Friday, April 1, 2011

Feds offering funding to protect sage-grouse habitat

Money available for grazing rotation, other projects


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Federal funding is available to help conserve habitat for native Idaho sage grouse, in an effort to keep them from being listed as an endangered species. Express file photo.

The deadline for landowners to take advantage of federal funding and conserve sage grouse habitat is fast approaching.

About $3 million from the Department of Agriculture is available statewide for ranchers and other landowners who want to make improvements on their land, the Natural Resources Conservation Service states. However, applications for the funds must be received by April 15, and Wood River Land Trust spokeswoman Keri York said there's no guarantee the funding will be available next year.

"If you don't utilize this money, they won't allocate it next year," she said.

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Improvements can include removing juniper trees in key breeding and nesting areas and rotating livestock grazing on lands to let sagebrush recover between use.

York said the program is meant to keep sage grouse off the Endangered Species List.

"The whole goal is to get healthy sage grouse populations, and if they are listed, that's a sign those populations are not healthy," she said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last year that the sage grouse was in need of listing under the Endangered Species Act, but that other species took a higher priority. The agency revises its list of candidate species annually, and sage grouse could still be listed.

Landowners interested in applying for funds should contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Shoshone at (208) 886-2258 for an application and to set up a meeting with a service staff member.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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