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NRCS Grant to Support Sagebrush Bird Conservation

By September 12, 2012Science, Stewardship

Our Stewardship and Science teams recently received a $257,000 grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to support a project designed to conserve the Greater Sage-grouse and other sagebrush-obligate birds.

Sage Thrasher

Sagebrush-obligate birds like the Sage Thrasher should benefit from this grant. Photo by Sam Stuart.

The three-year Conservation Innovation Grant will augment another, previously received USDA Western SARE grant to fund a project whose goal is to encourage more informed land management decisions and seamless conservation efforts across private and public lands, thus improving habitat and enhancing sagebrush bird populations.

In particular, the newly received grant will be used to develop a computer program that helps landowners and agricultural resource professionals make decisions about how conservation practices, such as removing invasive plants, marking fences and practicing sustainable grazing, can enhance bird populations in sagebrush habitat. Bird population and habitat data gathered by RMBO biologists throughout the West for the past three years will be incorporated into the model, said Stewardship Director Seth Gallagher.

“This helps RMBO achieve our full-circle approach to conservation – the data we gather at RMBO will be used to better inform management decisions that impact birds who rely on sagebrush habitat for survival,” Gallagher said. “By creating tools that promote proactive, voluntary conservation efforts among landowners, we can hopefully keep sagebrush-obligate birds from requiring future regulation.”

The project also includes a study comparing the cost-effectiveness of three fence-marking techniques that prevent Sage-grouse from flying into fences, as well as “train-the-trainer” workshops for agricultural resource professionals on how to better integrate bird conservation into sagebrush habitat management. The workshops are set to begin in the spring of 2014 in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and possibly other Western states.