Partner Spotlight: Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

California wetland

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (“Partners Program”) is one of the habitat restoration and enhancement programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Partners Program supports voluntary conservation projects on private lands (non-federal/non-state owned) in order to restore or enhance habitat for wildlife. They focus on “areas of conservation concern, such upland forests, wetlands, native prairies, marshes, rivers and streams.”

Partners Program projects are designed to benefit federal trust species including migratory birds, inter-jurisdictional fish, as well as threatened, endangered, and other at-risk species. Since 1981, the Partners Program has completed over 60,000 habitat restoration projects impacting over 60 million acres. Partners Program biologists achieved these conservation outcomes through their unique blending of funding and technical assistance for projects they support.

Like resource conservation districts (RCDs), the Partners Program works on the ground with local organizations and landowners. Their biologists, who are distributed throughout the country, are responsible for selecting projects that advance local, regional and federal conservation priorities. Unlike traditional granting programs, they are mandated by Congress to be significantly involved in each project that they fund; therefore, their biologists assist in most aspects of project management. Project cooperators such as private landowners, non-profit conservation organizations, municipalities and Native American tribes sign cooperative agreements with Partners Program biologists that require the project measures to remain in place for a minimum of 10-years.

“The program is called the ‘Partners’ Program because we are not only a partner in funding, typically covering 50% of the estimated project cost, but also a partner in the project planning and implementation,” said Matt Hamman, the California State Coordinator for the Partners Program.

Being part of a federal agency, the Partners Program can also function as the lead agency for projects that require federal permitting. In certain areas, they have programmatic Section 7 coverage, which means they have incidental take coverage through programmatic permits. They can also assist with National Environmental Policy Act requirements, including cultural resources assessments.

The Partners Program recognizes the importance of RCDs, acknowledging that RCDs are tapped into key local resources concerns and connected to local private landowners, land managers and conservation organizations. “One of the first things we recommend to our new Partners Program biologists is to reach out to their local RCDs to learn about the conservation issues in their region and connect into their network of conservation partners,” said Hamman.

The Partners Program has successfully worked with RCDs throughout California for the past 30 years, with numerous active projects throughout the state. CARCD is excited to continue helping to foster this relationship to support conservation of species and habitats. You can find out more about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program on their website.