Partners for Wildlife
The Partners for Wildlife program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeks to provide technical assistance to private landowners. "Partners" has some cost-sharing funds of its own. Also, it can help landowners find funding from other programs. The FWS is mandated to focus on migratory birds, waterfowl, endangered and threatened species, and wetland management, but its programs also benefit other wildlife. The program's flyer states, "Anyone can be a partner: farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, local agencies, private organizations, government agencies, educational institutions--anyone interested in improving and protecting wildlife habitat".
Partners for Wildlife has been very active in the upper midwestern U.S., helping landowners restore wetlands on drained agricultural fields and, in the lower Mississippi River valley, helping replant bottomland hardwood forests on abandoned agricultural land. This program began nationally in 1992, but is just beginning to attract interest in Florida.
Some Stewardship landowners and the state agency professionals who assist them are at the forefront of developing "Partners" projects on private lands in Florida. The following proposed "Partners" projects for private, non-industrial lands in Florida will give you an idea of some of the possibilities of this flexible program:
* One Stewardship landowner has requested assistance for nesting structures, bat boxes, osprey towers, and interpretative signs. Another FWS program, "Watchable Wildlife", may cover most of these costs. Also, there is the possibility of an arrangement with the local community college that would permit the building of a boardwalk across wetlands to the edge of the St. John's River. The landowner, the FWS, and the college would share the cost. The landowner would retain private property rights and responsibilities. The college would have permission to use the wetland as a teaching facility. The entire community would benefit as many students--and the landowner's family and friends--gain a greater awareness of the wetland's ecological and economic contributions.
* "Partners" may assist another Stewardship landowner in converting a dug pond back to a natural ephemeral wetland. This project would involve pulling down the banks and filling in the deeper portion of the pond.
* A Sumter Co. rancher hopes to get "Partners" help to restore a longleaf pine community on a small (10 acre) area. (On the right sites longleaf pine plantations are a viable option for timber production, not just valuable wildlife habitat.)
* A Jefferson Co. Stewardship landowner is seeking "Partners" assistance for a wetland restoration.
The landowner, FWS, and any other partners involved in a particular project make a "habitat development agreement" that extends for a minimum of 10 years. To avoid confusion or duplication of effort, Partners for Wildlife is committed to working in coordination with the state natural resources agencies.
Stewardship landowners who consider a "Partners for Wildlife" project should be sure to incorporate it into the Forest Stewardship Management Plan. It is extremely important for the landowner to have a clear idea of how the entire holding is to be managed over time. Any special initiative should be developed as part of an overall management plan. Some landowners might wish to work with "Partners" to restore wetlands, longleaf pine, or upland hardwoods, yet continue to manage the rest of the same holding for intensive wood production, cattle, game, or agriculture. In general, such arrangements would be welcomed by the FWS.
For more information contact:
Partners for Wildlife Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6620 Southpoint Drive, South, Ste 310
Jacksonville, FL 32216
(904) 232-2580 FAX (904) 232-2404