September 2015 – Landowners on the East Coast brought about a major success today with their voluntary conservation efforts for the New England cottontail. Partners announced that foresters and farmers have helped prevent the need to list the New England cottontail under the Endangered Species Act.
This partnership is three-quarters of the way to their goal of 13,500 cottontails in healthy, young forest landscapes. To date, 4,400 acres have been restored on private lands through the voluntary removal of trees and invasive species, planting of native shrubs and brush pile creation. The New England cottontail is one of seven species under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) umbrella initiative called Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW). The 11 state Greater sage-grouse is another WLFW species for which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will make a listing decision before September 30th of this year.
“The decision not to list the New England cottontails shows that wildlife and working lands cannot just coexist, but thrive, in harmony,” said Jason Weller, NRCS Chief. “USDA is proud of the private landowners who stepped forward to make proactive conservation improvements on their land, restoring critical habitat for this unique rabbit.”
Today’s announcement re-emphasizes the role of voluntary and proactive conservation for enacting positive change to benefit working lands and wildlife. This announcement follows a similar decision last April when voluntary measures precluded the need for the Service to list the genetically distinct population of sage grouse in the Bi-state region. The nation’s landowners – farmers, ranchers and forest managers – provide not only food and fiber for the world but also include a variety of environmental benefits, including habitat for wildlife. These people are our crucial partners in conservation.
The Service’s official “not warranted” for listing finding on the cottontail will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
Click here to read the Department of Interior’s news release.
Click here to read the blog post by Chief Weller.
The Sage Grouse Initiative and our partners are dedicated to working with private landowners in the West to continue to put in place on-the-ground projects that benefit a variety of species, as well as our communities and economy.