In 2000, Congress charged each state and U.S. territory with developing an individual State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) to identify the species and habitats in greatest conservation need and actions required to recover species. All 50 States and five U.S. territories worked to develop a 10 year SWAP in 2005.
SWAP’s outline the steps that are needed to conserve wildlife and habitat before they become too rare or costly to restore. A SWAP is a requirement that allows a state to receive funds through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program and the State Wildlife Grants Program. These programs provide necessary funding for conservation programs and help fulfill the initiatives in each state’s SWAP. Taken as a whole, they present a national action agenda for preventing wildlife from becoming endangered.
The development of SWAPs was a major milestone in fish and wildlife conservation. Finally, states were actively creating plans that specifically addressed species and habitats in the greatest conservation need. SWAPs identify key threats, and provide strategies to prevent endangered species listings and accelerate recovery.
Each SWAP is required to address eight required elements; Species, Habitats, Threats, Conservation Actions, Monitoring Species and Effectiveness, Review and Revision, Partnerships with Land Management Agencies & Tribes, and Public Participation. The states are given autonomy to use methodologies and approaches that conform to each state’s individual needs and capacities, as long as they are addressing each of the eight elements.
The benefits of this process are clear. North Carolina, for example, identified that monitoring the habitats of sea turtles and bald eagles was a priority. State officials worked to identify the location of new bald eagle nests, monitored the activity and productivity of those nests, and provided technical guidance to landowners about how to help protect bald eagles and their nesting sites. For sea turtles, they monitor nesting activity, document reproductive success, mortality rates and work to protect beach habitat along the coast. The recovery of both the bald eagle and sea turtle are excellent examples of the efficiency of SWAPs.
Each SWAP is intended to provide a foundation for state and Federal agencies, as well as other conservation partners to think strategically about their individual roles. Working together they can coordinate conservation efforts throughout the state.
States have begun to revise their Wildlife Action Plan for the next 10 years. This provides them with the opportunity to re-evaluate their conservation priorities, while assessing which strategies were successful over the past ten years. You can help wildlife in your state by sending recommendations for addressing impacts to wildlife species to your state’s Department of Natural Resources. SCI Foundation encourages community involvement in conservation programs and hopes all of its members participate in future opportunities to review and comment on your state’s Wildlife Action Plan.