SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE
RENO, Nev. – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White today announced increased funding to protect sage-grouse populations and habitat in Nevada and 10 other western states.
“USDA will continue to provide significant resources to enhance and preserve sage-grouse habitat and sustain working ranches and farms in the western United States,” said White. “The Sage-grouse Initiative (SGI) supports both sustainable ranching and healthy sage-grouse populations by focusing on improving rangeland conditions.”
According to White, Nevada will receive $6.5 million for the SGI this fiscal year. NRCS will also provide funding in the 10 other states where sage-grouse are found – California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Agricultural producers in these states can apply for financial assistance to improve sage-grouse habitat or to reduce threats, such as habitat fragmentation, to the birds.
“This is a significant program that meets a dual purpose: conservation of an iconic species and improved management of grazing lands.” said Bruce Petersen, NRCS Nevada state conservationist. “We are finding that practices implemented to improve sage-grouse habitat are the same practices required to maintain healthy grazing land for livestock.”
Signups for the initiative are continuous and producers can apply at any time. An application cut-off date for this fiscal year has not yet been determined.
NRCS launched SGI in 2010 making $18.5 million in financial assistance available to over 225 program participants in sage-grouse population centers. Significant progress toward sage-grouse conservation was made including:
- Producers marked or removed 180 miles of wire fencing near leks, areas where sage-grouse carry out display and courtship behavior. This prevented between 800-1,000 sage-grouse collisions, which is equal to all male sage-grouse counted on leks annually in California, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington in the U.S. and Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.
- Producers managed 640,000 acres of grazing lands to improve sage-grouse hiding cover during nesting season. This additional grass cover is expected to increase sage-grouse populations between 8 – 10 percent.
- Producers removed 40,000 acres of encroaching conifer from otherwise suitable sage-grouse habitat in key breeding, brood-rearing and wintering sites.
Additionally, NRCS worked successfully with the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to provide certainty to landowners who enroll in NRCS programs to benefit sage-grouse. This action protects landowners from increased regulation should the bird be listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future.
Sage-grouse is a ground-dwelling bird native to the sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the American West. The birds, found at elevations ranging from 4,000 to more than 9,000 feet, depend on sagebrush for cover and food. For several decades, sage-grouse populations and habitat have been declining.
For application assistance or more information about the SGI, contact your local USDA Service Center. Nevada Service Center offices can be found online at http://www.nv.nrcs.usda.gov.
NRCS is celebrating 75 years helping people help the land. Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners by delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.