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Time Running Out In North Dakota to Save Sage Grouse

April 15, 2010

BISMARCK, N.D. - Years ago, sage grouse were found everywhere in North Dakota, but in recent years their numbers have dropped substantially. However, with the help of farmers and an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), sage grouse may soon have a new lease on life.

Financial and technical help is available for landowners who want to improve the bird habitat on their property, says Dave Dewald, NRCS North Dakota state biologist. However, they only have until April 23 to apply.

Even with this assistance, bird numbers in North Dakota may never return to levels of a century ago, Dewald warns.

"Probably they will never come back to the size of their original populations. What we are looking for is a leveling to stop the loss of sage grouse, to try and stabilize the numbers. Then, hopefully, maybe down the road we'll be able to increase their numbers."

The main threat to sage grouse in North Dakota recently has been the West Nile virus, Dewald says, plus long-term loss of habitat in places like Bowman, Golden Valley and Slope counties.

"We've lost ground due to energy development and, of course, years and years ago it began when agriculture started to break up some of the sage-grouse habitat and turn it into crop land."

To apply for aid, which can cover 75 percent of the habitat improvement cost, he advises checking with any local NCRS office.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - ND