by The Conservation Fund | The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming Sage Grouse Campaign has conserved 15 properties in partnership with SGI and others. We are proud to partner with this group on long-term solutions that benefit birds and ranchers!
Photo: The Conservation Fund’s Wyoming Sage Grouse Campaign has conserved 15 properties–like the Espenscheid family’s ranch pictured here–in partnership with SGI and others.
The following story appeared on The Conservation Fund’s website on Feb. 17, 2016. The Sage Grouse Initiative is proud to partner with this group on long-term solutions that benefit birds and ranchers!
Wide open spaces are essential for wildlife to range, roam and survive, but they also need to support the economic growth of communities and a way of life for private landowners in the West. Today, The Conservation Fund, in partnership with local ranchers and federal, state and private partners, celebrates the protection of over 100,000 acres of sage grouse habitat in Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado.
With 40 percent of the greater sage grouse range located on privately-owned grazing lands, effective strategies incorporate the needs of private landowners and coordinate with community-based efforts. For Kip Alexander, the decision to participate in a conservation program on his 1,664-acre ranch in Wyoming meant a boost for his economic bottom-line and protection of habitat for the greater sage grouse. His voluntary commitment, together with those of hundreds of like-minded landowners, has established what is now being called the largest landscape-level conservation effort in U.S. history.
“My Dad and Grandad homesteaded that ground in the early 1930’s, and we’ve taken good care of it and plan to leave it in better shape than how we got it. That’s the main purpose,” said Kip Alexander, a longtime Pinedale, Wyoming, landowner with a conservation easement on his family property. “It’s a pretty nice area with access to the river. The elk, deer, antelope and even moose all use it, and this year we had more grouse than usual—bunches of grouse. This easement will help us do what we wanted to do for many years now, and we appreciate all that Luke Lynch and The Conservation Fund did for us to make this happen. It’s a great outcome for the land and for our family.”
Over the last decade, The Conservation Fund has worked together with local communities in Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado to bring landowners, federal, state and private partners together to implement conservation easements on private working ranchlands with sage grouse habitat. In Wyoming, where nearly 40 percent of the world’s greater sage grouse population resides, The Conservation Fund conserved 15 properties and 58,500 acres through its Wyoming Sage Grouse Conservation Campaign. These lands, like Kip Alexander’s ranch, are protected from conversion under permanent conservation easements and remain privately owned, allowing the ranchers and their families to maintain traditional grazing operations that contribute to the local economy.
“Our goal is to help ranchers sustain and enhance their operations while preventing loss and fragmentation of sage grouse habitat,” said Mark Elsbree, Senior Vice President and Western Director of The Conservation Fund. “Partnerships are key to accomplishing this, and we are grateful to the remarkable vision of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and their Sage Grouse Initiative, as well as our local partners like the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust who work together to balance these environmental and economic goals.”
From 2010 to 2014, NRCS’ Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) resulted in the conservation and restoration of over 4.4 million acres of sage grouse habitat across the West. SGI provided the mechanism for NRCS to invest Farm Bill resources along with partners to accelerate beneficial on-the-ground conservation actions, including the conservation easement with the Alexander Family. In 2015, NRCS extended their commitments to sage grouse conservation by launching “Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0”, which includes an additional $211 million in Farm Bill funding for proactive and cooperative conservation efforts in the West through 2018.
“SGI is living proof that wildlife and agriculture can coexist and thrive together,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Conservation easements are a powerful tool for stitching together the landscape and maintaining large and intact working ranches. During the past five years, SGI has grown the amount of land in easements 18-fold. We’re grateful for The Conservation Fund and our many other conservation partners and ranchers for taking steps to improve habitat and outcomes for sage grouse and other wildlife while strengthening agricultural operations in the West.”
Miller Land & Livestock Property (Culbertson Place)
Rolling Thunder Ranch Property
Miller Property (The Cabins Ranch)
Learn more about SGI’s partner, The Conservation Fund