Overview of the ESMF program


Protecting Utah's sensitive species one project at a time

The Endangered Species Mitigation Fund (ESMF) is a state program created during the general session of the 1997 State Legislature (Utah Code 63-34-14) that is administered by the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The purpose of the ESMF is to provide funding to facilitate conservation of fish and wildlife species and their habitats in greatest need of protection (sensitive species). The priority of this program is to fund projects that benefit species identified as sensitive on the state sensitive species list, including those listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The primary objective is to direct funds towards the protection of federally listed and state sensitive species, to promote their conservation and recovery and to preclude the need for listing additional species under the Endangered Species Act.

ESMF is funded through a portion of a 1/16th percent sales tax on water and by a tax provided for in the Brine Shrimp Royalty Act (Title 59, Chapter 23). A total of up to $3 million ($2.45 million plus $550,000 from water tax and brine shrimp tax, respectively) is available on an annual basis. Through multi-partner cooperative agreements, the state is committed to participating in three recovery implementation programs for federally listed fish species (Upper Colorado River, Virgin River and June sucker recovery programs), and the state's fiscal contribution to these programs is provided through ESMF. Although not required by the legislation, DNR has opted to distribute the remainder of ESMF funds through a competitive grants program.

Organizations are encouraged to apply for funding on an annual basis. There is no guarantee that funding will be available in future years. To receive funding, grant applications must meet the intent of the legislation and be consistent with the mission and objectives of the DNR.

ESMF legislation

Utah Code 63-34-14 created the Species Protection Account. The legislation including the purpose of the funds allocated to the account (section 4) is as follows:

Utah Code Section 63-34-14. Species Protection Account.

  1. As used in this section, "species protection" means an action to protect any plant or animal species identified as sensitive by the state or as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.
  2. There is created within the General Fund a restricted account known as the Species Protection Account.
  3. The account shall consist of:
    1. (a) revenue generated by the brine shrimp tax provided for in Title 59, Chapter 23, Brine Shrimp Royalty Act; and
    2. interest earned on monies in the account.
  4. Monies in the account may be appropriated by the Legislature for the following purposes:
    1. to develop and implement species status assessments and species protection measures;
    2. to obtain biological opinions of proposed species protection measures;
    3. to conduct studies, investigations, and research into the effects of proposed species protection measures;
    4. to verify species protection proposals that are not based on valid biological data;
    5. for Great Salt Lake wetlands mitigation projects in connection with the western transportation corridor;
    6. to pay for the state's voluntary contributions to the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Account under the Central Utah Project Completion Act, Pub. L. No. 102-575, Titles II-VI, 106 Stat. 4605-4655; and
    7. to pay for expenses of the State Tax Commission under Title 59, Chapter 23, Brine Shrimp Royalty Act.
  5. The purposes specified in Subsections (4)(a) through (4)(d) may be accomplished by the state or, in an appropriation act, the Legislature may authorize the Department of Natural Resources to award grants to political subdivisions of the state to accomplish those purposes.
  6. Monies in the account may not be used to develop or implement a habitat conservation plan required under federal law unless the federal government pays for at least 1/3 of the habitat conservation plan costs.
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