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South Carolina receives funding for three projects in partnerships with North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida

  • Tuesday, July 22, 2014

LITTLE BROWN BATS with fungus on muzzle. PHOTO BY AL HICKS, NY DEPT OF ENVIRON. CONSERVATION.

Imperiled species will benefit from a total of $5.6 million in grants for 16 projects in 12 states through the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s competitive State Wildlife Grants program.

According to a press release issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the grants, which focus on large-scale conservation projects yielding measurable results, will be matched by more than $2.9 million in non-federal funds from states and their partners for projects that work to conserve and recover wildlife identified by states as Species of Greatest Conservation Need and their habitats.

The 12 states receiving grants are: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina and Washington. Additional states are also partnering in these projects. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources was awarded $1,125,846 in federal funding.

The non federal match fund of $591,028 increases the total to $1,716,874 for these three wildlife conservation projects. The funding is targeted for bats.

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will cooperate with USDA Forest Service’s Southern Research Station and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro to collect crucial data on bat distribution and relative abundance.

Using standardized acoustic surveys across the two states, partners will contribute baseline data that will inform continental trend analyses and help determine targeted bat species population status.

This is a priority for the partners due to whitenose syndrome, a fungal disease that has been shown to decimate bat populations across much of the eastern United States.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources confirmed in March 2013 that white-nosed syndrome (WNS) was discovered at Table Rock State Park in northern Pickens County. “We have been expecting WNS in South Carolina,” said Mary Bunch, wildlife biologist with the SC Department of Natural Resources (DNR) based in Clemson at the time.

“We have watched the roll call of states and counties and Canadian provinces grow each year since the first bat deaths were noted in New York in 2007.”

Estimates of bat mortality from WNS in North America range from 5.7-6.7 million bats since the new pathogen was first discovered.

While WNS is not harmful to humans, scientists believe it is possible for humans to transport fungal spores on clothing and gear.

In addition, a variety of imperiled bat species will benefit from modeling analyses allowing partners to establish regional population objectives for focused conservation actions.

The team will utilize state-of-the-art acoustic detection technology to identify and map priority lands for conservation, following a standardized monitoring approach recommended by the North American Bat Conservation Partnership.

These efforts will also help evaluate bat population impacts of wind energy development in the southeastern US, including three federally-listed endangered bat species (Virginia big-eared bat, gray bat, and Indiana bat).

“State Wildlife Grants help keep sensitive species from declining further,” said Hannibal Bolton, the Service’s Assistant Director for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration. “In Arizona, for example, the program has helped protect the black-tailed prairie dog by funding the development and testing of a treatment for sylvatic plague, a major source of mortality for the species.

These prairie dogs serve as prey for other rare species of birds and mammals, so protecting them helps the service and states successfully maintain the integrity of western grassland ecosystems.”

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