Endangered Species Mitigation Fund allocates $4.4 million to fund 42 wildlife conservation projects in 2023

[Originally posted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources]

SALT LAKE CITY — A total of $4.4 million was allocated to dozens of wildlife-related projects at the recent annual Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Endangered Species Mitigation Fund meeting on May 3.

The Endangered Species Mitigation Fund was created in 1997 to direct funds toward the protection, conservation and recovery of federally listed species and species of greatest conservation need, as identified in the Utah Wildlife Action Plan. The goal of the funding is to prevent additional species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act and to work toward downlisting or delisting species already listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Roughly 42 projects will be funded by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund over the next fiscal year (from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024). The $4.4 million is an increase from past years, due to an additional $1 million of ESMF restricted funding that was approved for spending by the Utah Legislature during the 2023 legislative session.

“Conservation funding for species that are not hunted or fished is hard to come by,” DWR Assistant Habitat Section Chief Paul Thompson said. “Those of us in Utah working to better understand and maintain healthy populations for our lesser-known species are fortunate that our state legislature had the foresight to establish the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund to help preserve Utah’s biodiversity.”

The projects that will be funded each year are selected and approved by the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund Advisory Committee, a seven-person committee of diverse stakeholders and organization representatives.

This year, the funds will be allocated to the following:

  • Programs and recovery efforts to help Utah species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the Utah prairie dog, June sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail, Virgin River chub, woundfin, California condor, desert tortoise and several plant species. Approximately 40% of the total funds will go toward these species’ recovery efforts.
  • Conducting studies to better monitor Utah’s native species populations so they can be more effectively managed in order to prevent additional listings under the Endangered Species Act. Three projects in particular will be funded this year to better understand the distribution of Utah’s mountainsnails, springsnails and freshwater mussels. Additional projects to better understand other native species include projects focusing on boreal toad, least chub, bluehead sucker, roundtail chub, flannelmouth sucker, pygmy rabbits, black rosy finch and other native bats and pollinator species.
  • Matching federal State Wildlife Grant funding, which will stretch funds even further to help with additional conservation projects that benefit Utah’s native species.

Since 1997, the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund has:

  • Completed more than 600 projects that benefit native fish and wildlife species.
  • Dedicated more than $80 million toward native species conservation efforts.
  • Helped recover populations of various species to achieve two Endangered Species Act delistings, three downlistings (from endangered status to threatened), and to prevent 28 species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.

These recently allocated funds and projects are in addition to the $3.4 million in Habitat Council funds and the $3.9 million in conservation permit funds that were each allocated to wildlife research and habitat projects in April. Both of those funding programs use Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, a Utah Department of Natural Resources partnership-based program, which serves as a centralized portal for funding and tracking the completion of habitat-related projects.

Learn more about the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund on the latest DWR Wild podcast episode.