Championing the Sage Grouse Initiative: Pheasants Forever National Board Tours Idaho Ranch
November 7, 2013
Mountain Home, Idaho: Pheasants Forever may be based in the Midwest, but today the conservation organization has become a western leader of the Sage Grouse Initiative, supporting seven SGI field staff positions and major habitat improvement projects.
In late September, the PF national board members had their first chance to tour a ranch enrolled in the Initiative, to experience the thrill of sage grouse flushing from the sagebrush-steppe, and to present awards to top Idaho agency leaders for sage grouse conservation.
The Wood Creek Ranch, about 45 minutes north of Mountain Home, Idaho, offers ideal habitat for sage grouse that rely on miles of sagebrush-steppe. There, the group met with Darwin Yoder and John Faulkner, who shared their SGI cost-share projects that cover 25,000 acres of prescribed grazing designed to improve nesting cover for sage grouse. They’ve also marked fences to prevent sage grouse collisions and added escape ramps to water tanks. The ranch supports mule deer, elk, and a sage grouse lek (breeding area) that attracts some 50 males in spring.
Finding the well-camouflaged sage grouse in fall takes either luck, or a bit of help from telemetry and radio-marked birds, thanks to equipment provided by Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game (IDFG). Sam Lawry, western regional director for Pheasants Forever, headed into the field with antennae in hand, followed by board members, some who had yet to see a sage grouse.
“They were just ecstatic when the sage grouse flushed,” said Josh White, the SGI biologist who coordinated the tour.
White (who recently moved to a permanent position with IDFG) praised Lawry for more than decisively locating the sage grouse. “Sam is the positive force behind Pheasants Forever and SGI in the West,” he said. “He keeps all of the staff motivated and bring years of wildlife and supervisory experience to the job. I couldn’t have had a better mentor.”
Lawry later joined Howard Vincent, CEO of Pheasants Forever, in presenting awards to Jeff Burwell, state conservationist for Idaho NRCS, and Virgil Moore, director of IDFG, for delivering sage grouse conservation in Idaho.
To find out more about Pheasants Forever – 125,000 members with 600 plus chapters in U.S. and Canada, visit www.pheasantsforever.org
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.