Up to $32 million will be devoted by the federal government to conservation investments over the next 5-10 years in an attempt to prevent the need to list the bistate sage grouse as an endangered species.
Of that funding, $25.5 million represents the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s contribution to the 2012 Bi State Action Plan, which was developed by federal, state and local authorities in an effort to benefit the sage grouse populations in Nevada and California.
The plan, sanctioned by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aims to focus resources on cost effective and efficient solutions that could avert the need to list the bi-state population as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the commitment on Friday.
“With proactive conservation investments, we’re helping farmers and ranchers who are improving habitat through voluntary efforts to stabilize this population of sage grouse,” said Vilsack. “Through action such as this, along with the support of our partners, we can help secure this species’ future and maintain our vibrant western economies.”
On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management announced a $6.5 million commitment over the next decade to improve sage grouse habitat on land it manages.
“We have made it a high priority to engage in voluntary partnership with ranchers, farmers and other landowners to conserve the wildlife and habitat that are so important to our heritage and way of life,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “I applaud the NRCS, USFS and the BLM for their very significant commitments, which will help provide certainty that important conservation actions in key areas of the bird’s habitat will continue to be implemented. Together, we can make our landscapes work for both agriculture and the bi-state sage-grouse.”
The Sage Grouse Initiative is being led by the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will have the means to carry out conservation practices with the help of the Bi-State Local Area Working Group.
The deadline for comments on the listing of the bistate population of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act has been extended a month to July 9. Comments on the economic analysis have been extended to July 3. The final determination on whether the grouse will be listed is scheduled for April 28, 2015.
Additional resources to improve sage grouse habitat and a new study compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that in many instances the grouse populations have been stable between 2002 and 2012.
The Bi-State Executive Oversight Committee estimates it will cost about $38 million more to fully implement the remaining priority actions identified in the action plan for California and Nevada. The Forest Service and NRCS will provide over 80 percent of that estimated need under the new agreement with a focus on high impactful projects.
The Sage Grouse Initiative teams up with partners in 11 western states to achieve wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. From 2010 to 2013, the initiative enrolled more than 950 ranches and conserved 6,000 square miles through NRCS investments of $247 million that generated $107 million in partners’ matching funds for a total of $354 million of on-the-ground sage grouse conservation.