Sage Grouse Project Enrollment Closes April 23 2010. Prairie Grouse Partners


Sage Grouse Project Enrollment Closes April 23

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Saint Paul, Minn. - April 7, 2010 - The Prairie Grouse Partners reminds landowners that barely two weeks remain to enroll in new sage grouse habitat initiatives being conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

On March 12, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack allocated up to $16 million for sage grouse habitat projects through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. States eligible for funding under these initiatives are California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The sage grouse is a ground-nesting bird native to the sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the American West. According to the North American Grouse Partnership, sage grouse populations have dropped 50 to 65 percent compared to 1965 numbers and continue to decline in total population at a rate of 2 percent per year. Key factors contributing to the decline are significant losses of sage brush habitat and the dramatic impact of the West Nile Virus.

According to the USDA announcement, the department's sage-grouse initiative will help landowners in the 11 eligible Western states respond proactively to the U.S. Department of the Interior's recent announcement that, while the greater sage grouse warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, it will not be listed because of the need to focus on other, higher-priority species. As a result of the Interior decision, landowners will have additional time to be responsive by taking specific actions to protect the species.

"The survival of the sage grouse, a beloved American gamebird, depends on a small window of time and a pool of money. If you are a rancher or farmer and are interested in finding out if you qualify for some of these programs to help sage grouse, visit your local USDA service center and talk with NRCS right away," explained Ralph Rogers, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. To find your local USDA service center,click here.

Additional Details

* NRCS has designated $12.5 million to EQIP and $3.5 million to WHIP for landowners wanting to help conserve and restore sage grouse habitat.
* Landowners who participate in EQIP will be given a waiver of the $300,000 cap so sage grouse work does not limit their other conservation opportunities.
* Cost share rates have been increased for EQIP (75 percent) and WHIP (90 percent) for sage grouse conservation practices.
* Landowners can receive incentive payments for deferred grazing to allow herbaceous cover to improve sage grouse habitat.
* NRCS also is providing payments for foregone income in certain situations to ensure the conservation of sage grouse habitat.

The Prairie Grouse Partners launched in March 2009 with the aggressive goal of restoring 20 percent of North America's native grasslands. Partner groups include North American Grouse Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Mule Deer Foundation, American Bird Conservancy and Ecosystem Management Research Institute.

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Ralph Rogers, NAGP, (406)462-5487 or Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever, (877)773-2070

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