Sage Grouse Initiative Field Team Chalks up a Million Acres Worth of Success

November 4, 2013

The power of partnerships is on full display in the July to September 2013 quarterly report of the SGI-Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT), launched in 2010 to add field capacity to carry out the Sage Grouse Initiative on the ground. Conservation enhancements directly linked to the SGI field staff working one-on-one with landowners have crossed the million acre mark.

Every biologist or rangeland conservationist works closely with NRCS field staff and are part of a team effort that’s accelerating SGI results to proactively conserve sage grouse through sustainable ranching. The Intermountain West Joint Venture, coordinator of the program, reports the latest achievements:

To date, the increased SWAT field capacity has yielded:

  • 935,348 acres of rangeland improvement to increase sage grouse hiding cover during nesting season. Additional grass cover is expected to increase sage grouse populations by eight to ten percent.
  • 173,004 acres of conifer removal in key nesting, brood-rearing, and wintering habitats. Removing encroaching conifers from sagebrush rangelands eliminates tall structures in otherwise suitable habitat.As birds re-colonize former habitats, increased bird abundance is anticipated.
  • 107 miles of “high-risk” fence near leks to be marked or removed. Marking fences is expected to reduce sage grouse fence collisions by 83%.

Statistics are one way to show success. Personal stories from the field turn numbers into meaningful conservation that demonstrates the power of 24 field partner positions located strategically in sage grouse strongholds, from Pinedale, Wyoming to Baker City, Oregon. For example, the report highlights the “Mark a Mile” effort in Pinedale, a campaign that’s leading to the marking of 20 miles of high-risk fences to prevent sage grouse collisions. 

(featured photo of Chris Yarbrough, SGI biologist in Craig, Colorado, talking with Gary Visintainer, award-winning sheep rancher enrolled in SGI programs)

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.