BREAKING NEWS: BLM Signs Agreement To Expand Collaborative Sagebrush Conservation Model

July 25, 2016

New partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and the Intermountain West Joint Venture will promote win-win solutions for people and wildlife

Building on the successful creation of plans and proven models to conserve sagebrush habitat for greater sage-grouse, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) have formalized a partnership effort to help maintain the West’s sagebrush sea.

During the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Summer Meeting this week, BLM Division Chief of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Steve Small announced that the two organizations had finalized a five-year, up to $5 million intra-agency agreement to promote win-win solutions for wildlife and working lands. The $5 million provided by the BLM will be matched with partner funding. Projects to be undertaken with these funds are specified in the agreement.

“By joining forces as we created conservation plans that support the west’s sagebrush sea and the wildlife and people who rely on it, we’ve already achieved a remarkable conservation success,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said. “It makes sense to continue our joint effort as we ramp up our on-the-ground efforts to conserve this land and the western way of life it represents.”

The IWJV is a self-directed partnership that seeks to conserve priority bird habitats through partnership-driven, science-based projects and programs across 11 western states. The IWJV has worked closely with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a separate partnership, the Sage Grouse Initiative, which has built capacity to support science-based and spatially targeted practices to reduce threats to sage-grouse on private working lands.

“Sagebrush habitat is vital to more than 350 species of wildlife and to many, many people who rely on this habitat for their livelihoods,” IWJV Coordinator Dave Smith said. “With 90 percent of the sagebrush habitat in North American located in the Intermountain West, the IWJV is prioritizing opportunities to conserve and restore the system working cooperatively to achieve win-win solutions for people and wildlife.”

The purpose of the agreement between the BLM and the IWJV is to expand the capacity-building model and priority conservation practices pioneered through the NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative by transferring the successful private lands model to this new public lands partnership. This agreement will facilitate collaboration in focal landscapes to accomplish on-the-ground projects such as: conifer removal, fire and invasive treatments, wet meadow habitat restoration, and planning and implementation of range structural improvements.

The partnership agreement between the BLM and the IWJV will further develop sagebrush habitat conservation capacity by focusing on four objectives:

  • Field Delivery – help accelerate, coordinate, and streamline conservation treatments within and near high sage-grouse abundance centers and sagebrush focal areas.
  • Science – help spatially prioritize conservation treatments and measure the biological response of sage-grouse and sagebrush obligate species, and transfer decision support tools to managers.
  • Communications and Outreach – share science, resources, and partnership success stories.
  • Partner Coordination and Support – increase public and private participation in cross-boundary conservation efforts by developing relationships with federal, state, and private stakeholders invested in strategic habitat implementation.

More than half of sage-grouse habitat is on federal lands, most of it managed by the BLM. The overall goal of the federal conservation plans is to prevent further degradation of the best remaining sage-grouse habitat, minimize disturbance where possible and mitigate unavoidable impacts by protecting and improving similar habitat.

“NRCS has seen success in partnership with the Intermountain West Joint Venture through the Sage Grouse Initiative, which has conserved more than 5 million acres of habitat since 2010,” said Astor Boozer, NRCS Regional Conservationist-West. “We applaud IWJV and BLM for their endeavor that builds upon this successful model of collaboration with ranchers and partners in win-win solutions on public lands.”

The BLM-IWJV agreement reflects continued collaboration and investment by federal agencies, private landowners, state fish and wildlife agencies and partner organizations to join voluntary efforts at the landscape-level for the benefit of sage-grouse, other sage-dependent wildlife, ranching operations, and rural communities.

Learn more about SGI’s Public Land Partnership with BLM

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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2014, the BLM generated $5.2 billion in receipts from public lands.


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.