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Bird Secured Thanks to Partnerships

The greater sage-grouse will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The greater sage-grouse will not be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
September 23, 2015

OVANDO, Mont. - Homegrown Montana solutions are being credited as part of the reason the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

Natural Resources Conservation Service chief Jason Weller noted that much has been done on the ground to keep sagebrush landscapes healthy as a western way of life.

"The state of Montana dedicated and invested millions of dollars to partner with NRCS to work with ranchers in eastern Montana to help improve the health and protect the range," he said, "both for ranching but also for sage-grouse."

The Interior Department also finalized management plans for Bureau of Land Management sagebrush habitats that are designed to help not just sage-grouse but hundreds of other species while also keeping those lands working for ranching, development and recreation.

While there is some political back-and-forth about it all, said Ovando rancher Jim Stone, he sees this as the future of land management - one based on partnerships.

"What this whole thing means to me is opportunity," he said. "It's given us the chance as landowners, land managers, to step up and really talk about the things that are important to us, and managing land and managing the public's wildlife."

Greater sage-grouse populations have dropped by 95 percent from their historic numbers. The Fish and Wildlife Service reports that some populations have rebounded and others may still see declines until conservation efforts are implemented.

The FWS decision is online at fws.gov.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT