Wednesday, July 6, 2011

State receives millions for grouse

$5.5 million will protect bird habitat


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo Sage grouse are known for their impressive feather displays during mating season.

The National Resources Conservation Service in Idaho now has $5.5 million in federal funding to share with conservation-minded farmers with a love for sage grouse.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that it would provide financial assistance to eligible farmers to conserve sage grouse habitat in Idaho.

Funds will be allocated by the service through the Grasslands Reserve Program, which allows farmers and ranchers to limit future development on their land through conservation easements while allowing certain grazing operations to continue.

Jeff Burwell, state conservationist for the service, said in a press release that the funds will help it continue to strike a balance between grouse and grazing.

"We are working with our partners to take a proactive approach to maintain these large tracts of grazing lands that support both healthy sage grouse populations and sustainable ranching businesses," he said.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said extending funding for this program could prevent the sage grouse from future listing under the Endangered Species Act.

"An endangered species listing for the sage grouse could be very injurious to Idaho agriculture and our state's economy," Crapo said in a press release. "Our state leaders are to be commended for their leadership in trying to head off any species listings of this kind in Idaho."

Landowners can apply for funding through July 20 by visiting a local service office or the service's website at www.id.nrcs.usda.gov.

The department also allocated $2.3 million and $10.4 million in federal funds to similar efforts in Utah and Wyoming, respectively.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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