SGI Featured Friend | USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program
April 3, 2015
The Sage Grouse Initiative regularly features one of its many partners as part of our Featured Friend series. We offer a place on our home page, and a one-page handout about the partner with a story that demonstrates the partnership. This Featured Friend focuses on the USFWS Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program, which helps to fund many of our SGI field staff, and also works with SGI in the field by carrying out conservation projects with private ranchers.
Taking Care of the Country
The Hellyer family has been ranching for over 40 years in the heart of one of Wyoming’s priority areas for sage grouse conservation–where the Wind River Range meets South Pass City. Robert and Martha Hellyer have made dozens of improvements in the past decade to their mix of federal and state lease lands, as well as their private grazing pastures.
“We like having sage grouse around, and we want to stay in business,” says Robert. “The Partners program has a good attitude; they understand that public and private lands all have to work together to make a viable unit for livestock and wildlife.”
By working with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Sage Grouse Initiative, the Hellyers have reaped benefits for their livestock, sage grouse, and the many wildlife species that depend on their rangelands. Projects include creating several riparian pastures with solar-powered, wildlife-friendly, electric fences to protect the banks of the Sweetwater River. They’ve also installed a half-dozen solar-powered watering systems to better distribute livestock.
“We’ve got a lot of sage grouse around, which is a good sign!” says Martha, who takes the lead for the ranch’s long-term monitoring program. “What’s good for our livestock is good for the sage grouse. For us, that means taking care of the country and maintaining a good balance of grasses and forbes.”
Heather Johnson, the Regional Coordinator for the eight-state Mountain Prairie Region including Wyoming, points to the Hellyer’s conservation work as an example of “getting good work done on the ground.” Johnson oversees 50 Partner positions, and supports 7 Sage Grouse Initiative field staff.
“SGI is one of the most exciting new partnerships I have been involved with in my 25 years as a Service employee,” says Johnson. “It’s an enormously successful collaborative effort, and the USFWS is proud to be a key part of it.”
Meet the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners for voluntary projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat and complement the activities of working private lands. The Partners Program has helped fund 13 total SGI positions throughout the range of the Greater sage grouse, and works with interested private landowners to deliver on-the-ground sagebrush-steppe habitat restoration projects.
Heather Johnson, Regional Coordinator, Mountain-Prairie Region