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Montana Sage-Grouse Agreement Could Benefit Utah

Grouse Creek, UT  Utah and other Western states could gain from expanded efforts involving farmers, ranchers and government agencies in Montana, working collaboratively to preserve habitat for the Greater sage-grouse, which faces a possible endangered species listing. Comments from Jason Weller, chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and Jay Tanner, rancher at Grouse Creek, Utah. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Grouse Creek, UT Utah and other Western states could gain from expanded efforts involving farmers, ranchers and government agencies in Montana, working collaboratively to preserve habitat for the Greater sage-grouse, which faces a possible endangered species listing. Comments from Jason Weller, chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); and Jay Tanner, rancher at Grouse Creek, Utah. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
July 21, 2015

GROUSE CREEK, Utah – Efforts underway in Montana to restore and protect habitat for sage-grouse, a bird that faces a possible endangered species listing, could benefit Utah and other Western states.

Jason Weller, chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), met with Montana state officials and private landowners on Monday to announce a new agreement involving his agency, the state and other entities. Weller says the goal is to expand on already-extensive conservation efforts on private lands.

"This is a huge success story, unprecedented in my view," he says. "You have over 1,100 producers across five states coming forward voluntarily over the past five years, and putting in place sustainable ranching practices on over 4.4 million acres of land equivalent in size to two Yellowstone National Parks."

Weller's agency has also just released a new publication, Success on the Range, which gives ranchers' views of the ongoing public and private conservation efforts, and explains the focus on expanding those efforts in states with sage-grouse habitat.

Jay Tanner is a member of Partners for Conservation, and ranches about one million acres of public and private land near Grouse Creek. He was also among the private landowners at the Montana meeting, and says he has spent years improving sage-grouse habitat on his land through grazing management plans and weed control. He says it also helps the long-term health and sustainability of his ranch.

"This habitat work that we're doing is improving areas of our ranch," he says. "Over the years, junipers have encroached and had restricted the grass and forbs that had been growing in the area. It was to the detriment of both domestic livestock and wildlife."

Tanner says removing the invasive juniper benefits sage-grouse habitat, and reduces the massive amount of ground water the trees are known to consume.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT