|Partners for Fish and Wildlife celebrate its 25th anniversary|
|Written by Holyoke Enterprise|
For the past 25 years, the Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has been working with private landowners and organizations to restore, protect and enhance important wildlife habitats on private lands.
Recognizing that over two-thirds of the nation’s land is privately owned and contains some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in the United States, the mission is to achieve voluntary habitat restoration on private lands through financial and technical assistance—a win-win situation for the landowners and the critters.
The Mountain-Prairie Region’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) program began in 1987 and includes Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. It was born in the prairie pothole region of the Midwest and is closely linked to the National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) system.
Visionary Refuge employees clearly saw the need to work beyond fee-title boundaries, recognizing that to help safeguard wildlife species, it was essential to incorporate both public and private land conservation efforts. These were humble beginnings but the response was overwhelming and PFW quickly spread across the Mountain-Prairie Region.
PFW grounded itself in principles that still run true today; honesty, trust, respect, flexibility, and open communications. The Mountain-Prairie PFW business model has retained much of its simple functionality over the years.
With well-proven techniques and skilled staff, the program has significant achievements: 15,000 private landowners have signed voluntary agreements since 1987, restoring and enhancing over 2,500,000 acres and nearly 3,000 river miles. Financially, the program has done a tremendous job of leveraging at a rate of 4:1, essentially taking every dollar and maximizing its impact by utilizing four dollars of non-PFW funds. It is a strong network of partnerships and allies that made this work possible.
The five major goals—to conserve habitat; broaden and strengthen partnerships; improve information sharing and communication; enhance the workforce; and increase accountability—are captured in the strategic plan and are driven by defined geographic focus areas and select focal species within those boundaries.
Development is from the bottom-up and a majority of the decision-making occurs at the field-level. Significant stakeholder involvement was captured for developing each of the plans.
The Mountain-Prairie PFW program has emerged as a leader in collaborative conservation. It has integrated with community-based conservation groups, laying the foundation for landscape-scale efforts at both the service and Department of the Interior levels. Guided by its principles and strategic approach, PFW will continue striving for excellence and look for every opportunity to “raise the bar.”
Water is the driving force and critical to a number of economic and recreational activities throughout Colorado. With the advent of agricultural pumping systems in the 1960s the South Platte River basin quickly became over-appropriated, meaning there were more rights than available water at certain times of the year.
Through an innovative solution developed by the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, wildlife habitat has been restored while farmers and others are still able to access and benefit from this precious water resource.
For more information about this project, visit the website at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/ea/Project_Profiles_CO.cfm.
To learn more about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, visit the website at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/pfw.
Holyoke Enterprise August 30, 2012