Natural Resources Conservation Service reports $350 million has been invested in conservation across 3.8 million acres in 11 states since 2010

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Read and download WGA's letter and the NRCS response.

Media Coverage: Reporter Benjamin Storrow of the Casper Star-Tribune covered the release of the NRCS figures and spoke with Wyoming officials about conservation work in the state (Story). Scott Streater of E&E News wrote about how the numbers bolster arguments by Western Governors that a listing could impede voluntary conservation partnerships with ranchers and other landowners (Story). High Country News associate editor Sarah Gilman wrote about sage-grouse conservation, including the NRCS report. Story.

April 28: Since 2010 more than $350 million has been invested to address threats facing sage-grouse and Western rangelands. Nearly $250 million of that total has come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) via the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI), while more than $107 million has come from partners and landowners. 

Sage GrouseThat strategic investment through SGI has allowed the NRCS to partner with 953 ranches to implement conservation on 3.8 million acres across the 11-state range of the sage-grouse. An additional $15 million has been invested via NRCS and partners through the SGI Watershed Action Team.

The NRCS report notes, however, that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) recent proposal to list the Bi-State distinct population segment of the greater sage-grouse as "theatened" has dampened participation by landowners in that region straddling Nevada and California.

"Although we experienced significant growth in Bi-State SGI participation in the period of FY 2010 through FY 2013, landowner interest has dropped precipitiously in FY 2014," the NRCS reported in a letter sent to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Chairman of the Western Governors' Association, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (WGA Vice-Chair).

"While several factors likely influence landowner participation, it appears this decline is associated with the FWS proposal to list the bird in the fall of 2013."

The NRCS report is in response to a letter from Western Governors seeking details on SGI's work and the impact of a "threatened" or "endangered" listing for the greater sage-grouse. FWS is expected to release a ruling on greater sage-grouse in 2015.

The conservation work by NRCS, its partners and landowners is in addition to the considerable work done by state and local authorities since 2010, when FWS listed the greater sage-grouse as “warranted but precluded.” Read our Sage-Grouse Inventory and Sage-Grouse Appendix for complete details on those efforts.

Western Governors believe that providing economic incentives for landowners to voluntarily participate in greater sage-grouse conservation efforts, which NRCS facilitates through SGI, is likely to achieve more efficient and cost-effective results, as well as more rapid conservation, than would a listing of the species under the Endangered Species Act.

NRCS notes that if the greater sage-grouse is listed as threatened or endangered, it will continue to offer funding for private landowners to engage in voluntary conservation efforts. However, as the bi-state DPS illustrates, it seems unlikely that landowners will want to participate in such voluntary programs when federal regulation is in place.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper invites you to the Western Governors' Association 2014 Annual Meeting, June 9-11 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Learn more and register.

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