Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Game, Fish & Boat Commissions Announce New Web-Based Guide To Wildlife Conservation

On August 20, the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions announced publication of the new Conservation Opportunity Area Tool. This free, innovative and interactive web-based map puts features of the 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan at your fingertips.
The Wildlife Action Plan is the Commonwealth’s proactive, non-regulatory blueprint for addressing the needs of imperiled and declining species, referred to as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. 
This tool was designed to support conservation planning and guide implementation of conservation actions to support these at-risk species.
The Conservation Opportunity Area Tool is free, though users must first register and accept the terms and conditions. 
The Conservation Opportunity Area Tool will be helpful for a variety of users wanting to know more about what to do for Species of Greatest Conservation Need on their property, or those just curious about what is in an area.
 “Wildlife needs help now more than ever,” noted Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “With 664 Species of Greatest Conservation Need across the state, 109 of which are birds and mammals, everyone can do something to support these species. We are excited to deliver this Wildlife Action Plan information in a user-friendly way.”
From rural to urban areas, forests to streams, this tool has information that may be helpful to users with either a specific purpose such as conservation planning, or those interested in learning more about a species, habitat or conservation actions. 
The tool has several features including a Map function with which users can draw an area on a map and, with a few simple steps, produce a report with a list of the species and related conservation actions.
Users can also produce a list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need in a county or major watershed, or develop a list of counties or watersheds where a species occurs.
PFBC Executive Director Tim Schaeffer noted that “The Conservation Opportunity Area Tool will support conservation planning and implementation by making information in the Wildlife Action Plan more readily available to a broad range of users including resource managers, conservation partners and interested public. With all of us working together we can be optimistic for the outcomes in the challenges of protecting and recovering Pennsylvania’s imperiled aquatic species.”
Importantly, the Conservation Opportunity Area Tool is not intended for environmental project review purposes. Activities requiring Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) reviews must be conducted through Pennsylvania Conservation Explorer.
The Conservation Opportunity Area Tool uses the most comprehensive database of Wildlife Action Plan species ever compiled in Pennsylvania, though for some species, especially invertebrates, location information may be limited or unavailable. 
Not all wildlife species are represented in the Wildlife Action Plan; only species which have met specific criteria for imperilment or are declining. 
State Wildlife Action Plans have been developed by each state and U.S. territory in response to 2001 Congressional requirements for receiving State and Tribal Wildlife Grant funding administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
The purpose of these plans is to proactively address the needs of species to avoid federal listing as threatened or endangered. These plans must be comprehensively reviewed and revised no less than every 10 years. 
The current 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, the Commonwealth’s second plan, was submitted in 2015 after rigorous review by the Service and approved in 2016.
Development of the Conservation Opportunity Area Tool was guided and supported by numerous Game Commission and PFBC staff, dedicated teams from federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, universities, research institutions and conservation districts. 
Funding was provided through State Wildlife Grants, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program.
Visit the Conservation Opportunity Area Tool webpage for all the details.

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