Report: Ranchers critical to sage grouse conservation | TSLN.com

Report: Ranchers critical to sage grouse conservation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report this week announcing a plan to spend an additional $200 million on sage-grouse preservation efforts by 2018. Citing the positive impact of the $300 million already invested to help save the declining bird species in the western part of the country, USDA unveiled its latest plan to use provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill to invest further in sage-grouse conservation.

"We're working with ranchers who are taking proactive steps to improve habitat for sage-grouse while improving the sustainability of their agricultural operations," Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie said in a statement. "Thanks to the interest from ranchers and support of our conservation partners, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working to secure this species' future while maintaining our vibrant western economies. Since 2010, we've worked with ranchers to conserve, restore or maintain more than 4.4 million acres of habitat on private lands – an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park."

The bird species has not yet been added to the endangered species list. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to decide this September whether or not the sage-grouse will be included on the endangered species list.

"American ranchers are working with us to help sage-grouse because they know they are helping an at-risk bird while also improving the food available for their livestock," Bonnie said. "As the saying goes, 'What's good for the bird is good for the herd.'"

"We continue to work diligently to remove the conifer trees that put sage-grouse and their habitat at risk," said Tim Griffiths, NRCS coordinator for the Sage Grouse Initiative. "By removing trees and saving vulnerable grasslands, we're expanding the footprint of prime sage-grouse habitat while supporting sustainable ranching and working lands."

To read the report, go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=STELPRDB1270442.

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