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Oregon Ranchers' Cooperation to Save Sage-Grouse Pays Off

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PHOTO: Sara Domek of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers helps chop down juniper on Hart Mountain in Lake County. Oregon has managed to clear an estimated 68 percent of the invasive conifers, which crowd out native sagebrush and threaten sage-grouse habitat. Photo credit: Nick Dobric, Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
PHOTO: Sara Domek of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers helps chop down juniper on Hart Mountain in Lake County. Oregon has managed to clear an estimated 68 percent of the invasive conifers, which crowd out native sagebrush and threaten sage-grouse habitat. Photo credit: Nick Dobric, Oregon Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
March 12, 2015

BEND, Ore. - Oregon is a standout for local collaboration as ranchers, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies work together on public and private land to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list.

A new report details the first five years of the Sage-Grouse Initiative by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

NRCS Chief Jason Weller says Oregon has used sophisticated mapping to target the juniper that overtakes sagebrush in the high desert, making it easier to eradicate.

"Just over the last four years, we've cut over 200,000 acres of juniper in Oregon alone," says Weller. "Because of that investment in science, that then allows us to come in and really be precise and get the biggest return for the rancher's dollar, and then also for the public's dollar."

Weller says the Sage-Grouse Initiative has been successful because it is locally led, working with individual landowners on habitat preservation approaches that fit their area. The NRCS report says Oregon leads the nation for juniper removal from sage-grouse nesting and wintering areas.

The NRCS programs involve more than 100 Oregon ranches, from improving grazing systems to replanting native grasses and sagebrush. Brian Jennings, Oregon coordinator of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says there are benefits for ranchers beyond the future of sage-grouse.

"Private landowners have been very cooperative because they know what's good for the sage-grouse is good for them," he says. "The healthier the sage steppe, the better it is for cattle, and all the species that depend on it."

Oregon's updated state sage-grouse plan is expected to be released in late spring or early summer. The federal decision on whether to list the greater sage-grouse is slated for September.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR