Utah to Get $872,000 in Wildlife Conservation Grants

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Utah stands to receive $872,000 in federal wildlife conservation grants this year.

The money is part of $63 million the federal government is dispensing to help states act on new comprehensive wildlife conservation plans.

"Through State Wildlife Grants, we are empowering states, territories, and their many partners to do what the federal government cannot do alone," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said at a telephone news conference Wednesday.

"The grant program is now our nation's primary conservation program for keeping species healthy and off the list of threatened and endangered species," Norton said.

The plans should bring a new level of cooperation between the federal government and states, said Dana Dolsen, planning manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Utah beat the Oct. 1 deadline for submitting a plan by three months. Its plan was one of the first to be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The partnerships -- with ranchers, sportsman groups and conservation organizations -- will help the state protect some of its sensitive species, Dolsen said.

Traditionally, DWR's focus has been on game species. This plan provides a strategy to help the rest.

"Eighty-plus percent of all the species in the nation are not game and sport fish," Dolsen said. "If we want to manage for 80 percent of the wildlife, we need a little money to get us there."

The plan identifies critical lands and habitat projects designed to help sage grouse, spotted frogs and pygmy rabbits as well as bison, deer and elk.

Several of the Utah projects are aimed at improving vegetation mixes on sagebrush-dominated foothills that took a hard hit during the recent drought. The Division of Wildlife Resources estimates that the state has about 1 million acres of dead or dying sagebrush.

One project, in Rich County, is breaking up stands of sagebrush and seeding those areas with a variety of native grasses and shrubs designed to benefit sage grouse, deer and cattle.

The project has received funding from sportsman groups, landowners and government agencies.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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