USDA is adding $211 million to its conservation efforts that will benefit sage grouse habitat, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday.
The strategy, known as Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, will build on public and private conservation efforts made since 2010 to improve sage grouse habitat. The plan adds to efforts that will benefit both the sage grouse and agricultural operations in 11 Western states.
"The Sage Grouse Initiative has proven itself as a model for how wildlife and agriculture can coexist and thrive in harmony," Vilsack said.
"I applaud America's ranchers for their initiative in improving habitats and outcomes for sage grouse and other wildlife, and for their recognition that these efforts are also good for cattle, good for ranching operations, and good for America's rural economy."
Conserving 4.4 million acres
Since its launch in 2010, public and private partners engaged in the Sage Grouse Initiative have conserved 4.4 million acres, an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park, using voluntary and incentive-based approaches for conservation.
Between 2010 and 2014, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service invested $296.5 million into SGI, which partners matched with an additional $198 million.
With implementation of the SGI 2.0 strategy, NRCS and partners by the end of 2018 will invest approximately $760 million and conserve 8 million acres.
NRCS leaders from California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming worked with conservation partners to develop the four-year strategy.
The wildfires devastating Western communities also impact habitat for wildlife like sage grouse. Under the SGI 2.0 strategy, NRCS will focus on reducing the threat of wildfire and spread of invasive grasses after fires to restore wildlife habitat and quality livestock forage.
The strategy will also focus on removing encroaching conifers, protecting rangeland from exurban development and cultivation, protecting mesic habitats like wet meadows, and reducing fence collisions.
"The Sage Grouse Initiative is making a difference because private landowners voluntarily work with us to produce results on the ground," Vilsack said. "The decisions Western ranchers and other private landowners make every day about what to do on their land will continue to have a critical impact on sage grouse."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the Bi-State sage-grouse, a subpopulation of the greater sage-grouse along the California-Nevada border, did not require listing because of the conservation efforts of NRCS and partners.
Continued reading: Sage-grouse conservation efforts working: Western Governors