Eastern Sierra Land Trust Works to Conserve Sage Grouse Habitat and Rural Heritage
November 11, 2013
“It is important to preserve and maintain the history of the area and the legacy of the cattle. The only way to protect the land is to not put houses on it.” – Mark Lacey, rancher (from ESLT website)
Each month, the Sage Grouse Initiative will hold up one of its many partners as a Featured Friend on the home page of our website. November showcases the Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT). This private land trust plays an important role in helping ranchers carry on rural agricultural traditions and in conserving the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment of sage grouse along the Nevada-California border. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting this population as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, announced on October 25, 2013, with a 60-day comment period.
The efforts of the ESLT working in tandem with the Sage Grouse Initiative and other partners are vital to carrying out the Bi-State Sage Grouse Local Area Working Group Action Plan, produced in 2012 by diverse stakeholders coming together. That plan lays out a strategy for long-term conservation of the Bi-State sage grouse, prioritizing actions where results will show highest benefits. The short-term focus is to protect continuous blocks of unfragmented habitat, to restore habitat impacted by invading pinyon-juniper forests and wildfire, to reestablish connections between habitats, and to secure permanent habitat conservation of important private lands. The plan also documents accomplishments over a decade of collaboration.
Sage grouse typically inhabit immense western rangelands stretching for miles with little topographic relief, unless you’re in a place like the Eastern Sierra region of California and Nevada. Here, magnificent peaks jut above the places sage grouse live that cross public and private boundaries. Private lands are a small percentage of the total area, yet often contain the best water in an arid land. Sage grouse rely on lush wet meadows to raise their broods in summer.
To conserve sage grouse in this region, ESLT has teamed up with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to tap into Farm Bill dollars targeted via the Sage Grouse Initiative for protecting and enhancing sage grouse habitat through sustainable ranching. Conservation easements are particularly important where pressure is high to subdivide the highly scenic private ranch lands. ESLT has completed conservation projects on 7,600 acres of key sage grouse habitat in California, with more projects in the works. The easements keep the land intact the way the birds and ranchers like it, and give the landowners flexibility to run agricultural operations.
ESLT featured sage grouse and the State of the Birds report on the cover of its latest newsletter:
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.