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Wildlife

Sage Grouse Working Group Seeks Project Proposals

Written by Justin Binfet

By Justin Binfet, Casper Wildlife Biologist, Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Casper – The Bates Hole/Shirley Basin Sage grouse Local Working Group is seeking project proposals designed to benefit sage grouse and their habitats.
    Sage grouse are common throughout Wyoming because their habitats remain relatively intact here compared to other states. Unfortunately, a number of factors are threatening these remaining habitats. These “limiting factors” include land conversion and habitat fragmentation in the form of urban growth, energy development, and recreation activities. Weather/drought, certain agricultural practices, predation and conflicting wildlife management practices can also affect sage grouse and sagebrush communities.
    The working group’s goal is to identify and help provide money for projects to offset some of the impacts from these limiting factors. Some projects that have been recently funded include prescribed fire in sagebrush communities to improve forage for sage-grouse, treatment/removal of noxious weeds such as cheatgrass, wildlife inventory projects, implementing rotational grazing systems and water development projects and installing wildlife escape ramps in stock tanks.
    There is still a sizable amount of money remaining to fund additional projects in 2008. Projects can include but are not limited to habitat improvements such as:
•  Prescribed burns
•  Sagebrush restoration
•  Noxious weed control
•  Sage grouse research
•  Improvements to rangelands within sage grouse habitats
•  Information, education or other public outreach efforts about sage-grouse conservation.
    Projects must demonstrate a clear attempt to benefit sage grouse or sagebrush habitats.  
    The Bates Hole/Shirley Basin planning area is centered in the Bates Hole and Shirley Basin regions between Casper and Medicine Bow. The area extends to the Buffalo Creek/Red Wall area of the South Bighorns on the north end, the Rattlesnake Hills on the west, and Hanna and Laramie on the south. Interstate 25 provides the eastern boundary, but most sage grouse habitat is found west of the Laramie Mountain Range.
    Projects can be on either public and private lands, or a combination of both, within the working group area (project proposals outside the Bates Hole/Shirley Basin planning area can be referred to the appropriate sage grouse working group). But don’t delay. Projects for this fiscal year must be funded by the end of June 2008, with funds being spent by September 2008. Priority is given to projects with matching funds, established partnerships, multi-species benefits, management relevance, highest wildlife impact, appropriate budgets, landscape scale and those with a lasting legacy of benefits. Projects should generally range between $5,000 and $50,000.
    Projects will be evaluated based on consistency with the local sage grouse conservation plan, likelihood of success, project readiness, availability of matching funds, multiple species benefits, significance at local/state/regional level, duration of benefits and adequacy of monitoring.
    Funds are distributed as reimbursable grants in most cases. This means the project proponent must submit for reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the project. “Up front” funding is not allowed. Grantees (non-profit organization, government agency or private individuals) are required to enter into grant agreements and request reimbursement of expenditures made. Contractors (for-profit entities) may submit project proposals, but such projects may require formal bid by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and contractual agreements before any work on the project can proceed.
    Persons interested in submitting a project proposal can obtain an application on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department web site at: http://gf.state.wy.us. Click on “Sage-grouse Info” under the “What’s Hot” tab.
    The Bates Hole/Shirley Basin Sage grouse Working Group was formed in 2004 to develop and facilitate implementation of local conservation plans for the benefit of sage-grouse and, whenever feasible, other species that use sagebrush habitats. The working group includes 11 members representing government agencies, industry, agriculture and wildlife stakeholders. The Bates Hole/Shirley Basin LWG is one of eight groups dealing with sage grouse conservation at the local level in Wyoming.
    The conservation plans identify management practices and the financial and personnel means to accomplish these practices, within an explicit time frame, for the purpose of improving sage grouse numbers and sagebrush communities. As local plans are implemented and conservation measures are taken on behalf of sage-grouse and sagebrush habitats, the Bates Hole/Shirley Basin LWG hopes to preclude the listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Listing of the species could have negative impacts on agriculture, energy and other industries in Wyoming. A copy of the working group’s conservation plan can be found on the Game and Fish Department Web page at the above Internet address.
    For more information on project proposals contact me, at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department at 307-473-3411.