The Sage Grouse Initiative partnership shows results:
BLM-Idaho nominated this program for the Interior Secretary’s “Partners in Conservation” Awards. The Department will formally announce those selected to receive an award in January.
IDAHO PROJECT A MODEL FOR SAGE-GROUSE PARTNERSHIPS IN THE WEST
Protecting the habitat of the sage-grouse, an iconic Western land-dwelling bird, is becoming an increasing priority, making the work of groups such as the Burley Landscape Sage-Grouse Habitat Restoration Project all the more vital. This project seeks to restore sage-grouse habitat by removing juniper to allow healthy sagebrush communities to thrive in southern Idaho.
A partnership between the BLM-Idaho Burley Field Office, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Pheasants Forever, and permittee allotment holders, the project has treated close to 10,000 acres and plans to treat another 22,000 acres in the next 3-5 years. Lek counts provide evidence that sage-grouse are returning to areas once overgrown with juniper.
Removing juniper also improves recreational opportunities such as hunting, photography, and bird watching and lessens wildfire impacts created by the flammable tree. Wildfire is currently the foremost threat to sustaining sage-grouse populations in Idaho.
The project’s overall goal is to treat 38,000 acres of BLM land by 2017 in addition to treating state and private lands. The NRCS has coordinated conservation agreements with local permit-holding ranchers on public lands in order to apply NRCS sage-grouse initiative funds to restoration treatments. Pheasants Forever staff members have also taken great strides in restoring sage-grouse habitat by providing resources for accruing and applying federal, state, and private funds to treatments on public lands. Pheasants Forever is responsible for hiring contractors for project implementation using funding from multiple partners, administering those contracts, and jointly conducting project inspection on contractor work with BLM project inspectors. In addition, the IDFG and the BLM have provided technical expertise to project development and implementation.
The project participants have reached out to numerous federal, state, and private organizations. One participating organization, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, works with private landowners to implement conservation projects on deeded land. Another group, the South Magic Valley sage-grouse local working group, brings together private landowners, hunting organizations, conservation groups, and local government agencies to discuss habitat improvement and sage-grouse management.
In addition, partners involve young people in restoration efforts. The IDFG and the BLM recruit local youth groups and students to plant sagebrush seedlings in areas burned by wildfire adjacent or near treated junipers. More than 2,000 volunteers are enlisted each spring for this work. The students also mark fences with bird diverters to prevent sage-grouse collisions near treatments.
As the 2015 deadline for a sage-grouse listing decision approaches, the Burley Landscape Sage-Grouse Habitat Restoration Project serves as a prominent example of how organizations can work together to conserve wildlife on our public lands. The partnership’s dedication has caused it to be described as a model for the establishment of sage-grouse conservation partnerships in the West.
(Photo: Jeremy Roberts, Conservation Media)