Tag Archives: sage grouse

SAGE GROUSE

$8 Million Fund Created to Improve Water Quality
and Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse in the Eastern Sierra

By Seth Conners

In a landmark victory for local conservation and the long-term health of the Eastern Sierra, the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has created an $8 million fund to support initiatives conserving the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse and enhancing ranch water quality in the region.
Sage-grouse thrive in wide-open areas with abundant sagebrush, native grasses, and wet meadows – a landscape known as the sagebrush ecosystem, frequently found on working ranches. The RCPP will ensure that sage-grouse, along with other wildlife species that rely on the sagebrush ecosystem, will continue to exist harmoniously on ranchlands for years to come. This funding is available to landowners in the Bi-State area along the California-Nevada border.
Local non-profit Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) spearheaded the funding request with ten other national, state, regional, and private partners.
“Clean water and ranch stewardship are priorities that span state and party lines, and the Bi-State demonstrates that spirit of collaboration. This award is an affirmation of the work we are doing together and the power of partnership,” commented Susanna Danner, Land Conservation Program Director at ESLT.
Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the RCPP is a new and highly-competitive program created in the 2014 Farm Bill. The RCPP awards innovative projects across the country that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.
One of only 88 projects funded nationwide, this investment is a direct result of the Bi-State Local Area Working Group (LAWG), a dynamic, cross-state partnership formed in 2002 to conserve sage-grouse habitat and protect rangeland health. The LAWG is composed of ranchers, conservationists, private organizations, state and local officials, and public land managers. In 2015, this group played a pivotal role in keeping the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse off the Endangered Species List, effectively working together to solve a problem before additional regulation was necessary.
“This is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when people come together with a focus on solving a problem by harmonizing the diverse interests of all those involved,” remarked Pete Pumphrey, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Conservation Chair.

What is the Bi-State Sage-Grouse?
When early explorers first surveyed the Great Basin, greater sage-grouse were so plentiful that the sky was said to darken when flocks took to the air. But after facing two centuries of habitat destruction and other threats, sage-grouse are now much rarer in the American West. Once numbering more than 16 million across the western United States, there are now only an estimated 500,000 of these birds left.
Found in eastern California and western Nevada, the Bi-State sage-grouse is a unique population of greater sage-grouse – one that is now considered to be much stronger thanks to years of conservation work by the LAWG.
It is also a bellwether species: the health of sage-grouse populations is indicative of the condition of the land itself. Where sage-grouse are in trouble, it’s more likely that other wildlife – like pronghorn, golden eagle, and more than 350 other species that rely on the sagebrush ecosystem – are in trouble, too.
Building On Success
Eastern Sierra Land Trust and its ten partners have agreed to leverage the RCPP’s $8 million investment by contributing an additional $20 million in funding and in-kind support to bolster sage-grouse conservation and water quality improvements.
According to Steve Nelson, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop Field Office, “The conservation and enhancement of working ranch lands is a fundamental component of the cooperative, landscape scale effort to conserve greater sage-grouse in the Bi-State area of eastern California and western Nevada.”
The impact of this funding will be far-reaching. In the Eastern Sierra, it means the protection of habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife, clean water for local families, and the conservation of the region’s ranching heritage for future generations.
To Kay Ogden, Executive Director of Eastern Sierra Land Trust, the RCPP award is a major success for the community as a whole.
“From conservationists, to birding enthusiasts, to ranchers, to fishermen – this is a victory for everyone.”
About the Fund
The $8 million fund will be available for five years to landowners in portions of Inyo, Mono, and Alpine Counties of California and portions of Douglas, Lyon, Carson City, Mineral, and Esmeralda Counties in Nevada – an area of 7,000 square miles. Ranchers can apply to receive funds from this pool in order to complete projects that will enhance sage-grouse habitat and improve water quality on property they own and manage. In addition, local organizations such as Eastern Sierra Land Trust will be available to advise landowners and assist them in the application process.
NRCS will implement RCPP conservation contracts through three existing NRCS programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Grasslands of Special Significance, and Wetlands Reserve Easements. Examples of eligible projects include EQIP contracts to restore wetlands, construct wildlife-friendly fencing, prevent erosion by planting native grasses and shrubs, and reduce nonpoint source pollution to creeks and rivers. The RCPP also prioritizes voluntary conservation easements on private ranches and wetlands that provide sage-grouse habitat.
Any landowner interested in pursuing a project that will benefit the goals of the RCPP is encouraged to contact Susanna Danner, ESLT Land Conservation Program Director, at (760) 873-4554 or susanna@eslt.org.

LADWP closing road near Sage Grouse breeding grounds

Temporary Road Access Closure to Sage Grouse Breeding Grounds, Long Valley, California

submitted by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
February 29, 2016

Closure to be in place March 1-April 26, 2016

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will be implementing a temporary road access closure at North Landing (north of Crowley Lake Reservoir) to limit vehicular access to sage grouse breeding grounds from March 1- April 26, 2016.  Vehicular traffic from the public will be prohibited during this time to limit recreational use during the prime breeding season for this sensitive species. The closure will be lifted Tuesday, April 26, 2016 prior to Fishing Opener.

Cover Photo provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

LADWP, Crowley lake reservoir, North Landing Crowley Lake, Sage Grouse

Mono Praises Sage Grouse Decision

Mono County Praises Grouse Decision

Bridgeport, CA – On April 21st, 2015 the United States Department of the Interior hosted a multi-agency event announcing that the Bi-State Distinct Population Segment of Greater Sage-grouse will not be listed as threatened. Mono County hailed this action as a step forward in achieving species preservation and ensuring that new regulatory burdens were not imposed on private and public land owners of the Eastern Sierra.

Mono County Board of Supervisors Chair Tim Fesko, representing Mono County at the announcement event, commented, “A listing would have been devastating to Mono County. The proposed critical habitat blanketed 82% of private lands in Mono County, and would have been a regulatory burden that would have deeply damaged our fragile rural economy. Today’s action by the Department of the Interior shows that Mono County’s ongoing commitment to resolving this issue through participation paid off for our communities and for the species. Mono County had a choice when the proposed listing was issued: Commit to the conservation effort based on the understanding that the Sage Grouse should not be listed for scientifically verifiable reasons, or fight the listing. Mono County chose conservation and the power of partnerships and collaboration over political grandstanding.”

Mono County has been involved since the early days of the Local Area Working Group (LAWG) in 2000 and was at the table for the 2004 Bi-State Action Plan, participated in the 2012 update, and regularly attended the LAWG meetings. Mono County has taken a local government leadership role and helped to:
1. Develop a summary report of conservation actions and future agency commitments for the entire Bi-State.
2. Support and host outreach and education forums on topics such as pinyon-juniper management and critical habitat.
3. Encourage and enhance inter-agency communication and coordination.
4. Work with private landowners to mitigate impacts, follow best practices, and secure resources for conservation work; and count leks with agency biologists to assist with population monitoring.

If the Grouse had been listed, Mono County would have been forced out of a conservation role and into a regulatory role, directing Landowners to obtain clearance/permits from Federal agencies. Mono County commends the USFWS for its decision to not list the species, and its recognition and support of the tremendous efforts of federal, state and local agencies, conservation entities and local landowners in the collaborative planning and implementation of the Bi-State Action Plan. Congratulations also to Steve Nelson, BLM Area Manager, on receiving the STAR Award from Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell for his grouse preservation leadership during Tuesday’s announcement.

WASHINGTON – Tuesday, Rep. Paul Cook (R- Apple Valley) released the following statement after the United States Department of the Interior announced it will not list the sage grouse found in California and Nevada as an endangered species:
Cook said, “Today’s announcement by Secretary Jewell is recognition of the hard-work done by state and local governments to protect sage grouse habitat. Because of this effort, the sage grouse habitat has been stabilized and draconian federal regulations will not be implemented. This is a victory for my constituents who would have faced economic harm if the sage grouse was listed as an endangered species.”

mono sage
Center, BLM’s Steve Nelson. Photo provided by Mono County.

cover photo by BLM

sage grouse, mono county news, eastern sierra news, paul cook