26 March 2008

Birds Will Benefit From Grant for Beetle Conservation

A federal grant to help protect saline wetlands for the imperiled Salt Creek tiger beetle is also expected to be beneficial to birds.

The $385,911 grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service will be used to help purchase an 80-acre tract of wetlands north of Lincoln.

The property has the "potential to provide habitat for migrating bald eagles, least terns and piping plovers," said Ted LaGrange, a wetlands biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. "It also will provide potential habitat for over 200 other bird species, including migratory shorebirds and waterfowl" that occur on saline wetlands north of Lincoln.

The variety of migratory birds forage on the food resources that occur at wetland habitats, and use the places as a resting stop. Some species remain to nest during the breeding season.

"The 80 acre tract contains 25 acres of saline wetlands and 40 acres of saline hydric soils currently without wetlands that have the potential to be restored back to saline wetland," LaGrange said. "A stream crosses a corner of the property. Since this project will result in the restoration of saline wetlands, stream habitat, and associated uplands it will have other significant benefits in addition to providing habitat for the Salt Creek tiger beetle.

"Since a large portion of the property is on the floodplain it will provide for flood storage and conveyance. Also, due to its close proximity to the City of Lincoln, the site has the potential to provide significant recreational and educational benefits. These other uses will be managed to ensure that they are compatible with the wildlife and endangered species using the site."

Local non-federal sources will provide matching funds for the federal grant.

"The exact source of match funds has not be identified yet," said LaGrange, "but we anticipate using funds from a Nebraska Environmental Trust grant administered by the City of Lincoln. We may also use some funds from the non-federal partners" in the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership.

Negotiations to purchase the tract will be initiated soon, LaGrange said. If negotiations for the 80-acre parcel are not successful, then a similar tract will be sought. This will require Fish and Wildlife Service agreement, he said.

The grant is provided through federal Section 6 funds, which are used for acquisition of habitat for endangered and threatened species.

Only three small remnant populations of the Salt Creek tiger beetle occur on the a few remaining saline wetlands. More than 80% of the saline wetlands that once occurred in Lancaster County no longer exist, according to the FWS news release.

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