SOCIAL CIRCLE — Wanted: Projects that can use a hand helping Georgians enjoy and better understand animals, plants and habitats emphasized in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.
The state Department of Natural Resources has revived its Wildlife Viewing Grants Program and is seeking proposals that promote wildlife viewing. Private, public and nonprofit organizations, including local governments, are invited to apply. The deadline is Feb. 1.
The grants, capped at $3,000 per project, are made possible by the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation and Georgia’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund.
Administered by DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, part of the Wildlife Resources Division, the grants program helps provide viewing opportunities that increase public awareness and appreciation of nongame wildlife (species not fished for or hunted), rare native plant species and natural habitats. The emphasis is on species rated conservation priorities in the State Wildlife Action Plan. Revised in 2015 by DNR and more than 100 stakeholders, the plan is a strategy to conserve native species and habitats they need before these animals, plants and places become rarer and costly to conserve or restore.
Nongame Conservation Chief Dr. Jon Ambrose said that wildlife viewing is popular in Georgia. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, about 2.4 million people took part in wildlife-viewing activities in 2011. The survey estimated related spending at $1.8 billion.
"These grants will help develop quality opportunities that connect people with wildlife and wild places that need conservation," Ambrose said. "That connection is critical not only for wildlife but also for the well-being of Georgians. Research shows that people consider nature important for their health and outlook."
Started in 1999 to support wildlife viewing and education projects, the grants program was sidelined in 2009 by recession-era cutbacks. The restart is powered by a $4,500 Natural Resources Foundation grant and $11,500 from the Nongame Wildlife Fund. While the current focus is on viewing opportunities, the hope is to include the original program’s educational component later.
Previous grants helped make possible projects such as the marsh-wildlife viewing platform at Jekyll Island’s visitor center. Proposals can include facilities, improvements and other initiatives that provide opportunities for the public to observe nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats.
Notification of awards will be made by Feb. 26. Details, including how to apply, are available at www.georgiawildlife.com/WildlifeViewingGrants.