Bi-Partisan Commentary | Voluntary Conservation Works Across Party Lines

September 2, 2015

A new bi-partisan commentary came out yesterday in Roll Call by Bruce Knight and Dave White, both former chiefs for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. These two conservation experts agree that voluntary programs–like the Sage Grouse Initiative–that improve water, soil, and wildlife habitat are programs that unite Republicans and Democrats.

Bruce Knight and Dave White remain active in conservation with Bruce as principal of Strategic Conservation Solutions and Dave White as the principal in the 9b group. We appreciate their instrumental work laying the foundation for SGI and voluntary conservation programs nationwide. See the excerpt of their commentary below:

In a season where Republicans and Democrats find themselves on opposing sides of almost every issue, there’s something on which we both agree: the value and effectiveness of voluntary conservation programs to improve water quality, protect the soil, and preserve and increase habitat for wildlife. We know helping landowners help the land makes sense for agriculture, and it makes sense for taxpayers too.

One of the issues we both addressed during the time we each served as chief of the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service was the need to enhance and increase habitat for at-risk species. This is a concern that cuts across party lines and political boundaries. And the common sense solutions we implemented work for those on both sides of the fence and demonstrate that those in Washington can understand the needs and interests of those who care for the land.

During the nine years we served under the Bush and Obama administrations, we both worked with landowners to provide cost-share assistance to install effective conservation measures to welcome wildlife. And we cooperated with the Fish and Wildlife Service to assure farmers and ranchers that the steps they took would be sufficient to meet current and future requirements to protect at-risk or endangered species.

A case in point is the sage grouse, which by court order the FWS must decide whether to list as an endangered species by Sept. 30. By the early years of this century, sage grouse populations had declined by 90 percent. So in 2004, the NRCS began a multi-faceted strategy to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to increase and enhance habitat for the birds. In 2009, that assistance was ramped up exponentially to treat more than 1 million acres a year. In addition, a new west-wide public private partnership called the Sage Grouse Initiative was formed to advance habitat for the sage grouse. Today, more than 100 partners participate in the initiative and are providing the template for how the nation can cooperatively address endangered species.

Read the full commentary here.


The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.