Gopher tortoise

ATLANTA – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has awarded Georgia more than $1.3 million for land acquisition efforts aimed at protecting several imperiled species.

The Georgia funds are part of $40.6 million in grants to 10 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support acquiring and conserving more than 7,200 acres of habitat for 65 species listed as endangered or at risk. In Georgia, the money will be used to protect red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, and wood storks.

“Today’s funding announcement is another way in which we are honoring our promise to conserve and restore America’s land and waters for the benefit of all,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Monday.

“The Endangered Species Act continues to make a difference with funding through grants to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies and their partners in the conservation of our nation’s most imperiled species and their habitats,” added Martha Williams, director of the USFWS.

Monday’s announcement came as the U.S. Department of the Interior honors the 50th anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act. Throughout the year, the agency is celebrating the importance of prevented imperiled species from becoming extinct, promoting the recovery of wildlife, and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer living in stands of longleaf pines and have become endangered as old-growth longleaf forests continue to dwindle.

The gopher tortoise is Georgia’s official state reptile and lives throughout South Georgia. It is considered a threatened species.

Wood storks are long-legged wading birds that live mostly along the Georgia coast but can be seen in the state’s Piedmont region as well.

No decisions on where the Georgia grant money will be used for land acquisition have been announced.