The Sage Grouse Initiative is a new paradigm for conserving at-risk wildlife that works through voluntary cooperation, incentives, and community support.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service launched SGI in 2010, applying the power of the Farm Bill to target lands where habitats are intact and sage grouse numbers are highest. To date, we’ve partnered with 1,474 ranchers to conserve 5.6 million acres across 11 western states. While private lands are the primary focus, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for public land enhancements. Today, the Initiative belongs to the many partners shaping history.
Working together, we are conserving wildlife habitat and managing ranchlands in ways that also create more nutritious forage for livestock. We are passing on our western heritage of vast skies, unbroken sagebrush-steppe, and room for wildlife and people to roam.
A new approach to mapping is helping partner direct resources where conservation returns are highest. Three quarters of sage grouse concentrate on one-quarter of their range. By focusing our efforts on the core habitats, we multiply our return on investments – spending our first dollar conserving 500 birds, instead of five.
SGI also relies on science to document the biological benefits of farm Bill Investments. Rather than simply reporting acres treated, SGI measures the biological benefits of habitat improvements. New insights continually improve on-the-ground results.
Community-level conservation results in pride and ownership. It also takes people helping people to get the work done. Every day, the NRCS lends a hand to rural ranchers and farmers.
For SGI to be carried out in 11 Western states, the NRCS and 30 partners joined forces in 2011 to add 24 positions. From Malta, Montana, to Ely, Nevada, the SGI range and wildlife conservationists help ranchers proactively conserve and improve sage grouse habitat.
The innovative partnership positions are made possible through the Intermountain West Joint Venture, the bird habitat partnership group that secures matches for Farm Bill dollars and helps coordinate the SGI positions, as well as communication and science efforts.
The partnership is the engine that powers the Sage Grouse Initiative. The growing alliance of stakeholders embraces a kaleidoscope of interests, values, and backgrounds.
While the NRCS conceived SGI and channels funding through the Farm Bill, success is only possible through partners that leverage funds, shoulder work, and take on policies beyond our scope.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service are expediting revisions of land use management plans to safeguard sage grouse. Every state has stepped up, and efforts extend to local working groups.
SGI is a relative newcomer to the scene that thrives on partnerships and extending credit to others. We invite more partners to join us to achieve superior wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. Learn more about our partners here.
Trust & Credibility
You might call it kitchen table conservation. A lot happens over coffee or out mending fence. When one rancher enrolls in the Sage Grouse Initiative and the neighbor likes what he or she sees, the word spreads. Pretty soon, you’ve got applications flooding the local NRCS offices.
The NRCS has a long history of living and working in rural communities. The staff and the SGI partner employees understand the importance of flexibility and meeting landowners on their own schedule for voluntary conservation to work. It’s not surprising that more than 700 ranchers have enrolled in the Sage Grouse Initiative. It’s all about trust and credibility.