USDA sends $10.4 million in additional funding for Wyoming sage grouseWritten by Christy Martinez
Cheyenne – Days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that Governor Mead’s Executive Order will protect sage-grouse habitat, the USDA announced in early July that it will send $10.4 million to Wyoming for conserving critical sage-grouse habitat on private land.
This is on top of $17 million the state received from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program earlier in 2011.
“The additional funding will help address a backlog of great applications for GRP,” says Paul Shelton, assistant state conservationist for operations in Wyoming.
The recently announced funding is available to eligible ranchers to conserve critical sage grouse habitat through the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). Along with Wyoming’s funds, approximately $5.5 million has been given to Idaho, and Utah will receive $2.3 million.
In response, Mead says, “I am pleased the federal government is backing up its words of support for our sage grouse plan. Because private property owners often bear the costs of species protection, it is good to see funds provided to offset some of the costs associated with protecting a species.”
“USDA and its partners are taking a proactive approach to maintaining large and intact grazing lands that support healthy sage-grouse populations,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “GRP will provide these states with another tool to conserve this at-risk species and also protect important ranch lands.”
Through GRP, ranchers and farmers limit future development of land while retaining the right for landowners to conduct common grazing practices and operations using rental contracts and conservation easements. NRCS, along with the Farm Service Agency, directs financial resources and technical expertise to help landowners protect and restore the enrolled lands.
For the first time this fiscal year, USDA is dedicating a portion of GRP funding solely to protect sage grouse habitat, and this announcement means that GRP is now formally included among the conservation programs used for USDA’s Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI).
Launched in 2010, USDA says SGI has become an “extremely successful effort in the West” by targeting funding toward the removal of threats in the most important places where sage grouse numbers remain high. Eligible ranchers in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming can use funding from SGI to maintain large and intact sagebrush grazing lands.
In additional USDA news, the agency provided $53 million earlier this fiscal year to eligible ranchers through conservation programs, including the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. Using these programs, ranchers are implementing conservation practices to conserve grasslands that benefit sage grouse in 11 states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.