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Sage-Grouse Announcement Supports Years of Collaborative Conservation

The National Wildlife Refuge Association commends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on completing its science-based evaluation of the greater sage-grouse.

Today’s announcement that listing the greater sage-grouse is presently “not warranted” recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. This has set the stage for further restoration and holistic management of the West’s great sagebrush landscapes to benefit 350 species of wildlife over many years to come.

Sage-Grouse | Credit: USFWS
Sage-Grouse | Credit: USFWS

David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, attended the ceremony. “I commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for using sound science to make a decision that supports years of collaborative conservation efforts,” Houghton said. “It’s inspiring to see how much progress has been made by private landowners, local and state governments, non-profit organizations and others to conserve sage-grouse habitat. A new model of conservation is emerging in America, where people work together to protect our landscapes, wildlife habitat and heritage to ensure they are all viable long into the future.”

Over the past three years, commitments by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Bureau of Land Management, state wildlife agencies, private landowners and non-government groups across the West have resulted in an unprecedented investment in sagebrush habitat conservation, restoration and management. This includes more than $425 million invested by the Sage-Grouse Initiative, the participation and matching funds of private landowners, and extensive planning and outreach work by the Bureau of Land Management, state agencies and local working groups.

While greater sage-grouse occupy a vast range, 165 million acres over 11 western states, the birds are found in much greater densities in some areas than others. The National Wildlife Refuge Association has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to support the development of a Sagebrush Stronghold/Sagebrush Focal Area Strategy that promotes enhanced protections and conservation management in six key landscapes. The Refuge Association is continuing to work in those landscapes where national wildlife refuges play an integral role in land and water management and can offer support to collaborative landscape conservation efforts, including in the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge region of Southeastern Oregon and Northern Nevada; Southwestern Wyoming, from the Sweetwater Basin and including Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge and portions of the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area; and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana.

These places are not only hot spots for sage-grouse in certain parts of their life-cycle, but also support over 350 species that rely on unfragmented sagebrush habitat, including mule deer, pronghorn, pygmy rabbit, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher. And, as recent work demonstrates, they are also places where striking a balance between working lands and wildlife is not only possible, but preferable.

The collaborative work that has galvanized around sagebrush steppe conservation efforts embodies the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries collaborative conservation vision, and we look forward to continued work with partners on the ground to implement long-term management solutions that ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems for the benefit all sagebrush-dependent species.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2015/09/sage-grouse-announcement-supports-years-of-collaborative-conservation/

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