangered species, but State Wildlife Grants is the only federal program for the others. It’s existed for five years, but it’s not automatic. State Wildlife Grants gets appropriated at different funding levels each year,” McDaniels said.

Nationally, the number of species on the federal threatened and endangered species list has increased by 35 percent since 1992 and now numbers more than 1,000 species according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. State Wildlife Grants works to reduce the number of species placed on that list by restoring rare and declining wildlife populations. The Wildlife Department has received $4.6 million since 2001 from this program.

Distributed in the form of cost-share grants to wildlife researchers and other partners, the program has already contributed to keeping the swift fox off the candidate list for endangered species listing.

The State Wildlife Grants program is also working to benefit approximately 350 species of songbirds and has helped to begin the Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma. It also has funded both paddlefish population surveys and comprehensive wildlife surveys on several Oklahoma wildlife management areas, in addition to other projects.

To learn more about State Wildlife Grants in Oklahoma, look in the May/June 2005 issue of “Outdoor Oklahoma,” or view the magazine article at www.wildlifedepartment.com by selecting the Natural Resources link.