Sage Grouse and NRCS

NRCS Chief White recently announced that efforts to improve habitat for sage-grouse are already paying off, as a result of the agency’s partnerships with farmers and ranchers.

“Working together with Western farmers and ranchers, we are creating a landscape where this declining species can not only survive, but will one day thrive,” White said. “The steps we have taken are already yielding powerful results and providing affirmation that we can maintain and improve working lands while also nurturing species like the sage-grouse that need our attention.”

photo by Michael Edminster

Sage-grouse in the Pioneers

With financial support from NRCS through the Sage Grouse Initiative, producers marked or removed 180 miles of wire fencing near leks where sage-grouse carry out display and courtship behavior, which prevented between 800 and 1,000 sage-grouse collisions. To give a sense of how impressive this is, this is about the same number as all male sage-grouse that were counted on leks annually in California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Farmers and ranchers improved sage-grouse hiding cover on 640,000 acres of grazing lands during nesting season, which is expected to increase sage-grouse populations between 8-10%. They also improve sage-grouse habitat by removing 40,000 acres of encroaching conifer in key breeding, brood-rearing and wintering sites.

To ensure that farmers and ranchers have the resources to continue improving sage-grouse habitat, NRCS will provide $30 million in 2011 through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Producers who enroll in NRCS programs that benefit sage-grouse will be able to continue operating in compliance even if sage-grouse are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Read the full press release from NRCS here.

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